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“A Republic, if You Can Keep It”
August 1, 2012 11:57 AM   Subscribe

"[T]he corrupting influence of money is the first problem facing this nation. That unless we solve this problem, we won’t solve anything else... The Framers, Lessig says, had just one kind of dependence in mind for members of Congress: a dependence on the people. He quotes The Federalist (the then-anonymous essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that are often used as a contemporary account of the Framers’ intentions) to make this point: number 52 describes the House of Representatives as that “branch of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone” (emphasis added). But in the last two decades, Lessig writes, members of Congress have developed a fearsome dependency: campaign cash. The total amount spent on campaigns by all candidates for Congress in 2010 was $1.8 billion. Fundraising has become a way of life..." (via 3 Quarks Daily)
posted by caddis (48 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
MetaFilter: filling your InstaPaper queue all day, e'eryday.
posted by DigDoug at 12:08 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, we're caught in a loop. We have to fix money to fix anything else. But we can only fix money if we disenfranchise corporations, because they are giving tons to keep money broken. But we can't fix corporations while money is broken. Etc.
posted by DU at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Pretty interesting ideas, albeit some seemingly radical. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by Thistledown at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2012


Of course, local governments are dominated by money. Perhaps not as much. But if corporations see this happening, the money will start to flow into statewide/local elections. After all, it's unconstitutional to have caps at all in any election.

Not sure exactly how things will work out when the effects of climate change are felt hard, but given our current track, I wonder how many generations it will take before we have an American Spring.
posted by Hactar at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Expressions of citizen discontent have been around for a while. The Occupy movement is the loudest expression of it currently going.
posted by JHarris at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2012


Elected representatives deadlock on key points such as reform of the financial system—after its failures nearly cause a global meltdown—even when solutions seem obvious and attainable.

(a) This isn't true at all. Solutions might seem obvious and attainable to Lessig, but other people disagree. Sharply.

(b) Even then, the problem is not one of money. The problem is that the Republicans believe -- probably correctly -- that their best electoral strategy between 2008 and 2012 is absolute refusal to go along with anything. That is, the problem here arises because of dependence on the people, not in spite of it. This effect was only increased when the teahadists started primarying out MCs who weren't sufficiently extreme in their opposition to anything Obama did -- a problem arising because we require primaries, making nominations... dependent on the people.

“Let’s say we are talking about healthcare: money guaranteed that single-payer health insurance was not on the table. There could be nothing more fundamental to that bill than that.”

Asserting something doesn't make it so. All we can reasonably say is that single-payer was so dead as to not be worth pursuing because there was no way it would get through the Senate. And you don't need to resort to "They was bribed to vote against it!" to explain why Republican Senators were still opposed to single-payer health care like they had always been.

have led him to call for a constitutional convention—something that hasn’t happened since the Constitution was written—to propose amendments that would ensure Congress is truly dependent on the people alone ... leaving the specifics to the delegates themselves, who he believes should be ordinary citizens from across the country

This is possibly the dumbest thing I've read in weeks. What could possibly go wrong with a bunch of GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF MY MEDICARE people monkeying around with the constitution? It's not at all like they'd enact eight layers of asinine dipshittery that would make direct democracy in CA or WA blush.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:29 PM on August 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Expressions of citizen discontent have been around for a while. The Occupy movement is the loudest expression of it currently going.

Or this.
posted by downing street memo at 12:30 PM on August 1, 2012


"have led him to call for a constitutional convention"

This is possibly the dumbest thing I've read in weeks.


I would have to agree. The way Lessig lays out the problem is interesting, but I don't think he has necessarily found the solution. An amendment might help perhaps, even if the only thing that happens is the process of seeking the amendment promotes a better discussion of the issue than we currently seem able to have, but a convention puts everything on the table.
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on August 1, 2012


Expressions of citizen discontent have been around for a while. The Occupy movement is the loudest expression of it currently going.

I'm think the Tea Party folks would disagree with you on that point.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Asserting something doesn't make it so. All we can reasonably say is that single-payer was so dead as to not be worth pursuing because there was no way it would get through the Senate. And you don't need to resort to "They was bribed to vote against it!" to explain why Republican Senators were still opposed to single-payer health care like they had always been."

He didn't claim they were bribed, he said he thought that the influence of money, in particular money from re-election donors, was instrumental in taking the single-payer option off the table.

Republican Senators didn't vote for the bill, so he's not really talking about them in the first place. Were the people who did vote for bill so passionately opposed to a single-payer system? No, it was a viable option in the run-up to the bill.

Did you read the article?
posted by PJLandis at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2012


Hactar: "Of course, local governments are dominated by money. "

In light of this post and of Gore Vidal's passing, I will recommend The Man Who Said No. It's a bit hard to find, but it documents his run for Senate and how money tied into the race, even then.
posted by boo_radley at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2012


This is possibly the dumbest thing I've read in weeks.

I hear you, but if you asked me "Which is dumber: a Constitutional Convention made up of randomly selected US citizens; or a situation wherein corporations are able to anonymously donate infinite amounts of money to political campaigns, and lobbyists spend about $6.5 million per year Congressperson, a full half of whom are themselves millionaires?" I don't think I'd name the former the dumb one.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:00 PM on August 1, 2012 [17 favorites]


How about a Constitutional Convention made up of randomly selected US citizens many of whom will have been happy to sell themselves to the highest bidder before the convention even starts?

A Constitutional Convention made of "ordinary people" would be the greatest reality show debacle ever. A fitting end for the ol' US of A, maybe, but not one I'm real eager to watch.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


But if corporations see this happening, the money will start to flow into statewide/local elections.

Money has been flowing and organizing has already been happening at those elections for several decades, almost entirely on the Republican side. How else do you think that creationism, abortion restrictions, climate change denial, etc have been so successful on the state and local levels? The continued insistence of so many Democrats, both liberal and centrist, to focus on federal-level positions is the single most frustrating thing in electoral politics to me. The success of the Tea Party and right-wing crazies that are in Congress, the Supreme Court, and possibly the Presidency has been based on harnessing this bottom-up strategy for years, and now they're so entrenched that it will take many elections just to reach parity, let alone get rid of them. In the meantime, since they already have the power base, they only need to win two or three federal elections (see 2000-2004, or 2010-2014 if they take all three branches this year) to undo wide swaths of progressive legislation.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


"possibly the next Presidency"
posted by zombieflanders at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2012


I'm afraid that changes at the constitutional level are the only option left. The Supreme Court has really "boxed in" the country with regards to campaign financing, first with the Citizens United decision and then with their rebuke of Montana's attempt to run their own affairs.

Without an unassailable constitutional provision, money has won.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2012


> Without an unassailable constitutional provision, money has won.

I agree, but what are the chances?

* that there's even a Constitutional convention called?
* that it comes to some sort of result?
* that two-thirds of the States ratify it?
* that that change isn't something Tea Party-backed that makes things even worse?

We're talking a chance in a thousand, generously.

This seems to be the flavor of the day - here's proof that there's a huge issue. And to fix it, we'll all have to agree to work together for a long time to do this difficult thing involving government. But half of our politicians hate government and want to see it destroyed. And half the voters like the politicians. So it will never happen.

This isn't getting fixed. None of this is getting fixed. It's going to go down, all the way down, before it goes back up. Sorry!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2012


Did you read the article?

Yes, I did, and ROU_Xenophobe is exactly right. That sentence about the single-payer failure struck me as well because it's so blatantly wrong. The bill barely squeaked through as it was, after months of bitter wrangling even within the Democrats:

Were the people who did vote for bill so passionately opposed to a single-payer system? No, it was a viable option in the run-up to the bill.

You are wrong. Yes, many of the Democrats convinced to vote for the bill did so very reluctantly. Single-payer was really not a very realistic option; the bill was ultimately a compromise. His claim goes against everything I've ever read or heard about the passage of the bill.

This article is nonsense. Money is a huge problem, but he writes as if it's the only problem, that it's some evil force that twists the Good People of America into monsters and if only we could free the People from it all would be well. There are all sorts of deep, systemic reasons behind the current problems in politics.

It's a shame, because I've liked what Lessig has written about copyright law. But this book and his ideas on campaign finance are so astonishingly naive and childish that they read like they were torn straight from the blog of a passionate teen who had just learned about government in high school:

he advances the idea of democracy vouchers, a publicly funded campaign-finance system that would give every citizen $50 to support his or her candidate of choice, and would limit total contributions from any single person to $100. But this system would apply only to candidates who “opt-in,” says the libertarian Lessig, leaving other candidates to take money from super PACs, corporations, or industry lobbyists.

I mean, come on.

And calling for a constitutional convention as his solution? That's such an utter practical impossibility that he might as well have said we should find some unicorns to teach us the magic of friendship.

This is a joke.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't getting fixed. None of this is getting fixed. It's going to go down, all the way down, before it goes back up. Sorry!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:35 PM on August 1 [+] [!]


Um, maybe? I mean, you might be right and I recognize that there are a lot of really big, huge problems facing America but if we all give up and say there's no way to make it better then yeah, you're absolutely right, it won't get better and everything will just get worse forever. On the other hand, even if it does get worse, perhaps there is some way we can mitigate it to make people's lives better or at least less worse. Yup, there's a lot of bad stuff happening and I'm afraid you're largely right but that doesn't mean we should all throw up our hands and give up.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, many of the Democrats convinced to vote for the bill did so very reluctantly. Single-payer was really not a very realistic option; the bill was ultimately a compromise.

His point is that single-payer wasn't even thought of. It wasn't even allowed to be discussed; if you recall, a group of protesters were arrested and removed from a roundtable discussion where single-payer was wilfully ignored. The public option was negotiated away before a bill was even proposed, as a result of an back room deal between the WH and Big Pharma. These are the results of "dependence corruption,"and they are very real.

In terms of the financial crisis and reform, you need to go deeper: the latest Congress isn't to blame for this mess. The repeal of Glass-Steagal under Clinton was an enormous triumph of Wall Street lobbying. That it was even imaginable, let alone achieved, is a testament to the incredible power of lobbyists.
posted by mek at 1:58 PM on August 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


we won't solve anything else.
posted by telstar at 2:05 PM on August 1, 2012


Expressions of citizen discontent have been around for a while. The Occupy movement is the loudest expression of it currently going.

I'm think the Tea Party folks would disagree with you on that point.


I think there's a fairly large disagreement over how large either movement is, currently. You had the media scrambling to cover one of these and the media scrambling to find anything else at all to talk about for the other.

Bad crowd estimates in both cases, allegations of astro-turfing, demonstrated instances of astro-turfing, the damn word astro-turfing, skeezy spin offs, general police antagonism... there's a lot to muddy the waters when trying to figure out which 'will of the people' group is larger.

Then again, it doesn't really matter as the Tea-people and the Occu-people generally run campaigns in different counties and municipalities. They might lobby the same politicians in the various capitols but they are not often trying to elect people in the same places (state level wise, obviously).
posted by Slackermagee at 2:11 PM on August 1, 2012


We have to fix money to fix anything else. But we can only fix money if we disenfranchise corporations, because they are giving tons to keep money broken. But we can't fix corporations while money is broken. Etc.

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE HOUSEMARTINS:
"For too long the ruling class have enjoyed an extended New Year's Party, whilst we can only watch, faces pressed against the glass."

THE HOUSEMARTINS SAY:
"Don't try gate crashing a party full of bankers. Burn the house down!"
posted by kirkaracha at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2012


>that doesn't mean we should all throw up our hands and give up.

Perhaps not, but discussing a Constitutional Convention is about the same thing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:47 PM on August 1, 2012


His point is that single-payer wasn't even thought of. It wasn't even allowed to be discussed

Of course it was thought of. It was thought of and immediately recognized to be unpassable and unpopular with enough Democrats to be not worth bringing up.

