Newt Gingrich opened the final debate before the South Carolina primary lashing out against the media—ABC for running a story about his former marriage and CNN for leading with a question on it. After the standing ovation from the debate attendees, all three rivals declined to take shots on this issue.
Toward the end of the debate, each candidate answered one choice they would have made differently in the campaign. While Santorum and Paul, who are dropping far behind an increasingly close Romney-Gingrich contest, said they wouldn't change a thing, Romney voiced that he would have redirected every moment he spent criticizing his fellow Republicans against President Obama.
From those two moments, you might think these guys—now only four of them—all really like each other, or at least are living up to Reagan's oft-quoted and equally oft-ignored maxim: "Thou shall not criticize fellow Republicans."
Good thing they don't have to viciously assault each other. Their Super PACs can do that for them.
January 21st is a fitting date for the South Carolina Primary. On this date two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a century of precedent to allow unlimited corporate dollars into independent campaigns on behalf of (but not coordinated with, no definitely not) candidates. And on this date tomorrow, two men whose Super PACs have been savaging each other in overdrive will wrangle to come in first in the primary whose victor often becomes the Republican nominee.
(Although after Iowa's counting snafu, what really counts as a "victory" in these things anyway?)
The various Super PACs unleashed by a decision two years ago may do an ultimate disservice to the Republican Party, which benefitted more from the rule change in the 2010 election. This year's rough-and-tumble primary is bloodying up the eventual nominee even before he steps into the ring with an enormously-funded incumbent President, who will likely have Super PACs on his side as well…if the Republican is able to stand by that point. Hoisted on his own petard, as Shakespeare would have it.
That's not to say Super PACs are good for Democrats. In general, they are just bad for democracy. That's why it's intriguing to see, after their own jousting, that Elizabeth Warren and Senator Scott Brown's teams planned a meeting to discuss an armistice. Whether they can rein in outside spending is unclear, but even trying to would be a noble effort on both their parts.
Whether these Super PACs really steer the outcome of the South Carolina Primary is anyone's guess. But they've had another impact: making Republican voters around the country disgusted at the distorting and vicious form of political discourse made possible by Citizens United. So if you're not in South Carolina voting on Saturday, here's something you can do today and tomorrow—join the tens of thousands of Americans of all political stripes in protesting Citizens United and calling for an end to corporate influence in politics.
Republicans and Democrats are both tired of endless streams of unaccountable ads—and of the political favor these corporations seem to purchase (or at least rent) from our elected officials. Citizens United made it worse. And while it's not clear whether it will be better for Mitt or Newt tomorrow, there is a chance to make it better for all Americans by joining the actions today and through the weekend.
And to send us into the weekend on a lighter note, here's a video that will direct you to the actions with a smile:
Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."
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