Manifest Dynamism: Independent Organizations in the 21st Century

One week after The Hill reports that 527 legislation is in trouble on the Hill, IRS reports show that the Left, or certainly its non-“reformist” wing, is funding 527 organizations in anticipation of aiding Democrats in the 2006 elections.  The financiers are no less than Republican bogeymen George Soros and Peter Lewis, and the object of their beneficence, America Votes, aims to weaken Republicans where they like it least by creating “the largest voter mobilization and education effort in America today.”  Kenneth P. Doyle, “Soros, Lewis Contributing Again to 527 Groups Favoring Democrats,” BNA, Money & Politics Report, July 17, 2006 (subscription required).  This move by the Left, so soon on the heels of a principled letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist that all but promises a filibuster on 527 regulation, will spark criticism and tactical finger pointing in Republican circles directed at those seven conservative senators, led by Virginia’s George Allen, who, in signing the letter to Frist, have staked their futures on a future of political freedom.

But the latest out of America Votes, or BNA for that matter, should not cause these seven senators to reconsider.  These Republicans know that Republicans can’t remain republican and “ban” independent speech organizations, whether registered under internal revenue section 527, or 501(c).

And it would appear that the Democrats, and their Progressive allies, cannot win the coming elections without independent speech organizations. This realization, however, has sparked indecision and disillusion in some Progressives who have no patience for Republican administrations yet, at the same time, welcome added political controls in an effort to better the electoral process, and perhaps, though never stated openly, better the electoral outcome for Democrats.  (Bob Bauer, “How Congressional Elections May Have Become More Competitive: Reflections from Tom Mann, July 17, 2006, available here).

This is not the first time Progressives have felt disillusioned with politics since the presidencies of FDR, Kennedy and Johnson.  Explaining Progressives’ dissatisfaction with the Carter Presidency in his book, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan (Yale University Press, 2005), John Ehrman notes that “[a]s Carter’s troubles mounted, liberal intellectuals began to express a deep pessimism about the capabilities of America’s democratic institutions … They began by deciding that America’s ruling institutions needed a complete overhaul, one borrowing from foreign models.” (Ehrman, 41).  This sentiment, says Ehrman, carried over to the popular economists, leading economist Lester Thurow to produce a “compelling catalog of the country’s economic ills, including slow growth, inflation, [and] regulation” but to conclude that the solutions required “large sacrifices from individuals and groups” and that modern politics made those solutions incapable of implementation.

But we have learned since the days of Thurow, and straight through the days of Democratic President Bill Clinton, that the world is flat; that economic dynamism works in a world where all can plug & play.  We are learning it as the world learns it.  This is a lesson that Bangalore continues to teach Mumbai (struggling as it is with recent atrocities); a lesson Hong Kong continues to teach Beijing.  Indeed, last week China reported GDP growth of 10.9 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Progressives longing for the days of FDR, Johnson and Kennedy, should remember that it was John F. Kennedy who said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  This is no less true in politics than it is in economics.

Republicans should remember that the 527 world is a world in which they can "plug & play."

 

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.