The present day Republican Party long ago stopped being the party of Eisenhower or Gerald Ford or Nelson Rockefeller. Even Nixon might feel out of place in its current iteration. In a process that began in the late 1960s and reached a new level with the ascent of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, the Republican Party was taken over and colonized by its extreme right wing. While its zealous extremists in Congress and on Fox News and right wing radio – and since 2016 Trump – may capture public attention, quietly at the apex and firmly in control of this formidable movement is a section of the billionaire class.
Not only do these billionaires have deep pockets, but they also field an expansive network of organizations and think tanks that set the agenda and frame the politics of this movement and the Republican Party in accord with their interests. Indeed, they give proof to the adage that “whoever pays the fiddler calls the tune.” Trump may seem like an outlier, an out of control rogue, a committee of one, and he is to a degree. But any examination of the policies of the Trump administration, and even Trump’s politics of white resentments and racism reveals not so much a break, but a continuation, albeit it in new conditions and in uniquely and exceedingly dangerous forms, of this extremist political movement, the head of which is the plutocratic class. If you don’t believe me, check out “Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality,” written by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson.