Blueprint for Republican Reform: Donors

The morning starts early with a run along the shore. Breakfast is on the patio overlooking the ocean where he scans through the morning’s news on his iPad. It’s small, three-bedroom house, but the sea view and the Marin County address took years to achieve.

After breakfast he wakes his partner. They are not married, at least not in some formal manner. They shared a commitment ceremony once on a trip to Cabo with a few close friends.

They each have a child from another relationship. Neither of them are retired, so to speak, but neither of them has a job, so to speak. At middle age they have earned all the money they’ll ever really need in a series of tech jobs in San Francisco. Now they each do some freelance work along with occasional venture investments. He doesn’t own a necktie.

Both of them were Republicans twenty years ago when they came to California, though the party’s rhetoric long ago drove them away. Neither of them has any great love for the Democrats, but they feel stuck. Democrats are dismissive of the business interests so critical to their lives, but Republicans are downright frightening.

They are not among the elite “tech geeks” of Silicon Valley. The serious engineering geniuses likely own a vineyard or an island at this point in their lives. He finished a business major at Ohio State and his partner was a journalism student at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. They gravitated along separate paths to the Bay Area where they built moderately successful careers in software companies.

If Republicans get serious about rebuilding the party for the 21st century, they will need to attract financial support from new quarters. Donors tend to be old, with a set of interests and biases rooted in past conditions. In a slower world this may not have been such a pressing difficulty. It is a serious problem now.

The good news is that America is minting new, relatively young millionaires at a breakneck pace and vast numbers of them are politically uncommitted. The bad news is that most of them are earning their fortunes in geographies and demographics which the Republican Party, as presently configured, is systemically incapable of reaching.

If the Republican Party still exists in twenty years, the couple described above will be among its core donors. That is a promise wrapped in a threat. Survival hinges on our outreach to this emerging class of newly wealthy, but they are deeply hostile to the bigotry that infects the party today.

Bringing them into Republican politics starts by presenting an alternate policy platform. It continues by offering them a vision for how they could fuel a modernist insurgency in the GOP. They will probably only be brought into the party as elements of a dissident wave. They will not walk in the front door. We need to give them a channel through which to confront the Republican Party’s worst impulses from the inside.

At the core of this challenge is a strange social and cultural distortion. From the viewpoint of a Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee, the very successful, happy couple in our scenario is living in a post-apocalyptic hell-scape lifted from their darkest, dystopian nightmares. This generation of successful young people is the living, breathing proof that most of what today’s Republicans believe about the world is bullshit.

Through the standard Republican lens the couple in our example is a broken family, unmoored from religion, blighted by immoral choices, and unemployed. They live under a suffocating nanny state burdened by staggeringly high taxes which supposedly makes economic growth impossible. Yet, in that environment, with these personal moral choices, they and millions like them are, over the course of a few decades, becoming fantastically wealthy, healthy, and happy.

If anything Fox News tells us is true then this couple’s lives, and the lives of all their neighbors, are impossible. Yet here they are, sharing kale smoothies and an ocean view from the patio of their million-dollar home.

As the party’s center has drifted south this disconnect has grown into a yawning chasm. There is very little newness in the donor base coming of age in the red states. For the most part it’s only a younger generation of heirs to the same fortunes in the same industries. The South has grown wealthier, but that wealth has been generated predominantly by the kind of resource extraction that feeds a rentier class. Almost all of the best features of our emerging global marketplace threaten their interests.

A fresh donor base with wealth derived from modern knowledge capitalism is going to be relentlessly at odds with the existing pool of Republican donors. It will be impossible to reach one without at least challenging the other.

New wealth rising from the global knowledge revolution is, by and large, politically uncommitted. The first mass wave of them is coming of age politically (in other words, hitting their late ‘40s) right now. That is very bad news for Republicans. As much as these voters appreciate markets and dread government regulation, their deepest loathing is reserved for bigots. A Republican Party dominated by Southern fried Neo-Confederates is a non-starter for them.

We claim to be America’s business-friendly party, but that claim grows more absurd by the day. Republicans would do well to acknowledge some stark realities about where and how mass wealth is being created in the modern world. Its source is not oil or agriculture. Red state economies create very little of it. And for a large number of the people generating this new wealth, the only “Jesus” who has touched their lives is that guy they know on the development team. His name is pronounced ‘hey-zeus.’ He works miracles – with python scripts.

In blatant defiance of Republican orthodoxy, the global engine of modern capitalism is the San Francisco Bay Area and it has been for twenty years. Trailing behind San Francisco, at a great distance, is Boston, New York, Chicago and the rest of the West Coast. Measured in terms of annual capital investment, the first city in a red state to even show up in a ranking is Austin at number twelve, where it has been losing ground as the rest of the country recovers from the financial collapse. Atlanta is at 14. Houston is at 18. North Carolina’s research triangle is at 24.

San Francisco alone generates 10 times more venture capital investment than the entire state of Texas. Boston, in the heart of deep-blue Massachusetts, attracts six times more investment than Austin. Notice there is no mention here of the rural countryside. Global capitalism is emptying rural areas, spreading festering pockets of poverty across the small towns and farm areas once home to our “real Americans.” New capital is being minted in America’s big cities.

That capital is fueling not just a wealth revolution, but vital advances in the way we do everything from treating diseases to commuting. Having abandoned urban areas a generation ago, Republicans have no meaningful political influence in the places where the future of American commerce is being built. That has to change quickly or some other political institution will replace us.

So how can we attract these largely unattached potential donors who so deeply loathe the party’s fearful, bigoted rhetoric? Perhaps we could start by wrestling with one frustrating question. Why is the focal point of global capitalism a big, socially liberal, largely irreligious, American city with Democratic government at every level?

By confronting some of the awkward answers that might emerge from that exercise, we could begin to piece together the kind of agenda that could win support among the Bay Area’s new elite. An agenda that might emerge from that exercise would also likely unlock access to voters and donors in other parts of the country that have turned terminally blue. Win California, win America.

