One cannot understand right-wing politics without realizing it is primarily a profit-making enterprise. And, like other profit-maximizing organizations, it does whatever is necessary to drive its own profits. Two near U.S. government debt defaults and a government shutdown were terrible policy, and bad politics even for the Right, but they were excellent revenue-drivers for the right-wing political business.
And, that is why they happened.
Violation of one's oath of office to the U.S. Constitution is deemed a lesser offense than interfering with profits of the right-wing business enterprise.
We regulate corporate speech, corporate activities, corporate products. If a CEO misleads investors, if a company pollutes a stream, if a corporation makes a defective toaster, the corporation -- and sometimes the individuals -- responsible can be fined and even jailed.
But, in politics, like religion, one can say and do nearly anything with impunity. Hence, it is an open invitation for hucksters. Right-wing politics, steeped as it is in conspiracy theories, is their natural home.
Here in rough outline is "the deal" over on the Right. The easiest way to make a lot of money comes from lying and cheating. But, instead of being criminally liable like Bernie Madoff for cheating people out of their investments, the right-wing politics business lies to them about something political where one can raise money but there is no punishment for the lies, fears and loathing used to grab that cash. Like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the late Jerry Falwell and other religious hucksters, the Right Wing pleads for money to prevent the political apocalypse they want people to fear, or to produce TV and/or radio ratings to support advertising revenue.
Or, and this is the other part of the deal, they receive money from wealthy donors such as the Koch Boys who do not mind making their huckster fellow-travelers wealthy through hidden donations as it amounts to a small fraction of their financial windfalls from achievement of their political goals that the right-wing business enterprise helps to win.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made what, for any person with a scintilla of integrity, should have been an embarrassing admission when he explained the government shutdown -- that cost taxpayers $25 billion -- as being demanded by the outside groups.
"I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly I just think they've lost all credibility," he told reporters.
"They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government. ... And the day before the government reopened, one of these groups said, 'Well, we never thought it would work.' Are you kidding me?"
Really?! That no one even bothered to ask Boehner how that squared with their oath of office demonstrates how the "business" of right-wing politics has become unexceptional. Think of it -- the right-wing politics business enterprise cost $25 billion in taxpayer money so they could generate revenues for themselves!! No one, except me, seems to be outraged. (I want my piece of that money back).
The need for increasing profits by the right-wing political groups even trumps their desire to govern. Interfere with their profits, even if it means to govern effectively from the Right, and right-wing political groups will punish you. Consider, e.g., the debt commission. Republicans wanted it, but when Obama also said he wanted it, the outside political groups could no longer raise money on it, and so it was no longer a policy preference.
Whether it is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, Ginny, taking in a cool $680,000, or former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) extracting $8 million as "severance" from the Tea Party, or Glenn Beck's gold buggery, or the radio talk show hosts dueling for the most inflammatory statements, or the NRA reversing itself on, e.g., background checks for fear of being outflanked by the Gun Owners of America, or former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) leaving the Senate for a $1 million annual salary at the Heritage Foundation, or Tea Party SuperPac leaders paying themselves large salaries and spending little on issues or candidates, or , most recently, the obscene fundraising over Benghazi, right-wing politics is primarily a big business driven by their own profits.
And, how can we ignore the three most ridiculous right-wing political profiteers, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin (TP/R-AK) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)?
For Trump the equation is simple: be sufficiently outrageous and in-your-face to the black president to merit frequent appearances on FOX, and thus access to its millions of viewers some of whom will then migrate to his own ridiculous program. When shouting down Rosie O'Donnell no longer provided him attention, Trump morphed from a thoughtful (he once proposed a wealth tax to close the budget deficit), occasional commenter on public affairs to a carnival barker (Letterman nailed him for railing against China on the one hand, and then showing the labels on the "Trump" ties sold at Macy's).
Sarah Palin requires little comment. A contract with Fox, an occasional unreality show, and SarahPAC that spends most of its money on, well, Sarah, the Queen of Quittoria provides the Right with perfectly delivered keynote speeches mixing red meat in with her word salad and remains "relevant" by posting on Facebook and tweeting.
But, no one milks right-wing politics for money better than Newt Gingrich.
