If you want to know why Scott Walker won yesterday, watch Bernie Sanders explain how Citizens United is the biggest threat to one person, one vote in our lifetime.
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Speaking about the Wisconsin recall, Sen. Sanders said, “This is really the tip of the iceberg. What is going on now, is class warfare to an unprecedented degree is being waged against the middle class and working families of this country. and what the disastrous supreme court Citizen’s United decision did is just open the door wide open, flood gate wide open, for corporations and billion airs to take over our democracy to spend as much money as they want without disclosure on campaigns throughout America in order to elect right wing extremist who are going to protect the interest of the 1% against the 99%.”
Later Sen. Sanders explained that broader threat to our democracy brought about by the Citizens United decision, “This is unprecedented and it is the most savage attack against American democracy, and the concept of one person, one vote that we have seen in our lifetime, and what it is is saying if you are a billionaire, you can buy elections. You can by politicians, and by the way, on the floor of the Senate, on the floor of the House, you can intimidate members, because you will be saying to them if you are going to vote against Wall Street, or the insurance companies, or the military industrial complex, you just do that, and we’re going to have millions of dollars in thirty second ads in your state this weekend.”
Sanders continued, “So this whole effort to put huge unprecedented unbelievable amounts of money is the one percent saying look, we’re not content that the top one percent owns forty percent of the wealth. We want more. We want more. We want more, and we’re going to buy the political process to get what we want. So this is the worst assault on the basic democratic traditions which have made our country great that you and I have seen in our lifetimes, and what it means, we have to overturn Citizens United. We have to pass a disclose bill, disclosure legislation next month, which at the very least forces these CEOs to get on television when they do a negative ad, and say I approve this message, and it forces us to know who is contributing.”
Bernie Sanders has been one of the lone congressional voices in the wilderness on this issue, but if you want to know the biggest reason why Scott Walker was able to survive the recall, look no further than Citizens United. While some are busy trying to project Wisconsin on to the presidential race, which is folly because the presidential race is the one contest where Democrats will have adequate funds to match the Republicans, the real message that the left should be taking from this today is that Citizens United has crafted a new electoral landscape.
When some on the left take comfort in having the facts and boots on the ground on their side, they are preaching a cute, quaint, idealistic, and completely outdated model of electoral politics. If facts only accepted by one side of the political debate than the election is reduced to a political he said, she said contest. Boots on the ground are great, but if the other side can outspend you 10 to 1 and get more boots on the ground, the perceived grassroots advantage is meaningless.
The big lesson for progressives and the left coming out of Wisconsin should be that they need to unify to overturn Citizens United. The activists need to be pressuring corporate Democrats. The think tanks need to be working on policy options to work around the Supreme Court decision, and all Democrats need to understand that their best immediate chance of ridding our democracy of Citizens United is to reelect President Obama.
Four more years of a Democratic presidency increases the odds that Obama will get to appoint a replacement for one of the conservative Supreme Court justices.
The left has two choices. Either they can join together to work to overturn Citizens United, or they can stop playing their petty special interest game of threatening to withhold contributions unless they get what they want, and unify around a monetary arms race to elect Democrats.
Those are the only two options. The left can either work together towards change, or play by the new rules. Obama may be able to survive the Citizens United cash onslaught, but how many winnable congressional races might Democrats lose this year because of anonymous right wing money machine?
It is time for the left to step up, decide what role they are going to play, and if they haven’t been listening before, they best heed the warnings of Bernie Sanders about the grave threat posed to our democracy by Citizens United.