“Campaign Finance and the Nihilist Politics of Resignation”


his is the politics of resignation. We accept the status quo not because we want it, and certainly not because we don’t care about “process.” To the contrary: We are resigned precisely because we view the very process by which we would effect change as corrupt. We thus steer away from the politics of reform, and focus our (dwindling level of) political attention on other issues instead.

This is reform’s greatest challenge. The ordinary way we do politics in America—Democrats yelling at Republicans, Republicans yelling at Democrats—won’t move this issue, because neither side will seem credible as reformers, at least as against the other. That is Cillizza’s sensible, and unfortunately true, point.

But what if we could crack this cynicism, and melt the resignation? What if there were a way to give Americans hope—not that ordinary politicians could be different, but that a different kind of political power could matter? Not one from the inside, but one born on the outside. Not a power seeking political office, but a power seeking to change the way politics works. Americans might not rally to yet another politician promising change. That’s Cillizza’s insight. But could they be rallied to a cause that would change the way politicians promise?

Such a movement is this generation’s moonshot. Yet the reformers I know—as decent and committed as anyone could imagine—think small. They call their thinking “realistic.”

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