With the Rise of $uperPacs and Voter ID, Can '16 Be More About Democracy?

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By Mark Green

Shrum vs. Lowry: as billionaires "bid" for President and key swing states disenfranchise millions of minorities and millennials, can the process of Democracy grab more attention than Trump's Hair and Wall? Then: Does Donald vs. Jeb = insults vs. results?

Democracy I: Money Shouts Usually issues affecting wallets and families affect elections, not "process" problems like money and voting rules. Could that change in '16 because of the rise of billionaires' Superpacs and "Voter ID" laws that sabotage Democracy?

Bob says the rising tidal wave of money -- 170 families are underwriting over half of all GOP presidential fundraising to date -- "is disgraceful but I'm a realist. Since a constitutional amendment isn't now feasible, Democrats have to get their own SuperPacs to compete, just as Obama figured out to win in 2012 by raising a billion dollars largely on-line." Question: isn't there a fair chance of a Democrat winning in 2016 and then eventually replacing one of the five Citizen United justices reversing that decision? Yes, Bob agrees, but that's later.

If Trump spends $500 million to become his party's nominee, Lowry is asked, might that change Rich's view that "money is speech"? He answers "no" because a) "What's wrong if money buys ads? It's a free country and you can't buy an election with money"; b) Newspapers spend a lot endorsing candidates "in the yeasty, chaotic process of campaigns"; and c) Dems too have their billionaires.

Host: While Rich shrugs, 80 percent percent of Americans who know of Citizens United object to the decision allowing unlimited political spending. So a post-show Q&A:

a) "What's wrong...?" -- how about purchased politicians listening to the big donor class who then effectively erase 1 person-1 vote of Baker v. Carr...not to mention that obviously more money for a tidal wave of ads does increase the likelihood of success (see, alas, Bloomberg and Corzine)...and if we can regulate the decibel volume of a midnight bullhorn in a residential neighborhood, why not the volume of money also imposing social costs like the end of majority rule?

b) Unregulated newspapers on both sides' supporting different candidates is a given under the First Amendment, which the Founders understood as self-evidently different from wealthy interests spending legislatively-interested money in order to own - or be -- a candidate.

c) Who are the Dem equivalents of Adelson and Kochs? BREAKING: 90+ percent of billionaire Superpac money is Republican (with zero coming from whipping boy Soros). I'm reminded of Warren Magnuson (D-WA) who once remarked that 'all anybody wants in life is an unfair advantage."

Democracy II: Whose Voter Fraud? With 12 cases of voter impersonation showing up in over a billion votes cast in a recent study, why discourage millions of eligible voters? A recent Texas Appeals Court struck down a state law that had the affect, and perhaps the motive, to disenfranchise minority, young and poor voters. You agree?

Shrum thinks it profoundly undemocratic to require Voter ID of people who we know don't carry around their birth certificates and who may be too old to get around to easily obtain one. The fraud then are these laws, not non-existent voter impersonation. Rich disagrees since such cases do pop up from time to time and it's not a big burden to spend $12 to get a birth certificate. He favors states making it easier to obtain such ID. Rich adds that a GAO report didn't find much suppression in the 2012 election "when black turnout exceeded white turnout." Would he agree with automatic voter enrollment at age 18, as Jimmy Carter originally proposed in 1976 and the Brennan Center is today urging? No because, "I like the idea of some personal involvement in voting, which has been true from time in memoriam."

Host: It's good to suggest that states requiring Voter ID and shortening early voting should facilitate such IDs...but has any state GOP pushed that initiative? Haven't heard of any. Wonder why?

And it's quite an admission to oppose automatic registration because making voting too easy is un-American. As for a GAO report on little evidence of suppression in 2012, nearly none of those new laws were yet in effect since they were stayed by judicial process. Making poor people spend $12 and schlep around to obtain a birth certificate indeed can be a big deal to an elderly black woman. Why impose any additional burden at all beyond waiting on line or in order to deter an imaginary hobgoblin? Unlike requiring ID to board a plane, when one bad passenger could kill 200, voting is a right, not a privilege.

To put it another way, as the popular @LOLGOP did, "There were 3 voter ID fraud convictions in Texas 2000-2014 and 2599 fun deaths in 2011 alone. Guess which the GOP is trying to stop?"
After Bush's 537 vote victory in Florida and America, it's gonna be a big problem if someone is "elected" president in 2016 because of thousands of suppressed voters in the swing states -- North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio - that are implementing these new laws.

Jeb-Donald. How can or should Jeb Bush handle an opponent who is consistently insulting, untruthful and entertaining...and pulling away in polls? We listen to Trump call Bush not bright, low energy, boring, someone who "loves" immigrants etc etc. Then we hear Bush push back saying that he, unlike Trump, "has a proven conservative record", a phrase he uses four times in a 20 second clip.

Contrary to the prediction of Matt Dowd on ABC's This Week, Rich and Bob agree that Trump still has only a low probability of actually becoming the Republican nominee. And that he won't wear well once August is over. And that he's been a weak candidate to date. Shrum regrets that "he didn't win his governor's race in 1994 so he'd have been the GOP nominee in 2000 instead of George, who was a much better campaigner."

Lowrey sympathizes with Jeb's dilemma since he risks looking like a 97 pound weakling to "this Alpha Male" but it's strategically foolish "to break your sword too early" as Tim Pawlenty did on Iowa's straw poll against Michele Bachmann. Also, says Rich, when Trump does finally fade, it's likely Ted Cruz who will pick up his support. Bob concurs: "I give Cruz a higher chance of being the nominee than Trump."

Quick Takes: "Birthright Citizenship" and "Topless in Times Square" Although Rich argues that there could be some doubt about whether the first sentence of the 14th Amendment applies to the children of illegal immigrants, both panelists think that it's completely unfeasible to either overturn the 14th amendment by the constitutional amendment process or spend $300 million in a several year police-state like move to evict all 11 million families and children who are undocumented.

Last -- it's like a law school exam question: since men and women under the law can go topless in NYC, should Mayor de Blasio try to stop or regulate women who go topless with only red-white-blue painted stripes across their breasts from roaming Times Square charging tourists for selfies with them? Rich thinks, along with Police Commissioner Bratton, that it may be ok to dig up Bloomberg's popular pedestrian malls that have helped revive Times Square to get rid of this blight; then more vehicular traffic but fewer topless women. Bob thinks it's ridiculous to go that far for so small a nuisance, even ridiculous for a high-brow show like Both Sides Now to discuss this. (Indeed, contrary to the Daily News making this a major quality-of-life challenge for the struggling mayor, the next day's New York Times belittled the Mayor for his "monumental overreaction" in an editorial playfully headlined, presumably parodying the famous New York Post headline, "Shirtless Bodies in Pointless War." (Can't wait for Public Editor Margaret Sullivan's comment on all this.)

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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