Thursday, January 22, 2004

A (not so) brief reply

Obviously I am not going to change your allegiance to my candidate. Nor are you going to change mine. I will pledge that if Dean is the nominee, I will support him 110%--financially and otherwise. I would hope that you would follow the pledge of your candidate should someone else be nominated--as looks increasingly likely.

My responses, in order:

1. Are your interests the same as the average American? Will issues that directly impact lower and middle income familes resonate as strongly with you as with them? Who do you think can afford to be giving $2000? If $300 contributors arguably have a different perspective and priorities compared to the general population, how much more true will that be of people who can afford to give $2000?

This seems like a simplistic view that all people with a certain income level have the same beliefs. You are undoubtedly right that fewer rich people are interested in redistribution of wealth than poor people. However, there is an entire political party devoted to the ossification of wealth. Thus, it is no surprise that there are more wealthy and corporate donors to the Republicans. The ones that through conscience choose to be Democrats should not have to apologize for their wealth--nor should they be accused of having "different perspective and priorities." The important thing is not the average view of people who can afford to give $2000, but the people who actually do. I fail to see how these individuals need to be any different than the people who give $50 to the same candidate.

2. You are a lawyer, you support the candidate favored by your industry

Actually, Edwards's support is derived from the plaintiffs' bar, of which he was a part. This is significant because the interests of the plaintiffs' bar are widely different from those of the corporate defense bar. The plaintiffs' bar is in the business of helping the little guy vindicate his rights against the big and powerful. They oppose restrictions on the access of individual plaintiffs to the courts and on their potential awards. In so doing, they help create incentives for corporations to follow the law and take precautions--succeeding in many cases where the inept regulatory system fails. You tell me how this special interest does not benefit the little guy.

3. The frontrunner argument lacks traction in view of the percentages. George W. Bush may have more small contributions than anyone, but his ratio of cash raised from big money contributors to small donors shows who he depends on for his money. That ratio is heavily tilted in favor of big spenders.

Frankly, I am surprised that Dean has not received more large donations. I suspect that it may have something to do with the risky nature of his candidacy--the main quality his supporters like--and the emphasis on internet fundraising. I certainly am not aware of Dean returning $2000 checks as a matter of principle. My point is more that had Edwards been the frontrunner with his upbeat populist message for six months, his small contributions would be much higher, which would have, in turn, adjusted his ratio.

4. Edwards talk a good game, as I mentioned from my viewing of his speech. But then both parties do. Just about every candidate of any party at any level that runs for office rails against the influence of special interests and big money. But little has been accomplished. Why?

Because the Supreme Court has decreed that money is speech. The organizational interests are going to make their presence felt no matter what. Especially since people still vote for the campaigns money can buy. Short of abandoning capitalism, therefore, the best thing to do is push for full disclosure at all stages of the process. This is how I read Edwards's proposals. I also hypothesize that they have a better chance of being enacted. At any rate, I think he deserves some credit rather than hypocrisy charges for having proposals like these.

5. Both parties let Microsoft off the hook in their anti-trust case, both parties passed the ineffective and pork-laden energy bill, both parties passed Bush's tax cut for wealthy campaign contributors, both parties passed the DMCA and the copyright extensions, both parties allowed the SEC to rot and wither, and when Enron blew up, Democrats couldn't attack Republicans for it despite the clear ties, because they were too far in bed with Wall Street and the accounting firms who were also involved.

I love how the opposition always gets lumped in with the majority. This, to me, is kind of like saying Rehnquist is responsible for Roe v. Wade because he didn't stop it. The SEC, as I understand it isn't even in the legislative purview. Whole lot of Democrats in the Bush administration. I guess it's all Norm Mineta's fault. I also seem to recall a large number of Democrats attacking Republicans for Enron, and even campaigning on it. Edwards himself uses it in his stump speech.

6. Take away all of Howard Dean's $2000 contributions and he's still got more money than any of the other Democrats. That gives him a sort of independence that the other candidates don't have.

Just because he receives donations in different amounts? I agree that the way Dean has conducted himself to this point has shown a willingness to say "fuck you" to pretty much anybody. I guess that that's independence--or arrogance. I dispute that that fact can be gleaned by looking at donation amounts and nothing more.

7. His reform proposals strike directly at the heart of the problem and move the US much closer to a publicly funded campaign model.

Except that he's opting out of matching funds. Which is absolutely the right decision. But it also underscores the fundamental problem with public financing--the opt out option. I think he has some good proposals and hope he--or whomever--finds a way to make them work.

8. I find him to be personally more credible and policiy-wise more effective than Edwards.

This is the fundamental difference of opinion. I absolutely like and trust Edwards, and will be very disappointed if he turns out not to be for real. Dean I am certain will say and do exactly what he wants to at every moment. He's credible until he decides to change his mind. Given that he makes no pretense of hiding the fact that he doesn't give a rat's ass what anyone who isn't Howard Dean thinks about anything, I do question his ability to get things done. Fortunately, as with all the Democrats other than Lieberman, I agree with him 75%+ of the time.

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