Here's something weird: in the wake of Roe v Wade in the 1970s, the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly passed resolutions affirming the right to abortion and rejecting government interference in the decision to bear a child to term:
Back then, white evangelicals were deeply suspicious of people who opposed abortion. Getting too worked up about the issue was a sign of crypto-papacy, and back then, white evangelicals *hated* Catholics:
The weirdest thing about this is that today, white evangelicals will vote for *anyone* who promise to end abortion - even a philandering, foul-mouthed, unprincipled habitual liar and likely atheist. They are single-issue voters - whose single issue is something that, in living memory, they actually opposed.
They'll vote for politicians like Scott Dejarlais, the GOP congressghoul from Tennessee who was re-elected three times. Dejarlais, an MD, impregnated one of his patients, then coerced her into getting an abortion. He also coerced his ex-wife into getting two abortions. But he reliably voted to ban abortion:
Dejarlais "received a 100% score by the National Right to Life Committee."
If you've seen the polling on abortion, you know that these single-issue voters are in a tiny and generally unimportant minority. Americans overwhelmingly support the right to get an abortion. And yet, here we are. Obviously, America is a nation founded on antimajoritarian principles, whose Constitution is designed to let rural, southern gentry steer the nation, but is it really *that* antimajoritarian?
Another critical bloc in the GOP coalition is people with low-tax brain-worms, including many self-described "libertarians," who will vote for unlimited authoritarianism and state intrusion into the most private realm of (other) people's lives, provided that they save at least 25 cents on their tax bill as a result:
These two blocs, along with racists, homophobes and transphobes, provide the bulk for the master strategists of the GOP, people who aren't merely elitists, but actual *elites*. By definition, elite politics can't win majorities on its own, because elites are always in the minority - that's what "elite" means.
The cruelty isn't the point. The cruelty is a means to an end. The cruelty is how you mobilize useful idiots to turn out to the polls and vote for the vast expansion of the wealth of a tiny number of people. The cruelty is how you get the turkeys to vote for Christmas:
An oft-repeated truism about abortion restrictions is that they don't affect wealthy people who can afford to miss work and travel out of state. Some argue with this, pointing out that being merely wealthy won't save you if you need an emergency D&C after a miscarriage, say.
That's true as far as it goes, but there's a group of people for whom this is much less true: the ultra-rich, the 1% and (especially) the 0.1%. These are people whose wealth allows them to bend reality - to charter private jets, or to have private doctors fly to them on private jets. People who have their names on hospital wings.
The defining characteristic of these people is *impunity*, the power to do as they like without consequence, to bypass the rules, laws and challenges of the rest of us. These are the people building luxury bunkers in New Zealand and whose only concern about civilizational collapse is the logistics of coercing their private goons in the Great After:
Dobbs, the case that overturned Roe v Wade, was decided by an illegitimate court whose appointees were nominated and confirmed by politicians who lost the popular election. The illegitimate Supremes are the apex of a vast cohort of federal judges who were likewise appointed by politicians who lost the popular vote:
These judges have emitted a steady stream of unhinged, cruel decisions on culture-war issues, and these have real, human consequences. But it's a mistake to assume the reason that billionaires put so much energy into getting these judges appointed was to strike down New York's concealed carry law. That was -a means to an end, a way to get turkeys to vote for Xmas (there are a lot of musket-fucking single-issue ammosexual voters who will vote for anyone who makes it easier to get guns).
The reasons so much money was poured into the elections that resulted in these judges' lifetime appointments to the federal bench were economic, not cultural. These are judges who will reliably rule in corporations' favor, whether they have maimed their workers, poisoned our planet, price-gouged the public, or killed us with unsafe products. They will wave through mergers that the FTC or DOJ have blocked. They will make extremely rich people *much* richer.
These judges will put Black and poor people in jail, sure - and that will make the Christmas-voting turkeys happy. But just as importantly, they'll let millionaires escape consequences, no matter how heinous their crimes.