What would that agenda look like? For starters, it would reflect a willingness to look at the world in realistic terms, stripped of the blinders of ideology and open to the Four Inescapable Realities. It would replace a focus on white cultural fears with an emphasis on markets, fiscal responsibility, and effective, rather than merely smaller, government.

Most importantly, that agenda would be designed to organize an insurgency. Instead of trying to synthesize a sane, commercially focused agenda with the party’s bizarre culture of denial and paranoia, this effort would be organized from the beginning as an open challenge to the party’s status quo.

The existing institutional core of the Republican Party will not be transformed through conference calls and persuasion. Otherwise, the results of the 2012 Election would have led to immigration reform, a new tax plan, and an end to culture war posturing. This effort to build an updated agenda that can rally new donors will have to come from the outside, drawing these new donors to a campaign of internal resistance. Assemble that combination of characteristics in a nascent organization and it would be possible to begin recruiting in places Republicans have ignored for more than a decade.

A generation of millionaires is coming of age deep in the deepest blue states. Those people are open to a new political direction and willing to share their wealth to achieve it. It is time for Republicans to wake up and smell the fresh-ground, single-origin, fair trade organic coffee.

If we can crack open our minds to consider some of the realities emerging around us, we can compete for this new base of support. We don’t have a lot of time, but seizing this window will open access to new resources critical for building the next piece of a Republican future – a new stable of candidates who can win behind the Blue Wall.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

Posted in Blueprint for Republican Reform, Republican Party
61 comments on “Blueprint for Republican Reform: Donors
  1. […] of beliefs that can form the core of a hyphenated-Republican appeal. Then we need to assemble donors and think tanks that can support the policy and campaign sides of an effort to activate new voters. […]

  2. […] the need to recruit and support a few pundits who can communicate that message. Next we identified a potential donor pool that might fuel further […]

  3. duncancairncross says:

    Hi Chris
    Re your article about farming
    Here (NZ) All farm subsidies were removed in 1986
    After a small “adjustment” which did result in 1% of farmers failing the agricultural segment is now larger than before
    Competing in the world markets (except for protectionist markets like the USA) and doing very well

    • Griffin says:

      Did it grow BECAUSE of fewer subsidies or despite it? As technology/GMO’s improve and the world population grows there’s more of a market for food so I’m assuming that over that 30 year period the agricultural segment would grow regardless. You would need actively disastrous policies to cause it to fail.

      • duncancairncross says:


        Agriculture has risen from 14.2% of our GDP – 1986-7 to 16.6% 1999-2000

        So after the subsidies were removed agriculture grew more than the rest of our economy

      • Griffin says:

        Yes I’m sure but I’m wondering if we’re mixing up correlation with causation here. I’m not sure removing all the subsidies actively created the growth or if that growth would have happened regardless. That would create the argument that removing subsidies probably doesn’t harm agriculture but that doing so doesn’t necessarily aid it either.

      • duncancairncross says:

        We had had a lot of years with subsidy’s – and for a lot of that a protected market

        When the UK joined the EU NZ lost it’s biggest market
        The government tried subsidies to keep agriculture going with limited success then tried removing subsidies

        The result was that the agricultural sector grew faster than the rest of the economy

        NZ competes in the global market – with no subsidies over 55% of agricultural business is export
        So with no subsidies our product is competitive on the world markets
        And we would sell a lot more if the two biggest western economies were not so protectionist
        (USA, EU)

        If you ask anybody in the agricultural business here now you will here about how the subsidies actually hindered agricultural development

  4. Stephen says:

    It would be desirable to gain the people Lifer wrote about. But you need a wider coalition to win national elections. And stay relevant in the changing demographics. Even in GOP strongholds.

    As someone who uses LInux, programs for a hobby and occasionally attends user groups I have notice most of those people have a strong Libertarian bent. Which is why they hate bigotry.If there had been a stronger presence of IT jobs where I grew up and lived I very well may have ended up in the field.

    If we are to change direction in the GOP we must reach minority groups of people. One way is to to get a diverse group of people into Tech work. I am not just speaking of IT Tech. Prosperous people tend to tilt more to the old fashioned Republican philosophy. And Tech work pays well. Is more color blind because good talent is scarce. And comes with tons of opportunity to start your own successful business.

    I know Orlando Florida , a blue dot surrounded by red has a small IT industry. Mainly military simulation. If that grows and more minorities in it grow prosperous we may well be able to attract them into a reform GOP. Orlando is very gay friendly, mainly tolerant of other people , viewpoints (a product of it’s diversity) and has a nice climate. In the knowledge economy that attracts talent and businesses.

    By my demographics and upbringing you would expect me to be a deep red tea. But living in the emerging minority majority culture of Orange County my viewpoints have changed. Bigotry can change and will as the country becomes a minority majority country. There is opportunity there for reformers.

    Years ago I was a Republican committeeman in Orange County and tried to talk the chairman into making a drive to get a more diverse mix into our party. I argued that the demographics were changing and we would on our present course turn blue in a decade.But if we gain enough minorities we would turn purple instead. I was blown off and my prediction happen. What happen to my community is going to happen to the country as a whole. If the GOP does not turn from it’s course even in it’s strongholds it will diminish into non-relevancy. The Republican party has a history to be proud of except for the last few decades and is worth saving. So I hope reformers will be successful.

  5. 1mime says:

    It’s interesting to ponder if “the arts” has made Austin more liberal, or “the tech industry” and the relationship between the two. They seem to go together when you look at the major areas of tech dominance. Sorry to learn it’s declining in venture capital, but “TX big brother” is a real stick in the mud.

