Hot off the press at Vanity Fair,
Craig Unger has written a must-read analysis of the real landscape of 2012 presidential election--and, indeed, all upcoming elections, presidential or otherwise. According to Unger, the new political landscape can be boiled down to a single equation: The Democratic Party vs. Karl Rove.
As Unger readily admits, Rove's political career was considered dead after the 'ugly stain" of the George W. Bush presidency, a fall from grace that makes his astronomical rise to GOP "party boss" all the more legendary.
And Rove's aspirations are legendary as well. According to Unger, Rove is playing the long game, in which electing Romney is just the beginning.
According to Unger: "This was not simply about winning elections. It represented a far more grandiose vision—the forging of a historic re-alignment of America’s political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state."
How would Rove go about achieving this democracy-shattering vision? By wielding his greatest ally: Citizen's United.
"The gist of the decision could be boiled down to two words: Anything goes," writes Unger. "Corporations were people, too. And just as John Q. Public could say anything he liked about politics, thanks to an extraordinarily broad interpretation of the meaning of “freedom of speech,” come election-time, so too could Wall Street, Big Oil, pharmaceutical companies, the tobacco industry, and billionaire cranks flood the airwaves with thousands of political commercials."
And into the green-fueled free-for-all stepped Karl Rove.
"With his keen eye for strategy and his ties to disaffected millionaires in the G.O.P. establishment, Rove was the first to seize the initiative. He immediately met with Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair who had also served in the Bush administration…. He and Gillespie took off for Texas to meet with Rove’s wealthy political donors, the money machine that had served him for more than 25 years, and came away with a major pledge from Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, a longtime donor to Rove’s causes. Crossroads GPS, a sister group, was in the works under almost identical leadership. Thanks to its nonprofit status, it would not have to disclose the identity of its contributors. In short order, American Crossroads had obtained commitments of about $30 million—nearly four times what the R.N.C. had in its coffers."
But Rove had bigger aspirations that merely funneling extra money into the R.N.C. Rove wanted to render the R.N.C. irrelevant, supplanted by the Rove Machine. And that's exactly what happened.
Unger writes: "[Rove's super-PAC] American Crossroads was an alternative to the R.N.C., which had crumbled under the leadership of Michael Steele, who would leave the committee a few months after the 2010 midterms. “Karl set up a parallel organization,” says longtime G.O.P. political strategist Roger Stone. “The center of energy will always be where the money is. Karl is playing for control of the party. That’s where the power and the money is.”
WABC Radio talk-show host John Batchelor, a Republican, put it in perspective. “America is a two-party state,” he says. “There are the Democrats. Then, there’s Karl Rove.”'
In this landscape, Unger cleverly characterized Romney as no more than a pawn--actually, a leveraged acquisition--of Rove's. As Unger explains, the terms of the agreement are simple: Rove put down about $1 billion of super-PAC money to "acquire" Romney. It's a risky investment for Rove, but if Romney wins, Rove's payout is "an annual budget of several trillion dollars."
To raise the money, Rove had to get all his GOP ducks in a row, a consolidation he's accomplished deftly.
Unger writes: "Now, with Rove’s colleagues in place, they [Romney's camp] began to steward a disparate group of multi-millionaires, billionaires, and super-pacs, many of which had recently backed insurgent Republican candidates, into tight ranks behind Romney."
The list includes Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, and--of course--the Koch brothers.
Of course, the Democrats, too, could play the super-PAC game. But, as Unger admits, they "did not have the stomach" for it.
Unger writes: "In contrast, in late spring, the Democratic Party sent an e-mail to its constituents signed by Barack Obama. In the subject line, it said, 'Hey.' The text read,
'I need your help today Please donate $3 or more before midnight Thank you, Barack.'"
In Unger's analysis, Romney's potential victory isn't all that important, because "Rove has already won."
Unger concludes: "Undeniably, he’s back. He has re-invented himself. He is not merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party. As the maestro orchestrating the various super-pacs, he has inspired the wealthiest people on the right to pony up what could amount to $1 billion and has created an unelected position for himself of real enduring power with no term limits.
Karl Rove has become the ultimate party boss."