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

Theory of Change at Year One

What was Obama selling? What did we expect when he took office? And how have those expectations worked out in practice?

(White House/Pete Souza)
This month marks not just the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration but two years since those intense weeks of the Democratic nominating process in 2008, when Obama emerged as the likely nominee. What was Obama selling? How did he build his coalition? What did we expect when he took office? And how have those expectations worked out in practice? Rick Perlstein , author of Nixonland and Mark Schmitt, executive editor of the Prospect discuss Obama at year one. Rick Perlstein : I began the 2007-2008 campaign season with little faith that Barack Obama was the person to do reinvigorate the left. Coming to what I thought was political maturity over the last decade in and through the rise of the progressive sensibility known as the "netroots," and grounding so much of my sense of how America got to be the way it is through my study of the rise of the right, I thought I knew what a successful progressive president had to look like: John Edwards. He was, quite frankly, my guy...

Citizens United and Electoral Exceptionalism.

"What will the effect be of the Supreme Court's Citizens United on elections?" Scott Lemieux asks below. For all the reasons he describes, the decision is enormous, radical, and wrong, and it will undoubtedly have sweeping impact on future election law as well as other areas of First Amendment and corporate law. But it is important not to overstate the immediate effect on our political life. The "OMG, corporations are now people, with free speech rights!" reaction to the decision overlooks the fact that for almost all purposes, corporations do have free speech rights, and should, although they can be subject to balancing tests just as all rights are, as Scott shows. The principle area in which corporate rights are balanced has been around elections, in which speech rights are balanced against the interest in reducing corruption and, until the Austin precedent was overturned today, reducing the distorting effect of money on the process. Even those restrictions were fairly limited, and...

60 Was the Loneliest Number

The "filibuster-proof majority" was always an illusion. We might be better off without it.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, file)
The consequences of Republican Scott Brown's victory in the race for the Senate seat from Massachusetts fall into two categories. The first involves the optics of the race itself and the message Brown's victory sends, about Obama's first year, the economy, anti-incumbent sentiment, and the generalized "fuck 'em all" feeling that seems to burst forth in American politics at times of stress. (The pollster Stan Greenberg a few years ago developed a taxonomy of voters that included the useful categories "F-You Boys" and "F-You Old Men," groups that were quiet in 2008 but were heard from yesterday.) That message is somewhat complicated coming from Massachusetts and was provoked by the failure of a candidate who might as well have been a double agent for the Republican National Committee, but it won't be perceived that way. To the extent that the outcome is perceived as the beginning of the end of the Obama administration, and a one-blue-state equivalent to the 1994 Republican takeover, it...

The Campaign Finance Mainstream Shifts.

At a Brookings Institution event this morning, four of the most prominent mainstream scholar/advocates of campaign finance reform set forward a new approach -- albeit one that might seem familiar to Prospect readers . Tom Mann of Brookings, Norman Ornstein from AEI, Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute and Tony Corrado of Colby College proposed a break with traditional approaches to campaign reform that are based on limiting contributions and outside spending. As Mann put it, "Instead of further trying to restrict the wealthy few, we seek to activate the many." They propose public funding of campaigns based on "multiple matching" for small contributions (as in New York City's acclaimed system), lower contribution limits as a condition of public financing, tax credits and rebates for small donors, as well as related reforms such as universal access to broadband with civic engagement as a goal. The argument is bolstered by a thorough analysis of the small donor revolution in...

Let's Make a Filibuster Deal

The Senate has two ways of working (or not): The dead-end filibuster and the fast-track budget process. Real reform should involve fixing both.

Sen. Tom Harkin speaks at the Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public on Feb. 27, 2009. (The National Academy of Sciences/Patricia Pooladi)
As the Senate's near-miss passage of health-care reform faded in the rearview mirror, the road ahead became visible: Such victories will be rare, at least under the current configuration of the Senate and partisan alignments. The primary obstacle, of course, is that the Senate's right of unlimited debate creates a de facto supermajority requirement of 60 votes -- which is technically achievable, but barely -- to do anything. As our wandering colleague Ezra Klein put it succinctly at the end of last year, "After health care, we need Senate reform." Like most procedural rules, the Senate's right of unlimited debate, of which the filibuster is an annoying offspring, is not inherently good or bad but has different effects under different political alignments. And by that I don't mean that I like it when Republicans are in power and dislike it when it's used to block my own policy preferences. Rather, in partial defense of the filibuster, there are times when unlimited debate helps make...