During a lunch with reporters this week, Karl Rove hit the nail on the head:
"Would our system have been better off if the 527s had not been players? I think so," he said at a lunch with reporters. "I'm a fervent believer in strong parties, and things that weaken the parties and place the outcomes of elections in the hands of billionaires who can write checks and political consultants who can get themselves hired by billionaires who can write checks gives me some concern."
I said it before, I'll say it again. Campaign finance reform weakens parties, which makes it harder for voters to hold politicians accountable for their actions and diverts money into 527s that can't be held electorally accountable for dirty politics. There's too much at stake in elections to expect rich people to not spend money to try to influence them, and the First Amendment means we can't (and shouldn't) ban them from doing so. We need to lift the restrictions on donations. Let voters make up their own minds about where the money is coming from.
And the need for non-partisan Iowa-style state redistricting commissions to draw competitive districts is even more profound after Tuesday's results. Here's David Broder back on the case:
The Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to rehear the Texas redistricting case, but unless it someday decides to curb partisan gerrymandering, the makeup of the House is almost immune to change. Thanks to rigged boundaries and the incumbents' immense fundraising advantage, nearly 96 percent of the "races" were won by a margin of at least 10 percent. Richie noted that 29 of the 33 open seats (with no incumbents running) stayed with the same party. The turnout of voters was about 50 percent higher than in off-year 2002, but party ratios in the House barely budged.
At the founding of this republic, House members were given the shortest terms -- half the length of the president's, one-third that of senators -- to ensure that they would be sensitive to any shifts in public opinion. Now they have more job security than the queen of England -- and as little need to seek their subjects' assent.
Those results are a democratic disgrace. Even Instapundit is ready to get behind a reform effort. Get Iowa fever!
Update: The Wall Street Journal also has the fever:
Of the seven incumbents who lost this year, four were Texas Democrats who went down because their districts were redrawn by Republicans. (The three others were a Democrat in Indiana and a Republican in Illinois and in Georgia.) Currently, the redistricting racket favors the GOP. But it hurt the party for years before 1994 and eventually it will again. In any case, the dearth of competitive House races is bad for the country because it makes for less accountable politicians.
In more than 150 House races, the winner garnered at least 60% of the vote. More than 75 others -- double the number of competitive races -- were certifiable landslides, with the winner grabbing 70% or higher. Those types of results scare off potential challengers. Over in the Senate, by contrast, 11 of 34 contests were won with 55% of the vote or less, and two others by 56%. The politicians haven't found a way to gerrymander an entire state. Yet.
If Republicans are now opportunistically using their majorities to reverse Democratic gerrymanders, then good-governance liberals aren't helping by making money their reform holy grail. While the politicians have built safe seats -- and the Supreme Court has blocked responses such as term limits -- John McCain and his friends on the left have peddled campaign finance reform as the panacea. But if they really care about making elections more competitive, they'll drop the fool's errand of trying to separate money from politics and instead push initiatives that would turn redistricting over to nonpartisan panels, as in Iowa and Washington state.
A good place to start is California, which has 53 House seats, 12% of the entire nation's, yet not one of them switched parties last week. In 51 of those races, the winner received at least 60% of the vote. Nor is the entrenchment limited to Congress. "In all 100 state Assembly and Senate races," reports the Sacramento Bee, "the winner was either the incumbent or a candidate from the incumbent's party."
California's districts are indeed a scandal. And they make a great point about campaign finance reform, which is often used as an incumbent protection racket. If it is easier for challengers to raise money, we'll have more competitive elections, and that's a good thing.