Friday, July 23, 2010

Power to the Elite (er, People)

This just cracks me up:

More of the Rich Running as Populists.

MIAMI — When Jeff Greene, a k a the Meltdown Mogul, recently brought his Democratic campaign for the United States Senate to a poor Miami neighborhood rife with the kinds of subprime mortgages that he became a billionaire betting against, did he:

A) Arrive in a Cadillac Escalade S.U.V., before stumping for energy conservation;

B) Tell the crowd that he was “fed up and frustrated” with Washington while suggesting job-creation ideas previously proposed by Washington politicians;

C) Receive a raucous welcome as an outsider who could turn Florida around.

The answer? All of the above, of course.

Call it the Great Recession paradox. Even as voters express outrage at the insider culture of big bailouts and bonuses, their search for political saviors has led them to this: a growing crowd of über-rich candidates, comfortable in boardrooms and country clubs, spending a fortune to remake themselves into populist insurgents.

And when you look at movements like the Tea Party and others who fancy themselves "insurgents," you find similar stratification: the leaders of these "leaderless movements" are usually wealthy, connected and educated (though I use that word loosely), while the followers are poorer in comparison, disconnected and less educated. Not unlike cult stratification and proselytizing, in that sense.

The fact that these candidates can sway the gullible is not new, historically, but the recession paradox has allowed self-financed candidates to do much better than previous election cycles, simply because there is less money to be raised via traditional routes.

Historically, self-financed candidates have tended to lose. The National Institute on Money in State Politics recently found that of those candidates who received more than half of all campaign contributions from themselves or an immediate family member, only 11 percent won from 2000 to 2009.

But this year might be different, with a down economy making it harder for traditional candidates to raise money, and with anti-incumbency fever at record levels.

Having gobs of personal cash to toss into a race seems to be especially potent in California and Florida, with their expensive media markets. The governors’ races are a prime example. In California, Meg Whitman, a Republican and former chief executive of eBay, has swamped all other self-financed candidates across the country, using $90 million of her own money to trounce Steve Poizner, who contributed $24 million from his own pocket, in the Republican primary.

And in Florida, Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA Healthcare — a large hospital chain that paid $1.7 billion in fines for fraudulently billing government programs like Medicare — has become so visible on television that his latest ads start with him saying “Me again.” Mr. Scott has shocked the Republican establishment by becoming the clear front-runner after spending more than $20 million on advertisements.

I'm not sure the "sheeple" will wake up in time to get it, but using the power-elite theory of politics, we can predict with certainty the winners in November: the wealthy. Party affiliation, political philosophy, gender, race, "insurgent" or insider...the power-elite always win.

I think that wise old sage Bruce Springsteen summed this wealthy populist sentiment best: "A rich man in a poor man's shirt."

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