Thinking out loudMcCain is the presumptive Republican nominee.
Okay, what does this mean?
For Big Money, this is a big frickin problem. Big Money's most reliable ally in controlling the U.S. government has been, for the past century or so, the Republican Party. And Big Money hates McCain. Hates hates HATES him.
What does this mean?
It means that Big Money now has a choice. It can pull a complete 180 and start trying to build up McCain as a more palatable option to the conservative base. Unfortunately, they have to date spent millions making him completely unacceptable to that same base, and it's been money well spent, too. Do they really want to throw that investment away, when most people think McCain can't win the election anyway?
Conversely, Big Money can start investing heavily into someone it likes better. However, to justify that investment, whoever Big Money chooses as an alternate has to have a reasonable chance of winning the Presidency.
Big Money is sending conflicting signals right now, which indicates to me that a final decision has not yet been reached. On the one hand, one of Big Money's most powerful media voices, Ann Coulter, has come out and stated on Sean Hannity's FOX program that if John Cain becomes the Republican nominee, she will actively campaign for Hillary Clinton, because Clinton is the more reliably conservative candidate than McCain.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney has announced he's quitting his campaign:
Romney is as big a shill for 'the innerests' as Coulter ever will be, and if he's marching offstage, it's because someone bigger than him cut the marching orders. Romney himself says that he's doing this to shore up conservative support for McCain, and, yeah, I can see that. Within my admittedly limited understanding of the power dynamics here, that makes as much sense as anything else.
But... again... Romney is a shill for Big Money, and Big Money hates McCain. HATES him. So Romney stepping down is a pretty strong indicator that Big Money is giving serious thought to swallowing its intense dislike of McCain and getting behind his campaign.
Coulter's statement of support for Clinton over McCain, though, is an equally strong signal that Big Money is considering supporting someone else in this election. And when you can't find a Republican candidate you like well enough, where does a worried plutocrat go?
Straight to the nearest viable candidate named Clinton, that's where.
Right now, right this moment, The Innerests must be in a frenzy of frustrated indecision.
You're not even supposed to be able to get on stage nationally if you're not safely bought and paid for long in advance.
The most valuable thing any national campaign can have going for it is that mystical word 'viability' -- the perceived ability to win the election. As a general rule, viability is granted (or withheld) by the media -- if the media says a candidate has a good chance to win the election, then, as if by magic, that candidate does.
If, on the other hand, the media declares a particular candidacy to be non-viable, then that candidacy is dead in the water. Tell the electorate often enough that a vote for such and such is a wasted vote (worse, it will work out in actual effect to be a Vote For This Other Guy You Really Hate) and most people will swallow it hook, line and sinker. The candidate's positions, past record, and actual character become entirely moot once the public has been convinced that this candidate CANNOT win the election. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
The media, of course, by and large, works for Big Money. In effect, this means that for a candidate to be anointed as 'viable', Big Money must approve of them. Otherwise, they are 'crackpots', they are 'from the fringe', they are 'extremists' -- they 'cannot be elected'. And, guess what? They won't be.
Sometimes, though, candidates make their way through the cracks in the system. McCain has built a national, even an international reputation around being a maverick, an outsider, somebody who is willing to slap iron for the little people against the big movers and shakers in the Republican Party. Whether this is actual fact or not doesn't much matter; the point is, a lot of people believe it. McCain appeals to moderate Republicans and to independents, enough so to make him electable... if not in a general referendum, then, at least, at a Republican nominating convention.
More importantly, the press loves McCain. They want to see the guy become President, or at least, they want him to get a good shot at it. This is something political analysts often times overlook. Yes, there's a machine, and yes, the machine runs nearly everything... but the machine is made out of cogs, and sometimes, the cogs spin unpredictably. For whatever reason, the media has largely failed to embrace any other Republican candidate this year. They've gone, by and large, koo-koo for McCain puffs. That, combined with McCain's already noted appeal to moderates and independents, has made McCain's candidacy very 'viable'.
