Aaron Sorkin, The Voice of the Future
I imagine most readers by now have read or heard of Aaron Sorkin's claim that The West Wing
is A) Non-Political, B) Non-Partisan, and C) Not a television show. Okay, he never said that last bit, but the implicit denial of reality in that is about as strong.
Jonah Goldberg went so far as to call him a Big Fat Liar
. When Jonah's willing to speak his mind like that, you know that he's, well, he's typing. He pretty much speaks like that all the time. But I digress.
Anyway, it's not exactly a newsflash that Aaron Sorkin is biased, or that his show is little more than a weekly commercial for the Democratic party. But thanks to campaign finance reform, his voice and the voices of those like him have just increased dramatically in power. If that doesn't scare the bejeebers out of you, you aren't breathing. Or perhaps you're a Baldwin or a Sheen reading this in between detox sessions.
See, the new campaign finance bill puts heavy restrictions on commercial political speech 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. We are supposed to believe that as a result, politicians will be watching their calendars, waiting for the day when they can stop advertising and communicating. We are also supposed to believe that opposition groups will likewise stop fighting for or against specific candidates after those deadlines.
This isn't going to happen. Instead, you are going to see more and more political speech diverted through the back door and appear in other forms of media (like Sorkin's show). Since media pundits are not affected, you can expect more money to flow their way from political action groups and candidates. You can expect to see new magazines, newspapers, and TV shows that are thinly veiled campaign gimmicks.
There will be pundits that are bought and paid for by political parties and special interests. I expect you might see special scholarships aimed at supporting the journalism careers of people whose views align with certain interests. A new specialty in political consultancy will emerge - how best to use the media and other non-proscribed ways of getting the vote.
Campaign finance reform is yet another foolhardy attempt to overrule the laws of the marketplace with more regulation. The value of political speech increases as you approach an election, because more people listen and because messages are more likely to stick if they are disseminated closer to election time. And if there is a high need for something, people will find a way to fill it. You can count on that.
The end result of the advertising exclusion clause in the campaign finance reform bill will be to simply make it even harder to identify corruption and influence. The media will gain in power dramatically, as they will have a near monopoly on speech when demand for it is highest. The media will be corrupted, to a much greater extent than it is today.
Another effect of campaign finance reform you can expect is that candidates will withold controversial positions until the blackout period is in effect so that opposition groups are hamstrung in their ability to fight it. If candidate 'A' needs New York State, and figures that a nice gun control proposition will help him get that state, he's now more likely to withold that little policy nugget until the NRA is defanged. So expect more 'surprise' policy positions close to an election. It's hard to see how this improves the democratic process.
The last hope is that the Supreme Court decides that those restrictions are unconstututional.