A new political action committee was announced today: a lesbian “super PAC.” Now, some folks might decry this development (for various reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment), but personally I think it’s a great idea. A super idea, in fact. Until progressives can manage to get a constitutional amendment passed which overturns Citizens United, we’re all living in the world it created — and we’d better realise it and adjust to it rather than just bewail the sad state of modern politics and money’s influence therein. So I say: more power to the lesbians! Go LPAC!
In fact, I’d go further and advise other special interest groups dive into the same pond and create your own super PAC. How about a “Populist PAC,” for instance? Or even an “Occupy PAC” or a “99% PAC”? Perhaps, a super PAC devoted to passing a “corporations aren’t persons” amendment? I see nothing wrong with any of these, to tell the truth.
The influence of money on politics has a long and sordid history, of course. But it’s also a fact of life. Certain people get a “seat at the table” and certain people don’t. That’s the way it is, and the way it has been in living memory, in fact. Oh, sure, politicians pander to much wider groups come election-time, but in both major American parties, more money gets you a better and better seat at that table where things are decided.
This is not to say that supporting efforts to decrease the influence of money in politics isn’t a good idea, or pushing for various cures for the problem isn’t good politics and good lawmaking. Don’t get me wrong — I usually support such efforts myself. I, along with millions of Americans, would like a better system of politics, one that didn’t rely so heavily on generating mountains of campaign cash all the time. But, at the same time, my eyes are open to the fact that we do not live in that world, yet.
Instead, here we all are in the post-Citizens United framework. So what are you going to do: bemoan the fact, or play the game according to the rules that are in place (even while working for better rules)? The lesbians have decided to jump into this game. As I said, more power to them.
The gay and lesbian movement is actually one of the better examples of how to go about effecting political change. While the gay rights movement has made enormous strides in shifting American public opinion about their key agenda issues — and in a very short time as these things go — they have also figured out that playing the political game is as important as influencing the general public’s hearts and minds.
The gay and lesbian rights people raised a lot of campaign cash for then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. Since this point, they’ve gotten more out of the Obama administration than just about any other group on the left you can name. Think about it — what has Obama specifically done for: unions, African-Americans, Latinos (before his recent announcement, that is), teachers, youth, women’s rights (again, before his announcement on birth control), progressives, civil libertarians, or even pot-smokers? One or two things come to mind, but nothing really compares to how gay rights have advanced in the past three years. The Obama White House spent most of their first two years actually fighting most of these groups, because Obama would not produce any of their favourite agenda items.
Obama hasn’t always been seen in a good light by the gay rights folks, either. But — tellingly — what did they do about it? They started publicly threatening to stop their donations to both Obama’s re-election and Democrats in general. Since then, Obama has all but completed his “evolution” on the subject, and will go down in history as the most gay-friendly president of all time.
That is the essence of political influence. You can say it’s a bad thing in general, but in this case it certainly worked, didn’t it? Gays and lesbians aren’t the sole source of Obamas fundraising, but their influence over the rest of the Democratic fundraising universe is strong — there’s a lot of gay-friendly donors, to put it another way, who have their own pet issues but also have a lot of gay and lesbian friends.
Which is why LPAC is such a good idea. In fact, I predict that either a “Gay PAC” will soon be announced for gay men to donate to, or perhaps they’ll all merge into a “LGBTPAC” at some point down the road. More power to all of them, no matter how it plays out!
The more PACs the better, from anywhere on the political spectrum. Why shouldn’t the ACLU form a “Civil Liberties PAC” (note: they may already have one, I didn’t check) to advance their ideals? If your group has an issue you care about, then put together a super PAC and see if there are some well-heeled folks out there who think as you do. Channel the money into your own issue-advocacy ads on television. Get the word out!
“But Chris,” you say, “won’t that just contribute to the absolute cacophony of political ads which already assail us each and every election year?” You are darn tootin’ it would. But what is the alternative? Leave the field wide open to Karl Rove and his PAC?
Like, for instance, lesbians. I would love to see an ad campaign from LPAC — whether it’s on gay marriage, or women’s rights, or social justice for all. I would love to see ads from a lot of political groups out there, unfettered by party dogma.
The beauty of a super PAC is that you get to make your own ads. They can be political as heck, but as long as you don’t use the taboo phrase “vote for candidate X,” you can say just about anything you want. It’s pretty much a free-for-all out there, with very few rules. In the past, the money flow would be through the political parties (or the candidates) themselves — they’d take your money and then decide what to do with it. They might come out with an ad which you think stinks, but you would have little say over it, even if your money funded the ad. What Citizens United has done is remove the middle man. You can now go out and buy your own ads, and spend as much as you feel like to do so. That means a certain amount of freedom for people who can scrape together that kind of money.
The political system we have is far from perfect. Money is too influential in politics. There are many ways to change this for the better. I support most efforts to change this unfair equation. But while we’re waiting for a perfect political system, we have what we have. And we should use it. We should play the game as best we can. If lesbians want to band together and use their combined influence to support candidates and run ads, hopefully it will help further their cause. More power to them. Any other group who wants to see their level of influence rise should be emulating LPAC, and not scoffing at them in any way. OK, the whole game is rigged — tilted overwhelmingly against the little guy — but when a whole bunch of little guys get together and pool their money in such a fashion, your voices get heard more. Just because the game is rigged doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort to play, to put it another way.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
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