Corporations pay, people vote
Over the past two years, a Republican party with control of the U.S. House, Senate and White House didn’t do much of anything through the legislative process — with one crucial exception.
While ideological goals weren’t enough to bring Republicans in line on any substantial legislation, the perceived need to serve deep-pocketed donors did the trick. And so the most significant legislative development from one-party rule in the U.S. was a tax cut bill aimed at getting the wealthiest Americans to open their wallets in order to fund Republicans’ re-election campaigns.
This week, we saw the results of that effort. And they offer an important warning to any party that might be tempted to ignore the public in order to appease wealthy supporters and corporate interests.
While they managed to attract the intended influx of seven- and eight-figure donations, the Republicans also branded themselves as a party with little interest in the concerns of anybody outside the bigmoney donor class. Ultimately, a blizzard of ads funded through the sale of public policy couldn’t make up for that perception — resulting in the Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives by a significant margin.
And that represented only the largestscale example of corporatist politics meeting with severe public resistance even in a political system swamped by dark money.
In Kansas, Republican legislators had already started to work on reversing their disastrous experiment in trickle-down economics. But voters nonetheless elected a Democratic governor to avoid any move back toward austerity and inequality.
In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s tenure as governor met a long-overdue end — in no small part because his attempt to tie the state’s economy to electronics manufacturer Foxconn resulted in the loss of billions of public dollars without actually providing anywhere near the promised economic results.
And in Michigan, the Republicans lost a hotly-contested race for governor in the face of a Democratic campaign built around the simple message of fixing broken corporate rule.
Other U.S. races produced a mixed bag of results, particularly where state-level demographics allowed racial resentment to carry the day. But even in the face of unlimited third-party spending, American voters took their opportunity to vote out the most glaring examples of public authority being used to benefit corporate interests.
Greg Fingas is a Regina lawyer, blogger and freelance political commentator who has written about provincial and national issues from a progressive NDP perspective since 2005.