Forget Citizens United, there’s something else very wrong with our electoral system and the two things may be related.
Every single day that God makes I receive half a dozen appeals from progressive groups and causes. The method is always the same: the letter starts out by describing a situation the writers know I am indignant over, then they inform me that my participation is necessary to fix this evil, and the letter ends with a big blue appeal for a donation. They will fix the problem if only I poney up!
Everyone knows that big money does not flow to progressive causes, but they shouldn’t have to be dependent on individual contributions from the victims of the problems they are out to solve: it’s the government’s job to support political activity on an equal basis. In Europe, with its hallowed socialist traditions and its entrenched social democratic political systems, the government funds all election campaigns. Of course, this presupposes that progressive forces coalesce into political parties, something American socialists and social democrats seem either unwilling or incapable of doing. Instead, a myriad of activist groups hold out their hands, like supplicants at a cathedral door.
Let’s get real: the one percent didn’t get where they are via each one doing his thing politically and hoping for the best: individualism is great for the money goose, but it leads the gander nowhere. All the good will in the world will never replace organizing with a national reach, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote so eloquently in The Tipping Point, citing as one of his examples the way the NAACP centrally set up the bus boycott.
Most Americans know that Europeans — especially the French! — will take to the streets at the slightest challenge to their economic rights, yet it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that organizing is a socialist tradition. The US was deprived of that tradition before it could become established — cut down in its infancy by the Robber Barons and other 5th Avenue worthies in the nineteenth century, before Marx was in his grave.
Then came infamous legislative measures against all things foreign, especially having anything to do with socialism, which have endured to this day. The lack of serious left-wing organizing is not surprising, but it has been crucial, most recently in Bernie Sanders’ failure: being simply ‘a movement’, it was done in by the centrally organized Democratic Party and its money. Had the 2016 primaries been financed equitably by government, we would probably have Bernie in the White House instead of Donald, since they appealed to the same lower-class voters.
Instead of organizing one big left-wing party progressives have allowed their attention to be diverted by the Great American Soap Opera: the ever more tortuous investigation of so-called Russian collusion.