We are barely in 2019, but the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is already so full of potential candidates that debate planners must look for ways to broaden their stages. One of the not-so-subtle questions behind the scrum is whether a white man can or should claim a Democratic ticket.
In the midst of Trumpian's despair, in the post-Obama #MeToo universe, a major wing of the party has turned to the idea that only high-quality color candidates (Michelle! Oprah! ) Can hope to resurrect the rainbow coalition that elected President Barack Obama. In a recent analysis, Jamelle Bouie, of Slate, suggested that it would be easier for a black candidate – man or woman – to get the Democratic candidacy because of the growing diversity of the party's base.
But Steve Bullock hopes to meet, if not transcend, the political moment. The Montana governor, who has two terms, is one of the white politicians of all states, including Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke. Yes, he was one of three Democrats to have won governorship contests in the states that chose Donald Trump in 2016. And yes, he worked with a Republican-controlled legislature to develop Medicaid. But his real argument is to fight to get a lot of money from American politics.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) campaigned at a meeting of Democrats in Livingston, Montana on July 2, 2016. Governor Bullock ran for a second term as governor against the Republican Greg Gianforte. William Campbell / Corbis / Getty
"If we want to solve all the other major problems of our electoral system and our political system," said Bullock last summer to visitors to the Iowa State Fair, "if we really want to fight against the" 39, income inequality, if we want to tackle health care … you will only be able to do that when you have also addressed the problem of money corruption through our system. "
The funding of the campaign, he says, is fundamental: the connective tissue that bridges the identity politics of the coastal elites and the problems of the kitchen table of the American heart. Not surprisingly, the reform of the system has been the centerpiece of his political career.
As Montana's Attorney General, Bullock defended a ban on corporate campaign spending by the state against a challenge by the American Tradition Partnership, a conservative advocacy group that has long been hiding the Supreme Court in 2012. More recently, in 2015, as governor, he persuaded the Montana Republicans to support a bipartisan campaign funding reform bill that would require all groups, who were spending money on money for the elections, to disclose their donors. Last summer, he sued the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department about a decision to no longer require politically active non-profit organizations to identify their major donors to the government . The case is pending in a federal court in Montana.
Unlimited corporate spending and limited public disclosure have "undermined us, because people do not believe the system is responding to their concerns," Bullock said. Newsweek. "They do not think they have the power to influence the elections, which undermines trust in the institutions."
He can be on something. The new majority in the Democratic House should make campaign finance legislation one of its top priorities, and as Democrats begin to declare their intentions to the White House, the issue becomes an ideological marker clear. "I do not think we should launch billionaire-funded campaigns, whether they're going through great PACs or their own money," Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told reporters after the announcement. of the formation of a president. exploratory committee at the end of December. "Democrats are the party of the people."
Americans overwhelmingly support the reform of campaign spending. A survey conducted last year by the Pew Research Center revealed that 77% of respondents agreed that there should be limits to the amount of money that individuals and organizations can spend 'for political campaigns. Only 20% agreed with what is essentially the law under the Citizens United in power – that they should be able to spend as much as they want. Nearly three-quarters of the population believe that it is "very important" that the major political donors do not have more influence than the others, while 16% felt that it was "quite important".
Stephen Spaulding, head of strategy in the Common Cause government monitoring group, insists that fighting "black money" – political contributions from outside interests that should not disclose their donors – can motivate voters and is a bipartisan problem. According to a report by the Wesleyan Media Project in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, these groups have spent more than $ 750 million to help or harm candidates since 2010 and were responsible for more than 38% of TV commercials during the last year. electoral cycle of 2018.
"Outside the ring, voters do not consider that reducing the undue influence of money in politics is a partisan issue," Spaulding said. "Too many of them think that special interests have too much influence in our elections and in the corridors of power."
Spaulding reports some voting measures restricting black money and spending that voters approved in the red and blue states at mid-term. In Phoenix, for example, voters overwhelmingly supported the requirement for donors, in local campaigns, to disclose contributions of more than $ 1,000. In Denver, voters adopted the "Democracy for the People" initiative, which will create a system of voluntary public funding for municipal elections. "Voters are concerned about this issue and want elected leaders to stop talking about the problem and start coming up with solutions," he said.
New members of the House supported by the Justice Justice PAC, including first-year students like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have made opposition to money in politics a key issue. The organization only supports candidates who do not take money from a cap or business lobbyist, and progressive lawmakers have joined it in calling for a constitutional amendment abolishing private donations to politicians and politicians. their campaigns. They want public funding for campaigns.
Such tough standards could affect populist supporters like O'Rourke, who rejected the PACs, but was the second largest recipient of oil and gas money in the medium term, after accepting more than $ 492,000 worth of individuals. associated with the industry. A conflict has erupted over its ideological purity among online leftists in the last weeks of 2018.
Bullock is more centrist on progressive democratic issues such as immigration and health care, but his desire to review funding for the campaign is deep. Montana banned the black currency more than a hundred years ago, after the so-called Copper Kings, three wealthy mining companies, bought nearly all of the state's political apparatus, from the US Senate to local sheriffs. The legacy of their influence now exists in the form of the largest Superfund complex in the United States: vast open pits allowing escape of acidic water polluted by metals Heavyweight around Butte, result of the easing of mining standards in times of prosperity. "The history of Montana," says Bullock, "is really the story of the first election scrutiny by businesses and citizens have come to say enough, that's enough.
On the national scene, Citizens United He not only promotes "corruption, but the same goes for corruption," he says, but it also has an effect on political behavior even before the money is spent. Bullock pointed out the Republicans 'financial considerations in their frantic attempt to recast the tax code in 2017. "My donors basically say' do it or call me never again, '" said Chris Collins' representative of New York to reporters.
Despite Bullock's efforts, the Supreme Court overturned Montana's ban on campaign spending in a 5-4 decision in 2012 without hearing oral arguments. But the governor believes the legal battle was productive because it created a factual record of the characteristics and effects of corporate spending that did not exist when the court made its decision. Citizens United decision in 2010.
"The Supreme Court has rejected 100 years of Montana's history and traditions, that ultimately, in elections, it's people talking to people," he said. -he declares. "It has made me more determined to say … we have to find a way to trust the elected officials." In June, he signed a decree requiring companies bidding for government contracts to disclose their political spending. .
Bullock's crusade against the black currency earned him the support of both parties in Montana. "He has good progressive ideas but is like a good old Montana boy," said an unnamed Republican official. Politico Magazine last year. "He would be a very good candidate in the general election."
But, of course, the primaries come first. And, as the new House fills up with various deputies who move to the left, progressive legislators seize populist speeches and color contenders break up Trump, it's unclear how much oxygen there will be for Bullock and the reform of campaign financing. In addition, Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Socialist Senator and another potential candidate for 2020, has already claimed the anti-corruption mantle.
Nevertheless, this seems to be the most comfortable place for Bullock. When Newsweek asked him where he was at the free university, "Medicare-for-all" and by abolishing immigration and customs, the governor laughed and his spokesman reoriented the interview about black money. (For the record, in Montana, Bullock froze tuition fees and expanded Medicaid.) He criticized a number of Trump's immigration policies, including the "zero tolerance" policy that led to the separation of the border.)
For now, Bullock will talk about black money while he uses his Big Sky Values PAC system to travel to early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Montana Sen. Jon Tester thinks the ultimate goal is the White House. "Yes, he runs," he told reporters in December.
Bullock himself is more shy. "I'm about to go to a good legislative session," he says, "and that's what I'm focusing on."