  6. […] Donors – It is very unlikely that a fresh wave of relevant Republican leadership is going to emerge from a wave of small donations. Just as the Koch brothers have dedicated half their lives and a chunk of their fortunes to foster the spread of disastrous public policy, new donors will have to step forward to bankroll efforts to build a more credible Republican infrastructure. Those donors are probably sitting in their Napa Valley vineyard right now reading the New York Time (on their iPad) in disgust. They are out there. Someone needs to get them connected. […]

    • Sara Robinson says:

      One of the striking things about the GOP’s hard right is that all of the people funding it are right around 80 years old. The Kochs, Adelson, Freiss — it’s a long list. And not many of them are likely to be around for the 2020 election.

      The Koch era will, very soon, draw to its inevitable close. And that will create space for something else to emerge.

      • 1mime says:

        I have been interested in Larry Fink for a while. He definitely fits the “major” donor description and is a life-long Democrat. Are there other mega-donors like Fink who support the Democratic platform that hail from your neck of the woods? Is there interest on their part for active engagement in the political process? Does Lifer’s formula for changing the Republican Party through the West Coast donor pool offer a parallel opportunity for the Democratic Party?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        1mime, the Democrats have their share of big billionaire donors, too — and much the same problem. We lost Peter Lewis, of Progressive Insurance, last year. Soros is pushing 80. Bill Moyers, who runs the Schumann Foundation (disclosure: I was a Schumann Fellow) turned 80 this year. Some of the big foundations, like Atlantic, that funded us have re-directed or are spending down (though some are still around).

        So on both sides, the funders who have financed American politics into its current polarized state are aging out. And there’s probably another post Chris could write about the opportunities posed by the rising billionaires who really have no connection to either side right now — many of whom are also on this coast. Some of them may actually be gettable, too. (Remember that Silicon Valley put up a vast amount of the money that elected Obama.)

        The scary ones are stone libertarian ideologues like Peter Thiel and Jeff Bezos (further disclosure: my husband retired from Amazon, so we know this culture very well. Ask me sometime about that NYT article.). Bezos is complicated, and often kicks money in on the progressive side of things (he contributed decisively to the campaign for WA’s same-sex marriage law, for example); and he believes so strongly in cities that he’s kept the entire Amazon campus in downtown Seattle, rather than siting it out in the cheaper burbs like Gates did. But his libertarian streak runs all the way through, and sometimes it leads him down some strange paths.

        The ones we really need are guys like Gates and Allan, whose orientation toward the common good is far stronger. And if there’s a paragon in these parts, it’s Nick Hanauer, who articulates the business case for progressive values like almost no one else.

        Right now, some of these players are aligned to a party, and others are not. I think you’re right that there’s a lot of opportunity here: they’d love to see a Republicanism that reflected the way that they and their companies see the world.

  7. Rob Ambrose says:

    Good post. The more I think about it, the more I think the Republican party will soon go the way ofnthe Whig.

    They are doing irreparable harm to the brand, so much so that it will likely be quicker, and require less energy to start fresh.

    Even if the GOP leadership decided today they would no longer court the bigot vote, the science denial vote, the religious fundamentalist vote, thw white supremacist vote (with much overlap between these) it would still likely take a decade or so to both remove the rot from the parry AND convince the large number of “democratic for now” voters it’s safe to come back.

    Seems like there’s a huge opportunity for a progressive “traditional republican” type to create a credible 3rd party. This would almost certainly have to be funded by a small number of very wealthy benefactors, but I could imagine it taking off fairly quickly. There is a huge number of Americans who simply view the Dems as the party with the least warts.

    I think the reason for all the tension is that America has undeniably moved the center to the left, but the Republican party has not reflected this change. In fact, they’ve gone the opposite. America needs to redefine what “left” and “right ” mean.

    Similar to Canada, where you have three major parties. The conservatives (the right) the liberals (center) and the NDP (left). Not saying they need three parties, but the “center” of Canada is significantly to the left of the center in America. For example, there is almost no Conservative politician who would ever publicly say they think gay marriage should be illegal, and abortion is a non issue. Would some Cons LIKE t make abortion illegal? Probably. But they would never bring it up.

    The Conservative party in Canada would be considered pretty clearly to the left of center in America.

    America needs a similar rebalancing. The GOP is out if touch with the majority of Americans. It would be wrong ti mistake the immense noise coming from the far right as the same as immense numbers. The support for the current GOP platform may be a mile in depth. But it is merely a few square feet in breadth.

    So to that end, I could see – with the right combination of a charismatic leader and financial backing – a strong, credible new “republican” party rise up from the ashes of what I think the GOP will become in 2016 and become the new counterweight to the democratic parrty relatively quickly. Possibly reaching the ability to credibly challenge for the white house as early as 2020.

    This party would be the manifestation of the clichéd “social liberal/fiscal conservative” meme. Leaving the fundamentalist wing nuts out in the fringes of the political landscape with the other fringe political groups where they belong, like the white supremacists or the communists or the anarchists.

  8. Griffin says:

    One of the more dangerous cop-outs I’ve noticed from people who argue “raising taxes shall forever destroy the economy!” is the “brain drain” argument, something I see from your smarter-than-average anti-taxer such as Forbes editorials or even from The Economist (I consider The Economist kind of nutty and am amazed that it gets away with what it does, but there you go). I’ve never seen any concrete proof that more people are lost from slightly higher taxes than are won over by the investments used with those taxes but it is nevertheless an argument that is increasingly being used to justify low taxes and alongside it poorer infrastructure.

    It’s dangerous because it sounds smart and reasonable to a layperson and up to a point it’s true, if you have North Korea levels of “taxation” you would scare people away, but the effects from relatively small-to-medium sized tax increases are so exaggerated that I’m starting to roll my eyes whenever I see that argument used without any stats.

  9. TheMeansAreTheEnd says:

    Hi, Lifer, could you elaborate on this point, or direct me to a previous blog entry that does?

    “Democrats are dismissive of the business interests so critical to their lives”

    I’m curious what specific interests you are referring to. Presumably positions that speak to these dismissed interests would be at the core of attracting them as donors, for whichever party addresses those interests.

