“Corporatist Sell Outs?”

One of the things I see all over the liberal sites is long-winded complaints about “corporatists” and how corporations “rule the party.”  I’d gather from their attacks on corporations that none of them work for one.    Now, I can (and d0) complain about corporate behavior on specific incidents, and I’m more than willing to admit that the mentality of focusing on short term gains has taken over to the detriment of both corporations and the public. I also think Citizens United was a terrible decision, and yes, we do need to think of ways to limit or overturn that.  That said, the phrase “corporatist” gets thrown around way too much, and often ignores some very important things.

Let’s make up a hypothetical “Super Liberal” Congressman Jack Smith, representing the First District of Big Blue State.  It’s a solidly Democratic district, with a +8 Democratic margin.  Basically, the sort of district where all you have to do is put the (D) after your name, and you’re elected.  He’s a relentless advocate in Congress for progressive causes, always out in public promoting them, and all the liberal blogs can’t say enough great things about him and wish all Democrats could be just like him.

Then comes the day when Congresswoman June Jones introduces a bill to fund universal pre-K education.  It’s a great idea, popular, all the liberal blogs line up behind it, and she’s got a lot of co-sponsors jumping on board.  She’s going to pay for that with a big tax on widgets, and that’s when Jack Smith starts to push against it.  He wants that tax removed, and some other funding method used.  He’s out lobbying his fellow lawmakers on it.   He will not vote for that bill as it stands, and he’s going to fight tooth and nail to kill it if it does.   Of course, the liberal blogs hear about it, and start screaming “Betrayal!” and “He sold us out!” and “Corporate shill!”  He’s Not A Real Progressive!  Why would he do something so “not progressive?”

Here’s why:  In his district, there are two companies, General Widget and Widget International.  General Widget has its headquarters in his district, along with a major factory, and Widget International has a big factory in another part of the district.  Together with their suppliers who are located there,  they employ thousands of people.  Both factories are “union shops,”  so the pay is pretty good.  The moment that tax was written into the proposed bill, Congressman Smith heard about it.  Yes, of course both corporations contacted his office.  But so did the union, all the suppliers, every elected and party official in his district, and a lot of the people employed by those companies and the ones depending on those businesses.   All of them saying they were against it.  Now, Congressman Smith has a choice.  He can “stand up for progressive values” in this instance and say goodbye to any chance of reelection, or he can do what all of his constituents say they want him to do.  Congressman Smith may very well be – and most likely is – in favor of universal pre-K education.  If that tax weren’t in it, he’d have been one of the representatives signing on as a co-sponsor.  But because it’s impacting a major part of his district’s economy, he’s going to be against it.

This example is based on a number of real incidents.  It’s easy to scream “corporate shill!” when your area isn’t impacted in the least.  What none of the people screaming the loudest ever ask is “What is the major player in that area’s economy?”   That, more than “corporate money” often determines what a Senator or a Representative is going to do, and sometimes fail to be a “true progressive” or a “real Democrat.”   In my post last year about “your issues are not my issues,”  I touched on this.  Issues that are incredibly important to you may not matter to me, and vice versa.  As I’ve said, it’s a big country, and there are times when you will find progressives in one area actively opposing you.  It’s because of the truth of an old saying:  All politics are local.  The industry that’s incredibly important to Congressman Smith’s constituents means that he will oppose anything that might hurt it.   You would expect no less of your congressional representatives if it’s something important in your area, whether or not it’s considered “really progressive.”

If you go through any politician’s record, it’ll turn out there will be at least one, and more likely numerous times when they came out against something that was a “liberal ideal.”   Oh, they might stand up to their constituents if they aren’t going to run again, but in general politicians want to be reelected.  If their offices are getting flooded with missives from their constituents about a course of action, they’re going to listen.    How can you change that?  You can’t.  “Representing” means just that, representing the people who elected you.  My Congressional representatives really don’t care what someone in California thinks.  If you’re in California, your representatives don’t care what I think.  I’m not their constituent, just as you are not my representatives constituent.

This is not to say that there aren’t “bought and sold” politicians. Of course there are, there always has been.  I can be – and am – against the amount of money being thrown around by businesses to influence political decisions.  But I before I start making blanket accusations about various politicians, I should take a look at what their area’s major interests are.  You see, they may not be corporatist sell outs, they might just be representing their constituents.

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9 responses to ““Corporatist Sell Outs?”

  1. I often wonder the “all corporations are bad” people ever think about the millions who are employed by them. Not that the corporations don’t do bad things or that the CEOs aren’t massively overpaid, but the anti-Corp people don’t seem to even connect them with real people who are employees at all.

    • sjterrid

      My Husband is an actuary, and is currently working for AIG. He had previously worked for Insurance and an accounting firms. Bernie Sanders and his supporters doesn’t seem to understand how many employees would be out of work, and what that would do to our economy.

