Even the candidates are beginning to lose track of how many Republican debates we’ve had this season, as Mitt Romney admitted tonight in Las Vegas, “This is either the eighth or ninth debate we’ve had.” Sheesh. At tonight’s match-up, Michele Bachmann was the first to make that obvious Vegas joke, Herman Cain continues to struggle to get folks to understand his 9-9-9 tax plan, and everyone kept interrupting Romney to the point the debate almost resembled one of those Real Housewives reunions with Anderson Cooper playing the Andy Cohen role, unsuccessfully attempting to bring the conversation back to Earth. See all this and more in our speedy video roundup.
[B]ad systems corrupt good individuals [by] enlisting our self-interest to convince us to betray our values. And make no mistake: America’s campaign finance system is a disaster. Most candidates can’t self-finance their campaigns, so they spend a disproportionate amount of time asking the rich to donate to their campaigns. Those donations are limited to $2,800 per individual, but the Supreme Court believes political spending is a protected form of free speech, so the rich can spend as much as they want on their own campaigns, or on Super PACs to push their political agendas.
Populists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and, in his complicated and contradictory ways, even Donald Trump, have risen in part because Americans loathe seeing their political system bought by the rich. Bloomberg isn’t so much a defense against those critiques as he is a confirmation of them. The populists say that politics is rigged, elections are bought by those with enough money to spend, modern liberalism is mere lipstick on perpetual corporatism. Bloomberg is here to test whether they’re right. He may pitch himself to centrists as an answer to the populists, but in leveraging his fortune to fight them, he offers the country the (hopefully) false choice between populism and oligarchy.