My Comments: I probably live in a bubble. I say this as much of what I allow to cross my desk daily already conforms to what I believe and therefore serves to confirm my present thinking. It happens to most of us; I had an exchange with someone the other day who tried to persuade me that I was a communist. Why? Because I am a registered Democrat and to his mind, a stupid person. Why? Because he heard Bill O’Reilly say that Democrats are stupid. The person had already determined that stupid and Communist were synonymous. Webster and his dictionary would be appalled.
Below are the answers given in an interview by Bruce Batlett. I remember his name from years ago when he was an advisor to Presidents Reagan and Bush I. Last week I saw similar comments about Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party candidate for President in 1964. Although a very viable candidate, he lost as he was considered too far right to be elected. The landscape has changed, and not for the better.
Elias Isquith / Thursday, May 14, 2015
In American politics, for whatever reason, the most forceful and articulate critics of political parties or movements are often apostates. The list of names of redeemers — or traitors, depending on where you stand — is too long to recount here; but one of the more recent addition would have to be Bruce Bartlett, the historian and former member of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations who has since become one of movement conservatism’s most scathing critics. (To get a sense of what we mean, just go to his Twitter page and search “wankers.”)
Recently, Salon saw the onetime aide to GOP Rep. Jack Kemp (the party’s 1996 vice presidential nominee) criticizing a piece about a campaign finance reform-oriented GOP presidential candidate from Harvard Law’s Lawrence Lessig. We decided to reach out, and ended up speaking with Bartlett over the phone for about 30 minutes. Our conversation touched on Lessig’s piece, Bartlett’s contrarian view of campaign finance, and why he thinks lobbying is one of the most insidious threats to American government. A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation can be found below.
What element of Professor Lawrence Lessig’s Daily Beast piece on a reform Republican challenging Clinton — which, I should just note, he admitted was fanciful — did you find most unrealistic?
Well, the impression I had [was] that he, like many other people, such as David Brooks, seems to be longing for a moderate Republican savior who they believe is out there somewhere and [will] rescue the Republicans from utter insanity and stupidity. Lessig has this belief … that the only reason this white knight savior hasn’t emerged is because of problems in campaign finance. So he has this scheme for mobilizing the millions of small donors that he, for some reason, believes are out there longing for this White Knight moderate, who can channel an adequate amount of funding to this White Knight. I think that’s just ludicrous; it’s just nonsense.
The reason there isn’t a moderate Republican is because there’s absolutely no demand for such a person in the Republican Party. There is no such person. Even if I were Sheldon Adelson and was willing to throw a billion dollars at such a person, who the heck would it be? The [GOP] bench has no such person on it that you could make into a contender simply by throwing money at them. And one [reason why] is that Lessig, among others, grossly overestimates or misunderstands the problem of money and politics. I don’t believe, personally, that it’s about campaign spending. My much greater concern about money and politics has to do with lobbying, which I think is a much more insidious problem that nobody is focusing on at all.
Does your skepticism apply beyond presidential campaigns? The idea that the impact of money is overstated when it’s a high-profile race is pretty mainstream; but do you take it further?
Well, in general, I think that people overestimate the value of money in politics. I think that there is a threshold effect; that is to say, you need a minimum amount to be competitive. And I think up to a certain point, in any given race, there’s enormous value to each additional dollar that is raised, because it will be spent efficiently in increased votes. But I do think that there is a point at which it levels off and at which point each additional dollar doesn’t really help very much, if at all. I think that there’s also a downward point at which you have too much money, and you actually start alienating potential voters by running too many ads, doing too much stuff that just alienates, irritates them, so you actually end up being worse off.