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Republicans outfox Dems with anti-free-speech bill

“Stop us before we waste more of America’s time!” is not a winning 2014 campaign strategy for Democrats.

We truly do live in strange times, when the Republicans – who are supposed to be far less skilled at parliamentary maneuvers – can make the Democrats look like a pack of utter fools with a single deft move in the Senate.  Senate Democrats have been wasting America’s time on a showboating effort to repeal the First Amendment – a bill they know is doomed to go nowhere, but it would give them something to sell to their dispirited base going into the midterm elections.  The Republicans were supposed to slap this dumbassery down, giving Democrats a chance to run to their gullible base voters and cry: See, we tried to do something about the evil Koch Brothers, but those rascally Republicans stopped us, because they think billionaires should be able to buy elections!

It’s yet another scene from the long liberal passion play after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, as the party so often eager to shriek about “the settled law of the land” in other contexts fights a never-ending theatrical struggle to rewrite the First Amendment so that only left-leaning groups will be able to influence the political process.  Labor unions and media corporations should have exclusive access to the American mind during election season, don’t you know.  It’s probably in a penumbra of the Constitution somewhere.

But Senate Republicans, with a twinkle in their eye, voted to advance the Democrats’ stupid bill, making the Democrats look utterly foolish as they whined to the media about how those mean old Republicans took their base-goosing clown act seriously.  See if you can spot the magic word in this article from Politico about the debacle:

Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.

But the bipartisanship ends there.

Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats?? pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and Senate to amend the Constitution.

The legislation needed 60 votes to advance and Democrats took a cynical view of the 79-18 tally. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the GOP??s tactic was simply to ??stall? because it would eat up limited floor time that Democrats are eyeing for votes aimed at encouraging gender pay equity and raising the minimum wage.

??They know we??re getting out of here fairly shortly and they want to prevent discussion on other very important issues,? said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). ??I would love to be proven wrong. But if the end of this week, we end up getting 67 votes, you can tell me I was too cynical.?

Fine effort if you thought the magic word was “bipartisanship” – as if the Democrats’ bill wasn’t the most blatantly partisan effort imaginable! – but the word I was looking for is “cynical.”  If you said “cynical,” imagine a duck coming down from the ceiling on strings and giving you $50, just like on Groucho’s game show.  There have been few political efforts in history as cynical as what Democrats are trying to do here: gobbling up Senate time on a futile grandstanding performance that was supposed to fail, in an appeal targeted narrowly at totalitarian leftists who have little patience for “free speech” when it emanates from people they don’t like, and which is not-so-subtly micro-targeted at two specific Americans, Charles and David Koch.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid actually kicked off the festivities yesterday with yet another foaming tirade against the Koch Brothers from the Senate floor – the only place he can get away with peddling his slander without getting sued.

Of all the issues demanding America’s attention, the campaign spending of the sixty-eighth largest donors ranks very, very low on the list.  Most people are not terribly interested in the Democrat Party’s thoughts on which billionaires should have unlimited access to the American mind, and which should be muzzled and shoved out of the public square.  I notice Harry Reid has little to say about the number one donor, Democrat sugar daddy Tom Steyer.  Number Two is gun-control fanatic Michael Bloomberg.  None of the top 10 donors are Republicans.  Most of the top corporate donors are labor unions.  As for those eeeeeeevil money-gushing Super PACs, the top-spending organization, by far, is… why, by Jove, it’s Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC!

The American system has a great many serious problems, and some of them will prove fatal soon enough.  Partisan caterwauling about the opposition party’s campaign donors does not address any of the actual problems with our government.  Get that through your rock-solid skulls, Democrats: the problem is governmentnot the people and their stubborn insistence on saying things you don’t like.

Watching the Democrats blubber and whine to their media pals about how the Republicans cynical messed up their cynical little game by voting in favor of advancing the bill is hilarious.  Unfortunately for the Democrats, it’s also the only part of this little circus act that’s likely to resonate with anyone beyond political junkies and hardcore base voters.  “Wait a minute… they’re upset because the Republicans voted in favor of their bill?” is a sports-bar laugh line.  Complaining that Republicans are supposed to be the grown-ups who rein in childish Democrat temper tantrums is not a winning public-relations strategy.  It’s almost as if the Democrats are pleading with the American people to relieve them of all responsibility: please, stop us before we waste more of your time and money.

As Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the man waiting to take the Majority Leader’s gavel away from Harry Reid and use it for something better than cudgeling the Koch Brothers, put it in an op-ed for Politico over the weekend:

If all this seems like an object lesson in why most Americans are so disgusted with Washington right now, that??s because it is. With legislative priorities like this, it??s no wonder a recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 14 percent of respondents say they think the government in Washington can be counted on to do what??s right most or all of the time.

A more sensible approach would be for the Democrats who run the Senate to take up the slew of job-creation bills the Republican-controlled House already has passed, some with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Senate Democrats prefer to spend their time on bizarre sideshows like trying to take an eraser to the First Amendment.

None of this should be surprising to even the most casual observer of the Senate these days. Earlier this year, the Democratic leadership rolled out a partisan playbook drafted by campaign staffers that spelled out just how they planned to run the Senate in the run-up to November. It was filled with partisan proposals designed specifically to fail so Democrats could campaign on the failure of that legislation, blaming Republicans for what wasn??t done.

And the only reason they got away with it is because we have a corrupt partisan media that showed little interest in telling the American people what Senate Democrats were up to.  You may rest assured the media will grant no such cloak of secrecy to McConnell, which is another good reason to put the Senate in Republican hands this fall.  The media will actually pay attention to what they’re doing.  If McConnell tries to turn the floor into a slander-proof stage from which he can rail endlessly against Tom Steyer and George Soros, it would be immediately portrayed as a national crisis.

So no, Democrats, you won’t be rewriting the First Amendment to let the ruling party decide what criticisms it will allow the people to hear.  You’ll have to put up with political activity from corporations that aren’t run by union bosses.  Not only is that contrary to American principles, but we’d be fools to give partisan media operatives even more power to control political discourse in the run-up to elections.  Harry Reid provides an excellent object lesson in the dangers of allowing the Fourth Estate to become the fourth branch of government.

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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