At the GOP convention in 1992 Rich Bond,
then-chair of the party, declared "We are America's party." The Republicans
have since learned not to say that aloud, but "This land is our land" remains the party's premise.
Anger—the righteous whine of moral superiority—is
the Democrats' weakness. The
measured tone of this convention has conspired against the expression of it,
but in conversation with delegates, fury at Bush quickly surfaces; accompanied
by anger at those fools in Red America who can't see Bush as the Democrats see
him. The word "Canada" trails ruefully from conversations here—as in, "If Bush
wins, I swear I'll move to Canada." The Democrats can't hide their
disappointment with America.
The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act
contained a loophole: the special
interests can no longer buy politics with soft money, but the political
conventions are theirs for the taking. In the best piece of reporting so far on the convention, The Washington
Post's Thomas B. Edsall and
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum unearthed the kind of disturbing detail that makes
Independents of Democrats and Republicans. Fifteen corporations, foundations, and unions have kicked in
at least $1 million a piece to pay for the convention, and fifteen others have
paid $500,000 or more. "In 1992," Edsall and Birnbaum point out, "the Democrats did
not accept more than $100,000 from any single donor."
McCain-Feingold limits to $49.99 what a lobbyist can spend on
a Senator's lunch; but here is Dick Durbin, the Illinois Senator and McCain-Feingold advocate, emerging
from a $19,000 lunch given in his honor by the Chicago Board Options Exchange
and other Chicago interests that have business before Congress and the
regulatory agencies. Vermont's Pat Leahy is eating of the bread of the National
Association of Broadcasters; Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is lunching lavishly
courtesy of Textron; and who is that crowd gathered in front of the ballroom
doors? Why ... it's the New York and North Dakota delegations going to breakfast
on Lockheed Martin's dime! This is "reform" in the sense that Bush's "Clean
Skies" initiative is about cleaning the sky.
An article in Sunday's New York Times magazine drew attention to another loophole in
McCain-Feingold. The Soros exception, or 527 rule, allows groups supposedly
outside the parties to spend unlimited sums on political advertising that
promotes their causes. Kerry
can claim he has run few negative ads only because these groups have been doing
the dirty work for him. The article adds that Soros and some other investors
are putting their money on the Democrats this year, but might finance a new
party if Kerry loses.
The Democrats are happy that such groups are on
their side, but they shouldn't be. Who elected George Soros? Isn't this the kind of top-down politics that one expects from the
"arrogant" Republicans? Soros and company think they know what's good for us.
For my part, I'd rather not be governed by Soros. In fact, as William F.
Buckley Jr. once said in a different context, I'd rather be governed by the first
2,000 people in the Boston telephone directory. "If I can lead you
into the Promised Land," Eugene Victor Debs told his followers in the Socialist
party, "somebody else can lead you out." He was almost as wise as that Texas