The Associated Press says of the victory for Bob Turner in yesterday’s special congressional election in New York’s 9th congressional district that “It sounded improbable on the surface that a New York City congressional district where Democrats have a 3-1 registration edge and have held office for nearly a century could even come close to electing a Republican to the US House.”
Improbable? The victory of Bob Turner over Democrat David Weprin only sounds improbable if you haven’t heard about the growing power of independent expenditures in elections to the federal government. Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations now legally can form organizations that funnel unlimited amounts of money into elections to Congress and the White House. Those organizations don’t have to tell where their money comes from, and though they are legally required to report to the Federal Election Commisson the amount of money they spend within 24 to 48 hours, many organizations don’t bother to comply with this requirement, because they know that the FEC is completely overwhelmed and doesn’t have time to investigate violations.
The impact of the mystery money that flows into congressional campaigns through independent expenditures is not at all balanced between Republicans and Democrats. In the special elections held yesterday, independent expenditures helped Republicans, not the Democratic candidates.
Consider the role of independent expenditures in the election between Bob Turner and David Weprin as an example. Yesterday alone, four different organizations, using money that could have come from anywhere, reported making independent expenditures to help Bob Turner turn out the vote, and to depress voter turnout for David Weprin. Turnout in a special congressional election is key, because it’s usual for only a tiny fraction of voters to go to the polls on such occasions. Not one single organization made independent expenditures to help the David Weprin campaign.
In the race in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district, 10 separate independent expenditures were made to help the campaign of Republican Mark Amodei over the last week. None were made to help the Democratic candidate, Kate Marshall.
These elections were bought, using untraceable money. I can’t say for sure that it was corporate money that purchased the two House seats, but given the current state of the economy, there’s nobody but corporations and criminals with enough money to spend in this way.
I usually don’t like to make predictions about politics, but the lopsided results of these congressional elections, and the overwhelmingly pro-Republican mystery money that made the results possible, leads me a an unusual degree of confidence.
Next year, we can expect to see the same pattern continue. Republican candidates will slam Democrats using independent expenditures that the Democrats just can’t match. Voters will be flooded with mail, telephone calls, television and radio advertisements, and even political operatives paid to knock on people’s doors – and almost all of this shadowy electoral activity will be on behalf of Republican candidates.
Republicans will have even more seats in Congress purchased for them by corporations and other mysterious right wing political organizations. The trickle down economy of tax cuts that mostly benefits corporations and the investor class has concentrated money in the hands of the financial elites – and now those elites are using that money to buy the American government, and stock it with pro-corporate Republicans.
The Democratic Party had one chance to defeat the mystery money backing Republican politicians: The Democrats could have responded to the big money of the Republicans by exciting large numbers of grassroots activists to volunteer in the 2012 election. That’s not happening, and the reason is that, though there are some good progressive Democrats in Congress, most Democrats have been trying to copy the Republican formula for success, trying to serve the needs of corporations instead of the needs of individual citizens. The Democratic Party has lurched to the right, and infuriated the most powerful elements of its own political base in the process. Labor unions, environmentalists, GLBT organizations, civil libertarians and peace activists now see little reason to support the majority of Democratic candidates.
The same dynamic applies to the presidential election. Barack Obama showed in 2008 that he has the capacity to inspire, but since he got into the White House, he has repeatedly betrayed the very voters who got him elected in the first place.
As crazy as the Republican candidates may seem to informed voters, they’ll have money on their side in 2012. It will be said over and over again that the 2012 presidential election will be a referendum on the economy, and that’s true – but what will determine who sits in the White House in 2012 will be the corporate economy. As hard as Barack Obama chases corporate money, the corporations know which party will put the most butter on their bread – and they’ll flood Americans with so much propaganda, Obama’s soaring oratory will be lost in the noise.
I am afraid that the United States of America is in for a wild ride of right wing extremism that will make the dark days of George W. Bush look moderate in comparison.