Michael Waldman is executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan law and policy institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. He was White House Director of Speechwriting from 1995 to 1999.
This is a dark time for those who worry about big money’s outsized role in American politics. Radical Supreme Court rulings, a comatose Federal Elections Commission, and ever more shameless political operatives have obliterated the campaign-law edifice that stood shakily for four decades. The 2012 race will be dominated by secret funds, unlimited special-interest gifts, and massive independent expenditures. Expect corruption not seen since Watergate.
Will all this stir a backlash? Perhaps. I am more skeptical than many that the current mood of disquiet will translate into a reform moment. What can we do to tip toward positive change?
In the final weeks of the 1968 election, Hubert H. Humphrey was closing in on Richard Nixon. Supporters of George Wallace's third-party campaign were returning to the Democratic fold, and Humphrey was winning renewed support from liberals after calling for a bombing halt in Vietnam. It seemed Humphrey might have a chance.