Cliff Schecter, 5/18/2012 [Archive]

Plutocracy Democracy

Plutocracy Democracy

By Cliff Schecter

Another week, another plutocrat steps into the spotlight in the pursuit of possessing their very own American politician. This time it was Joe Ricketts (what a perfect name for a gazillionaire infecting our political system with his financial clout), founder of brokerage house TD Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs.

This past Tuesday, Ricketts upended a Nebraska Republican Senate Primary with a late infusion of $250,000 the week before for campaign ads on behalf of underdog Deb Fischer (double what she spent herself the entire campaign), chairwoman of the Nebraska state senate. It was essential in helping her win a stunning come-from-behind victory over the much more heavily favored dynamic duo of State Treasurer Don Stenberg and Attorney General Jon Bruning (the latter attacked by one of these ads), who had been beating each other up via their own campaigns and Super Pac supporters for the better part of a year. As recently as a week ago, however, Bruning still looked to have the race locked down, until Ricketts swooped in, Spiderman-style, with the financial resources of OsCorp Industries.

Also this week, The New York Times obtained a secret 54-page campaign plan put together by Republican consultants for "The Ending Spending Action Fund Super PAC," to be bankrolled by Ricketts. In it, they discuss bringing back an old favorite on the Right, President Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright, for a massive advertising campaign that he and his gold-digging consultant friends hope will somehow make Americans look at Jeremiah Wright, and then at Obama, and say, "wait a minute, they're black!"

That, my friends, is the current state of democracy in America. In post-Citizens-United politics, we might as well just hold square dances or speed dating sessions where politicians and consultants can meet their yacht-slipper wearing significant other, so we can just dispense with outdated concepts like centralized political parties and "establishments" once and for all. Foster Friess, meet Rick Santorum. You both hate the idea of woman having sex because they might like it. Sheldon Adelson, meet Newt Gingrich. You both view Muslims as terrorists-til-proven-innocent and think unions are something to bully, like a prep-school kid with long hair.

As Charlie Pierce, the clever political scribe at Esquire Magazine put it, "there are dozens of Joe Ricketts out there, waiting for their main chance. Do you think any of them care what [Republican National Committee Chairman] Reince Priebus thinks of them?" Short of telling him he'd have to officiate a gay marriage, nobody could get Rick Santorum (and his money man Friess) out of the presidential race long past the time it was clear that he had the same shot at being the nominee as R. Kelly.

Ironically, conservatives have killed tradition in favor of a new-money elite with a chip on its shoulder, a lack of feeling and a penchant for unending hypocrisy. Ricketts is a perfect example -- someone who hates government spending, except when big government checks are coming in to build a new stadium for his baseball team.

Chris Hayes, host of "Up w/ Chris Hayes" on MSNBC and author of "Twilight Of The Elites: America After Meritocracy," put it to me this way, "One of the most pernicious pathologies that our current meritocracy produces is a caste of plutocrats with tremendous power who are convinced they are persecuted underdogs. When you perceive yourself as embattled prey, you cut moral corners."

Yup, you could say that. You could also say that these are the guys who for the foreseeable future will play an enormous role in the running of our democracy.


©Copyright 2012 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at 800- 696-7561 or email

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller "The Real McCain." Email Cliff at

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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