Monday, May 26, 2003

Republican's have earned the right to be smug

Dave Johnson of Seeing The Forest posts some interesting thoughts on the different ways right-wing and left-wing philanthropists spend their money on political causes:
Here's how the right manages to have such an infrastructure in place, while progressives and moderates are left struggling with each other and barely getting their messages out to the public. There's a lot of money out there on the right, but there's also a lot of moderate and progressive money out there. The difference is that the right uses its money to provide general operating funding to "advocacy" organizations that exist to come up with ways to convince the public to vote Republican. The organizations on the right are funded just to exist, and the money continues year after year, so they do not have to spend so much of their time raising money, instead concentrating on effectively carrying out their ideological objectives. On the other hand, moderate and progressive philanthropists have traditionally provided money for specific programs with the intent of doing good in specific ways. This system of "program funding" evolved as the best way to apply scarce resources to projects with goals for which there was a general public consensus of support. This system evolved at a time when helping the poor, protecting the environment were all widely supported by the public.
I found this interesting because it ties into a lesson I learned from an online acquaintance during the course of the Clinton Wars. I used to be a "candidate, not the party" type voter. I thought political parties were passe and only non-thinking individuals just voted straight party tickets instead of examining the candidates and finding out what they really believed in. This acquaintance corrected my thinking on this matter by pointing out the simple fact that we can never really know what any candidate believes in because they all say whatever they need in order to get elected. Even their own spouses probably don't know what they really believe in. However, if you vote by party affiliation, you have a much better chance of predicting what it is they will accomplish once they are in office. For one thing, they will naturally ally themselves with members of their own party when it comes to drafting public policy. There may be the occasional outlier, like a Zell Miller for the Dems or a Lincoln Chafee for the Republicans, but their mere presence in the chamber gives their party leadership one more voice in the chorus. When you vote for David Democrat or Ronald Republican you aren't just voting for the individual. You are also giving power to the entire political apparatus that they are connected to. If you generally find that the one of the parties is closer to your ideal of what the country should be like than the other than you should always vote for that parties candidates (with the usual caveat that all rules must have there exceptions). I am a registered Independent. I am socially liberal but economically conservative. I have never, in the past, tied myself to one political party or another. But I have to admit that I believe this world would be better all around if Democrats were in charge more often than Republicans. Yes, even incompetent Democrats are usually better than Republicans (especially competent ones, who might actually do some real damage). I think Dave Johnson has hit on something important in his post: right-wing philanthropists do not focus their money on specific issues because they know that if they can just get Republicans in charge than most of what they want will come to pass in the natural course of time. This is equivalent to Solomon wishing for wisdom over riches and getting rich in the process because he was wise. Left-wingers and moderates, as Dave points out, waste money on issue advocacy, in the course of which they lose the bigger battles of who actually gets to set the agenda for discussing those issues. You can't get your legislation passed if you can't get it past a committee chair that is occupied by a member of the opposition. Every left-wing and moderate philanthropist and organization needs to understand this: their particular issue is, at this moment, irrelevant, because as long as the Republicans have a strangle-hold on the system they will never get a fair hearing. It's pointless to even push for something like single-payer healthcare until we have a political establishment that is willing to give the idea a fair shake. You will just be wasting your time, your money and delighting an opposition who will be laughing at you to your face because of your blinkered stupidity. The 2004 election will quite possibly be the most important election of my lifetime (God please let me never have to go through this kind of shit again). It is important that we not get bogged down on the question of whose bread is getting buttered this week. There is no single issue that is more pressing on the body politic than removing George W. Bush and the rest of the Republican, right-wing apparatus from power. All other issues take a distant 2nd place. The Republicans learned this lesson back in 64 with the defeat of Barry Goldwater. What will it take for the Democrats to learn it as well?


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