May 14th, 2012
Conventional wisdom declares that the GOP’s corporatist wing doesn’t share the social conservatives’ extreme views and only reluctantly enters into alliance with them. But what if the corporatist wing actually benefits from increased social extremism?
Conventional Wisdom talks about the GOP’s corporatist and social extremist wings
As if those were two separate and unrelated things.
But what if instead they’re mutually reinforcing,
A politician-for-hire governmental outsourcing?
Oh Citizens United, what hast Thou wrought
When politicians can be so reliably bought?
To a point, the more extreme the GOP becomes, the more beholden it is on it’s wealthy and corporate funders.
This is counter-intuitive, because the GOP’s corporatist wing does not generally share the Religious Right’s social concerns, bigotry, and overall extremism. Instead, they ally themselves with the Religious Right in order to advance their financial interests. So it makes sense that corporatists would become worried when the GOP’s right wing becomes too extreme, thereby risking the entire corporatist-fundamentalist house of cards.
Now here’s where it gets counter-intuitive. The common wisdom is true, but only after a certain threshold is reached. Prior to that threshold (which I would argue has not yet been reached, and which may or may not be reached for the first time in this election), the opposite is true.
In chemistry, this is called an oscillating reaction, which is a very strange thing. It’s as if heating water on a stove made that water colder instead of hotter for the first five minutes, then suddenly made it hotter. How weird would that be? The answer: No weirder that how campaign finance affects our political system.
So how can social extremism actually help corporate interests politically. As Rachel Maddow has observed (watch the report below), there is a direct relationship between how extreme and/or unqualified a candidate is, and how much propaganda (and hence money) it takes to make that candidate electable.
The counter-intuitive outcome is based on the assumption that all wealthy and corporate interests want is a candidate who favors them. That’s a false assumption. Corporate and wealthy interests want candidates who not only favor them, but who are beholden to them, and know it. They want a candidate and eventual office-holder who knows he or she has no chance to get elected and reelected if their massive support becomes opposition. The more extreme the candidate’s views are, the more otherwise unelectable the candidate is, and hence the more beholden that candidate will be.
This is yet another unintended consequence (or maybe it was an intended one) of the Citizens United decision. It is already well-known and well-documented that Citizens United raises both the electoral price tag for election (because there’s so much more money in the system) and the potential political blackmail (“vote for me and I’ll support you, against me and you’ll face $100 million in negative political ads”). It’s already common wisdom on both sides of the aisle that this will disproportionately favor wealthy and corporate interests, and the party that has traditionally supported those interests (the GOP).
But no one has yet suggested that this flood of corporate money may also result in more social extremists in the GOP. But will it?
Yes, because that flood of corporate money creates the environment in which those extremists can survive, and as Charles Darwin told us, that is the determining factor in the evolution of a species.
And perversely, because it also serves the purposes of those who provide that financial support: Complete dependency.
It’s win-win. Good for the special interests, who for a still-reasonable sum, get politicians completely beholden to them. Good for the politicians, who in return for theirindependence (a minor sacrifice, since they would do most of what the special interests want anyway) receive all the money they need.
Just not good for the rest of us.
Here‘s Rachel’s 10/09/10 report on the relationship between how extreme a candidate is and how much money has to be spent to make them electable. Art Robinson (coincidentally a chemist, to continue in that vein, though with an interesting variety of bizarre beliefs), Rachel’s exhibit one, thankfully lost, but he did manage to get 45% of the vote. How much more would someone have had to spend to get him that last 5.0001%?