Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 21, 2010

SHINING A LIGHT ON ISSUE THAT MATTERS.... For a couple of weeks, a wide variety of pundits have said Democrats are making a mistake focusing on undisclosed contributions fueling Republicans in the midterms. Much of the political establishment has concluded that of all the issues on voters' minds, no one really cares about secret, possibly foreign, campaign donations.

There's been at least some evidence to suggest the pundits are wrong, and more evidence continues to arrive. Take the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for example.

So how has the White House/Democratic campaign against the GOP-leaning outside groups that have been spending so much on TV ads this midterm cycle fared? Per our poll, 74% say it's a concern that outside groups have their own agenda and care only about electing or defeating candidates based on their own issues; 72% say it's a concern that these groups don't have to disclose who's contributing to them; 71% say it's a concern that the candidates who are helped by these groups could be beholden to their interests; and 68% say they're concerned these groups are funded by unions or large corporations.

The poll noted, of course, that the "overall dynamics" of the cycle haven't necessarily changed as a result of these concerns, at least not yet, but the results nevertheless show that voters do care.

Indeed, the same poll asked whether respondents believe the parties are more interested in the concerns of average Americans or the needs of large corporations. At this point, Dems have benefitted, as more of the public perceives them as being on the side of the public, while a large majority believe Republicans are beholden to big business.

Greg Sargent, who's been following this as closely (and as well) as anyone in media, added:

Again: No one ever expected this attack line to produce an immediate and dramatic turnaround in Dem fortunes. And it very well may be that the above shifts in public attitudes aren't enough to substantially limit Dem losses in an environment where the economy trumps all.

But every little bit helps, and it's very clear that the Dem attacks on secret money are resonating to some degree.

What's more, it's certainly resonating with Democratic donors -- as far-right entities collect secret cash hand over fist, rank-and-file Dems are grabbing their checkbooks to help their party compete in the campaign's final weeks.

I suspect most pundits will continue to scoff, but there's every reason to believe this offensive against undisclosed contributions fueling the GOP has been entirely worthwhile.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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I think the Dems need to take this beyond the 2010 elections. Just like for the last 30 years we've had the "government is the problem" meme embedded in our collective neural cortex, we now have the opportunity to internalize the "Big Money is not your friend" meme. So many liberals I know (as well as libertarians) believe that "the game is rigged" and thus refuse to participate in elections, thinking that their vote doesn't matter. Instead of seeing the Big Money as an enemy that has already won, we must start looking at them as an enemy that must be fought. And the middle and lower classes need to realize that they're being had. So hey, Tea Party folks! You're being had. Obama is not Hitler. Big Money is not your friend.

Posted by: freeproton on October 21, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why "pundits" are taken at all seriously. David Brooks is perhaps the most blatant offender, with his, "Americans care about..." blahblahblah, but they all do it -- conflating their own opinions with the opinions of "the people." It's arrogant, lazy, dishonest and breathtakingly stupid, like a bullfrog declaring, "L'etat c'est moi."

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 21, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, NOW the pundits scoff. I remember how 'Chinese money' in the Bill Clinton campaign filled the ether with outrage. And also Al Gore and Buddhist temple bucks. Apparently it's only Democratic foreign money that is a problem.

Posted by: DAY on October 21, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

As freeproton said, this is a long game. This may not make much difference (if any) in this election, but it's critical going forward that this message be central to the Democratic platform.

Posted by: shortstop on October 21, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The right may gain a few congressional seats this time around ("electoral massacre" in pundit-speak), but the most they'll be able to do then is add more inertia to an already gridlocked process. Must be why Obama hit the ground running.

In a few months the presidential campaigns gear up. Take a look at the Republican field: Palin, Gingrich, some colorless governors with closets full of skeletons. No amount of secret money and pastel/polyester insurrection is going to take down Obama. The harder they try, the more attractive the incumbent will look.

Posted by: Haystack Calhoun on October 21, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Justice Thomas' wife ironically reminds voters what the teabaggers and the GOP party is really all about -- hypocrisy and lies! The Thomas' profess to be Christians and yet the Christian religion asks that we Forgive those who transgress against us, and to do good to those who despise us or hurt us. I do not see this Christian attitude in the actions of Mrs. Thomas. Is she a Christian or not? And if she is, why does she not act like one? Where is her humility? And shouldn't matter more what God thinks than what the world thinks or Anita Hill. There is much hypocrisy going on here. It seems they are Christians in name only and not in deeds. And yet sadly, many GOP are Christians in name only, not all, just most!

Posted by: angellight on October 21, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Much of the political establishment has concluded that of all the issues on voters' minds, no one really cares about secret, possibly foreign, campaign donations.

Au contraire! I'd say that this is easily the single most important issue effecting our nation. Every single problem we face as a country has its roots in corporations meddling in the business of government.

The economy. The unwinnable war on terrorism. Education. Childhood obesity. Health care. Unemployment. The culture wars, including gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, etc. The weakened dollar. The housing crash. Our crumbling infrastructure. Low world opinion. Wage disparity. Homelessness. Moral decay. Torture. Voter fraud. Religious fanaticism. Gun proliferation. The war on drugs. Immigration. Crime and high prison populations. Global climate change. Environmental and even natural disasters.

All of these issues — every last one of them — are driven and directed through the corridors of Washington DC by the so-called "invisible hand." Those who MAKE it happen benefit from it directly. Those who LET it happen believe the Super-Lotto-Jackpot fantasy that they too will one day be fabulously wealthy.

The original Tea Partiers are now lamenting the fact that their "fiscally responsible" movement has been overtaken by cultural conservatives. This is the only way in which the Tea Party movement is similar to the Founding Fathers they contend to worship. In a short amount of time they have seen their ideology swallowed whole by the greedy, the unhinged, and the duplicitous.

Posted by: chrenson on October 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the pundits scoff. If the pundits go on the attack about this, then those deep-pocketed entities who buy advertising space may look elsewhere.

Just like the huge bankster and Wall Street stories, the pundits and the big news organizations consider attacks against them as their 3rd rail - because they'd be attacking the owners of the companies at which they are employed.

Instead, it's about fear of darkies.

Posted by: terraformer on October 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Pundits offering such biased advice is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that Democratic candidates continue to take the advice seriously.

Posted by: jeri on October 21, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

From the Justice Thomas and Mrs Justice coverage, a lot of people are learning for the first time what a douche bag the Justice is!

Posted by: js on October 21, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Actually the strategy of emphasising the massive undisclosed contributions on the right dovetails nicely with the question many voters are asking themselves: how did the extreme right wing candidates who are not selve funded ("Crazy Carl" and "Crazy Carly") get this far in this election cycle. "Follow the money" is overused, but always useful.

Posted by: robert on October 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Pundits, smundits. Fighting in defense of the little guy was the core of Andrew Jackson's political philosophy and the founding principal of the Democratic Party. Rachel Maddow pointed out that one guy alone spent $150,000 funding the pro-Art Robinson ads in Oregon. I'll go out on a limb and say that most citizens don't have that kind of extra money laying around the house--and it makes the $25 they do have to contribute look kind of paltry.

One caveat: The Dems need to be careful not to set themselves up as attacking the rich. I liked Eugene Robinson's configuration that we have two concurrent systems, a capitalist economy (money good) and a democracy (money bad). That's a distinction Democrats would be wise to make clear.

Posted by: endlesssheriff on October 21, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK
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