Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/31/unsustainable-whims.html
Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/31/unsustainable-whims.html
The Right mobilized this army of “turkeys-voting-for-Christmas,” but the way they built it left it vulnerable to personality cults like the one Trump has built. Oligarchs like the Kochs that built this army to do their bidding have completely lost control of it, for now.
By contrast, one-percenters who fund the Democrats are acting out of a sense of noblesse oblige, or “moral whims,” and they are thus dilettantes whose funding is both erratic and arbitrary, and therefore unable to create and sustain those strong movements.
That may have been the case in the past, but since the 2007-2008 crash and then Occupy (and once “inequality” no longer became a taboo topic in American public discourse), more and more of them see funding the Dems (most often Third-Way ones) as a means of self-preservation.
A smart (or at least self-interested) wealthy person in 2019 knows that the GOP programme of “free” market fundamentalism is unsustainable to the degree that it might put them in the tumbrels alongside conservative millionaires.
That said, the real funding power for Dems is now coming through small-money donations, and Uncle Joe’s renewed embrace of super PAC money is yet another way he’s demonstrating how out of touch he is and how complacent his campaign is.
It’s certainly true that the biggest funders of the right-wing hijacking of US politics are very long-term thinkers, but also that they have enormous blind-spots (Charles Koch is capable of thinking about coal automation of US politics in half-century timescales, but also incapable of thinking about climate this way).
Not incapable but unwilling. In 50 years he’ll be dead, and he can sleep at night comforted by the thought that his grandchildren will have enough money to ride out whatever global warming hellscape he and his brother helped bring about.
Same as it ever was with conservative industrialists and fascists. Another thing the Kochs are unwilling to do is learn from the lessons of history.
I could not put it better. An engaged democratic electorate is a terrifying to the oligarchs, and they will try to suppress that in whatever way they can. We can overwhelm that but it requires positive engagement. Passivity equals defeat.
In itself, an individual $10 donation is no less likely to reflect a “moral whim”. I’d bet that the immediate cause of most such donations is that the donor got worked up about a news item minutes earlier. (And I would bet the second-biggest cause is that the donor got a well-timed email from someone they’d given money to before).
Simply having a population of small donors, in itself, is a poor substitute for having an actual organisation, like a trade union, to cultivate and coordinate and sustain the support. Even if a candidate has a really good operation for keeping in touch with donors and tapping them for ongoing funds, it’s still impersonal, and transactional, and reduces politics to a consumer good, and just generally reflects the atomised, no-such-thing-as-society, post-1980 political hellscape that progressives should be against.
IDK if unions are, or should be, the only answer to this. But they already exist, they know how to be powerful vehicles for persuading and organizing, they still have some legal protections, and they can actually do stuff beyond just getting politicians elected. And if it seems like unions are a relic of the politics of a hundred years ago, well, yeah, and so is unchecked plutocracy.
Speaking of, I recently read this interesting TPM article about the demonisation of occupational licensing. Apparently it’s a pet project of the Koch brother, as part of a plan to remodel his image by pursuing evil through more oblique means. The article starts with Joe Biden talking about how he’s pro-union but anti-licensing, and then makes the point that licensing bodies are basically just a poor replacement for unions – both exist to prevent someone else showing up and doing your job half as well for half the pay. So, while he might love the idea of unions existing (and giving him money), he doesn’t necessarily think they should be allowed to, you know, protect their workers’ livelihoods in any concrete way.
In what way is the Trump personality cult not still doing the bidding of oligarchs like the Kochs? Massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, it’s all still perfectly in line with their over-arching plan.
I think (I most sincerely hope) that the Trumpian overreach / flagrant corruption may have perhaps driven that car off the cliff. If not we are totally hosed.
There are some bad guys waiting in the GOP wings, right-wing populists who (unlike Biff) understand how government works. Josh Hawley is worthy of special concern in this regard.
Also, in a very real way there’s a bigger gap between someone with a net worth in single-digit millions and a billionaire, than there is between the millionaire and your average American. The soaring wealth inequality among the 1% means that the interests of the ultra-rich, and of things like massive hedge funds and investment banks controlling billions and billions of dollars, can be very different from the interests of the merely rich.
As far as I can tell, that’s not what the Trump cult is doing. It’s what the regular GOP politicians are doing, when they don’t have to scramble to deal with the latest unforced catastrophe or rolling scandal caused by Trump and his crowd of deplorables.
First of all, I think that’s a false dichotomy at this point. Trump’s base IS the “regular GOP,” and the “regular GOP” is Trump’s base.
And those folks have pushed through legislation and appointed a judiciary that has advanced the same interests the Kochs et al have been pushing for decades. This is their generational win, not a loss of control.
The Kochs are analogous to the German industrialists who initially supported Hitler. Once a certain mass of power accumulated to the Nazis, there was no reason they needed to follow the orders of the industrialists and, in fact, seized their factories and wealth.
Charles Koch has his blind spots, but history ain’t one of them. He knows that if Trumplestiltskin continues unfettered that he has more to lose than to gain.
I guess I’m just not sure where their interests supposedly diverge.
It’s not just campaign contributions:
… center-right candidacies of the bewildered racist and corporatist Joe Biden, the sinister neoliberal corporate-militarist Pete Butiggieg and even the marginal Wall Street “moderates” Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris? Next time you click on these stations, keep a pen and paper handy to write down the names of the corporations that pay for their broadcast content with big money commercial purchases.
I did that at various times of day on three separate occasions last week. Here are the companies I found buying ads at CNN and MSDNC:
Koch is already funding anti-Trump Republicans, because he no longer has any influence with President Biff. That is stage 1 of the process. Stage 3 or 4 is the government seizing his companies and imprisoning him. Fascist Playbook 101.
See also Trump’s attack on Mittens and other Republicans who fail to completely toe the line. In case you missed it, he said they are worse than Democrats.
Regarding misalignment of interests, see the effect of the trade war on the economy in general and specifically Koch companies like GP, Molex, Invista, and Guardian, all of which depend upon free international trade, especially in areas hardest hit by the tariffs: automobile, lumber, and electronics.
Also, in general, chaos is bad for business.
I don’t disagree with you, but I’d like to point out that there’s a fundamental difference between the “moral whims” of the wealthy and those of the small donor: wealthy contributors to the Democratic Party (or to the Republican Party, for that matter) have a fundamental motivation of maintaining the status quo. Sure, they may have their pet Progressive causes like LGBT rights or Pro-Choice activism, but underneath it all, they still insist on a government that allows them to privatize their profits and socialize their losses.
Fair points all, I just don’t see nearly as much daylight between the interests of those parties as much as disagreement about messaging.
Let’s put it this way: Trump’s policies are losing Koch money. That’s the ultimate sin to the billionaire class.
Because it’s a privately held company, Koch industries is famous for ignoring short-term profits/losses in favor of long-term plans for their industries. I guarantee you that a team of very smart people on their payroll has produced a study of the long-term benefits of the deregulation and judicial influence that they’re gaining from Trump compared to any short-term harm from trade wars or instability.
Neither of us know how those numbers shake out, of course, but they’re getting some serious benefit from this administration notwithstanding the factors you laid out.
I don’t know if they’ll keep funding them if people start pushing for more leftist policies. I see this time as a golden opportunity for anyone to make their own party big at least on the state level. It would be funny if the SLP magically got revived but I doubt that’ll happen. And the DSA is more about getting progressive Democrats elected (not a bad thing but not a big enough goal in my opinion).
Except that doesn’t make sense. Koch is putting money against Trump. That would indicate his analysts have come to the conclusion that he’s losing money short and long term.