You’re about to lose the most precious possession that you own, and you don’t even know it. And, yes, they are truly deserving of contempt: those who’ve quietly done this to you.
So, where do we begin?
Let’s start with that party of “limited government” and “freedom,” Ronnie Ray-gun’s GOP.
Sometime back in the bad old Nixon days, the decision was made to pursue the overtly racist “Southern Strategy,” which they now (admit to and) allegedly claim was “wrong”:
RNC Chief to Say It Was ‘Wrong’ to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes
By Mike Allen
The Washington Post
Thursday, July 14, 2005
It was called “the southern strategy,” started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue — on matters such as desegregation and busing — to appeal to white southern voters.
Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was “wrong.”
“By the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out,” Mehlman says in his prepared text. “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”
Now, let’s just pass over the temptation to say that Mehlman’s admission falls into the category of “OK. I used to be bad, but I promise not to rape children anymore.”
I don’t really care to place blame anywhere except where it belongs, and, in this case, the “Southern Strategy” was only part of the mix. (And we’ll get to the Democrats in a moment — because they’re deserving of scorn, as well.)
Through the ‘Seventies, ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties, the GOP realized that they could pick up cheap Senate seats in the West with huge infusions of cash: on a purely economic basis, it’s more cost-effective to invest a couple of million for two senators from, say, Wyoming or Montana, than to spend ten times that on a contested race in New York state. A race that you might lose, along with your “investment.”
Dick Cheney, who was never much of a political operative in Wyoming, made a big “hit” in Washington, D.C. :
Dick Cheney’s political career began in 1969, as an intern for Congressman William A. Steiger during the Nixon Administration. The intern Cheney then joined the staff of Donald Rumsfeld, who was then Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1969–70. He held a number of positions in the years that followed: White House Staff Assistant in 1971, Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council from 1971–73, and Deputy Assistant to the President from 1974–1975.
What everyone misses in the Dick Cheney story was that Cheney, now a Washington ‘insider’ in the most insidiously insidey manner imaginable was sent “back” to Wyoming for a moment, with Republican funds, to take the sole Wyoming congressional seat.
You see, Steiger was a congressman from … Wisconsin! (Not Wyoming).
Only one problem: Cheney’s loyalties were anywhere but WITH Wyoming. Cheney has never particularly liked living in Wyoming, seemingly, and the second that he was BACK in the private sector, following the Gulf War and Bush the Elder’s repudiation by the voters, he moved to Texas, where he went to work for Halliburton, a company that had mutated from an oil field equipment and services provider into a global “business” player through all the contracts they received via Cheney’s Department of Defense — contracts for putting out the post-Gulf War oil well fires.
Again, Cheney is most deserving of our scorn, but he’s not the point. The point was that once Dick Cheney left Wyoming in the 1970s, he never actually returned, although the state was exploited for its congressional seat, and to weasel around the Constitutional requirement that the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates can’t come from the same state (Texas) in 2000.
But what happened to Wyoming in all of this? Where was THEIR congressman?
Answer: the same place that the black representation in the GOP went a long time ago: to the Land of the Rainbow Unicorn Smiley Faces.
As far as those covetous of that Wyoming congressional seat were concerned, exploiting Southern racism or putting up an “of by and for Washington D.C.” golem as the candidate was the same thing: a means to increase power, no more, no less. Those being “represented” in our representative form of government were mere variables in that calculus: Wyoming residents and blacks were equally discounted in the greater picture of Global World Domination. Power. That’s all. Just power.
And, blacks were quite discounted in that process. Wikipedia:
Bob Herbert, a New York Times columnist, reported of a 1981 interview with Lee Atwater, published in Southern Politics in the 1990s by Prof. Alexander P. Lamis, in which Lee Atwater discusses politics in the South:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Herbert wrote in the same column, “The truth is that there was very little that was subconscious about the G.O.P.’s relentless appeal to racist whites. Tired of losing elections, it saw an opportunity to renew itself by opening its arms wide to white voters who could never forgive the Democratic Party for its support of civil rights and voting rights for blacks.” [emphasis added]
“Tired of losing elections.”
That was the key to it. Beginning in the Atwater era, GOP operatives became masters of the direct mail campaign, raising money in quantities never before seen in U.S. politics. Sourcewatch notes:
Atwater was a trusted advisor of U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Atwater’s skills at attack politics brought him and his candidates success. Atwater’s opponents characterized him as “the Darth Vader of the Republican party”, “the happy hatchet man”, and “the guy who went negative for the sheer joy of it.”
