Thursday, January 12, 2006
The Plot to Shush Rush and O'Reilly
Brian C. Anderson
Talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere freed U.S. political discourse. The Left wants to rein it in again.
The rise of alternative media-political talk radio in the eighties, cable news in the nineties, and the blogosphere in the new millennium-has broken the liberal monopoly over news and opinion outlets. The Left understands acutely the implications of this revolution, blaming much of the Democratic Party's current electoral trouble on the influence of the new media's vigorous conservative voices. Instead of fighting back with ideas, however, today's liberals quietly, relentlessly, and illiberally are working to smother this flourishing universe of political discourse under a tangle of campaign-finance and media regulations. Their campaign represents the most sustained attack on free political speech in the United States since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. Though Republicans have the most to lose in the short run, all Americans who care about our most fundamental rights and the civic health of our democracy need to understand what's going on-and resist it.
The most imminent danger comes from campaign-finance rules, especially those spawned by the 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. Republican maverick John McCain's co-sponsorship aside, the bill passed only because of overwhelming Dem support. It's easy to see why liberals have spearheaded the nation's three-decade experiment with campaign-finance regulation. Seeking to rid politics of "big-money corruption," election-law reforms obstruct the kinds of political speech-political ads and perhaps now the feisty editorializing of the new media-that escape the filter of the mainstream press and the academy, left-wing fiefdoms still regulation-free. Campaign-finance reform, notes columnist George Will, by steadily expanding "government's control of the political campaigns that decide who controls government," advances "liberalism's program of extending government supervision of life."
The irony of campaign-finance reform is that the "corruption" it targets seems not to exist in any widespread sense. Studies galore have found little or no significant influence of campaign contributions on legislators' votes. Ideological commitments, party positions, and constituents' wishes are what motivate the typical politician's actions in office. Aha! reformers will often riposte, the corruption is hidden, determining what Congress doesn't do-like enacting big gas taxes. But as Will notes, "that charge is impossible to refute by disproving a negative." Even so, such conspiracy-theory thinking is transforming election law into what journalist Jonathan Rauch calls "an engine of unlimited political regulation."
McCain-Feingold, the latest and scariest step down that slope, makes it a felony for corporations, nonprofit advocacy groups, and labor unions to run ads that criticize-or even name or show-members of Congress within 60 days of a federal election, when such quintessentially political speech might actually persuade voters. It forbids political parties from soliciting or spending "soft money" contributions to publicize the principles and ideas they stand for. Amending the already baffling campaign-finance rules from the seventies, McCain-Feingold's dizzying dos and don'ts, its detailed and onerous reporting requirements of funding sources-which require a dense 300-page book to lay out-have made running for office, contributing to a candidate or cause, or advocating without an attorney at hand unwise and potentially ruinous.
Not for nothing has Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas denounced McCain-Feingold's "unprecedented restrictions" as an "assault on the free exchange of ideas."
See rest of story here
This is a long article but well worth the read. We ALL need to keep our eyes on this out of control Party deceivingly called the "Democratic" Party!