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Why Republicans Are Acting So Crazy

Not every change in national policy and events is announced with a new conference or presidential speech.

A case in point is the rapid rise of apparent mental instability in the Republican Party. You used to just disagree with Republicans; now you have to worry whether your children will be safe in their proximity.

Historians may peg 2008 – with Sarah Palin chosen to run for vice president – as the beginning of the GOP breakdown. But in the past year things have moved from individually ridiculous to generally irrational.

The explanations vary. David Sirota, for example, calls it sadism, but where did it come from and why so suddenly?

The best rule of thumb is to follow the money.

And that, rather quickly, takes you back to a little over a year ago to January 21, 2010 when the Supreme Court declared that corporations were free to buy our elections at will. As Justice Stevens noted in his dissent:

At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”

Of course, as Stevens suggested, the ability of corporados to buy politicians was already well underway. Twelve years earlier, for example, I had given a speech at a rally at the US Capitol in which I said:

My final objection [private campaign financing] is biologic. Elections are for and between human beings. How do you tell when you’re dealing with a person? Well, they bleed, burp, wiggle their toes and have sex. They register for the draft. They register to vote. They watch MTV. They go to prison and they have babies and cancer. Eventually they die and are buried or cremated.

“Now this may seem obvious to you, but there are tens of thousands of lawyers and judges and politicians who simply don’t believe it. They will tell you that a corporation is a person, based on a corrupt Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment from back in the robber baron era of the late 19th century — a time in many ways not unlike our own.

“Before this ruling, everyone knew what a person was just as everyone knew what a bribe was. States regulated corporations because they were legal fictions lacking not only blood and bones, but conscience, morality, and free . .

“Corporations say they just want to be treated like people, but that’s not true. Test it out. Try to exercise your free speech on the property of a corporation just like they exercise theirs in your election. You’ll find out quickly who is more of a person. We can take care of this biologic problem by applying a simple literary solution: tell the truth. A corporation is not a person and should not be allowed to be called one under the law.”

Further, you don’t always need to buy a politician directly, as Source Watch explained:

In an April 9, 2009 article, Lee Fang reports that the principal organizers of Tea Party events are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, two “lobbyist-run think tanks” that are “well funded” and that provide the logistics and organizing for the Tea Party movement from coast to coast. Media Matters reported that David Koch of Koch Industries was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy, the predecessor of FreedomWorks. David Koch was chairman of the board of directors of CSE. CSE received substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, which is the largest privately-held energy company in the country, and the conservative Koch Family Foundations, which make substantial annual donations to conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, etc. Media Matters reported that the Koch family has given more than $12 million to CSE (predecessor of FreedomWorks) between 1985 and 2002. .

Media Matters also lists the Sarah Scaife Foundation as having given a total of $2.96 million in funding to FreedomWorks. The Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation is financed by the Mellon industrial, oil, and banking fortune. The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, also controlled by the Koch family, has donated more than $3 million to Americans for Prosperity.

That said, there is a moment when confusion turns into chaos or assault turns into murder. For the American political system that moment was the Supreme Court decision on corporations a year ago. Historians – if such people are permitted to exist in the future – will probably see this as one of the great tipping points in the collapse of America.

Further, what has happened in the last year – including the Tea Party surge in the 2010 election – is not so much the result of an intrinsic mental breakdown in the GOP as it is the conscious selection of candidates who would once have been considered absurd, but now can be safely used to carry out corporatist goals because the public no longer has the power to defeat the money.

A Scott Walker or Paul LePage can say and do anything that their campaign contributors want because it is assumed by the latter that money now inevitably trumps public will.

Yes, Scott Walker may be a sadist and Paule LePage a dumb bully, but they are merely tools of those who fund them. All they have to do is be pluto pimps for the corporate agenda.

This is scheme wouldn’t work so well if their funders mainly wanted something, but what they really want is the absence of something -namely a government that might stand in their way. So long as Walker and LePage are destroying things, their backers are quite content.

These Republicans are wrecking trucks for the big businesses that want to tear down the neighborhood we call America.

It’s working for them right now. Whether it will continue to do so remains to be seen. For example, for the working class to even think about supporting Republicans is an idea only about three decades old.

A short list of constituencies that Republicans have recently offended include supporters of 9/11 responders, the AARP, Americorps, black men, cchildren with pre-existing health conditions, college students, cops, disabled people, aarthquake warnings, employed women, EPA, ethnically mixed couples, gays, ill people who need medical marijuana, immigrants and their children, jobless people, journalists, latinos, Medicaid recipients, Methodists, minimum wage workers, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NPR & PBS, the Postal Service, public school students, public workers, scientists, supporters of separation of church and state, Social Security recipients, state workers, and women generally.

That’s not a bad base around which to build an electoral rebellion.

Liberals could rediscover the working class and start showing it some respect in their policies. Issues could become more important than icons in our politics. Youth could rediscover their collective power once they turn off Facebook and their Ipods. The drive for a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood could become a major issue.

And, as I noted at the Capitol back in 1999:

The people who work in the building behind us have learned to count money ahead of votes. It is time to chase the money changers out of the temple. But how? After all, getting Congress to adopt publicly funded campaigns is like trying to get the Mafia to adopt the Ten Commandments as its mission statement. I would suggest that while fighting this difficult battle there is something we can do starting tomorrow. We can pull together every decent organization and individual in communities all over America — the churches, activist organizations, social service groups, moral business people, concerned citizens — and begin drafting a code of conduct for politicians. We do not have to wait for any legislature. If we do this right, if we form true broad-based coalitions of decency, then the politicians will ignore us only at their peril.

At root, dear friends, our problem is that politicians have come to have more fear of their campaign contributors than they have of the voters. We have to teach politicians to be afraid of us again. And nothing will do it better than a coming together of a righteously outraged and unified constituency demanding an end to bribery of politicians, whether it occurs before, during, or after a campaign.

In the meanwhile, it is best to keep in mind that the Republicans destroying our land are doing so not so much because of some new mental problems. They had them before and you just didn’t hear about them.

They are tearing down the nation because their problems are extremely valuable to the corporados who have put them into office and don’t want government to work at all.

Our battle, thus, is not with Walker and LePage but with the big bucks that put them where they are. Follow the money.

Sam Smith edits the Progressive Review. He is the author of The Great American Repair Manual.

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Sam Smith edits the Progressive Review.

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