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Did Mitch McConnell cancel the market? Answer: No. He was never a real fan.
For the past few decades, the GOP's interests aligned harmoniously with those of corporations. Businesses amassed wealth while staying out of social issues. The GOP, in turn, rewarded businesses with tax cuts. The status quo was fine.
This state of affairs allowed the Republican Party to reward itself with the mantle of the "pro-market" party. However, as society has become more socially liberal, businesses are adapting to their customers' evolving preferences. A longstanding symbiosis has been upset and the Republicans have begun panicking.
The Senate minority leader issued an ominous warning to corporations who stood in opposition to voter suppression laws in Georgia, stating, "My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics," adding these corporations would "invite serious consequences if they became a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country."
Many noted that McConnell's stance was blatantly hypocritical. How can a conservative party that has argued that corporations deserve the rights of speech now be telling these same entities to shut up? And, certainly, one wouldn't expect the party of markets to be troubled by corporations responding to customer preferences. So what happened to the Good Old GOP, champions of markets and freedom?
The answer is simple. The Republicans never defended markets on principle. It was always an alliance of opportunity. The rhetoric of markets was a useful instrument—an anti-government cudgel—wrapped in the language of freedom. The GOP's claim, since Reagan, was that the markets promote freedom and the government does not. Thus: lower taxes and shrink the government. Start with eroding protections for civil rights.
The branding was effective. The GOP is widely perceived as the pro-market and pro-liberty party by conservatives and liberals alike. But, if you start to poke beyond this veneer, a different picture emerges. Its love of markets, it seems, is as sincere as its periodic despair over the deficit, which reliably animates opposition to Democratic policies, but recedes as soon as the resident of the White House is a Republican.
To understand the GOP's relationship with the market, we need only to consider its entire platform since Reagan. Republicans have consistently advanced policies that facilitate what economists call market failure. Such failures occur when conditions, such as monopolies, information asymmetries, and externalities, prevent the market mechanism from operating properly. By this measure, the GOP does not fare well.
Consider, first, how the GOP's deregulatory policies proliferate negative externalities. The predictable result? Depletion of resources, increased pollution, and poisoned communities. In these cases, the Republican Party seems conveniently unconcerned about personal responsibility. They're happy to have businesses impose costs on the rest of us, and eager to ensure that responsible parties escape accountability.
The second issue stems from the GOP's cavalier attitude toward monopolies. While some Republicans opine about anti-trust when it suits their interests, the party as a whole continues to encourage monopolies. For example, few Republicans have expressed any qualms about Sinclair—a rightwing group—buying up local media stations, thus creating an information monopoly. While the GOP may wax poetic about the marvel of markets, their favored policies hamper their proper function.
That the GOP's commitment to markets is disingenuous—tenuous and unprincipled—is elsewhere apparent. For example, markets could better improve people's welfare if wealth and income wasn't so concentrated. Yet the GOP's fiscal policies reliably produce income inequality, as if by design. This correlates with lower market participation. Rather than using markets to improve lives, the GOP prioritizes the returns of a tiny minority. Or, to take another example, consider the GOP's resistance to increasing the labor force, such as investing in childcare. They favor policies that keep individuals in perpetual debt, unable to engage in a variety of markets, such as housing. They also oppose legislation that alleviates job lock, such as the ACA.
We should not believe this party ever cared about markets. They loved the rhetoric of markets. It was useful. It allowed them to adopt a faux neutrality in their opposition to civil rights. Their hostility towards government could be dressed up as principled support for freedom. Yet they have stood by while markets crumbled, content to encourage the accumulation of wealth, as others drowned in bankruptcy and poverty.
Despite all of this, the GOP is regarded as pro-market. Their rhetoric worked. Why? Because American consumers were largely content with the social status quo. There was little reason for corporations to take a stand on social issues. Thus the happy symbiosis between Big Business and the party of corporate tax cuts was preserved.
But now the times are changing. The GOP hasn't undergone a reformation, nor have CEOs developed a collective sense of social conscience. The real shift is occurring within American society. The market reflects this. It has become relatively unpopular to be a bigot. Majorities of Americans now support same-sex marriage and pluralities support the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, let's not overstate the point. The country still has a problem with bigotry (we elected Trump, after all) and much of the anti-bigot movement might be performative or aesthetic. But, overall, people who identify as non-bigots are in the majority, especially among the younger generations.
Big businesses recognize this shift and its implications. They see how the path to profit has changed. They don't necessarily oppose the Georgia voter suppression laws because of deeply held moral principles. They just see the writing on the wall. Customers prefer companies that oppose bigotry and stand up for civil rights. Businesses, to survive, are doing what the GOP has always said they should: listening to the market. But the message of the market has changed. The GOP can't accept it.
As corporations have come out against Georgia's voter-suppression laws, Republican voters have launched their own boycotts. If the pro-market party truly cared about the freedom of the market, they would say, as they always have, "let the market decide." But now, given they're unhappy with the market's decision, they can't say that. The market is becoming less useful. The marriage of convenience is over.
So what is the GOP left with? Not much. Since they won't adapt to changing preferences—of consumers or voters—they'll resort to something else. There is already some indication of what's to come. They might deploy more of the empty populist rhetoric that served the previous administration. Or they might try to find some middle ground. They might argue, as The Wall Street Journal did in an editorial last week, that "markets" are still sacred; but the heads of business are nefarious. Perhaps they'll ultimately settle on a strategy. But at the moment, the party is panicked.
