Rural voters blame the wrong people, but their troubles are real.
Rural voters blame the wrong people, but their troubles are real.
A Media Ceiling Is About To Fall In on Democrats
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 22:48
A cadre of moderate Democrats and Republicans are joining together to revamp a political action committee to fight against progressive primary challengers to establishment Democrats.
With President Joe Biden’s former campaign manager as the PAC’s only consultant and a defense contractor executive as its treasurer, the Moderate PAC — not to be confused with the older Moderate Democrats PAC — stands to be an exemplar of the Democratic Party’s corporate-friendly, centrist wing. Its financial heft, though, comes from the other side of the aisle: So far, Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, the richest man in Pennsylvania, is virtually the only one putting money into the group.
“They would rather buy elections than let working-class progressives even run.”
“The corporate-backed establishment will stop at nothing to prevent more bartenders, nurses, principals, community organizers, and regular people from entering the Democratic Party in Congress,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement to The Intercept. “They would rather buy elections than let working-class progressives even run. They will do everything in their power to make themselves richer at the expense of robbing poor and working-class Americans.”
Axios reported last week that the PAC planned to raise $20 million to fight off Democratic primary challengers in 2024 and “scare off” progressive groups like Justice Democrats that have backed several successful primary challengers and helped create a growing squad of progressive lawmakers in Congress. The article did not mention the group’s ties to the Biden campaign and the defense industry, nor the Republican funder.
As the number of progressives in Congress has continued to grow since 2018, the revamped PAC is one of several organizations launched in recent years to target progressive Democratic primary challengers and protect centrist incumbents. (The Moderate PAC did not respond to a request for comment.)
Ty Strong, the Moderate PAC president and founder, worked for a decade as a financial and business management analyst at Booz Allen Hamilton before joining a smaller financial firm in Pennsylvania in 2020 that closed abruptly the following year. He joined the Moderate PAC in October 2021. The committee’s treasurer, Marysue Strong, is chief financial officer at ProSync Technology Group, a defense contractor that provides IT services to the federal government. (Ty Strong did not respond to questions about his political experience or whether he and Marysue are related, though public records suggest that they are.)
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last January, Ty Strong criticized what he called a “Democratic circular firing squad” and “progressive purity tests” that have threatened the political careers of centrist Democrats like Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona. If Democrats in purple states can’t find a way to “pivot back to the center and avoid death by circular progressive firing squad,” Strong wrote, “get ready for Republican control of both houses of Congress in 2023.” Less than a year later, Sinema announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent.
The Moderate PAC has raised just over $1 million since last year, all from a single donor: Yass.
Yass, co-founder and managing director of a Philadelphia-based investment firm, gave the PAC $1 million in July. (The Democratic leadership’s house campaign arm, House Majority PAC, gave the Moderate PAC results from a poll in September 2022, which is recorded in disclosures, though no money changed hands.)
A vice chair at the Cato Institute, Yass has come under fire for using creative money-moving structures to avoid some $1 billion in taxes, according to ProPublica. Yass, most recently registered as a libertarian, occasionally gives to centrist local and national Democrats, but the overwhelming balance of his political contributions go to GOP candidates.
While Yass has recently expanded his focus to national politics and spent $47 million backing Republicans in federal elections last year, he has been most politically active in his home state of Pennsylvania. He backed Republican candidates up and down the ballot during last year’s midterm elections in the Keystone State.
Yass’s Commonwealth Foundation, a group based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, advocates to take the state’s public policy “back to its roots.” The group has drawn criticism for pushing policies that Yass’s critics say help him continue to accumulate wealth while avoiding taxes, like cutting funding for schools and public services. In addition to funding Republicans, Yass has funded state-level Democrats who align with his conservative objectives: He put money into the campaigns of Democratic officials in Pennsylvania who played a key role in the charge last year to try to impeach progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
As Yass has expanded his focus beyond Pennsylvania politics toward the national stage, his critics raised the alarm and warned both parties not to accept his money.
“Yass is a threat to democracy in Pennsylvania,” six organizers wrote in an op-ed last week titled “A deep-pocketed donor from Pa. is moving onto the national stage. That’s a problem.”
Yass has amassed his wealth in part by successfully avoiding paying taxes and used his financial influence to push candidates and policies for his own benefit, they wrote. “We need to call Yass’ donations what they are: money from a billionaire seeking to buy power,” the organizers wrote. “No one in public office should take money from billionaire Jeffrey Yass — Democrat or Republican.”