At this point, Big Money can still crush McCain like a bug. The press may love McCain, but the press can, ultimately, be brought to heel. Spend enough money on enough opposition ads, throw enough dirt around, form enough 527s, fire a few reporters who won't fall into line fast enough and promote a few others who will... Big Money will have no real problem tearing McCain down.
If they want to.
The problem is, who else have they got? Yeah, the Ann Coulter thing is a test balloon, but you have to figure it's a desperate long shot -- I don't honestly believe there is enough money in the universe to convince any significant percentage of the conservative base to vote for 'Hitlery'. That doesn't mean Hillary couldn't win with enough money behind her, but it's risky. If McCain takes the independents and the moderate Republicans, then Big Money has to somehow position Hillary to somehow be made appealing to conservatives who won't vote for McCain -- and, y'know, all the Democrats. Money and media can forge some weird coalitions, but that one stretches even my imagination to the breaking point.
Plus, Barack Obama has proven to be a dangerous monkey wrench in the works over on the Democratic side. It's very possible that Hillary may not even be nominated... in which case, Big Money has to go back to McCain. Who else are they going to buy up on the Republican side? Well, nearly anyone, sure, but again, I doubt there is enough money out there to simultaneously demolish McCain and build up, say, Huckabee or Paul to the point where either is 'viable'. Not that either of them much appeals to Big Money, either.
Here's how I'm figuring it, right now: the 2008 elections were supposed to be safe elections for 'the innerests'. After 8 years of rampant Bush/Cheney corruption, the Great Unwashed would be happy to vote for whoever wasn't a Republican, and Big Money was reasonably certain that would be Hillary. Yeah, the conservative base hates her, but 2006 shows that the conservative base is no longer in a position to decide elections. So let the 'other side' have one for 4 or 8 years.
Hillary has always been a reliable watchdog over big corporate interests. Bear in mind, her 'universal health care plan' is nearly entirely comprised of the Federal government forcing everyone in America to buy health insurance -- a gigantic economic windfall for The Interests, as it will directly profit the zillion dollar health insurance industry, while indirectly giving a big shot in the arm to every other U.S. company that currently pays substantial portions of their workforce's healthcare costs. Net winner, Big Money. Who takes it up the ass yet again? You and me.
So Big Money figured they had '08 locked down. They'd put up someone they could count on -- Rudy, maybe, or Mitt -- on the Republican side, and maybe he'd actually win, but even if Mr. Rich Guy lost (something all the smart money was predicting) well, they'd have another Clinton running on the other side, and could use their media mouthpieces to make sure that any other candidate who wasn't safely bought and paid for was pronounced 'non-viable'.
But McCain has royally screwed things up on the Republican side. Big Money can't stand him, but they haven't been able to tag him as 'non-viable', and he's picking up enough votes to make him a real pain in the ass for them.
Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side... well, we know who's been fucking things up for Big Money on the D side of the ticket.
So, once again... Big Money has a big problem. Suddenly there are way too many variables and things are getting wildly out of control.
What's going to happen next? It depends.
The next big signal will be who McCain picks as his VP. If it's Huckabee, or, worse, Paul, that's the end of him with Big Money. They'll go elsewhere for satisfaction. Look for 527 funded attacks on McCain to ratchet up to insane levels, and for some other candidate to start raking in big contributions.
On the other hand, if McCain picks Romney or Rudy or (more likely, for reasons I'll get to) some other corporate fat cat politician to run with, that's another signal -- he's telling Big Money that regardless of his history, he's their guy, and if he should get into office, he'll protect their interests. In that case, look for all the conservative media mouthpieces to suddenly turn on a dime and start up with the 'John McCain, a True American Hero' bullshit, and most if not all of the really nasty 527 attacks on McCain to get dialed way back, while, at the same time, the mud starts to be slung big time against whoever is running against him.
I have no faith in McCain's essential integrity, and he's pretty clearly a smart guy with a lot of self interest. If I had to bet, I'd bet he'll work very very hard to get Big Money back on his side. On the other hand, McCain has a lot of pride and can be as foolish as the next guy, and he'd hardly be the first to buy into his own self promotion. If he really enjoys the idea of being a maverick, he'll tell Big Money to go fuck itself and try to make himself over into someone who can fuse the moderates and independents together with enough of the conservative base to get him into the White House.
