by Rod D. Martin
October 30, 2015
Most important political fact of the week: The Republican Establishment went on the attack against its own party.
Does this sound hyperbolic? Consider:
- John Kasich – whose principle achievement is expanding Medicaid, and whom many have touted as the Establishment’s Plan B should Jeb Bush falter – spent the week calling anyone to the right of him “crazy,” and lashing out at ideas not invented by Hubert Humphrey or Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump’s evisceration of Kasich, who was a rather important part of the debacle at Lehman Brothers, was possibly the second best moment of the debate).
- Mitt Romney – in an interview on David Axelrod’s podcast no less – openly lamented the demise of the Big Three networks’ oligopoly. “There was a time when we all got the news with the same facts,” he whined wistfully to Obama’s campaign guru (who clearly agreed).
- John Boehner engineered passage of a budget that rubber-stamped Barack Obama’s agenda for the entire rest of his term, dropping any pretense of conservatism.
- Jeb Bush spent almost one-fifth of his debate time calling for “federal regulation” of – wait for it – Fantasy Football. Which primarily matters because it doesn’t matter. What’s next, federal regulation of horseshoes and whittling? Why on Earth would anyone want to regulate this, much less devote an enormous percentage of precious airtime to it?
Answer, at least to anyone who’s awake: because the Republican Establishment, exactly like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Jeb’s “brother from another mother” has come to believe that nothing should go unregulated, no matter how insignificant, ever. It is like the faux “liberalization” just announced in China: yes, the One Child Policy is gone, but it is replaced with a Two Child Policy. No one asks how it is that government should regulate such a thing at all.
The vast majority of Republican voters never voted for any of this, and none of these men ever asked them to. Desperation is making them honest, perhaps, but that honestly comes at a price. Paul Ryan may be Speaker (and wonk that he is, he might be a good one under the right President), but conservatives felled the three Speakers before him – Pelosi, Boehner and (sort of) McCarthy. They couldn’t stop the budget deal, but with Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio collectively accounting for 64% of the Republican primary vote, they are stopping the Establishment from retaking the White House.
The media calls this chaos. But when the shoe has been on the other foot they’ve called it progress. And a conservatism that actually wants to win again is likely to prove infectious, just as Reagan’s was once.
Which brings us to the second most important political fact of the week: the outsiders have solidified their dominance of the Republican presidential field.
First, there’s Jeb, who (to quote Dick Morris) “cemented his downfall” last night. Don’t like Dick? That’s fine: the headlines were unanimous across party lines, from “End of Days for Republican Establishment” (the Financial Times) to “The ‘Jeb Bush Is Doomed’ Narrative is Dooming Jeb Bush” (Slate).
This was already becoming obvious for those paying attention to the deeper implications of the fundraising numbers (as we have continuously at RodMartin.org), particularly the most recent revelation: that Jeb’s ratio of major donor money to small donor cash is an historically unprecedented 15:1. By contrast, for Hillary it’s 3:1. For Ted Cruz it’s 1:1.6. For Obama 2012 it was 1:3, and even Mitt Romney managed 7:1. For Ben Carson it’s a whopping 1:11.5.
Yes, Jeb has no average Joes. None. Nada.
But the debate sealed it. Part of it was the frivolous, Emperor-Has-No-Clothes moment with – I repeat – “federal regulation of Fantasy Football.” Part of it was his general inability to break out of the pack. But most of it was his assault on Marco Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate and – gasp! – call for Rubio’s resignation. (!!!)
As Rubio pointed out to devastating effect, his having missed 11.5% of Senate votes has been radically better than prior Presidential candidates such as Bob Graham (30%), John Kerry (60%) and Barack Obama (70%), all of whom the media gave a pass, and not one of whom the civility-uber-alles Bushes ever called upon to resign.
But those facts are not why this was nightmarish. In that awful moment, Jeb showed his inability to pivot. Scripted and practiced and certain of his lines, Jeb could not read the audience, could not see that Rubio had scored on the CNBC inquisitors, could not see that this was an unprofitable line of attack. His was a one-man “Charge of the Light Brigade.” And everyone watching knew: if he’s nominated, Hillary will shred him in an instant.
By contrast, Trump shredded Kasich (see above), Cruz shredded CNBC, and Rubio shredded any thought that he isn’t the most charismatic candidate in the race. Mike Huckabee stood out (in the few moments he was given) as an advocate for innovation; Carly Fiorina showed a rare grasp of how regulation concentrates industries into ever fewer hands producing de facto socialism.
Ben Carson underperformed, badly. But it won’t be the end of his world. Ted Cruz won the night, which might prove the beginning of his long anticipated surge, with Rubio close behind. And those three plus Donald Trump are very likely the future of the Republican Party.
All this said, the best line of the night – and the third most important political fact of this or any other week – was Rubio’s, in response to Trump’s (entirely self-serving) assault on Super PACs: “The Democrats have their own Super PAC: the mainstream media.”
There is a lot to be said about CNBC’s complete lack of professionalism, and even more to be said about the utter failure of the RNC’s takeover of the primary debates (ostensibly intended to prevent exactly this). And it would be easy to attack Donald Trump’s hypocrisy, in that he is personally a one-man Super PAC (just like Meg Whitman and Michael Huffington before him, both of whom proved that you can’t really buy an election).
But Rubio’s point, intentionally or otherwise, is actually more significant. The argument made on behalf of Super PACs generally turns on the freedom of speech; but it is the freedom of the press which makes campaign spending limits bogus. CNBC can say anything it wants, any way it wants, to influence any election it wants. And it does.
Is it a campaign committee? No. Is it subject to giving limits? No. Is it owned by a giant corporation with a demonstrable agenda? Absolutely.
Comcast (parent of NBC) is a $154 billion corporation. Disney (parent of ABC) is worth $194 billion. Time-Warner lands at $61 billion, while CBS clocks in at $22 billion.
With or without Citizens United, they can and do spend any amount they want to influence…everything.
How do you think that stacks up against the $6 million (not billion) Marco Rubio raised last quarter? Or even the $100 million in Jeb Bush’s Super PAC?
No, Mitt Romney is wrong. Breaking the propaganda oligopoly is the most important development in U.S. politics since the invention of the television; and more than important, wonderful. It is a chance for America to (forgive the term) take the red pill, after decades in a Keynesian leftwing Matrix.
Not everyone is up for the jailbreak: God knows John Kasich isn’t. But this week, it became all too apparent that the majority of the Republican party is, has been at least since Rick Santelli’s 2009 rant from the floor of the Chicago Merc, and isn’t likely to change its mind between now and next November.
Rod D. Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, is a technology entrepreneur, futurist, hedge fund manager, and professor. Fox Business News calls him a “tech guru”, Britain’s Guardian labeled him a “philosopher-capitalist”, and Gawker describes him as a “brilliant nonconformist.” He was a senior member of PayPal’s pre-IPO startup team and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy.