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The new breed of direct con job Republicans

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 13:27 EDT
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You'd think, since Newt Gingrich loves bling so much he's half a million in debt to Tiffany's, he'd be ecstatic at the chance to be coated in free glitter. *rimshot*

So, Donald Trump is out.  Mike Huckabee is out.  Gingrich is basically out, not that he was ever really in.  I do love Republican hypocrisy.  John Edwards got a $300 haircut. OMFG stop the presses ELITIST ELITIST!  But you know, Newt Gingrich has the sort of bill at Tiffany's that most of us couldn't build up in a lifetime of buying gifts for mistresses and paying off angry wives.  Of course, to be perfectly fair, Gingrich is actually getting hammered for this, because the mainstream media doesn't like the guy.  Also, the Tiffany's bill is indicative of his approach to "campaigning", which is to say, it seems that he is approaching it as a money-making endeavor.  Most politicians actualy spend money while campaigning, especially as President, and often their campaigns go into debt.  But it's hard to shake the suspicion the Gingrich is campaigning in order to get his own ass out of debt.

But let's be fair about this.  Gingrich isn't the only one who's main interest in the presidential campaign is lining his own pockets.  In fact, it appears that right now that out of a dozen candidates for the Republican nomination, only Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are stuck in that old-fashioned mode where people run for office because they're trying to win office. Donald Trump (shortest campaign ever?), Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and probably Michele Bachmann are basically all campaigning to get bigger checks from Fox News.

In his book What's the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank argued that Republicans are basically hoodwinking their voters with this abortion stuff.  Vote for abortion, get tax cuts for the rich—you know the drill.  Events have proved him wrong in some ways, and limited in others.  Frank underestimated the misogyny of your average Republican politician, who is perfectly content to while away his days in office thinking of brand new ways to punish nubile young women for having sex with men who aren't him. 

But Frank was also limited in his scope, thinking that the Republican elite saw their base as rubes simply on social issues.  What this current election season shows is that the Republican elite's willingness to exploit their base is boundless.  At a certain level, it's all a con.  Your average anti-choice wanker is also likely to be screeching about taxes and Muslims, but regardless of what bullshit he's riding today, to the Palins and Huckabees and Gingrichs of the world, said screecher is nothing but a cash machine.  Type in "Obamacare" or "pro-life" or "soft on terror", press Enter, and get another check in the form of "campaign" donations, book sales, or a fatter contract with Fox News. 

Old Republican politics were about exploiting the prejudices of the base in order to make money, but it was through a more circuitous route: Blow some racial dogwhistles, hate on women, imply that most of their tax dollars fund the orgasms of Cadillac-driving single mothers.  Get elected.  Cut your own taxes and get some government contracts for your friends.  Deregulate, make some more cash.  Get thrown out of office and have to start the process over.

It's an inefficient system, since campaigns cost money.  But now you have a new breed of Republican that realizes that they can skip the entire process—which also has labor costs because of the boring governing shit if you do get elected—by simply running a campaign where the rubes pay you directly, instead of using the complexities of government and policy to move wealth from working people to the rich. 

Not that Republicans have given up the game of campaigning, winning office, and manipulating policy to steal from the poor and give to the rich.  This system has many benefits, starting with the fact that it relieves boredom.  Also, if you get government power, you can steal from all sorts of working people, not just the ones dumb enough to support you.  But in a way, the Citizens United ruling has changed the game.  Now that they can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, Republican elites are actually going to end up paying a lot more money than before to win the same old seats, so they've reduced the return on the investment.  I suspect this reality has helped, along with the existence of Fox News, to create this new monster of people who campaign in a more direct fashion, where people just write checks to them, they cash them, and then they go home. 

In other words, many members of the Republican elite are going Galt on their own party. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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