Atwater’s aggressive tactics were evident in 1980, when he was a consultant for Republican candidate Floyd Spence in his campaign for Congress against Democratic nominee Tom Turnipseed. Atwater’s tactics in that campaign included push polling in the form of fake surveys by “independent pollsters” to “inform” white suburbanites that Turnipseed was a member of the NAACP. He also sent out last-minute letters from Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) telling voters that Turnipseed would disarm America and turn it over to liberals and Communists. At a press briefing, Atwater planted a “reporter” who rose and said, “We understand Turnipseed has had psychotic treatment.” Atwater later told the reporters off the record that Turnipseed “got hooked up to jumper cables” – a reference to electroshock therapy that Turnipseed underwent as a teenager.
“Lee seemed to delight in making fun of a suicidal 16-year-old who was treated for depression with electroshock treatments,” Turnipseed recalled. “In fact, my struggle with depression as a student was no secret. I had talked about it in a widely covered news conference as early as 1977, when I was in the South Carolina State Senate. Since then I have often shared with appropriate groups the full story of my recovery to responsible adulthood as a professional, political and civic leader, husband and father. Teenage depression and suicide are major problems in America, and I believe my life offers hope to young people who are suffering with a constant fear of the future.”
Atwater’s greatest success came in the 1988 presidential election. A particularly aggressive media program, including a television advertisement related to the case of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who subsequently committed a rape while on a furlough from a life sentence in a Massachusetts prison, allowed George H.W. Bush to overcome Michael Dukakis‘s 17% lead in early public opinion polls and win both the electoral and popular vote. During the election, a number of false rumors were also spread about Dukakis, including the claim by Idaho Republican Senator Steve Symms that Dukakis’s wife Kitty had burned an American flag to protest the Vietnam War, as well as the claim that Dukakis himself had been treated for a mental illness.
And, from that campaign came marketing to very distinct micro-demographics, and, with the ascendance of the Karl Rove brand of political professional (Rove was mentored by Atwater) who majored in statistical analysis and minored in slime 101:
During the 1988 election, Atwater was assigned a “minder” by the Bush campaign, George W. Bush. The younger Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove, would later employ Atwater’s tactics against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary. After the election, Atwater was named chairman of the Republican National Committee.
It should be noted that Atwater experienced a “deathbed epiphany” and wrote to Turnipseed:
In the last few months of his life, Lee Atwater apologized to me. In a letter dated June 28, 1990, Lee wrote, “It is very important to me that I let you know that out of everything that has happened in my career, one of the low points remains the so called ‘jumper cable’ episode.” Faced with the ultimate question of life, Lee also publicly proclaimed his Christianity and sought reconciliation with his enemies.
He said in his letter to me that “my illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything.”
Too little, too late. Atwater is dead, but his tactics live on.
A month before his death, this appeared, “Lee Atwater’s Last Campaign?” Life Magazine, February 1991:
- ‘My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.
Atwater died along with the sentiment a month later. And the slime machine oozed on. But was Atwater — and by extension, Rove — the boogieman? Or was there something more profound at work?
Yes there was. It was called “home rule,” and the GOP was “agin” it. Beginning in the ‘Seventies, individual state races were, increasingly, targeted. And, always playing catch up, the Democrats have tagged along down that road paved with good intentions.
At this point, races are targeted by the RNC and DNC, operating from their Idiotocratic Bunkers inside the DC Beltway, all the way down to the local levels.
Why I am not a Democrat:
I became a Democrat in 1988, when I saw that Reagan and Atwater WEREN’T an aberration. No: they were the mainstream and the future of the GOP. Pat Robertson was a “legitimate” presidential candidate, and at the 1988 GOP Convention, Jerry Falwell was a delegate on the floor. And so, recognizing that we live in a political system wherein one is either Montague or Capulet, I switched registrations.
And I took Thom Hartmann’s current advice a decade and more ago, and volunteered wiht my local party, walked the streets doing literature drops for Ron Wyden in the special election to fill the vacant Bob “The Kissing Bandit” Packwood senate seat. And I worked inside the party for years.
