Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Scott Walker and elite GOP grifting. From the Wis Capitol, to Faux News, to SCOTUS

Let's talk again about how our former Governor, a guy who saw Wisconsin badly underperform at job growth during his "reform-filled" 8 years in office. Scott Walker now has a "job" where he doesn't seem to do much beyond tweeting stuff like this, less than a week after we found out that Wisconsin reached record lows in unemployment.

But this is the thing about being a 2020s GOP with a cushy wingnut welfare job - facts and results don't have to matter, because there's always some kind of oligarch and/or influence-peddler willing to give you a paycheck.

The excellent David Roth gave a great rundown of this type of GOP elite griftopia that gives a high 6-figure salary to Scott Walker. This RW Insiders' Club received extra scrutiny after revelations of Harlan Crow’s bribery “influence” over Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Roth says this is a bug that infects large segments of today’s Republican Party and DC conservatism in general.
It all feels and certainly looks like the end of something, but some different images have emerged that made me reconsider my sense that those thumbs-up pics [with Donald Trump] were an apotheosis. If those images were a depiction of what Trumpism is fundamentally about, the conservative movement currently shrinking and demeaning American politics looks very different. As Republican elected officials follow their leader into strident kookery and clammy influencer-style grifting, the movement's work is increasingly done through the courts, by judges that Trump and those otherwise unmanageable goofs gave lifetime appointments.

Those judges are the product of a farm system designed and funded by a few conservative elites, and are incubated and promoted through a sprawling network of patronage that's a social network and political class unto itself. That process is designed to exploit both the antiquities of the American political system and the weaknesses of its political discourse. It does the first by slotting these hothouse-grown goons, many of whom have barely practiced law before assuming their lifelong appointments and all of whom are there because they can be counted on to issue rulings that advance movement goals, into jobs from which they cannot be fired. The discourse hack is subtler, and amounts to norm-abuse—the bipartisan insistence that both the institutions being busted-out and co-opted and the individual mediocrities doing that work should be treated with reverence, because of how important those institutions and jobs are.

It cannot be overstated how much this gambit depends upon the billionaires funding it; there is not a popular movement for many or most of these ideas. The system works to ensure that the people funding it and their interests are never offended or inconvenienced; a priestly caste of political elites acts as the intermediary between the rich people and the systems that protect and flatter them. This is all happening right where everyone can see it, and the organizations that comprise that system—the Federalist Society, or Alliance Defending Freedom—are themselves well known by now. The billionaires propping it up are seen mostly in the negative, through which otherwise unsaleable candidates and policies rise in response to their personal quirks and irks. It is difficult to write about all this without sounding like someone who is speaking increasingly and dismayingly quickly. Thankfully, the last weeks have given us an image that illustrates it better than it can be described.

...The question of whether [Harlan Crow] does or doesn't venerate Hitler is not a very interesting one, but how quickly it became the central question seems significant. It was delightful to watch one conservative elite after another step forward and fulsomely defend Crow as a decent and kind man (who, full disclosure, has also made their otherwise untenable careers possible). It was also bleakly funny to see affectively liberal doofuses like Wood try to stake a moderate position on the question of The Billionaire's Vast Personal Collection Of Nazi Shit. But it seemed telling that what was most disturbing about the story so quickly became secondary to the question of whether one dull conservative billionaire was or wasn't nice. What the ProPublica story made clear, and which a follow-up story revealing that Crow bought and then renovated the house in which Clarence Thomas's mother lives made explicit, is how this network of conservative elites actually works—not through discreet acts of bribery, but as a self-enclosed network of influence and relationships that exists above any kind of accountability. It is a hierarchical and exclusive community, not a series of individual actions.

That is a point that our political media, which is generally agnostic on whether elite-driven systemic forces even exist, is built to miss. Crow, for his part, has defended his expensive and long-running sponsorship of Thomas and his wife by saying that they are his dear friends; the way conservative elites took up his defense suggests that, while they all clearly see him as a current or future benefactor, they found it more tasteful to think of him as a buddy than as an ATM they sometimes visit. It was a snapshot of how small and shabby this whole scene is. There are thinkers who fall somewhere between mediocre and actively vile, whose business is telling a few rich dullards what they want to hear, and then there are the rich dullards paying for it all. All of them are invested in believing that inherently transactional relationship is actually a movement.
And it seems that the only way these elite righties face anything resembling accountability is when they cross their fellow elites, and/or end up costing other rich people a lot of money. We saw an example of that on Monday.

The racism and outright lies weren't a big deal. But once Tucker talked bad about Rupert and cost his boss a bigtime settlement with worse things likely to be exposed soon? See ya!

Don't cry too much for Tuck-ems, he's apparently going to keep his $20 million a year salary, and there will be some other rich wingnut to prop him up and give him plenty of money and platforms to spew his garbage in limited-release movies and online specials and other parts of the RW media Bubble.

It is infuriating to see these dweebs continue to get rewarded when their only real skills seem to be shamelessness and a lack of conscience or decency. But it also explains why these GOP politicians and other RW dopes continue to double down on lousy policies and losing/seamy strategies instead of listening to what most voters want. Because they and their benefactors never pay much of a penalty for being such scumbags and screwups, and there's always another paycheck available from somebody, as long as you suck the right Koch and say the right lines.

That's why this glad-handling won't end with a few setbacks or firings of on-air talent, but only when they and their tax-dodging, crooked money funnels get CRUSHED and EXPOSED. The RW Insiders' Club can't just get drummed out of the above-ground, decent America, but also needs have the spotlight shined on the backrooms they infest, and have them branded as seditious, mediocre LOSERS.

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