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Friday, July 8, 2011

Conservative Sinecures Undermine Our Democracy

I found this excellent piece at the Wits and Vinegar blog arguing that we may be seeing something new with modern GOP state rule: the dismantling of our economic society by entirely unchecked greed. Wits and Vinegar suggests that - bad as things are now - we would be fooling ourselves if we allow ourselves to believe that at some point this dismantling will end out of at least a sense of self-preservation. It really is a very good post, and I urge you to click over and read it in its entirety.

There was one bit, though, that I did disagree with, and it was the suggestion that the Republican governors at the forefront of this dismantling don't realize that they are merely dupes and tools of their corporate paymasters:

[A]ll of these governors are similar, as are people like Paul Ryan -- they are under the assumption that they actually have a political future. It serves the interest of their major backers to have them harbor this delusion, but in reality they are in office only until the people have another chance to oust them for destroying the middle class. They are there to ram through ALEC authored legistlation, bust unions and leave the public education in this country so broken that it will take generations to repair. They care nothing for the long-term cost of such destructive action. Like George W. Bush before them, you have someone who is just egomaniacal enough to think they have what it takes to lead, and deluded enough to think that they are "in touch" and "on the right side of history." My ass. Sorry boys.

While I don't doubt Wits and Vinegar is spot on in her description of these men as egomanical and deluded, I would not go so far as to suggest they are unwitting dupes of their right-wing political backers. Having achieved the governorship in their respective states, they realize they don't have any political future after this -- they just don't care.

Liberals have spent the past decade or more bemoaning the fact that Conservatives have been playing long-ball and have stolen a march on us by creating, funding and supporting a web of right-wing think tanks whose only purpose is to think up and popularize policies and supporting rationales pushing right-wing interests. It seems to have escaped most of us that - in addition to providing a steady drumbeat of Conservative agitprop and policy prescriptions ready to be rolled out the moment Conservatives held power again -- these think tanks also helped to blunt the only power American voters have when their elected officials go to far: the power of the ballot box.

For example, nothing would please me more than to see Scott Walker recalled from office next year for having gone way too far in his entirely unnecessary "scorch the earth" war against Wisconsin's public employee unions. But the damage will have been done nevertheless, and Scott Walker will never have to want. His financial backers will get him a board job at one of these think tanks, a sinecure with a friendly university, and set him up with a lucrative position in some lobbying firm. Scott Walker is going to be just fine for the rest of his days.

Post-politics cushions for rabid right-wingers have become SOP now, further weakening our representative democracy. Why fear the will of the voters if -- once you are out of office -- you can really cash in? The fear that voters would kick them out of office was once the only way to ensure that elected officials didn't go too far in service of their paymasters, but Right-Wing Welfare has largely undermined that protection.

I think Walker and the rest (like the odious Rick Scott who isn't even waiting to leave before cashing in) know this, I think it is at least an implicit part of the deal the Koch Brothers, et al. made with them: destroy the unions, destroy the social safety net, destroy the regulations that vex us, and we will make sure that you are set for life.

I think they know exactly what they are doing, and what they can look forward to. They embrace it.


  1. Thank you for the shout out and support! Your point is very well made, and I struggled with this same point when George W. Bush was President. Is he really that big of an ignoramus or is he maniacal? I think in the end it boils down to different ratios of both in varying degrees for each of these Koch funded politicians. In general though, it really does seem that the ego on these guys may actually be convincing them that they can do no wrong and "the people" have no idea what they are talking about. On the other hand, one would think that they would have to be aware of the consequences of their actions. I know this is snarky, but I just have the hardest time looking at Scott Walker and thinking there is anything going on in that head besides bad hair plugs muddling with a very simple mind. I guess they're not hair plugs, but seriously... The truth is, they are acting not acting in the best interest of the middle/working class, and they are at the very least aware of that.

  2. Sorry about the typo - they are not acting in the best interest of the people.

  3. Well . . . Scott Walker is a special case; he does have that bovine "just hit with the slaughter hammer" look about him.

    One thing I have been thinking more and more lately is that it truly doesn't seem like our policy makers -- from either side of the aisle -- are much looking out for or thinking of "the people." I get the feeling that they truly do believe that only the uberwealthy create jobs, grow the economy, etc., and that if policy is set so that the economic elite are taken care of then the rest of the nation will be just fine.

    This is exactly backwards, of course. Prosperity always flows from the bottom up. But Larry Bartels came out with some research just a short while ago that tends to indicate that no matter how popular any particular policy position may be with the American society as a whole, unless it commands great support among the wealthy it has little chance of getting enacted by our national leaders.