Bare-Knuckle Politics, 9/24
Are there no rules?
Meet Arabella Advisors, the brainchild of ex-Clinton administration staffer Eric Kessler and the favorite tool of anonymous, billionaire donors on the progressive left. Since 2006, the Arabella hub has overseen a growing network of nonprofits—call them the “spokes”—that collected $2.4 billion in the 2019-20 election cycle, nearly twice as much as the Republican and Democratic national committees combined.
These nonprofits in turn manage and supervise a vast array of “pop-up” groups—mainly political attack-dog websites, ad campaigns, and “spontaneous” demonstrations staffed by Arabella’s network of activist professionals who pose as members of independent activist organizations. These groups—such as Fix Our Senate, the Hub Project, and Floridians for a Fair Shake—typically emerge very suddenly in order to savage the political opposition on the policy or outrage of that particular day or week, then vanish just as quickly. The pop-ups do not file IRS disclosures or report their budgets, boards, or staff. In most cases, their connection to Arabella goes unreported.
People point out that “politics ain’t beanbag.” But does that imply that there should be no restraints whatsoever?
Richard Hanania claims that the people on the left care more than conservatives about politics. If that is true, then we can expect the left to be more ruthless.
I have already remarked on Democratic organizations making contributions in Republican primaries to candidates they really hate in order to knock off more formidable moderate challengers. I consider that indefensible, and friends of mine who are Democrats (but not party officials) agree.
Here are two ways to tell if a political tactic your side is using is really underhanded.
If the other side did it, you would cry foul.
If what you were doing were shouted from the rooftops, so that everyone knew knew who was responsible and understood what you were up to, your tactic would backfire.
It would be nice if we could shame out of existence any organization that engages in such tactics.
The super pac kind of thing you’re pointing out doesn’t seem of a different kind, just bigger than previous ones.
Seems akin to me to financial firms effectively outgrowing any ability to regulate them.
Given the tsunami of politicking misdeeds and endless orgies of litigation with which we are inundated each and every election cycle, pointing out isolated incidents seems like a “look! A squirrel!” strategy to normalize the fundamentally fakakta reality of elections in the United States of America. By decrying a specific misdeed here or there, perhaps one can retain the fundamentally untenable philosophy that “the electoral system is all perfectly fine until it can be proven otherwise in a court of law” (a view that has been proffered here previously.) One might not be sitting so smug in judging others if one were to adopt a “I will believe elections are free and fair when there is substantive evidence to support such a conclusion.” The latter philosophy places a duty upon the individual to do something like question, challenge, and reform.
As one might expect of a country whose 2016 presidential election resulted in Members of Congress objecting to certifying election results from nearly 1 in 10 states (Alabama Florida Georgia Michigan Mississippi North Carolina South Carolina Wisconsin Wyoming), dozens of Members boycotted the inauguration which violent saboteurs disrupted by burning vehicles the night before and blocking access to the capitol grounds, the United States of America does not perform well on objective measures of free and fair elections. For example, on the V-Dem Institute’s Electoral Democracy Index: which “measures the principle of electoral or representative democracy, including whether elections were free and fair” (as well as the “prevalence of a free and independent media”), the United States of America ranks 33rd in the world, between Taiwan and Chile. Even though they are ranked beneath us, one must envy the Chileans for having had the nobility to attempt to do something substantive about it. Whether it is because our anti-democratic constitution won’t allow it, our corrupt legal system suppresses it, or if the people of the United States of America prefer deluding themselves, we will never earn the pride and nobility to which the Chileans can legitimately lay claim.