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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ortiz y Pino: Hillary Is a Symptom of America's Malaise

This is a guest blog by NM State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a Democrat who represents District 12 in Albuquerque. This article recently appeared in other publications including the Seoul Times, OpEdNews.com and Santa Fe Sun News:

JerryWatching the Democratic Presidential candidates' televised debates has become painful for me. Oh, sure: watching the Republicans' version of the rainbow coalition (white, off-white, grey, bone, ivory, buff and cream) in action on television in (pardon the expression) "living color" is even more dreadful, but we know those guys are going to lose, so who cares how bad their act is?

The Democrats, on the other hand, are in all likelihood sifting through the options leading up to actually picking a winner—the next occupant of the Oval Office. If the point of these debates is to give us, the voters, any insight into what our next Chief Executive is going to be like, we are in big trouble. I say this knowing that the Press has already accorded Senator Hillary Clinton not only the Democratic nomination, but the ultimate prize, the White House, as well. This was done without a single vote having been cast and simply on the strength of one solitary measure: dollars raised. She must be ahead, the pundits reason, because she's lapped the field in the money-grubbing sweepstakes.

I know that all the commentators realize that technically some sort of voting has to take place before the coronation is allowed to happen, but to the skilled political observer's eye, this is just so much red tape and hokum. The matter has been decided. She was the first in the sprint to raise $10 million this year, which shot her to the forefront in the early analyses and which then generated an avalanche of additional money from those eager to be lined-up on the same side as the ultimate victor. Then that extra money was widely interpreted to mean she was enjoying soaring, even skyrocketing popularity, far more than her primary opponents…and that attracted yet more contributions. A classic snowball effect played out.

It should be no surprise that the polls show her well ahead of Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and the rest of the pack. She's riding a tsunami of cash, and she seems expertly shrewd in the art of spending it wisely. Her commercials (definitely carried on network television, not the dusty back shelves of cable rerun channels) are certain to be slick. Her mailings will be models of Madison Avenue wizardry. Her telephone push polls will, of course, be put together so subtly that no respondent will ever be aware they've been pushed or polled. If money can buy it, Hillary will have it in her arsenal and all the gadgetry of modern political "witch doctorism" will be immediately at her disposal.

You've got to hand it to her: Senator Clinton plays this version of the political game like the old pro she is, and she plays it to win, with nothing left to chance. So I admit to a certain admiration for this tough, smart, supremely polished woman. She might have made a terrific President at one time, but now when I see her in action in front of the cameras, I cringe. She has become the number one symptom (and not the solution) of all that ails American Democracy in these most cynical of times.

In her probable victory a year from now, we will have reflected back to us the dismal portrait of what we have devolved into: a culture that can't be bothered to decide the value of anything except by one solitary measure: the marketplace.

Equally on full display is the frightening picture of how corrosive the influence of money is on political processes. I can't blame Hillary for playing to win by these rules; she didn't write them, she just figured out how to make them pay. It can be argued that it was the Supreme Court that did the dirty deed when it ruled some years ago that any attempt by law makers to limit the influence of money in elections is an unconstitutional attempt at limiting free speech!

One corollary to this ruling has always seemed to me to be: he who has the most money has the most free speech, and the poor, by virtue of their lack of money, have practically no free speech. A second corollary is what Clinton appears to be demonstrating so precisely this primary season: when dollars are the equivalent of votes, who needs elections as long as we have bankers?

This, then, is the American political malaise. Our worship of money has logically produced an electoral process in which nothing will be said that might antagonize the sources of political cash: the wealthiest of the American Corporate lions. Senator Clinton's rhetoric becomes increasingly bland and forgettable as her campaign treasury deepens. In the end stages (now), she says nothing and promises only to avoid (her favorite word) "irresponsible" action. Wonderful. We will get four years of "responsible inaction" if she assumes the mantle.

This rapid ride to the bottom of insipid inoffensiveness was on pathetic display most recently when she forgot herself during an answer to a question on issuing drivers licenses for undocumented persons. She said something just a wee bit venturesome—then spent five minutes thrashing around trying to re-establish herself as sitting squarely on the fence on this (and every other) issue imaginable. "I can see all sides of this controversy," she seemed to me to be saying, "and you can be assured that as President I will do absolutely nothing about it…for fear that taking action might offend someone, especially someone who possibly might have supported my campaign financially. I just can't take that risk. Nor will I promise to end the Occupation of Iraq during my term, either."

A campaign run the way this one is being run seems exquisitely crafted to produce record low voter turn-outs. The message is clear. Our leading candidates feel passion about nothing but the size of their campaign's bank deposits. They intend to do nothing to change the status quo. When Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishable, will voting make the slightest difference? There isn't a whole lot of Democracy left in this country, just a powdery covering with a lot of bare spots. Watching our leading Democratic Presidential contender brush away even those remnants isn't a pretty sight.

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog by NM State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. Click to read a previous guest blog by the Senator. Guest blogs provide readers with an opportunity to express their views on relevant issues and may or many not reflect our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

November 21, 2007 at 06:30 AM in 2008 Presidential Primary, Corporatism, Democratic Party, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Guest Blogger | Permalink

Comments

r3VOLution

Posted by: El James | Nov 21, 2007 1:32:33 PM

Another excellent analysis by the Senator. Money is everything these days and it's eating our democracy alive, not to mention our planet, our children and our future. Do ANY of the presidential candidates "get it" besides Kucinich?

Posted by: Reader | Nov 21, 2007 2:11:38 PM

I can't say I disagree with this take on things but something I think worth mentioning. Hillary is going to mobilize the Republic base to get out and vote like NO OTHER candidate ever has, deserving of it or not they just plain hate her. It could make for a very close win for either side, I can only hope it goes our way but I ain't betting on it. Maybe that dynamic will change after the primary but....

