Thursday, September 1, 2016

Beyond Cronyism

Over at The Weekly Standard, I outline the Democratic alliance of corporatism of identity politics, the threat this alliance poses to the GOP, and what conservatives can do to respond:
Currently, corporatism and identity politics stand as two pillars of the Democratic presidential coalition. Corporate titans in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and elsewhere—what demographer Joel Kotkin has termed the new "oligarch" caste—support the Democratic party in exchange for government subsidies and other privileges. The Affordable Care Act's passage relied upon an alliance of Democratic lawmakers and major health-care interests, Dodd-Frank has often ended up strengthening the hands of the nation's largest financial institutions, and many progressive "green" initiatives function as de facto corporate subsidies. When the Obama administration pursued financial penalties against major financial institutions in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, it gave them the option of lessening these penalties by donating to left-leaning activist groups such as La Raza. Moreover, many of those in big business are quite willing to promote left-wing social causes (on identity politics, sexual ethics, and so forth). As the past two elections have suggested, identity politics plus corporate cronyism can be a powerful coalition—at least on the presidential level...
Assuming the right wants to be more than a performance-art faction, it will need to think critically about rebuilding itself. Pandering to business interests is likely not one of the ways do to that. In the long term, America's corporations would be better off defending the principles of the free market rather than hoping to benefit from crony capitalism. Public-private corruption often delegitimizes the market in the public's eyes, and policies that allow the unscrupulous funneling of public wealth to major corporate stakeholders will also allow for the taking of wealth from these stakeholders. Thus, it would be best for business and the Republican party for the GOP to continue to defend the free market. Republicans have further electoral incentive to resist the corporate pander. Many acts of business pandering (such as increasing guest-worker programs) will divide the GOP and compromise its ability to reach out to the middle, and efforts to take social issues "off the table" by capitulating to the left will only alienate many social conservatives, who hold beliefs that are often more popular than another round of capital-gains tax cuts.
If the Democratic party is going to become the faction of corporatism, Republicans have every incentive to emphasize the anti-cronyist tendencies of conservatism. Rather than pandering to big business, the GOP could strengthen local communities and call for a diffusion of power. This does not mean attacking business, but it does require placing one's obligations to the American people above the demands of corporate lobbyists. The GOP would also have to address with forward-thinking policies the parts of the country where opportunity has stagnated, whether in former mill towns or inner cities. It would spend more time addressing the forces that drive populist energies.
Confronting these challenges might mean thinking beyond hoary verities. The business-oriented fiscal agenda of trade deals, entitlement reform, deregulation, and tax cuts—which some in the Beltway take to be the heart of conservatism—cannot by itself constitute an electoral core for the GOP. This agenda will have to evolve to confront the realities of the 21st century, and it will need to be part of a much broader narrative of politics, one that speaks to Americans as neighbors and parents, as flesh-and-blood human beings embedded in a broader culture—not just abstracted economic actors. Instead of the calculated divisions of identity politics, Republicans could champion a common public square.
Read the rest here.

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