2006 Is A Base Election

Nancy Pelosi isn't doing a good job as minority leader.  I've written about this here, here, here, here, here, and here.  She's actively hostile to the netroots, which I find baffling.  She doesn't stand up for her fellow members when they are fighting the Republicans.  She creates incentives against aggressive behavior.  She enforces an ethics truce, and lies about it.  Despite all of this, she can still come around and be a good leader.  And if she doesn't come around and start leading, it could cost us 2006.

First, let's speak politics.  It's clear that the Republicans have a turnout advantage, and especially in a base election like 2004, the middle does not vote.  Even in 2004, which was not a base election, only 4.7% of voters switched their choice of candidate.  2006 will be an election where getting out the base is decisive.  Now, I know the polls say that Republicans are demoralized.  But this is a temporary phenomenon.  The Republican operatives are reading the same damned polls and are making plans to fire up their base. And unlike us, they don't have much trust to regain, because they have largely satisfied their base over the past five years.  At the end of the day, Republicans bitch and bitch and bitch about their leadership and then they. turn. out.  That's the GOP model.  They will be organized, they will be effective, they will be targeted.  We simply cannot afford to assume this will fall into our laps by ignoring the very real demoralization within our own base.

Read this analysis of 2004, from Chris Bowers.  Lots of good stuff in there, but the key takeaway is as follows:

As fewer and fewer people even consider switching to the opposition, much less actually changing their minds, Republican turnout is increasing and Democratic turnout is static. Further, Republicans love their leadership while Democrats only like theirs.

If this leadership gap continues, the GOP will happily make this election about the Democrats, like they did in 2002.  The base is already demoralized, and like in TX-28, may just sit on its hands.  What's the point of switching over if all you get is mealy mouthed stubborn camp counselors as leadership?

Jane Hamsher writes about it,, as does Digby and John Aravosis.  Now I know the temptation is to dismiss what we say because we are thirteen year old children or something.  Even though Jane was a successful Hollywood producer.  And Aravosis was a lawyer, a journalist for the Economist, and a Senate staffer.  And I have worked in real live winning campaigns and managed multi-million dollar software projects.  These are mean feats for thirteen year olds.

Or maybe we're being confusing us with single issue groups who are asking for politicians to check our specific box or else we're going to go away.  That's certainly how the media wants to portray us, as part of the 'liberal base' next to the corrupt and bitchy enviro groups.  But that's not who we are.  We are the silent majority in this country, the people who are asking you to lead us in another direction.  It doesn't even matter which direction, just as long as it's different and it's principled.  That's all.  Represent us, or represent something other than knuckling under to a staid conventional wisdom.

Or else in November, 2006, we're going to be incoherently angry again and Eleanor Clift will be tut-tuttting the liberal extremists, and all the while America will be dying.

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Nancy Pelosi Is Finally Ready to FIGHT... Against Progressives!

Barbara Boxer is my hero! What a great senator! Courageous and with great instincts. Sure, I know that The Washingtonian's "Best & Worst of Congress" issue show that congressional staffers voted her to rank just under Rick Santorum when it comes to the "No Brain" department (barely beating out well-known dim bulb George Allen), but I'm proud as hell to have a senator who can be counted on to stand up to Bush more than any other senator in the whole U.S. And that's worth a couple IQ points in my book.

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Time to call Nancy Pelosi as well

Ok -- perhaps I am a little on edge. But I just called Nancy Pelosi's office and reamed her out (see her comments in MSNBC link below).

Americans are DYING to get rid of this president for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is fear about what more he can screw up with another 1039 days in office.

Only elected Democrats seem unable to see this.  So, just by way of a few suggestions, remind Pelosi (202-225-4965) that we are the people who vote, work the polls, hand out fliers, work voter registration drives, and, most importantly, foot the bills.  And tell her to read EJ Dionne's column in the Washington Post on the disconnect between elected Democrats and their liberal base.


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Campaign Finance and Blogs: A Simple and Non-Legal Explanation

I updated this to include the media exemption, which I had forgotten.

Ok, so campaign finance regulations make my head hurt, so I'm going to try to explain the basic idea behind the differing bills instead of the legal ins-and-outs (which Adam Bonin and Kos cover extensively in this series of posts).  Let's start at the beginning, with the rationale behind campaign finance limitations.

