We have a structural problem in Republican and conservative politics, and it is not just in Illinois—it is in the entire country. Donors continue to increase their giving every year to Republican and conservative causes, but very little of that money is actually spent accomplishing the only kind of work that wins elections.
And what work is that? Real ground-level election work.
What does that work consist of? The list is long—but examples of it are cleaning up voter rolls, registering voters, getting people to the polls on election day, monitoring early voting and election day voting in the polling places, as well as overseeing the post-election vote counting that these days often continues on until the Democrat Party’s candidate has enough “votes” to win.
Currently, the bulk of donor money is spent funding think tanks or other non-profits, commentators who write articles or books or have a talk radio show or a podcast or appear on streaming platforms. There are even very well funded Political Action Committees that do not actually fund the political action that is election work. Instead, these multi-million dollar “PAC” enterprises send out endless emails and make videos and do much of the same kind of “work” that your average think tank does.
Evidence continues to be made public about how the elections were conducted in several states last November. As a result, rank and file Republicans and conservatives are waking up to the realization that despite all of their donations to policy and political organizations, those making a living in Republican and conservative politics were not actually minding the store.
For all of the commentary pieces, policy papers, countless hours of talk radio and podcasts, wonderful educational videos, and promotion of policy or candidates, leftists were able to gain control of elections and change the definition of what constitutes a “vote” and “voter.”
Republicans and conservative donors should ask for their money back—or at least reconsider what they will continue to fund.
For the record, this writer has always been a fan of the work of the think tanks and talkers and commentators and other educational efforts on the Republican and conservative side. All those activities, including parades and marches and protests and rallies and conferences and meetings—have a role to play. But those activities are not actually doing the work that wins elections.
What I call the Republican Conservative Industrial Complex others refer to as “Conservative Inc.” The reason for my label of course is a play on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 warning about the “Military Industrial Complex.” One source explains his speech this way:
The military-industrial complex is a nation’s military establishment, as well as the industries involved in the production of armaments and other military materials. In his 1961 farewell address, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the public of the nation’s increasingly powerful military-industrial complex and the threat it posed to American democracy.
Six decades later his words seem prophetic to say the least.
In the modern political era, Republican and conservative donors have put billions of dollars into the coffers of non-profits and PACs, and Republican and conservative advertisers continue to provide funding for a lot of talk radio and many podcasts.
Despite all of this money, Republicans and conservatives were not even able to secure last November’s election, and so an increasing number of Americans do not have confidence in the honesty or legitimacy of our election system.
This is a moment for the big political donors. Either they will continue to fund more of the same while expecting a different result, or they will begin to support the ground-level work that wins elections.
Note: This is the beginning of a series of articles about the many problems with the Republican Conservative Industrial Complex. There is much to say about how and why our state and nation are in a crisis despite all of the time and money spent. Though the failure on our side has been massive—our state and country can be saved through a dramatic course correction.
Up next: Introducing the new series.