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September 28, 2012


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I'm glad you are meditating on a post-GOP world. They really seem to be roiling apart and beckoning for something new to emerge (if, as you point out, the house isn't completely burned down first.)

Then again, it could just be another soothing apocalyptic dream...

do u dream of electric sheep?


Parties won't be a thing of the past until independent candidates can run on an equal footing. They can't now because the system is gamed against them:

(1) Parties dole out considerable funds to (some) candidates from their own parties. Who is going to give an independent candidate money, other than individual donors? And how many big money donors will support a candidate without a party organization behind him, when that is almost like throwing your money away?

(2) Lists of registered voters are free to parties but not to independent candidates, who have to purchase them at extravagant rates (if they can afford to). These lists (which each party updates and details on its own copy) are essential to independent candidates seeking to target possible supporters effectively using highly limited funds (e.g., through direct mail or telephone solicitation campaigns).

(3) Qualifying for the ballot as a candidate is much easier for party candidates, who have to get far fewer signatures from registered voters: it's not uncommon for independent candidates to be required to collect five times or more the number of signatures that (s)he would need if running as a party candidate.

The only way to eliminate parties is to level the campaign funding playing field through strict equal public funding for all candidates (provided they are also subject to identical qualifying requirements).

But that can only be done through a change in the law (and given recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on "independent" expenditures, likely a constitutional amendment). Only the existing legislature can change the law, and asking these "ins" to kill the party system (which they relied on to get a seat -- and with that seat the perks and advantages of incumbency), is like asking the party politicians to chop their own heads off.

Short of a public plebiscite this is unlikely to happen. But the U.S. constitution does not make any provision for this, nor has there ever been a national referendum or plebiscite in the United States.

Furthermore, any constitutional amendment needed to bypass recent case law regarding election funding, would require a constitutional convention to be convened by two-thirds of the legislatures of the states. Again, existing legislatures are unlikely to play ball, since it is against their personal and party career interests to eliminate their elaborate and well-funded support systems while simultaneously allowing and enabling large numbers of new contenders to compete with them on an equal footing.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"Right through the administration of the (very underrated) John Quincy Adams, party politics were largely subdued and frowned upon."

True. However, election campaigns were anything but subdued. The newspapers of the period make The National Enquirer look like the New York Times. And candidates had little compunction about smearing each other with the most awful calumny.

Jefferson was a notable offender. In a campaign against then incumbent President John Adams (not to be confused with John Quincy Adams), Jefferson hired the early version of a PR firm to attack Adams, calling him "a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."


Reason Magazine had an article with sourced (hyperlinked) campaign quotes from attack ads, circa 1800; some of them are astonishing.


Side-note: I added a reply in the previous thread regarding Prop. 115. (The 19 past Presidents of the Arizona State Bar write AGAINST Prop. 115, not in favor of it as was suggested by "west".)


P.S. Note that the CNN article link I provided was actually a three-pager. John Quincy Adams is also mentioned, on the second page; note the shrill and vulgar newspaper content of the period.

Also note that, while it may be true that political parties were themselves comparatively subdued (or at least comparatively undeveloped) during the early years of the Republic, newspapers paying allegiance to one party or another had quite definite and even violent party allegiances:

"Given the intense rivalry and conflict involved, it is not surprising that the 1800 election reached a level of personal animosity seldom equaled in American politics. The Federalists attacked the fifty-seven-year-old Jefferson as a godless Jacobin who would unleash the forces of bloody terror upon the land. With Jefferson as President, so warned one newspaper, 'Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes'."


My own view is that this "intense rivalry and confict" was fanned by party politics.

do u dream of electric sheep?
That's robot philosophy. You HAL-in' me here, cal?


The money angle in politics, even if totally legal, is surely strangling democracy. Just look at Sheriff Joe, parlaying a mere county sheriff's post into a multi-million dollar a year enterprise, for an example of how easy and lucrative it can be to hold office. He and his wannabe Babeu are simply following the example of pols in DC and at the state level -- turning their positions into money generating machines.

Money raised by legislator incumbents is often free flowing, especially at the DC level. Parties are a vital cog in operating these "businesses" and generating the all important cash. To many of these guys it's not just about getting sufficient cash to be reelected, it's about sucking in as much as you can while you can while the getting is good.

