Dems, Big Money, and Cultural Dominance

Note: The HCA figure is incorrect in this table. The hospital company distributed $149,750 to Democrats, $157,000 to Republicans, and $2,500 to others.

by James A. Bacon

It happened so slowly, I hardly noticed. The Democratic Party has morphed into the party of Big Money in Virginia. The Republican Party has become the party of the little guy.

That much is evident from examining the Virginia Public Access Project’s “Top Donors” list for the 2018-2019 reporting period. To spare you the laborious task of clicking on this link to view the VPAP data directly, I have replicated the list above.

Big Money donors have contributed three to four times as much money to the Democratic Party and its candidates than to the Republican Party and its candidates.

By this reckoning, there are two major parties in Virginia: the Democratic Party and the Special Interest Party, that unorganized gaggle of corporations and business associations in Richmond that split their contributions between Dems and the GOP. Republicans have received negligible Big Money assistance this year.

I’ve been blogging a lot about dark money recently. An enormous amount of unreported moolah is spent prepping the political battlefield by influencing public opinion and public policy. This activity, I have argued, likely entails larger sums and has a bigger impact on shaping political outcomes than money spent directly on political contributions. But let us not overlook the obvious story — largely ignored by Virginia’s mainstream media — that Democrats now totally dominate Big Money campaign contributions, too.

Is 2018-19 an aberration or an indicator in a long-term shift in money dominance? I’m open to different views, but here’s my interpretation now: Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is driving a significant political realignment not only nationally but here in Virginia. However, the Trumpification of the GOP is a response to even deeper shifts beneath the surface. The Democratic Party of Virginia has largely become the party of wealthy, educated white elites and their allies among “people of color” who buy into the Democrats’ brand of identity politics. The Republican Party is becoming the party of mainly the white middle- and working classes supported by allies in minority groups who identify as culturally conservative — those who feel dispossessed by the dominant culture. Those sweeping generalizations have numerous individual exceptions, of course, but they capture the essence of things.

Money in politics is important in itself, but it reflects deeper changes in society. Liberals, progressives and Democrats are increasingly dominant not only in Virginia politics but Virginia culture. No serious person questions that the Left runs our colleges and universities, especially the elite institutions. No serious person questions that the Left now controls Virginia’s newspapers and media. The Left is increasing its command over museums and other cultural institutions through which Virginians interpret the past. And, though I have only anecdotal information to back me up, I contend that the Left increasingly dominates the world of foundations and nonprofits — including most notably the scads of organizations that dedicate themselves to influencing public opinion and policy.

The takeover of the General Assembly by Democrats this fall is, in my opinion, a foregone conclusion. I don’t need polls — I just see the shift in deep structures. If Republicans hang onto precarious majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates thanks to low, off-year turnouts, they will surely relinquish control in the next round of elections. But, then, the Left already controls so many institutions in Virginia, and is in such command of the dominant political narratives of our time, that the loss of General Assembly majorities will amount to little more than an afterthought.

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10 responses to “Dems, Big Money, and Cultural Dominance”

  1. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    So, without going to the VPAP database, it appears that there are no GOP caucus or national party or other contributions, only such from Democrats?
    Is Virginia really as divided as this seems to indicate? Are we really moving from total Republican dominance to total Democratic dominance?
    Is there any possibility that Virginia can avoid total dominance by one or the other political party? (both in the legislature and as indicated here in other aspects of our economy and society)

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Not sure the small money isn’t going that way, too…..better sense for all this when the next big donor data batch hits over the weekend or early next week. Filing deadline is Sunday or Monday? VPAP hits will soar…..That’s when I’ll be looking hard at things and maybe it is not such a foregone conclusion. While Trump is a problem for R’s, Sanders and Warren keep moving the needle to the left for Democrats. Watch tonight…..

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      It DOES go that way also. Jim is promoting a false narrative here.

  3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The big money shift as Jim accurately describes is B. Obama’s most potent legacy.

    Meanwhile, Virginia Republican’s remain wholly ineffective in mounting even a coherent narrative, much less a persuasive one. They are tongue tied, as if neutered.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    This is funny:

    Top Donors

    All Candidates and Committees

    Amount Donor
    $13,240,649 Republican Governors Assn (Washington, DC)
    $7,650,000 A Stronger Virginia (Washington, DC)
    $6,697,811 Republican Attorneys General Assn (Washington, DC)
    $6,447,324 DGA Action (Washington, DC)
    $5,976,464 Republican Party of Virginia (Richmond)

    1. I pulled my numbers from the current year. What years do your figures encompass? I can guarantee it covers multiple years.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        It’s the prior year. Do you think the money won’t be the same this year as last year for the GOP? Did you pick a time period before the money landed for the GOP?

        I seriously doubt that the money for the GOP in the prior period has evaporated… and gone away… but that’s the impression we get from the blog post………….. bad…. !!!!

        It’s not believable that the Dems did all that money and the GOP did none!! geeze! check the prior year guy!

        1. Maybe you’re right. Maybe the final numbers will create a very different picture. We’ll see.

  5. TooMuchRegulation Avatar

    So you’re saying the left has all the money and free time. Have all the conservatives been exiled? Or, is it more like the smart money is betting left

  6. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    What about the huge NRA donation the GOP landed recently? In the last 24 hours I have emails from candidates of both parties, each pointing to a huge donation their opposition got as a reason I should give to them. Don’t think all the data are in and it’s premature to come to such extreme conclusions.

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