A new phase on the US right… May 23, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
…is the thought that strikes me reading this. You know that odd jerk of recognition one gets realising that one period in time is now over and a new one well under way and somehow the transition from one to the other hasn’t been at all clear cut, except in retrospect? