HOWARD DEAN, TRUSTBUSTER-COME-LATELY
How bad could Howard Dean's carelessly bold (or boldly careless) statements about "break[ing] up giant media enterprises" be for his chances of moving into 1600 Pennsylvania? The more I think about it, the more bad, I say. One reason, as outlined today by Susan Crabtree at Variety:
The former Vermont governor is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. His No. 1 campaign contributor is Time Warner, whose employees have cut Dean $65,475 in checks so far this cycle, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. While the lion's share of Dean's $25 million-plus in campaign largess comes from individuals in small increments, the top donors to his campaign include Viacom, Walt Disney Co., News Corp, Sony Corp. of America and Vivendi Universal.
The fact Dean's pulling in big checks from executives at News Corp. -- that Fox News/Daily Telegraph
/New York Post
-owning apotheosis of right-wing synergy that some allege -- goes to show that everyone hedges their bets. Also that the corporate elite comprises more than arch-conservative ideologues. Even if he keeps talking like Ralph Nader
, he'll still rake in the contributions as long as Zogby
has him within twenty points of George W. Bush
But here's the catch: If he keeps pushing the anti-corporate line, he won't get nearly as much money as he might have, and certainly nothing like what Bush will collect. So for better or worse, he'd better watch it.
Then again, as Crabtree notes, most of Dean's money has been coming from small contributors, and considering the dedication they've shown, they're likely to keep it up even if he starts talking like Noam Chomsky. Dean's rise to the top of the field has been a truly grassroots phenomenon, starting with the internet and eventually finding legitimacy in endorsements from AFSCME, SEIU and the like. So maybe he can say to hell with the industrialists and he can run the kind of storm-the-castle populist race that Al Gore seemed like he wanted to run last time. Crabtree quotes FCC commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, on Dean's emerging re-regulation plank:
"I think it just shows one more time how alive and central this issue is to so many Americans. Of all the domestic issues we're confronting, I can't think of anything more important than the future of the democracy of this country."
Armed Prophet would like to declare that Copps is full of it and turn my back on the issue, but I can't. Not only does Copps sound sympathetic, but elsewhere in today's newspapers, the estimable Bob Samuelson
-- in a good column on another topic
entirely -- cites a recent Pew Research Center survey finding that 77% of Americans agree with the following statement: "There is too much power concentrated in the hands of a few big companies." Three-fourths of the American population think that corporate power is too great? That is not an insignificant figure.
But maybe the implications are.
First, Armed Prophet would argue there's a huge difference between the having the sense that the fat cats are fatter than they should be and being willing to support legal action forcing the fat cats to shed those pounds. The Department of Justice tried to break up Microsoft a few years back, and despite widespread casual anti-Microsoft sentiment on the web, poll after poll found that few really wanted to split it up.
Second -- and I confess I've been withholding something -- that Pew survey also finds that the same 77% of respondents agreed with that statement when they were polled on it in... get ready for it -- 1987! That was before before most people had even heard of Bill Gates. before Exxon and Mobil got together, before AOL and Time Warner shacked up, before Vivendi and Universal got hitched, before Disney and ABC consummated their... well, you get the picture. Animosity toward big business goes back at least to William Jennings Bryan's three presidential bids and the state-by-state wild goose chase after Standard Oil.
This issue has been around a long time. It's been big enough to pass anti-trust regulation, campaign finance "reform" and legislation of a similar type, but there's one thing it hasn't done: elect a president. Dean will have many other issues and so will there be many other factors in play next year (i.e. Iraq). But his talk about breaking up the media giants is a political loser, and did I mention, a chilling, authoritarian and unconstitutional thing to do? Not so much in this post, no. And neither do I find much about it in the blogosphere -- but this Jeff Jarvis post is a start. More on this later, to be sure.
UPDATE -- More here. And some here.