Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Democracy’s Shadow

For years progressives have assumed that the ideological trajectories of both the Republican Party, certainly, and to a lesser but substantive degree the Democrats themselves, have been aligned variously with the aspirations of corporations to wriggle free from government regulation and taxation.  This is arguably intended to benefit their profits at the expense, contrary to the ideological framework within which it is usually promoted, of the welfare and best interests of the citizenry.

Since the watershed election of President Obama ‘populist’ opposition to his policies has emerged, largely facilitated, if not actually inspired, by sponsorship from the Right-wing media, not to mention other less visible patrons.

Predictably the source of this ‘movement’ has been identified as disaffection with government spending and intrusion into the civil liberties of our citizens, but the truth may be more daunting to accept for those concerned with such issues, and seriously casts doubt on the ‘grassroots’ credentials of organisations like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a significant Tea Party promoter:

Over the July 4th weekend, [an Americans for Prosperity Foundation] summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though [founder billionare David Koch] freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused … by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country.”

Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

Jane Mayer – Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama The New Yorker 30 Aug 10

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are both executives of Koch Industries, a major US petrochemical industrial giant, and have a long history of what might be termed ‘fringe’ Right-wing political beliefs and questionable spending of large sums of their considerable fortunes on politically oriented projects in the grey areas of electoral legality and scientific integrity.  Their influence, however, on our current political discourse is increasingly disproportionate.

That they should be seeking to leverage their wealth and power to their own ends is not anything new:

When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket, his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools  – in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed. As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial – a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans.

Frank Rich – The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party NYT 28 Aug 10

However their ability to mobilise an astroturf constituency has only emerged recently by bankrolling and successfully enlisting the unwitting support of the Tea Party movement to their long-standing agendas.  And yet the genuine emerging threats to our ‘freedom,’ it would seem, are things like the Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court ruling and the culture of corporate influence it represents.  That the Teabaggers are unaware of their role in this transition is unexceptional.  That they are unconcerned about the consequences, given their obsession with the wisdom of our Founding Fathers in setting us on the path of true democracy, is simply tragic.

This raises a good question:

The Tea Party, far from being a spontaneous populist movement, has been underwritten with tens of millions of dollars and coordinated through a network of organizations with names like Americans for Prosperity, with the singular goal of creating an angry block of disaffected voters who will unwittingly vote for policies that benefit the very wealthy.

Lurking behind the trumped-up fear of a government takeover of our lives is a desire on the part of these rich funders to force government out of the job of regulating how they do business, protecting workplace safety, defending the environment, overseeing the safety of the food supply, and raising their taxes-in other words, doing anything that might reduce their profits. That would also include, by the way, paying for the safety net. How this will be good for the army of middle class Americans they’ve enlisted to fight their battles for them is something I can’t answer, and I suspect the zealous Tea Party devotees can’t either.

Ed Stein – Puppeteer Ed Stein Ink 30 Aug 10

Leveraging wealth for influence is nothing new but sponsors have finally learned that they need a ‘movement’ to gain genuine electoral legitimacy.  Murdoch’s Fox empire was giddy with this potential as early as April 2009 and heavily promoted the populist Tea Party gatherings as media events, partially of their own creation.  The Kochs seem to have a similar but more comprehensive covert strategy:

Charles Koch seems to have approached both business and politics with the deliberation of an engineer. “To bring about social change,” he told [Brian Doherty, editor of the libertarian magazine Reason], requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.” The project, he admitted, was extremely ambitious. “We have a radical philosophy,” he said.

Jane Mayer – Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama The New Yorker 30 Aug 10

Indeed.  Radical and conspicuously undemocratic.  And yet the effect on the current agendas of the mainstream Republican Party are difficult to overestimate:

Yet inexorably the Koch agenda is morphing into the G.O.P. agenda, as articulated by current Republican members of Congress, including the putative next speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Tea Party Senate candidates like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and the new kid on the block, Alaska’s anti-Medicaid, anti-unemployment insurance Palin protégé, Joe Miller. Their program opposes a federal deficit, but has no objection to running up trillions in red ink in tax cuts to corporations and the superrich; apologizes to corporate malefactors like BP and derides money put in escrow for oil spill victims as a “slush fund”; opposes the extension of unemployment benefits; and calls for a freeze on federal regulations in an era when abuses in the oil, financial, mining, pharmaceutical and even egg industries have been outrageous.

Frank Rich – The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party NYT 28 Aug 10

And even though the detailed New Yorker piece has raised a few eyebrows it isn’t like we haven’t had evidence of this over the past years.  When in doubt, they simply obfuscate, misdirect and outright lie:

Koch Industries, a major backer of myriad right-wing causes, issued an unsolicited statement last night in advance of Tax Day claiming it has never provided funding “specifically to support the tea parties.” But when TPMmuckraker followed up, a spokeswoman acknowledged that Koch funds one of the most prominent national groups that organizes … tea parties.

