Monday, July 30, 2018

Koch Brothers Network In The Age Of Trump-- Confused, Hypocritical And As Evil As Ever


The weekend's Koch brothers biannual 3-day conclave of wealthy right-wing political donors, featured a video of Charles Koch blasting Trump's trade agenda. In Colorado Springs they got to hear Charles explaining that "the urge to protect ourselves from change has doomed many counties throughout history. This protectionist mindset has destroyed countless businesses." Isn't the definition of conservatism "the urge to protect ourselves from change?" In any case, there was lots of Trump criticism going around. The Koch network co-chair Brian Hooks came right out and said that "The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage" and also chided elected officials who are "following" Trump's lead. That would be every single Republican the Koch network is funding this cycle. Talk about mixed messages, hypocrisy and confusion!
The Koch network's influence, even among Republicans, has come into question in the conventional-wisdom-shredding era of Trump. The network has during the past year and a half fruitlessly pushed for comprehensive health care and immigration reform; and like other leading conservative groups, the network has been powerless to persuade the President to rethink his strategy on trade generally and tariffs specifically.

The weekend conference comes with fewer than four months until the midterm elections, as the network, led by billionaire Charles Koch, gears up to spend millions to protect Republican majorities in Washington. Yet the networks' leaders did not sound like they were on war footing on Saturday, instead highlighting bipartisan cooperation.

"It is radical, particularly given the divisive climate that we're in right now and how polarized and factionalized the country is in many ways," said James Davis, a spokesperson for the network. "But we want to focus on aggressively finding areas of common interest where we can make progress on some issues, even if we disagree on other issues."

Although the Koch network has not adjusted its spending projections for the midterms, its thematic shift suggests the GOP-aligned group could be contemplating a new power dynamic in Washington and its place in it. Indeed, in spite of significant investments by the Koch network and like-minded groups, Democrats have maintained an advantage in generic polling and appear as well positioned to compete for majorities in Congress now as they did earlier this year.

The Koch network has dabbled in working with and supporting Democrats when their interests have aligned, and the network alarmed some Republicans earlier this year when it funded a digital ad campaign applauding North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's support for rolling back bank regulations. Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents this year, and her race could help decide partisan control of the Senate.

...The group remains unambiguously pro-Republican by reputation. Only Republican elected officials plan to attend the Koch network's meeting over the course of the weekend, as is standard-- including a few, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a candidate for Senate in Tennessee, who will count on the deep pockets of Koch network donors in competitive races this fall. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is also running in a marquee Senate race, will also be on hand, as will the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn, among others.

But the administration's tariffs have stung uniquely for this group, which traces its roots to 2003, when Charles Koch and a group of like-minded business leaders grew alarmed at the rapid growth of government programs and the implementation of steel tariffs under President George W. Bush.

"So, we find that there are some similarities to where we are today," said Davis.

In a video message that will be shown to the network's donors during this weekend's meeting, set on the lush grounds of the Broadmoor hotel here in Colorado Springs, Charles Koch warns that "protectionism is perverting the key institutions of our society."

The Koch network has pledged a "multi-year, multi-million dollar" commitment to fighting tariffs and other policies they believe are protectionist. "We see this as a long-term endeavor," said Davis.

Even beyond some glaring policy disagreements, the Koch network has not exactly enjoyed a cozy relationship with Trump, having voiced stark concerns about him during the presidential election and recoiled at his brand of Republicanism. Once Trump won, however, the network resolved to work with him where they could, and following his first year in office, their public view turned rosier. In January, Tim Phillips, the president of the network's political arm, Americans for Prosperity, touted the network's "partnership" with Trump and cheered the administration's work to roll back regulations and nominate conservative judges.

As the political ground shifts, the network is also grappling with a fundamental transformation of its own. The shorthand for the network was once the "Koch brothers," a reference to Charles and David Koch, its patrons and figureheads. But David Koch, 78, formally resigned from his role with the network earlier this year, citing declining health.
Steve Bannon was certainly not invited out to Colorado Springs. As Politico's Alex Isenstadt reported earlier today, he was hurling feces from the sidelines. He was bitching that the billionaires have to "get with the programs" and finance a "ground game [and] to support Trump’s presidency and program."
Bannon argued, the Kochs need to rally behind the president. Democrats, who he said want to halt Trump’s agenda and launch impeachment proceedings, are energized and focused-- and out-hustling Republicans.

He described the Koch political operation as ineffective, saying it had wasted untold dollars on losing past elections. And he argued that voters had rejected the free-trade approach the Kochs embrace in favor of Trump’s brand of economic populism.

“We can have a theoretical discussion later, OK? This is why they don’t know what it means to win, OK? We don’t have time to have some theoretical discussion and to have their spokesman come out and say the president is divisive,” Bannon said.

He said it was unacceptable “for them to come out and talk about divisiveness” given their long-running lack of support for Trump.

“They were the first people to put the knife in his back,” he said.

..."Charles Koch is a good man, but 100 days before an election that will determine the direction of the country is not the time to tell us that you are prepared to work with Democrats that support parts of your progressive agenda,” Bannon said.

“It's wrong, it's stupid and it shows contempt for the hardworking grassroots folks that delivered the victory that got your tax cut,” he added.
Meanwhile, who did the Kochs invite to their shindig? Mostly very extreme, hard right whackadoodles like Matt Bevin (R-KY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Doug Collins (R-GA), not mainstream conservatives, let alone moderates. Maybe they should have gone outside the box and invited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to speak at their dog-and-pony show. They would have learned something important for a change. Listen; she sounds good, doesn't she? And she's part of the future of this country, not the octogenarian Koch brothers.

[S]ocialism lost its sting at the end of the Cold War. In 2009, when Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) told a reporter he had a secret list of 17 “socialists” then working in Congress, the Beltway press and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) responded not with McCarthy-era outrage but gentle amusement. When Rep. Steve King (R-IA) called same-sex marriage a socialist plot that same year, he couldn’t even convince conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Millennials are the first generation to come of age without all of this Cold War brain baggage. They also entered adulthood around the 2008 financial crisis, a period in which the word “capitalism” was having a rough go: double-digit unemployment, mass foreclosures, unaffordable rent, crushing student debt, deepening economic inequality, bailed-out bankers swallowing six-figure bonuses, tech billionaires who literally can’t figure out how to give away their money.

Plenty of reformers have insisted that these signs of social breakdown were offenses against capitalism rather than products of capitalism. But they are losing the semantic battle. Polling in recent years has consistently shown a majority of millennials are enthusiastic about “socialism,” often preferring it to “capitalism.” For millennials, “capitalism” means “unaccountable rich people ripping off the world,” while “socialism” simply means “not that.”

Indeed, when the newest star on the left, soon-to-be Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York discusses her vision for “democratic socialism,” her agenda sounds a lot like old-school New Deal liberalism, or basic, functional, small-d democracy.

“In a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez told NBC’s Chuck Todd earlier this month. “Every working-class American in this country should have access to dignified health care, should actually be able to see a doctor without going broke. It means you should be able to send your kids to college and trade school if they so choose, and no person should feel precarious or unstable in their access to housing.”

No gulags, just dignity. Boomers of the world, calm down. You have nothing to lose but some words.

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At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was Steve Bannon, I wouldn't be so demanding of a couple of billionaire brothers with no morals nor scruples. He might make them upset at him, and the results aren't likely to be pretty.

But who am I to tell Steve Bannon what to do?

Heh, heh, heh, ...

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. Here we are discussing which form of naziism is less evil and even why.

This can only make things get better, eh?


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