After the 2008 election cycle advanced a long litany of proposed reforms and massive structural changes which came attached to Presidential candidate Barack Obama, 2010's agenda is much more modest. A disillusioned, frustrated electorate looks to lash out against those in power by casting their votes accordingly, hence the reason why so many long-time legislators within the party have retired in the past several months. As we know, scaled down versions of existing measures are the order of the day, and skittish Democrats are wary of making additional promises that they know they can't likely keep, aiming to avoid increased voter ire at all cost. Still, it would be foolish to cast aside all talk of additional reform, particularly since some slightly more modest proposals would likely go over well, even in this dubious climate.
Even with the severe limitations of the 2010 cycle, there are a few issues Democrats could hammer home that would resonate well with voters. Polls reveal that the recent Federal Election Commission v. Citizens United Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance reform is a highly unpopular one, and some Democrats on the state and local level have proposed measures to push back and guard themselves from the potential sweep of corporate interference.
Maryland lawmakers are mobilizing to prepare a series of campaign finance reforms in response to a recent Supreme Court decision that will open federal elections to more corporate and labor spending.
About a dozen Democratic senators and delegates this week outlined a package of bills meant to restrict the ability of those businesses to spend in state elections.
The initiatives come after the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a prohibition on corporations and unions using general treasury funds for political ads.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, said the legislators are working to "try and contain the damage."
It should be noted that none of these measures do a tremendous amount to reverse the decision itself and its now-established precedent, but they do provide additional safeguards in case corporations decide to take new liberties. The nightmare scenario envisioned by many is an influx of corporate-based cash into races and regions in ways that had never before existed. Thus, this proposed legislation is designed primarily to prevent business from overreaching into political races. Even so, sensible strategies like these would go over well with constituents in every state, and would give increasingly vulnerable Democrats a powerfully populist talking point. Subsequent pro-big business decisions from whatever source are likely to be viewed negatively by the American people, and if the national Democratic Party wishes to rebrand itself to keep its control of Congress, it might do well to consider strategies like these.
Running against the SCOTUS as a whole might also prove to be a winning strategy, since the latest unpopular heavily split decision reveals the undemocratic nature of a small, deliberative body who is appointed for life and cannot be collectively, individually, or otherwise voted in or voted out by the general public. We can forever debate the merits of why the Federal judicial system was set up in such a fashion, but we simply can't deny the reality of it. Voters now are concerned much more about results, not reasons. Moreover, the direct impact upon the 5-4 decision itself showed plainly in the person of the two Justices that Former President George W. Bush nominated. Democrats could once again point back to the destructive Bush Presidency as a still-evident and still-existing part of the problem. The Roberts court has not yet set itself up as directly antagonistic to President Obama and his agenda, but it very well might as time goes on, which would give the incumbent Chief Executive a weapon when the time arrives for him to run for re-election in 2012. Setting the scene early as well as the framing would make that message far more pertinent and pervasive.
Though the party in power is always under the gun when a bad economy, high unemployment, and Congressional gridlock spawn massive ill-will in the voting public, a slight modification in focus could limit losses and stem the bleeding. As it is right now, Democrats are rushing about in a million different directions with no coherent, nor cohesive sense of message discipline. As many have done before, I have criticized those in positions of authority who have either abused the peoples' trust or have frittered away a golden opportunity by their own inability to form consensus or make resounding, firm decisions. The sea change in Washington politics ushered in by an astounding 2008 cycle and an equally astounding rapid decay of many of those gains in the course of one short year has redefined previously existing parameters and expected results. Acting sooner rather than later works against the math and logic of a previous age, I recognize, but what we have all discovered recently is that significant developments of the Twenty-first Century proceed at an incredibly rapid clip, and those who jump out in front of an issue first usually fare the best. The clock is running down, but there is still plenty of time left.