Citizens United Killed The GOP

It’s just hilarious how things always even out. If you were all worried about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, about unlimited and anonymous money allowed into political election campaigns, you most likely are a liberal or libertarian. Richer people skew conservative these days, so the left side of the aisle thought they’d have more to fear from the Citizens United decision. And they did, it’s true that most of the anonymous money so far has gone to help conservatives.

The height of irony in this caper approaches humor, because unfettering the purses of the wealthy is crippling the Republican party and leaving the Democrats unaffected. Think about the right-leaning wealthy. Who are they? They are mainly business leaders who have big offices in tall buildings. More importantly, how did they get there? Because they’re go-getters, dealmakers and tough competitors, sometimes called Type-A personalities. This sort of person does great at their own business, but tends toward difficulty when working with equals. It’s the nature of the breed.

Already rich and in a leadership role at work, thus accustomed to having people obey them, the newest “donor class” is today the most able to influence politics. Yet at the same time they are uniquely unsuited to coordinate their efforts. Hilarious. So far, the biggest effect of the Citizens United decision has been to fracture the political right wing. Made it larger, yes, but at the price of potency.

A large influx of money has gone to party primaries on the Republican side, something we don’t see happening in Democratic primaries. Add to this another side fact: 2010 was a census year and coincided with a conservative resurgence in state elections. Thus, many states where the census results forced re-drawing the lines for electoral districts did so in a way which ensures conservatives will win until at least 2022. But making those seats in Congress more reliably red has had unintended consequences. As long as it’s going to go Republican as drawn, and if there’s an open fire hydrant of money, now the electoral district’s primary becomes much more important than the general election, and Democrats can’t vote in most Republican primaries. We have a closed loop, often called a ‘feedback loop’.

The outcome is to elevate several people to Congress from state legislatures, in states with a 1-party government, where there is no opportunity to ever learn how to compromise with a political opposition. They’re called the Freedom Caucus in the House, about 50 strong, and they have paralysed the whole of Congress. And they are the direct result of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

The threat of a well-funded primary challenge has cowed a hundred otherwise reasonable Republicans into positions farther rightward than they’d like, simply because their district has been redrawn to always come up red when the coin is flipped every two years.

The other 80 Republican Housemembers support the more centrist national party leadership, because they’re from “blue” states where more extremely conservative positions could flip their seat. And they’re from states where the 2010 redistricting was done via 2-party compromise, so there’s less chance of a strong ideologue getting elected, either from the left or right.

The lesson is an old one: be careful what you wish for. The US Constitution is a very finely crafted thing, and if you try to nail one edge down to your favor, another one will pop up in your face. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

It’s only natural. More money gets put into safe-seat primaries from donors on one political wing, then the more disjointed that wing becomes. Hilarious.

The Rest Of The 2016 Presidential Race

By now, we can see what’s taking shape. In late April of 2016, we’re headed into what giddy pundits call “Super Tuesday” for a third time, this one on April 26th. Hardly super, but includes Pennsylvania so that’s nifty. Big deal. No further primary elections matter.

On the Red side, the whalloping Trump did in New York was catastrophic to Cruz, as predicted here last month. We still have Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey to come. Trump’s backyard and garage, Cruz is guaranteed to show 3rd in these. Maryland and Delaware are no friend to Cruz either, his “ownership” of the 2013 gov’t shutdown is recalled bitterly by the people of Maryland. Delaware… not many delegates, but the main biz of the state is right up Trump’s alley, so i expect a highly sympathetic electorate.

On the Blue side, mirroring closely, the whallop of the girl over the boy in New York has mathematically ended his chances. Again, as described here earlier, Bernieboy will not quit. He is not in it to win, never has been. He’s in it to go down in history, as the guy who made it possible to elect a socialist president in 2028.

From here on out, we should see the end of debates, and was surprised that there was a final one in Brooklyn last week. Neither frontrunner needs the bickering, since the nominations are locked. But many still don’t see that, so expect to see political money in May abandoning downballot races and flocking to the top in a desperate gambit to deny one or the other candidate a lock.

The idea of a 3rd-ballot moderate emerging at the Republican Convention in Cleveland is a fucking farce. Both major camps of delegates will be conservative extremists, 40% from the Tea Party and 40% from the evangy wing. Ohmygod, they’re going to need splatter shields, even before someone tries to deny Trump the nomination. With this balance of internecine animosity, unique in American politics this century, the Rules Committee will be paralyzed. Expect fantastic antics from the Platform Committee too, as it tries to stave off it’s own obsolescence.

The GOP convention will be hilarious. Scheduled from July 18th to the 21st, but wouldn’t be surprised if it ran to the 23rd. The “old hands” and half the “rising stars” will have power ripped from them, both behind the curtain and on the floor. And truly, as the Candidate Who Must Not Be Named once said, if they deny him the nomination, it’ll be a freakin’ riot. Whatever happens, Reince Priebus is doomed, and after seeing his evolving broadcast persona throughout April, i think he knows it too. The only meaningful thing Reince can do now, is to hire Hell’s Angels for convention security.

In a genius stroke of luck, the Democrats scheduled their convention for 1 week later, July 25-28 in Philadelphia. If it had been before the GOP swapmeet, the Dems would be in a real bind about who to nominate as Vice President, not knowing who the top of the Republican ticket was. If it’s Trump-Carson, then Clinton-Warren might be best. If it’s Kasich-Fiorina then maybe Clinton-Biden has a better chance. Whatever it is from the Republicans, the Democrats have an extra week to mull it over this year.

