CommunityFDL Main Blog

Send In the Cons…


(Huge thank you to Ian for guest posting this.  It’s cross-posted from The Agonist for our readers.  Fascinating stuff and sure to start some debate here — and well worth the discussion, not just for the Republi-con side of things, but also for consideration on the Democratic side of the aisle as well.  And I couldn’t resist on the title, Ian — it was just too perfect with the picture.  — CHS)

TheoCons, NeoCons, CorporateCons, RichCons, LibertarianCons, PaleoCons and MilitaryCons

As with all big tent parties the Republicans are filled with factions who disagree about a great deal. Today I’m going to take a quick whirl through the 7 main factions.

The first are the TheoCons. The so-called Religious Right. People often think that clout and power in a movement is about money. It isn’t, it’s about votes. And the TheoCons deliver votes. The problem in modern campaigning is finding people who can reliably deliver votes – the religious right, in any riding can often say "I can delivery X thousand votes." That’s worth a lot – it may only be a few percentage points, but it’s a few percentage points they can give you, or can deny – thousands of votes you don’t have to try and reach through expensive saturation advertising or time consuming canvassing to identify your voters. Almost no other group can quantify the number of people they can get to vote in the way the religious right can, and that is the source of their power.

For the religious right the primary issue is the judiciary. They want, they need, to change its makeup. It’s not an accident that Harriet Myers was the bridge too far for them for Bush – they were willing to eat a lot, but what they weren’t willing to take a flyer on was the possibility that she might turn out not to vote their way on key issues like abortion.

The religious right is vulnerable to a concerted attack on them through the IRS and if Democrats get into power that’s what they should consider doing (the counterargument is that it could hurt black churches). Tax exempt status is on the line for religious organizations which influence politics (as various attacks on liberal ministers have shown) and the religious right is much more vulnerable to this than the religious left.

The NeoCons are a philosophical movement. They are not a voting block and they cannot deliver any significant number of votes. They have power because their members are influential intellectuals, are long time senior political figures and because of their Israeli ties (yes, the Israeli lobby is, ummm, rather powerful in Washington, shall we say.)

Ex-liberals who found that Democrats weren’t interested in changing the world one violent conquest at a time, NeoCons have a touchingly idealistic view of how war can spread democracy and how democratic nations will be happy to sell the US oil cheap (and more importantly, become consumer societies that buy US goods and services and thus aren’t nothing but a giant sucking sound of oil wealth gushing into the hands of a few rich men while devastating the US’s current account balance.)

It’s one of those solutions that actually would solve a lot of things. Assuming, of course, that the US had the ability to force democracy and consumer culture down the throat of a few oil producing nations.

Which it doesn’t. I’d be rich if I could turn straw into gold too.

The Neocons, like the libertarians, provide intellectual cover for the rest of the movement. It is premature to say their day is over, however when members as prominent as Francis Fukayama (the idiot who wrote "The End of History") are trying to disassociate themselves it’s fair to say they are moving into winter.

CorporateCons are the corporate interests who buy representatives and bills. They give millions and they get billions in return. The best way, bar none, in the US, to get rich, is to get a bill passed. The ROI (return on investment) is often thousands to one. It is no accident that the Telecom companies are trying to pass a bill gutting network neutrality and giving them monopoly profits. It was no accident that the Bankruptcy bill, sponsored by a Senator whom credit card company MBNA had kindly helped out of his multi-hundred thousand dollar debt, passed and made sure that normal people would find it harder to use bankruptcy to clear debt, while corporations and the rich would find it easier.

Nor was it an accident that copyright extension was passed just before Mickey Mouse would have gone into the public domain.

Corporations used to hedge their bets by giving equally to both Republicans and Democrats, but under Tom DeLay and the K-Street project they generally moved to supporting the Republicans much more than the Democrats, in some cases cutting Dems off entirely. Now that it appears that Dems may recapture the legislative bodies they are trying to hedge their bets again, and some Democratic leaders are shaking the trees again.

Their money is poisoned fruit that comes only with heavy strings attached. It limits the ability to pass good legislation, or to campaign for popular things (like universal healthcare, for example.) As such, smart Democrats will refuse it, even as Dean has relied heavily on small donors and reduced the influence of the large ones.

But money is hard to turn down, so we’ll see if the CorporateCons decide that being CorporateLibs is more conducive to their bottom lines. Although it sure is hard to give up all those tax cuts… (and that’s the bottom line. Democrats and Republicans both do favours for corporations, but there are places Democrats as a party have been unwilling to go which Republicans go to with glee.)

There is some overlap between RichCons and CorporateCons, especially as executive, CEO and Board Member salaries have soared to multiples of hundreds of times those of ordinary workers. They share a desire to see low taxes, low capital gains taxes in particular. But the particular obsession of the oldtime RichCons is the estate tax.

The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world’s largest retailer.

The US has the most income inequality of any industrial nation in the world and the rich want to keep it that way. There’s a reason why estate tax repeal is revisited time and time again.

In general, in addition to estate tax repeal, the rich lobby for flat tax income tax systems (which would leave the US with a regressive tax system when all taxes are considered), for capital gains and dividend income to be taxed at a lower rate than earned income (because they don’t work, or if they do their salaries are much lower than the money they earn through stocks, options and bonds) and for lax money controls (so they can move their money to foreign domiciles where it is taxed even less, while still living in the US to enjoy the high lifestyle.)

As with CorporateCons the rich at one time used to divide their money between Republicans and Democrats. And there are plenty of rich who support Democrats, however the Rich who support Republicans, like Mellon-Scaife are much more dedicated and are willing to pump in a great deal of money, not so much as election donations (Democrats generally do better on that from the rich) but in building infrastructure like think tanks and so on. The majority of the Republican infrastructure which progressives bewail was built by the rich.

They think long term, they invest long term, and they are now trying to get even more return on the many billions of dollars they’ve used to create the modern Republican movement.

LibertarianCons are the ideological blade of Republicanism. (The Neocons were the sharp edge.) They reassure Americans that Republicans don’t want to tax you, don’t want to tell you who you can sleep with, don’t want to control you. Or, at least, that Republicans are a lot less likely to do so than those nasty mommy state Democrats with their black helicopters and intentions to have the UN take over the US.

In numbers they aren’t significant, maybe a couple percent. They can’t directly deliver votes. But in terms of ideology and of propaganda the importance of Libertarians can’t be overstated.

Especially since, for a long time, Libertarians could be counted on to swallow hard when things like the Patriot Act came up and say things like "well, Democrats are even worse." However, the CATO institute, the flagship libertarian think tank has lately gone of reservation and even been kicked out of Grover Norquist’s weekly meetings (the meetings which pretty much run the conservative movement.)

Libertarians have lost it (mostly over the budget.) As such their willingness to carry rhetorical and ideological water for the Republicans is very much in question right now. And that’s very bad for the Republicans because Libertarians provide, along with neocons, the idealistic glow to Republicans that the rich and corporate interests simply can’t, since they’re just in it because they want more money.

PaleoCons are the group that fascinates me most. They’ve been immensely conflicted ever since the buildup to the Iraq war, when figures like Pat Buchannan went off the reservation. Paleocons are nativists (with a tendency to racism), they believe in protectionism, they hate foreign wars and they believe in strong immigration control. They are strongly pro-working class.

Bush has done almost nothing the Paleocons approve of. They despise his war, they hate the idea of a guest worker program and they loathed CAFTA. They did carry some water for him at times, but overall they’re off the reservation.

Paleocon ideals have a great deal of appeal in the US – isolationism is a strong streak in the US, the Paleocon idealization of the working and middle class is real and they were on the right side of the war right from the beginning. Protectionism is already looking very politically attractive and it will look even more attractive to workers like those at Delphi who are facing 50% wage cuts.

The most likely 2008 scenario which does not involve a Democratic presidency involves a Republican maverick running strongly against Bush. A paleocon candidate, or a Republican running with paleocon support and ideology, will be an ideal position – able to speak against the war, calling for protectionism and talking sincerely about wanting to help the middle and lower class.

The paleocons, as populists, are best positioned to gut Democrats in many of their non-minority constituencies. They should be watched very very carefully, and Democrats should stop letting them flank them on issues like the war and the economy.

MilitaryCons were created during the massive military cuts of the early nineties. As the Soviet Union collapsed the military and defense industry lost about 30% of their jobs. It was devastating and they blamed Bill Clinton (though George Bush Sr. was equally responsible, he started it, he wasn’t around for most of it.) Already Republican leaning this pushed them heavily into the Republican camp.

This camp made Clinton’s life hell on earth. They were relentless in their attacks and their disrespect. As with the modern progressive blogosphere these activists could be, and were, unleashed in huge letter writing, fax and call in campaigns on people who displeased them. They could make any journalist or politician who crossed them absolutely miserable for a period of time.

The Iraq war and Bush and the Republican’s constant disrespect on important issues like VA hospitals and equipment such as body armor, along with their complete incompetence, has weakened the attachment. The senior military command is no longer even remotely Republican in sentiment and the rest of the officer corp and enlisted men and trending away. They are still Republican on the numbers, but the strength of the attachment is way down, and it appears to be trending towards nominal.

This is a wing of the Republican party which can potentially be split off from it, and that’s what the fighting Dems is all about. Even if they can’t be brought into the Democratic coalition, moving them back to neutrality, or near neutrality, takes away much of the Republican ability to use the military to imply that only Republicans are patriotic. Likewise the lessening fervor removes a great deal of fear from Congresscritters.

Concluding Remarks The core of the Republican movement are the Theocons (they can’t go to the Democrats), the RichCons (Democrats aren’t going to repeal the estate tax) and NeoCons (Democrats loathe them.) Attached but unhappy and willing to play the other side are Libertarians and CorporateCons. Trying to become the lead horse in the trace are the Paleocons, who think their day has come. And possible to split off are the MilitaryCons (and arguably the Libertarians, though their intellectual dishonesty is so great I doubt it. They’ll return to the fold, but they might be neutralized for an election or two by disgust.)

And now for a question – what do readers think the factions of the Democratic party are? I confess they are not as clear to me as the Republican factions, though there are some obvious candidates….

(Dick Cheney, with more hair on the left, and Donald Rumsfeld, on the right, above.)

Previous post

Next post

With friends like Blanco...

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at