The Republican Party provides formal, governmental representation to corporate and big-money interests. While the Democratic Party is plagued by its corruption, and faces resistance from its left-wing base because of it, the Republican Party has corruption in its DNA. From top to bottom, the GOP is firmly, openly, and proudly committed to the interests of American oligarchy, starting with oligarch-in-chief Donald Trump.
At the bottom of the list you might find Louisiana Representative Clay Higgins. During his 2016 campaign, the brand-new congressman received a mere $300 from the telecommunications industry. This week, Higgins and 264 congressional Republicans scrapped regulations that prevented internet service providers from selling their customers’ web history. That $300 investment in Higgins – and much larger ones for his fellow Republicans – will pay off in the billions for corporations like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
Republicans used the 20-year-old Congressional Review Act, a measure which allows Congress to overrule recently enacted regulations, to nullify a December 2016 FCC requirement that ISPs seek permission from customers before selling their information to marketers. Prior to 2017, the CRA had been used only once, in 2001; in just his first two months in office, Trump has signed at least seven bills dismantling Obama-era regulations using the CRA. Congress plans to send him many more.
Invoking the CRA is the same way Republicans canceled the Stream Protection Rule. The rule sought to curb pollution from mountaintop mining practices that dumped debris, including toxic metals, into waterways and streams in the valleys below. Fossil fuel corporations argued the regulation made mountaintop mining uneconomical. The National Mining Association called the rule “a pure expression of all that ordinary Americans loathe about rule by bureaucracy.”
Republicans always frame their opposition to regulation as a defense of working Americans who just want to live a life freed from government tyranny. But it was ordinary Americans who got the rule passed in the first place – environmental activists and community leaders in Appalachia who wanted to protect their land. So it goes with just about every allegedly job-killing regulation in history, from improvements in workplace safety to environmental protections to wage increases.
In the internet privacy decision, perhaps better than in any other, the true allegiance of the Republican Party is revealed. The self-proclaimed party of choice has taken the side of communications monopolies over American consumers. The winners and losers are clear: corporate giants profit; American citizens lose more of their privacy. Not only are there no advantages to the American people, Republicans who supported the bill never pretended there were. Big business wanted it and Republicans delivered.
If it’s not clear who the party truly represents, just take a look at Paul Ryan. Prior to unveiling the GOP’s plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Paul Ryan was fundraising with lobbyists from the health insurance industry. His plan turned out to be little more than a massive tax break for the rich that was projected to leave some 24 million Americans without healthcare entirely. Asked about the optics of this, Ryan simply said, “I’m not that concerned.”
As leader of the party, Donald Trump is the perfect encapsulation of this philosophy. He makes no effort to hide or distance himself from the numerous conflicts of interest plaguing his administration. A system of open bribery governs his administration – big donors are awarded cabinet positions and he explicitly sold access to himself for $1 million. His record as a businessman is filled with rip-offs, bankruptcies and outright fraud.
When called on these points during the campaign, Trump framed it as having the wisdom to do what was right for himself. His logic was that since he ripped people off for himself as a businessman, as president he could rip people off for America.
But if a society only understands the world as a series of financial transactions, countless other arenas suffer. The environment, human health, and family life cost money to maintain. A democratic government is supposed to pool together resources that allow communities to bear the brunt of these costs together, for the betterment of all. That’s not the attitude of Trump and the GOP. Corporations are the GOP’s constituency, not people, and they are the clear winners when Republicans repeal regulations meant to protect Americans.