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Barbarians at The Gate
By Dick Morris


October 08, 2003
Wednesday - 12:50 am


How did Arnold Schwarzenegger get to become the frontrunner in California's recall election?

How did Wesley Clark come out of nowhere to lead the pack seeking the Democratic nomination?

How has Howard Dean been able to parlay the Internet into fund-raising that surpasses the entire field of traditional Democratic pros?

Why has President Bush slipped so dramatically in the polls?

Each event is part of a popular uprising against the political class that governs America. Voters realize, correctly, that our nation's politicians are a self-serving, self-perpetuating oligarchy that rules us with scant regard for our concerns and interests.

This professional group of leaders is as removed from the lives and problems of average Americans as are generals and priests. Like them, politicians are absorbed in a world of their own which operates along its own rules and promotes from within those most likely to perpetuate their own power.

Several relatively recent trends have hardened their domination of the political system:

  • The centralization of fund-raising in national party committees has virtually obviated the selection of candidates in direct primaries, returning us to the days when party bosses made the choices in smoke-filled rooms. By dominating and channeling the flow of funds, our modern bosses have virtually stripped us of the powers won in the political reforms of 1972.
  • The reapportionment of 2002 designed congressional districts that favored incumbents of both parties, leaving virtually no room for challengers to be elected. Of 435 members of the House of Representatives, only four incumbents lost to nonincumbents of the other party. In all, 96 percent of incumbents were re-elected. (It was only 90 percent in 1992 and 1982 after the previous reapportionments.)
  • The cost of campaigning has skyrocketed in recent years because of the falloff in TV viewership. With only one-third as many people watching TV as did 20 years ago, politicians have responded by buying three times as many ads, driving the cost of campaigning to levels which only favored candidates can afford.

Voters understand that the money-dominated political system has effectively stripped them of their sovereignty, handing it to the hidden power of financial, special-interest, and party oligarchies on both sides of the aisle.

We are back in the 1890s, when the Senate could be said to represent, not states, but interests like Standard Oil, United Fruit and U.S. Steel. But now the interests that control seats are the Christian right, the AFL-CIO, the AMA, the NRA, the trial lawyers, the Fortune 500, the Israel lobby, the insurance industry, bankers and a handful of others.

This realization has spawned an "off with their heads" mentality among voters (the title of my last book) which has the same lack of selectivity as the guillotine of the French Revolution, but also packs the same wallop.

The Dean candidacy offers the surest of solutions to this oligarchic monopoly - the use of the Internet to overcome the advantages which money and media can confer on the incumbents. The former Vermont governor is proving that the Internet is a better, cheaper, and faster way to raise money than the old glad-handing of special interests and fat cat donors.

He's also about to demonstrate that the Internet is a better place to spend campaign dollars than are TV stations and media time buys. The fact that Internet communications is free makes one-on-one retail politics more effective, more rapid, and less costly than mass communication.

No campaign-finance reform can rectify the special-interest and wealth-donor domination of the political process or the power this system confers on party bosses. But the shift of campaigning from TV to the Internet will and is accomplishing the same goal.

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" available now and look for Dick's new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".


Copyright 2003 Dick Morris
Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. to subscribers for publication.


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