    • duncancairncross says:

      “Democrats are dismissive of the business interests so critical to their lives”

      “Business friendly” is code for “Rich businessman friendly”, despite the two being almost entirely at odds. Business growth is higher under left-wing governments because they encourage reinvestment of profits in wages, R&D and modernisation, rather than allowing a small number of execs and owners to extract all the money as market rent.

      (In the same way that spending is actually often lower under left-wing governments, after an initial burst, because preventative maintenance is much cheaper than crisis management. The right wing does everything by crisis management, because their ideology insists on “saving money” by cutting long-term preventative programs.)

      Like the program for letting teenagers have long term contraception free which reduced abortions and saved the state a ton of money
      But which is now going to stop because the Republicans won’t fund it

    • Griffin says:

      I’m assuming he’s talking about advancements made from newer technologies. In recent years the Dems have a better track record than Republicans on supporting that stuff but as of now the Democratic Party could be considered a pretty “conservative” (in the more traditional sense of the word) party in many large cities, by which I mean that they are a “too big tent for their own good” party because they pretty much represent everyone in a major city. The GOP has become so irrelevant in some large cities that established businesses pretty much only get involved with the Democratic Party so that the Democrats don’t do anything anti-business. The same goes for aging yuppies who vote and donate to the democratic party but at heart don’t want the Dems doing anything too “liberal”.

      Combine this with the Democratic Party also representing city employees, low-wage employees, workers who could be harmed by technological advancements, renters, etc. and pretty much anything they do apart from the most minor reforms is bound to upset some faction the party represents. As a compromise they basically maintain status quo government as to not anger anyone.

    • goplifer says:

      “Democrats are dismissive of the business interests so critical to their lives”

      The Democratic Party, especially in those big cities where it has been unchallenged since the Depression, remains a clientelistic political entity – an organization that tends to build policy based on the need to protect its client-patron relationships, rather than attending to larger public needs.

      That is actually less the case in California because until a decade or so ago the state was consistently in play, but it is dramatically evident in places like Chicago, Detroit, Boston and so on.

      You can see a good example of what this means on the ground to potential innovators by looking at the fight over Uber, or Airbnb, or other gig-economy startups. They pose serious challenges to interests that are also heavily invested in local Democratic politics.The structure of that fight plays out on a larger scale in all kinds of business scenarios where a new player wants to challenge an incumbent.

      It is probably the single greatest source of tension between liberal business interests and local Democrats. It is a source of opportunity for Republicans.

      • 1mime says:

        If your theory is true, why is it that the economy generally does better under Democratic leadership? Wage reinvestment aside (and that’s a big aside), is the difference in how we each perceive “larger public needs”? Dems look at these needs as being social; Repubs, business. Isn’t the core problem that of balance between the two? And, isn’t that balance critical to a healthy, secure economy for America at large? Why does it have to be an “either or”?

      • goplifer says:

        Because Democrats are pursuing a fundamentally conservative (in the older meaning of the term) economic policy. It isn’t particularly innovate, smart, or appropriate, but it is tried and tested and works in most cases.

        Republicans for the past twenty years or so have been trying to implement a bizarre Neo Confederate fantasy economy founded primarily on a collection of delusions.

        Democrats aren’t great at this. Parts of the country that they govern are generating a lot of wealth because of incidental factors. Their indifference has, in a sense, turned out to be an asset. They aren’t helping much, but the alternative under Republicans would in many cases mean an economic climate that would be actively detrimental.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Chris, this isn’t true at all in Seattle. This is a city built on successive waves of technological change, and everybody here clearly understands that our fortunes in this century will be as a center for sustainable technology. This is where all those tech millionaires are putting their venture capital — and wherever you have Dems in office, you’ve got people who are very eagerly championing this transition. This runs from the Seattle mayor’s office right up through Gov. Inslee, who was the greenest guy in Congress before we sent him to Olympia.

        The Dems here are totally onboard with building the green economy. The biggest obstacle is the GOP, which controls the legislature. WA is blue on the coastal side of the Cascades; but the inland is all farmers, and they vote like people in Kentucky. They don’t want their tax money spent on anything — most especially anything they see benefitting the urban coast at their expense. It’s making it very hard to get state policy to line up with the consensus future that everybody here with money and power is eager to get on with.

      • 1mime says:

        What seems to be the major sticking point with those who live in the east rural Washington state area that puts them at odds with the coastal tech population? Is it resentment or fear driving their opposition? Are they as socially draconian as many other staunchly conservative regions are?

      • Doug says:

        So tech millionaires are investing in an industry, then lobbying the government to take money from other people and give it to them to make them richer, and these other people are against it? How selfish!

      • goplifer says:

        Oh boy, Doug, you’re closing in on one of my favorite subjects – the raft of state, federal and local subsidies necessary to keep the “real Americans” in the rural countryside in existence.

      • 1mime says:

        Unless I totally misread Doug’s comment, I don’t think he was being sympathetic to the Tech industry, Lifer.

      • TheMeansAreTheEnd says:

        Thanks, Lifer. Chicago, Detroit, and (I thought more in the past than at present) Boston have “machine politics” that seems to me to be defined around rewarding the clients, as you say. But it’s not unknown for the same thing to happen when Republicans control the politics in a region, though it’s a different set of clients. I’ve been assuming that this is a cross-party infection instead of a characteristic of a single party.

        Regarding Uber, I think one could fairly argue that the key business innovation of Uber is to shift costs and risks to customers and “independent contractors”, whose independence is highly questionable. Sort of like a high tech form of the scam of turning over warehouse operations to a separate company, but retaining full control of how the warehouse & its employees operate.

