Monday, July 16, 2012

Oy, Westen

Yeah, Drew Westen had another piece in the NYT Sunday paper yesterday. Yeah, it was the usual nonsense.

This time, it's Westen arguing two things: that nothing is worth doing unless campaign finance reform happens because without campaign finance reform our elected officials will be hopelessly corrupt; and, fortunately, this is an easily solvable problem because if Democrats say a few magic words the electorate will rise up as one and demand campaign finance reform.

It's all fantasy, of course. Every bit of it. The idea that there was some golden age of Democrats who were ideal liberals (and therefore, in this story, indifferent to the views of large corporation and other business interests) is just nuts. So is the idea that if it's only presented to them correctly, everyone would love -- and vote on the basis of -- campaign finance reform. And that's ignoring the fairly obvious and central problems of getting anything through the Senate (or will Westen's magic words produce more than 60 Democratic Senators?) or through the Supreme Court. As I said, it's just fantasy.

You would hope, however, that Westen and his supporters would at least notice the fundamental logical flaw in the whole thing. Westen believes that campaign finance is easily accomplished by just wording the pitch for it correctly. But surely it's possible to find wording that "works"  -- moves his dials -- for other issues also, no? Indeed: Westen himself surely doesn't believe that campaign finance is uniquely potentially popular if only Democrats apply his magic words. No; even in this column, he begins with a substantive example of malfeasance, presumably because he believes that everyone reading it will agree that it's an outrage and something should be done. And if that's all it takes to win elections, then why wouldn't Democrats (who surely, and Westen agrees, want to win elections) simply support whatever policies Westen wants, supplied properly with Westen-supplied magic words to convince everyone to support those policies?

See, Westen's logic in this piece is that Democrats won't enact the policies he wants because campaign money corrupts them, and they need campaign money in order to win elections. But if that's true, it's a Catch-22; they won't enact supposedly wildly popular campaign finance reform because they're corrupt, right? Why would the interests that prevent them from passing substantive legislation be fine with campaign finance laws that would (according to Westen) result eventually in substantive legislation that they don't like?

Back here in the real world, of course, magic words won't really make much of a difference (if any) because elections don't work like that -- both sides get to use their own magic words, so that part tends to cancel out in any campaigns where resources are roughly even. Campaigns matter most when resources are massively unequal; otherwise non-campaign factors such as the president's performance, the economy, and other real events are going to matter more. And...oh, forget it. That's enough time spent on fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. Calling everything he dislikes "a fantasy" doesn't make his argument any stronger. Where his ideas to improve the situation rather than not only presidents but Congress and state politicians are also being bought. That doesn't bother him any??? It should. He must be paying to someone's Super Pac with money no one else knows about. Otherwise why does money have to taint everything in most people's eyes?? We'd get more done if 75% of Congress weren't out with their beggar cups looking for money to advertise with or to avoid someone else bashing him/her because they worked on better laws rather than bigger treasuries for lobbyists. If all other democracies in the West can do with less money and time so can we.


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