The eye-catcher …
After a long week of work, impeachment acquittal votes, and the jobs report, I came home last night prepared to chill out and maybe watch a little television. My mother, the family’s original political analyst, shot me out a text asking if I was watching the Democratic debates. I thanked her for letting me know then switched to ABC to check it out.
The last debate prior to the New Hampshire primary and the first one post the U.S. Senate’s acquittal of President Donald J. Trump, I expected the debaters to get in a few zings on Mr. Trump. The debaters had to bring him up since the Democratic Party will need the candidates to spearhead the campaign not only against Mr Trump but against Republican senators up for re-election this fall who voted to acquit the President.
I also heard the unsurprising attack on corporate donations to campaigns. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, went all in on former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, former businessman Tom Steyer, and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, for, in Mr Buttigieg’s case, accepting donations from billionaires, and Messrs Steyer and Bloomberg, for attempting to buy elections with their wealth. Mrs Warren and Mr Sanders reminded Americans that they were not going to be on the dole for donations from corporate PACs.
Two strategic takeaways. First, will candidates want to continuously expend energy talking about a failure to pass articles of impeachment against Donald Trump when energy should be spent crystallizing the policy differences between candidates? Second, are these candidates being disingenuous with Democratic voters when they criticize the existing campaign donation mechanism?
Wasting energy talking about impeachment …
Voters do not have long memories. While Democrats are still fuming that the President survived impeachment due to votes along party lines, the more important independent vote will need to be swayed by a more effectual campaign tactic. Mr Trump still has robust jobs numbers and stock market valuation increases to work with. This week’s 225,000 increase in non-farm payrolls capped off a victory lap for the President and even though talk of recession persists, if he can positively spin his achievements on the economy, enough independents may decide to ignore his behavior and vote with their pocketbooks. Talking about a failed removal attempt won’t outweigh stock market numbers sitting in the positive zone.
Nor will black voters, a block that Democrats constantly harp on as important, be swayed by calls for impeachment. In the bigger scheme, beyond the emotion of getting rid of someone deemed as rude and bigoted, the type of person blacks are well equipped to handle due to historical experience to deal with, a focus on impeachment is more evidence that the Democratic Party is further de-emphasizing the immediate and medium range needs of blacks in America. Independent thinking blacks, already questioning the allegiance their community has to the Democratic Party, need concrete political packages to stay on board. I don’t see the Democrats delivering that at all.
The political markets are like any capital market. PACs are their private equity firms ….
The attempts on the part of Mr Sanders and Mrs Warren to create a negative view of political action committees and the donations they generate show a continuous practice of poorly educating constituents about how the politics matrix works. Political action committees are the private equity firm equivalents for political markets. They pick candidates they believe can help provide returns on and to the public policy positions that PACs take.
While they cannot manage a candidate’s campaign, a PAC can indirectly influence where that candidate should deploy political capital by providing the public with messages that influence voters to contact and persuade candidates to consider positions important to PACs. Like a private equity firm, PACs influence how well candidates perform in providing the products they should be good at providing: messaging and political packages.
A well informed voter will appreciate that this PAC apparatus is an organic outgrowth of the unique American political economy. Democracy has created a market for votes and like any market there will be information seekers on the lookout for the best investment toward which capital should be deployed. What candidates who disparage the model tell me is that they may not be viable enough to attract funding from information seekers such as PACs and prefer to hide that lack of viability by making the tired arguments about how bad taking PAC money is.
So far Democratic candidate tactics for winning the presidency do not look effectual. Talking about impeachment signals to black voters in particular that a party that wastes time on non-relevant issues or tactics should not be getting their vote. Their views on campaign financing tells independent voters that they are disconnected from the realities of how markets for anything in America, including votes, actually work.