        So I think there are fair (not client-based) debates to be had about the correct relationship between capital and labor for some of these new business styles, and indeed for some of the old ones. Is that in the category of being dismissive of the business interests?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Doug, aerospace and then computers are the reason those eastern-state farmers have roads, schools, farm extension services, railroads, airports, and (this year, especially) firefighters when they need them. When some researcher at WSU in Pullman (on the far eastern border of the state) wants to turn his idea into a business, he comes to Seattle to ask for capital. When a kid in Pasco gets deathly ill, he’s airlifted to Seattle Children’s. When the class valedictorian in Yakima heads off to college, she’s coming here to UW. The farmers market much of their food to the coast; the timber industry depends on techies to keep building our houses; and there are tourist towns across the state that wouldn’t stay in business long if techies stopped coming out for the weekend.

        The coastal side has half the state’s population, but the vast bulk of its tax base — and all of the amenities that the rural parts of the state rely on to keep going. Given how reliant the red counties are on us, it’s not too much to ask that they at least help us keep the gravy train rolling — for their own sakes, as well as ours.

      • Doug says:

        “Oh boy, Doug, you’re closing in on one of my favorite subjects – the raft of state, federal and local subsidies necessary to keep the “real Americans” in the rural countryside in existence. ”

        You’re absolutely correct. And we shouldn’t justify a subsidy for B because A gets one.

  10. unarmedandunafraid says:

    Chris – “big, socially liberal, largely irreligious, American city with Democratic government at every level?” Possibly you meant state?

    What an optimistic post, not for the donor possibilities, but for a party that attracts donors capable of critical thought.

  11. duncancairncross says:

    Hi Chris
    The trouble is these people are actually very rare
    Most money these days is going to those who already have money
    There are some very well off people on the tech (software) side but they are incredibly rare in today’s America
    With 300 million people rare still means quite a few people but when in the past a company would use and enrich tens or thousands of people now ten individuals get rich
    If you are trying to have a party of the people – not just the rich you need support – financial not just votes from “median” Americans

    • goplifer says:

      All true. However:

      First, keep this in mind. It’s a post about political donors. That’s never going to a huge cohort.

      Second, visit the Bay Area my friend and spend a little time. What’s happening there is very, very interesting. There is a surprisingly large pool of people (still a minority of course, but a large minority) who have the chance to get rich by their mid-forties merely by working – that doesn’t even count the people who manage to get their big hit all at once by having their company get bought.

      It doesn’t solve everyone’s problems, but it is a truly remarkable and unprecedented thing. More remarkable is the fact that Republicans are ignoring it entirely.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        Three things.
        1. It’s absolutely essential to gain support of new wealth. And these people are, generally, socially libertarian and economically center right – something Democrats, at least in theory, currently occupy. Or maybe “Democrat until further notice”.
        2. The donor class isn’t everything. Sure it’s important and all, especially for contacts and communication, but honestly, people don’t like too much wealth in politics.
        3. Frankly, you need grassroots outreach – to independents and Democrats who will vote for the right Republican, and will fund you along the way.

        You know how I think is a good way to go about things? Find democratic strongholds where you can run “Progressive Republicans”. Maybe even have a coherent progressive Republican playbook – and mind you, I consider this blog as the quintessential progressive Republican blog. It’s not “using government to solve problems”. It’s rather “using government to create conditions for market forces to solve problems”. Focus on “Progressive Republican” solutions to problems as compared to a democrat’s, while making no mention, as far as possible, about the current national Republican image. You will get new donors that way, both at the grassroots level, and the very rich level while getting some cover from national Republican donors and leadership because you’re competing in a blue state.

      • goplifer says:

        ***The donor class isn’t everything***

        This is true and they shouldn’t be allowed to wag the dog. That said, one of the reasons you don’t see a lot of sane, rational Republicans talking about how sane and rational they are, is that they would immediately loose the network of support every candidate needs to survive. That network includes donors.

        For better or worse, no grassroots effort to change the GOP is going to survive long enough for you to learn about them unless they find a source of funding. Things as simple as maintaining a website or renting a conference facility for a meeting cost money.

        How much time, energy, and coordination does it take to:
        – recruit 3000 people who will donate $100
        – find one wealthy retired software marketing professional who will donate $300,000

        And that’s why one of the posts in this series is dedicated to finding new donors.

      • 1mime says:

        What would keep Democrats from pursuing the same gameplan that you are proposing? It seems that they need the deep pockets more than the Repubs do. Is it your view that they lack the vision to strategize such an effort? Finally, going to Sara’s point: unless and until Republican leadership gets its social agenda in balance, these “new” tech donors are going to be real skittish about joining the cause. What’s in it for them? Fortyish/fiftyish and made it now on to the political realm? From what I know and read about millennials, they’re not in to the whole personal image thing. It seems that they would be more motivated by working towards a cause they believed in (societal/cultural). And, yet, there is that study that surveyed techies about poverty to which the collective response was “a rounding error”….hope this mindset is not representative of the majority.

        Fundamentally, Dems have as much if not more to gain from plumbing the same metric. Here’s hoping that someone at the top is having some of the same “a ha” thinking as you are, Lifer.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        “ow much time, energy, and coordination does it take to:
        – recruit 3000 people who will donate $100
        – find one wealthy retired software marketing professional who will donate $300,000”

        Yes, but, IMO having 2000 small donors donating $100 is a lot more valuable than someone donating $300000. Also, I’m skeptical that large donors will be interested in funding a movement that cannot show themselves as having enough ground level support to be effective. I’m skeptical that donors will donate money where the ROI isn’t clear. For example, let’s just say that I like the modern whig party and all its purposes ideas and policy positions. But I would be very unsure of donating money to that cause because I see no reason why they would be able to break the two party system.

        My question is, what would be your pitch to a potential donor that a “Progressive Republican” candidate can win? Wouldn’t that same pitch be much easier to make if you can say “We already have all this support, and with your help, we can expand.”

        You make a very good point about everything costing money. But I would contend that there are several tools today, such as social media and Reddit where it is possible to organize some level of support for very little investment. And this goes further in small scale elections than larger ones.

