Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Next Column David Brooks Should Pen

David Brooks has written an op ed filled with poignancy based upon the horrible situation which professional politicians find themselves in. He focuses on House Republican Deborah Pryce from Ohio. Pryce is retiring and to read it from Brooks' column, she lies awake at night in a cold sweat, haunted by the memories of ugliness and inhumanity which she felt she was forced to feature in order to win her last election.

Not only are they forced to run campaigns which make their own mothers ashamed, but the grind between campaigns to raise money for the next election also wears these hapless politicians down. With Democrats going to a longer work week in Congress, there is just no time left to spend with family.

Brooks paints a sympathetic portrait of a politician struggling to maintain her humanity as she is buffeted by the rough and tumble of modern day politics and campaigning, but he doesn't offer any solutions to the problem. So the next column which David Brooks should pen (from the humble perspective of yours truly) is a solution to the problem he so eloquently describes. If Brooks sees the problem so clearly, does he propose a solution? Not in today's column...

Thinking that maybe in past columns Brooks used his elevated position in national punditry to call for some sort of political reform, I searched the Brooks archives in vain his solution. Searching for the key words campaign finance reform in the archives of Brook's NY times editorials only turns up one match: A column in which he disparages John Kerry's approach to various issues as not being tenacious, as opposed to the example provided by John McCain on campaign finance reform. Searching those same archives for campaign reform returns zero matches. The same applies when searching for the keywords election reform.

To be sure, Brooks is a conservative and campaign finance reform is a tricky subject for them. John McCain is taking plenty of heat for his efforts at campaign finance reform. Just mentioning McCain/Feingold is red meat for the rabid Republican crowd. So who can blame Brooks for shying away from a solution even as he gives voice to the despair wrought on the pols by the current system.

Who am I to call upon a Brooks proposal without giving one of my own? To me the obvious solution to this problem is public financing of campaigns. Somehow free speech is now equated with massive spending by interest groups and political parties in advertising drives. By that standard however, only the very wealthy are truly able to speak, as represented by their ability to be heard through advertising. Ordinary folk are effectively muzzled by our inability to be heard on the same scale. Meanwhile our politicians spend every waking moment grubbing for filthy lucre from these moneyed interests and can be counted on to vote in their moneyed favor. This process costs us taxpayers far more than if we would just pony up some money in the budget to publicly finance campaigns. Then the pols would be beholden to we the people for the financing necessary to run their campaigns. And all of us little people would be given a more equal say in the process.

I freely admit that by decrying the current campaign equation that I stand in contravention to the Supreme Courts interpretation of the first amendment. But if we know that the current system is working against the best interests of the nation, and then frame the debate as dealing with commercial speech, we might be able to work out a solution which would pass muster in the Supreme Court.

Even before this gets to the Supremes, we have to work out a plan and get it passed. One of the greatest obstacles in the way is the media as a whole. The mass media will hardly be gung ho to change the current system, and who can blame them really? Each election season sees billions of dollars spent by the campaigns and special interests buying publicity, and that money flows directly to the media. They have a very real monetary interest in keeping the status quo.

So there is a good lefty solution. I would look forward to reading a Brooks column that touches on possible solutions to the problem from his perspective, but based upon past articles as demonstrated by archive searches I won't hold my breath.

I give you credit for attaching more credence to Brooks than he deserves on this. Yes, it would be nice if our corporate media helped the cause of public campaign financing, but as Lincoln said in a different context, between the media, politicians, lobbyists, and others who do well from this game, there are "too many pigs for the tits."
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