Today on KUOW's Weekday, the topic was Clean Elections: The Impossible Dream? A very interesting discussion, including two guests involved in the "clean" elections movements in Arizona and Maine. The conclusion: public funding of at least some candidates and disclosures of funding sources have democratized politics at the local level, allowing low-income citizens to win elections and serve their country as elected officials; however, constitutionally protected, unlimited spending on issue campaigns diluted this effect substantially.
This Weekday show was serendipitous, since I was already thinking about another aspect of this issue brought up by my very first (and possibly next-to-last) commentator, walkitout, who wrote: "What do you think of the tizzy about political bloggers accepting money from candidates?" Well, walkitout, here's the deal:
First off, as my friend Taylor said when she heard about this blog: "welcome to 1999". I failed to participate in the blog revolution of 2001-2002, in part because I was too busy getting ... wait for it ... a Digital Media Communications master's degree! The curriculum never included blogs at the time - how pathetic is that? Meanwhile, the general issue of bloggers being paid is now so old the New York Times reported on it over a year ago. So we should expect the corporatization and monetization of the blogosphere to be well advanced, and learn to live with the general phenomenon.
On the political front, it's hard for me to pin down what the "tizzy" is. Political blogs have raised lots of money for campaigns, so it's inherently difficult to distinguish between paid-off patsies and campaign workers, who are generally considered the good guys (think MoveOn if you are a progressive). Fortunately, the distinction is unimportant in the grand scheme.
Let's say this is my own blog strategy:
1. Start blog.
Now, if ? involves taking money for a quid pro quo endorsement, I might balk. But that doesn't mean the content of this blog isn't corrupted by money. Even in its infancy, with a whopping 2 comments from people who are probably my best friends (one of whom sneaks in a shameless viral plug for my soon-to-be-cc-licensed novel), this blog has already been corrupted by the power and influence of big business! See, I work for a wholesale mortgage lender, and I depend on my salary to afford the computer to write this blog on. So you won't find me blogging under my own name about mortgage industry dirt. You also won't find posts about certain highly controversial topics. Self-censorship, secrecy, and other information control is alive and well on this blog, and our culture's money&power imbalance is at the root of it. This blog exists at the whim of numerous large, powerful, rich corporate entities.
Getting back to politics, it's clear that campaign finance reform can help, especially at the local level. But I still laugh at the campaign finance reformers, because they never, ever talk about the big picture. Talking meaningfully about money and power in this country is taboo. It's always about "special interests", an empty term if I ever heard one. That's why I consider economic justice a prerequisite for democracy. Campaign finance reformers are trying to fix the wrong problem. They are on a bucket brigade in the French Quarter while people are swimming for their lives in the Lower 9th Ward.
As for the paid-off bloggers - let them eke some enjoyment from their 30 pieces of silver before they are savaged by the burgeoning pack of Woodwards and Bernsteins.