Just in case you were wondering … yes, both of our parties are bought and paid for by the same people:
For some wealthy donors, it doesn’t matter who takes the White House in 2016—as long as the president’s name is Clinton or Bush.
More than 60 ultra-rich Americans have contributed to both Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s federal campaigns, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by Vocativ and The Daily Beast. Seventeen of those contributors have gone one step further and opened their wallets to fund both Bush’s and Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.
After all, why support just Hillary Clinton or just Jeb Bush when you can hedge your bets and donate to both? This seems to be the thinking of a group of powerful men and women—racetrack owners, bankers, media barons, chicken magnates, hedge funders (and their spouses). Some of them have net worths that can eclipse the GDPs of small countries.
The amounts we’re talking about are small by rich people standards — a few thousand dollars. But the principle is crystal clear: they want “in” no matter who wins.
This is something a lot of people — particularly those of a lefty persuasion — fail to understand. For the monied interests who control the political process, elections aren’t about philosophy or politics or policy. They’re not about abortion or the deficit or healthcare or war. They’re about pull. They’re about influence. The big donors don’t care who is elected as long as they have their ear. Sometimes it’s not even just about influence; often it’s about keeping the government from screwing you over after the election (this is how companies that wanted to stay out of politics — like eBay and Microsoft and Apple — ended up dragged into it). Think about what will happen to these guys if Clinton wins and they haven’t given her money.
Want to stop this? Stop making our government so powerful. Stop making it so that donations to Presidential campaigns can buy ten figure returns. Or prevent ten figure losses. Until that changes, the rich will continue to find ways to buy politicians of every stripe.
(Ironically, two of the few rich politicos who actually care about policy are the Koch Brothers, who mostly support Republicans but have also thrown their support behind gay marriage, criminal justice reform, social justice causes and personal liberty. But the irrational hatred of the Koch’s is so intense that labor unions stopped donating to the United Negro College Fund because the Koch’s gave the UNCF a ton of money.)
There’s something else though; something that’s been bubbling away in my mind for a while. Right now, Donald Trump is the front-runner among Republicans. There are many, like me, who dismissed him as the flavor of the month — a temporary enthusiasm for whatever is new on the menu. But I don’t think that’s it. There are many Democrats who claim that Trump’s popularity is because the Republicans are a bunch of evil racists and Trump is an evil racist and therefore that’s why he’s popular. I don’t think that’s it either. Peter Suderman, among others, made the argument that Trump is appealing to people precisely because he’s uninterested in policy and is acting like a YouTube comments section. That might be part of it, but I don’t think that’s the main reason for Trump’s popularity.
No, this is the reason Donald Trump is surging at the polls. Because many people … Republicans, Democrats or independents … feel like the system is rigged. Especially with a Clinton-Bush showdown looming, they feel like the system is run by monied insiders deciding which particular group of oligarchs is going to rule.
Think about what happened in the financial crisis. Millions of people saw their savings vanish. Millions lost their homes. Millions lost their jobs. But the fat cats on Wall Street? They got a bailout. They got to walk away with their seven figure golden parachutes and zero criminal charges. And that all happened under one of the most liberal Administrations in history. And the two politicians who did the most to ensure we had a financial apocalypse? They wrote the financial reform bill. Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were neck deep in the financial industry so naturally Obama picked them to fix it.
People feel the game is rigged. They feel like Washington isn’t listening to them. And they perceive — rightly or wrongly — that Trump is not for sale because he’s funding his own campaign. They perceive — rightly or wrong — that he’s going to change things and shake up Washington.
A couple of weeks ago, I thought Trump’s McCain gaffe would finish him. I was wrong. Angering the establishment wing of the GOP like that just made him more popular because it played into the idea that Trump doesn’t give a shit what the crusty moneybags think.
I like the sentiment. But much like the Ron Paul campaigns of previous Presidential seasons, I just think it’s being poured into the wrong vessel. I don’t think a President Trump would shake things up. He’s an insider too. And a number of his ideas are either unconstitutional or dangerous. I don’t think he’s serious about changing Washington.
But then again, I don’t think any of them are. And maybe it will take a Trump — like it once took a Perot — to scare out politicians into doing their damned jobs.