...A forthcoming article in the Washington Monthly shows that the foundations for one-party rule are being laid right
now. In ``Welcome to the Machine,'' Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation -- from
the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend
checks mailed to shareholders, to the prowar rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations.
As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well
on track to establishing one-party rule in America.
Confessore starts by describing the weekly meetings in which Sen. Rick Santorum vets the hiring decisions of
These meetings are the culmination of Grover Norquist's ``K Street Project,'' which places Republican activists
in high-level corporate and industry lobbyist jobs -- and excludes Democrats.
According to the June 26 Washington Post, a Republican National Committee official recently boasted that ``33 of 36 top-level
Washington positions he is monitoring went to Republicans.''
Of course, interest groups want to curry favor with the party that controls Congress and the White House; but as the
Washington Post explains, Santorum's colleagues have also used ``intimidation and private threats'' to bully lobbyists who
try to maintain good relations with both parties.
``If you want to play in our revolution,'' Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, once declared, ``you have to live by
Lobbying jobs are a major source of patronage -- a reward for the loyal. More important, however, many lobbyists now
owe their primary loyalty to the party, rather than to the industries they represent.
So corporate cash, once split more or less evenly between the parties, increasingly flows in only one direction.
And corporations themselves are also increasingly part of the party machine.
They are rewarded with policies that increase their profits: deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination
of environmental rules. In return, like GM and Verizon, they use their influence to support the ruling party's agenda.
As a result, campaign finance is only the tip of the iceberg. Next year, George W. Bush will spend two or three times
as much money as his opponent; but he will also benefit hugely from the indirect support that corporate interests -- very
much including media companies -- will provide for his political message.
Naturally, Republican politicians deny the existence of their burgeoning machine.
``It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments,''
says DeLay. And Ari Fleischer says that ``I think that the amount of money that candidates raise in our
democracy is a reflection of the amount of support they have around the country.''
Confessore suggests that we may be heading for a replay of the McKinley era, in which the nation was governed by and
for big business.
I think he's actually understating his case: Like DeLay, Republican leaders often talk of ``revolution,'' and we should
take them at their word.
Why isn't the ongoing transformation of U.S. politics -- which may well put an end to serious two-party competition --
getting more attention? Most pundits, to the extent they acknowledge that anything is happening, downplay its importance...