How conservative anger at Large Tech pushed the GOP into Bernie Sanders’ nook

WASHINGTON – For most of Donald Trump’s time in the White House, Silicon Valley was able to view the legal threats Republicans brought against him as a sideline: unfocused, dubious, untenable.

But a campaign that started amid a cauldron of conservative complaints – about censorship allegations, complaints about “bright” corporate values, and the power of some billionaires in the Bay Area – has turned into something that big corporation does by far in the absence of former President Trump is more worrying.

The GOP urge to break up, or at least punish, big tech is now an unexpectedly disciplined movement that has caused concern well beyond the Silicon Valley boardrooms as the party’s identity increasingly focuses on curbing the power of big corporations.

The shift mixes alliances inside and outside the party. It also moves many Republican lawmakers to abandon decades of conservative free market orthodoxy in order to join the progressives in calling for the federal government to significantly expand its antitrust activities. Facebook’s decision on Wednesday to extend Trump’s ban on the platform further fueled the movement.

For many in the GOP, big business has become a more attractive destination than big government.

“For years they had listened to economists tell them corporations should be able to do anything they want,” said Matt Stoller, director of research for the impartial American Economic Liberties Project, which works to dilute the power of corporations . “Suddenly you are faced with an economic and political order in which this has become very difficult for you.”

Some of the most aggressive and potentially effective antitrust measures are currently being pursued by Republicans, Stoller said. In federal court, he found that it was the Republican attorneys general who were most vigorous in their antitrust proceedings against Google and Facebook, claiming the companies were using illegal, monopoly tactics to dominate the market and mislead users. The landmark antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against Google was initiated in the last few weeks of the Trump administration.

The ideological lines are blurring so quickly that it is difficult to keep track of who falls where in the GOP and whether the rhetoric came from Senator Ted Cruz or Senator Bernie Sanders. “Any massive accumulation of power is bad,” tweeted the long-time ally of big corporation Cruz, the Republican of Texas, recently, calling “Big Corporations”, “Big Tech” and “Big Hollywood” as dangerous as “Big Government”.

The cartel crusaders on the left are skeptical. Both Sanders (I-Vt.) And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who started the #BreakUpBigTech movement before it became fashionable with Conservatives, say Republicans remain very committed to big business. They point to the huge corporate tax breaks that the GOP is campaigning for, which block a minimum wage of $ 15.

Warren suggested that the law went into not only a tantrum, but also a tantrum after the companies made richer by the tax cuts dared to speak out against efforts to suppress GOP voters. “The Republicans have finally been called,” she told the Daily Beast. Republicans had accepted, Warren said, “As long as they cut taxes on American companies, everything will be sunshine and roses. You are wrong. “

For some in the GOP, the push begins and ends with slogan ringing, with lawmakers focusing more on scoring points in the culture wars than on restructuring capitalism. However, the clamor over cable news and social media is increasingly being accompanied by determined bipartisan political work that could ultimately realign the government’s role in regulating businesses.

“There is momentum for thoughtful reform,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, the Silicon Valley Progressive who co-founded the Congressional Antitrust Caucus. “But people need to understand that antitrust law is not a panacea. We shouldn’t give people false hope that this will lead to more empowerment and justice. “

In Congress, Republican lawmakers are delving into the weeds of obscure corporate law alongside Democrats in search of ways to undermine the power of big corporations. It was clear that the movement was moving beyond political revenge against Silicon Valley when pharmaceutical companies were recently grilled in Congress when the antitrust concerns raised by Republicans were difficult to distinguish from those raised by Democrats on the panel.

In the state houses of Arizona and North Dakota, Apple and Google were alarmed by the dynamism of GOP-championed actions that challenged their dominance over mobile app proliferation.

The Republicans on the U.S. Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Committee backed up some of the Democrats’ specific plans for crackdown on Silicon Valley in a 450-page report released in October, but their own minority report, by Colorado Republican Representative Ken Buck, is being monitored. gave tech firms much to worry about.

“People like me and Ken Buck have gotten to think that the free market can solve this problem, and there really is no role for Congress here,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, one of the Republicans who wrote the minority report have signed. Armstrong thinks differently now.

The Conservative said he had been in Silicon Valley hearings pursuing the same issue as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington D, who chairs the Progressive Congress. “I don’t think anyone is going to confuse their ideology or mine, but when it comes to this stuff we have asked each other questions,” said Armstrong.

The conservative passion for regulation extends to the Supreme Court, where Justice Clarence Thomas said from the bank in April that technology platforms have become so powerful that the federal government should consider regulating them as public utilities.

The momentum is being driven not only by Trump boosters, but also by a large contingent of anti-Trumpers who leave think tanks and free market advocacy organizations unprepared and try to mobilize a counter-offensive.

“Just a few months ago, I would have said that bipartisan law targeting the structure and size of individual companies is very unlikely,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a free market think tank. “Today I would say that there is a good chance it could happen. … I don’t think there is any more free market majority in the Republican Party. “

The enthusiasm of a growing number of GOP lawmakers to use government power to weaken the influence of the country’s largest corporations is hardly unprecedented in the party of Trust Buster President Teddy Roosevelt. But Republicans have been closely associated with big business for decades and have looked wrong at robust antitrust enforcement except in the most extreme circumstances, such as when the Reagan administration broke telephone monopoly.

The Republicans’ path back to a party that advocates this type of regulation is not always coherent and is hampered by the presidential hopefuls who position themselves as heirs to Trump’s unpredictable populism. Long-time ally Cruz’s statement that he was rejecting corporate PAC funds led to charges of opportunism. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, has published his new book on the tyranny of Big Tech on Amazon.

The threats to strip antitrust exemptions from Major League Baseball were not so much a result of concerns that baseball is too big, but rather of punishing the organization for playing their all-star game in protest of the new election restrictions of the state from Georgia.

The Conservative Heritage Foundation called on Conservatives in December to “combat efforts by the left to facilitate the federal government’s use of antitrust law to reshape and control the technology sector and other economic sectors.” But Heritage President Kay C. James warned Google that it may not be a reliable ally.

Her damning letter refusing to accept the company’s $ 225,000 donation highlighted the growing momentum in Washington to contain technology companies through antitrust and other measures.

“Heritage is in the process of reviewing these suggestions, and the last thing we need is that everyone think our conclusions have been influenced in some way by a relatively small donation from Google,” wrote James.

Unlike on the left, where complaints about large companies are more based on economic inequality and the treatment of workers, the cartel talk in the GOP is more often about social issues. The party faces companies that increasingly express themselves on positions that contradict the GOP doctrine.

The deplatformation of Trump, the boycotts of GOP-controlled states in large corporations that restrict the franchise and rights of transgender residents, and the acceptance of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which many Republicans loathe, have pushed Conservatives to abandon theirs Rethinking relationship with these states companies.

“The corporate world is no longer a trusted auditor to the average GOP voter,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist in California. “They don’t see it much differently than the big government.”

Republicans have been here before. Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy was based on his crusade against robber barons and monopolies. And during the Nixon and Ford administrations, the federal government was most active in antitrust enforcement.

“It’s not just the left who fear concentrated power,” said Daniel Crane, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. “There is a long conservative tradition that is very suspicious. There is concern about what will happen to free market capitalism if we allow capital to get out of hand and grow too big. “

The question now, Crane said, is how much of that power the legislature will water down.

“We are at a turning point,” he said. “There are a number of ways this is going.”

Story by Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times.

Comments are closed.