Big liberal donors are meeting in Miami to strategize how to live up to a couple classic liberal cliches -- instead of trying to compete with the conservative Super PACs (and their ads) that helped Republicans retake the House in 2010 and helped Mitt Romney win the primary, they're going to pour their money into wholesome community-focused get-out-the-vote groups. George Soros will donate $1 million each to two liberal outside groups, America Votes and American Bridge 21st Century, The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore reports. Soros's spokesman told The Times, "George Soros believes the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to special interests’ paying for political ads... There is no way those concerned with the public interest can compete with them." One really good way to compete would be to actually try competing, right?
Here are a few stereotypes about liberals this decision embodies: Liberals fetishize the idea of community. Liberals are disorganized. Liberals don't like to compete. Liberals interact with the world as it ought to be, not as it is. Reflecting that fear of perfectly legal dirty money, Confessore reports Tuesday that a group of Democratic donors called Democracy Alliance will meet in Miami this week to coordinate $100 million in donations to outside groups focused on research and grassroots organizing. The donors don't think they can compete with Karl Rove's American Crossroads or Americans for Prosperity, he writes. In February, President Obama explicitly asked them to try competing with them, despite disapproving of the Supreme Court decision that created them, Citizens United. "The challenge is we’ve got some of these super PACs that have pledged to spend up to half a billion dollars to try to buy this election and what I’ve said consistently is, we’re not going to just unilaterally disarm," Obama said. But the pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA, founded by former Obama aides, has struggled to raise money, in part because liberals don't like the idea of superPACs, The Hill reports.
Democracy Alliance's Steve Phillips, a philanthropist, told Confessore "You can dump 10 or 20 million in TV ads in Ohio and try to reach the persuadable swing voters there, or you can up voter turnout among Latinos in Colorado and Arizona and win that way... It’s much cheaper." But as ABC News' Amy Walter points out, that decision means red state Democrats get no help. What's funny is that Soros's past donations to get-out-the-vote groups had mixed results. He spent $23 million in 2004 on groups like Americans Coming Together, and CNN reported on election day eight years ago, "Those groups would be widely credited with a Kerry win in Ohio, a GOP-dominated state where Democrats have a particularly weak party apparatus. ACT officials say they have 12,000 people working in Ohio." But that didn't happen. As National Journal explained a few months later, though those groups managed to turn out lots of people, Republicans' "72-Hour Task Force" turned out way more.
In a way, liberals' hesitance is understandable: the idea of paying for college kids to drive grandmas to polls on election day is much more pleasant than the idea of funding millions of dollars worth of ads that make Mitt Romney look like an Ayn Rand-fetishizing woman-hating gay-bashing robber baron. But an important question in this election will be whether Romney is an acceptable alternative to Obama. One really good way to nudge voters toward thinking Romney is not an acceptable alternative is with negative TV ads -- the same way Romney himself disqualified his opponents one by one during the Republican presidential primary.