Manned the booth at the state fair, the county fair, the Eugene Celebration (our rodeo sans livestock) , marched in the parades, walked door to door, put up lawn signs, attended and helped with fora, designed the party’s letterhead, managed the county and state websites, served as state Publicity Chair, was a county delegate to the state party and a state delegate to the National Convention.
And what I saw were a dozen little Karl Roves, running campaigns like a business, fealty bound to political feif lords in a very sophisticated, but very controlled version of the old machine politics.
Local candidates are funded and often recruited at the highest levels. In 1998, some guy we’d never heard of, Tom Bruggere, was recruited by Al Gore and the Senate Democratic Something-or-Other Committee. He was recruited because he was a liberal millionaire.
Randi Rhodes tells the tale of the same committee a few years later “auditioning” two talk show hosts for national syndication — Randi Rhodes and Ed Schultz. Rhodes claims not to have wanted it, and Schulz got the gig, allegedly. Instantly, he had a “book” and a “best seller.” He magically appeared on 100 radio stations.
And Ed Schultz is very much like what Inside-The-Beltway Senatorial Committees would think that Rush Limbaugh was. The Republicans, to win elections, simply went to a strategy of Machiavellian “gaming the system” tactics. Win EVERY election. Focus on negative techniques, isolate narrow demographics. Poll. Poll. Poll.
Market. But, always from the top down. Rove to Wall Street Journal to Rush to Lars. Never Lars to Rush to Wall Street Journal to Rove.
And, we know the result of that. But we forget that, while the Democrats were losing, they were slowly turning themselves into the same kind of operation.
Ed Schultz was the Democratic senators’ response. Note sometime how many Democratic senators show up on the Ed Schultz show.
I started this blog as a “candidate’s” blog in the spring of 2004. I was running for the local legislative seat in the primary because one of the candidates was flouting the laws (that she had herself reviewed for the city) on lawn signs. The exact issue was that lawn signs could not be up more than XX days before an election.
Her campaign argued that there was a special election in Beaverton ( 100 miles north) and that was “an election” as stated in the law. Such a person, I believed, had no business making laws for others with that kind of attitude toward the law.
My other opponent was an unknown cipher that the local union machine had demanded as its quid pro quo for letting a non-union state representative move up the legislative ladder, as the rep moved into a formerly union-organizer held state senate seat, the union got to put one of their own in the rep’s seat.
Only problem for me? 90% of his cash was coming from out of district. 75% was coming from out of STATE! The union offices in Washington State were purchasing the seat that represents the University of Oregon. And neither union members nor, significantly, the VOTERS OF MY DISTRICT had been asked about this sweetheart “deal.”
And I noticed a strange thing: the media were not at all interested in the race, nor in my “revelation” about the campaign finances of my opponent, which was the only real reason that I was in the race.
The jaded reporters from the “straight” dead tree and video media didn’t think that outside campaign financing was a big deal.
Well, as I reported AFTER the election, the vote almost exactly conformed to the spending on the race. Whatever you spent, that’s how many votes you got. I spent nothing and got nothing. The cheating lady spent a goodly amount — naively raised from people who still believe that PACs and organized contributors don’t own the game and that any small ($25 to $200) contributions are chump change: the coin of the realm for state legislative races is the $1000 PAC contribution. And here, in “blue state” Oregon, there ARE no campaign finance limits. And the cheating lady got a goodly amount of votes.
The winner spent obscenely and got a like proportion of votes.
Or take that new senator fellow. He raised about $10,000 for his house seat here every year. Then after being appointed he ran for “reelection” to the senate. He raised his $10,000 like always and then the “Senate Democratic Leadership Committee” kicked in a cool quarter million dollars.
No: ’round these parts, you resign your seat early, the local party nominates three candidates and then the county commission picks one. That personsthen runs as the incumbent, attracting the biggest number of $1000 contributions all-but-automatically, and then winning AS the incumbent, until you can be appointed to the next tier, and then the whole cycle repeats, etcetera.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But, increasingly, as the state caucuses have attained supremacy (a GOP legislator of many years’ tenure was stripped of all committee chairmanships and assignments, and left to publicly drift into oblivion for crossing the caucus a couple years back), the national office has insisted on controlling the database. Last election, they showed up with their telephone forms, scripts and phone numbers and used our (grass roots, non-affiliated) volunteers for a massive Democratic National Committee data-mining operation, with all data entered in the NATIONAL DNC database.