    • I also think they either don’t work for one, or don’t connect the fact that even small businesses are generally incorporated. But mainly, my observation is that they don’t try to understand why some congressional representatives don’t toe the line when it comes to “progressive ideal,” even if they’re generally a progressive.

      It’s easy for me to be against coal mining and coal as a fossil fuel. I was doing term papers back in college on the impacts, and later on field work and several blog posts here. There’s a reason a number of lakes up here are “dead,” why we can’t eat the fish we catch in many lakes, and it’s because of coal burning. We don’t depend on coal fueled electricity, we don’t have any coal mines, and never have. So we expect our politicians – and they do – to be pushing hard on cleaning up or stopping coal and coal generated electricity. On the flip side, I don’t expect any support for that from politicians in West Virginia. I don’t like it, but I recognize that coal mining is the biggest employer there, and unless we can change that, they’re always going to be supporting coal. It’s what their constituents are demanding.

  2. The Problem with Much of the Liberal Intelligensia and most of their young, angry minions is that they live in a bubble of privilege – their livelihoods are not directly linked to many economic and cultural realities they rally against. Its privilege (or the illusion of it), pure and simple.

    Its easy to rail against Big Pharma, Insurance Companies and GMO’s when you’re a upper middle class surburbanite with relatively good health and benefits. Of course you can wax poetically about your magic kelp and overpriced organic chicken treating cancer – because if you’re not poor and starving and if you actually actually do get cancer, you can roll your New Age silliness right into an ER have it paid for.

    It’s really easy to tut-tut purity votes when you’re white, male, straight and well heeled – you don’t have a national party creating a pitchfork brigade against your skin tone, your gender or sexual identity.

    Its easy to rally against oil or coal if you’re some hipster living in an urban metro area that runs on finance, tech and/or media – like New York, LA or San Francisco. Your electricity mind as well comes from a million hamsters on a wheel.

    In essence, much of the Far Left lives in as much a Bubble of Naivete, Cynicism and Arrogance as the Far Right.

    • Exactly. It’s a distorted view of the world. I see it every summer, when the tourists come around, and wonder why their cell phones won’t work or why we all don’t have any number of things available that are where they live. If I want to get rid of coal, not only do I have to encourage alternative generation means, but I also have to start businesses and industries in coal states that offer equal or better jobs, so that coal mining isn’t “the 800 pound gorilla.” Realistically, even the coal miners wouldn’t mind leaving the mines, if there were alternatives.

      • I don’t think this accounts for every younger person supporting Sanders. My son is a Sanders supporter, which makes me a little sad, but he will vote in the general. He is 29 and has been struggling. He went out to art school in San Francisco, partially funded by dad and partially funded by loans. He was working for his room and board, and using the dad loans/bank loans for the tuition. This was before student loans were reformed so they are expensive. In his second year the economy crashed, he lost his job and couldn’t find another. He had to come home a year before graduating. He finished his degree here (graphic design/motion graphics) and got a job but was downsized after a year and a half. He lived in Detroit as cheaply as he could, but he finally had to move back in with his dad. He has not stopped looking for work and has done some freelancing. He feels angry because he has not so far been able to make it independently. He’s not lazy, he’s worked since high school. He and his friends have been told so much that their generation has lost so much in future earnings. He’s not in much of a bubble – I’m a teacher and my income has done nothing but drop for the last 12 years. Of course he has the privilege that goes with being a white male, but he struggled in school and has been struggling ever since. I think this is will pass and as I’m said, I’m sure he will vote for Clinton because he’s not delusional enough to want any of the GOP as president. I think with many of these younger people it is about the frustration of the economy. It’s the issue that affects them the most and they can’t see around it.

        • I don’t think it applies to most Sanders supporters, but I also think it does to the most vocal “names” among his supporters, and in particular the group we call “BerniBro’s” It’s a standard feature of the group I call “the frustrati,” who seem to come up with the standard list of complaints, mostly directed against President Obama.

          One of the remaining problems with the economy is the unevenness of the recovery. There was a recent study where they looked at the highest levels of poverty and income inequality, and it turns out that there are areas which are booming, while others are not or even in decline. Yes, Detroit and that region is one of them. I understand what people like your son are going through, because I’ve been there. I’ve been through bankruptcy, penniless, and if it weren’t for friends and family, I’d have been homeless. That was back when GW was starting off. So I do have a lot of sympathy, and yes, I have younger members of my family that I worry about. Two of them were teachers, and they’re no longer that, they’re working in other fields now. A lot of my own anger against the frustrati is because of the lost opportunity. How far we could have come, what improvements for people like your son we could have had were thrown away because they had a tantrum.

          • Thank you. Yes, I am resentful of the Voices who encouraged people not to vote. The amazing progress we have made would have been so much more. So many wasted opportunities because of blind fear and hatred that rises to the level of mental illness fed by people who wanted more media time or clicks. It’s only because President Obama is so brilliant that we have come so far on so many fronts. And the voices can’t stand that.