Thursday, August 07, 2003
One of the consequences of the Republican party's huge advantage in hard-money fundraising is that the Democrats are forced to rely on so-called soft money contributions, often raised thorough independent interest groups. Both parties are obviously strongly influenced by special interest groups, but there is a difference in the way they are influenced.
The Republicans' bread and butter is the individual hard-money $1000-per person contribution. The Democrats live on larger contributions, often funneled through interest groups. As a result, the direct influence of special-interest groups is much more acutely felt in the Democratic party. Republicans are equally in the thrall of their own special-interest groups, but because of their much wider fundraising base, they are not in my opinion as publicly answerable to them.
This all came to mind after I read two two recent news stories:
1) The recent Joe Lieberman appearance at the NAACP convention, where he was permitted a five-minute appearance for a "public apology and explanation" for not attending sooner. "In not coming Monday I was wrong. I regret it and apologize for it....I'm sorry I was late in coming." Bascially, Lieberman checked every bit of gonadal material at the door.
2) The Howard Dean appearance at the AFL-CIO convention, where, after being badgered, he announced that "I have never favored Social Security at age of 70, nor do I favor one of 68." But of course someone immediately produced a 1995 CNN tape where he says that "America must increase the retirement age." Dean was made to look ridiculous.
The problem isn't political doubletalk, which is of course common to both parties. The problem is the direct influence of the Democratic special interest groups. All political interest groups, Republican and Democrat alike, demand certain policy positions. But the Democratic ones require something else: Groveling public demonstrations of obeisance reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And this is a problem for the political process.
If the public humiliation of candidates like Lieberman and Dean is unpleasant for even a Republican like me to watch, then it must be even more so to disinterested independent voters. It trivializes and ultimately hurts the political process. It can't be good for American voters to see their candidates publicly have to jump through hoops in this way. I'm not a Democrat, but in all objectivity this is a problem that the Democrats need to fix, for their own good.