I know what you’re thinking: Do local parties get access to that information? Technically, I suppose so. In actuality, no. Sorry, punk. I guess you weren’t lucky.
For years it had bothered me that locals aren’t in control of their own elections. Famously, a couple years back, the National Democratic office sent a foul-mouthed fellow from San Diego up here who not only “didn’t know the territory” (as in Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”) but who actively cursed at some of the little old ladies in tennis shoes who make up the backbone of political volunteerism in the West.
In 2000, Al Gore’s campaign sent a college kid from West Virginia to run the Eugene/Springfield campaign for Gore. Why? Because we’re all sausages, I guess. All alike, all to be dealt with tactically in such and such a manner, etc. Don’t laugh: both times the campaigns “won” their respective team effort. But the victory seemed Pyrrhic, or even pyretic.
The “We” that’s doing the winning isn’t a “We” that we know anything about. We are not asked for our input, we are presented with two brands of tooth paste, and told to choose; but the concept of “home rule” that seems so quaint to the media (where newspapers and television stations shuffle news people around like the Gore campaign was shuffling college students) has been lost.
As a matter of fact, here is this year’s confidential “communications policy” freshly minted from the Democratic Party of Oregon:
MEDIA POLICY-SPEAKING FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF OREGON
It is essential that all entities of the Democratic Party of Oregon coordinate their “media” activities. Under the DPO Bylaws the State Chair is the chief spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Oregon. The chair can and often does designate individuals to speak on behalf of the party, most frequently, the Communications Director and Executive Director. Vetting with the Chair, Communications Director, Executive Director must occur before any other person can speak for the Democratic Party of Oregon (including spokespersons [when identifying themselves or could be identified as such] for the DPO Caucuses, Congressional Districts and DPO Committees). These activities include: speaking to reporters, submitting op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, press releases, and press conferences.
Reference: Democratic Party of Oregon Bylaws
Section 7 -Duties
177 A. The State Chair:
178 1. Is the CEO and chief spokesperson for the DPO;
Chair: [ staff ...]
If a reporter contacts you and you have not discussed the issue with the party, tell the reporter that it is not convenient to talk to them at this time—can you call them back or ask them to call you in an hour.Check on their deadline to be sure you are able to respond in a timely. (sic)
If you think there will be media at an event in which you are representing the Democratic Party of Oregon—check with the Communications Director for talking points.
See Speaking on behalf of the party
There you go. The CEO of the Democratic Party? These are Republicans. This is a business.
And have you noticed that now campaigns are “Inc.”?
No matter: I learned long ago, and only confirmed as time passed that, as far as the real “electors” go, the parties might as well be debating societies for all they care. When the campaign itself is in full swing, the parties are simply repositories of warm bodies, that is all. (Try being a Precinct Committeeperson some time, and SEE if you can actually walk your own precinct during an election. Go ahead and try, I DARE yas.)
You can rise as high in the political parties as you choose, and STILL have no effect or power whatsoever. Because it’s a sham. A cheap melodrama. All the decisions are made by money, and when those decisions get made, you and me ain’t invited.
A plague on both your houses! I am neither Montague NOR Capulet.
If we have no say in WHO our representatives are, if a Tom Bruggere can be put up as a viable Democratic Senate candidate merely because he’s a millionaire, if the national parties are financing campaigns at the local level, * where is our own home rule?
[* The national GOP has twice kicked in five figure contributions in the waning days of local northside state house and state senate races. Increasingly these former four figure races (in terms of dollars spent on a state house or senate race) have been edging into six figure territory. Our legislature is for sale. ]
And there’s a whole class of professional political operatives who make their full time living at this stuff: who professionally game the media, create events, manage “petition” drives for private would-be millionaire legislators through a variety of intermediaries — ALL WITHOUT HAVING TO TELL US so much as who they are, let alone WHY they want this or that legislation, crafted in their think tanks, polled by their own research operations — like, say The Lincoln Institute of Public Policy Research, Inc. — and managed via their agents in whichever states they’re legislating in THIS season.
That was the basis of my Howard Rich series last year.
Our politicians chosen for us, our laws chosen for us on simple “up or down” votes, and a media increasingly interested in serving their ownership profits, and, therefore, in promoting policy that may be against the public interest so long as it’s profitable for the company involved. With GE owning NBC, and GE the biggest defense contractor in the world, what is the temptation to tweak the news in GE’s direction? And GE makes nuclear plants too … or would like to again.
