25 October 2010

Thoughts On The Midterms

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the 2010 midterm elections. On one hand, it's great to see so much active interest and participation in the less glamorous side of the democratic process. Most Americans, regardless of party, are concerned for the country's future and want to play a part in shaping it for the better. I find this very reassuring.

On the other hand, some of this "interest" and "participation" is extremely troubling. For starters, we are witnessing a level of involvement by ambiguously-named, deep-pocketed third party groups not seen since the Watergate era. Thanks to the Supreme Court, these groups, which are frequently intermediaries organized and financed by both domestic and foreign corporate entities or wealthy donors, are able to influence even the most seemingly insignificant of elections anonymously. Is this really the kind of free speech our founding fathers fought so hard to protect?

I believe that all politics really is local. Good candidates, not ads or dollars, win elections. But statewide races should be directly and indirectly influenced only by residents of that state whether they be individuals, companies or third party groups. Even though the Roberts Court doesn't agree, I feel that protecting the rights of multinational corporations to secretly spend large amounts of money influencing and manipulating elections should not trump the need for those directly affected by a race to hear an open and balanced representation of the facts from credible sources.

Secondly, the lingering economic crisis and the Obama administration's handling of it have created a new class of outsider candidates that will no doubt leave its mark on the 2010 midterms. For the most part, these individuals (or at least the ones that make CNN) appear unqualified to hold public office and will undoubtedly prolong Washington's political stalemate if elected. Now I try to be as balanced as possible and wish I could say these candidates are equally distributed throughout the parties, but it's clear they are predominately Republican, Tea Party-backed candidates who spend vast amounts of establishment cash while spouting inflammatory quasi-libertarian rhetoric.

Don't get me wrong, Democrats aren't offering gold by any means and benefit from anonymous ads and cash as well. And let's face it, the inevitable gains made by Republicans in 2010 will be due in large part to the disconnect between Obama's policies and the American public. But there is a level of secretive financial backing and coordinated manipulation of the facts, as well as a willingness to take advantage of the economic crisis for political gain, exhibited by Republicans this year that is both disturbing and impossible to ignore.

In short, I think the 2010 midterm election season will be remembered as one that garnered unprecedented national interest (whether this will translate into voter turnout remains to be seen) but was marred by desperate partisanship and a boatload of cash that should have been spent on any number of more noble and needed endeavors. But what else is new? I guess as long as anonymous contributions are viewed as free speech and candidate ignorance is rewarded, 2010 will unfortunately be the model for future election cycles.