Evil never goes away.
It just goes underground for awhile and comes back in a new guise. Let's hope it's not a Donkey.
Death of the Machine
“There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.” So declared Mark Hanna, the great Gilded Age political boss.
Karl Rove has often described Hanna as his role model. And predictions that Mr. Rove and his disciples would succeed in creating a permanent Republican majority — I have a whole bookshelf of volumes with titles like “One Party Nation” and “Building Red America” — depended crucially on the assumption that the G.O.P. would have vastly more money than its opponents. It might even, some thought, match the 10-to-1 advantage Hanna gave William McKinley when he ran against William Jennings Bryan.
Oops. According to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, in the current election cycle every one of the top 10 industries making political donations is giving more money to Democrats. Even industries that have in the past been overwhelmingly Republican, like insurance and pharmaceuticals, are now splitting their donations more or less evenly. Oil and gas is the only major industry that the G.O.P. can still call its own.
The sudden burst of corporate affection for Democrats is good news for the party’s campaign committees, but not necessarily good news for progressives. Before I get to the down side, however, let’s talk about why business seems to be giving up on the G.O.P.
To some extent it’s a matter of cold political calculation. Polls, plus a wave of G.O.P. retirements, suggest that next year the Democrats will expand their majority in the House, which is already bigger than anything the Republicans ever had during their 12-year reign. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election, 22 are held by Republicans, and major Democratic gains seem all but inevitable.
Add to this the weakness of the Republican presidential field, and it’s not surprising that lobbyists are casting in their lot with the likely winners. But that’s not the whole story.
There’s also disgust, even in the corporate world, with the corruption and incompetence of the Bush years. People on the left often describe the Bush administration as an agent of corporate America; that’s giving it too much credit.
The truth is that while the administration has lavished favors on some powerful, established corporations, the biggest scandals have involved companies that were small or didn’t exist at all until they started getting huge contracts thanks to their political connections. Thus, Blackwater USA was a tiny business until it somehow became the leading supplier of mercenaries for the War on Terror™.
And the lethal amateurishness of these loyal Bushies on the make horrifies the corporate elite almost as much as it horrifies ordinary Americans.
Last but not least, even corporations are relieved to see the end of what amounted to a protection racket.
In a classic 2003 article in The Washington Monthly, Nicholas Confessore (now at The New York Times) described the efforts of people like former Senator Rick Santorum to turn K Street into an appendage of the Republican Party — not the other way around. “The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer,” wrote Mr. Confessore, “are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the G.O.P.”
But corporations weren’t happy. According to The Politico, “many C.E.O.’s” used the term “extortion” to describe “the annual shakedowns by committee chairmen with jurisdiction over their industries.” And now that Mr. Santorum is out of office, heading the America’s Enemies program at a right-wing think tank, the faint sound you hear from K Street is that of lobbyists singing: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”
All of this greatly increases the odds that the Republicans, far from establishing a permanent majority, will be out of power for quite a while. But it also raises the question of what Democratic rule will really mean.
Right now all the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are running on strongly progressive platforms — especially on health care. But there remain real concerns about what they would actually do in office.
Here’s an example of the sort of thing that makes you wonder: yesterday ABC News reported on its Web site that the Clinton campaign is holding a “Rural Americans for Hillary” lunch and campaign briefing — at the offices of the Troutman Sanders Public Affairs Group, which lobbies for the agribusiness and biotech giant Monsanto. You don’t have to be a Naderite to feel uncomfortable about the implied closeness.
I’d put it this way: many progressives, myself included, hope that the next president will be another F.D.R. But we worry that he or she will turn out to be another Grover Cleveland instead — better-intentioned and much more competent than the current occupant of the White House, but too dependent on lobbyists’ money to seriously confront the excesses of our new Gilded Age.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.