Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Unilateral Disarmament

I think I may have touched on this topic before, but those readers familiar with my work know that I am not a fan of unilateral disarmament. Meaning things like, yes, I hate the fucking filibuster in the Senate, and I am a huge advocate of eliminating the filibuster altogether (none of the bullshit half-measures that have been proposed), BUT, if the Republicans re-take the Senate, the Democrats should not hesitate to use the filibuster at every given opportunity. Those are the rules of the game as they are currently written. So those are the rules we play by. When we change the rules, then we'll change our behavior. Not a second before that.

I bring this up in the context of Citizens United and Super-PAC money. I was reading this brief article on a debate between two candidates in a local state Senate race. The debate between these candidates, Democratic challenger Bridget Fleming and long-time Republican incumbent Ken LaValle, for some reason orbited around the influence of Super PAC money in the race. First let me point out that this is a pretty aggravating failure by the moderators since state senate candidates can't do ANYTHING about Citizens United or Super PAC influence. They just can't. We shouldn't be harping on this in a debate where time and access to the candidates is finite. I find it to be a massive failure of our media personalities when they continue to pepper candidates on policy issues they cannot possibly influence. We can't continue to give the public the impression that politicians can influence policies outside of their jurisdiction. These are the kinds of memes, when relentlessly (and falsely) perpetuated, ultimately undermine public confidence in government institutions. We come to expect specific politicians to fix all of our ills and inefficiencies when most politicians simply aren't empowered to enact the reforms we demand.

Anyway, what really grinds my gears in this article is actually a statement in the comment thread. Fleming, who rails against Super PAC influence in the debate, is accused of hypocrisy. I know, I shouldn't feed the trolls, but I just can't help myself:

True George, Ms. Fleming is noble. Although I am curious as to why she has been making so much hay about how evil Super PAC's are, yet she recently cashed $10,000 in checks from Super PAC's? Please explain, I'm sure there is a rational explanation - maybe she needs the money from evildoers to fight evil? Looks like a typical do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do situation. Very courageous indeed.
Let's be clear about something here. There is absolutely nothing (zero, zilch, nada) hypocritical about soliciting Super PAC money while railing against the Supreme Court decision that unleashed Super PAC contributions. The floodgates have been opened. Bridget Fleming cannot plug the dike by unilaterally refusing Super PAC contributions. Nor can any other candidate, Democrat or Republican. In fact, that type of religious purity would only have the opposite effect. It would continually reward the candidates that support the Citizens United decision and continually punish the candidates who oppose the decision.

Let me use a sports analogy to demonstrate. Many National League fans hate the Designated Hitter rule. No doubt, many National League Managers hate the Designated Hitter rule. However, the DH is here to stay, whether we like it or not. It would be pretty foolish (and indeed a fireable offense), if a National League manager refused to use a DH in an interleague game in an American League stadium. We don't expect, nor should we expect, the NL manager to send up his .154 hitting pitcher out of some misguided dedication to traditional baseball rules. The reality of the situation is that the game has changed. Like the 3-point line in basketball. Or the two-point conversion rule in football. We do not ignore rule changes because we do not agree with those rule changes. If we disagree with those rules, you need to fight to get a seat at the table so we can change the rules. We don't sit on the sidelines and whine and stomp our feet and say, "That's not fair!!!" We play the game by the rules as they are currently constructed. There is no hypocrisy here.  I repeat. There is no hypocrisy here!  It's merely an acceptance of reality. And any candidate who ignores these realities does so at their own political peril.


  1. We managed to make it through three Presidential and one VP debate with almost no talk about the limitations of the executive office, which is disappointing in many respects. To some degree, even though I support a more restricted President, I'd have supported Obama being more creative with executive power on economic matters in the past four years, given Congressional barriers.

    Of course, one of the areas I do support unilateral disarmament is in actual disarmament of nuclear or military capacity.

  2. Good God the press wouldn't talk "process" in a million years. I would drop dead of a heart attack if they did. But I agree with everything you say above. Including unilateral disarmament of our military capacity.