If you want another way to think about it: Single payer was so obviously DOA that a (smart) supporter of health-care reform or even a (smart) supporter of single-payer health care would not have brought it up. Trying to get a debate going on single-payer is what an opponent of health-care reform, and supporter of the status quo, would do in an attempt to drive Democrats apart by forcing them to cast many internally-divisive votes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:51 PM on August 1, 2012


The Framers, Lessig says, had just one kind of dependence in mind for members of Congress: a dependence on the people. He quotes The Federalist (the then-anonymous essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that are often used as a contemporary account of the Framers’ intentions) to make this point: number 52 describes the House of Representatives as that “branch of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone” (emphasis added). But in the last two decades, Lessig writes, members of Congress have developed a fearsome dependency: campaign cash. The total amount spent on campaigns by all candidates for Congress in 2010 was $1.8 billion.
Very little sleep last night and probably low reading comprehension today, so maybe I just missed it in the article, but:

(1) The writers of the Federalist meant what by "dependent on the people alone"? Is it at all clear that they meant "as opposed to money donated by the people" or "... by corporations"? Or did they perhaps mean something more along the lines of "as opposed to the legislatures of the states"?

I haven't read the Federalist Papers, so I don't know, but given that (at the time of the writing of the Constitution) the House of Representatives was the only part of the federal government that was directly elected by the people (Senators were chosen by state legislatures, President by the Electoral College which was in turn chosen by state legislatures, Justices by the President and the Senate), I'm guessing that they might have been talking about that, rather than about Sheldon Adelson or Chick-A-Fil spending a whole bunch of money on advertisements. Were hyperwealthy individuals or corporations even on their collective radar?

(2) Even if they were talking about Sheldon Adelson or Chick-A-Fil, how does he generalize from the House of Representatives (which the Federalist quote is specifically talking about) to "Congress", which he is portrayed here as talking about? That is, if the argument applies to Sheldon Adelson and Chick-A-Fil in the first place, presumably it just limits them to Senatorial and Presidential elections.

To be clear, I am not intending to argue that nothing should be done; I do think that something drastic should be done about all these unbelievable loads of money in campaigns. I just don't see how this particular argument is necessarily meaningful.
posted by Flunkie at 4:56 PM on August 1, 2012


Expressions of citizen discontent have been around for a while. The Occupy movement is the loudest expression of it currently going.

I had great hopes for the Occupy Movement, but I'm afraid it's just become a symbol of how little voice and how powerless Americans really have/are.

I guess I remember when a minor sit in by a 'buncha dirty hippies' could scare the Establishment bad enough they'd call in the CIA/FBI/state militia. Now protesting is considered a minor annoyance.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:03 PM on August 1, 2012


It was thought of and immediately recognized to be unpassable and unpopular with enough Democrats to be not worth bringing up..

I'm not arguing with this, and neither is Lessig. The question is: why was it unpassable and unpopular? And moreover, why is it so unpassable and unpopular in Congress, while public support is fairly strong? The answer Lessig provides is "dependence corruption," which broadly explains why Congress is so far from the majority of public opinion on issues, healthcare policy being only one of many.

I hate to get mired in hypothetical discussions of specific bill negotiations, because Lessig's thesis goes beyond any one administration or issue to the structure of government itself.
posted by mek at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Of course it was thought of. It was thought of and immediately recognized to be unpassable and unpopular with enough Democrats to be not worth bringing up.

"We looked and it was difficult so we didn't even try."

Does this explain why the Obama Administration had single payer advocates arrested rather than allowing them to speak?

What about that great, moving speech where Mr. Obama explained why expanding Medicare to cover the rest of the country (which, given the massive popularity of Medicare would have been a lovely way to present single-payer, and perhaps quite a good way to implement it) would be a simply fantastic thing to do? Oh, that's right, he never gave such a speech.

"Never ever ask for anything more than you are absolutely sure you can get" is a terrible rule for negotiation. No wonder the Democrats consistently get such wretched results.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:19 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The question is: why was it unpassable and unpopular?

(1) Too many Republicans, whose opposition to it is well-known and has been for decades.
(2) Too many Democrats from trending-Republican or otherwise conservative districts.

why is it so unpassable and unpopular in Congress, while public support is fairly strong?

Because survey response is different from voting. All those votes cast for Republicans who are certain to be bitterly opposed to single-payer health care tell you that when push comes to shove, actual support for single-payer health care must be lower than support estimated from survey response.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2012


"We looked and it was difficult so we didn't even try."

