Friday, April 18, 2014

The Partisanship Theory on Citizens United, McCutcheon etc.

Notice the pattern of these 5-4 Supreme Court decisions for Citizens United, against the voting rights act, and for McCutcheon. We could also include the Bush v Gore and Texas redistricting and Indiana voter ID law cases as part of the pattern. It is quite easy to come to the conclusion that every decision these 5 Republican-appointed Justices have made regarding elections and voting are nothing more blatant moves to help get more Republicans elected.

Though rank and file Republicans might not agree with Citizens United and McCutcheon, the acts of GOP party insiders and elected officials strengthen this theory that the 5 Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices only ruled this way for partisan reasons rather than any other principles.

For example take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who has deep pockets for big corporate donations but faces abysmal approval numbers and a tough re-election this year. He testified in front of the Supreme Court and actively encouraged the justices to intervene in favor of McCutcheon's big-money politics. McConnell is also the one who led the challenge of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms all the way to the Supreme Court. As Senate minority leader, he has blocked crucial judicial nominees and FEC commissioners who support campaign finance restrictions.

In another example, the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ray Washburne, told the New York Times  "Eureka" when heard the news that the Supreme Court eviscerated the aggregate limits. At the time he was traveling to Chicago to solicit money from two big funders who had reached their aggregate donation limit for this election cycle. And then just six mere after the McCutcheon ruling, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee launched a joint fundraising committee.

One caveat is that these Supreme rulings do not guarantee the GOP election victories. But these rulings certainly tilt the playing field in favor of candidates who are short on ethics, morals and new ideas that are popular with voters but long on access to brute cash to fund attack ads from which they could hide behind. Meanwhile progressive candidates who are long on ethics, morals and new ideas that are popular with voters but can't get multiple billionaires to cut fat checks for them are put at an unfair disadvantage in the competition.

It is easy to accuse these Republican-appointed justices of doing nothing more than greasing the skids for an oligarchic dystopia where their a handful of favored billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson get to call the shots of our political process.
It seems like low hanging fruit to make partisan hay out of the Republican Party establishment's allegiance to McCutcheon and such an unpopular issue as opening the floodgates to even more money in politics.
We could easily tar state-level elected Republicans who vote as a block against (Move to Amend sponsored) anti-Citizens United constitutional amendments, as sycophants for the billionaire elite who have too little appeal to raise their money the grassroots way. We could easily impugn them as unprincipled opportunists who throw all populist sense out the window to maintain a national campaign rule arrangement that will help more of their kind get elected.
But it is dangerous to turn Citizens United/ McCutcheon into just another Republican vs. Democrat partisan polarized stalemate like we so tragically see with the issue of global warming. A much better outcome is to use this as wedge issue to divide much of the the Republican rank and file from their party insiders and officials.

In the 2012 election grassroots ballot initiatives to overturn Citizens United won amazingly consistent support from all across an otherwise polarized political spectrum. Anti-Citizens United initiatives just as much voter approval in the “purple” swing state of Colorado (72% for Amendment 65 demanding that Congress draft a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United) and the libertarian “red” state of Montana (76% for Initiative 166 declaring that corporations do not have constitutional rights) as deeply “blue” Democratic Chicago (74% for approving a local initiative demanding that Congress propose an amendment reversing Citizens United).

About ¾ of Americans whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent oppose the Citizens United ruling and don’t agree that for-profit corporations should have the right to flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash. 
What polling numbers above 75% for the constitutional Amendment means is that we could get the center-right to join in alliance with the progressives and isolate the far right and the corporate personhood apologists to the fringes.
Could it be done?

The elected powers that be could neuter such a big-tent political alliance simply by denying us opportunities to hold votes or ballot initiatives on the issue unless there is such a strong bipartisan movement that it is clear they will be voted out for blocking moves to amend.  

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