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The Republican Party is Too Big and Failed

Businesses and governments are relying on a failed institution: the Republican Party.

It’s been reported that the corporations (including big law) that had sworn off donations to politicians who fed the attack on the government have gone back to donating. Why? Do they hate America? Wait, that should be one question: Why do they hate America? Corporations that give money to scoundrels, why do you hate America?

The truth is, the Republican party is too big and failed. Remember “Too Big to Fail?” During the last financial crisis? The idea was that certain banks and financial institutions couldn’t be allowed to go bust. If they did, it would blow up everything on the planet and everyone would be ska-rewed.

Same song, different verse: the wealth centers pay politicians to draft and to block laws they believe will help or hinder their wealth. The ambitions of a minority of Republican politicians to turn the country into a dictatorship can’t change the basic math of corporate accountants: buying politicians (via campaign contributions) is cheaper than paying more in taxes or regulation. Buying new lines of business by legislative capture is cheaper than competing for it in the market. (Here cheaper refers to the limited-scope costs of particular firms, not to the costs and benefits of society. It’s a blinders-on measure used by businesses to avoid the obvious: being assholes is almost always the wrong move.)

Their calculations do not include the cost of American democracy folding. Most of them do plenty of business in dictatorships around the world, and they’re comfortable working within those circles, despite the fact that they’ve only been able operate in those countries because they could rely on the United States to keep the international order stable enough.

The attack on the government in January had the makings of a wake-up call for corporations, for mainstream Republicans, and for the media. But the Siren’s song of business-as-usual overpowered the alarm noise. They’ve quickly reverted to fighting good governance in favor of their own bottom lines.

The media, of course, made similar analyses for different reasons. They typically want to focus on the party in power, they benefit from pitting politicians against one another, and they have advertisers with business interests of exactly the kind that require donations to Republicans. The media tends to serve advertisers first, if only because they need the revenue.

I recently wrote about the media being the real opponent for Democrats in 2022 ( 20 November 2021: “The Democrats Face the Media in the 2022 Midterms”), and that’s in-line with the mainstream media being something more of a printing press for the powerful than anything resembling a fourth estate. Same as it ever was, but it still feels like between the pandemic and the Capitol attack, more soul-searching would have happened.

And I’ve also written in the past months about the idea of a BNP—Brand New Party ( 6 February 2021: “How Moderate Conservatives Can Ditch the GOP”), including the need for it and how it could work. There was also a piece about how it will require a sympathetic media to help it get the word out ( 2 October 2021: “The Need for Good Right-Wing Media”). The too-bigness is part of the reason. That once you’ve built up a certain market for policy-wielders, you can’t retire the old one without having a new one to replace it. And all the logistics that entails.

Think about it: it’s not just the politicians, but the campaign businesses, the pollsters, the media, the lobbyists, the law firms, the carbon fuel industry, all tied together because they have interests to pursue. There are also state Republicans and local Republicans who have depended on the brand, and in at least some cases are closer to what Republicans used to be. They aren’t as many as we’d like, they don’t like the baggage their party has to carry, but they can’t all go independent and be without a mascot.

Even outside of the politics, there is business development, there’s networking, caterers, event spaces, all sorts of businesses that need some kind of second party to function. To use the Republican trope, the party has provided them welfare, and they are now dependent on it for survival or at least to thrive.

For platform reasons, the Democrats cannot take up the mantle of pro-pollution, of anti-taxation, and so on. Their own voters would revolt. While blocs of Democrats do champion tax cuts for the wealthy, rent-protection for Pharma, and so on, the overall caucus believes in good governance. They aren’t about to turn into a bunch of hucksters to appease the Koch brats.

And neither should a BNP, but it would provide enough of a counterpoint, a difference, an alternative to the Democrats. On many issues, they should represent a compromise position that the current Republican party cannot. On a select number, they should represent the same as the Democrats: the same as the American people minus the ridiculous Republicans. Those issues, the BNP abandon an untenable position and only seeks to improve on the Democrats’ policy. But they would also offer stability, agreeing with Democrats on the basic structure of government, agreeing to free and fair elections, campaign reforms.

And more importantly, it could provide a safe sink for at least some of these big businesses to show their investors they aren’t ceding the precious profits to Democrats, aren’t leaving the gates of their wealth unguarded. Where the Republicans simply seek to obstruct, the BNP could actually negotiate better bills that would still fulfill some of what the donors want while delivering a better government.

The Republican party is a failed party, but they will remain and will not reform until there is real pressure to do so. The businesses that rely on them won’t do the right thing here. It’s not who they are as businesses. The need for a BNP remains clearer than ever.

The Political Clock’s a-Tickin’

If the Democrats sought to build a national clock, how would the bill develop?

