Cor­po­ra­tions pay, peo­ple vote

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPINION - GREG FINGAS

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.

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