In 2002, Edward Rendell, a candidate for Governor, spent a huge amount of money on his campaign: $42 million. For Election Day "activities," he spent $700,000. Of that money, $450,000 went to Rendell backers in the 66 wards of Philadelphia. (Note: This information comes from The Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition.)
In Democratic Party tradition, the $450,000 is known as "walking around money." It goes to individuals -- usually in cash -- who are supposedly getting out the vote for the Democrat, Rendell in this case.
Gee, does some of that vast sum of money get spent to pay people to vote for someone like Rendell? Of course it does.
But isn't buying votes illegal? Technically, yes. However, it occurs all over the country, mostly in heavily Democratic areas -- and usually in mostly Black areas.
How did Rendell do in Philadelphia? He won 79% of the vote there. He prevailed statewide by 57% to 43% -- even though he carried only TWO counties outside the Philly metro area. The massive vote for Rendell in Philly obliterated the large vote against him outside his home turf.
How did Philadelphia do under Mayor Rendell? It became the Misery Capital of the U.S., with extremely high rates of poverty, murder, and hopelessness, as well as an educational system in a state of collapse. A man with no sense of irony, Rendell called it "The Philadelphia Miracle."
Does John Murtha buy votes? Surely you jest: of course he does.
In a previous column, I noted that Murtha spent nearly $1.6 million on his campaign in 2004 -- when he was unopposed. He got 100% of the vote.Could he won if he had spent, say, $0? Yes, and he still would have gotten 100% of the votes cast, because there was no one opposing him.
But why would companies, executives, unions, and lobbyists have given him $1.6 million IF HE HAD NO NEED OF THE MONEY?
I regret to inform you that they gave him the money "for services rendered." He designated tax monies -- YOUR tax monies -- to various organizations that rewarded him with his "cut" -- that is, his portion of the tax monies. If you have another explanation, I'd love to hear it. I'd also love to hear Murtha's explanation, although that will not happen in the lifetime of anyone reading this.
In his campaigns, Murtha spends lots of monies on private investigators. Among other tasks, they exert a lot of energy trying to dig up dirt on Murtha's opponents, perhaps including yours truly, but certainly including opposing candidates.
He also sends money to various printers, political hacks, and old friends who make sure Jack Murtha gets re-elected until the time when God in His infinite wisdom "takes him home."
John Murtha is not a candidate who has anything so mundane as a campaign slogan, but if he did, it might be: "You scratch my back; I scratch your back." Or, if he went for just a few words, it could be: "Let's make a deal."
People ask me: "Why on earth would the good people of the 12th District vote for such a corrupt cynic as Murtha?" Many people do so out of habit. Others have given up on politics and don't vote at all -- one reason the 12th has the lowest vote totals in Pennsylvania. Still others are afraid that without Murtha an economically distressed area -- which most of the 12th is -- will collapse and start resembling the economies of Somalia or North Korea.
In fact, the greatest barrier to economic growth in the 12th -- a beautiful area with hardy people -- is Murtha himself. What companies are going to invest in an area where the federal representative and his cronies always have their hands out for "donations?"
Even in Murtha's hometown of Johnstown, the Median Household Income is about half the total for the U.S. as a whole. Population has been declining in Johnstown for 60 years -- it has lost an additional 6% in this century. It has many buildings named after John Murtha and his relatives, but not many local residents actually working in those buildings. The young people get good educations at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown and other institutions, but after they graduate, most of them leave to find real jobs.
My bet? That John Murtha will not buy able to buy enough votes this year to win in the 12th congressional district. Lt. Col. Bill Russell is his worst nightmare -- and the best hope for the people in this long-neglected district.
I wrote the following to a (small) conservative group that spends a lot of time deciding the (long) list of Republican candidates they won't vote for. In politics, there's always one candidate who better than the other one, so we vote for the best one -- period.
I usually find out that people unwilling to compromise their "principles" are the ones that really don't have any. Having a bunch of ideological crochets and misinformation is not a sign of principle. There's an old saying that we "all have a right to our own opinions, but we don't have a right to our own facts." So-called principles based on fear and isolation aren't worth a pistachio nut.
I've spent more time than I should talking about the pros (many) and cons (some) of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and other candidates. My strong impression is that most people know very little about those candidates or their histories. Instead, they have half-baked opinions mostly based on the latest uproars from Michael Savage or Rush Limbaugh, two highly verbal individuals who lack any sort of basic education or ability to look at any issue in a balanced way.
Somebody recently wrote about how young people (ages 18-30) don't matter. I have worked with conservative (mainly Christian) young people on politics for nearly 40 years. We Republicans and conservatives got skunked in 2006 by younger voters voting for Democrats. The young people apparently assumed the Democrats cared about them while we didn't. There's some truth in that assumption.
We conservatives have written off a majority of the American people: Hispanics (legal ones, the largest minority group), Blacks (the second largest minority group), young people, women professionals (teachers, businesswomen, doctors, lawyers, and journalists), gays/lesbians, people who are pro-choice, and on and on. We can't win much of anything (outside Mississippi and Alabama) with that strategy.
I mentioned that Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers in 2004. Now, the Democrats (the liberals!) have a 10-point advantage.
People can say what they want, but shouldn't we be talking about ways to make the Republican Party (or whatever) more competitive? People telling me that voters were disappointed in Republicans so they voted Democratic aren't really helping much. They're essentially saying we should do more of what turned people off in the past. That makes no sense.
We need to be smarter about how we look at politics. We need fewer opinions (mistakenly called "principles") and more facts. We also need to get more in touch with the American people -- and less in touch with people who share our prejudices.