This week, former Vice President Al Gore called for an Occupy Democracy movement using the Internet to escalate the battle against the corruption of democracy. Meanwhile, the New York Times ran a major story describing how GOP super PAC mega-donors are far surpassing their Democratic competitors and why financier George Soros probably won't, but perhaps might, donate a comparatively modest amount of money to the Dems.
This is the first in a series of columns about money, power, voting and democracy in 2012 that will develop the following themes:
Al Gore is right. I agree with his comments about the corruption of our politics and democracy. But, as a long-term supporter of Gore, I must ask: Will his actions equal his words, or will his comments this week be a fleeting commentary whose results will be inadequate to the vital mission Gore proposes?
Will Gore, Bill Clinton and Andrew Cuomo make major efforts to tap their vast networks of financial supporters to counteract the current superiority of super PAC donors from the right to help Democrats keep control of the Senate and regain control of the House, by raising substantial funds for Majority PAC and House Majority PAC?
Will Gore begin (and wealthy liberal donors support) a national campaign promoting voting rights and attacking GOP voter suppression -- a subject that should be close to Gore's heart after voters preferred him to be president in 2000, using tactics that are so aggressive today?
Memo to Obama: If you cut back financial support to Senate and House Democrats, it would not be a brilliant move.
Which brings me to Soros, who does for Democrats and liberals so little compared to what wealthy conservatives do for their side.
Regarding Soros, I no longer care, except to note it is a shame that someone who did so much to support democracy in Eastern Europe, for which he should be eternally applauded by the right and the left, does so little, compared to financiers of the right, to support progressive candidates for democracy and reform at home.
Soros is merely a highly visible symbol of a breed of wealthy liberal insider elite, including too many in Hollywood, New York and Silicon Valley who do far less to support their beliefs than wealthy conservatives do to support theirs. For two generations, wealthy conservatives have treated politics like total war they fight to win, and a brilliant business proposition that achieves ratings, sells books, attracts advertisers, wins votes and makes money. Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest liberal insider elites, by contrast, treat politics like a hobby, a vanity play or an act of romance one does with oneself.
The result: huge imbalances with major advantages to the right in television, talk radio, publishing and now multimillion-dollar super PAC donors.
The entire conservative political and media armadas became a powerful megaphone of mobilization for the Tea Party movement, while the Occupy Wall Street movement, even during its highest moments, was treated like a stepchild by the political, media and financial liberal elites that should have rallied for it, but did not.
For three years, Tea Party advocates were everywhere on Fox News. Where have the Occupy Wall Street advocates been seen on television? Dare I suggest this is not unrelated to Fox News's huge victories in ratings?
So: Why does Fox News tower like a colossus above all competitors in ratings when the liberal base is comparable to the conservative base?
Why does Matt Drudge tower above all others in his field, like the Roman Empire towered over its distant colonies, in aggregating news and having his work (and his vast influence) bannered throughout all other media (including the allegedly "liberal media," which follows Drudge the way Talmudic scholars inspect religious artifacts)?
Why do Rush Limbaugh and conservative talkers so dominate political radio, while Air America could not avoid bankruptcy even during a rising liberal tide? Why was Andrew Breitbart so influential, while the liberals complained about him without competing against him?
To Messrs. Gore, Clinton, Cuomo, Obama, Soros and many others, I ask: What do you plan on doing about this?
There is something very wrong and very dangerous to our democracy when the Supreme Court allows big money to buy elections, and only one side (the right and champions of greed) steps forward, while many of the wealthy liberal financial elites merely ponder, opine and observe in response. Some claim grandiose credit for the comparatively little they do. Others offer ludicrous excuses for the things they do not do.
I agree completely with Gore. I hope and pray that in the coming months I can applaud what Gore does, as much as what he says. I hope the Occupy Wall Street movement and wealthy liberal donors will heed Gore's call to begin a great Occupy Democracy movement. This is what future columns in the paper and on The Hill's Pundits Blog (beginning Friday) will discuss.
We will soon learn who will lead, who will follow and who will get out of the way. Do not underestimate the role this will play for Democrats who will seek the presidency in 2016, who are being closely watched by Democrats today.
To Gore, Soros, Clinton, Cuomo, Obama and others, I remind you: Talk is cheap. In this business you get what you pay for in blood, toil, sweat, tears, passion, idealism, activism, commitment and, yes, you better believe it, in money.
This column was originally published at The Hill.