Monday, April 25, 2016

If Not Now, When? #FeelTheBern #Sanders2016

Lately I've been reminded of how, when I teach my pre-freshman comp students a unit on advertising, they always question the assumption that ads actually do impact people's decision making. (Inevitably, of course, they are wearing GAP shirts and Levis jeans and Nike shoes, but never mind that.) I just tell them the hard facts--advertisers spent roughly $186 billion on ads in the last year alone. Advertising has been around for some time; companies have had ample opportunity to figure out if the investment is worth it. So... are you quite sure that advertising doesn't impact people's choices?

Of course it does.

Likewise is money given to politicians. Once upon a time, the Democratic Party would complain about the corporate donations given to Republican campaigns, claiming the money was tantamount to legal bribery. The Republicans would hit back with, "Well, you take money from unions," to which the Democrats responded, "Unions are groups of workers, the people we represent." The latest riff on this from the right then became, thanks to Mitt Romney, "Corporations are people too, my friend."

Ah, the good old days. Or were they?

Messing up campaign finance integrity--or at least a restriction of some kind on "buying too much influence"-- was the rise of the SuperPAC and Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court affirmed that money is speech. After Citizens United was upheld as constitutional, political campaign contributions to SuperPACs have easily more than doubled (and in this Presidential election year, probably more than even that since so much is at stake). Money given to SuperPACs has no limit placed on it. More distressingly, that money can be "dark money," meaning the giver doesn't have to be transparent. As of now, we have about 147 known individuals and who knows how many corporations basically funding the two political parties. The Koch Brothers and George Soros are the least of the problem anymore.

Dude, what happened to my party? Democrats now seem more than happy to take money with all the glee that Republicans do.

And now we are treated to the same old line of baloney that we used to decry: "just taking the money doesn't influence my position on issues," we are told.  Puh-leeeeeeeese. How can it not? As with advertising, people, banks, lobbies, companies--they will not spend millions of dollars to get nothing. Sure they get something for their cash. They get access. They get treated as actual constituents (and because of their financial influence,  they become "super constituents," even though assuredly they do not outnumber and are no more important than the actual people, the US citizens, that govt is supposed to be serving). We have lobbyists writing legislation that's being introduced in Congress. Even President Obama is honest enough to admit that one can't really take a ton of money from a giver and not at least listen to them and be influenced. (Single payer health care, if memory serves, got tossed out of the ACA before it even went to a vote; interestingly, this was after Obama met privately with insurance company representatives.)

So give me a break, and let's get real. Though there always has been, and always will be, some measure of bribery and backroom wheeling and dealing in politics, the Democratic Party has sold us out. At first, I kept waiting to see campaign finance reform; I kept waiting to see the promised amendment to overturn Citizens United. All I heard, and still hear, are promises--neither party will actually act. At least the Republican Party has always been clear about whom it really serves. For me, I think it's perhaps more heinous--and certainly more duplicitous--for the Democratic Party to do the same thing as the Republicans but continue to insist that it's the party that puts the people first. Certainly it does on certain social issues, but when it comes to things like wars, the economy, protecting banks, no real action on climate change--the basic status quo--it disheartens me to admit I can barely tell the difference between the two parties anymore. Democratic Party neoliberalism has resulted in very little except pushing the right farther to the right because the right wing has to look different somehow.

So, I'm disillusioned. You want to know why more and more people are increasingly leaving both parties and calling themselves independents (meaning "no party preference?") This is why. You want to know why there's so much apathy among voters? This is why. You want to know why the Democratic Party is split right now between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders? This is why.

And this is why we need Bernie Sanders. Even if you think he's all "pie in the sky" and will never see legislation that's on his platform passed, the one thing the man's got is absolute integrity. Even if the only thing he can accomplish as President is pushing through campaign finance reform and getting an amendment on state ballots to overturn Citizens United, that alone would be a mighty good start for us to get our Party back. Of course, I expect he'd do some other good things too--such as keeping us out of any unnecessary wars--but this is a blog post about politics being corrupted by money.

We have got to put our foot down. If not now, when?

1 comment:

DStyma said...

I agree ... Money influences.