It's not a major news story...yet. But trust me, the Democrats and the Federal Communications Commission that they control are ready to guarantee a defeat for Republicans in close U.S. Senate races in 2016 and in the battle for the White House. This is not columnist hype. It's the real thing, and it's moving like a freight train.
We all know that people hate getting those automated phone calls from politicians, creditors and vacation time-share hucksters. And rightly so. The FCC, headed by Tom Wheeler, has known that for years. But it seems they waited until now to act.
After rushing into law so-called "net neutrality" rules just recently, Wheeler and his gang are again in a hurry to regulate some more. But this time even the most politically adept Republicans may be failing to see the storm coming.
In less than a month, Wheeler's FCC will likely vote in favor of regulations that will appear to have rung a death knell to phone calls from debt collectors and pollsters. There are to be various ways for "consumers" to automatically block dialed phone calls -- including a call-blocking system that phone companies will be obliged to offer their customers.
As a man who used this technology for years as the head of a polling firm, I could easily get all worked up over the likely ruling's impact on my industry. I won't, though, because I don't head up the company anymore and because we had already moved to very accurate online surveys, anyway.
But for those supposedly superlative polls conducted by live call rooms -- so beloved by the establishment media -- they will be banned under the new rules, unless Wheeler and his Democrat-appointed majority on the FCC carve a special "niche" to keep them fat and happy.
Most opinion and news articles about this approaching decision have focused on either the end of the nuisance of automatically dialed calls, or the end of political and marketing research. But those stories miss the real and deadly aim of Wheeler and his gang.
Tom Wheeler is the FCC Commission Chair who had publicly stated his concerns about having government regulate the Internet. That is until he received not-so-vague marching orders from President Obama to reverse his direction and support the big Web-based companies who gave most of their money and manpower to Obama in 2016. (I'm not suggesting a quid pro quo; I'm just laying out the facts.)
Of course, the obvious victim is our nation's longstanding adherence to the First Amendment, which has always exempted political speech from restrictions and regulations. The pollsters will find a way to survive this overreach by the FCC. But the Republican Party, as it stands today, will not. And that is what the FCC's power grab is really about.
Democratic strategists have maintained that they own the world of social media, and they do. They beat Mitt Romney over the head with it in 2012. While this Democratic audience is less inclined to get involved in midterm elections, the impact social media has over the younger constituency who tend to vote Democratic is huge, particularly in presidential election years when these voters become more focused.
And every analysis we have read tells us that the largest GOP base is older Americans. Who still has landlines or will even talk on a phone? Older Americans. And who is least likely to have their faces shoved into a handheld device or to be surfing the net 24/7? You guessed it. Without those "pesky" automated phone calls to turn out their base, the GOP will be flattened come November '16.
The "experts" argue that the new rules will take years to have an effect and that autodialing systems will have plenty of ways of skirting the law. But they are missing the point. Automated phone calls will have become "illegal" in the minds of the public. GOP candidates and campaigns won't touch them with a 10-foot pole.
And what will appear to be a "pro-consumer" set of rules will instead make it virtually impossible for Republican candidates to turn out their base in the most important election of our lifetime.