Donald Trump is a positive independent force in American politics.
Yes you read that right, I am sincerely proposing that a plutocratic, ID driven demagogue, whose campaign’s main tenet is catalyzed by antipathy for a minority, is having a positive effect on American political debate – how could this possibly be?
The answer is that Donald Trump communicates the gigantic problems around corporate lobbying and political donations in a way that is loud and impactful, here his crass nature and elitist background only make his damming criticisms sharper. Who’d have thought that Mr Corporate himself would be the one to stick it to corporate interests! When he points out how Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are puppets it really highlights said underlying problem, in a way that extends beyond his intended ad hominem. Just as Martin Shkreli communicates/embodies all the problems with big Pharma, Trump in his reactionary manner communicates all the problems with rampant corporate lobbying.
Why is corporate lobbying such a problem though and how is Trump addressing it? Corporate lobbying today in America is at such a gargantuan scale that American democracy is being undermined. According to Lee Drutman (author of ‘The Business of America is Lobbying”) for every $1 spent on lobbying by labour unions and public interest groups, large corporations and their associations spend $34 dollars. Corporate lobbying actually began (and continues) to exceed the combined house-senate budget in the 2000’s. Take the Koch Brothers alone; these billionaire brothers spend tens of millions influencing every facet of government. To illustrate Koch has 165 manufacturing facilities and incessantly lobbies against attempted regulation of toxic byproducts like dioxin, asbestos and formaldehyde. The fundraising network they spearhead has already shelled out $20 million to GOP Superpacs.
On the democratic side Hillary Clinton is already trying to court the wealthy Jewish donors who make up a part of Mearshimer’s controversial ‘Israel Lobby’. The New York Times currently have a very powerful interactive out that demonstrates that just 158 families (and their affiliated companies) have so far provided nearly half ($176 million) of all the campaign money for the candidates seeking to gain control of the oval office. Most of it comes through routes that the Supreme Court legalized five years ago when they overturned the McCain-Feingold restrictions (a bi-partisan act) on political spending in the Citizens United 2010 case. Bernie Sanders is bang on in saying that the First Amendment needs changing due to this. Personally I feel that there hasn’t been a deregulation as dangerous as this since Bill Clinton passed the ‘Commodities Modernization act’!
This isn’t a minority issue; a recent poll found 84% of Americans believed money had too much influence in American elections. Stan Greenberg found in research conducted for the Democratic strategist that this high-dollar fundraising is arguably the main factor (alongside globalisation another force Trump rallies against) that makes white working class voters (Trump’s main support base) cynical towards politics, and thus unwilling to participate in democratic process. Alarmingly it has been found that more than half the members of Congress who left the body after 2010 are in fact now lobbying or have lobbying related jobs, such indicating a worryingly deep nexus.
As Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out, Citigroup managed to use their extensive lobbying influence to get legislation modified; this modification made it so tax-funded bank bailouts of “swap entities” were easier to make, thus going against the Dodd Frank legislation put in place after the 2008 crash. An example like this makes the corporatocracy Teddy Roosevelt famously rallied against seem too close for comfort. Renowned economist Jeffery Sachs believes that corporatocracy has already fallen upon America, with excessive corporate lobbying being one of the key factors in its inchoation.
Just go to ‘OpenSecrets’ and look at their centre for responsive politics section to see the influence big money plays on American political process. Fairly recently they revealed that companies paid lobbyists $2.6 billion dollars while the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership was on the immediate political agenda. Even more importantly you should check out the Pulitzer Prize winning site publicintegrity.org to get even more insightful coverage on this topic.
In an 1825 letter to William Branch Giels Thomas Jefferson astutely warned of the dangers of corporate interests dominating government, and in doing so subverting the interests of the poor of society, thus choking the spirit of the American Revolution – all American citizens should heed that warning today, and campaign to get another version of the DISCLOSE act up and running.
On the democrat side we recently saw in the CNN debate that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate there willing to challenge the current political fundraising system. Sanders, despite being infinitely more likeable and intellectual than Donald, doesn’t have the same oratory skills as Trump. Trump hammers home this unlikely mutual message in a way Sanders can’t. Trump might be more unpopular, however people are more interested in hearing him perform. Trump gets massive coverage – Sanders not so much.
Trump recognizes that the system is flawed however unlike others he doesn’t want to reform this broken system, he wants to play against it (just as Ross Perot did in the early 90’s)! As we all have seen Donald Trump is a blundering nativist, who has almost no credible solutions to offer to the American public when facing its problems: nevertheless he still is highlighting this chip in America’s constitutional armour in a way that I, like many others from all over the political spectrum, hope will encourage debate and reform. He has already angered the Koch Brothers so much so that there doing everything in their power to exclude him, and I for one can not wait to see these two dynasties clash and harm each other as the campaign heats up. Trump has thus proven that he does have use beyond entertainingly filling the gap in the market for a conservative caricature left by Stephen Colbert moving onto the late show.
“The nameless millions are at the mercy of ruthless wealth gatherers, unscrupulous lawmakers, and corrupt politicians”- Emma Goldman.