Is The Rise Of The Modern American Oligarch Another Sign Of American Decline?

(Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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Oligarchical societies are unstable societies, as they arise when powerful elites no longer care about the common good and instead pursue their own self-interest. While oligarchs can manipulate the will of the people for some time, the people historically wise up once the abuses become too much to bear.

The revolt of the common people is what oligarchs most fear and they will mobilize all of their political and financial resources to keep it from happening. While this dynamic has been recorded for thousands of years, it is no less relevant to American society today. Modern American oligarchs — who made their billions on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley — will do all that they can to maintain their position under the status quo.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is the latest beneficiary of oligarchical largesse, raising an extraordinary amount of money in the few short days since he announced his presidential campaign in Charleston.

While Scott is relatively unknown on the national scene, he already built up a war chest prior to formally declaring his campaign on Monday. He entered the race with nearly $22 million, more than any previous presidential candidate.

That Scott is flush with cash comes as no surprise given that he has been a favorite of Republican megadonors — modern day oligarchs — since at least 2020. He took in nearly $10 million in each of the two quarters running up to his 2022 Senate re-election campaign. The Opportunity Matters Fund, a pro-Scott super PAC, received millions in contributions from some of the GOP’s most high profile donors: New York hedge fund titan Dan Loeb, Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn, and most notably, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, the fourth richest man in the world.

Ellison stands out because he seems to be in with Scott for the long haul. Since the 2022 midterm cycle, he has donated $30 million (then 88% of its total funding) to the Opportunity Matters Fund, now re-branded to Trust In The Mission, or the TIM PAC. Advisors say he is likely to double this contribution over the course of the campaign, but his estimated net worth of over $100 billion means he has unlimited resources to propel Scott across the finish line. (RELATED: Leftist Reporter Jessica Washington Says Tim Scott Invoking ‘Welfare Queens Nostalgia’ To Pander To Base)

Notably, Ellison supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 primaries to the tune of $30 million. While he spent millions opposing then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump in that cycle, he eventually warmed up to the former president in the run up to the 2020 election.

Despite the overwhelming funding, and apparent confidence in Scott, he is polling between 1% to 2% across a variety of polls, placing him dead last behind fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Yet it is unsurprising that he is a favorite of oligarchs like Ellison who are lukewarm on Trump, and have unlimited resources to protect their bottom line. For those elites tired of the Democrats’ governance by class warfare, Scott, who with enough funding could find himself the GOP nominee next year, is a safe bet. (RELATED: Newt Gingrich Says DeSantis Failed To ‘Fill The Vacuum’ Left By Trump)

Scott is neither sharply critical nor staunchly defensive of Trump. When pressed by reporters, he said “of course” he would support the former president in 2024 but declined to elaborate. His tone is measured and he presents an optimistic vision for the future of the country. He is not as conciliatory as a Romney or McCain — he’s willing to wade into the culture war. Nevertheless, he is not a flamethrower willing to dig into boldly controversial stances like Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

He is also “a Christian, who is a conservative, and you may have noticed that I’m black,” as he is fond of telling supporters.

Combined, this makes him a formidable contender particularly from the vantage of someone like Ellison. Megadonors throwing their support behind Scott likely assume he is well situated to overtake Trump in the primaries if and when DeSantis collapses. He supports the Trump agenda but not so much that he scares away Independents.

As a black conservative with unshakable faith in God and country, perhaps he can succeed in being the great racial unifier that former President Barack Obama promised to be but failed to become. Perhaps he can even peel away more of the black vote from the elderly white man with a record of lionizing Southern segregationists.

Scott is undoubtedly the epitome of a “good” candidate.

Yet it is possible oligarchs like Ellison are supplanting grassroots realities with their own preferences. Scott is not the populist brawler that an increasingly cynical and bellicose conservative base demands of their politicians. It is not clear that he could overtake Trump in the primary, nor that he could galvanize enough turnout in the general against a Democratic base who truly believes the country is on the precipice of fascism.

Or perhaps billionaires put too much stock in candidate quality. While the corporate media is warm on Scott now, that tone will certainly change if and when he becomes a real contender. The media will revert to calling him the black face of white supremacy, and many will still believe them. (RELATED: Sen. Tim Scott Hits Back At Whoopi Goldberg Saying He Has ‘Clarence Thomas Syndrome’)

Ellison’s support does not speak to Scott’s record as a politician or a man. He is by all accounts a decent man with a strong conservative record and a powerful story to tell. What it does speak to is the overwhelming power of money in political campaigns. This is nothing new, but it feels more salient after the Covid-BLM era exposed raw corruption at the highest levels of virtually all major American institutions. That oligarchs believe they know best, and have the power to catapult their vision over any grassroots preferences or media constraints reveals the fragility of the current political moment.

Perhaps they are right about Scott’s chances, but perhaps they are not. In fact, it doesn’t really matter. Even if their instincts are right, that does not mean they always will be in future elections. Even if their motives are pure, it does not mean that other monied interests will be. That their vision is more likely to win the day purely due to the depth of their pockets is a bad sign for the future of American politics.

Either America faces a political future where elites like Ellison decide what the voters should want — or the people revolt in volatile ways. The Founders knew that a middle ground was needed for a functioning society and designed a constitutional republic to safeguard against either extreme. Anything but this is not just likely to spell doom — it’s downright un-American.