That's a very risky strategy, but who knows? He's a charismatic guy, and let's remember, George W. Bush was, in reality, not someone at all who should have appealed in any way to the conservative base, or to moderates, or to independents -- a spoiled little rich kid, a failure as a businessman, an alcoholic and a cokehead, who pulled strings to get out of combat duty and then didn't even bother to show up for the last year of his Air National Guard tour. When you have the media in your corner -- and McCain does -- you can work miracles. (To an extent, McCain already has.)
So here's how it looks to me right now -- if it's McCain and Clinton, then Big Money will strongly back whichever one of them seems most economically reliable... and I'm going to say that will probably be Clinton, as she's never gone after their nuts with any kind of serious legislative attempt at campaign finance reform. Look for a lot of anti-McCain swiftboating and a big summer-fall roll out of 'I hate to say it but Hillary is actually a better candidate on the issues that matter to Republicans than John McCain' from all the FOX News and conservative talk radio ventriloquist dummies.
Democrats and liberals will stupidly rejoice, Hillary will be elected President, the Bush tax cuts will remain permanent, no recent Republican legislation will be overturned, the rich will continue to get richer, the national security state will continue to become more oppressive and intrusive, and we'll all be offered jobs at $11 an hour working as call center customer service reps for Asian manufacturing firms -- and be assured that we should be grateful for the opportunity.
Of course, Big Money has to be careful to wait until Hillary is actually the Democratic nominee. Once she is, liberals and progressives and most Democrats can be trusted to swallow pretty much anything and vote for her in the general election. However, until she locks it up, Big Money does not want to seriously start flying that 'Hillary is more reliable on most conservative issues than McCain' flag. If they do, it's going to cost her the nomination. I'm surprised Ann Coulter jumped the gun the way she did... but it's important to understand that she did it a few days BEFORE Super Tuesday, and she was probably trying to throw those primaries to Romney. Now that it hasn't worked, don't look for this particular line of dialog to be repeated until when and if Hillary is finally coronated as the official nominee.
If it's McCain and Obama, and McCain has picked a pro-biz candidate like Rudy or Mitt as his VP, then I'm going to guess Big Money will swallow its pride and support McCain. Look for a lot of Osama Hussein Obama crap from the 527s and conservative talk radio, along with the usual 'John McCain, Greatest American Hero' nonsense. However, I wouldn't look for either Rudy or Mitt to be McCain's VP in this instance. Big Money knows both of them carry too much baggage to appeal to the theocons. They'll want to go out and find someone who can thump a Bible, rant a little bit about gay marriage and school prayer, and who is still rich enough to be willing to protect his own when it comes to economic policy. I don't know who that guy is, but I'll bet that if Big Money wants to bad enough, they can find him.
If, on the other hand, it's McCain the Maverick (running with someone like Huckabee or Paul as his VP) against Obama, well... things could get very interesting indeed. Big Money won't want either of those tickets in the White House. That, I suspect, is when we'll see Michael Bloomberg come out of the shadows with a whole lot of cash in his pockets.
Or it might be someone other than Bloomberg, but whoever it is, I guarantee you this -- campaign finance reform will not be part of their platform. And if they get into office, the first thing they'll push for is to repeal the McCain-Feingold Act... just to spit in John McCain's face.
I suppose this means I've finally talked myself around to supporting Barack Obama more or less unequivocally in the election. Yeah, I hate the way he panders to the Democratic religious base, but, well, I guess that's better than pandering to the Republican religious base, or to Big Money. I'm not crazy enough to think he can get into office without owing a few favors, but I am pretty sure he's not as completely sold out to high finance as everyone else. And who knows? He may be willing to put his boot up a few Congressional Democrats' asses, once he's in the White House.
At the very least, I don't think an Obama Administration will be 'business as usual'. Which is, I suppose, really the best we can hope for.