Correction: January 25, 2023, 8:00 p.m. ET
This story has been updated to reflect that, in 2023, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party to become an independent, not a Republican.
The post Centrist Democratic PAC’s Sole Funder Is a Republican Megadonor appeared first on The Intercept.
Millions of working people watched as twenty right-wing Republican Freedom Caucus members of the new House of Representatives held Republican Party leader Kevin McCarthy hostage as they demanded concessions in exchange for supporting him as House Speaker. The Freedom Caucus – which includes the far right MAGA Squad – ultimately forced McCarthy to make a […]
History suggests that many are trying to “stabilize” America rather than just pillage her.
Why are America’s plutocrats funding efforts to weaken our democracy and replace it with plutocracy and oligarchy? Is it just about money? Or is there something much deeper that most Americans rarely even consider?
An extraordinary investigative report from documented.net tells how morbidly rich families, their companies, and their personal foundations are funding efforts to limit or restrict democracy across the United States.
In an article co-published with The Guardian, they noted:
“The advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, the powerful conservative think tank based in Washington, spent more than $5m on lobbying in 2021 as it worked to block federal voting rights legislation and advance an ambitious plan to spread its far-right agenda calling for aggressive voter suppression measures in battleground states.”
Their efforts have had substantial success, as you can read in Documented’s article.
This effort, of course, is not unique to the one think tank they called out. From Donald Trump all the way down to the lowest Republican county official, efforts to make it harder for what John Adams called “the rabble” to vote and otherwise participate in democracy are in full swing across America.
But why? Why are some wealthy people so opposed to expanding democracy in America?
Most Americans — and lots of editorial writers — are convinced it’s simply because rich folks want to influence legislation to benefit themselves and keep their regulations and taxes down. I proposed a motive like that in yesterday’s Daily Take.
And surely, for some, that’s the largest part of it. But that’s not the entire story.
I can’t claim (nor would I) to know the exact motives driving the various wealthy individuals funding efforts to reduce the Black, Hispanic, senior, and youth vote. But history does suggest that many are trying to “stabilize” America rather than just pillage her.
They are worried that America is suffering from too much democracy.
The modern-day backstory to this starts in the early 1950s when conservative thinker Russell Kirk proposed a startling hypothesis that would fundamentally change our nation and the world. The American middle-class at that time was growing more rapidly than any middle-class had ever grown in the history of the world, both in terms of the number of people in the middle class, the income of those people, and the overall wealth that those people were accumulating.
The middle-class was growing in wealth and income back then, in fact, faster than were the top 1%.Kirk and colleagues like William F. Buckley postulated that if the middle-class and minorities became too wealthy, they’d feel the safety and freedom to throw themselves actively into our political processes, as rich people had historically done.
That expansion of democracy, they believed, would produce an absolute collapse of our nation’s social order — producing chaos, riots, and possibly even the end of the republic.
The first chapter of Kirk’s 1951 book, The Conservative Mind, is devoted to Edmund Burke, the British conservative who Thomas Paine visited for two weeks in 1793 on his way to get arrested in the French revolution. Paine was so outraged by Burke’s arguments that he wrote an entire book rebutting them titled The Rights of Man. It’s still in print (as is Burke).
Burke was defending, among other things, Britain’s restrictions on democracy, including limits on who could vote or run for office, and the British maximum wage.
That’s right, maximum wage.
Burke and his contemporaries in the late 1700s believed that if working-class people made too much money, they’d have enough spare time to use democratic processes to challenge the social order and collapse the British kingdom.Too much democracy, Burke believed, was a dangerous thing: deadly to nations and a violation of evolution and nature itself. Summarizing his debate with Paine about the French Revolution, Burke wrote:
“The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler [candle maker], cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule [by voting]. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.”
That was why Parliament passed a law making it illegal for employers to pay people over a certain amount, so as to keep wage-earners right at the edge of poverty throughout their lives.
It was explicitly to avoid too much democracy and preserve the stability of the kingdom. (For the outcome of this policy, read pretty much any Dickens novel.)
Picking up on this, Kirk’s followers argued that if the American middle-class became wealthy enough to have time for political activism, there would be similarly dire consequences.
Young people would cease to respect their elders, they warned. Women would stop respecting (and depending on) their husbands. Minorities would begin making outrageous demands and set the country on fire.