On towards the Autumn, expect four debates. If it’s Trump as expected, debating him 1-on-1 is much easier than on a 4-person stage. Trump is a mimic on stage, an empath. That’s what makes his stump speeches sound genuine. In a debate, if you treat him civil, you get a civil and reasonable Trump. Debate him hard, and you let out the hard Trump. He’s not particularly eloquent, but chatty and with good timing. The formula for beating him in a debate is easy: chalk it up, don’t talk it up.

Trot out facts and policies and leave them hanging. Whichever ones Donald picks up to contest, his counterpoint will fall flat with the political middle. After a few hours of such debate, it will be painfully obvious which candidate is prepared for the job and which one needs big hands to stroke a big ego. No kidding, halfway through the second debate, Americans will be a fuckofalot more comfortable with Hillary as president. Like magic, in early October, Merritt Garland is confirmed to the Supreme Court. Wow, is Mitch McConnell a dick or what.

The most meta-interesting thing this cycle is that Hispanics will finally become the political force they might have been. Trump’s rise has been on the backs of denigrated Hispanics, so you’ll see a spike in registration in that group. If it’s Clinton-Castro in the general election, the Dems get a 20-year honeymoon with the entire Hispanic-origin population, flipping New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Colorado to the blue side.

The Rise Of Trump

The problem with political punditry is insularity. You can cliche that to read “beltway”, and perhaps rationalize your favorite pundit’s continuing integrity because his or her show broadcasts from somewhere outside Washington DC. Instead, there is a lockstep between the larger a pundit’s voice gets and their degree of access to sitting politicians and political professionals. A natural, symbiotic relationship. Flipside is that political pros begin to rely more on pundits for feedback as the relationships grow closer.

Take a second and digest that, because it’s the kernel of the rise of Donald Trump in 2016.

There are three kinds of US citizens. One part of the citizenry votes. One part of the citizenry could, but does not vote. And the third portion is people who can’t, or wouldn’t if they could. Some sociologist might quantify the divisions listed here in percentages or octiles, but i’m not smart enough to do that, and not dumb enough to try.

The problem with pundits is that the better they get, the more time they spend with people in the first group. If you surround yourself with habitual voters, then eventually, you start to think that people who don’t vote don’t matter. Not a right-wing or left-wing issue, simply a natural tendency of tweeters who are interested in the same thing to flock together, even if they disagree on that thing.

The failure of this organic gaggle to foresee Trump’s resiliency is thus very explainable and totally understandable. Predictable, even. Neither half of the pundit class “saw him coming”, because the more you think about politics, the more you think about politics. Ground games with turnout machines can mobilize occasional voters, but the more politically active a person is, the less they think about habitual non-voters.

Being no pundit nor donor, i’ve had innumerable chats with people who work hard every day. Once in a while someone will express a political viewpoint, and about 2 in 10 say they vote. But the one viewpoint most common is that same refrain: “Politicians are all the same, so I don’t bother.” This has been going on for 40 years, to my ears. Four decades of people disengaged from politics because both parties agree on only one thing: a stable 2-party system where they are guaranteed to be those two parties, forever.

Ask any polling company. They all have heard it a (literal) million times. People who could vote but don’t all say the same thing: Politicians are all the same so why bother? The amazing thing is not Trump’s rise, but that no pollster nor strategist nor pundit came up with a way to qualify and enroll this widespread political meme before 2015. Both political establishments have been swinging with their eyes closed for 40 years.

It was the None Of The Above movement of the 1970’s. It was the Perot candidacies in the 1990’s. And now it’s Trump. It keeps coming back, and one effect of the internet on political discourse is that it grows the size of the pundit class, but the increase is only among the people who were already in the world of habitual voters. They kept telling themselves that it couldn’t happen, that normal people would know better in the end. Trump must eventually fail, they thought, because all the people they know are smarter than that.

And that’s the point, there’s the kernel of Donald Trump’s rise. All the people who converse back and forth about politics and vote regularly, are on the same migratory path over the political landscape, just in different directions. The dry land they fly over sprouts green every 20 years it seems, an interval just long enough for politicos focused on the future, to forget the present.

Since wonks and bloggers didn’t take Trump seriously last Summer, neither did the GOP establishment. They’re the only ones who could have tackled him early on. It was a false sense of security, because everyone the pundits talk to are party people, and the party people only talk to pundits. And reporters, but only when they have to. Insularity is fatal in politics.

If anyone in either the Democratic party or Republican party tried to truly remake their wing into a populist organization over the last 40 years, they have been squelched, absorbed or squandered. The people who have watched this happen are the habitual “it doesn’t matter” non-voters. Perot voters were “it might matter” voters. They ended up with Bill Clinton. Reagan voters were “it matters” voters, but they ended up with his crazy-quilt cabinet of bickering hardliners.

Trump voters are “this is the last time it might ever matter” voters. The central idea is that both national parties have left this segment uncatered, by dragging down campaign finance reform, delaying ethics investigations, and refusing term limits. And now the bickering. For six years now, the bickering. The Trump voter sees the bickering and 6 years of constant crisis mode in Congress, and sees what he/she always saw, only now it’s come to the point of paralyzing the whole country.

Hahah, and now magically, as if it wasn’t the standard 20 years since Perot’s time, there appears a candidate who claims to know how to put everything back together again. Perot had substance but not much style. Trump comes at it from another way. But they both tapped into the same group of “it doesn’t matter” people, the could-but-don’t voters. Perot got 30% of the total vote. The difference between Perot and Trump is that Perot poached 30% fair and square, and Trump will start out with a dedicated 30% who just hate Hillary’ guts, no matter what color the sky is.

A person might define politics as not the study of actions, but the timing of reactions. A confluence of factors has paralyzed Congress, making Trump’s rise all but inevitable. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. And if it was someone else, the parade of political punditry would have missed him or her as well.