Wine Caves and Chandeliers

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My good friend over at Filosofa’s Word, Jill Dennison, likes to warn when there’s a rant ahead. So, Jill, I hope you don’t mind, but I feel the need to notify of an impending rant.

Perhaps it’s the non-stop rain here in the Pacific Northwest, or maybe it’s the grey skies. Whatever the case, something got under my skin from the Democratic debate on Thursday night, and today it’s boiling over.

The whole thing started when Senator Elizabeth Warren went after Mayor Pete Buttigieg, bringing up a recent fundraiser he had in Napa Valley wine country at the lavish home of real estate developer Craig Hall and his wife, Kathryn. The property features a wine cave, with bottles selling for hundreds of dollars each. Photos of the event showed a long table decorated lavishly, with a large crystal chandelier hanging overhead.

But my rant isn’t about Warren going after Mayor Pete. Do I wish fellow Democrats would refrain from this kind of attack? Yes, but I understand the world of politics. It happens, and it will continue until the whole process is over in 2020. I get it.

It’s about the money. It’s about the wine cave and crystal chandeliers. It’s about how politicians still need to raise funds in this insidious and unseemly manner. If it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, I don’t know what will.

I’m glad Warren said what she said. Not because I don’t like Mayor Pete, or think he wouldn’t be a good president, because that’s just not the case. It’s the whole thing with raising money. It’s feeling the need to grovel to millionaires and billionaires to compete in an election. When are we, the people going to say enough is enough?

Some say we cannot unilaterally disarm when it comes to competing with Republicans for money. If we do, we’re merely ceding the advantage to them. I understand the argument, and it’s a valid one. I’m just sick of it. I apologize for the simplicity, but it’s something I feel very strongly about.

Because the fact is, until we reform our campaign finance laws, we will never get the democracy we so richly deserve. We’ll never get a bill on climate change, sensible gun safety regulations, cheaper prescription drugs, or universal access to health care. We’ll never be able to reform how we pay for higher education or overhaul our aging infrastructure. None of these things happen because our politicians are bought and paid for by special interests.

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? But all we get is lip service. All we get are declarations to do more if elected. And then, nothing gets done. I do have to commend Warren and Senator Sanders, however. At least they’re trying to send the right message by eschewing high-end fundraisers, relying instead on an extensive grassroots fundraising strategy. That’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, if either of them wins the nomination, they may also have to do a few wine cave fundraisers. That’s how evil and corrupt our system is. It has to stop.

Mayor Pete needs to do what he thinks is right, I suppose. I just wish it wasn’t this way. I never liked it when Obama did it. He received millions from the financial services sector, and you know what? It looked bad. I realize why he did it, but when the industry got billions in bailout money, I felt he should have done more to hold them to account. I loved Obama, but this is one area where I thought he fell short. Did all those donations make a difference in how he treated the industry? I always wondered. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

Some take a different view. Actress Jane Lynch took issue with Warren’s attack on Mayor Pete with a tweet in which she equates a billionaires contribution with that of a waitress or a plumber. She thinks it’s nothing but class warfare, and we shouldn’t do it. I cannot disagree more. It’s not class warfare; it’s about access and influence.

Is Lynch trying to say that a plumber who gives 50 bucks is the same as a billionaire giving millions to a SuperPac? Can that same plumber ask for a plum ambassadorship appointment? Do you think a candidate would give more access to the plumber, or the big donor? The answer is obvious.

It’s time, way passed the time, to take a stand. I like what Warren and Sanders are doing. It sends the right message, and messaging is everything, isn’t it? Warren, in particular, has several plans that get at the heart of corruption in our politics. I’ve always said that Democrats need to take this issue and run with it.

Look, we know what the Republicans do. The wine cave event is something straight out of their playbook. Crystal chandeliers and golden dining rooms are what we should expect from Trump and his cronies. I didn’t like it when Obama did it, and I don’t like it when Democrats feel the need to go down this road. Something has to change. We’re either the party of the people and the working class, or we’re not.

Somehow the Republicans have bamboozled a particular segment of our population into thinking that they are the party for working people. We know better than that. They’re the party of the corporations and the wealthy, and they’ve been that way for generations. If the Democrats want to gain favor with the working class, they’ll capitalize on what Warren and Sanders are trying to do. Reform our campaign finance laws and make that the center-piece of the campaign. I don’t see how we can lose if done with resolve and determination.

It’s called populism folks. One thing Trump was able to do was speak to those working-class people in ways they didn’t feel Democrats did. Now, of course, he lied to them. Remember how he said he’d never be beholden to the wealthy and corporations?