When Kirk laid this out in 1951, only a few conservative intellectuals took him seriously. Skeptics of multiracial egalitarian democracy like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater were electrified by his writings and line of thinking, but Republicans like then-President Dwight Eisenhower said of people like Kirk and his wealthy supporters: “Their numbers are negligible and they are stupid.“And then came the 1960s.
These four movements all hitting America at the same time got the attention of Republicans who had previously ignored or even ridiculed Kirk’s 1950s warnings about the dangers of the middle class and minorities embracing democracy.
Suddenly, he seemed like a prophet. And the GOP turned on a dime.
The Republican/Conservative “solution” to the “national crisis” these movements represented was put into place with the election of 1980: the project of the Reagan Revolution was to dial back democracy while taking the middle class down a peg, and thus end the protests and social instability. Their goal was, at its core, to save America from itself.
The plan was to declare war on labor unions so wages could slide down or at least remain frozen for a few decades; end free college across the nation so students would study in fear rather than be willing to protest; and increase the penalties Nixon had already put on drugs so they could use those laws against hippy antiwar protesters and Black people demanding participation in democracy.
As Nixon‘s right hand man, John Ehrlichman, told reporter Dan Baum:
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. Do you understand what I’m saying?
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”While it looks from the outside like the singular mission of the Reagan Revolution was simply to help rich people and giant corporations get richer and more powerful (and that’s certainly been the effect), the ideologues driving the movement also thought they were restoring stability to the United States, both socially, economically, and — most important — politically.
The middle class was out of control by the late 1960s, they believed, and something had to be done. There was too much democracy, and it was tearing America apart.
Looking back at the “solutions” England used around the time of the American Revolution (and for 1000 years before) and advocated by Edmund Burke and other conservative thinkers throughout history, Republicans saw a remedy to the crisis. As a bonus, it had the side effect of helping their biggest donors and thus boosting their political war-chests.If working people, women, minorities, and students were a bit more desperate about their economic situations, these conservative thinkers asserted, then they’d be less likely to organize, protest, strike, or even vote. The unevenness, the instability, the turbulence of democracy in the 1960s would be calmed.
The key to selling all this to the American people was the idea that the US shouldn’t protect the rights of workers, subsidize education, or enforce Civil Rights laws because, Republicans said, government itself is a remote, dangerous and incompetent power that can legally use guns to enforce its will.
As Reagan told us in his first inaugural, democracy was not the solution to our problems, but democracy — government — instead was the problem itself. He ridiculed the once-noble idea of service to one’s country and joked that there were really no good people left in government because if they were smart or competent they’d be working in the private sector for a lot more money.
He told us that the nine most frightening words in the English language were:
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.
”Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy people associated with Kirk’s and Reagan’s Republicans built a massive infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets to promote and amplify this message about the dangers of too much democracy. As the reporting from documented.net indicates, they’re working at it with as much enthusiasm today as ever.
It so completely swept America that by the 1990s even President Bill Clinton was repeating things like, “The era of big government is over,” and “This is the end of welfare as we know it.” Limbaugh, Hannity and other right-wing radio talkers were getting millions a year in subsidies from groups like the Heritage Foundation, the group documented.net wrote about yesterday.
Fox News today carries on the tradition, warning almost daily about the danger of “people in the streets” or political movements like anti-fascism and BLM.
When you look at the long arc of post-Agricultural Revolution human history you discover that Burke was right when he claimed that oligarchy — rule by the rich — has been the norm, not the exception. And it’s generally provided at least a modicum of stability: feudal Europe changed so little for over a thousand years that we simply refer to that era as the Dark Ages followed by the Middle Ages without detail. It’s all kind of black-and-white fuzzy in our mind’s eye.
Popes, kings, queens, pharaohs, emperors: none allowed democracy because all knew it was both a threat to their wealth and power but also because, they asserted, it would render their nations unstable.These historic leaders — and their modern day “strongman” versions emerging in former democracies like Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, The Philippines, and Russia — are the model for many of today’s conservatives. And not just because they were rich.
Understanding this history gives us clues to how we can revive democracy in America. Step one is to help people realize that instability, like labor pains before birth, is not a bad thing for a democracy but most frequently is a sign of emerging and positive political and social advances.
Hopefully one day soon our vision of an all-inclusive democracy — the original promise of America, to quote historian Harvey Kaye — will be realized. But first we’re going to have to get past the millions of dollars mobilized by democracy’s skeptics.
I believe it’s possible. But it’s going to take all of us getting involved to make it happen. As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama were fond of saying: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”Tag, we’re it.
Independent Media Institute
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.