30 June 2010

Competitive Codependency: The Bipolarchy Begs

Two begging letters arrived in my mailbox yesterday. One was from Sharron Angle, who somewhat defensively, as if anticipating a dispute, dubs herself the "Official Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate Against Harry Reid." "If you're the Republican I've been told you are," Angle writes, "then I need you to find your checkbook right now." That statement doesn't inspire confidence. If anyone told Angle I was a Republican, that person was a liar or a fool. It's more likely that she bought access to The American Conservative's mailing list and assumed that anyone who subscribed to that idiosyncratic antiwar journal must belong to the GOP. The fact remains, however, that Angle needs money. That's because Senator Reid "has nearly $10 million in the bank [and has] been waiting until I secured the nomination to go on the attack....unloading everything he has on me in an effort to smear my good name." Reid also reportedly plans to raise an additional $25 million from "liberal special interest donors." To counter that power, Angle wants 1,000,000 Americans (that is, "patriotic Americans who love this great country enough") to give her $25 each.

Angle is an utter reactionary who wants the U.S. to abolish the Department of Education and withdraw from the United Nations. She has hinted that increased gun and ammo sales indicate growing fear of the government, and that this election year might be the last chance to prevent an armed insurrection by peacefully pushing Democrats out of power. Her ideology disqualifies her from my support. Worse, she shouldn't have asked me in the first place because I'm not the Republican she assumes me to be. Worse still, I thought the likes of her were all for federalism and states' rights. Why, then, is this person who seeks to represent the state of Nevada asking for donations from a New Yorker? The mere request proves that in her own mind she doesn't represent her state as much as she does a party or an ideological movement. But I'm sure she'd excuse herself by saying that liberal Democrats are doing the same thing.

In fact, they are. The other begging letter came from Nancy Pelosi, with a cover letter from Barney Frank. The Speaker of the House is writing on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This is a general fund dedicated to retaining Democratic control of the House of Representatives. That control is in danger, Pelosi writes, because Republicans and their "special interest contributors" are furiously fundraising to flood the airwaves with smears and lies. "With millions pouring into Republican campaign coffers from special interest groups, the 2010 midterm elections are shaping up to be one [sic?]of the most expensive in history," the Speaker warns, "And now that the Supreme Court's radical decision in Citizens United has opened the floodgates for special interests in our elections, I can only imagine how much money they will pour into defeating Democrats."

So each side accuses the other of being dominated by "special interest" donors, and this is one of those happy cases when both sides are right, or both wrong, depending on whether any American has the right to call any other a "special interest." The Pelosi letter is a more elaborate mailing than Angle's simple appeal, but together they demonstrate how perpetual competition enriches both pillars of the American Bipolarchy. The Republicans must have money because the Democrats have more, and the more Republicans raise, the more Democrats need. This money fuels the permanent fundraising machines both parties operate (though Angle has her own lone-wolf Washington-based committee), and the people who operate these machines are the principal beneficiaries of campaign donations. Arguably, both major parties exist today primarily as fundraising machines, pitching their opposition in extreme terms to maximize donations by making the need for them appear more urgent. Neither party could raise as much money if it didn't have the other nearby to scare people into donating as if their lives depended on it. Neither might be able to raise as much money if voters' choices didn't appear as starkly limited as they do to most people, if one party could not say that the only alternative to itself was the worst possible option for the country. But that might be another case in which both sides are right: when the only alternatives are the same two parties, each of which appears more interested in fundraising than governing, that's the worst possible option.

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