Posted by: VP | Nov 21, 2007 3:08:24 PM

Some good observations, but I would have mentioned the Corporate Media push candidates, not just Hill. They've shown they play ball, so they get the monie and the media.

Even latest stats show media isn't giving what voters have asked. Only 1 pct coverage on their records and votes, not the 77 percent that deem that as most important.

AND....speaking of money. They apparently need it to run a total sham and try to market themselves as something they're not. That's why Obama puts his picture on beer bottles and buys endrosements. How else do you get spending a RECORD 21.5 MILLION DOLLARY IN EACH QUARTER ...of a PRIMARY ELECTION!

DISGUSTING.

Posted by: LindainSFNM | Nov 28, 2007 11:00:40 AM

Some good observations, but you should have clarified the Corporate Media/Special Interest pushed front runners. They are all pretty much the same and will bring about the same.

When you have a totally manufactured and marketed candidate like Obama, putting his picture on beer bottles and buying endorsements, I guess they need that kind of money to market him. But come on, he is spending 21.5 MILLION DOLLARS EACH QUARTER.......in A PRIMARY ELECTION. He has already spent over 50 million dollars on this primary. Obviously the environment isn't high on his list either (as yes, we know) he just sent out a 12 page color brochure to advertise himself in New Hampshire.

THIS IS SO DISGUSTING. THis is what our politicians are becoming, the lowest form, instead of strong Character, Leadership, Vision, Intellect and EXPERIENCE.

Truly disgusting.

Posted by: Linda | Nov 28, 2007 11:08:05 AM

Sorry for the Duplicate post. I thought I had lost the previous post and had to rewrite it from MEMORY...first none, now two. Sorry...I guess a message worth repeating LOL

Posted by: Linda | Nov 28, 2007 11:10:04 AM

The domination of money and consolidation of power by these candidates with long and established corporate ties (and favors) is disgusting. BUT, it's a process long endorsed by the voters who continue to vote these politicians into power. There is no other explanation than the fact that Democrats and Republicans alike actually favor this sad state of affairs!! If not, WHY do you continue to vote for it?

Meanwhile, third party voices continue to speak out and seek to represent a change from corporatist politics and a return to genuine democracy. Many of you like the message but lack the courage to vote for it. Others are downright hostile to the message and seek to continue the hegemony of moneyed and powerful interest by keeping in place the ridiculous laws that repress alternatives, like the Green Party here in NM.

Now that the speaker's little rule to keep the Dem primary in line has come back to bite the party's backside, perhaps a bit of ballot access wisdom will see the light of day, if not legislatively, then through other means.

Posted by: Michal | Dec 2, 2007 11:51:40 AM

The last time we had an active Green Party we ended up with Gary Johnson as governor. The Greens acted irreponsibly and unwisely to split the vote in the election and give us a right wing nut in the job. This was a victory?

If Greens want to make change they need to get elected to Democratic Party offices so they can vote in preprimary conventions and primaries and gain some power over the nominees. By staying outside the party moaning, nothing is changed and too many parts of the party are left to be controled by "centrists" or crooks.

The Democratic Party is what it is because too many progressives don't want to take the time and make the effort to take it over and become the majority within it.

Many of us would prefer a parliamentary system of government but what we have is a two party system. We need to face that fact and act accordingly. Otherwise people are on the outside tossing pebbles and getting zero change. Of course that's much easier than working for change from within.

Posted by: Jean | Dec 2, 2007 12:20:08 PM

Jean, I'm sorry but I totally disagree with your comments.

We have an active Green Party first of all and are ballot qualified.
We have the right to run in any race, as we have done. Those results were as much a product of low voter turnout and Democrats voting for Johnson as they were of having a third party in the race.

The Democratic Party does not have the same set of values as the Green Party therefore why should I or any Green seek to work within those restrictions? We established a different party 20 years ago because we have significant platform differences. I have no interest in working within your party but urge the progressives who remain there to continue seeking change, but meanwhile, also work to keep your party regulars from using their dominance to affect ballot access out of whatever fear or prejudice they employ.

And finally, we are not established as a nation to have a two-party system. If you examine the history of this nation, we had until relatively recently, a vibrant multiparty system, many of those parties in fact were responsible for the dramatic changes in civil rights for women and people of color as well as other significant legislative changes.
Of course there was much opposition to giving women and minorities voting rights and granting other public gains and powerful interests successfully concentrated power, some would say cooperatively, in the two major parties we have today. This certainly wasn't ordained by founding fathers or a deity however, therefore we are well within our rights to fight for a change in this day and age.
I will continue to bitch and moan from my Green vantage point therefore!

Posted by: Michal | Dec 2, 2007 1:04:01 PM

Pretty much zero Democrats voted for Gary Johnson. Everybody knows the Green Party was the reason he won. Admit it.

Nobody is stopping the Green Party from being effective. I don't see the necessary work it takes to make a consistent, real party.

The Democratic Party's platform is created by its members like any Party. If more progressives would work from within the platform could match or exceed anything a third party could offer. Do you think the Democratic Party's platform is carved in concrete somewhere?

Yes I'm aware that additional parties used to be more common, but each in turn ran its course when enough people with those beliefs got into the main party and changed it. Otherwise those parties would still exist.

I like the fact that it is people who work within the Democratic Party who will select our candidates. Many progressives have run and won the right to have more votes within. Would you like Democrats to be choosing your Green Party candidates? Same thing here. Anyone can run as an independent but I think Democrats should choose the Democratic ticket.

You can keep whining and moaning all you want but it won't bring any change until you do something more consistent, long term and within the system.

Posted by: Jean | Dec 2, 2007 4:48:07 PM