Columbus, OH – Another week, another plutocrat steps into the spotlight in the vainglorious pursuit of possessing their very own American politician. This time it was Joe Ricketts (what a perfect name for a billionaire infecting our political system with his financial clout. I can’t wait until Jane Hantavirus steps out of the shadows), founder of brokerage house TD Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs.
Last Tuesday, Ricketts upended a Nebraska Republican Senate Primary with a late infusion of $250,000the week before for campaign ads on behalf of underdog Deb Fischer (double what she spent herself the entire campaign), chairwoman of the Nebraska state senate. It was essential in helping her win a stunning come-from-behind victory over the much more heavily favoured dynamic duo of State Treasurer Don Stenberg and Attorney General Jon Bruning (the latter attacked by one of these ads), who had been beating each other up via their own campaigns and Super Pac supporters for the better part of a year. As recently as a week ago, however, Bruning still looked to have the race locked down, until Ricketts swooped in, Spiderman-style, with the financial resources of OsCorp Industries.
Also recently, The New York Times obtained a secret 54-page, bound campaign plan put together by Republican consultants for “The Ending Spending Action Fund Super PAC”, to be bankrolled by Ricketts. In it, they discuss bringing back an old favourite on the Right, President Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, for a massive advertising campaign that he and his consultant friends hope will somehow make Americans look at Jeremiah Wright, and then at Obama, and say, “wait a minute, they’re black!”
That, my friends, is the current state of democracy in America. In post-Citizens-United politics in the United States (thanks Justice Roberts!), we might as well just hold square dances or speed dating sessions where politicians and consultants can meet their yacht-slipper wearing, significant other, so we can just dispense with outdated concepts like centralised political parties and “Establishments” once and for all.
Conservatives killed tradition
As Charlie Pierce, the clever political scribe at Esquire Magazine put it, “there are dozens of Joe Ricketts out there, waiting for their main chance. Do you think any of them care what [Republican National Committee Chairman] Reince Priebus thinks of them?” Certainly, short of telling him he’d have to officiate a gay marriage, nobody could get Rick Santorum (and his money man Foster Friess) out of the presidential race long past the time it was clear that he had the same shot at being the nominee as R Kelly.
Ironically, conservatives have killed tradition in our politics, which used to dictate these affairs to a large degree so there was at least a modicum of decorum, in favour of a new-money elite with a chip on its shoulder, a lack of feeling any obligation to country and a penchant for unending hypocrisy. Much like Ricketts hates government spending – except when it’s the government giving him big checksto build a new stadium for his team – this week former Red Sox pitcher and Tea Party supporter Curt Schilling was shown for the fraud that he is.
Multimillionaire Schilling, dubbed “America’s Newest Welfare Queen” by Sam Smith of Scholars & Rogues, thinks people’s only interaction with government should be to run away from it. Except when Schilling runs his online video company the same way he runs his mouth – with a lot of bravado and little to back it up. Then he suddenly runs straight to the hated government to beg for a bailout provided by Obama’s Communist stimulus money.
Perhaps, it’s also why Eduardo Severin feels no compunction about leaving the country that provided the infrastructure, technology and university education that allowed him to obtain his billion dollar fortune, to declare residency in Singapore, and save on capital gains taxes. Why, he is a self made man, you know, if you don’t count our legal system’s bailing him out when his Facebook friends took his money and ran. Hmm, who funds the courts in this country, anyhow? A bit surprising then, that for this economic treason, he has been hailed as a hero by some conservatives.
Chris Hayes, host of Up w/ Chris Hayes on MSNBC and author of Twilight Of The Elites: America After Meritocracy, put it to me this way, “One of the most pernicious pathologies that our current meritocracy produces is a caste of plutocrats with tremendous power who are convinced they are persecuted underdogs. When you perceive yourself as embattled prey, you cut moral corners.”
Yup, you could say that. You could also say that these are the guys who for the foreseeable future will play an enormous role in the running of our democracy.
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC, handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.
Follow him on Twitter: @CliffSchecter