The Hightower Report

Newt Fakes It; and From Democracy to Plutocracy

Newt Fakes It

At last, Newt Gingrich has come bucking out of the presidential chute shouting, "Yippie-ty-yi-yo, here I go!" On March 3, that grizzled old cowpoke working the far-right-wing corral of American politics declared that he's raring to go for the Republican presidential nomination.

Maybe. But probably not. You see, Newt did not actually declare his candidacy or even declare that he had formed a committee to explore the possibility of running. Instead, he convened a national press conference to announce the exciting news that he was forming a campaign website. Yes, a website. Its purpose, he informs us, is to explore the possibility of exploring a possible candidacy. Now there's a decisive leader for you!

Actually, Gingrich had been posing as a possible candidate for a decade now, using the attention he gets to promote his books, speeches, lobbying business, and other hustles. His newly launched website,, looks like just another of his nonstop money-making schemes. Since it's not a real campaign committee, he can raise cash without reporting who's giving it to him and spend it all on himself.

A measure of the Newt's genuineness can be seen on the website. It features Newt and his wife, Callista, smiling at the camera, while a large crowd of very happy, flag-waving Americans stands in the background, beaming at the couple. The crowd is a picture-perfect mix of white, black, Latino, and Asian citizens – as though they're right out of central casting.

They are. It's a stock photo called "Large Crowd of People Holding Stars and Stripes Flags." Newt simply bought the right to use this shot of "supporters," as have several other politicians, groups, and businesses. That's Newt for you – a fake picture in support of a fake campaign by a fake candidate.

From Democracy to Plutocracy

In American politics, the past not only sticks with us but often provides the best definition of what's going on in the politics of the present – so it can be useful to revisit some powerful words from our history.

Today's media and political powers, for example, keep using the word "conservatism" to describe current political trends in our democratic republic. Poor choice of words. From the Koch brothers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from GOP House Speaker John Boehner to such anti-worker governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, an autocratic power grab is under way to enthrone corporate power and moneyed elites to rule unilaterally over our government, economy, and environment. Nothing conservative about that!

Rather, a word from America's past best describes their goal: plutocracy. It is the direct opposite of democracy, which is government by the many, by all of the people – by us. Plutocracy, on the other hand, is government by the wealthy – by them and for them. The struggle between democracy and plutocracy has defined our political history from the Revolution of 1776 forward, and now, here we go again. Wall Street banksters, corporate chieftains, speculators, and other pampered plutocrats are out to crush the hard-won laws, rules, institutions, and social compacts that We the People have struggled to put in place over the years to undergird our people's democratic authority. Busting unions, unleashing corporate money in politics, restricting access to courts, gutting financial and environmental regulation – all of these and more are about supplanting our democracy with their plutocracy.

Call them what they are – not conservatives, but self-serving plutocrats. Or nail them with another good word from the past: "kleptocracy," government by thieves.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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