        Notice that I keep using the phrase “Progressive Republican”. The reason for this is twofold. One, you need a position for potential donors and voters rally around, like for example, the “Tea Party”, and two, I specifically choose that phrase because in today’s world, it is an inherently interesting phrase as it sounds almost like an oxymoron. Something else can be chosen, of course.

        The point I’m trying to make is that you need something analogous to the tea party, to push for change and reform from within, just like the tea party managed to do.

        Hmm…this post came out sounding a bit more forceful than I meant for it to do. All with good intentions, of course…

      • 1mime says:

        With all this discussion about campaign donors and their importance to both parties, what if America went to pure public financing of Presidential elections? This would achieve several benefits: it would negate the C.U. ruling; it would encourage more independent candidates to seek office who could not be held hostage to party hierarchy and nor require a personal fortune; and, finally, it would restore confidence in the fairness of the election process with the American people.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        1mime, the Dems currently own this demographic, and you’re absolutely right that this is because of the social agenda. In terms of both technological and cultural creativity, my cohort are the most forward-facing people in the country. In particular, it’s probably important not to underestimate the sexual culture of cities like SF and Seattle, which have always had a strongly and unapologetically libertine aspect to them. The GOP walks into places like that with guys like Cruz and Santorum out front of the parade, and it’s going to be run right back out of town without so much as a howdy. (Busting prudes is somewhere between a sport and an art form out here on the other coast — something we take, well, perverse pleasure in.)

        More seriously, though, the GOP’s anti-scientism is the biggest hurdle, as Chris has noted often. Every time some conservative idjit goes off on Tesla or Solyndra, or tries to censor science textbooks, or denies climate change or evolution, or “balances” the opinion of someone with a PhD who’s spent 30 years studying the subject against someone who gets their “facts” from FOX, or disparages the government’s very real and successful history in promoting American technological advancement (yes, the government needs to pick winners here, because at the very early stages of innovation, there is no market yet to do the job) …the list goes on and on. And it just makes us want to open our checkbooks and write another one to the Dems, who are (for all their faults) at least not openly hostile to everything we’ve built our lives and fortunes on, and everything we are.

        In the places Chris is talking about, any GOP renaissance would have to break through an almost viscerally (and now, reflexive) tribal closing of ranks against this kind of know-nothing nonsense. As long as the GOP keeps pandering to anti-intellectuals, there’s not a chance in hell it will ever win us over. And since, at this point, that’s pretty much its entire base, what we’re really talking about here is building an entirely new party from scratch.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        “As long as the GOP keeps pandering to anti-intellectuals, there’s not a chance in hell it will ever win us over. And since, at this point, that’s pretty much its entire base, what we’re really talking about here is building an entirely new party from scratch.”

        Well, a party can have a gigantic disconnect between national policy and local policy and be just fine. How else can two parties represent 300 million people. People can and do vote differently at the local and national levels.

        Not to mention the Dems have their own version of anti-intellectualism – the people who fall for the naturalistic fallacy. It’s just not as apparent.

        Also, note what you just said here. People vote Dem because of the rampant anti-scientism on the GOP side. That’s not voting Democrat because you like them. That’s just saying “let’s keep the crazies out of positions of power”.

      • 1mime says:

        “People vote Dem because of the rampant anti-scientism on the GOP side. That’s not voting Democrat because you like them. That’s just saying “let’s keep the crazies out of positions of power”.

        Isn’t that the way politics has always been? How many people support *everything* a party stands for? (That is a non-thinking individual!) It is possible to support a party because the party stands for most of the things you feel are most important even if there are areas of disagreement. IMHO, that is not a vote for the lesser of the evils, but a vote FOR the party which is most closely aligned with one’s deepest views. Just as political parties evolve in their core beliefs, so do people’s allegiance.

        My support for the Democratic Party is based primarily on a social agenda which parallels my own, but that is not the only reason. In large, Democrats have been pretty consistent in their support for my biggie – *equality* – in all its ramifications – gender, ethnicity, race, sexual, etc.. That’s a big part of who and what the Democratic Party stands for and thus even considering the negatives, my vote is proactive, not reactive. Many Democrats perceive themselves as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Impossible. To achieve the goals of a socially liberal agenda, It takes money and prioritization based upon social goals that are not driven by capitalism. When capitalism dominates decision-making and your entire agenda, your choice is clear: vote Republican. Obviously, the GOP has a problem with far right issues upsetting their agenda. Frankly, the Republican Party seems to be struggling with fragmentationmore than than the Democratic party.

        I believe we are in a time of great social change where we, as a people and a nation are trying to decide what is most important to us. It used to be that the parties defined that for us; now, there is a lot of disagreement as to priorities. THAT is a good thing if it means people are engaged and thinking, but it certainly is roiling the process.

        People say: “I just can’t vote Republican anymore because they have become so out of touch with reality…I don’t want to vote Democratic but it’s my only other option.” BS. They have made a choice, imperfect as it may seem. Same is true for the statement: “I wish the Democratic Party was less liberal and more fiscally responsible but I can’t accept the extreme social positions of Republicans, so I’ll have to vote Democrat.” BS. Each of us (especially this crowd) is making informed choices rather than “perfect” choices. It’s how Democracy works, and it’s messy. It also means we don’t get everything we want in one party.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi 1mime
        In you posting you seem to have bought into the “the Republicans are more fiscally conservative” idea
        The actual evidence over the last 30+ years is that they are NOT – and by a large margin

      • 1mime says:

        Republicans are only fiscal conservatives when Democrats offer budget items. When it’s their budget needs, they look to cut programs favored by Democrats to offset the cost of their required expenditures, or, as in the case of G.W. Bush, just don’t include the expense in the budget! History is clear that the American economy has performed consistently better during Democrat terms – which is an inconvenient truth for conservatives to accept. It is fact. I was merely drawing from commonly held beliefs. I know better. I do believe that liberals who support social safety net programs are more focused on using tax revenue for these purposes rather than a return of capital to the “wealth creators”.

        Sorry if I was unclear.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Sorry for commenting again so soon. Pseudoperson’s post went up while I was writing the other one.

        As a foresight analyst who was a strategist for the progressive rise of the previous decade, let me outline the usual process by which this happens.

        The first thing you need is an idea base — a set of theories and arguments for How Things Ought To Be. This usually starts as a small conversation among a group of intellectuals. Right now, that conversation is happening here, and on Bruce Bartlett’s FB page, and in a few other places. It’s just getting started; and nothing much will appear to happen for a while until that community of thinkers is assembled, and the theories and arguments are talked all the way through until they’re coherent and persuasive to others.

        One of the ways you know that coherence is happening is that a few rich funders come around and give you seed money to keep saying what you’re saying, because they find the conversation worthwhile. This enables a few people to go full-time with developing the nascent movement, and raise their profile so more people can hear their ideas. Small conferences are held. A cadre of writers develops books that sell increasingly well; and magazines and blogs appear, where these writers take their discussion to the public. Theory begins to turn in to concrete policy proposals. The movement matures, and becomes ready for prime time.

        At the next stage, high-profile people begin to sign on. A few bold politicians experimentally embrace pieces of the agenda, and begin to propose policy on it (usually at the local or state level, at first.) Celebrities lend their names. The media begins to take notice of all this, and to discuss the ideas — as a curiosity at first, because they’re so fresh. People begin to organize locally, then nationally, around them. Opponents notice, too, and take their first steps to try to squash the movement. This is when you start to need smaller donors, because the movement probably won’t survive this dangerous transition from a set of ideas to a political reality to reckon with without a broad and enthusiastic base of support.

        If you do survive it, then you’re for real. A few politicians have actually won on the strength of your ideas, and more are paying attention now. The media no longer dismisses you entirely out of hand. Respectable people can discuss your proposals in front of their friends, and be thought forward-thinking rather than weird. A national network of movement members carries the messages into every corner of the country.

        There’s a process to this, and we’re still a fair distance from winning elections on it. But if the ideas are strong and people are ready for them, it’s surprising how quickly it can happen.

      • goplifer says:

        I couldn’t have said it better.

      • 1mime says:

        How, then, do you explain the survival of the Tea Party?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        1mime, the Tea Party followed this pattern, too.

      • 1mime says:

        My perception of the TP is that it was much more reactive than followed the course you outlined. The fact that it has had such “staying” power reinforces your theory. Where do you see the TP going from here?

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:


        Your analysis of how a movement develops is probably an accurate explanation of how a movement typically develops.

        That would mean that this is the idea forum stage. That is, ideas are being floated and discussed. That would mean that the next step would be to have a forum of sorts where this discussion can take place. I love this blog, but the comment section of the posts on this blog isn’t exactly ideal.

        For example, I really want to hear @goplifer’s thoughts on
        1. Automation, the loss of value of unskilled or low skilled labor, how that would affect societal structures and what should the government response be.
        2. Loss of old notions of privacy in an interconnected world. Regulatory response?
        3. Massive increase in quick and effecient communication of ideas, even when the people involved are far away – some of them potentially dangerous ideas and consequences. How do you preserve balance security and liberty?
        4. Can NPT and other arms restriction regimes continue to work when price and accessibility of technology is rapidly changing?

      • goplifer says:


        1) The impact of automation is one of the central themes of the book, The Politics of Crazy. Lots of posts on the subject. Here’s a couple:

        Preparing for a post-jobs economy:

        Porn and the future of labor:

        2) Data privacy is a really tough subject. Wrote about it here:

        The Most Important Issue I Don’t Understand

        3) & 4) I’m pretty reluctant to write about foreign policy issues. Calls for expertise I do not possess.

        Hope that helps.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        It does, thank you.

        I’d read a few of those articles, but missed the others.

        I should go on an archive binge at some point…

    • Sara Robinson says:

      They’re not rare at all, at least not in the places Chris cites.

      I’m surprised you didn’t mention Seattle. I spent 20 years in Silicon Valley, and we were exactly that couple you describe, almost down to the neighborhood (our house was in Half Moon Bay, not Marin, but we had that view). We’re now that couple in Seattle — which is far more dominated by this class than the Bay Area even was, given the absurdly high percentage of Microsoft and Amazon millionaires dotting the neighborhoods. We’re now semi-retired in our mid-50s — at financial ease, with money and energy to spend on the things we believe in.

      In any American generation between 1850 and 1980, we’d have been exactly the kind of people who formed the backbone of the local Republicans. But the GOP has given us nothing to believe in. In fact, they’ve actively opposed everything that we believe contributed to the system that generates our wealth, and that of our friends. We know that our success depended on DARPA’s investments in the Internet, and on California’s generations of investments in the great public universities that educated us. We’re very clear that the ability to choose when we had kids, and how many, was integral to our prosperity as a family. We’ve survived two devastating financial crashes in the past 15 years, and have watched the GOP fight tooth and nail against the policies that would have allowed the country to recover. We understand that creativity knows no race, gender, or sexual orientation; and are appalled when conservatives try to destroy the dignity of our non-white and non-straight friends.

      The libertarianism of the Valley is no better, though. It’s cold and vicious, brutal in its competitiveness, and every bit as misogynistic and racist. You’re right to focus on the tech demimonde, rather than the billionaires, because tech billionaires generally tend to have a lack of empathy that chills even more destructively than the seething hatred of the social cons burns.

      At least, the SF variety seems to roll that way. You might find a warmer variety here in Seattle, where Scandinavian communalism and the charitable example of Bill Gates keep the libertarian impulse in check, and encourage a more open willingness to invest in big changes that might advance the common good. The conversation you propose is one I can imagine having with a great many similarly-situated friends.

