How Political Money Drives Deadlock

There’s an interesting post at New Deal 2.0 on this topic.  Of course, anything that agrees with what UTF and I have been saying aout the rightward shift in US politics is going to catch my eye.  This post goes even further back than my example of Richard Nixon’s policies being seen as liberal.  They us the current debates on entitlements as an example.

In 1954, President Eisenhower famously dismissed critics of Social Security and unemployment compensation as “stupid.” Now leaders in both parties are talking about all kinds of big budget cuts, even though many Americans have been out of work for long periods and have watched their savings and the values of their homes sink, while they were forced to bail out the financial sector.

But what’s really interesting is the topic of polarisation and how it is fueled by money. Polarization is a sharp intensification of divisions between the major political parties. The split between the two major parties first widened out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It showed in a sharp increase in the number of votes in Congress along party lines. The budget debate is a manifestation of this trend, as is the Republicans casting aspersions on the patriotism of democrats.

When there is a divided government (a president of one party with the opposition controlling one or both houses of Congress), we see the process of confirming nominations grinds to a halt. WHne there isn’t a divided government, members of Congress spend a great deal of time posturing. More congressional votes happen that are not meant to actually pass anything, but rather to send signals to outside groups and supporters. For example, Republicans may craft a bill on abortion that has no chance of being signed into law. But introducing it forces everyone to take a stand. This projects hot button divisions beyond the Congress itself to energize outside constituencies.

Of course, having the media ready to emphasise discord helps to stir up the pot. Statistical studies of media content suggest that the language newspapers use to describe politics varies systematically. Their news stories tend to employ the favorite buzzwords of one of the political parties rather more than the other. Some papers, for example, may describe inheritance taxes as “death duties” — a term favored by Republicans. Others just talk about inheritance taxes. The media tends to reflect the rhetoric favoured by the political contributors in their districts. Since the people who contribute to political campaigns tend to be affluent, the rhetoric favours the rich.

But what is really running the show is money. The 1994 republican win caused the democrats to pay attention and copy their game plan. The Democrats’ decision to emulate the Republicans and follow the money shifts the system’s center of gravity to the right, as both parties frantically cultivate investor blocs. The result is the weird political world we live in. Behind the scenes, investor blocs and businesses maneuver for advantages in both parties. The system’s center of gravity moves to the right, checked only by the diminishing influence of unions and other mass political groups that retain some resources and influence on the Democrats.

The worst part is that post-Watergate safeguards to campaign finance reforms have been steadly trashed. There were enough ways for corporate money to circumvent the system prior to Citizens United with “527s,” independent expenditures, and other devices for spending without limits. The Citizens United decision frees non-Human “citizens” (e.g. Corporations) to disgorge funds directly from corporate treasuries to campaigns, as long as the money is spent independently of candidates’ own campaigns. Much of this money is likely to be impossible to track in public.

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7 thoughts on “How Political Money Drives Deadlock

  1. “The split between the two major parties first widened out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. ”

    Let me add this perspective. The Republican Convention of 1952 is significant in such a discussion. Sen. Taft was on his way to winning the nomination. He was an ultra conservative and wanted total withdrawl from foreign affairs.
    When Eisenhower saw this, he was persuaded to “throw his hat into the ring.”
    Taft was to the right of Gov. Dewey. This division fomented in the Republican Party until 1964 when Goldwater was able to replace moderate conservative Republicans and attain the Republican nomination as an ultra conservative. You remember, “in your heart you know he’s right!” Goldwater was soundly defeated in an LBJ landslide. However, it demonstrated that the Republican Party was changing, in flux. In 1968 Nixon brought it back to the NE Republican majority. Then Ford in 1976 loses and the Republican Right is galvinized. Also in 1972, there is the Roe decision. From 1972 forward to 1980, the evangelical fundamentalist are organizing within the Republican Party. In the Bush-Reagan struggle for the Party nomination in 1980 Reagan sides with Falwell and the the religious fundamentalists and not only wins the Party nomination, but the national election as well. Now, the ultra right is dominant in national politics. However, Congress did not become ultra conservative until 1994 when the GOPs used the argument that Clinton’s higher tax rate would curb employment. Oh, prior to that they defeat President Bush in 1992 because Bush raised taxes to attack the national debt.

    The old New England Republican Party is gone. The Senators from Maine and MA are vestiges! It is the GOP now, God’s Only Party and the Gilded Old Party. It is the Party of religious fundamentalism and excessive corporate wealth. And, as you point out, Laci, this corporate and wealthy citizens GOP have ended all financial reforms. To be sure, the Obama Administration and even Democrats in Congress are complecent. And, this is what should scare us all as we take on the Ryan Plan..The Ryan Plan is nothing less than a destruction of the New Deal of FDR and the Great Socieity of LBJ. Ryan’s Plan takes the country back to the 1920s. This is the point that has to be gotten across to the masses of American people. Some one has to be carrying the banner of FDR and LBJ on a daily basis. However, I am not hopeful. M_R has written on this subject many times, the dumb-downed citizens. What can be done?

  2. But what is really running the show is money.

    Did the Founding Fathers ever imagine such a fact about the future governance of this nation? Is anyone smelling corporatocracy? That archaic phrase of Lincoln, ‘of, for and by The People’ belongs in a museum.

    The door was opened wide by the Supreme Court and now this nation is up for grabs by anyone with enough money to buy what they need from the legislators.

  3. I think they did envision that, but their concept that a republican system has backfired.

    It’s now time for the US to work on implementing democracy in the US rather than other countries. And when I say democracy, a real democratic system without the corporate money running the show.

  4. “Did the Founding Fathers ever imagine such a fact about the future governance of this nation?”

    It seems to me I recall Jefferson speaking of wealth controlling the political system…Perhaps, it’s in his debates with Hamilton and Adams. Jefferson’s concept was a nation of yeoman agriculturalist as they would remain independent and not be corrupted by money. Hamiliton and Adams were high tariff devotees and manufacturing. They believed that the right of voting ought to be based on wealth…

  5. As per usual, UTF is correct. Unfortunately(?), Jeffersonian democracy did not take hold. Although, I would wonder if Jeffersonian democracy was totally as popular as might be expected (i.e., the voting and property connection).

    The problem was that these two factions didn’t think what would be the future nation once it had achieved independence.

    Also, the rebellion was against merchantilism, yet the nation did not shake off the chains of trade due to debt incurred by the War for Independence.

  6. I just nabbed this from another blog:

    Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market in ’08, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.

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