It was the big story on Philly.com this morning, and for understandable reasons. In a world where our necks were already sore from the 24/7 never-ending tennis match between MSNBC and Fox, between the Obama-hating right and the Tea Party-loathing left, this one was a head exploder. How could such a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat -- a man who not only sat at the right hand of Ed Rendell in Philadelphia City Hall for a half-dozen years but hosted President Obama in his own home -- turn around and endorse Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who has ruled Harrisburg from the extreme right for the past two years?
Others have escaped the bowels of Philadelphia City Hall for bigger and better things, but none more so than Cohen, who now serves as executive vice president and the No. 3 official at Comcast Corp., the largest cable-TV provider in America, now in the process of becoming sole owner of NBCUniversal. His mantra -- then and now -- is getting things done. Like a lot of rich and powerful people, Cohen is a Democrat in the sense that his dream candidate is a guy (or gal) who supports low taxes and lower regulation of business AND gay marriage.
But like Mick Jagger said, you can't always get what want, but you can get what you need. And Mr. Cohen's employer Comcast needs regulatory and government predictabllity. Although cable TV is largely regulated by the feds and with some price-setting on the local level, Comcast certainly wants a friend in Harrisburg -- not just in the governor's mansion but on the state regulatory boards whose members are appointed largely by Corbett. What's more, supporting Corbett gives Cohen a chance to go to Congress, where Republicans hold sway, with more evidence that Comcast is not just a Democratic company. If you don't think a governor can help Comcast, check out (by way of the conservative writer Chris Freind) what Rendell did for the cable giant during his stay in Harrisburg.
From Cohen's penthouse view, all that culture war stuff that blares from his Comcast-powered cable TV set -- even from MSNBC, now about to be a wholly owned property of Comcast -- must sound pretty silly. Because the reality is that Big Business doesn't really care how much we fight about guns or abortion, or how it all turns out. When it come to the stuff that matters in their world -- whether it's taxes (and loopholes), or consumer protection, or punishing white-collar criminals -- there are no Democrats or Republicans. There's nothing resembling a two-party system at all.
There's just the 1 Percent Party. And there's a 99 percent chance that you're not in it.
The 1 Percent Party knows what it wants -- and what it doesn't want. Did you see the clip the other night of new Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren actually doing what she said she would do if elected: Grilling regulators on why they have not done more to put corrupt Wall Street banksters behind bars? I don't know if she's going to continue to act like this or if this was a one-off for the cameras, but I do know that that kind of scene is exactly what the 1 Percent Party has been so fabulously successful at avoiding. And preventing more of that is worth any price: Even working to re-elect a highly unpopular buffoon like Corbett.
But, but, but....partisan warfare is at an all-time high! Perhaps. But take a look at all the things that have been done on a wildly bipartisan basis. Prosecuting whistleblowers while letting billion-dollar Wall Street scam artists go free. Authorizing a never-ending "war on terror" that now includes unaccountable presidential power to order assassinations anywhere. Signing off on the unprovoked invasion of another country without justification. Expanding government secrecy. Keeping taxes on the wealthy well below the rate of most of Ronald Reagan's presidency, while the tax burden on the working poor goes up. Democratic and Republican mayors from coast-to-coast coordinating their efforts to clamp down on the Occupy movement.
Forget the Radical Republicans or the New Deal Democrats! The 1 Percent Party is the most successful political enterprise in American history.
Remember what politics is: Different groups fighting for a larger share of finite resources. And by that standard, the cohesive One Percent Party is slaughtering the 99 percent who are fighting amongst ourselves (and, yes, where is Occupy Wall Street when you still need it?). I'm not a fan of the financial lunatic Jim Cramer, but I was struck by something that he said today that I stumbled across, about the Dow closing at its highest level in five years. He said:
With the high-end retailers reporting positive earnings and stock prices for those in the middle market have flagged, CNBC's Jim Cramer thinks this divergence is creating two unrelated groups of consumers.
Cramer said that economic pressures such as increased gas prices will affect the dollar store customers disproportionately, but these pressures are likely "imperceptible" to those shopping at luxury retailers.
Well said. As long as our current "Gatsby" policies are in place, David L. Cohen won't be shopping at the Dollar Tree any time soon, nor will Tom Corbett, regardless of whether he becomes a private citizen in 2015 or 2019. Sure, Cohen and Corbett probably don't see eye-to-eye on assault weapons or voter ID -- but that's entertainment. This is business, and don't ask him about his business.
UPDATE: Several people in the comments made the same point, along the lines that I wasn't critical when Cohen raised money for President Obama a couple of years ago. Except that I did write a post criticizing it -- albeit not as expansive as this post today. Do your homework, people! :-)