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Thornton Hall

The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

Can't Win For Losing? Wing-nut agitators do the impossible.

The inscrutable little idiom: "I can't win for losing," has always intrigued me. Was it a play on a now obsolete phrasing? Something like "I can't win for my inability to throw darts accurately"? 

In any case, there is a group of folks who can win for losing: right-wing interest groups. The deep connection between movement conservatism and mail fraud is a fascinating read.[1] But you don't need to go that far into the weeds to realize that Fox News doesn't make money winning elections; Fox News "stock in trade" is white male grievance (or, in a less charitable, more accurate way: hate), and the demand for white male grievance booms when Democrats, especially black and/or female Democrats, win elections. Also, if you are the NRA, or Anti-Choice America[2], or any other right-wing pressure group, your fund raising solicitations need a villian. "Stop this villiany!" is the sum and substance of every right wing (and many, but far from all, left-leaning) fundraising letter ever written. If Hillary Clinton did not exist, the producers on Fox and authors of right wing fundraising letters would have collaborated to invent her!

Meanwhile, money is only a means to an end for normal politicians. The primary goal is always winning elections. For example, a Democratic Senator would never simply adopt the agenda of say, PETA, no matter how much money they raise. General election voters don't want a Vegan evangelist (and neither do I).

But on the question of who in a political party drives the agenda, the GOP is no longer "the other side of the aisle." The GOP policy agenda and the people who are creating it exist on the other side of the mirror.

The Republican Party agenda is in the control of the right-wing equivalents of PETA: Heritage Action, the Club For Growth, the Gun Owners of America, and on and on. What makes these right wing snake oil salesmen so dangerous is that, from their perspective, winning elections is bad for business. When a member of Congress stands up and claims to have evidence that the President is literally trying to kill old people, these groups don't see someone vulnerable in a general election, they see dollar signs!

The National Review's Robert Costa presents a real time look into this process as fundraising con-artists convince Congressional crazies to demand the defunding of Obamacare as ransom to prevent (or end) a government shutdown, much to the consternation of Republicans who still, like the RINO pussies that they are, want to win future elections. 

In American life, it is always helpful to ask, "how does the profit motive push this person or entity?" It has become the maxim: follow the money. For the GOP in 2013, the trail of money leads right into the abyss.


1. Just a taste from Rick Pearlstein's "must read" fantastic tale at The Baffler:

 In 1961 Richard Viguerie... took a job as executive director for the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)...    And the first thing that Liebman [his boss] showed Viguerie was the automated “Robotype” machine he used to send out automated fundraising pitches. Viguerie’s eyes widened; he had found his life’s calling. ...
Following the Goldwater defeat, Viguerie went into business for himself. He famously visited the Clerk of the House of Representatives, where the identities of those who donated fifty dollars or more to a presidential campaign then by law reposed. First alone, and then with a small army of “Kelly Girls” (as he put it to me in 1996), he started copying down the names and addresses in longhand until some nervous bureaucrat told him to cease and desist.

2. Creative license taken, group is a composite of actual groups. 


Update: More on the modern patent medicine scheme: lying to conservative rubes for fun and profit

Did the Well Blog at NYT Have A Conversion Experience?

Don't Let The Door Hit Your Ass...