I barfed when hearing the Rs pontificate on the sacredness of the First Amendment in arguing against public financed elections, and trumpeting transparency as the protector of democracy from the scourge of rapine corporations -- before SCOTUS squelched that argument and brought it on.

Emil is right, eliminating private money in elections is the solution. How? Electing Obama, hoping he gets to replace at least one of the conservative members of SCOTUS, and then right the wrongs of the Citizen's United decision.

At least it's a beginning and a ray of light.

Petro is that you leaving paper mache chicken images in the beer coolers at Circle K's ?

Side BAR, side BAR, reference the moneyed elections and some column once upon long time ago re drugs. Hot info just in from mi Amiga Chapa, she says 1, Cartels contributing to both parties equally as both want to keep drugs illegal. 2. Chapa dice that due to the ingenuity of American youth the cartels are eliminating shipments of MJ to North America as anyone with a small closet, water, heat lamp, and MJ seed s can grow enough powerful odorless MJ for the average American family. No more need for the local MJ drug dealer. ( Info received on my recent trip to Rosie’s Cantina in Nogales, Mexico for a massage, Cal your local old republican or wig with a rifle).

Still seeing a lot of Mexican... I mean, that's what I've heard...

1, Cartels contributing to both parties equally as both want to keep drugs illegal.
Does tu Amiga have anything to say about how that dark cash gets laundered in? I assume it finds its way via PACs?

72 and never dome an illegal drug but I have done mexican green bean coffee and Rosie is still a great massage.

Ask Donald a the boys at Citi this ?

72 and never dome an illegal drug
Quit complaining. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Waiting for glaucoma!

Waiting for glaucoma!
This is taking the law-abidin' thing a bit far, In My Humble Opinion.

It's commitment - I'll give you that.

Chucho 35, me and the Pachucos went head to head in 56, where were you? And "ray of light", you one optimistic dude. Suggest you get really involved. Talk to short grey haired Hispanic guy at bar stool at Portland cafe at Central and Portland.

Glaucoma, no drugs
Scottish, Presbyterian conditioning.
Still get high on Rosie

The political polarization described by Rogue will continue indefinitely. The global secular bull market in agricultural and natural resource products makes it unlikely that urban and rural constituencies can find common ground in federal fiscal policy.

Chuco35 (welcome!) raises an interesting possibility: change the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court and get the issue(s) reheard.

The problem as I see it -- and I'm the first to admit a comparative lack of knowledge on the subject -- is that there is already a good deal of existing case law, decisions made at the Supreme Court level, not only over the last few years but also over the last few decades. It's rare for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its own decisions.

The precedent that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech goes back to Buckley v. Valeo (1976), which was made when the court was considerably more liberal than it is today.

The decision ruled candidates can give unlimited amounts of money to their own campaigns, and struck down limits on on campaign expenditures and on independent expenditures by individuals and groups. This was the case that the Court cited in recent decisions further expanding the role of private money in elections (Davis v. FEC and Citizens United v. FEC).

Still, chuco35's idea might be the most practical possibility for change. Assuming the transformation of the Court with one or preferably two new members, what would probably be needed is a sweeping new approach to campaign finance reform and public funding, that is sufficiently different in its details to convince the Court to hear the case.

The obvious fly in the ointment is that the Court cannot hear a case challenging a law which legislators have yet to pass; and as noted above, legislators are unlikely to pass such laws because they undermine their own political careers and party support.

I'm pretty sure that even if the Supreme Court is transformed with new members, the Court will not hear new challenges to preexisting laws and established Court decisions, at least, not on the basis of the arguments originally used to challenge and which have already been decided by the Court.


For a more general overview see:


Has this turned into Professor Emil's stream-of-consciousness diary?

"morecleanair" wrote:

"Has this turned into Professor Emil's stream-of-consciousness diary?"

No, it's right on topic. Following a tangent linked to issues raised directly in the blog -- political parties and why they aren't going to disappear anytime soon -- isn't "stream of consciousness". Neither is replying to another reader's comments to me on the same subject.

