The law of unintended consequences has blindsided the Republican Party. There was glee among the super wealthy kingmakers when the Supreme Court ruled that limitless funds could be spent by plutocrats to elect pet politicians to do their bidding. The rationale of the Citizens United case was that any curb on electoral spending by corporations, shadowy front groups and other non-human entities would be an unconstitutional abridgement of the right to free speech.
Clearly this is absurd. Humans speak, have opinions, choose candidates and seek to influence their behavior. Things have no ability to think, reason, speak, debate, or desire political outcomes. They are merely the instruments of the people who created and control them. But the die is cast and we are all living in a new world.
Events since Citizens United, however, allow for a modest soupcon of schadenfreude. The dark lords of the right got carte blanche to buy elections, but it hasn’t exactly worked out as they hoped. Mitt Romney, one of their own, got beaten up by several competing candidates who were the chosen mouthpieces of wealthy donors and interest groups.
A casino magnate bought Newt Gingrich to represent gaming interests and the state of Israel. Social and religious conservatives kept culture warrior Rick Santorum in the race, which helped make the GOP look like the foe of liberated women, gays, those seeking the right to choose of to use birth control and avoid a return to the Dark Ages. This influx of unregulated money funded attack ads month after month, so Romney was damaged goods by the time he was nominated.
This time around the party, after munch soul searching, promised not to say publicly how it felt about women, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays., working class men and women and the poor. The Koch brothers corralled like-minded large donors to unite behind economic conservatives and soft pedal the illiberal religious and cultural tangents that proved toxic in 2012. This cabal vowed to amass a billion dollars, more than either party, to destroy Democratic hopes, buy a candidate, and dictate a wealth-friendly agenda.
In pursuit of Mr. or Ms. Right, they set up job interviews to find candidates qualified serve to serve as their personal president — someone loyal to them and eager to use the federal government crush unions, dial back regulations and environmental protections, cut taxes on their wealthy masters and eliminate services for the undeserving poor. The short list included Jeb Bush, another of their own, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker who had already been put on the payroll as Wisconsin Governor where he was doing a beta test for the Robber Baron States of America.
The plutocrats even began to feign humanity by coming out in favor of prison reform and deploring a few other extreme positions. But a funny thing happened on the way to the hostile takeover. Religious culture warriors like Ted Cruz, Santorum, and Huckabee have found their own sources of funding and have refused to pipe down. They continue to make extreme statements regarding women, minority and gay rights, and to advocate a foreign policy heavy on Armageddon and the Apocalypse, positions likely to strike many voters as evidence that their wing of the party has come unmoored.
Worst of all, fellow billionaire Donald Trump, with no need for funding and therefore not prepared to dance to their tune, has rocketed to the top of the polls. The big money planned to bury the Democratic candidate in negative ads while an inoffensive tool coasted to victory. Instead a populist freelancer is throwing red meat to grassroots, tea party Republicans, a part of the electorate whose desires may not align with those of billionaires and Wall Street.
Instead of Republicans looking benign, Trump is making the party look more misogynist, nativist and bigoted than ever. Blacks, Hispanics, women and Evangelicals can forget about seeking a champion in his direction. At the same time, Trump can sound like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders when he admits that big donors like he and the Kochs expect a payoff in return for their backing. Of course, the game is rigged. To hear Trump tell it, Citizens United is just the latest enabler of crony capitalism. His only distinction is that he’s too rich to be bought.
It’s a nightmare. It’s worse than Roosevelt. He’s a traitor to his class. He’s even claimed Fox News, the Republican fount of all wisdom, is not fair and balanced but is complicit in trying to rig the electoral process against him, and in favor of toadies who answer to people like its owner – Rupert Murdock.
Just when the super-rich thought they were on the brink of rigging the game to favor them in perpetuity, the Court Jester starts blowing their cover and can’t be bought off. He can buy all the free speech he wants. Even for billionaires, life can be so unfair.