NEW NORMAL

Rolling Stone has a great piece on the new, ultraconservative state government in Kansas, from the legislature to the Governor's mansion. Don't worry, they're trying to fix it so that Brownback can appoint the judges himself, too. Two things that are particularly striking:

1. Though the author does not say so directly, this is where we see the real impact of Citizens United. The piece notes how mind-blowingly easy it is for Gov. Brownback to eliminate his political opposition, provided of course he remains in the good graces of his sponsors. 2012 showed us that throwing money into a presidential race – even an astronomical amount of money – has a marginal impact on the outcome because there are so many other factors at play in that race. Similarly, there is only so much a handful of loyal Koch-backed Senators can do in a body of 100. But in state legislative elections, the unlimited cash is decisive. In a race wherein both candidates might ordinarily spend a combined $50,000 it tends to be decisive when Koch Industries dumps a paltry (on their scale) $150,000 into the race. Most people don't even know who their state legislator is. Eighteen negative mailers in twenty days before a (low turnout) primary makes quite a difference. This is why we see so many state legislatures turning into circuses this year; with enough financial might, it really is possible to get just about any asshole elected to a state house. Comparatively, races for president, the Senate, or governor's mansions are hard to influence with similar brute force financial tactics.

2. The Lakoff argument has been fairly well beaten to death over the past decade. We know the benefits and limitations of "branding" and the use of purposive language to make a candidate or agenda more appealing. Personally, I think the GOP stranglehold on the agenda and discourse has loosened, if only a bit, since 2001. But there is one problem that refuses to go away:

"What bothers me is there are places in America that have gone so far to the left that they'd look at us as nutcases," he says pleasantly. "I consider us in Kansas mainstream America – normal, red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution of the United States. Yes, we're conservative, but we're not a bunch of gun-toting cowboys." A few moments later, he slides his chair back, and the wheel makes a loud cracking sound when it hits the plastic floor coaster. "That wasn't gunshots, by the way!" he cackles.

People on the left forever have to fight against this entrenched notion that mainstream America is an old, psychotically conservative white person / yeoman farmer. We see this still during elections, when the media frets endlessly over what working class whites and white rural people more generally think, despite the undeniable statistical evidence that 1) there aren't that many anymore and 2) they're an ever-shrinking portion of the electorate. It speaks to the larger obstacle wherein everything conservatives believe is normal, mainstream 'Murica and anything else is defined as the Other. Any competing argument is to be treated with skepticism and/or derision until it gets the OK from Real Americans – old, white ones.

Be Sociable, Share!

22 Responses to “NEW NORMAL”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    When the writing was on the wall for the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis opined that its epitaph should be "Died of a Theory." While it is an entirely good and wholesome thing that Davis and his collection of racist traitors met their political doom, the remark is worth salvaging, inasmuch as dying not *for* one's beliefs but *because* of one's beliefs seems to be a distinctly irremovable thread in our national fabric.

    Frank's answer to his self-posed question re: Kansas was, in the end, pretty simple: People with conservative social values and limited-to-no understanding of economic policy and the terribly direct and awful way it affects their lives prefer vote for politicians who appeal to those values, usually in the form of outright lies ("I will outlaw abortion") *and* who *also* will enact that economic policy that will destroy those same voters' ability to keep body-and-soul together. Simple as that.

    And that's frustrating, and infuriating, and mostly, deeply sad, because they're voting on the basis of moral convictions and not only will those moral convictions never be realized by those they elect (because the Constitution and stuff), but they will pay the terrible price of seeing their children and grandchildren go hungry and sick, and their parents die before their time, because the safety net they so desperately need will have been removed by those same politicians. They give everything, and they get nothing.

    If those people are the "Real America," then given how we treat them, we collectively *hate* "Real Americans," because the GOP-led agenda has made their lives suck *so* damn hard. (And we might draw a cheerless comparison with how we treat our "Real American Heroes," the veterans of our armed services.

    It's like watching a crazy man punch himself in the face, over and over again–at first it's startling, then it's kind of funny, then it's absurd, then it's scary, and now it's gotten to the point where it just makes you feel sick and tired because it's only going end when he kills himself.

    Fuck it–I'm off to the bar for line-up of shots until I can't hear the screams in my head anymore. Who's with me?

  2. Monkey Business Says:

    Sheldon Adelson, who famously spent $150 million to defeat President Obama in 2012, is worth $26.5 billion. The Koch Brothers are worth $34 billion each.

    The average cost to win a U.S. Senate seat is around $10.5 million, while the average cost to win a U.S. House seat is $1.7 million.

    You need 60 Senate seats and 218 House seats to fully take control of the legislative branch of the Federal government. But, let's say that you're an old billionaire, and want to see results now, so you decide to buy the entire U.S. House and Senate.

    The House will cost you, on average, $739.5 million every two years. The Senate will cost you $1.05 billion over six years, or $350 million every two years. Grand total: $1.0895 billion every two years.

