Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Best Money Can Buy

I spent a bunch of time the other morning reading an article on Jacobin called Take Me to Your Leader: The Rot of the American Ruling Class. It's by Doug Henwood, who edited Left Business Observer and was (or is?) the host of Behind the News.

The teaser on Twitter promised something about how the money behind Trump was from privately owned corporations who benefit from deregulation that allows them to get away with things (rather than big publicly owned companies), so that's what got my attention.

It's a really long piece, which I wasn't prepared for at 7:00 a.m., but I got through it. Here are a few nuggets. First, a general statement of our political parties' situation:

The two-party system has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past several decades. Once the party of New Dealers and Southern segregationists, the Democrats have evolved into a coalition of the softer side of the metropolitan establishment and a progressive wing the party leadership hates. And the GOP, once the party of the northeastern WASP elite, has evolved into a coalition of plutocrats and an enraged provincial petite bourgeoisie (often mistaken for the “white working class”).

Then, this bit of news-to-me about where the methods of the Right came from:

Eisenhower’s tepidity and compromises energized the Right, whose insurgency was almost Bolshevist in its ideological and organizational discipline. The Bolshevik tendencies were no accident. There were not only intellectuals like James Burnham, a Trotskyist turned cofounder of National Review, but important organizers like Clif White and the ex-Communist Marvin Liebman, who consciously emulated Red tactics in organizing their insurgency, from organizational and ideological discipline to how to dominate a meeting. That rigor and energy dismayed and disoriented the moderates, who preferred politeness and compromise above all things.

That made me think of L. Brent Bozell.

I've never spent time studying the 1964 Republican Convention, which selected Barry Goldwater as the party's candidate, so this was all pretty eyebrow-raising:

As journalist Murray Kempton put it, “This convention is historic because it is the emancipation of the serfs . . . The serfs have seized the estate of their masters.” New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, a leader of the moderate Republican faction whose name embodied the old elite’s domination of the party, was shockingly heckled, a sign of the WASPs’ impending decline. The party’s transition on race was made crudely clear by insults directed against black attendees — one of whom saw his jacket deliberately burned with a cigarette. Jackie Robinson, who was a delegate, said that the performance made him feel like “a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

Henwood spends a few paragraphs on the importance of the Powell memo, which I've mentioned before. It was a 1971 warning to big business that they had to take political power or they would lose to the Left. What Henwood breaks apart is the way old corporate money went about doing this (by funding things like the American Enterprise Institute and even the Brookings Institute) vs. the way privately held companies went about it. That means the Koch brothers, of course, and later the Mercers and the family that owns Uline, among others.

The Heritage Foundation was the first thing this new money funded, then the Cato Institute. Over time, it has become a tsunami of cash.

That’s not to say there isn’t some big money on the liberal left — just not as much, and not as ideologically coherent. The closest liberals come is the Democracy Alliance (DA), which was founded in 2005 and gets money from George Soros and other, less famous monied liberals. But it distributed only about $500 million in the first decade of its existence — less than the Koch network spends on one election cycle. And unlike the Koch network, whose spending is tightly controlled by the leadership, DA members decide where to spend their money. (emphasis added)

So all of those right-wing stories about George Soros paying lefty protesters are (as usual) just projection, as if we didn't already know that. 

And then there's the State Policy Network, founded in 1992, which I have never heard of before. It

develops policies, disseminates propaganda, and trains personnel to promote “economic liberty, rule of law, property rights, and limited government,” which, in practice, means gutting regulations, cutting taxes and services, privatizing public schools and pension systems, and destroying unions.

Why does that sound so familiar? Well,

Closely associated with the SPN is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which shares funders and priorities but operates at the political ground level, writing bills and lobbying legislators...

Oh, that's why!

Overall, the article is long and depressing, but worth the read.


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