Justin Elliot – Koch Industries: We Don’t Fund Tea Parties (Except For The Tea Parties We Fund) TPM Muckraker 15 Apr 10

So it seems the conspiracy-oriented apprehensions long-held by some, and often derided, of an Ayn Rand corporate ‘fascism,’ or at least ‘autarchism,’ operating widely below our political radar are arguably increasingly realistic.  How do progressives counter this development?  And why isn’t this the issue which unites moderates and progressives in support of the current presidency which seems willing to oppose it?


  1. fogiv

    …happy hour talkin’:  I get the whole ‘Chuck and Dave’ problem.  These fucknuts are just a few of the many faces in the cadre of ‘teh ridiculously rich rightwing’.  

    What I DO NOT get is this: Why the goddamned disparity?  Don’t a few decent people get absurdly rich (and thus have disproportionate political influence) too?  We’ve got Soros, I suppose, but where the hell are all the progressive gazillionaires to balance this shit out?  If we can’t out-gun them, where is our Lord Charles Howard?

  2. You cannot have a “grassroots” movement with corporate sponsorship like Fox News. You cannot call your “movement” grassroots when it has quite so many AEI Fellows on the payroll.

    While indeed, there are some deep pocketed folks at the core, this is also a way of bilking folks to keep them from investing their disposable income to supporting a cause that keeps them from depositing said cash into other folks’ rutabaga patches. It is similar to the Zig Ziglar phenomena or even Scientology. Keep the marks rolling in cash, and dazzle them with bullshit, because if they come to, they’re going to be pissed. If your messaging lapses, they might just lose interest and donate said valuta somewhere else, and that could be to the competition, so you have to pinch that right off.

    The rise of the corporatists has been very much in line with the rise of the Neocons and their fellow travelers in the Religious Right. The Neo-Calvinists who see prosperity as gifts from God, and rewards for good behavior and piety have made a greater impact with their version of Supply Side Jesus.  It isn’t coincidence. These folks are useful to the corporate interests that really like having captive Congresscritters, and LOVED having a captive President.

    Dan Quayle was an attempt to get a low brow and wildly beholden soul into the White House for paving the way away from regulation and taxes. That pretty much failed, but the model had been created, and thus the morphing of the son of a President with little real interest in governing into a political contender.  

    And we all see how well that fast and loose lack of regulation worked out for our markets and our economy.  Some players did remarkably well, since they hedged their bets, and got the tax payers to cover those bets, and they would really like to see that continue. And if they can get the lowest rungs of the ladder, and the middle rungs to cant out Hosannahs for their fortunes, all the better. Gives them political cover.

    The problem is: we have seen how this works. We had eight years of it already, and we’re soaking in the after effects of the biggest raid on the American Piggy Bank, ever, and we have folks who are screaming that we do it some MOAR.

    Why?  Because they were told it’s patriotic. Because they’re salt of the earth types. You know, morons.  

  3. Jjc2008

    because very few of them support these issues:

    PUBLIC Education: their kids go/went to private and they look their noses down on educators as do many “progressives.” After all everyone is an expert on education cause they went to school, or their kids go to school. Apparently an entire school system can be judged on the few schools/teachers one’s own child has had

    UNIONS:  It still astounds me how many progressives have thrown out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to unions.   STRONG Unions, with all of their problems, were the one way the middle class could have some clout.  But then progressives buy into the myths that “you can’t fire teachers because of unions, you can’t change a light bulb because of unions”.  

    Health Care as a RIGHT:  Lots of money to be made off the backs of poor people.

    My discouragement is profound.  I did not expect miracles from President Obama, any more than I did from Bill Clinton, or would have from Hillary.   I understand governing is a lot different from campaigning.  I criticized Bill for a lot of things.  I still believe that on all things except foreign policy Hillary is more progressive than Obama or Bill.  But none of that matters when progressives themselves are either as duped as the right, or refuse to support the big, traditional issues like public ed and unions.

  4. Hollede

    I tried to post comment and though technotardishness, I lost it. So I will try again later as I must go “shudder” shopping now. Be back later…

  5. Hollede

    So it seems the conspiracy-oriented apprehensions long-held by some, and often derided, of an Ayn Rand corporate ‘fascism,’ or at least ‘autarchism,’ operating widely below our political radar are arguably increasingly realistic.  How do progressives counter this development?  And why isn’t this the issue which unites moderates and progressives in support of the current presidency which seems willing to oppose it?

    I have long believed that those with the power and the money think it is in their interest to keep the vast majority of us hating each other horizontally, so we never look up to see who is pissing on us.

    Or it could be just this:


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