    If the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson liquidated all of their assets, they could buy the entirety of the U.S. House and Senate for just shy of 174 years. That doesn't even take into consideration their various investments, businesses, etc. that would presumably grow exponentially with an army of Congresspeople solely devoted to ensure that they make as much money as possible.

    Three guys could buy the legislative branch of the Federal government for the next one and three quarters centuries, if they so desired. At that point, they wouldn't even need the Presidency.

    Is it my imagination, or does this sound like an utterly terrifying political thriller movie?

  3. Mo Says:

    Thanks, Monkey Business. I'm now joining Dryden at the bar.

  4. LK Says:

    I'll just put this here for a while:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html

  5. middle seaman Says:

    The phrase "normal, red-blooded Americans" is code for everybody else is a nutcase and not human. That vanilla flavored racism permeates the Teas and other radicals whose distance from real conservatism can be measured only in light years.

    The above formula is universal. In Europe and the Middle East the radicals use exactly the same techniques.

    To the surprise of some, the rich in the US are mostly Democrats. Obama was elected in 2008 with rich Democrats money (and terrible economy that is still terrible). Done properly, Democrats have the money to fight back effectively.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    As I've said before, here's the real reason to have an extremely high level of taxation at the highest income levels – say, around 90%:

    So that the uber-rich can't spend some "Mad Money," just lying around, and influence election results to benefit themselves – and instead, are scrounging around in the sofa cushions and car seats for some spare change to get CPA's to look for tax loopholes, and Tax Attorneys to defend them.

    And, "What's the Matter With Kansas?"
    Enough Kansan's who live in a rural part of a fairly rural state, to control the whole state.

    Since people first created urban areas, for the most part, the rural folks have been extremely Conservative and insular, while people who live in urban areas, tend to be more Liberal and inclusive – with suburbs and small towns, somewhere in between.

    People in urban areas are exposed to a lot of other types of people, religions, cultures, opinions etc.
    Rural people aren't.

    Even at the time of the American Revolution, where, besides newspapers, pamphlets were the primary way of getting news, and opinions of others – and for obvious reasons, there were more of them in the cities, than in the boondocks.

    Now, with FOX, Reich Wing talk radio, and Conservative websites, newspapers, and magazines, Conservatives in rural (and other) areas can live in an echo chamber, and revel in the fact that their opinions (which are often spoon-fed to them), tend to be the mainstream ones.
    If you live in a city, you're exposed to more radio stations besides talk radio, and more sources, to form your opinions.

    Besides, for the most part, Liberals like to form their own opinions, while Conservatives like to have their opinions formed for them by leaders they trust – whether it your local religious leader, a radio host, FOX, or a writer on an Op-ed page. It's part of their Authoritarian nature.

    Liberals live in a multi-sourced information environment – Conservatives live in an echo chamber.

    And hence, Conservatives have the Romney's, Ryan's, Todd Akins, and Richard Mourdock's:
    People who, in public settings, casually mention things that are talked 'about privately in their circles every day – and no one utters a discouraging word.
    And then they're shocked – SHOCKED! – that their preciously held opinions, concurred with by the people around them, are not necessarily the majority opinion.

    What they don't yet understand is this:
    You never lose an argument inside an echo chamber.
    But you don't win too many, when you exit it.

  7. Major Kong Says:

    I always find this to be an argument against devolving government to the state and local level.

    It at least takes a General Electric or Lockheed Martin to buy the federal government. Your city and county can effectively be purchased by a moderately successful real estate developer or casino owner.

    Anyone who's ever sat on a condo board can tell you just how petty and inefficient local government can be.

  8. Sarah Says:

    2012 showed us that throwing money into a presidential race – even an astronomical amount of money – has a marginal impact on the outcome because there are so many other factors at play in that race. Similarly, there is only so much a handful of loyal Koch-backed Senators can do in a body of 100. But in state legislative elections, the unlimited cash is decisive. In a race wherein both candidates might ordinarily spend a combined $50,000 it tends to be decisive when Koch Industries dumps a paltry (on their scale) $150,000 into the race. Most people don't even know who their state legislator is. Eighteen negative mailers in twenty days before a (low turnout) primary makes quite a difference. This is why we see so many state legislatures turning into circuses this year; with enough financial might, it really is possible to get just about any asshole elected to a state house. Comparatively, races for president, the Senate, or governor's mansions are hard to influence with similar brute force financial tactics.

    State legislatures draw congressional districts, don't they? I think the effect of Citizens United on Congress can be seen trickling upward here in the form of the do-nothing Congress with which we are stuck (although it doesn't help that so many yahoos on the left think they're helping anything by refusing to get their asses to the polls and cast their ballots). State legislatures are also passing the voter ID horse shit, so the effects of Citizens United reverberating to the Congress, the presidency and eventually the Supreme Court will become more apparent in the coming decade.

