Watching the thunder and lightning of attack ads in the Republican presidential primaries is a glimpse of America's political future, where wealthy titans will battle in a shifting war of rivalries and alliances fought far above the average American voter, whose only role will be to be swayed by which ad makes which candidate look the worst.
Today, the titans are fighting mostly among themselves as they select their GOP hero to send down to vanquish The Other, President Barack Obama. But Democrats shouldn't take too much pleasure in the irony of Republicans tearing each other apart with unlimited corporation donations. Soon it will be Obama's turn -- and if Democrats hope voters will see through all the negativity, they are naive.
Modern advertising and sophisticated propaganda have proved they can prevail over reasoned thought, especially in a population saturated with media. And if money for ads wasn't enough, Republicans are guaranteeing their advantage by investing more money, state by state, to put up roadblocks to voting by Democratic-leaning demographic groups.
Much of this predicament comes from the 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. Five Republican partisans on the court struck down legal restrictions against unlimited corporate and union spending on political campaigns. Of course, with unions weakened and under assault, the justices knew that the biggest spenders would be the ultra-rich.
Thus, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson almost single-handedly revived the floundering campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by giving -- along with family members -- millions of dollars to Gingrich's super-PAC "Winning Our Future." Adelson and Gingrich also have made no secret about why. Adelson passionately supports Gingrich's ultra-hard-line in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights.
Adelson has praised Gingrich's dismissal of the Palestinians as an "invented people" who have no legitimate claim to territory controlled by Israel. Adelson's money -- and the nasty ads it bought -- were credited with helping Gingrich defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in South Carolina.
However, Adelson has indicated that he might shift his allegiance -- and money -- to Romney in the general election against Obama, who is viewed with suspicion and disdain by Israel's Right. Romney has largely handed his foreign policy to neocon ideologues. Both Gingrich and Romney also have taken extremely hawkish positions regarding Iran's nuclear program, the issue at the top of Israel's priority list.
Adelson seems intent on buying the White House for Israel's Likud or at least making sure a staunch ally is in charge of the U.S. government. As one of the world's richest men, he is ready to flood the nation's televisions with ads that will make Obama look like America's Enemy Number One.
Romney's Rich Army
Of course, Adelson is not alone. Wall Street executives and
hedge-fund managers have been bankrolling Romney, in particular,
counting on him to repeal the modest reforms that Congress approved
after the 2008 financial collapse.
Vying for the same Wall Street money, Gingrich upped the ante by also promising to repeal an earlier reform law, signed by President George W. Bush, that required CEOs to vouch for the accuracy of their companies' public disclosures.
Obama has his own super-PAC, but it is a piker when compared to the Republican super-PACs. The pro-Obama "Priorities USA" has raised $4.4 million compared to Romney's "Restore Our Future" at over $30 million, and Karl Rove's "American Crossroads" at over $18 million.
While noting that President Obama does lead his Republican rivals in donations to his campaign committee, New York Times correspondents Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo wrote last week that ...
"...the money race is increasingly focused on outside groups that are legally not allowed to coordinate directly with campaigns but pay for advertising and other activities that support particular candidates.
"Most of the money disclosed this week went to independent groups supporting Republicans, giving them an enormous money advantage over similar Democratic groups in the first phase of the 2012 election cycle. ... The contributions have already helped the Republican Party's elite donor class, who increasingly favor Mr. Romney, regain some control over the party's nominating process.
"Restore Our Future [the pro-Romney super-PAC] raised at least $5.8 million from corporations during the last six months of last year, along with $12.2 million from individuals. American Crossroads [founded by Bush's longtime adviser Karl Rove] raised $4.6 million from corporations and $7 million from individuals."
On Monday, commenting on the power of this new political money, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote...
"We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and it doesn't work.
"Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn't happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy."