GOP candidate Scott Walker’s abrupt departure from the race is more interesting for the likely machinations behind it. They show the perversions and risks of a campaign finance system based on a small, interlocking group of individual contributors. General risks to American Democracy yes (see “crony capitalism”). But more specific risks for the Republican party.
The big name donors are trying to act like a board of directors – hiring and firing CEO candidates as they see fit. The rank and file Republicans aren’t going along. They are behaving like participants in a direct democracy. In that divide, you can see the Republican party’s core fissure growing ever-wider.
Just last week, Walker’s campaign was making brave noises about re-focusing on Iowa. What happened? He probably didn’t wake up to a horse-head in his bed. But someone clearly made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. It might have been one of the Koch brothers or Adelsons, but it clearly was one of the (tiny) coterie of Republican big-dollar donors. They pulled the plug and Walker went down the drain.
Reverse engineering that move, you can sense the panic. Walker’s defenstration is best seen as a reaction to Donald Trump’s enduring success. Hence Walker’s farewell speech. A call for Republican unity vs Trump that might have been written by one of those same donors.
But Trump is best understood as a reaction to that same big-donor system. The rank and file Republicans support Trump largely in reaction to a colorless slate of “board-approved” CEO candidates. They want someone to challenge the status quo. And that “status quo” basically boils down to a few wealthy donors. It is getting harder and harder to ignore the men behind the curtain. And their increasingly panicked pulling of the levers of power.
This certainly isn’t a healthy situation for American democracy. But it is a dangerous situation for the Republican Party. The last decade or so has seen a takeover by an alliance between plutocrats and intolerant yahoos – hijacking a lot of reasonable people along the way. Now that alliance seems on the verge of breaking down.
The end result is likely a wander in the wilderness – at least as a national party. They have probably already lost the Presidency. Control of the Senate will go next. Control of the House will be the last to go. But by a regional Southern/Rural block that will only deepen the party’s national alienation.
Its hard to feel good about this. Democracy requires two functioning parties. Besides, the Clintons basically invented crony capitalism in its modern form. Maybe a more populist, wack-a-doodle Republican Party will serve as a corrective? Maybe. But probably not…