Monday, December 29, 2008

The Emptiness of Perpetual Politics

Exactly four weeks after the November election, I saw a short Associated Press story about Mitt Romney setting up an organization for the 2012 presidential campaign. At the time, the story conjured up the image of the perpetual campaign and I considered writing about it. I did not, at least in part because I did not want to contribute to the image by acknowledging it. But like reality, which simply does not go away because I ignore it, the Perpetual Campaign is out there running on and on and on and on.

Today’s rant is triggered by a story about Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton’s master fund raiser, raising funds this time for his own pursuit of the Virginia governorship in 2009. The story is all about money, about how much he can raise, about his national contacts and how energetically McAulifffe can work those contacts. There’s nothing about why he wants to become Governor or what he will do for Virginians. But you can be damn sure he’ll spend a shit load of money to seek the office.

The story pushes a lot of buttons for me, including meaningless politics, public office and my own history. I learned politics—good and bad—in Virginia. That is where I learned how power and influence were organized and exercised. I campaigned against the Byrd Organization as it disintegrated in the 60’s; supported Virginia’s first black congressional candidate in 1970, I actively and enthusiastically supported Henry Howell in his tireless effort to force open government in Virginia. Through all those campaigns I believed that my efforts and those candidates would contribute to a greater fairness, freedom and prosperity for all. Right or wrong, I believed.

Which is why the McAuliffe story pisses me off. I don’t see one word about why he wants to run for governor, about what he believes. If the company he keeps—the Clintons—is any guide, I would not expect his beliefs, whatever they may be, to particularly relevant to policy. The one sop to the idea of seeking office for a reason is that McAuliffe can “sell Virginia to CEO’s as a good place to set up.” That’s it. It’s all about the money.

Virginia is still a spiritual home for me. Too much of my history and experience is there for me to ever lose my connection and care for my home state. So seeing this kind of evil there is disappointing. None of this is new; today’s story just hits close to home and so blatantly exposes the hollowness of the Perpetual Campaign.

Mitt Romney’s new organization is part of the process as well. It’s a logical step since the Republican Party will no doubt field a candidate in 2012 and he has some credibility as a candidate for that nomination. But still remains the question, “why?” Because Mitt Romney is already declaring Barack Obama a failure? Because Mitt Romney will oppose Obama’s initiatives and policies throughout the next four years. No, the reason is that the process exists and Romney will not miss the opportunity it presents. Like Terry McAuliffe, Mitt Romney will spend the next year or more hustling money from rich people to create facts on the ground.

It’s all process. By the time we, the voters are offered a choice, the process will have already decided what choice we get.



Anonymous rabbi lars said...

sorry that was a bit yawn....

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! I particularly loved the last sentence. Too bad not many folks get that part.

9:20 PM  

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