  9. geoff Says:

    RJ Eskow on Alternet recently pointed out that the political "left" is now doing much the same thing: supporting gay rights, abortion rights, etc. (important issues to be sure), while proposing cuts to Social Security and working on new free trade agreements.

    http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/are-corporations-trying-distract-us-social-issues-while-they

  10. J Says:

    Kansas also suffered this fate due to Missouri's rich, conservative asshole: Rex Sinquest. He's been trying for years to get Missouri to eliminate its income tax but consistently failing. So instead, and he's publically stated this, he bought a bunch of conservatives in Kansas to do it, in an attempt to force Missouri into doing the same thing. The Missouri legislature passed a bill getting rid of the income tax, but Jay Nixon (an Eisenhower Republican, or Democrat if you want to be technical) vetoed it, then withheld 400 million dollars from the budget incase they over-road him, to show Missourians what would happen if it passed. So, naturally, the Rs in the legislature are whining about how mean he is.

  11. acer Says:

    Thanks for, if nothing else, getting my mind off NC and TX for a minute. (Seriously, WTF, NC?)

    Scuttle the electoral college and make legislative representation proportional, and you'd leave these assholes no choice but to move to the fucking city or soak in their own crapulent irrelevance. /rant

    @Dryden:
    It's 5:00 somewhere.

  12. Xynzee Says:

    @geoff: Yup. Bread and circuses. About sums up how the SC gutted the VRA then throwing the crowd some candy.

    So w the back of the VRA broken, Sarah's dystopian future becomes more of a reality.

  13. Americanadian Says:

    Am I the only person who noted that the Kansas house actually adopted a (sarcastic) Democractic amendment to the gun bill that would allow concealed carry in the Statehouse?

    It seems like they're now one misunderstand/feud away from being a self-correcting problem.

  14. John Says:

    Did you just have a post the other day talking about how we as a whole tend to think certain things are OK when our party is doing it?

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2013/07/03/on-principle/

    Bloomberg does it, too. Do you have the same opinion of his actions?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/nyregion/bloomberg-forming-super-pac-to-influence-2012-races.html

    My guess is no.

  15. Tim H. Says:

    It's looking like the conservatives will be able to push their agenda much further than the liberal/progressive movement, a shame their goal is a dystopia.

  16. Ten Bears Says:

    The people of Kansas are no different than the geography of Kansas, there is nothing there, drying up and blowing away.

  17. Fiddlin Bill Says:

    The great architectural fault of "states rights" may well destroy the United States yet. Seems to me the monied right has embarked on a strategy of capturing the country state by state. Here in NC we now have Art Pope in the Executive Branch designing our economic policies, and a run-away far right legislature that is rapidly destroying most of the small gains we made over decades (most of my lifetime). When I was a lad we had whites only water fountains and segregated public schools. That's where these people want to take us. As long as a Senator from Montana has as much voting power as a Senator from New York or California, the hope of democracy is resting on shaky ground.

  18. acer Says:

    I'm surprised that Savage Love readers haven't figured out how to use "Brownback" as a verb.

  19. Bernard Says:

    the Left isn't for cutting Social Security, Obama is and those Democrats in power. that shows how both parties are one party with two faces. some choice, eh!

    since there is so much money buying the lunatics/Republicans since St. Reagan, So, we can expect more states like Kansas, NC, Wisconsin, Texas to be the "norm."

    glad i never bought into the BS they sold on TV. hadn't had a TV since '82. so i can see from the outside how slick the PR is. and the averge white guy is buying the "shtick" the Corporation have been selling since St. Reagan sold us down the river.

    oh well, it is a bumpy ride. hold on tight, the Rich are taking the road out from under us. and people from Kansas show us how simple it is to do that.

    enjoy the ride, if you can. you ain't rich enough to stop the Koch Bros.,Sen Inhofe or Google who are taking us there.

  20. Big dog Says:

    Bernard..you and are are probably the only people who don't know who Seinfeld is. I think someone above put their finger on an important point, but I paraphrase,…smart liberals find the actual political process tedious and exasperating, but engaging in local politics and governance is the only way to win this game. Voltaire had it right "il faut cultiver notre propre jardin." Getting control of city and county councils is critically important and that seems to be how the right gained the influence that it has, certainly in my neck of the woods. I would have to agree that by and large the business of politics sucks, but if we don't do it, there are myriad assholes out there who will. And who gives and flying fuck about Kansas anyway.

  21. Bernard Says:

    the Nazis/ALEC have Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and various other Republican states in their back pocket. what amazes me is the dumb white folks who still buy their "line." lol.

    just listening to these ALEC Republicans, well, the idiocy is hard to hide. but then again, maybe this "lunacy" is what some "white" folks need. i'll just step back and watch the shit flying from these "kind."

    astounding, really astounding. these "Republicans" actually act like they have some semblance of truth in their behaviors. it really is entertaining. couldn't make up this kind of idiocy, no matter how much TV i've missed.

  22. Xynzee Says:

    @Fiddlin': "As long as a Senator from Montana has as much voting power as a Senator from New York or California, the hope of democracy is resting on shaky ground."

    Coming from a geographically big, population spares state, not so sure I agree with that sentiment. Jeff Merkley for one. He's still hammering to change the filibuster rule. Wendy Davis as well. They just need to make them work for it. You want to filibuster, then you'd better clear your calendar and cancel your tee time F***er!