    • Sara Robinson says:

      Pseudo, I agree with your assessment of where we are with this process. And I also think you’re right that we’re getting to the point where a private e-list where things can be discussed more frankly and at greater length, and a group blog/magazine where the resulting ideas can be debated more openly, might both make sense. It’s also probably time for the first small conference to take place somewhere — though Chris probably has a better handle on who the participants in that should be. (I know that when that table is set, I hope to be sitting at it.)

      The first ripening is starting to happen. It’s a fun time to be hanging around — in a few years, we’ll be able to say, “Remember when this whole thing began?”

    • Sara Robinson says:

      1mime writes: “My perception of the TP is that it was much more reactive than followed the course you outlined. The fact that it has had such “staying” power reinforces your theory. Where do you see the TP going from here?”

      It only looks reactive from the outside. The basic ideas have been rattling around the conservative side for decades — in Ron Paul’s newsletters, at American Renaissance gatherings, and so on. FOX was the disseminator and amplifier that gathered a national community around the ideas. Like Rosa Parks’ moment on the bus, the Tea Party launch moment was a long-planned, well-coordinated moment, designed to frame the GOP base’s response to Obama so that it would be as contentious as possible.

      They’re in the end game now, though, as Chris and so many others have documented. These things have life cycles — and they’re pretty short when the ideas run too far counter to what most Americans believe, or they’re simply proven wrong on the ground. Both things are happening to the TP now. And they’re now accruing powerful enemies inside their own party, which doesn’t bode well either.

      It’s important to note that that reactionary right has been with us throughout American history, and always will be. They go by different names at different times — America Firsters, the Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, on and on and on. So the Tea Party moment will pass — but they’ll be back, soon enough, under another banner, because they always regroup and return.

      • 1mime says:

        That makes sense. Their demise will doubtless vary from one region to another. In TX, the TP appears to have much more staying power. Having participated in grassroots organizations of varying missions, I know that a few hard working people can make it seem like an organization is much larger and more effective than they really are. And, they do work so there is that.

        I am very hopeful that the BLM organization can evolve into a force for change. Their platform is well articulated and thorough. Hope they have the energy and resources to go the distance.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Wow, do we disagree about BLM! I find it incoherent, ahistorical, and hysterical. In fact, it’s fair to say that BLM was pretty much the last straw that caused me to disassociate myself from progressivism. And if it continues on its current path, it’s going to force a three-way racial schism within the Democratic coalition that’s going to be very hard for next year’s candidate to paper over.

        But it’s also very much like you say about the Tea Party: the regional variations are broad, and it appeal varies from place to place — and, I suspect, from generation to generation. (Among my friends, approval of BLM correlates very strongly with age, for reasons I’ve given a lot of thought to over the past six weeks.)

      • 1mime says:

        I hope you are wrong about BLM, but with your deep history in organizing political activity, you likely have a better handle on it than I. Here’s the thing. There is a need for “a” Black organization that can articulate and work to achieve goals that will advance racial progress. White people can’t do this for them, but we can certainly help. Help is not going to come from conservative quarters for all sorts of reasons you already know, and Democrats are interested but not focused sufficiently to assist them as they continue to struggle with Republicans on all fronts. They need to tone down the rhetoric so they don’t alienate the very people they need to help them and diminish the validity of their effort. Crudity and rioting doesn’t elevate one’s image. They badly need smart guidance. Whether they will accept it, I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a major racial problem in America and it will not go away by itself.

        Do you have any suggestions in this regard?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        I was in the third row when the came after Sanders at NN, and only accidentally missed the repeat performance here in Seattle. It’s very unbecoming for me as a white person to offer thoughts as to how black people should best act to secure their own advancement, so I’ll withhold my thoughts on that; suffice to say that if they were really acquainted with the various strains of the civil rights movement, they might re-think following the strategies of Black Power (which very quickly ceded the moral high ground, alienated all their white allies, and put a quick end to the Civil Rights Era) rather than those of MLK.

        But it’s their movement, not mine, so…

        Your observations may well be accurate for where you are (Texas, right?). I’m hearing from other friends that the regional variations are huge within BLM, and I just happened to interact with two particularly strident flavors of the movement. I hope that’s true, because you’re right: it’s time for a new conversation on race, just as it’s time to re-frame our conversations on feminism, the social contract, and many other things.

        I’d just rather not have those conversations with people who seem inclined to scream at me. I didn’t take tantrums off my own toddlers, so I’m not cheerful when subjected to them by adult strangers.

      • 1mime says:

        I totally agree. The people who should help are successful Black leaders. I guess the frustration of the younger generation ( the unjustified treatment of Black people, especially Black males) is that they don’t see the leaders within their race being particularly effective in “working the racial problem through the system”. An issue of “pace” and “results”. It will be interesting to see if President Obama will engage in helping further racial equality once he completes his Presidency. He would offer the gravitas, organizational, oratorical skills and contacts to make a difference. However, he has been criticized for his lack of engagement in the Black cause during his administration, so there is that unknown.

        I don’t blame you for being repulsed by the disruption of the rallies or being shouted at by “friends” over this issue. I try to understand the frustration driving Black people who feel powerless to bring about even small changes. I thought the list of action steps to address police violence (compiled by a broader group than BLM) was very well done. Someone within the organization exhibited fine writing skills, strategic planning capability, and broad knowledge of the problem. They need to build on this platform. Of course, even a great plan
        poorly implemented will struggle to succeed. In the end, Black people will have to work through these problems. We can offer support and understanding but this is a battle they have to win within every home, church, school, and community. It is unacceptable that to expect tragedy to motivate change but that is where this nation appears to be stuck.

        Let us know when you want to weigh in on the NYT story on Amazon.

  12. davidsmcwilliams says:

    Thought-provoking post. Dig it.

    As someone who lives in Austin, though, you should know that it’s a blue island in a red sea. This really just strengthens your argument, I think.

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