You get it?
All right, here’s another story: when I was running for the house seat, the local paper, who delighted in long, wonkish and heavy-on-the-innuendo campaign finance pieces, was willing and ready to look at the campaign finance reports I’d driven up to Salem and spent the afternoon xeroxing at the usurious state copy rate (they copied the pages you indicated). 91% of my opponent’s cash from out of district. 75% from out of state. Did the tape, did the math. Handed on a silver platter.
Issue comes out: nothing.
But there, a quarter page ad for my opponent, in a Hawaiian shirt, in color, with the two prior state legislators swirling around the seat. (They ran the campaign on union money, and the fellow who ran the campaign spent generously. Three four-color mailers in one week. Big ads in the local newspapers. At the end, it worked out to something over $10 spent per vote for winning about 5,000 votes).
The media were not only not interested, but, I’m increasingly beginning to understand, aren’t interested because they MAKE oodles of money from campaigns. In the election of a couple weeks ago, Measure 50 (an Oregon version of SCHIP — children’s health insurance funded by tobacco taxes) was fought by out of state tobacco to the tune of $8.8 million (we think) versus $3.4 million raised by the pro-Measure 50 bunch, and of that $12 million, the Oregon media got virtually ALL of it.
Why would they want to report on an obscene amount of union dues being spent, as if by a drunken sailor on shore leave, by a professional political consultant who divides his time between Phoenix, Arizona and Seattle, Washington, stopping in Oregon, on the way, to make his “milk run” of Democratic state campaigns?]
But this isn’t democracy, and it’s not home rule. It’s a Disneyland ride in which even if you vote you have no right to bitch, because life is run by polls and polls only reflect the effectiveness of the message they’re marketing.
YOU aren’t a part of the equation.
Which brings us back to Paul Jacob.
Who makes his living out of his Washington, D.C. suburban home, where he keeps a couple of foundations in his cupboard (“Citizens in Charge” et al), and travels around the country on behalf of the Sam Adams Foundations, or U.S. Term Limits, or last year, Americans for Limited Government.
A couple of weeks ago, he was in Hawaii, acting as keynote speaker for the Grass Roots Hawaiian something or other. He’s traveling around the country calling in his media IOU’s and has brought the wrath of the Wall Street Journal, among others, down on the Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma, a DEMOCRAT, for indicting him and two others for breaking the Oklahoma law that says only Oklahomans can make Oklahoma laws.
Isn’t that great? The New York City Wall Street Journal calls Oklahoma “Pakistan“ because a Washington D.C. “activist” isn’t allowed to pass laws in Oklahoma (along with a Michigan petition professional):
A veteran political activist is facing 10 years in prison and a hefty fine for attempting to petition government for redress of grievances. The latest news from Pakistan? No, this is happening in Oklahoma….
(Because Paul Jacob, who does not live in Oklahoma, believes that he has a right, along with an out of state professional petition-gathering company to enact Oklahoma legislation drafted by Jacob’s out-of-state “think tank” buddies, all funded by mystery backers, NONE of whom, in all probability, live in Oklahoma. The Revolutionary War was fought over “home rule” issues just such as these — these rules that Jacob openly flouts and proclaims himself a martyr to “freedom.”*)
[Note: If you're going to have a "Free Paul Jacob" campaign, shouldn't Paul Jacob be IN jail, first? It's not like he's Mumia or Leonard Peltier. Well, perhaps to him, he is. But really ... "Free" Paul Jacob? Give me a break. He junkets to Hawaii, but he must be "freed" ... from what? Frequent Flier Miles? Economy Class seating?]
Ironically, this is EXACTLY the Wall Street Journal’s opinion of Pakistan, as well: The Wall Street Journal knows what should and shouldn’t be legislated in Pakistan. This “proves” that Oklahoma is crazy for insisting that only Oklahomans make Oklahoma law.
Well, Oklahoma was originally “Indian Territory” so many there already know about how “democracy” looks like some sort of democratic process, with voting and all that jazz, but the REAL decisions are actually made in Washington D.C. by yet another self-styled, “Great Father.”
What?! scream the free-lance legislators. What?? scream the yowling “freedom” blogs. What?!?? scream the political professionals, who make their money running other states’ campaigns. This is Stalinist! This is Fascist! This is Liberal!
What home rule?
And that’s all that this blog has ever been about.