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Michele Swenson

Michele Swenson

Posted: August 13, 2010 02:39 AM

The disappointment of Robert Gibbs with a "professional left" pales next to the anger of the electorate over business-as-usual, corporate-controlled Washington.

Precisely because his presidential run inspired a high level of long-hoped-for change, the crushing disappointment with Barack Obama's failure to make a dent in the corrupt political culture of Washington is acutely felt by many. Instead of the audacity of hope, we have witnessed the grasp of power-for-power's-sake. Obama's efforts to force-feed his senate choices of Blanche Lincoln to Arkansans and Michael Bennet to Coloradans, could ultimately prove Pyrrhic victories.

The Michael Bennet senatorial campaign made clear the only kind of campaign that the Democratic Party wants to run - Washington top-down, with cynical avoidance of debates and discussion of issues, while throwing millions in corporate cash at media, robo calls and mass mailings to scare seniors with lies about Andrew Romanoff's alleged intent to privatize social security. Attention was deflected from record campaign dollars raised and spent by anointed party candidate Bennet - $8 million - by falsely accusing Andrew Romanoff, who raised less than one-fourth as much in private contributions, of "duplicity" (Bennet's Deputy Campaign Manager's word) for taking "special interest" money. Romanoff's rejection of special interest PAC money in the senate campaign was conflated with his state legislative total PAC contributions of $65,000, less than Bennet raises in a week.

Bennet's corporate media cheer leader, The Denver Post, praised and justified Bennet's acumen for "complicated financial matters" even as they sat for months on a story about his high-risk Wall St. investment deal that has compromised Denver Public School funds. The Post echo-chamber equated politics and money, defended as "free speech", mocking Romanoff for not acknowledging the same. Romanoff "sold his house to fund a cheap-shot ad against Bennet," charged the editors, taking a cheap shot.

Media pundits invested in the status quo have disregarded the need to level the election playing field by passage of public campaign financing legislation and provision of free or discounted media air time. Defending unlimited campaign funding, Post editors asserted that constituents will decide when dollars improperly influence elected officials, and will "hold them accountable" - huh? The electorate stands no chance against the current tsunami of special interest PAC money.

In short, the Bennet campaign has been despicable, orchestrated and endorsed by the party hierarchy in Washington, and implemented by President Obama's Organizing for America out of the Colorado State Party office. The Bennet campaign, amplified by media, appealed to the lowest common denominator, further confusing facts by conflating the two very different candidates, whom Party Chair Pat Waak characterized as "pretty much the same on the issues," separated by a "slim difference" (and $6 million). Such cynicism pervades the precincts, as more than one person has parroted the "common wisdom" that there is no difference between the two - "might as well vote for Bennet" - unwittingly supporting corporate interests over their own.

Media and party operatives have achieved a new low in cynicism, inspiring more of the electorate to turn off and drop out. Ever-more right-leaning Democratic and Republican parties have delivered us over to the plutocracy. The Denver Post's Fred Brown contends that the two major parties have grown further apart, pulled respectively toward their left and right fringes. More accurately, both parties have become corporate subsidiaries and moved rightward, differing only by degree. Ever-wackier Republicans seek to shut down government, choke off public education, and end Social Security. Democrats too often do the bidding of their corporate masters, seemingly a faint echo of the Republican Party instead of the loyal opposition.

With the Democratic party hierarchy shamelessly weighting election outcomes, corporations are the victors, not the people. Tuesday's Colorado senatorial election signaled the prevalence of lobbyists' money over the electorate's interests. A friend reports that one of her friends went home Tuesday, changed her party affiliation from "Democratic" to "Unaffiliated," and wrote President Obama expressing her disgust with his intervention in Colorado's election. One of my friends shifted his registration to the Green Party. Viewing our badly eroded, corrupted democracy, many feel abandoned by both parties.

The one way that Michael Bennet and Democrats could redeem themselves is to work hard to level the election playing field by passing the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), a public financing vehicle for campaigns. It is the least to be done to help counter unlimited corporate campaign dollars unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court majority in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission.

One Colorado advocate for FENA (SB 752) relates that he has spoken to Michael Bennet 3 times since January, soliciting his support for the Act. Bennet has been mute, and his Washington office reluctantly returned a call ("We don't usually return calls to constituents") to say "We're considering it." He notes that Bennet appeared to posture yet again, signing on as cosponsor of SB752 only 10 days before the election, too late in the session to make a difference.

Want to take bets on Democrats acting on this? I didn't think so.