We looked, and it was impossible, and making a serious attempt to do it would have seriously endangered the coalition supporting a weaker bill, so making a serious attempt would actually constitute proof that we were trying to sabotage the attempt at reform.

What about that great, moving speech where Mr. Obama explained why expanding Medicare to cover the rest of the country (which, given the massive popularity of Medicare would have been a lovely way to present single-payer, and perhaps quite a good way to implement it) would be a simply fantastic thing to do? Oh, that's right, he never gave such a speech.

Boehner had wet dreams about Obama doing that.

The best possible consequence from doing so: our timeline, but with more pissed-off Democrats from marginal districts.

Bad consequence 1: there are votes on single-payer amendments, which are defeated, but the attempt makes it more difficult for Democrats from marginal districts to support the unamended bill and it dies.

Bad consequence 2: there are votes on single-payer amendments. Liberal Democrats are electorally constrained to vote for it, and are joined by enough cynical Republicans to pass it. The resulting bill is roundly rejected, killing health care reform for another generation. (ie, a modern Powell amendment)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:35 PM on August 1, 2012


(1) Too many Republicans, whose opposition to it is well-known and has been for decades.

(2) Too many Democrats from trending-Republican or otherwise conservative districts.


Not a good argument. Both these reasons applied to ANY health care bill. The Republicans ended up not supporting the bill at all. Many "trending Republican" Democrats had to be persuaded.

By the way, why don't Republicans from "trending-Democrat or otherwise liberal districts" ever act as if they give a damn about what the Democrats think? Could it be... that they have worked out that trying to appeal to their sworn opponents as a bad idea and a waste of time?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:36 PM on August 1, 2012


> endangered the coalition supporting a weaker bill,

What "coalition" are you talking about? No Republicans voted for the bill.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2012


Coalition among the Democrats.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2012


Having followed the health care negotiations from the very beginning, it seems absurd that anyone could believe the Democrats went in with a specific strategy at the start that was prepared to pass the House and Senate. In fact it was demonstrated time and time again that the Obama WH had no real sense of the total obstructionism, and repeatedly attempted to craft compromise bills with the Gang of Six et al, and repeatedly failed. A lot of policy was discarded in attempts to craft coalitions which never were, and really many understood they never could be. Reconciliation was used grudgingly at the very end, rather than threatened as an option from the very beginning. That we got any bill at all was a miracle, but a miracle which had nothing whatsoever to do with astute political reasoning by White House strategists.
posted by mek at 5:47 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Coalition among the Democrats.

Generally, a coalition in politics refers to people from different parties cooperating, as in a coalition government.

But what evidence do you have of this claim? The vote was almost exactly along party lines. Some Democrats made some noise, but they always do that, just to show they're earning their money.

If it had come down to a vote and some Democrats were holding out, the Democratic Party has some serious tools to convince them - "If you vote for this, we'll guarantee you this much cash-equivalent support and this pork barrel, if you vote against we'll make sure to cancel this pet bill and run another candidate against you in your primaries."

They'd already done this almost immediately for a few progressive Congressmen in order to get the Afghanistan re-financing done and it had worked well.

This idea that these bunch of talentless, dishonest hacks somehow had such courage of their convictions that they'd have charged ahead to destroy the Obama Presidency and their own careers rather than pass some other bill somewhat different from what they did pass is very hard to believe indeed, as we've seen no other evidence of spine from them.

And the idea that even attempting to discuss anything that wasn't "more insurance companies" would have caused these backbenchers to permanently defect from the program... well, that's ludicrous.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:03 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, America. Stop thinking so small.

At some point, and in some way, the rest of the world is going to start to have its say on this.

Remember 'no taxation without representation'? As a non-US citizen, currently fighting to keep my job and the jobs of those with whom I work, in a recession brought about by a systematic global failure in which the US has taken the largest role, my time and money and hope and destiny is being taken by that broken system. The things I value are being destroyed, and I am paying for that destruction.

Us lot outwith the fifty states are part of an ad-hoc empire run from elsewhere by corrupt and self-serving powers, on whom the only democratic checks are dissipated across nation states with no competency to take on the internationalised - but US-centric - capitalist fiscal system.

