Wednesday, March 30, 2016
The Unending Money Chase
In the past week my email inbox has been brimming with correspondence from a number of old friends.
I’ve heard from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Kristen Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Chelsea Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Wendy Davis, James Carville, Barney Frank, Barbara Mikulski, Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Pete Aguilar.
And those are just the individuals staying in touch. I’m also hearing from organizations like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, End Citizens United and EMILY’s List.
What can I tell you? I’m a popular guy with a lot of famous friends who all love me for one thing.
They want my money.
The Mother’s Milk of Politics
It’s getting to be tiresome. I understand that it takes money to run a political campaign, and that, as former California Assembly Speaker Jess Unruh used to say, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Thus has it always been and always will be.
But if my experience is any indication, it has been accelerating out of control lately.
It seems as if almost every day, there’s a deadline of some sort for raising X number of dollars to keep Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, or some other Republican villain du jour from destroying America as we know it. All I have to do to stop that is give a dollar or two or three.
Of course, no sooner have the funds been raised to stave off the crisis at hand than there’s a new crisis and a new deadline the following week. It never ends.
It’s a technological problem, in some ways. In the old days, they’d have had to send a letter and pay for paper, envelopes and postage. That had the effect of imposing some restraint. A blast email costs nothing but the expense of having some hack write it, so there’s no reason to hold back from sending as many as possible — to the point of ridiculousness.
Can’t Smell the Ordure
Now I realize Democrats feel they have to target smaller donors to offset some of the bigger contributors the Republicans get. But even so: Do the people who send all these emails have any idea how obnoxious and offensive the ordinary citizen finds them? How truly sickened most people are that our political system has become an endless pursuit of dollars?
Probably not. I think today’s political operatives have been living in the outhouse for so long it smells like a rose to them. I’m reminded of the story of former California Governor Gray Davis, who was asked by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters what politician he most admired and why?
I forget who the politician was, but I’ll never forget the why. Davis said he admired the individual he named because no matter how busy a day he’d had, the man always found time to make 100 fund-raising calls each night.
That’s not exactly what you’d call a profile in courage.
Years ago, I saw Louis Malle’s film Phantom India, and a scene that has stuck with me ever since was the image of a swarm of beggars approaching the camera with their hands out. These days I feel as if I’m revisiting that image every time I check my inbox. Our politics has become a beggar’s opera, and we’re all worse off for it.