So, Are the Koch Brothers Still Monumentally Evil?

Koch Brothers

Those who are on the port side of the partisan and ideological divide in America like to portray the Koch brothers as the source of everything bad that has ever happened to the planet, not to mention everything bad that is about to happen on the planet. This particular piece of overwrought nonsense should have been laughed out of polite company long ago, but in the event that anyone still needs evidence for the proposition that the Koch brothers are more complicated than their detractors like to claim they are, they need only read this piece:

Charles Koch must be a very disappointed man. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that he and his allies have spent to shift the Republican Party in a more libertarian direction, Donald J. Trump is moving closer and closer to being the GOP’s new standard-bearer.

Trump’s protectionist populism stands at odds with almost everything the Kochs have fought for — so at odds that Koch has now said publicly that “it’s possible” he could support Hillary Clinton for president.

Imagine predicting a year ago that Charles Koch would be publicly weighing support for Hillary Clinton. It would have seemed inconceivable. But a lot has changed in a year. Something is very different about the politics of 2016.

Obviously, there is much Koch and Clinton disagree on, most notably what to do about the threat of climate change and the size of government more generally. But a Hillary Clinton administration would probably push strongly for expanded immigration, expanded global trade, and a reduction of mass incarceration — all issues the Koch brothers have actively supported. And that’s a lot more consonance than the Kochs would have with a Trump administration.

[. . .]

The conventional wisdom was that the Koch brothers most of all favored Scott Walker, who they had worked with closely for years. But then Walker dropped out after failing to gain traction. By November, Charles Koch appeared increasingly unhappy with the Trump-led GOP field, saying he would not endorse anybody.

In early January, Charles Koch told the Financial Times that “it is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about and I think this country urgently needs aren’t being addressed.” Though he had made his priorities clear to the candidates, they weren’t listening: “It doesn’t seem to faze them much. You’d think we could have more influence.”

[. . .]

While the Koch groups pushed for amnesty and expanded immigration, Trump gained momentum by promising to build a wall on the US–Mexico border. Even their beloved Scott Walker broke with the Kochs on immigration. While the Kochs advocated the benefits of free trade, Trump channeled anger at US manufacturing jobs disappearing overseas because of bum trade deals.

The Kochs also seem especially disturbed by the anti-Muslim rhetoric that both Trump and Cruz have been spewing. Charles Koch’s response to Trump’s proposed Muslim registry was strong: “Well, then you destroy a free society … Who is it that said, ‘If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least?'”

In short, almost all of the Kochs’ policy ideas have been rejected by Republican primary voters, and all of the candidates they liked either turned on them, dropped out of the race, or both. It has been a bad year for them. No wonder they are flirting with the other team.

Whether or not Hillary Clinton deserves the support of the Koch brothers is a separate question for another day. The point of this blog post is that when the Koch brothers get involved in political matters, they do so out of principle. Until recently, it was those principles that caused the Kochs to support Republican candidates. And now, those principles may cause the Kochs to support a Democratic candidate for the highest office in the land.

This must come as quite a shock to those who believed–and may still believe–that the Kochs are evil masterminds determined to impose the beliefs of the Republican party on the rest of the country, regardless of what those beliefs might be. Additionally, discussion of the Kochs’ beliefs–on immigration policy, on registering Muslims, on free trade–must shock those who think (however foolishly) that the Kochs’ views line up with those of, say, Donald Trump. This story on the Koch brothers shows that there are dangers in believing overly simplistic and nonsensically Manichaean political portrayals that cast one side (the anti-Kochs) as being the Avatars of Goodness and Light, and another (the Kochs and their allies) as being the minions of Sauron.1

Perhaps it would be wise to stop buying into overly simplistic and nonsensically Manichaean political portrayals. Who knows; such restraint might actually lead to a more informed American body politic. Incidentally, should the Koch brothers decide to support Hillary Clinton, and should that support include campaign donations to the putative next president of the United States, do you think that Clinton will turn down such largesse?

Me neither.

(Photo Credit.)

(Cross-posted.)

1. I suppose it is possible–if not entirely likely–that there are those who believe that Sauron is the minion of the Koch brothers. Such is the state of discourse in twenty-first century America.