What happens when people find themselves in a system over which they have insufficient power? They either descend into sullen impotence, get subsumed into being active parts of that system, or find a way to take that power back.

That way will have to be international, it will have to involve the conscious taking of power, it will have to be confrontational and it will have to have a clear intellectual and moral thrust. It will have to be incredibly well-informed about the history of revolution and reform, as some of the greatest tragedies of modern times have been built on just those foundations. So have the greatest successes, as measured by happiness, freedom from want and the ability to realise our potential in the service of all.

Yet it will happen - the question is, who and how.

As someone who embraces Enlightenment values and appreciates the path that technology is taking, I do have some ideas about how it may happen - indeed, how it should happen. Those ideas are jejune and idealistic, and need testing.

Who else is thinking in these terms? Where are they?
posted by Devonian at 6:14 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a little sad that I'm starting to think Idiocracy is kind of a best case scenario.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2012


Does this explain why the Obama Administration had single payer advocates arrested rather than allowing them to speak?

The article says they were arrested by police, which in this case means US Capitol Police, If you find they were taking orders from anyone in the administration, be sure to let me and the US Congress know about it. Thanks.
posted by raysmj at 7:23 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Professor Lessig is a good guy, but he doesn't really get it. His recent foray into government was the result of his failed efforts to radically change copyright law:

“We weren’t making any progress because money was so inherent and tied to decisions,” he says now. “The public domain had no lobbyists. The ideas of the public domain weren’t even on the table because there was no infrastructure for putting them there.”

It's classic liberal myopia: "Everyone was agreeing with me, and then the corporations got involved and the will of the people was ignored, etc."

What he misses is the fact that there was never much support for these ideas despite how "sensible" they appeared to Mr. Lessig and his supporters. Grassroots do not make a ground-swell - especially in America. There is no national consensus which would permit the sort of radical change in copyright law, or healthcare, or anything else Mr. Lessing thinks would be good for America.

51% of the people cannot ram radical change down the throats of 49% whether it is a ban on abortion or the introduction of universal healthcare or tax cuts for the rich. You might be able to do it legislatively, but without consensus all you do is infuriate half the population. Obamacare is the perfect example: The British celebrate their NHS during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games as a great British institution in which the people are proud. Where you have a national consensus, such things are possible. In America, Obamacare is a four-letter-word for approximately half of the people.

Lessig built a broad consensus around creative commons license. Instead of trying to undermine copyright for everyone, he created in the creative commons license a compromise solution that respected the status quo and provided a path forward.

I wish him well in his present endeavour, but do not think that money is the root of all evil here and that compromise and consensus - and respect for the differing views of other people and being willing to work with them - and not winner-take-all politics - is the way forward.
posted by three blind mice at 1:54 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no national consensus which would permit the sort of radical change in copyright law, or healthcare, or anything else Mr. Lessing thinks would be good for America. 51% of the people cannot ram radical change down the throats of 49% whether it is a ban on abortion or the introduction of universal healthcare or tax cuts for the rich.

Well, exactly; even with a national consensus, these things do not come to pass.
posted by mek at 2:01 AM on August 2, 2012


> If you find [the US Capitol Police] were taking orders from anyone in the administration, be sure to let me and the US Congress know about it. Thanks.

Your claim is that the US Capitol Police just decided on their own to arrest them?

Why, that's the most ridiculous bullshit I ever heard - I would be politer if you weren't so rude.

If you'd actually read the story, you'd see that in fact the person to directly pull the trigger and request they be arrested was Senator Max Baucus (or see this link) - the single-payer advocates sent numerous requests to be included in the conference, including registered letters. All but the last letter were ignored - the last one got the response that it was too late to include new people.

The single payer advocates announced that they would show up and speak anyway and they were told that the conference was invitation-only and they were not invited. They showed up, spoke and were arrested. Later, they got an apology.

This all worked itself out very publicly over many weeks, with the Obama Administration's intimate involvement in all details of the conference. Of course, you can't prove that they actually were paying attention, though they gave every evidence of doing so in each detail, so all you can prove is that the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee ordered them arrested.

