Tag Archives: public financing

Netroots Nation Update

15 Aug

The volume and quality of information and discussion here at Netroots Nation is something I wasn’t really expecting, and am gratified to see.  Not a lot of rah-rah red meat preaching to the choir.  Instead, aside from networking, the attendees are figuring out ways to not just change policy, but the best process through which to bring it about.

A panel I attended yesterday discussed how to best make red districts blue.  First off, regardless of the size of your electoral disadvantage, it’s important to get out there and run – just running can, by itself, change the game. After all, even if you’re the longest of long shots, your opponent may screw up majorly. But it’s also important to run in every race, and to run to win.  One of the big problems I had when I ran was the fact that I just didn’t put in the time that was necessary to do that.  That’s a killer.

When you do run in a red district, you will inevitably come across people who are not initially receptive to your message.  One key is to listen to the voters and find that common ground and common value system that you probably both hold.  Also, you have to decide if you’re going to just be straight with voters about your dem/progressive positions or if you’re going to try and carve a 3rd way where you compromise a bit.  You can’t do both.  The key is to get out there and meet voters and get your ideas out into the political discussion.  Sooner or later, people might start to be convinced and you could do the impossible.

Finally, Darcy Burner noted something that every political activist should take to heart – we use too many sticks, and not enough carrots.  In other words, we’re too quick to scream and kick and yell when a politician betrays us, but we’re very stingy with praise and support when they do what we expect of them.  Positive reinforcement can be much more powerful and effective than negative reinforcement.  Ask any parent.

Among the more fascinating panels that I’ve attended here at Netroots Nation was the Change Congress presentation led by Professor Larry Lessig.  His Powerpoint presentation was incredibly compelling as he just came right out and called the current system a corrupt one.  It costs so much to run for congress that members are beholden to the lobbyists and special interest money they convey, and then the member will, in turn, take steps that are helpful to the lobbyist’s client interests.  The only way to break that triangle of failure and corruption is to break the money chain.

Lessig noted that the President doesn’t run the government, Congress does.  But Congress has become little more than a farm team for K Street; between 1998 – 2004, 50% of outgoing senators and 42% of outgoing house reps became lobbyists. (Hi, Tom Reynolds!)  He did not pull any punches, arguing that our system is the worst possible one for democracy, and that our corrupt system of influence and money affects everything and leads to bad law and cynicism in the electorate.

I sent a tweet to my Congressman, Chris Lee, to ask whether he supports the Change Congress agenda, and you should ask your representatives, too.  If you agree with the plan which can be described in shorthand as small individual contributions coupled with public financing of elections, pledge to go on a donation strike until they do.  If they send you an email asking for a contribution, just send them a link to this page. Both direct and indirect pressure for fundamental campaign finance reform is needed to make this change and return Congress to the people.

Each side snipes that the other side is corrupt, when in fact the whole underlying system is corrupt at its core.

More to come later.