You’ve heard, no doubt, that with Herman Cain’s sudden rise in the GOP presidential heap in Florida this past weekend, GOP billionaires are in a near panic as to who they can give their money to. Chris Christie’s phone is ringing off the wall. Bill Kristol, who pushed McCain in both 2004 and 2008, is near tears Christie won’t get in.
In 1980 they weren’t the least bit comfortable with Ronald Reagan either, and couldn’t wait until he left office. Oh, Reagan did a couple of good things, end the Cold War, cut taxes for the working rich, but after he left office, he left behind a long list of new notions they had to pretend to admire.
And he messed up the neighborhood, for Reagan had lured conservatives, including Christians, into a more active role in the Party. Invited in just to cast a vote or two from time to time, conservatives moved in with luggage, intending to stay.
And many of the planks they nailed into the Republican Party platform are still there. And what’s most galling is when they don’t show up to vote, GOP candidates lose. (1992, 1996, 2008)
Worst, by the time he left office in 1988 the name Ronald Reagan was mentioned in heroic and even reverential tones all over America, making the GOP establishment and their billionaires bristle even more.
The Billionaires’ First Fears
The First Fear of GOP Billionaires: That their money can’t buy an election. Even a primary.
Corollary to their First Fear: Sometime these things just happen. Sometimes the citizens wake up, look around and see things getting out of hand, and go at least a few steps forward to walk back where unchecked power has taken the country. They did that in 1980 with Ronald Reagan when the billionaire class was clueless as to what to do about Carter.
What the rich have forgotten is this was always part of the original Founder’s formula; that a vigilant and concerned citizenry would be more than able to offset the wealthy class’ ability to manage, if not outright buy, elections….even by 1787 mercantile standards. In America you can make all the money you want, but you cannot buy anything you want with it.
It is much that way today, for this is another time money can’t help a certain kind of candidate. If Barack Obama raised a brazilian more dollars I doubt it would help his election chances very much, for no marketing device, at any price, could bring the majority of the America people back to his way of seeing things.
In this climate, billionaire GOP donors find it terribly discomforting to once again see the rise of an entire class of voter their money can’t buy.
This is why, if conservatism can win this time, it has to finish what Reagan left unfinished...for as George H W Bush might have said, Reagan fell a little short on the “legacy thing.” After eight years of significant accomplishments, he handed his legacy over to a moderate, who, while as nice a man as you’d ever want to know, stopped conservatism as a governing process in its tracks.
It’s been all down-hill since. With one slip of the tongue Bush I handed the country over to a leftward lurch that really, on the domestic front, has never really stopped. Not since Ronald Reagan has a man sat in the Oval Office who’s seen the American Left for what it really is…until the man who sits there now.
Billionaires don’t care about what citizens care about
Billionaires don’t really care about Obama’s leftward lurch in the same way ordinary citizens do. And why they don’t care is instructive.
Most wealthy men, of all stripes, fear most the loss of their station (in the club). And the idle rich fear losing the corpus of their wealth. And yes, they’d leave this country in a heartbeat…hanging in the lurch, if need be…in order to preserve those two things. There is nothing, including our freedom, they won’t sacrifice in order to protect those two things.
They are not all this way.
Billionaire and millionaires come by their wealth in three general ways; 1) they work for it (your local HVAC distributor, Rush Limbaugh or professional athletes), or 2) they grow their business so well they can take it public, then live off the dividends from the wealth, working at whatever they choose (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet) or 3) they inherit/marry it (the Rockefellers, John Kerry).
Everyone but those poor millionaire schlubs fixing your central air system, or talking on the radio, get to enter a club of sorts. By invitation only, only for people whose money works for them exclusively. Even by the 1950s-1960s, the “country club Republicans” were, for the most part, the scions of inherited wealth. Their grandfathers made all the money, and gobs of it. Very few ever built anything from anything. The only jobs they created were the people hired to keep their money one step ahead of the tax man.
Most of them live sumptuously off income that is not earned, but rather from dividends (Warren Buffet) They pay taxes at a 15% rate and their only interest in politics is in protecting the net value of their fortunes, which Obama has damaged. The Republican Koch Brothers could put all their wealth (app $50B) into bank CD’s and live comfortably on $550M a year!, before taxes, without ever touching the principal.