Campaign finance is regulated because money is very corrupting in a modern mass media system.  In such a system, communicating is expensive, and since communicating is the lifeblood of politics, money can translate directly into a lot of power.  Put even more starkly, in a politics dominated by mass media, having money means being able to participate in politics, and having little money means being unable to participate in politics.  I will refer to this system as 'limited bandwidth politics', because a modern mass media system has limited ad space on TV, or radio, or on newspapers and wealthy interests compete over who can buy more of it.  'Limited bandwidth politics' describes modern American politics up until the advent of the internet.

Limited bandwidth politics tilts the system towards the interests of the corrupt and the wealthy, because they are the only ones who can really afford to participate in it.  Reformers at one point looked at this problem, got upset, and said 'enough is enough'.  They decided that the best way to fix the system was to place limits on the amount of money that people could give to candidates, and limits on how much people can coordinate with each other so they couldn't route money around these limits.  The legislation to do this was called 'McCain-Feingold'. It did leave one exception in there, called the media exemption. Newspapers and TV shows aren't regulated by campaign finance because they are considered 'media' and not part of a political party.

Now, maybe campaign finance reform was a good idea and maybe it was a bad idea, but the reformers's premise was that the way to prevent systemic corruption was to restrict what people could do in political communication.  Don't let people give above a certain amount.  Don't let them coordinate.  If they spend more than $1000 on politics, they have to register and be regulated.  Restrict.  Restrict.  Make people file forms.  This premise was perhaps necessary in a world of 30 second ads, because the only people running 30 second ads could afford to hire lawyers to file forms for them.  And maybe restrictions were necessary in that world, because at least they level the playing field a little bit.

Which brings me to the internet.  The internet kind of screws everything up, because it is an unlimited bandwidth medium.  You don't buy more speech on the internet, since you can start a blog for free and anyone in the world can look at it.  You earn more of an audience based on what you say and not how much you spend saying it.  This has serious consequences for campaign finance limits, because it is in fact a direct challenge to the basic premise that ending corruption is simply a matter of restricting the right set of actors.  The internet presents a different route to ending corruption in politics.  Instead of resricting the ability of wealthy interests to participate in politics, the internet simply lowers the barrier to participation for everyone else. That is a big deal.

Rather than removing money from politics, the internet changes what money can buy in politics.  It allows people to organize themselves, and makes it much easier to communicate compelling messages among large numbers of people without a lot of capital.  Now you'd think that the people who wanted campaign finance limits (known as 'reformers') would look at the internet and say 'Awesome, this helps solve our problem!'  But they didn't.  Instead, they have held tight to their bias against participation.  They think that restricting the ability of Americans to participate in the political system is the only way to check the power of wealthy interests. Actually, they have it backwards. Regulation not only won't help, it will once again raises the barrier to participation and thus recreates the worst aspects of a mass media 'limited bandwidth politics'. In reformer-land, in order to participate in internet politics you'd need to lawyer up and do things only rich people can afford. This is precisely what they should be fighting against, not promoting.

All of which brings me to the two bills before Congress.  The first is called HR 1606, and it keeps the internet unregulated.  This is what us bloggers want.  We think the internet's pretty great, and we want to see proof that more participation in the political system is a bad thing before deciding to regulate speech online.  The 'reformers' are fighting this bill tooth and nail.  

The second bill is HR 4900.  This is from the reform camp, and it could possibly put blogs like DailyKos and MyDD out of business.  We simply can't afford to submit forms to the FEC on every candidate that we link to, for instance, and there's no guarantee that HR 4900 won't force us to do exactly that. It's also absurdly illogical. Newspapers and TV stations with clear partisan affiliations are considered media under the media exemption and can endorse candidates and talk politics without coming under campaign finance regulations, but not blogs.

Now, we're hearing a lot of rhetoric from the reformers.  We're hearing that they want to protect bloggers from regulation while preventing soft money from flowing onto the internet.  It's all basically untrue.  Reformers want to regulate the internet and the activities of bloggers.  Their strategy is to put light regulations on it at first, and then tighten them once they get a working system in place.  They just can't seem to understand that restricting political speech on the internet is a seriously bad move. Regulating the internet will only cause corruption where there is none, because it will raise a barrier to entry to internet politics against all but those willing and capable of wading through the confusing thicket of regulations.

