Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? In the face of all these assaults on the working and middle class, there are many movements but no Movement. The Occupy movement, which gave us the phrase, "The One Percent," was too hung up on its own procedural purity to create a broad movement for economic justice. This vicious circle can be reversed, as it has been reversed at moments in the American past. As that noted political consultant Joe Hill put it, as they were taking him to the gallows, "Don't mourn, organize."
The Republican Party and the political media world are already off to the 2016 horse races. It is way too early for any real analysis of the public's mood, but that doesn't stop the oddsmaking within the Beltway. After all, the Democratic nomination race is setting up to be a snoozer, so why not get started obsessing over the Republican race?
On Election night, 2014, as campaign spending records were shattered and Jon Stewart declared "Money" the big winner, the people of Tallahassee, Florida lit a beacon of hope for the rest of the nation. Voters in Florida's capital city overwhelmingly approved an extraordinary ethics and campaign finance reform ballot initiative that fights money in politics corruption, reclaims local government for the people, and provides a path to victory for national reform efforts. The victory was the opening salvo of a new strategy to break through gridlock at the federal level by passing tough new anti-corruption laws in cities, counties and states across the country -- emulating the successful efforts pioneered by marriage equality and marijuana decriminalization advocates in recent years.
Pity the American people for imagining that they have just elected the new Congress. In a formal way, they of course have. The public did vote. But in a substantive way, it's not true that they have chosen their government. This was the billionaires' election, billionaires of both parties. And while the Republican and Democratic Party billionaires have some differences, what unites them is much stronger than what divides them, a few exceptions aside. Indeed, many of the richest individual and corporate donors give to both parties. The much-discussed left-right polarization is not polarization at all. The political system is actually relatively united and working very effectively for the richest of the rich.
If Republicans want to defend the rights of corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited, secret money in campaigns, then they should say so. But they do not get a free pass to defend unlimited, secret political spending by sidestepping the question and pretending that Democrats are attacking our nation's First Amendment.