How has that worked out? So much for him spending all of his own money to get elected. Now, he’s a fundraising machine, hat in hand. Do you want your tax cuts? Done. You want me to get rid of regulations? Done. How about drill baby drill? You bet.

Democrats are better than this. Warren has some good plans. So does Sanders. If Joe Biden is the nominee, I hope to holy hell he takes the issue of campaign finance and bangs Trump over the head with it. People will take notice. And if he wins the presidency, he must follow through with concrete action. That goes to whoever the nominee is, by the way. No more lip service, please.

Ok, now that my blood pressure is back to normal, I’ll just end with a final comment. Reforming our campaign finance laws and anti-corruption will be my most important issues going forward. You’ll see a lot about it in this space. I’m going to say this loud and clear: A corporation is NOT a person, my friends. Sorry, Mitt Romney, you were wrong.

Until we get this right, see you later, democracy—it was nice knowing you.


    1. Thanks Kim. It sure is. And while we’re at it, how about stopping the lobbyist revolving door as well? If we could do those two things, I think we’d all notice a different democracy. Fat chance with Moscow Mitch though!! We’ve got to hope for a clean sweep in 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great rant, Jeff! You’re getting the hang of this thing! I fully agree, as you already know, for we’ve talked about this before. Worst decision the Supreme Court has made, at least in our lifetimes, was the Citizens United ruling. I’m disappointed in Mayor Pete, and yet, I understand that if they cannot garner donations, they cannot compete. Sigh. As you note, the system is rigged against the voice of the people being heard, and this must change. Already, I consider our structure under Trump to be both a plutocracy and an oligarchy, rather than the democratic republic it once was. I think that if we don’t change in the next few years, we will be past the point of no return.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jill! I’m learning from the best….YOU!
      How about we call it a plutarchy? Just made up a word…it’s appropriate though. You’re so right. This thing has been brewing since the Reagan years if you ask me. Drip, drip…slowly but surely….the 1% crowd has taken over. Let’s get things back to the about that? It sure as hell won’t be easy Jill! Thank you for the reblog!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awwww … thanks Jeff! Plutarchy … yeah, I like that! I’ve been referring to it as an “Oligarchical Plutocracy”, which is quite a mouthful … much simpler to call it a Plutarchy! Indeed, my friend, it’s time to return this government to “of the people, by the people, and for the people”!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep, what a great concept, huh? The people. Not the rich and powerful. All of us. See there? We just solved all the world’s problems Jill. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Jeff, if they would give us the chance, we could turn this nation around and make it better than it’s ever been, for we have the key ingredients: intellect, conscience, and empathy. Still, hopefully we are going to make a difference, however small it may be, in the coming year!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    It is rare that our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters steps up on the ol’ soapbox and lets forth a rant, but when he does, he does it with far more grace than I do! Tonight’s rant is about how politicians finance their campaigns and what the ramifications are for We the People. Take a look …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I completely agree, but Mayor Pete was absolutely right in pointing out Warren’s hypocrisy. After taking all the money she raised previously doing precisely what she castigated him for and then using it to run now, she should have made the case for the importance of reform without the personal attack. But of course she feels threatened by him now, so she went on the offense. At the same time, once she’d done that, I would have liked him to say, “You’re right; I hate doing it and wish I didn’t have to. Let’s talk about how we can successfully implement real campaign finance reform.”

    Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg is moving up in the polls because he has not only a personal fortune that he’s willing to spend, but also chits from mayors nationwide who have previously benefited from his largesse. Is that fair? If not, what can we do about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed Annie. I hate the personal attacks. They all do it though. They think they have to tear down the person they feel is the biggest threat to them. Right now, for Warren, it’s Mayor Pete. I can’t wait until the primaries begin. Let’s get this think over with and find a nominee.
      I don’t know how we prevent a guy like Bloomberg from doing what he’s doing. Steyer too. I suppose we could do it legislatively by saying nobody can self-fund. But, I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know about the constitutionality of such a thing. It’s worth exploring, that’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The amount of money spent on political campaigns is ridiculous, and it is spent win or lose. (Sure it is! Somehow certain winners, not to mention Trump, McConnell, or other GOP members, always seem to come out richer after their term than before. That too should be looked into!
    It reeks of corruption all the way to money-laundering banks.
    But I’ve been thinking lately about the July 25th call to the Ukraine by Trump. And I’ve been thinking about how Trump never tells the truth. Trump said he was asking for Zelenskyy to announce an investigation of Joe Biden. Why did he do that, and why not some sgtronger candidate for the Dems. He did it to imply Biden was his worst enemy, the opponent he feared most. But is that really what he was saying? I don’t think so.
    I think Trump, in his usual false-speak way, was saying Biden is the enemy he can easist defeat in 2020. He pointed Dem voters to Biden, but I think that is a ploy.
    Nothing Trump says is what it is, and he knows that. So if we take a real hard look at this call, Trump seems to be asking the Dems to run Biden, Therefore they cannot do that. I think they have to look elsewhere for their nom. I don’t know who that is, but I doubt it is Biden.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Damn rawgod…I’ve never thought of that angle. It’s possible, but I don’t think so. I think Trump knows that Biden will be able to keep much of the African-American support, due to his 8 years with Obama. And, he also knows Joe does have some credibility with working-class voters, especially in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. So, he needed to ‘dirty up’ Biden as much as possible, which he’s done hasn’t he? He probably wasn’t smart enough to think he’d do anything that Dems would impeach him for. But, politically, I do think he gets who would be the toughest opponent. I could be wrong.
      I, too, am not sure if Biden is the best candidate though. Let’s see how the primaries shake out. I’m keeping my mind open through the whole thing.


      1. I have no idea who would be best for the Dems, since Michele Obama refuses to run. Michele might not be a politician, but I think everyone would rally around her. But that gets us nowhere. Who else will everyone rally around? Right now there is no one person.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There isn’t, but the Dems don’t seem to care. They should be combing the streets, looking for one, but they are not. None of the people running for them is capable of bringing out the swing voters, as I see it. They know Trump is going to cheat. How do you fight that?
        I hope I am wrong, sitting on the outside as I do. But from my position, it does not look good for America. It looks even worse for the world.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. My hope rawgod, is that someone will emerge, whoever it may be, and pledge to bring dignity and honor back to the White House…to regain the respect we’ve lost overseas….and bring fairness to ever growing wealth inequality in our country. Plus, drain the swamp that Trump has filled, after promising to drain it himself. Those things right there should be enough to convince the American people Trump needs to go. Am I naive? I hope not. God I hope not.


  5. I saw a meme that said the three branches of government are banking, big oil and pharmaceuticals.
    I will add the lobbyists who do their bidding and let’s not forget the NRA and powerful right wing Christian groups who want to control.

    The system is rigged….

    I feel this trump obscenity has to run its course, which means another term, before any real change occurs and by then, it may be too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed Mary. The revolving door of lobbyists has to stop. It’s going to take comprehensive legislation to get it all done, including campaign finance reform. I wish it were more sexy to the American people. I just think some do not realize how bad things have gotten. Until we address these issues, we’re screwed. The Dem nominee can kick Trump’s orange behind with this. I sure as hell hope they do!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well said, Jeff! Your concern, and mine too, is valid in all western democracies. I’ve often commented to Jill Dennison that voter disgust with a system that serves only the 1% causes too many of them to avoid voting at all. I roll my eyes when I hear commentators excitedly proclaim that there was a 60% voter turnout. OMG! More than one-third of the electorate decided not to vote! Too many worthy candidates are forced out of political races because they can’t raise the necessary funds. I’m a Canadian citizen living in Ontario and our democracy is plagued by the same issues as yours. Good luck to all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John! And thanks for the follow. I followed back.
      It’s simply unacceptable that we have so many people who sit out the process. Do you realize that if we could get that number up to 70-75%, the Republican Party would never win. I really believe that, and it’s why they’ve done their level best to suppress as many voters as possible. That, and gerrymandering districts has helped keep them in power. They know it too. Instead of changing their belief system a little…and moderating it to try persuade more people of color…they double down on suppression and do the bidding of the 1%. This is unacceptable!! Yes, good luck to you and all of us…..we’re going to need it in 2020

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are very fortunate in Canada that gerrymandering districts don’t happen here because we have non-partisan civil servants in charge of boundary adjustments in both federal and provincial governments. As well, Elections Canada is a non-partisan government agency that runs our elections according to the laws passed by Parliament in Ottawa and by each provincial legislature. That being said, our democracy is in peril too, Jeff.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Geez John, a non-partisan civil servant deciding boundary adjustments? Music to my ears! Some states are doing this. California, for one, passed this through a ballot initiative a few years ago. I voted for it when I lived there. So far, it’s working out well. This is what we need, nationally. A few other states are doing it now as well. It’s a start John. We should follow Canada’s lead!

        Liked by 1 person

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