The following is a condensed version of a piece in the Spectator, where I explore causes and consequences of the Democrats seizure of power in the US.
One of the truly remarkable developments over the past half-century is the reversal and the relative flows of electoral funding going to parties of the right and parties of the left.
Fifty years ago, parties of the right had a colossal advantage. In the recent United States election, the Democrats outraised and outspent the Republicans almost to two to one. Open Secrets adds, “Even when excluding the money spent by billionaire presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, Democrats spent $5.5 billion compared to Republicans’ $3.8 billion.” But that is also remarkable in so far as two billionaire candidates were seeking to represent the Democrats, which is not only the leftist party but is far more to the left on a vast range of issues than it has ever been in the past.
Obama personified an abrupt left-wing turn by the Democrats. This was welcomed by the oligopoly that controls the media: Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google , Amazon (FATGA to Niall Ferguson) plus Microsoft, Netflix, YouTube, SnapChat, Stripe, Shopify and others, which occupy first, third, fourth and fifth places in the market cap league table.
Those giants have not only refused to allow their communications networks to be used by Trump-aligned Republicans but also blocked the access of Parler, a rival to Twitter with a conservative following. They have showed an almost total tolerance for left wing violence . But moves against their political enemies on the right have culminated in deplatforming The President and 70,000 other users.
Why has business shifted its political support to the left, when – at least in the US – the moderate left has all but disappeared? Economic motivations are unpersuasive, especially since Trump reduced business and high-income earners’ taxes.
Much of the business courting of the left is down to “wokegeld”. Firms are vulnerable to attacks from consumers and shareholder activist groups which can depress sales, reduce share prices and make recruitment more difficult.
But there is something far deeper at play.
Senior executives and many employees in tech sectors were appalled by Trump’s 2016 election victory and sought to bury issues, like Hunter Biden’s business dealings, that were unfavourable to the Democrats. Employees at all levels in the major tech companies and the thousands of companies that play important roles as subcontractors see themselves as something akin to previous revolutionaries’ self-depiction as the vanguard – a righteous dictatorship to carry out the unconscious wishes of the common people. Their firms’ phenomenal success has led their leadership and other employees to claim the “master of the universe” title. And they are now exercising greater power than any politician outside of totalitarian states has ever controlled.
Having overturned the Trump Presidency, the tech oligarchy is now seeking to prevent such raw anti-establishment power ever arising again. With the Biden Presidency they have reached first base.
But that victory carries the seeds of their ultimate defeat. Political leaders including those on the left have expressed horror that a group of private businesses can exercise such control over the political airwaves. Russia’s opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, spoke for many in saying “Don’t tell me (Trump) was banned for violating Twitter rules. I get death threats every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone.”
Clipping the power of the tech firms will be facilitated by a Biden Administration, unencumbered by moderate voices or a Republican Senate, undermining the US economy. Biden has already signalled tax increases and plans to double the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. After a rebound from COVID 19 a consequent economic downturn will cause the loss of the Democrat Senate and House of Representatives majorities in 2022.
In the interim, considerable turmoil is certain.