Whether it's getting drunk and mowing down four people:
Or raping a teenager:
Or hell, raping a *baby*:
Subverting the legislature and the judiciary is an iterative process: first you buy some politicians who pass favorable laws and appoint favorable judges; then those judges rule in your favor when those laws are called into question. That makes you richer, which lets you buy more politicians, who pass more laws and appoint more judges.
The iterative buy-laws-buy-judges-buy-judgements process crossed an important threshold in 2010, when ultrawealthy backers secured their *Citizens United* SCOTUS decision, which freed them up to make unlimited, secret campaign contributions to politicians who would make them richer and thus able to buy more politicians.
Citizens United was key to the election of the pols who gave us the illegitimate Supreme Court who, in turn, gave us the Dobbs decision and despite the prominence of Dobbs in our national discourse (and its importance to pregnant people and the children they are forced to bear), there's plenty that SCOTUS is doing that is equally terrifying. The Supreme Court of Oligarchs is primarily concerned with elite impunity and power, not cruelty - the cruelty is merely the means, power is the end.
One extremely relatable way of understanding elite impunity is the tax evasion of the ultra-rich. A year ago, Propublica began reporting on the IRS Files, leaks detailing the tax strategies of the 0.1%.
The oligarchs whose finances were thus exposed are all heavy political spenders. Unsurprisingly, they lobbied hard for tax breaks in the Trump tax bill, and received incredibly specific tax loopholes that applied to just one or two very rich donors.
Bechtel spent $1m getting one such loophole, and netted $111m in return - a shrewd investment indeed:
The most revolting GOP politicians - the ones who are forever in the news for their authoritarianism and bigotry - have been *showered* with money by billionaires, including self-styled "progressives." These billionaires are the true single-issue voters, because their single issue is *themselves*:
Many of these high-rolling donors got rich by being born rich, and boy do they hate inheritance tax. They argue that the ability to steer our whole society - to steer our ecosystem off a planetary cliff - should be allocated on the basis of whether you emerged from a very lucky orifice:
The tax-evasion tactics that Propublica documented over the past year are eye-glazingly complex, and if you *do* manage to figure out how they work, you realize that they are idiots' fictions. That's true for Peter Theil's $5 billion tax-free ROTH:
And for the Real Estate Investment trusts that have "hollowed out" hotels and smashed their unions:
For the sports teams whose billionaire owners pay no tax on a torrent of money, even as their players cough up their share:
Or whose hobbies - playing with the horsey set, say, or "ranches" - can yield hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of tax avoidance.
In fact, there are ten major tactics that American oligarchs use to escape the taxes that everyone else has to pay, allowing them to retain more cash that they can use to buy more impunity, provided that they keep up the culture-war side-hustles that get useful idiots out to the polls.
I. The Ultra Wealth Effect (borrowing against vast asset wealth)
II. Peter Thiel's $5 Billion IRA
III. Turning High-Tax-Rate Trading into Low-Tax-Rate Income
IV. The Magic of Sports Ownership: Make Money While (Legally) Reporting Losses
V. Build, Drill and Save: The Real Estate and Oil Businesses Can Both Be Tax Havens
VI. Even a Billionaire’s Hobbies Can Pay Off at Tax Time
VII. Think Your Taxes are Too High? Change the Tax Laws
VIII. Why Tech Billionaires Pay Less Than Hedge-Fund Managers
IX: Brother, Can You Spare a Stimulus Check?
X. Trust This: How Wealthy Families Pass Billions to Heirs While Avoiding Taxes
Dem politicians, on the other hand, are *not* afraid of their base. They understand that having an openly anti-democratic, racist, homophobic, misogynist christofascist opposition means that they can rely on voters turning out for them no matter what:
It's why they'll go with their donors to back anti-abortion politicians in primary races, even as they're publicly vowing to protect abortion rights:
We have to realize that the culture war is downstream from oligarchs' bid for wealth, which they can turn into power, which they can turn into impunity. Lots of oligarchs are bigots of one stripe or another, but even when they aren't, they are still pro-bigotry, because bigotry is how they secure power.
Cory Doctorow (modified)
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