At the Excess Files, we aim to take a satirical look at the lives of the rich -- and the super rich. Honestly, it's an effort to laugh to keep from crying...because it often seems like the concentration of wealth has become an unstoppable force, threatening to overwhelm our democracy.
Indeed, a recent study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University found “the general public has little or no independent influence” on policymaking due to the “quite substantial and highly significant" impact of "economic elites" and corporate lobbyists.
Related: The astounding power of "economic elites"
Even more dismaying, the study covered the decade before the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, which effectively removed even the appearance of restraints on the influence of money in politics.
But this week brought something for all Americans to cheer about, regardless of your political views: David Brat's victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary is a welcome reminder that money isn't the only thing that matters. (Winning is, but that's another story.)
Cantor outspent his opponent, a relatively unknown economics professor, $5 million to $123,000. In fact, Cantor's campaign spent more money on steakhouse dinners then Brat's campaign spent on the entire race -- proving once again those high-priced sides just aren't worth it.
Brat's chances of victory were deemed so low that major conservative groups that often support Tea Party candidates, like Club for Growth, didn't bother to raise money to help him defeat a man previously viewed as a likely successor to House Speaker John Boehner.
"What you proved tonight is dollars don't vote -- you do," Brat told supporters in his victory speech Tuesday night.
The conventional wisdom is Cantor's defeat will lead to greater partisan gridlock as "establishment" Republicans will be even more fearful of the party's right-wing.
Related: Crony capitalists rule, and Cantor’s defeat won’t change that
But there's another message for members of Congress of both parties: "The issue is the Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough to Main Street," Brat said.
Indeed, Cantor's top donors include Blackstone Group, Scoggin Capital Management and Goldman Sachs and his loss "is a particular blow for Wall Street," The WSJ reported. "He had cultivated good ties with Wall Street figures and was a conduit for their concerns."
If Brat's win serves to remind politicians -- of all parties -- whose interests they're really supposed to serve, then it really will prove to be a political earthquake, one that's long overdue.
Previously on The Excess Files:
- The Excess Files: Mulally and Buffett and Souki...oh my!
- Target's big pay-out, Apple backs up the truck, and college tours for the 1%
- Chipotle co-CEOs can buy a TON of burritos but CVS's Merlo is #1!
- There's a least one happy worker at McDonalds: Amid wage protests, CEO gets big payday
- CEO Pay: An embarrassement of riches
- Luxury for the 1%, by the 1%