Supreme Court Ruling May Boost Influence of Political Parties
by Jules Witcover
Like an optimist looking through a pile of manure in hope of finding a pony, if one examines the latest
The McCutcheon decision lifted the limit on what the parties can raise and contribute to their candidates, a small step toward putting them back in the ball game, while regrettably further enhancing fat-cat donors' domination of the playing field.
Among the principal fears of the Founding Fathers in cobbling together this remarkable country was the development of what they called "factions." There is no reference to parties in the Constitution, but today that's what we call them, and like it or not they remain integral part of our political system.
The founders clung to the dream of America as one big happy family, drawn together primarily in the desire to be free of the British crown.
Indeed, Jefferson spent much of his time as the second vice president organizing and mobilizing what was then referred to simply as the anti-federalist faction into what eventually became the
Ever since, the two-party system has dominated American politics, easily withstanding third-party intrusions and nurturing political philosophies and candidates at all levels of government, particularly the federal. But as money has become the controlling element, particularly in presidential elections, party influence has waned in the message delivered to the electorate, especially on television and the Internet.
Big money from rich donors has already destroyed the public campaign finance system designed to keep elections in the hands of average voters. Starting with
In the process, moderation in both national parties, but especially in recent years in a
If the latest, generally destructive decision lifting campaign contribution limits throws a crumb or two to the parties, as Republican National Chairman
One of the worst ramifications of the growth of outside-the-party campaign operations is the ability of free-lancing candidates and strategists to damage the party brand or a given candidate's message with contradictory or poisoning pitches to the voters, tarnishing the party's reputation and its candidate in the process.
The old fear of the founders that the development of parties would emphasize division was inevitable as basic approaches to governing emerged -- small vs. large government, laissez faire vs. the social safety net, even "class warfare" on both sides. But better there be healthy debate within the tents of a reasonably responsible party system than ever-greater intrusion by rich special pleaders buying so significantly into the critical national discussion.