WE WERE WRONG. HOORAY!
It would be easy this week to pile on the President and his crew for making the next election a tossup rather than a walk-over, but we won’t do that. We’ll wait til next week. Meanwhile….
For many, many months we’re been playing Paul Revere, riding through the countryside alerting citizens that Evil was here.
What to our wondering eyes should appear but a citizenry strong enough, canny enough, and determined enough to turn this Dark Force aside.
Our great fear has been Big Money – that it would invade politics, as it has certainly done, but now is free to invade every corner of every town and to buy everyone from dogcatcher to mayor. It can now buy entire school boards. It can buy state representatives’ seats and of course those of state senators.
It can provide America with elections between candidates that no man in the street favors, NO man in the street. It can pay for Side A and for Side B when not a voter in that particular district has any idea who the candidates are or what he/she stands for.
This total freedom for Big Money comes, of course, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United versus the FEC. It comes with the court’s decimation of Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. And it will come with the court’s decision to favor a man named McCutcheon who, not content with giving large sums to money to PACs, wants to be able to give away his fortune to however many candidates’ personal campaigns he wants. We imagine him trying to buy an entire Congressional committee for some particular personal purpose.
But what really worried us was an election recently in Coralville, Iowa, where a new PAC called Americans for Prosperity, funded by those barefoot boys the Koch brothers, went after every incumbent office holder, planning to replace them with its own slate of unknown and untried men and women.
This was a nightmare come true. Could Big Money finally get its way and buy an entire town? We say finally because in recent years, Big Money has been getting very little indeed for all its millions. Do the names Carli Fiorino, Linda McMahon, Mitt Romney ring any bells?
But our fears revolved less around star power than what makes a star in terms of communication. If Big Money swamps radio and television, brings in politicians from other areas to support its choices, floods a town with newspaper ads and flyers, busses in people to ring doorbells and make telephone calls, what chance does an independent candidate have getting through all this noise with his or her message?
Coralville has a population of less than 20,000. This is a perfect testing ground for the Koch boys. And since we know that voters can be persuaded to vote against their own interests, Coralville became a laboratory the results of which tests could have signaled the end of the American voting process as we’ve known it.
We are thrilled and relieved to report that, according to Douglas Paul, a member of Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation, a group that had goals similar to the Koch boys but less frighteningly, “The intrusion of the Americans for Prosperity pretty much poisoned the water of what we were trying to do for the last couple of years.” Which is to say, apparently too much “conservatism” can be a bad thing on election day.
The upshot of all this campaigning was that every incumbent against whom the Koch boys campaigned was re-elected.
People in Coralville said after the election that Americans for Prosperity’s efforts backfired and helped candidates whose positions it was criticizing.
The presence in Coralville of the Koch troops brought out a record number of voters who clearly wanted no part of these guys and their ideas. Further, it was clear to Coralville that it was a target and that it was being bought.
Coralville said No. Clearly, unmistakably, definitely.
This race was watched not only by the press, it was watched by politicians in D.C. Vice President Joe Biden called the new mayor, John Lundell, to congratulate him for overcoming the outside influence.
All of which is to say that our American common sense and inherent pride in our own ideas and goals handed the Koch boys a serious defeat, and served as a warning to others who might have in mind trying the same take-over strategy.
It was only one battle in an anti-American war, but what a triumph.