The Hundred Rich People Who Run America – Mark McKinnon 01.05.15

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

A hundred ultra-wealthy liberal and conservative donors have taken over the political system. Do we have the guts to take it back?

We are well past the point that anyone will be shocked or even surprised by how distorted our system of funding campaigns has become, but thanks to some excellent reporting by Ken Vogel at Politico, we now have some interesting new perspective.

We have reached a tipping point where mega donors completely dominate the landscape. The 100 largest donors in the 2014 cycle gave almost as much money to candidates as the 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less (and certainly that number goes from “almost” to “more” if we could include contributions that are not required by law to be disclosed).

Think about this for a minute. This is consequential. It means that candidates running for office are genuflecting before an audience of 100 wealthy individuals to fuel their campaigns. So, whose bidding do we think these candidates are going to do? Is it any wonder that the interests of large corporations and unions get to the front of the line?

Liberal Democrats like to blow their bugles about how all the big money in politics comes from rich Republicans. Actually, as Vogel points out, 52 of the 100 top donors are Democrats, and the number one donor by far is Democrat Tom Steyer, who chipped in $74 million.

At least we’ve achieved some bipartisanship somewhere in our political ecosphere. Both parties are now equal opportunity offenders when it comes to gaming the system.

But I don’t fault Steyer or the Koch brothers for trying to exert their influence politics and public policy. They have strongly held beliefs and issues they care about deeply, and they are simply spending a lot of their money to try and change things in a direction they believe would be better. Nothing illegal or unethical about that.

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Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need Liberals – By Jamelle Bouie JULY 1 2014 11:48 AM

Hillary Clinton in Selma, Alabama
More of this might have helped: Hillary Clinton hugs Southern Christian Leadership Conference National President Charles Steele on March 4, 2007, after her speech in Selma, Alabama.

Photo by Lee Celano/Reuters

Somehow, six years after a divisive, bitter primary against a liberal challenger, Hillary Clinton has become the darling of the Democratic left. To liberal Democrats, she’s more “tough,” “honest,” and exciting than any figure in the party. As Noam Scheiber writes in an excellent feature on Clinton and the left for the New Republic, “it’s a striking turnaround for a candidate who, when her opponent famously proclaimed her ‘likeable enough’ in 2008, discovered that less than half her party agreed.”

For Scheiber—who pegs the change to partisan solidarity—liberal support is key to Clinton’s presidential ambitions, if she runs. Without dissatisfied liberals to fuel an anti-Clinton insurgency, he argues, the former secretary of state has an easy path to the nomination, even with her liabilities on income inequality and her close relationship to Wall Street and other titans of the 1 percent. “What’s so unusual about Clinton’s standing is that, unlike 2008, it’s almost certain to hold up even against a perfectly positioned challenger—say, Elizabeth Warren, the most beloved economic populist in the country,” writes Scheiber.

At the risk of nitpicking, I think it’s wrong to call Warren “perfectly positioned.” Not because she isn’t talented and popular, but because liberals—or at least, self-identified liberals—aren’t enough to win a Democratic primary.

Key to Scheiber’s case is the idea that liberals killed the Clinton candidacy of 2008 and could do the same in 2016 if they backed Warren or another credible challenger. But while liberals were a necessary part of the Obama insurgency, they weren’t sufficient to stop the Clinton machine. To wit, self-identified liberals were just 39 percent of all Democrats in 2008, followed by moderates (38 percent) and conservatives (21 percent). Or you could just look at Clinton’srecord in the primary, where liberal opposition couldn’t block her victories in New Hampshire, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, and Arizona.

Clinton’s problem had less to do with liberals and more with African-Americans, who formed a critical share of the Democratic primary electorate. Scheiber points to this in a footnote, but it’s worth a full take. Put simply, a Democratic presidential candidate can’t win the primary without substantial support from black voters, who tend to vote for the establishment choice. Accordingly, it’s when African-Americans back a challenger that the establishment candidate falters, which is to say that if Hillary Clinton had kept a decent share of the black vote, she would have become the Democratic nominee, regardless of liberal disdain for her candidacy.

The GOP’s ‘Jobs’ Hypocrisy – By Michael Tomasky 01.03.14

Conservatives are suddenly hot on measures that Democrats have been touting for years. So why can’t they can’t acknowledge their own party is the biggest obstacle?

Photo by © Joshua Roberts / Reuters


I bring good news this new year! Conservatives have a jobs agenda, one that isn’t built around merely cutting taxes and regulations and getting the government out of the way so the free market can strut its stuff.

No—this includes… are you ready?… infrastructure investment, and a monetary policy less obsessed with keeping inflation under 2 percent. It’s new, it’s exhilarating, it’s brilliant! And it’s the same stuff that Barack Obama and most liberal Democrats have favored for years.

When David Frum, whom I respect a great deal, tweets that a new article should be thought of as “a ‘95 theses’ moment for the reformist right,” he gets my attention. So I clicked immediately and read through “A Jobs Agenda for the Right,” by Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, from the new issue of National Affairs. I liked the essay and even agreed with a respectable percentage of what Strain had to say. But reading it was far more infuriating than reading something by a conservative and disagreeing with every syllable, because articles like Strain’s refuse to acknowledge, let alone try to grapple with, the central and indisputable fact that the contemporary Republican Party—his presumed vehicle for all this pro-jobs reform—has opposed many of these initiatives tooth and nail.

The first big measure Strain touts in his essay is infrastructure. “Anyone who has driven on a highway in Missouri or has taken an escalator in a Washington, D.C., Metro station knows that the United States could use some infrastructure investment,” he writes. He doesn’t lay out a specific program, but clearly he favors fairly broad public investment.

Um, OK. There are people who’ve been trying to do just that. And not only Barack Obama. John Kerry led this effort in the Senate, and he was joined by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison (who’s since retired). Their attempts to fund a modest infrastructure bank were supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But it could never get anywhere because of rock-solid GOP opposition. Does Strain not even know this? Or is he pretending it never existed so he doesn’t have to deal with the political reality of Republican obduracy?

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