Monday, September 10, 2012

Loving the abuse

By Bill Kraus

Traditionally the party conventions were the high point of pandering to the partisans. The idea was to pump them up enough so they’d go home and do the grunt work of getting out the vote. The vote of the partisans they left behind.

The candidates then gave a wink and a nod to the partisan-pleasing platform and reshaped the rest of the campaign in ways that would attract a majority of the undecideds, the independents, and the casuals.

This part of the campaign had to be constructed in ways that didn’t de-energize the aforementioned partisans, that made solid proposals that would attract the attentive, policy hungry independents and that might tantalize the casuals who are politically uninterested, uninformed, unconnected and are susceptible to side issues and slogans about things like jobs, health care, costs, and personality defects and attributes.

This tradition is still intact, but just barely.

Most of the likely voters have already made up their minds.

All that money being raised is consequently being spent against fewer and fewer voters. Overkill is inevitable in those states which are regarded as “in play.” The rest of the country is blessedly spared the rhetoric, the robo calls, the action.

The other development that shapes campaigns in unappetizing ways is the contributions made to the now “tri-alogue” is the bigger and bigger part assumed by third parties. This, mostly advertising, role is played by the usual suspects--big labor and big business--aided and abetted by anonymous demonizers in or alongside the super PACs. They all have lots of money, no scruples, and strong opinions about everything and everyone.

This is a creature of a free speech-obsessed, collateral damage-indifferent U.S. Supreme Court.

The incumbent officeholders who have in effect lost control of their campaigns’ communications due to the overwhelming spending of these groups have unaccountably done nothing about the only defense available to them against this phenomenon.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as it gave a free pass to the third parties, authorized, even encouraged, legislators and elected executives to expose the members and contributors to these organizations.

The Republicans--which at one time urged the kind of full disclosure the court recommended--now oppose it. The Democrats who are presumed to be more sympathetic to disclosure did nothing when they had their hands on the levers of power to mandate it.

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