An Intriguing Analogy

A recent article in The New Republic made the argument that our current governmental paralysis is actually evidence of insufficient partisanship–if partisanship is understood to require concern for the long-term best interests of one’s political party rather than one’s own political fortunes.

In other words, if the crazy caucus really gave a rat’s patootie about the fortunes of the GOP, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.

In fact, as the article notes, there has been a massive shift away from traditional partisanship, enabled by donor-ideologues like the Koch brothers and Super Pacs, and abetted by districts-as-fiefdoms created by gerrymandering.

The analogy that struck me, however, was the comparison of traditional political parties to old-fashioned corporations, enterprises whose executives used to aim to build long-term value and market share.

In the 1980s, that long-term focus changed. The new mantra became “shareholder return,” and financiers (aka corporate raiders) swept in with leveraged buyouts, greenmail, private equity, etc.

As we saw with Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital portfolio, some companies survived these raids but many were wiped out. Cruz, the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, DeMint, and even Paul Ryan should be seen as something like the corporate raiders of American politics. They are trying to extract maximum value from their current positions in the system, with little regard for the long-term future of the Republican party.

Worth pondering.


  1. This idea makes sense. One can view the far right as a kind of parasite, eating away at and weakening the GOP, as well as the fabric of America, but not with the intention of outright destroying either one. This is the kind of useful metaphor that people need in order to understand just how insidious this behavior is and to actually begin to talk about how it will all come down. If the shutdown is a predictor, they haven’t thought through that little detail. They just know how to feed on the weaknesses of the system and get short term rewards from what they do.

  2. Excellent analogy! One of the problems for both political parties is reform. Party bosses used to keep total control through their ability to hand out patronage. We reformed the system to reduce the corruption, but lost the leverage this gave the old guard to keep out “undesirable” elements, which could be a good thing or, an occasion, not.

    The other problem is that the zealot wing of the party learned the old adage that it is better to lose an election (they lost several) than to lose control of the party (which they seem to have taken and kept).

  3. I suspect that almost everyone assumes that you can always do violence to some part of the system with its various institutions because they are inherently strong and really can’t be destroyed, but there some people–not just in politics–who are beginning to test those limits. How much can we eat-at and take advantage of the financial system? How about the public education spectrum? Our cities? The way we take care of vulnerable people? To our chagrin, we are beginning to discover that the system is not invulnerable AND, worse yet, that the institutions of the culture are actually connected and interdependent. The right wing and other parasites who think they can rip off the system for short term gain just may discover that what we had was a gift that needed care, support and good minds for it grow. It IS possible for this “grand experiment” to fail just by ruining one or two of the institutions that support it.

    These issues and problems need to be set in front of the public for debate and consideration because it will be the public that will suffer. The loud and careless voices that send “representatives” who just want to make a point and get all they can, rather than care for our system of governance and provide for the common good need to have a picture of the disaster that lies ahead because they had their say. Perhaps they don’t understand that lynchings also stemmed from the voice of a crowd. As I recall, the first amendment was written primarily to give people the opportunity to contribute their thoughts so that the “experiment” would succeed, not to fool others so they could get away with grabbing the commons.

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