On the eve of the Republican presidential debate, there was one GOP candidate who spent a good deal of time making the circuit on liberal political shows. His name is Buddy Roemer. A former congressman and governor of Louisiana, Roemer is an affable guy who shoots straight and interacts with the likes of Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow with ease. He handled “gotcha” questions, like “Why won’t they include you in the debate” with honesty and a smile, and he honed in on America’s most pernicious political problem — money in politics — with the laser focus of SEAL Team 6.
Pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, as I watched Roemer engage, first with Maddow and later with Stewart, I found myself thinking, “Might I actually vote for a Republican?” I am in total agreement with Governor Roemer’s argument that the corrupting effect of money in politics is our nation’s #1 political problem. Listening to Roemer speak so clearly on the issue, “You can’t tackle the jobs problem, the budget problem, the tax problem . . . without tackling the first problem,” I was starting to feel a lot like I did when then Illinois State Senator Obama took the podium at the 2004 convention. When Roemer labeled the system “institutionally corrupt” and continued with, “Corporations have never made more money than they are right now. They wrote the tax code, and they really don’t give a damn about the rest of America,” I was consumed with but one thought — finally, a politician willing to fight the beast.
The impact of hearing a politician speak so honestly about the cancer that permeates every corner of our political system was unnerving; the effect was more than surprise or glee; it was physiological. Money in politics is the shadow system that the kabuki theater is designed to hide — it is the freaking elephant in the room. More than $4 billion was spent on the 2010 campaign, and 2012 is expected to run a tab of over $6 billion. Large corporate contributors, like those in the financial sector, which spends more than any other and tops President Obama’s donor list, don’t donate out of patriotism. Their campaign contributions are investments — investments that pay far better returns than what the market can offer. And make no mistake, they don’t care about jobs or people or America. They are singly focused on one item and one item only — profits.
So, might a candidate who’s willing to take on our nation’s most crippling political problem deserve my vote — even if he is a Republican? Heck, Roemer’s even to the left of many Democrats on the issue of trade with China and the job-killing effects of policies labeled “free” trade. Well, as it turns out, while Buddy Roemer is an anomaly — a Republican who doesn’t contend that tax cuts and deregulation will fix everything short of curing cancer — he really is still a Republican.
Roemer wants to reduce federal spending to 18% of GDP, while “significantly lowering the marginal tax rate for both individuals and corporations,” a position that sounds a whole bunch like feed the wealthy and starve the beast. He appears to be a hawk who still believes that we need to “strengthen national defense” and views the lingering military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as real wars, instead of the nation-building efforts that they are. He supports the typical GOP claptrap about “domestic sources of energy,” placing emphasis on oil, coal and natural gas, while paying lip service to alternatives. His energy policy actually calls for the elimination of the Department of Energy. Sadly, he also joins in lock-step with the repeal Obamacare crazies — even resorting to the inane “government takeover of healthcare” line.
Damn it! I knew it was too good to be true. Still, if the corruption of a bought government were to be addressed, all of our elected officials would be once again free to act on behalf of the people. But would that gain be worth voting for somebody with whom you disagree on most other issues?
The situation begs many questions: how much would legislation actually change? Why can’t we have a Democrat who will take on money in politics? Where the hell is Obama on the issue? I’d be absolutely giddy to hear the President say, “America, we can’t get anything done because your government has been purchased by special interests.” It’s such a no-brainer to win popular support that you’d have to ask yourself why no sitting politician or candidate (besides Roemer) will take it on . . . if you didn’t already know the answer.
In the end, I’m afraid I can’t vote for Roemer, but the man has earned my respect. He may differ from me on an ideological basis, but he’s certainly not one of the talking-point-without-substance, corporate puppet, GOP politicians who dominate the field today. The man is a considered conservative, the type that once led the Republicans and did hold country over party. He may not get my vote, but I will contribute to his election campaign. I think he’s exactly what the GOP needs to pull it back into the ranks of the politically sane.