National Commentary

Overcoming the $ Imbalance

The obscenity of the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall effort this week lies in the massively disproportional campaign funding levels that went into its outcome. Among the campaign efforts themselves, the Republicans outspent the Democrats by a margin of seven to one. But then there were the countless millions more that backed the Republican cause that poured into the state from those secret “Citizens United” super-PAC organizations.

Somehow, political pundits, candidates and news organizations are reticent to call out this undemocratic blitz because they don’t want to appear to disrespect the voters. In the final analysis, we are supposed to assume that voters exercised their independent franchises at the polls, and the notion they might have been swayed, or cowed, by un-comely campaign pressure is out of bounds.

That explains why do much money was poured into that election, then! It’s all because it didn’t matter. Are you kidding?

Left out of account here are a number of things, most importantly the art of deception, on the one hand, and sheer intimidation, on the other.

On the first hand, it is now fair game in U.S. politics to mask untruths with just enough ideological window dressing and generalities that they can be defended as truths. It’s an art form that delights the creative teams that earn the big bucks developing them.

On the second hand, the power of intimidation is perhaps the most significant operative factor. The sheer mass of money flooded into the pro-rich side of the political equation is intimidating to the general public, in and of itself. It is like a very big roar with smoke and flashing lights scaring off Dorothy and her team.

American culture has devolved since the 1960s into one in which a groveling propitiation of power is the ruling paradigm. Only occasionally has this come under question, but everything about our life and decisions is now one big orgy of kissing up to those perceived to hold the cards.

Those who scare us the most in this context provide us with a script of plausible excuses for following their lead, as if it was all our idea. In reality, what is embedded in all those TV commercials from the rich, with their angry, disgusted-sounding voice overs, paid for with the obscene levels of unaccounted for cash, is not designed to persuade, so much as to provide the marching orders for shivering minions.

Now, you minions, you get to rehearse the same gruff, angry sounds of contempt to take around with you, claiming them as your own independent point of view!

That’s why so few right-wing voters can endure much of a challenge to their claims, but can only repeat them over and over.

But doesn’t the other side do the same thing? you ask. Here’s the difference: the Democrats by and large ask their supporters to act in their own self interest, and that of others in their same position in life. The Republicans demand their minions to adopt arguments that are contrary to their own self interest.

Therefore, the right-wing argument must always be couched in something besides the actual truth, because it asks people to defend policies that will not benefit themselves, but the super-rich, the one percent of the one percent at the top, the captains of the “military, industrial and financial complex.” Only fear-driven platitudes repeating terms like “freedom,” “patriot” and “American” over and over again can achieve that.

So, how can Democrats overcome this, including the unprecedented funding imbalances that will come into play in elections this fall?

Frankly, I don’t think the Democrats can do it by themselves. Republicans have bottomless sources of funds and the U.S. Supreme Court solidly on their side.

Where can the most genuinely independent, critical thinking be found in the nation today? In the media? In the handful of pundits on TV who are not just obvious puppets of partisanship?

Where is the courage to go with independent, critical thinking? It is at a premium even in campaigns, as pragmatism can be the best excuse of all for cowardice.

Where is the voice? Who is going to call out Lazarus from his tomb? Honestly, I wish I knew.