However, since there is plenty of off-topic commentary above which you didn't complain about, (e.g., Cal Lash's reminiscences about his favorite Mexican bar and his personal record on marijuana usage), I'll have to assume that you're actually complaining about something else. Probably the content of my comments, in which case, tough.

On the other hand, if you're just tired of seeing letters on your screen and want to discourage conversation because you don't find it restful, now is the time to logout and take a nap. I don't see you taking any active part, so you're in no position to criticize others for doing so. This is a "comments" section, not a funeral parlor.

P.S. Intelligent commentary seems to make some "individuals" nervous, defensive, insecure, and cranky. Could that be why there is so little of it, online or off? They keep getting chased off by resentful dullards.

Speaking of party politics (or if you prefer, my personal stream of consciousness), the Arizona Republic recently reported that three Arizona Republican Party candidates, Bob Stump, Bob Burns, and Susan Bitter-Smith, received $413,400 in public funds, then broke the law by using $230,000 of this to print and mail brochures that attacked the Democrats they face in the general election.

The Arizona Clean Elections Commission, composed of two Democrats, Two Republicans, and one "independent" then held a vote to determine the penalty. The Republicans who were guilty of violating the law (which part of "illegal" don't they understand?) had offered to return $29,000 of the taxpayer funds they misused, even though they spent nearly eight times that amount in an illegal direct mail campaign to malign their Democratic competitors. Previous precedents set in similar cases required the full return of the misused taxpayer funds.

The two Democratic members of the Commission abstained from the vote determining the penalty. I don't understand this, since they didn't abstain from the determination of guilt (which was unanimous). The Democratic Party "may pursue further legal action" according to news reports, but abstaining from the penalty phase alone certainly doesn't remove all appearance of possible conflict of interest. Perhaps they knew that the other commissioners would overrule them and abstained as a form of protest. (If so, it was a silly and ineffective act. The Arizona Republic article breaking the news didn't even identify the two abstaining commissioners by name or party.)

The remaining commissioners, two Republicans and one "independent", voted to accept the violators' offer, requiring each of them to pay just $9,617.50 of the $137,800 they each received from taxpayers.

They got away with murder.

What kind of precedent does this set -- what kind of motivation does it provide -- to allow the malefactors to illegally use taxpayer election funds, do the damage that their propaganda mailers could accomplish, and then make them pay pennies on the dollar by way of penalty? This decision says, "Go ahead, break the law, you'll get free advertising at taxpayer expense and in return a slap on the wrist." $9,617 is pretty cheap for the kind of brochures and the amount of mailing performed; far less than they would have spent if relying on their own private funds.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the "independent" commissioner, Thomas J. Koester. He replaced Royann Parker, a Brewer appointee and longtime Republican. On the other hand, he was chosen by Democrat and Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman. The Tucson Independent (newspaper) reported that Koester, an Air Force veteran, has an MBA in finance and served as a vice-president of Morgan Stanley for 38 years. With that background I'd guess that his political sympathies are conservative. The "independent" label can cover a multitude of sins. Still, why would Paul Newman appoint him if that were the case?

Whatever the circumstances, Koester, along with the two Republicans, voted to accept the farcical fractional reparations offer (made by the criminals themselves!), so he's a disgrace to the Commission. If this is what the body supervising "clean elections" does in Arizona, then it's clear that the fox is watching the henhouse.

Does anyone have any additional background detail on any of this?

Intelligent commentary seems to make some "individuals" nervous, defensive, insecure, and cranky.
And wry commentary seems to make other "individuals" nervous, defensive, insecure, and cranky.

Chillax, man. :)

Thanks, Emil! I took your suggestion about a nap and when I returned, the Cardinals had pulled out an overtime victory. So, all's mellow at this end.

I hope to return another day when the discussion is less like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Nothing "wry" about that. Rye, maybe. As long as morecleanair slept it off, we're ok. (By the way, if the firehose is giving you trouble, you might try a cocktail glass. FYI.)

I'm with Petro and morecleanair on this one. TMI, Emil. TMI.

Thanks, CID. For the record, I like Emil's TMI (I mean, that's a lot of work) - I just understand why others might not, or might simply want to tease him about it.

Attacks attempting to undermine are not "teasing".

The issue is not whether you vote Republican or Democrat; that you vote either Democrat or Republican is the issue.

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