On January 27, 2010, one year into his term, President Barack Obama used the occasion of his State of the Union address to issue a warning. The Supreme Court had just opened the “floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.” He was speaking about the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court struck down nearly a century of law, granting corporations vast new leeway to influence the outcome of elections. In the months after Obama’s speech, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade association that represents hundreds of multinational oil and gas companies, would demonstrate just how prescient the president’s warning was.
A battle between leaders of the two parties over campaign finance rules intensified this week as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Republicans of flat-out threatening the Internal Revenue Service after they warned the agency not to tighten oversight of anonymous money groups misusing the tax code. The squabble is about how forcefully to crack down on groups approved under special 501(c)(4) tax status by claiming to primarily engage in “social welfare,” but which pour significant resources into political activities. Democrats want a strict cap on how much money they may spend for politics; Republicans prefer the ambiguity of the status quo. Beneath the issue is a sea of anonymous spending in which pro-GOP groups are drowning Democrats.
The common thread in yesterday’s unbroken string of Democratic and progressive victories was the popular rejection of right-wing overreach. The series of elections held across the country yesterday weren’t supposed to yield a coherent narrative. Yet a common theme emerged: Radical-right Republicans hit a wall last night all over the country, even on a conservative social issue in what may be the most socially conservative state in the nation. So can Democrats take some hope from last night’s results? Provisionally; sort of. If Barack Obama can make next year’s election a choice between his ineffectual moderation and the Republicans’ wacked-out lunacy, the Democrats should do well. If next year’s election is a referendum on his stewardship of the economy the Democrats will likely get clobbered. It’s clear that Americans have had it with Republican extremism. Whether that will be a decisive issue in 2012 is not yet apparent.
We are happy to bring you another edition of our “Political Dispatch” podcast series from PoliticalBuzz.com. “PD” is a weekly series bringing you insight and analysis from the best political journalists and strategists as well as exclusive interviews with top politicians and campaign staffers. This week we talked with… more »