It’s very worrisome to many Americans to think that the whole ideal of one man, one vote, might be overwhelmed by 400 of the richest people of any political persuasion picking the next leader for them. That’s just not how democracy is supposed to work.
This week the U.S. Senate considered a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Congress and state legislatures to limit the power of money in politics. The debate was not much covered in the media because the outcome was so predictable. But the party-line vote that killed it should not go unnoted.
A remarkable majority of the American public — 79 percent according to Gallup — want campaign finance reform. The right and left, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, even Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly agree that, left unchecked, Big Money corrupts politics and undermines democracy.
When people say democracy depends heavily on reliable media reporting, this is exactly what they’re talking about. As Republicans block efforts for campaign finance reform, Americans aren’t being informed that it’s happening – a responsibility that lies with the press.
This is completely unacceptable. The American media is failing us.
The secretive funders behind America’s conservative movement directed around $125 million over three years to groups spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking President Obama’s climate change plan, according to an analysis of tax records.
The amount is close to half of the anonymous funding disbursed to rightwing groups, underlining the importance of the climate issue to US conservatives.
The conservative thinktanks are really the spearhead of the conservative assault on climate change,” said Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma who studies environmental politics. “They write books, put out briefings and open editorials, bring in contrarian scientists … They are an immense megaphone that amplifies very, very minority voices.”
A mother and her son just came through my checkout line at work. Now this mother is clearly overwhelmed so I try to distract the kid- he can’t be more than 6 years old. I ask what his name is and he says “I’m Jensen!” and I kind of smile and glance at the mother who glances at me and we share The Look of Mutual Understanding and I wonder if this kid’s father knows his son was named after Jensen Ackles.
Awesome good government groups such as Public Citizen, Demos, CAP and many many others have united to put the heat on Mary Jo White. As SEC Chair, she has the authority to demand publicly traded corporations to start disclosing dirty details about the hundreds of millions in ‘dark money’ political spending that is rotting our system. Washington needs our help to get the SEC on the scene. If you’d like to call on Mary Jo White to save the day, check out https://secure.avaaz.org/en/where_is_mary_jo_white/ & participate with #WhereisMJW!
As someone with an interest in masculinity, one name that jumped out of Mayer’s book at me was Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard professor of government and author of Manliness published in 2006 by Yale University Press. Mansfield’s book is a lament to the loss of manliness in contemporary society (a state of being he traces back to the ancient Greeks and follows through to Rick in Casablanca), which is being eradicated by a “gender neutral” ideology. In short, Manliness is a manifesto for normative masculinity.
It always seemed curious to me why Manliness was ever taken seriously by such a prestigious publisher as Yale University Press when its argument was so outdated relative to most academic discourse on masculinity, combined with the fact that Mansfield had little research track record in the subject. Mayer’s book offers two facts that can be speculatively connected to address this curiosity.
Mansfield is cited in Dark Money as being one of numerous professors who received funding from the Olin Foundation, a trust established to promote free market ideology and other conservative ideas on America’s campuses. Mayer does not state that Manliness was funded by the Olin Foundation, but later she quotes Steve Wasserman of Yale University Press, who noted how the Right saw the value of funding books, whereas the philanthropic Left did not assign the same value.
In general, funding, either in full or in part, can make a substantial difference to the economic viability of a book for a publisher. In normal circumstances this is called a “subvention,” and while many believe this to be a sign of vanity publishing, it is a reality of academic publishing. Academic books in some circumstances (and in particular, some subjects), can be fully funded, which can only have a positive influence on whether or not the book sees the light of day.
But what of it? What does it really matter if a book peddling antiquated ideas about masculinity is published? First, anything published by Yale University Press is going to be taken seriously. Further still, the support network around Mansfield and his ideas made sure that his book received more media attention than most other books on the subject that were of greater merit. Second, if we look at Google search trends we can see some interesting changes, keeping in mind that correlation does not (necessarily) imply causation. Consider the opening chart above that looks at the popularity of the term “masculinity” relative to “manliness.”
In 2005 there was a high usage of the term “masculinity” and very little usage of the term “manliness.” In 2006 there was a massive spike in the term “manliness” which immediately matches that of “masculinity.” 2006 was the year of publication of Mansfield’s Manliness. Certainly, that spike of activity swiftly drops off, but it slowly builds again until around 2011 when manliness again surpasses masculinity and this remained the case until very recently.
It is reasonable to assume that the 2006 spike in search activity using “manliness” was down to Mansfield’s book. It is less reasonable to say that the slow increase in the use of the term was discussion of Mansfield’s book, but it may well have planted a seed that might not otherwise have grown.
Do not make the mistake of thinking these are different but value-free words for describing the same thing. In general, people who use the term “manliness” are referring to a fixed and essentialist idea of sex and gender (usually glossing over the distinction between the two), whereas the use of the term “masculinity” accommodates a critique as well as celebration of normative masculinity.
And do not make the mistake of thinking this is just about sex and gender. In his book The Political Mind, George Lakoff shows how manliness (which he describes as the “strict father model”) is one of the most basic metaphors we use for constructing national identity. Lakoff actually cites Mansfield’s Manliness as being written to cement the conservative strict father model in order to consolidate conservative political power.
Locating the strict father model as one of the core metaphors of the political mind adds further understanding to how masculinity has played out in the 2016 presidential campaign. Numerous articles on this subject are chronicled at the excellent Presidential Gender Watch project which mostly argue how Trump has appealed to a specific model of masculinity in his speeches. Yes, these speeches reveal an unsavory streak of misogyny in Trump, and yes, they reveal him to be capitalizing upon a perceived crisis of masculinity, particularly among the working class. However, an explicit appeal to masculinity also mobilizes that strict father model, which enables Trump to draw on the traditional conservative base even as he critiques it.
It is also worth considering how these deep metaphors play out in the Democratic imagination. Opposite the strict father model of the conservatives, Lakoff identifies the “nurturing parent model” of the progressives. According to Lakoff, Democrats should appeal to the nurturing parent metaphor at all times. However, one could argue that despite Clinton’s playing the “woman card” her style is more that of the strict father than the nurturing parent, again appealing to that traditional conservative base. So who is the nurturing parent? As Obama quipped in his final correspondents’ dinner speech about Malia wanting to go to Burning Man, “Bernie might have let her go. Not us.”
Dark Money author Jane Mayer spoke to NPR’s Steve Inskeep this morning about her new book, and the 2009 meeting that inspired it:
“Out in California at a resort, there were some of the wealthiest conservatives in America who had gotten together to deal with what they regarded as a catastrophe, which was the election of Obama. And they were organized by Charles Koch, who is one of the two brothers known these days as the Koch brothers, who owns Koch Industry, which is the second-largest private company in America.”
This election cycle has seen a surge in dark money—that is, undisclosed political donations—in congressional races. Of the total amount of dark money pumped into House and Senate contests since January 2013, all but 25.8 percent has gone to benefit 40 candidates. So far, most dark money has been spent to either support a Republican or oppose a Democrat; the largest share has gone toward opposing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in her race to unseat Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.
Coming soon to OpenSecrets.org: we’re adding information we’ve gathered on more than $70 million in new grants to politically active nonprofits and their affiliates. All of this information is linked up to FEC data for the exact periods covered by the IRS data.
What makes these updates so special?
Well, for one, we entered these 14,000+ records ourselves. Also, this is the first time IRS data for dark money groups has been so closely matched to FEC spending by date.
This is a pretty big deal for anyone who cares about secret spending in U.S. elections and beyond.