Friday, June 27, 2003
Should I call a Waaaaaahmbulance? New York Times columnist Paul Krugman complains that the Republican party is becoming the dominant party in American politics.
In "Welcome to the Machine," Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation — from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.
Is there a flip-side to Krugman's complaints? Sure, try this on:
In "Welcome to the Real World," Matthew Hoy draws together stories usually reported in isolation -- from the drive to expand Medicare, to the anti-tax cut positions taken by union leaders, to the anti-war rallies organized by professors at public universities. As he points out, these are symptoms of the decline of the national Democratic party, one that is well on its way to marginalizing itself in the eyes of the American mainstream.
Krugman goes on to assail campaign fundraising by the President.
"As a result, campaign finance is only the tip of the iceberg. Next year, George W. Bush will spend two or three times as much money as his opponent; but he will also benefit hugely from the indirect support that corporate interests — very much including media companies — will provide for his political message.
Well, if George W. Bush does raise that much more than his Democratic opponent, it's because the Democrats hamstrung themselves when they passed McCain-Feingold.
Historically, Democrats have depended on fewer donors giving large sums of money while Republicans have always had a larger base of like-minded citizens to contribute to campaigns. Complaining about that fact won't help the Democrats -- making their policies appeal to more people will.
Whatever the reason, there's a strange disconnect between most political commentary and the reality of the 2004 election. As in 2000, pundits focus mainly on images — John Kerry's furrowed brow, Mr. Bush in a flight suit — or on supposed personality traits. But it's the nexus of money and patronage that may well make the election a foregone conclusion.
Krugman's usually wrong -- but here's hoping that this time he's right.