The irony here is that the good government groups have totally and utterly failed at systemic reform.  Common Cause was founded in the 1970s, and since then the government has become massively more corrupt.  The whole 'let's restrict' experiment just didn't work.  And this failure might explain the intrangience of the reform groups, though I'm not really sure.  Perhaps they have so divorced themselves from the ultimate objective (ending corruption) because it seemed unattainable that their only end at this point is regulation for regulation's sake.  Maybe their desire for regulation is their raison d'etre, why they get quoted in the newspaper and how they fundraise.  Regardless, on this issue at least, us bloggers stand squarely against them, and on the side of free speech.  I should also point out that if progressives are going to win in the long-run, we are going to do it through the internet, and so it is massively stupid to cripple the ability of Americans to use the internet for political purposes at this medium's political infancy.

I hope you've enjoyed this description of the issue.  If you have, there's one thing you can do for me.  Bother Nancy Pelosi.  You see, it's important to know that Nancy Pelosi is on the wrong side, as are many House Dems.  She's fighting against our bill, HR 1606, and fighting for the reformer bill.  Now, I'm no fan of Nancy Pelosi, as I've made clear here, here, here, here, here, and here.  And never before has she actively gone out of her way to threaten free speech itself.  Still, I'm willing to entertain the notion that her opposition is based on ignorance, and so she can be persuaded that her stance is seriously, seriously flawed.  She needs to hear from us that she should get behind HR 1606.  

Here's her number.  Call her and ask her to get behind HR 1606.

Nancy Pelosi
(415) 556-4862 (SF)
(202) 225-4965 (DC)

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Today, Russ Feingold Is the Leader of the Democratic Party

Russ Feingold made me proud today. Standing up for the integrity of the American system is what leadership means, and that's what we as Democrats are. At least for today, Russ Feingold is the leader of the Democratic Party. And just for today, want to see who isn't a leader of the party? A hint, the name rhymes with Bella Lugosi.

In contrast to Feingold's bold and powerful statement, Nancy Pelosi's caution last week cost us.  Long story short, Rep. Louise Slaughter released a report on the cost of Republican corruption. Leader Pelosi helped her with press and stuck it up on the leader's web page. She then got spooked by Republicans whining about ethics charges and had it taken down.  Pelosi, by selling out Louise Slaughter, has created a perverse incentive system that penalizes Democrats who speak out.  And then there's also this kind of bullshit that the sad, weak, pathetic little cowards called the GOP put out and institutional media habitually swallows.  From Roll Call:

A House Rules Committee report charging GOP Members with corruption has been removed from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) leadership Web site, leading Republicans last week to label the move as an admission by Democrats that the report was used improperly to raise campaign cash.

The report, prepared by Democratic Rules Committee staffers for ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), was compiled, say Republicans, to raise money and score political points on the campaign trail -- both for the Congresswoman and candidates supported by Democratic campaign committees.

The office of Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) declined to comment. But Republicans familiar with the matter -- beyond disputing the report's findings and its legitimacy as an official government inquiry -- said Slaughter's actions violated federal law and leave her open to a House ethics investigation.

"Everyone on Capitol Hill except Louise Slaughter seems to realize that you can't run campaigns out of your federal office," one House Republican aide said. "The report is bogus. U.S. taxpayers paid for this campaign fundraising stunt for Democrats, and it appears they know it, because they took it down."

Rep. Slaughter is defending herself on the blogs. But that's not enough, because this type of stubbornly bad leadership matters when it's in insidery publications like Roll Call. It scares staffers and members. It empowers middle manager Office Space-like toads within the party. It helps empower the middle-management sneering staffers who work for Jay Rockefeller, who then empower the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping. Today, Nancy Pelosi is not any kind of Democrat I recognize.  Democrats are strong and fight to defend the constitution.  We fight for privacy, against corruption, and to help those who can't help themselves.  We don't sell out those trying to do the right thing so that Republican weenies won't be mean to us. When the Republicans come out with the racist and cowardly FancyFord.com, the Democratic Party hits back with VeryFancyFrist.com. Now that's the Democratic Party.

 So today, Feingold is the leader of the Democratic Party. Today, Reddhedd is a great Democrat. And I don't know what party Nancy Pelosi is in, but for today at least it's not mine.

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