Note that this is satire.

The Democrats in Congress introduced legislation to build a clock. The Republicans immediately proclaimed their opposition to the clock, to clocks in general, and to the lascivious notion that time exists.

The Democrats, while working on their bill, decided the clock should beep loudly every five minutes, all hours of the day. And also at random intervals during the last week of every month. They say this would promote awareness of the fleeting nature of existence. The people didn’t like the idea, but they do want a clock.

The media initially covered how everyone agrees America needs a new clock. The polls showed people would like to know what time it is. The beeping issue didn’t get much coverage, but something else did.

The Republican media and the more extreme Republican House members started a campaign against Roman numerals. “The Pope’s in Rome, but this clock is going to be in America,” they pointed out, seeming proud to know where the Pope was headquartered. “American clocks should have American numbers!” their rallying cry went. The Democrats retreated to regular numbers, but when a caller on C-SPAN mentioned they preferred Arabic numerals anyway, the whole issue blew up again.

The media taught the controversy around the numbers on the clock. Some experts raised the question of whether analog clocks are the best way to tell time. Digital clocks were considered, but abandoned when they realized in case of a power outage or malfunction the clock would be down. “Analog is more classy, anyway, and if something goes wrong, at least it will say a time, if not the time,” the House majority leader said.

The Democrats added to their proposal that only clean energy may be used to wind it, and that the materials used in its construction must be conflict-free. The business lobby and carbon fuel lobby bristled against these new provisions. The business media and US Chamber of Commerce condemned them as a tax. They said that hardworking Americans would be late for work and would miss their daughters’ alphabet-burping recitals if the clock couldn’t be wound using carbon fuel energy. They added that the conflict-free provision would cost too much and that China would use it to corner a large part of the market, making America less competitive.

The Republicans all cheered on these calls for paring back the bill, while progressive activists clamored for stronger labor provisions. A prominent West Virginia Senator weighed in, saying he thought the clock should be wound using coal, but he was in favor of the beeping. “ ‘The people of West Virginia love a good beep. Really tingles in the ear, if you know what I mean,’ the gentleman said Thursday,” a major publication reported.

There was an op-ed by a science think-tank calling for it to be an atomic clock, which caused immediate alarm and confusion online. Half the people seemed to think it was a call for the clock to be powered by nuclear fission, and most of them didn’t like that. The other half argued about whether the clock needs to be that accurate, or whether it could be set using atomic time without being an atomic clock, per se.

A second op-ed, this one by an evangelical-type, revived the hour label issue. “Roman numerals are for Super Bowls only,” she wrote. “America’s clock should feature the English names of the hours, not some fuddy foreign symbols.”

The word-based clock mockups got passed around online, with people commenting how the words were too small or the clock face too big. There were arguments about handling the words at three and nine, lest people have to turn their heads too much to read them. Others suggested the clock itself turn to show the hour, while the minute hand moves independently. But the conservatives said this would entice Americans to idleness, creating a welfare state. “Americans can turn their heads. Look at that Regan MacNeil—turned her head with the real vigor of American exceptionalism. The younger generation is grown soft,” one conservative pundit said.

Mainstream commentators did not know what to make of the fact that Regan MacNeil was the fictitious girl possessed by the enemy in The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty, 1971). But conservatives rally to the idea, posting videos of themselves trying to twist their own heads farther and farther around. Republican media explodes with advertisements for natural extracts to help turn your head like a real American should, including one made from owl feces.

A counter-proposal for the hour labels briefly gained traction, with right-wing radio fawning at the idea that every hour to be named for a president. Noon would be Ronald Reagan, six would be Lincoln, and so on. Once it was pointed out that the clock also represents night hours, the proposal fizzled. “We can’t have Ronnie be associated with midnight—the witching hour!” said one southern Republican senator, nearly fainting and fanning himself with a hankie.

At the eleventh hour, the Democrats added a new rider to the bill, which would empower the president to declare any hour a celebration or memorial of a cause. The Republicans immediately sought to amend to allow sponsorship by corporations and religious groups instead. More, they want a declaration that the clock not be used for menstrual-related math or contraception calculations. When Democrats point out using a clock as a calendar would be stupid, one Republican countered that time is time, and a clock’s just a short-term calendar.

Not satisfied, the Republicans pushed for another change: that the clock not be used to wake people from slumber. “We got this new problem called woke and it’s weakening our nation,” a former sitcom star tweeted. “If people can wake up other than from their butler bringing them breakfast, who knows where that leads.”

