And yet, this hardly means that all politicians are bought and paid for by the power elite. There are numerous liberal and ultraconservative elected officials who disagree with the perspectives preferred by members of the power elite. However, there aren't enough of them, they aren't well organized, and they don't have the staying power of those who are sympathetic to the corporate point of view on most issues. Historically, the general result of the candidate-selection process was a set of ambitious and relatively issueless elected officials who knew how to go along to get along. More recently, the corporate-oriented politicians often have conservative views on various "social issues" as well. This emphasis on social issues helps them get elected because some of their constituents care passionately about them, but those issues are not of substantive concern to the corporate rich. Either way, the candidate-selection process leaves an opening for the pro-corporate policies provided to elected officials through the special-interest and policy-planning networks.

In considering the candidate-selection process from the point of view of the power elite, it is important to stress that there are structural and historical reasons why money has mattered so much in American politics. The electoral rules leading to a strong tendency toward a two-party system, that is, the single member district plurality system, when combined with the historic division of the country into Northern and Southern regions with very different political economies, adds up to a situation where the parties have been such complex coalitions that until recently it was not always clear to voters what one or the other stood for. Given that state of affairs, personalities, and name recognition can matter a great deal, which provides an opening for campaign finance to help boost one candidate over another.

Over and beyond the issue of campaign finance, the party system is important because the independence claimed for the executive branch by Mills is in good part premised on the structure of power in Congress. From the 1790s until fairly recently, elite control at the legislative level started with the fact that the Northern industrial and finance capitalists controlled the Republican Party (and its predecessors) and the Southern plantation and merchant capitalists controlled the Democrats in a context where it is near impossible for a third party on the left or right to arise--or last very long--due to the nature of the electoral rules (Domhoff, 2003, Chapter 2; 2006b, Chapter 6). So, to the degree that the liberal-labor coalition that developed during the New Deal could exercise any power, it had to do so inside the Democratic Party and in the context of a bargain with the segregationist Southern Democrats that included acquiescence in elite domination of the low-wage labor force in the South, especially African Americans. It also meant tacit acceptance of the exclusion of African Americans from craft unions and good jobs in the North, which assuaged the feelings of the many Northern white workers who saw African Americans as racially inferior or as potential threats to their job security.

Thus, the liberal-labor coalition, with fewer than a majority of senators and only 100 or so seats in the House, had far less power within the Democratic Party than liberal analysts and historians usually suggest. When it came to domestic spending, the liberal-labor coalition had to agree that the South received more than its share of the pork and that the Southern whites could exclude African Americans if they so desired (Brown, 1999). On the occasions when the Northern liberals could convince the urban machine Democrats to support them on an issue in opposition to the Southerners, the Southerners joined with Northern Republicans after 1938 in a highly successful conservative voting bloc to stop any legislation they did not like, which usually involved issues related to control of labor markets in both the North and the South (Manley, 1973; Patterson, 1981; Shelley, 1983).

The importance of the conservative voting bloc to the smooth functioning of the power elite until the 1990s can be seen through an analysis of two major pieces of liberal legislation that changed the United States dramatically in the 1930s and the 1960s, the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although it was most certainly the militancy of industrial workers in the 1930s and the civil rights movement in the 1960s that put these issues on the public agenda, and it was most certainly liberals in Congress who crafted and pushed the legislation sought by these movements, it was in fact rare differences in interests and opinions between the Northern and Southern segments of the capitalist class that made passage possible. In the case of the National Labor Relations Act, the liberal and labor Democrats gained the support of Southern Democrats by excluding the great bulk of the Southern labor force--that is, agricultural, seasonal, and domestic workers (Domhoff, 1990, Chapter 4). This emphasis on the key role of the Southern rich recently has been endorsed by Ira Katznelson and one of his co-workers (Farhang and Katznelson, 2005).

