Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect



Recent Articles

Armchair Populism

One reason I remain skeptical of advice that Democrats should sound more “populist” is that the audience for this advice always seems to be well-off liberals, and the people who tend to give this advice either aren’t in a position to practice it, or when they are, they flinch. Case in point: Today’s hero, Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio who was defeated in his bid for re-election last month. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he gave the site’s readers exactly the red meat they love: Obama and other Democrats, he said, suffer from “intellectual elitism” that makes them “hesitant to talk using populist language” or “draw a line in the sand.” He denounced Obama for saying he would be willing to negotiate with Republicans in the current fight over the Bush tax cuts, declaring, “If we can't win that argument we might as well just fold up.” Tell it! Not surprisingly, Strickland was the toast of...

Wait for a Better Deficit Report

Jonathan Chait has modified his applause for the deficit-reduction plan released by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to make an exception for its cavalier treatment of domestic discretionary spending, which he calls the “gaping flaw” in the two men’s report. (Let’s not attribute it to the president's fiscal commission, whose members had little to do with it.) The rest of the report, its treatment of taxes, health and defense spending, Chait says, is “a coherent and useful contribution to the deficit problem.” But it isn’t. I’m not one to dismiss the deficit commission – almost a year ago, I wrote an article called “Don’t Fear the Fiscal Reapers,” and I think a serious commission could help to overcome the political barriers to a reasonable fiscal path. But this draft isn’t it, not because there are things in it I disagree with but because it is so reckless and sloppy, in a way that is damaging to the...

The Ideas Deficit

If "ideas have consequences," as conservatives like to say, what's the consequence of having none?

David Frum (Flickr/Urban Mixer)
"Ideas have consequences," conservatives intoned during the Reagan era, boasting of their think tanks, journals, and networks of well-financed academics. When I first came to Washington 20 years ago, there was still some truth to this. The conservative intellectual machinery, though heavily weighted toward public relations, still managed to produce a steady flow of fresh-seeming ideas and credible advocates. The center-left, on the other hand, was burdened by stale assumptions, interest-group demands, and a technocratic approach to governing. In the years since then, the balance of power in the war of ideas has switched. Beginning in the late 1990s, progressive donors began to see the value of think tanks like the New America Foundation and later the Center for American Progress that would not only conduct technical research but develop fresh perspectives and push them out into the world. New approaches to health care, national security, and education reform emerged from this...

The Re-Education of a <i>Citizens United</i> Denier

The Supreme Court didn't just let corporations in; it created a new kind of money broker.

Former White House senior adviser Karl Rove (AP Photo/John Beale)
When the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC came out last January, I declared myself a " Citizens United minimalist." It's not that I thought the decision was correct -- it wasn't, particularly in the precedents it overturned unnecessarily and the way it undermined the very basis of regulation of money in politics. But I believed that the specific change in the law created by the decision -- allowing corporations to engage in independent spending to influence elections, just as individuals already could -- would not be all that significant in practice. After all, there was already a lot that corporations could do that they were not doing. Existing campaign-finance law didn't stop corporations from running ads that would influence an election without mentioning candidates by name or from running ads outside of the 30- and 60-day windows created by the law. I also doubted the scenario in which, say, Exxon-Mobil aggressively spends tens of millions of dollars to take out an...

The "F-You" Election

Progressives lost this election -- but conservatism and the Republican Party are hardly stronger for their success.

Kentucky Senator-Elect Rand Paul (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Six years ago, pollster and political scientist Stan Greenberg published a book, The Two Americas , in which he broke down the American electorate of the middle Bush era into new categories. Two of those categories -- the only two I remember -- were the "F-You Boys" and the "F-You Old Men." The categories are so perfectly named that they require little explanation. These economically frustrated men were part of the core Republican coalition but were attracted to rebellious-seeming movements like Ross Perot's 1992 presidential candidacy or pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura's Minnesota gubernatorial campaign. Together, Greenberg estimated, the F-You Boys and their older counterparts added up to about 13 percent of the American electorate, and as of 2004, they were of "declining social and political influence." Tuesday's election, and months of Tea Party and other well-funded rebellions, brought back to power the F-You Boys, the F-You Men, and -- if exit polls confirm a narrowing of the gender...