Start with the last presidential election. Most of the nearly half billion dollars â€” $374 million out of a total of $486 million â€” doled out by â€œsuper PACsâ€ and other independent expenditure committees during the general election was by Republican groups, more than triple the $112 million spent independently in support of President Obama.
Clearly, this cash advantage did not tip the scales. Stuart Stevens, chief strategist of Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign, argues that the huge expenditures by Republican groups were essentially wasted.
â€œWhat we discovered on our side, to our surprise and disappointment, was that there were some superb pro-Romney ads, but there was little impact on voters, not what we would have expected them to have,â€ Stevens told a postelection colloquium on Feb. 5 at the University of Chicagoâ€™s Institute of Politics.
Stevens argued that the â€œmost important answerâ€ in explaining the ineffectiveness of the super PAC ads â€œwas that they were not coordinated with the campaign. They produced ads that were good as they stood alone, but they werenâ€™t directing one message.â€
Obama, according to Stevens, did not have this problem because he was less dependent on super PAC support and his campaign directly controlled a much higher percentage of the money spent on his behalf. Obamaâ€™s control of cash empowered his campaign to deliver messages and themes that his strategists wanted to stress with little competition from independent groups pushing for him.
Stevens cited Federal Election Commission reports to show that Obama was able to raise more â€œeffectiveâ€ dollars than Romney, even though the overall balance favored Romney by $140 million, $1.25 billion to $1.11 billion.Â
â€œAshleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleighâ€
Of course, not all right-wing pundits spew hate. But the ones who do are the ones we liberals dependably aggrandize. Consider the recent debate over whether employers must cover contraception in their health plans. The underlying question â€” should American women receive help in protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies? â€” is part of a serious and necessary national conversation.
Any hope of that conversation happening was dashed the moment Rush Limbaugh began his attacks on Sandra Fluke, the young contraceptive advocate. The left took enormous pleasure in seeing Limbaugh pilloried. To what end, though? Industry experts noted that his ratings actually went up during the flap. In effect, the firestorm helped Limbaugh do his job, at least in the short term.
But the real problem isnâ€™t Limbaugh. Heâ€™s just a businessman who is paid to reduce complex cultural issues to ad hominem assaults. The real problem is that liberals, both on an institutional and a personal level, have chosen to treat for-profit propaganda as news. In so doing, we have helped redefine liberalism as an essentially reactionary movement. Rather than initiating discussion, or advocating for more humane policy, we react to the most vile and nihilistic voices on the right.
Media outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post often justify their coverage of these voices by claiming to serve as watchdogs. It would be more accurate to think of them as de facto loudspeakers for conservative agitprop. The demagogues of the world, after all, derive power solely from their ability to provoke reaction. Those liberals (like me) who take the bait, are to blame for their outsize influence.
Even programs that seek to inject some levity into our rancorous political theater run on the same noxious fuel. What would â€œThe Daily Showâ€ and â€œThe Colbert Reportâ€ be without the fulminations of Fox News and the rest of the right-wing hysterics?
Taken as a whole, the arrangement is entirely cynical. This slavish coverage of conservative scoundrels does nothing to illuminate policy or challenge our assumptions. On the contrary, its central goal mirrors that of the pundits it reviles: to boost ratings by reinforcing easy prejudices. These ratings come courtesy of dolts like me: liberals who choose, every day, to click on their links and to watch their shows.
So why do I do this?
The first and most damning reason is that some part of me truly enjoys resenting conservatives. I know I shouldnâ€™t, that I should strive for equanimity. But secretly I feel the same helplessness and rage that animates the extreme right wing of this country. I see a world dangerously out of balance â€” morally, economically, ecologically â€” and my natural impulse is to blame those figures who, in my view, embody the decadent ignorance of the age. They become convenient scapegoats.
Rather than taking up the banner and the burden of the causes I believe in, or questioning my own consumptive habits, Iâ€™ve come to rely on private moments of indignation for moral vindication. I fume at the iniquity of Pundit A and laugh at the hypocrisy of Candidate B and feel absolved â€” without ever having left my couch. Itâ€™s a closed system of scorn and self-congratulation.
My fixation on conservative demagogues also includes a share of covert envy. The truth is that I feel overrun by moral uncertainty, bewildered by the complexity of our planetary crises. Wouldnâ€™t it be nice, I ask myself, to feel entirely sure of my beliefs? To shout down anyone who disagrees with me? To dismiss peak oil and global warming as fairy tales? To accept capitalism as a catechism?
But whatâ€™s really happening when I scoff at Sarah Palinâ€™s latest tweet amounts to a mimetic indulgence: Iâ€™m bleeding the world of nuance, surrendering to the seduction of binary thinking.
This pattern of defensive grievance, writ large, has derailed the liberal agenda and crippled the nationâ€™s moral progress.
I am a big fan of Thomas Friedman but while his column has this great line in it,
But the more I read the papers the more Iâ€™m convinced that â€œwe the peopleâ€ are having an economic crisis and â€œyou the politiciansâ€ are having an election â€” and there is frighteningly little overlap between the two.
he is totally wrong when he puts the blame for the current economic crisis on both the Democrats and the Republicans. Itâ€™s the fault of the Republicans. They have resisted every attempt of fixing the problem and they are totally to blame.
The shift is also emblematic of the strains plaguing the U.S. economy. Fearful corporations and investors have been socking away cash in their bank accounts rather than put it into even the safest investments.
The giant bank, which specializes in handling funds for financial institutions and corporations, will begin assessing a fee next week on customers that have been flooding the bank with dollars, Bank of New York told clients in a note reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The decision won’t affect individual savers, who already are stuck with near zero interest rates as the Federal Reserve keeps rates low to support a soft economy. But it is a glaring sign that corporate executives, bank leaders and money-market fund managers are fleeing from risk and hoarding cash as the recovery.
Of course when the government comes close to default, it tends to make companies reluctant to in things like Treasury Bonds or the markets.