If you want to know who each of our two major parties represent, simply look at their donors.
According to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, Democratic Party committees, on both the federal and state levels, have dramatically outraised their Republican counterparts this cycle, bringing in $464 million to the GOP’s $363 million. That represents a significant reversal from past years.
Senate Democrats have similarly outpaced their Republican counterparts, $80 million to $59 million. $30 million of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee contributions came from small-dollar donors, compared to just $15 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Democrats can’t get too excited, of course, given that the Koch brothers alone plan to spend $300 million this political cycle. But it is precisely this funding disparity that accentuates the GOP’s problems with its electorate. How can the Republican Party adjust to broad societal trends and reorient itself in a more populist direction, when it is completely beholden to a tiny handful of oligarchs focused on their narrow economic self-interest? For example, what’s “conservative” about Republican efforts to stymie the nationwide adoption of solar panels by imposing a monthly utilities fee for their usage? Nothing — except that the Kochs have a petroleum and natural gas empire to protect.
By contrast, the Democratic Party has been forced by necessity to become more responsive to public sentiment. In the last 10 years alone, the party has shifted dramatically on marriage equality, war, income inequality, Internet openness and freedom, and filibuster reform, all moving the Democratic establishment into the American mainstream. It won’t be long before marijuana legalization joins the list.
At the same time, base pressure has forced the Democratic Party to reaffirm its support for many of its key foundational tenets. When Wall Street-Democrat front group Third Way penned a broadside calling for privatization of Social Security in The Wall Street Journal, the piece was met with overwhelming hostility. Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz, then running for governor, outright quit the group. A few years earlier, the piece would’ve met a far friendlier response.
But those two trends — responsiveness to broad public sentiment and to the Democratic base — are compatible. Liberal base priorities are popular with the American public, whereas conservative hot buttons, from Cliven Bundy to Benghazi to Bowe Bergdahl, are fringe and ephemeral. So it’s probably best that Republicans are less beholden to their base than Democrats. The last thing the GOP needs are more Chris McDaniels and Dave Brats.
Then again, Koch-aligned groups have sided with McDaniel in the Mississippi GOP Senate primary. Why? Because Koch insurance companies would stand to directly benefit from higher flood insurance rates in Mississippi, and incumbent Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranMcConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE stood in their way.
One party is becoming increasingly responsive to a popular majority, while the other is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. It’s not hard to see which is destined for broader popular appeal.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.