If there is any doubt that the plantation capitalists and their elected representatives could have stopped the act cold, recall their close relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, their control of congressional committees through the seniority system, and their willingness to use the filibuster on issues of deadly concern to them, which in those days could not be ended with a vote. Perhaps the best proof of this analysis is that the brief usefulness of the National Labor Relations Act soon began a fateful decline when the Southerners turned against it in 1937 and 1938, due to their opposition to integrated organizing in the South and the use of sit-down strikes in the North by the militant Congress of Industrial Organizations. The handwriting was on the wall as early as 1939 when the Southern Democrats entered into negotiations with the ultraconservatives in the National Association of Manufacturers and the leaders of the American Federation of Labor, which was by then feeling threatened by the fast-growing Congress of Industrial Organizations, to decide on the changes in the law that became the Taft-Hartley Act. This handwriting was temporarily obscured by the need to delay the counterattack on labor until the successful completion of World War II (Gross, 1981).

As for the Civil Rights Act, it passed because enough Northern Republicans finally agreed to stop the Southern filibuster, which by then could be accomplished with 67 votes. This Northern Republican support came at the urging not only of moderate Republicans outside of Congress, who were supporters of civil rights, but at the behest of the many corporate leaders who did not want to see further disruption and upheaval for a variety of reasons, including its effect on downtown real estate values and its embarrassing impact on foreign policy in a day when the power elite was fighting for the hearts and minds of people of color in the Third World.

"The Privileged Position of Business"

Dahl and other pluralists completely ignored the four-process model for understanding decision-making. Any debates with sociologists were over by the early 1960s as far as they were concerned. However, they could not so easily ignore events of the 1960s, so some of the pluralists, led by Dahl and his long-time colleague and co-author, Charles Lindblom, took a forward step that most pluralists refused to accept, asserting that business has a "privileged position" in a market economy because it controls the right to invest. If politicians are to succeed in office, they therefore have to do whatever is necessary to "induce" business to invest, which gives business a privileged position over and beyond that of a mere interest group (Dahl and Lindblom, 1976).

Unfortunately, Dahl and Lindblom believe that this argument is sufficient to explain the great power of business and makes the kind of work done by the likes of Hunter and Mills unnecessary. As Lindblom (1977, p. 175) haughtily put it, "To understand the peculiar character of politics in a market-oriented systems requires, however, no conspiracy theory of politics, no theory of common social origins uniting government and business officials, no crude allegations of a power elite established by clandestine forces." Instead, "business simply needs inducements, hence a privileged position in government and politics, if it is to do its job."

However, this theory really only concerns the relationship between business and government, leaving out the fact that there are workers in the society who may not acquiesce in the current arrangements if they suffer unemployment during a lengthy depression or develop the strength through unions to challenge corporations. At such times workers may destroy private property, refuse to work, or even take over private property, as in the sit-down strikes in the 1930s, a powerful tactic that was of course banned by the Supreme Court in 1939 (Domhoff, 2006b, pp. 46-48). In disagreement with Marxists, I do not believe the state originated 5,000 years ago to protect private property, but it did take on that function in Western civilization many centuries ago, and capitalists have to ensure that it continues to do so in a volatile capitalist system filled with uncertainties.

Nor is it simply in dire situations that capitalists need to dominate the state on the issues of concern to it. For example, the first version of the Employment Act of 1946, created by liberals and leftists inside the federal government, included a provision that mandated government investment if studies showed that private investment would fall short of what was needed for full employment in any given year. True, the provision was removed soon after the legislative process began, at the behest of pro-corporate senators, but other liberal aspects of the measure remained in place, and the corporate community had to fight them vigorously through the conservative voting bloc, a story that was first told in detail by political scientist Stephen Bailey in Congress Makes a Law (1950), and which I have supplemented and used for theoretical purposes as part of a general argument about why the corporate community needs to dominate the state in order to endure (Domhoff, 1990, Chapter 7). The corporations have structural economic power, but there is more to social power than that one dimension.

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