The GOP's future is uncertain. What's clear, however, is that the party will continue to do whatever it takes to pursue their actual goals: bigotry, wealth and power.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reported that long-time Trump loyalist Michael Ellis had resigned from his position as top lawyer for the National Security Agency after almost three months of being "sidelined" during Joe Biden's presidency. Journalist Steve Benen, in an op-ed for MSNBC's website, lays out some reasons why Ellis' departure from the NSA is an important development and a positive thing.
"Last fall, the day after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential race, Team Trump tapped Ellis to serve as general counsel of the National Security Agency, but the news wasn't well received," Benen explains. "Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA's director, didn't want Ellis for that post. In response, Christopher Miller, Trump's acting defense secretary, ordered the NSA director to install the Trump loyalist as the agency's top lawyer, whether Nakasone wanted him or not."
Benen notes that after Biden was sworn into office almost three months ago, "a gradual process began in which the new administration cleaned house, at least to the extent possible" — and Nakasone placed Ellis on administration leave.
"NSA general counsel is an important job, and not a position for partisan operatives," Benen points out. "With this in mind, it didn't come as too big of a surprise when Nakasone put Ellis on administrative leave literally the same afternoon as Biden's inauguration — at which point, the NSA director no longer had to worry about Team Trump's directives."
To understand just how Trumpian Ellis' history is, one should take a look at his activities during Trump's presidency. Ellis is a major ally of GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and he was a counsel to the House Intelligence Committee when it was still being chaired by the far-right California congressman. During the Trump era, Ellis and fellow Trump loyalist Ezra Cohen-Watnick were the two White House officials who gave Nunes intelligence reports claiming to show that former officials in ex-President Barack Obama's administration had improperly "unmasked" members of the Trump transition team in late 2016/early 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the "unmasking" narrative was "all created by Devin Nunes."
Ellis' name was also heard in connection with the Ukraine scandal. Trump's first of two impeachments stemmed from a July 25, 2019 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who Trump tried to pressure into helping him dig up dirt on now-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. And Ellis was the White House lawyer who ordered NSC officials to move the transcript of that conversation to a classified server.
Biden was the Democratic presidential hopeful Trump feared the most in 2019, and it isn't hard to understand why he dreaded the possibility of Biden receiving his party's nomination. Biden, in November 2020, defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote.
Trump was hardly the first politician to pursue opposition research on a political rival, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — when she called for Trump's impeachment in 2019 — stressed that it was wildly inappropriate for Trump to make that request from a foreign leader. And to make matters worse, Pelosi said, Trump made that opposition research a prerequisite for military aid to Ukraine.
In March 2020, Politico's Kyle Griffin reported that Ellis had been named senior intelligence director on the NSA.
Benen wraps up his op-ed by making it clear that he is glad to see Ellis resigning from his NSA position.
"There are still plenty of Trump appointees who've 'burrowed' into career civil-service positions," Benen observes, "but as of now, they won't be in the NSA's general counsel's office."
A segment on CBS News' "60 Minutes" segment about the Oath Keepers, which aired on Sunday evening, has attracted considerable pushback on Twitter and elsewhere from viewers who criticized its reporting on the far-right militia group's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The exposé from "60 Minutes" correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi highlighted the Oath Keepers' role in organizing the Jan. 6 riot while also highlighting the apparent split between the largest chapter of the Oath Keepers and the group's founder, Stewart Rhodes, who launched the organization in March of 2009.
Within the segment, one Oath Keepers member in Arizona, Jim Arroyo, told Alfonsi that the group works closely with law enforcement, since many of the paramilitary organization members are former police officers or ex-military personnel. "Our guys are very experienced. We have active-duty law enforcement in our organization that are helping to train us. We can blend in with our law enforcement, and in fact, in a lot of cases, our training is much more advanced because of our military backgrounds." Arroyo declared during the segment.
According to FBI counterterrorism official Javed Ali, that claim made by Arroyo at least partly holds true: The Oath Keepers have a "large percentage" of members who "have tactical training and operational experience in either the military or law enforcement," he said. "That at least gives them a capability that a lot of other people in this far-right space don't have," Ali added.
Arroyo, the Arizona Oath Keepers leader, later in the interview attempted to distance himself from Rhodes, the founder of the group, who on Jan. 6 was spotted on the Capitol steps and was later found to have helped members of his militia group plot the siege.
"I want to congratulate Stewart Rhodes and his 10 militia buddies for winning first place in the ultimate dumbass contest, because that's what it was," Arroyo said. "That goes against everything we have ever taught, everything we believe in. It was pre-planned; it was pre-staged. Ten guys go and do something stupid, and suddenly we're the devil."
Many on Twitter perceived the segment as allowing Arroyo and other members of the Oath Keepers to divert blame and minimize their role in the events of Jan. 6.
"This is the same group being dismantled at the moment for their role in 1/6, but sure, give them a massive platform and free media. Real fricking brilliant," national security lawyer Bradley P. Moss, a partner at the law firm Mark S. Zaid, PC, wrote on Twitter. Former Yahoo News White House reporter Hunter Walker tweeted, "Not sure why the Oath Keepers are being given air time to downplay their role on 1/6."
Sophia Nelson, a contributing editor at the Grio, responded to the segment on Twitter writing, "Shame on CBS for giving this monster a platform and voice."
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