The Republican Conservative Industrial Complex (RCIC) has not lacked the funds necessary to win. What has been lacking is leadership that comprehends both the problem and the solution.
It is worth taking time to do a survey of some of the people that constitute the ranks of the RCIC since they are the individuals responsible for much of the unnecessary suffering resulting from lost elections. Who is spending the money and what is it being spent on if not winning elections?
Here is an abbreviated list of some of the roles played by people who earn a living in the extended Republican Conservative Industrial Complex:
- College presidents and professors
- Candidates and elected officials
- Consultants and other PAC contractors
- Think tank personnel
- Political celebrities such as talk radio and podcast hosts
- Writers of books and/or opinion articles
College presidents and professors? Yes, they have an important role to play in the RCIC, especially these days. It is more common than ever to see books and opinion articles and radio/TV/podcast interviews with those from the hallowed halls of academe. What is discussed is what is wrong now and what was wrong in other points in history due to the bad/terrible/low grade arena of politics. What you do not hear is anything resembling what the solution might be. By now, people want to correct bad policies. What most people do not understand is how we can ever get to the place where those corrections can be made. (Everyone knows we have to win more elections–so the most important information needing to be discussed is: what is required to make that happen. We do not need more conversations about what is wrong.)
While I usually enjoy hearing their erudite commentary on policy, politics and history, too many of these college and university types see themselves as spectators of the real world of politics. They are “educators,” and thus they seem be tempted to think they are not as responsible as everyone else is for the accomplishment of ground level political work. (Which again, is the only work that wins elections.)
Moving over to candidates and elected officials, they are typically narrowly focused on the duties of their office and their own election and reelection. Those who actively play a part in other campaigns beyond their own rarely seem to bother to study why they fail more often than they succeed. Instead, they rely on our next group—the consultant class.
The consultants and others who are paid by political action committees often excel in their narrow skill set. They can construct and interpret polls, produce ads, gather and refine voter data (though they rarely attend to cleaning up voter rolls), and do other useful things like sometimes developing winning strategies. Unfortunately, these political consulting skills should be thought of as similar to those professionals in the building trades. You absolutely need good carpenters and plumbers and iron workers (etc.)—but those jobs do not involve oversight of the big picture.
Those who work in the think tank/non-profit arena also serve important roles. For decades, an increasing number of researchers and writers have dissected our policy problems and proposed viable policy alternatives. Yet as one friend of mine said, they should actually be called “wishful thinking tanks,” since none of their prescriptions have a chance of being filled unless we win a lot more elections.
Finally on our short list, the political celebrity class—those TV and radio talk show and podcast hosts, the writers of books and articles, do yeoman’s work informing (and entertaining) the Republican and conservative choir. Some conversions of independents and leftists do happen. But for the amount time, energy and money that is spent, the result has not been electing governing majorities. That is not a surprise, since rarely is the topic of doing actual election work discussed.
The money being raised through donations and/or ad revenue is substantial. Just like conservatives like to say about government, what we have in the Republican Conservative Industrial Complex is not a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem.
Image credit: Hillsdale College’s Facebook page photo.
The Ground War ongoing series of articles can be found here.
Post script: I have gotten some “blowback” from using the picture of the great Hillsdale College. This is how I answered that reaction on Facebook:
Or course Hillsdale is a great college. But they have been around for a century and a half–yet we are where we are. That’s a century and a half of not quite succeeding in getting the job done. Tell me how I’m wrong in that observation. They are outgunned, out-manned, and overwhelmed, sure. But they have access to a donor class that has more than enough resources to build what is necessary to win. The problem is, the Hillsdale folks have constructed a moat protecting them from ever hearing about what is needed to win. For crying out loud, don’t we all know what is wrong? Do we really need to discuss that endlessly? It’s sad. The good news is that Hillsdale’s fundraising will continue to be lovely.