The Democrats went on to pass the bill, which included several other provisions:

  • a prescription-drug plan that has the federal government pick up the cost of the bottle labels (paid for by a tax on pool noodles)
  • a copyright provision that extends any outstanding copyright by one year for every dollar paid to a political campaign
  • a requirement that all state official paperwork begin dotting their lowercase Is with hearts or smiley faces, or optionally hearts with smiley faces inside

The clock will be built over the next ten years, assuming funding is added every year until then. Once completed, the clock will initially operate on weekdays between noon and six pm. After the first year, service will expand to weekends and other hours of the day, budget allowing.

Political and Media Gravitation

America gets chopped up by politicians and media.

This post is not based on data. It might could be, but it would have taken much longer to write, and it wouldn’t be more salient if it were. It’s true regardless of if the facts are a little bit off. This disclaimer is mainly to avoid taking anything here as data and rather focus on the concept.

Let’s start with a picture of how I see the political landscape. Again, it’s probably a bit different than this in reality, and there are some data that could clarify the picture somewhat, but the fact is that there’s no source for the actual picture. We live in Plato’s Cave, only ever seeing some shadow of what the actual body looks like.

A curve starts at lower left, rises to a hump, keeps rising to a second, and falls down to lower right. The curve colorized to match a conservative-to-liberal, red-to-blue scheme. Most people and voters would fall toward the middle.

In the first picture, we see a kind of funky bell-curve. As with this type of chart, the vertical axis shows how many people fall at each spot along the horizontal axis. The horizontal axis shows the conservative–liberal position. Most people still fall somewhere in the middle, but there’s a bit of lumpiness to the bell. Where does that lumpiness come from? Shouldn’t parties be shifting their policies and practices to smooth things out? Cue another picture.

Same as previous image, with additions: a three-hump curve representing the media. First, middle-sized hump for conservative media, second big hump for mainstream media, and third hump, the smallest, for liberal media.

Same picture, but with a second curve (in green) showing the media spread and three singularities of the media. This is a simplification, as is the conservative–liberal axis itself, but it helps to understand all the same. The media does have an influence on the electorate, for the same reason that most people are members or at least sympathetic to the religion they were raised in.

If you feel comfortable with your media, you are being fed particular types of stories about heavy subjects like economy, crime, immigration. If you haven’t looked around the internet, it’s a big fucking place. It’s a big old world. There’s too much data for anyone to really comprehend. Whatever selection of stories you read, hear about, it’s a tiny sample. You’re missing a lot of stuff, some of which is more important than what you’re seeing.

The media companies know this. They couldn’t give you all the stories you should see, but they can give you packages of slick content meant to do one of a few things, like sell you stuff or push politicians one way or another. The conservative media is all-in on that mission, where most other media sources feel at least some allegiance to reality even while they’ll gladly push views and products.

But that’s not the whole story, so let’s look at a third picture.

Same as first image, with additions: a shrunken version of the original curve, with three wedges filling in the space beneath the curve. The first, conservative wedge fans out to the left and falls left on its right side. The second, a liberal wedge, fans outward on both sides, covering the middle. The third, also a liberal wedge, cuts in on both sides, covering the more liberal politicians.

This picture shows how the political process ends up carving up that first bell-curve into actual votes and seats, without trying to break it down into House versus Senate versus state-legislatures.

The conservative politicians have to run to their side quite a bit, and the liberal ones either run to the middle or to their end, but not so far toward their end in most cases. The picture also shows a smaller curve, which accounts for a few things:

  • Apathy
  • Elector suppression
  • Uncontested races

The latter, uncontested races, are caused by at least two factors. One is gerrymandering, where seats are made toxic to either party. In most cases, gerrymandering cuts against both parties, because they pack opponent voters into as few districts as possible and spread their own into as many as they can safely win. The second factor is the anti-primary attitude of both parties. This causes districts that aren’t contestable to not even have the choice to replace the feudal lord of the district.

At the bottom of the third image, we see a broad but side-skewed conservative bloc of seats, a mainstream-liberal bloc, and a thinner more liberal bloc. If I were better at image creation, the upper part would show some crossover in how that curve translates into seats. It’s not a full-on funneling, but it’s not as wrong as it might seem either.

There are other pressures that create the curve, that maintain it. Single-issue electors, racism, wealth and inequality, family origin (e.g., Americans from families with history in Cuba tend to favor Republicans because they believe it will result in time-machine-assassination of Fidel Castro).

But the result is something like what I drew.

As I’ve written about the idea of a Brand New Party, I’ve suggested there’s opportunity not to simply endorse Democrats. That gap at the bottom of the third image between conservatives and liberals is what I mean. A center-conservative party can exploit that gap. They can fit in there. There are voters above that gap that tend to be too conservative for Democrats, and there are Democrats in those districts who would gladly vote for the less conservative given a Democrat can’t win.