Indeed the right-wing politics business provides a glimpse into what unregulated, free-market capitalism would look like. Political speech cannot be regulated. Hence, no matter what anyone says, no matter how misleading, no matter how injurious and, to a large degree, no matter how defamatory, there are no penalties.
Now, assume that all those same lack of rules were available to corporations. They could say anything they wished to investors and others about their prospects and not be liable for losses. They could lie to customers about their loans or include impenetrable small print allowing them to jack up interest rates at their whim, as was the case prior to Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB"). We know how that all turned out. They could build cars that were "unsafe at any speed."
Without regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, drug companies would sell drugs that do not work. In my field, cancer medicine, for example, companies would sell anti-cancer drugs claiming they had a certain potency, but in fact being weaker than necessary, and advertise their "remarkable" lack of side effects due, of course, to their being too weak to do anything against the tumor.
It is no accident that key far-right salesmen, such as Karl Rove, cut their teeth in the tobacco industry and heads of the "political consulting firms" like DCI that set up Republican-connected 527 front groups like the Swift Boat Vets came from tobacco companies as well.
Let us face it, if one can sell death, as cigarette industry is selling, one can sell anything... such as the Iraq War.
Finally, let us dispel the myth of false equivalence before it begins. Yes, progressive political organizations raise money, and use issues and statements (e.g., "legitimate rape") to prompt their followers to ante up money to fight the forces of darkness. But, no one -- at least that I know about -- in progressive political groups receives $8 million to disappear, progressive SuperPACs spend their most of their money on their mission rather than on their patrons and their families, none concoct political theories on behalf of their advertisers (e.g., Glenn Beck and gold inflation), and Democratic members of Congress do not bring the country to its knees to feather the financial nests of their activist supporters.
Understanding right-wing politics as a business itself also explains why compromise is nearly impossible. If they surrender a bogeyman, they relinquish an income-producing asset. And, to profit-maximizers, income-producing assets are even more important than votes.
Consider, for example, immigration. Following President Obama's resounding 2012 re-election victory, some on the Right decided to stop opposing immigration reform so they did not lose Hispanic voters by such enormous margins. Poor Marco Rubio (R-FL) and poor Jeb Bush (R-FL) thought that such political considerations would prevail. Rubio helped craft the Senate immigration bill, and Jeb immediately denounced his own book that had rejected, among other things, a path to citizenship.
On the Right, however, profits always trump people, and, in this case, they also trump votes. Faced with the loss of a revenue-producing bogeyman -- the brown-skinned, cantaloupe-calved, "illegal" immigrant -- the enterprise struck back. Senator Rubio dutifully denounced his own bill. Jeb backflipped briefly to the position he had taken in his book, and then did a double-twist to, for now at least, appreciating the undocumented workers' "love" of the United States.
And, that is why Republicans cannot embrace even their own policies when President Obama agrees. To agree with the president on a single issue would destroy their moneymaker.
News outlets, such as MSNBC, believe they are doing a service by exposing the lies and loathing of people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as if they were legitimate actors in politics. But, all they really do is feather the nests of the right-wing politics business enterprise by allowing them the pretense that they are in politics, and not in business.
Who, for example, has done more to burnish Karl Rove's diminished stature within the right-wing politics business machine than MSNBC's Chris Matthews who, every night, in a semi-frenzy, proclaims the 2016 presidential race "on" because Karl Rove attacked Hillary Clinton's concussion. All Rove did, if anything, was to protect even further the former Secretary of State from future right-wing idiocy.
There are several good strategies to combat the right-wing politics business enterprise. The first is largely to ignore it. The second is to point out what is really going on (making profits). The third is to ridicule it, as John Stewart and Stephen Colbert do. The fourth is to file defamation suits like Shirley Sherrod has done against the Andrew Breitbart estate.
Understanding the right wing as a business itself, taking advantage of the unregulated "market place of ideas," helps to grasp why they do what they do. Conveying how that has been, and will be, dangerous for the American people would reduce their effectiveness.
And, if the legions of right-wing donors understood that their money, given with the purest of motives, was being abused to support lavish lifestyles and incomes of the right-wing political business enterprise, perhaps they will not be so happy when they discover they have been duped.
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