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Friday, October 19, 2007

Paul Krugman: Death of the Machine

Business contributions to political parties are moving away from Republicans and going to Democrats instead. What does this mean for the future of the two parties?:

Death of the Machine, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: “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 ... 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 ... 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. ... Oil and gas is the only major industry that the G.O.P. can still call its own. ...

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. ...

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. ...

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. ...

Nicholas Confessore ... 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. ...

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, ... 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. ...

Here’s an example of the sort of thing that makes you wonder: yesterday ABC News reported ... 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.

    Posted by on Friday, October 19, 2007 at 12:33 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (31)

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