Last night’s election results were a sobering and at times confounding experience for progressives. It’s always traumatic and frustrating to see millions of people vote directly against their own economic interests in so many races.
That said, one thing that clearly isn’t at all confounding in 2014 is this: the pernicious and cancerous spread of big, dark money and the urgent need to combat it at all costs. This isn’t about the Tillis-Hagan result, or even the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate that had been foreseen for weeks. Hagan and most of the other defeated Democrats had plenty of their own dark, corporate money as well.
Indeed, Kay Hagan’s Senate term was always a byproduct/side effect of other, larger forces rather than who she was or what she “stood” for. Hagan surfed into office in 2008 on the Obama wave (and Elizabeth Dole’s comical blunders) and exited the stage last night on the ebbing tide that almost always comes for the party in power during the last off-year election of a two-term presidency. Hagan probably could have spent another $20 million and still lost.
Moreover, had she won,there is little doubt that she would have continued to do the bidding of the big money forces who plucked her from obscurity originally and funded her campaigns. Yes. she would have voted with Democratic leaders on most matters, but beyond that, there was little to hope for or expect and no chance in the world that she would ever help lead any kind of genuine push-back against the post-Citizens United corporate-funded greed-fest that national politics have become.
So, are there any lessons from all this? Is there any way to break this dreary and destructive pattern in which North Carolina elections have less and less to do with what’s actually going on in North Carolina and the choices are always confined to homogenized candidates who are certified and funded by giant, mostly out-of-state rich guys?
In the near term, the picture is not terribly encouraging. The big money forces are bigger and more powerful than ever and seem to be intent on keeping and expanding their hegemony.
If there’s any chance to bust up this monopoly at any point, however, last night’s results ought to have confirmed for us that it will require something more than better packaged candidates. Ultimately, the only way to effect progressive change is to truly be FOR it, to campaign on a progressive platform and to raise heck once in office.
Sadly, this was a truth that Kay Hagan never seemed to grasp (or have any interest in grasping) and, indeed, that President Obama only dabbles with on occasion.
Let’s hope that, if nothing else, this hard lesson is beginning to seep into the consciousness of would-be progressive candidates in North Carolina and around the country going forward. Simply put, if you want to bring about real change, ultimately, you have to be openly and assertively for it; Merely being kinder and gentler big money pawns ain’t gonna’ get the job done.