Monday, November 2, 2009

55 million reasons to vote

dear virginia,

you are encouraged to make your way to the voting booth tomorrow, november 3rd, and cast a ballot... encouraged strongly by thousands of investors (many of them from out of state) that paid through the nose for their candidate to win tomorrow. the specific sum, a stunning $55 million, is a record for state races. you've come along way, virginia!

you already know the players. creigh deeds, the democrat, has the labor unions (from new york, maryland, pennsylvania...) on his team. bob mcdonnell has business, construction and insurance companies mailing him checks. both received the bulk of their funding from their respective political groups, and lord only knows where that money came from. a convenient loophole allows both candidates to withhold the full donor list from political groups. you know, the same groups that donated a full quarter of the cash to this race.

virginia, you and new jersey are the only lucky states with big state elections in this off-year. you're in the spotlight, baby! obama's people are afraid the results of this election will play as a referendum on the first year in office -- scaring away the blue dog dems in congress. the republicans need a win and see this election as a chance to slow down impending legislation, like the health care bill. state politics? the governance of virginia? no one cares about THAT. those are NOT the kinds of questions that draw $55 million.

it should be mentioned the interest the big labor has in virginia, because unions did buy our democratic nominee on the open market. unions plans to start the work of rolling back "right to work" laws in virginia. that law says both employees and businesses don't have to be part of a union/pay dues. if labor has their way, we'd have to unionize to work.

and it should be mentioned that super conservative people are backing mcdonnell, who is moderate politically but far right socially.

so that's your choice, virginia. i hope you can ignore the combined $24 million in muddy, pathetic radio and television ads and vote for what would be best for the state, not the white house, not the out-of-staters with deep pockets, nor congress or the media that has already decided what the election results mean for the country. your vote was worth a pretty penny, so make sure you spend it wisely, virginia!


BSG said...

Both have focused to a significant extent on state issues; if I remember correctly, the Post ran an editorial praising one of their (I believe McDonnell's) plans for transportation. Sure, outsiders see it as a national bellwether, but I believe the candidates themselves have made a good-faith effort to talk about state issues. To the extent that they've run on national ideas portends more of the scary condition in which we find federalism: states are increasingly less autonomous and more and more seen as mere appendages of the federal government. States' rights? Honestly, you may as well be arguing for a return to feudalism, it's become such a foreign and antiquated concept.

And you know, I think you have the campaign-funding mechanism all wrong. Your scenario assumes that both McConnell and Deeds started out as blank slates without party or ideological affiliation, opening themselves up to the highest bidder. In this scenario, Deeds became a "D" because the unions paid him the most, and McConnell the "R" because construction and insurance companies won that auction. Having fundraised for a member of Congress's leadership PAC (and thus, for other members of Congress indirectly), this is far from the case. More often than not, contributors give to those whose views already square with their own legislative goals. So, for better or worse, Deeds portrayed himself as sympathetic to labor, so the unions supported him to the hilt; likewise, McConnell has likely proven sympathetic to the notion of a free health-insurance exchange and an enemy of universal care and as a result won their support. So will the winner do the bidding of their respective contributors? I guess that's one way to look at it. But more accurately, I'd say these guys were already in their respective contributors' legislative camp when they came along and provided some flint and kindling for the fire.

And isn't the total cost to run a campaign a bit of a red herring? What control do Deeds and McConnell have over the cost of air time, paper, and of traveling the state?

kwallace said...

bsg -- i always love your commentary. thanks for taking time to 'splain a few things and mix it up. you'll make me focus my argument and that's a good thing.

so. yes -- i just might be beating the "state's rights!" drum. that's what you do when you were born in southern virginia. but who has more impact on the taxes you pay, the roads you drive, the services available? local leaders.

the kind of money in this race underscores the federalism -- making national party politics preeminent, making local leadership beholden to the interest groups that help them into their jobs or the ideology of washington, not virginia. party bosses might be the arbiters of broad strokes party ideas but it makes me itchy that so many out-of-towners were involved in this race for the MESSAGE it would send. and most of those people live outside of the borders of VA governance. look how the message has been re-written several times since the results were made known.

last thing. yes, these guys have legislative records. i was trying to make a point more about deeds than his opponent. labor has plans for virginia and wanted this win, donating to deed's cause not for his former record with unions but for what he would be beholden for if he took office.

sure. campaign finance isn't a new story, but the VA gubernatorial pricetag was a record breaker that made me feel it was worth a mention again.

BSG said...

Raised in the liberal Bay Area of California, you'll still find no bigger champion of states' rights than me; I'm with you 100%.

Unfortunately, though, this is all academic; there's little stomach in Washington for our kind. We get in the way of our leaders' (Heil, heil, heil!) grand experiment -- and that goes both for Democrats and Republicans, since the latter increasingly pay tribute to the concept only when the former's means of intervention and rule differ from their own. Clowns, all of them.