To them, that’s all politics is about.
With a few exceptions, about things conservative, or American exceptionalism, things which are of great importance to ordinary citizens, most could carry on a bright conversation with only the likes of Gov Bev Perdue, and almost no one in the tea parties. Managing wealth and the instruments of wealth is the only morality to the idle rich. They can do without the things most important to the common man; morality, or even democracy, for they can always move somewhere else.
They are generally only about things financial, rights and liberty are not among these. What they do know about government is that it is an impediment, but also an immovable object. And, since government got in the business of picking winners and losers many years ago, they feel a duty to help pick leaders who will favor them in this tug-of-war.
This is their politics.
The idea that they should all collectively gang up to fight the government on the premise that the game itself is fixed is foreign to them. They do not understands the conservative or the common man, not do they want to. I’ve yet to find Dickens on any rich man’s bookshelf. Not even the liberal’s.
The Other Rich
On the other hand, the working rich, who usually fall at the lower end of the millionaire class, pay income taxes at the maximum 35% rate (before deductions) instead of the 15% dividend rate. They are responsible for almost all the job creation in America. This includes corporations. They are much more important to us than the 15% bracket idle rich.
These millionaires have an entirely different outlook about America, the Constitution, and the common man. Having risen from common stock (vs preferred stock), while still not especially versed in the fine print of the Constitutional plan, they understand the basic handshake that exists between the entrepreneur and the working class from which they arose.
They will never be part of the “club.”
Enter the Entrepreneurial Left
At one time the rich were almost all Republican, both idle and working. Most were also conservative by the conventional standards of the working rich, with differences based on the region of the country they were from. At one time to be a “Yankee” was to be of the most strident form of social and political conservative.
But since the Clinton administration, some say going back to LBJ, there has arisen an entrepreneurial class on the Left, who build and invest just like a real entrepreneur, only based on political offerings and connections from within the government. The Green Energy Programs, and Solyndra are but the most recent manifestations. Before that has been Al Gore’s Carbon frauds, and a host of environmental business opportunities that arose since EPA was formed in 1971. Much like the military-industrial complex of the Cold War (which Ike warned us about) the government has the ability to create its own millionaire-billionaire class who are very grateful.
Many of those too are members of the club, and while dedicated leftists, they too have stakes in their memberships in the club that transcend politics. The famous Colorado Project was funded out of wealth created by left-wing government private sector programs.
These are GOP billionaires’ chief competitors.
From all that I have just written, you can see why the idle, “club” class of rich really care only about one thing…their own inside games for being able to get satisfactory protection from the government in protecting their fortunes, much of which is dependent on the general health of the stock market, the dollar, the banks, all of which the current administration has declared “selective” war upon.
What they want most from a Republican candidate, i.e, John McCain, is someone who can protect their station and assets. This they will invest in.
Now, as we have been saying for years, there are hundreds of different ways to fight the Left, but these wealthy inheritors of some ancestors’ sweat are not interested in investing their money in pursuing these goals, in part, because, when viewed through the prism of the club, they believe they will have their day again, someday. This is called a political “hedged bet.” I call it a crap shoot, for one way or another, those days are about to end.
But club members also have an instinctive reflex against admitting into their councils the common man. This was why they disliked Ronald Reagan, even as he was the least populist-talking politician we’ve seen in our lifetime.
So, in the end you can see why they now fear men like Cain, Perry or Santorum, or a woman like Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin. It’s not that these conservatives can’t offer them the protection they seek, of course they can, but they don’t: 1) won’t still be the conduit through which all political power passes in the GOP, and 2) all those, well, unwashed people conservatives keep inviting to dinner…and then asking them to sleep over.
In the end, as they did in 1996, and again in 2008, they’ll take their chances with the status quo ante, and just keep plugging along as if there will always be a tomorrow when their candidate will get plucked by the voters, putting them in charge again.
Only the People, it seems, and this is constitutionally ordained, can see why this formula can no longer work. That’s the whole of it. If GOP billionaires continue to mamby-pamby around, waiting for the next good looking John McCain, they will find themselves really plucked.