If you prefer, I will amend my statement to say, "The Democrats had the single payer advocates arrested." Just as stupid, just as bad.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:28 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


What he misses is the fact that there was never much support for these ideas despite how "sensible" they appeared to Mr. Lessig and his supporters. Grassroots do not make a ground-swell - especially in America. There is no national consensus which would permit the sort of radical change in copyright law, or healthcare, or anything else Mr. Lessing thinks would be good for America.

Well, people above have posted many links that seemed to show that there was a lot of support for radical health care change, even without any support from the Democrats or the Administration.

But consider all the great endeavors undertaken by the US government. Few if any of them were popular before a leader undertook to actually sell them to the people. The New Deal would have been nothing if FDR hadn't directly sold it to the American people. No one would have given a fuck about Iraq if Cheney and Bush hadn't repeatedly sold the story of the mushroom cloud over America and the grave threat.

Great leaders lead the country by explaining the problem and its best solution. If Mr. Obama had explained to the public why extending the very-popular Medicare system to all Americans was a good idea, I would not be complaining about him, even if he had not been able to finally achieve that goal. (And again, the argument that trying to ask for more than he hoped to get would have sunk the whole endeavor is not at all backed by any evidence or logic - see my remarks above.)

I wish him well in his present endeavour, but do not think that money is the root of all evil here and that compromise and consensus - and respect for the differing views of other people and being willing to work with them - and not winner-take-all politics - is the way forward.

You're back to wishing for Santa Claus. We're not going to get the Republicans doing the "respect for the differing views of other people and being willing to work with them" thing. And the Republicans aren't going away.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:51 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe you guys over the Atlantic can learn a thing or two from analyzing the unholy mess the Italian political system is. Let me provide a brief description.

About campaign contributions: before 1993 italian political parties were funded with taxpayers money. The Radical Party opposed this, broadly speaking, because they thought the State ought not to provide financing to political parties which, on the contrary, ought to be financed by sympathizers and supporters.

Thanks to the 1993 Referendum promoted by the said party, public financing was abolished (with a landslide 90,3% support for abrogation) just to be reintroduced under a different guise, that of a "refund for electoral expenses", the next year. Yes, so much for "the people have spoken".

One additional law was introduced in 1997, allowing taxpayers to devolve a fraction of the amount they owe in taxes every year to their favourite party. Unsuprisingly, at least according to some data (whose veracity I can't neither confirm nor deny) only an handful of taxpayers devolved any money to political parties.

Very recently, a scandal exploded in the Lega Party when money received as refund for electoral expenses was allegedly misappropriated/misused by the party leaders and other acolytes; as Lega campaigned on the notion that "Lega isn't the bunch of thieves sitting in Rome", schadenfraude and hilarity ensued, while the grassroot supporters of the movement were filled with dismayed and suffered greatly from discovering it's the same old, same old story, and that the Lega is not any different.

Meanwhile, a series of scandals and publications concering the taxpayer funded expenses of the "political class" has outraged Italians, whose outrage was already somehow fatigued by Berlusconi's escapades and utter political failure of the PdL party in leading Italy to an unprecedented recession, with unemployement among the 15-24 years old range up to 30-40%.

All this seems to set a good stage for advancing the notion that a "transparent" registered donation system, "as Americans do", would be a perfect choice, but none of the problems of the American lobbying system is being taken in consideration; as usual, we copycat the worst the U.S.A has to offer, while studiously ignoring the best.
posted by elpapacito at 8:00 AM on August 2, 2012


Why Campaign Finance Reform Is Hard: When the public doesn't know what super PACs have been doing this election cycle, it's hard to push for change.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:05 AM on August 2, 2012


The Super PAC That Aims to End Super PACs
posted by homunculus at 10:32 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Henry Farrell recently reviewed Lessig's Republic, Lost on Crooked Timber. It's a nice examination of Lessig's ideas from someone who familiar with the relevant research and has a strong desire for reform themself.
posted by PueExMachina at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


For anyone still reading, that Crooked Timber review is good stuff and highly recommended.
posted by caddis at 12:28 PM on August 2, 2012


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