Monday, June 12, 2006

Some Choice This Is
I haven't given money to Democrats this campaign cycle, I haven't volunteered for anyone, I mostly delete the half-dozen e-mails I get every day from candidates and groups after money, time, signatures on virtual petitions, and whatever else.

Then I read something like this and I almost want to get more involved:

For nearly a decade, Allen Raymond stood at the top ranks of Republican Party power.

He served as chief of staff to a cochairman of the Republican National Committee, supervised Republican contests in mid-Atlantic states for the RNC, and was a top official in publisher Steve Forbes's presidential campaign. He went on to earn $350,000 a year running a Republican policy group as well as a GOP phone-bank business.

But most recently, Raymond has been in prison. And for that, he blames himself, but also says he was part of a Republican political culture that emphasizes hardball tactics and polarizing voters.

Raymond, 39, has just finished serving a three-month sentence for jamming Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire during the 2002 US Senate race. The incident led to one of the biggest political scandals in the state's history, the convictions of Raymond and two top Republican officials, and a Democratic lawsuit that seeks to determine whether the White House played any role. The race was won by Senator John E. Sununu , the Republican.
[H]e said the scheme reflects a broader culture in the Republican Party that is focused on dividing voters to win primaries and general elections. He said examples range from some recent efforts to use border-security concerns to foster anger toward immigrants to his own role arranging phone calls designed to polarize primary voters over abortion in a 2002 New Jersey Senate race.

``A lot of people look at politics and see it as the guy who wins is the guy who unifies the most people," he said. ``I would disagree. I would say the candidate who wins is the candidate who polarizes the right bloc of voters. You always want to polarize somebody."

Raymond stressed that he was making no excuses for his role in the New Hampshire case; he pleaded guilty and told the judge he had done a ``bad thing." But he said he got caught up in an ultra-aggressive atmosphere in which he initially thought the decision to jam the phones ``pushed the envelope" but was legal. He also said he had been reluctant to turn down a prominent official of the RNC, fearing that would cost him future opportunities from an organization that was becoming increasingly ruthless.

``Republicans have treated campaigns and politics as a business, and now are treating public policy as a business, looking for the types of returns that you get in business, passing legislation that has huge ramifications for business," he said. ``It is very much being monetized, and the federal government is being monetized under Republican majorities."

That's the Republican Party. You see it in Ann Coulter's latest pile of vomit; you see it when Grover Norquist runs primary challenges against moderates; you see it when Karl Rove makes speeches about how Democrats don't care about defending the country. Divide and conquer; keep people angry and keep that anger focused at The Other (gays, Muslims, immigrants, liberals); better to win dishonestly than lose with honor. We are seeing the results.

I think the Democrats would be slightly better, but as I said to someone recently, mostly just in the sense that the rate at which things get worse would slow down somewhat. They're venal, stupid, and self-dealing too. If you don't believe me, check this out.

Moran will win re-election; if William Jefferson, the crooked Democrat from Louisiana, runs again, he might win too. (Remember Jim Traficant; he served nine terms, and was a crook before he ever took office.)

Our democracy doesn't work because too many people, from Tom DeLay, to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who want to go to the mattresses for Jefferson, to the rabid right-wing loser who sometimes trolls here, to the thousands of liberal bloggers who are just coming back from Las Vegas, put party ahead of country, self-dealing ahead of the common good, and righteous, angry purism ahead of consensus and compromise.

I do think the Republicans are mostly to blame for creating this climate of unprecedented polarization--when your top thinker makes statements like "bipartisanship is another name for date rape," it's hard to draw any other conclusion--in which big and little scumbags and ideologues flourish. But I don't know how the Democrats, or more moderate and principled conservatives, would change that. Or if they'd want to.

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