Jean Paul Sartre, who founded the French newspaper Liberation, once said that “money doesn’t have any ideas”. Perhaps that is true in France, but in America, so different from Europe, money has the contrary effect. It gives people the means to do something with ideas. One of them you may know.
Leo Linbeck III est un millionnaire d’un genre modeste. Il le dit lui-même : «Je n’ai pas de jet, pas de yacht, je roule en Prius 2003 [un vieux modèle de Toyota, ndlr]…» Le dada de cet entrepreneur, qui a hérité d’un grand groupe de construction au Texas qu’il a développé, c’est plutôt la politique, hobby très en vogue en cette année électorale parmi les Américains les plus fortunés.
That is to say, in America, some modest millionaries actually care more about the fate of the Republic than about things like private jets, yachts and the fortunes of thoroughbreds at the track (“chevaux à l’hippodrome”).
But what are a few hundred thousand bucks — even a few millions — in a place where politics is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s a drop in the bucket, less than a trace of moisture in an endless sea. Linbeck lays out the numbers. “If there’s a lot of money in politics is because there are a lot of money to the government. Ten billion dollars is spent each day by the federal government!” Much of that goes to making promises that government can’t keep. For example, hundreds of thousands of dollars are technically promised to fund the health care of each retiree. And he pays into waits for what will never come. “They made promises that can never be fulfilled.”
The idea that some American Croesus woiuld throw their millions into the political arena might be “misunderstood” by French readers, who are rather in the “state tradition”.
But this gesture is part of the American tradition of “self governance”. As Tim Dunn, another Texan entrepreneur, contributing to the Linbeck’s PAC explains “a German general in World War II said that the Americans excel in war because war is chaos, and Americans live in constant chaos. But what may seem in the eyes of chaos statist leaders is what Americans regard as freedom. “
Whatever you call it, measured against the gigantic scale of American politics, Linbeck’s PAC is a strictly David vs Goliath operation. “Barack Obama, with his cocktails and fundraising dinners, has already raked some 157 million dollars, against 74 million for his opponent Mitt Romney.” Even the richest private individuals can only afford to back one or two candidates. But while other prominent businessmen are backing individuals, Linbeck is backing an idea.
His idea is simple. The turnover in Washington is now comparable to turnover in Pyongyang. Death from old age, not defeat in primary elections, is the biggest agent of change in the bureaucratic ossuaries by the Potomac. As Leo explained to me once:
Turnout has been falling for a century, and turnout in a given primary is only 8-12% of voters. A small, partisan group of people is making the decision.
Incumbents win 99% of primaries. In 2010, 396 incumbents ran for re-election; only 4 lost.
In 2010, 62% of incumbents ran unopposed in primaries.
The key is changing the game in primaries. There are two major strategies:
1. Encourage voters to vote in primaries. Expanding the voter pool weakens an incumbent’s grip on their district.
2. Run independent expenditure campaigns against incumbents in primaries. Essentially, fight fire with fire.
It’s the only hope he argues. Either that, or watch America atrophy. Leo and Marck Meckler will be doing the round of talk shows in New York to take that message to the public. Their tentative schedule is:
Dylan Ratigan, MSNBC, Friday, 4:30pm ET
John Stossel, Fox Business, week from Thursday (tentative), 7:30pm ET
Belmont Club readers who watch these channels might want to have a listen. What odds would you give them? Perhaps not as low as a statist might rate them. Maybe the German General was right: chaos and freedom are America’s way. Or as the French might put it, la partie ne fait que commencer. The party’s just begun. Either way, some the Truth Glasses might come in handy and who knows, there just might be a happy ending.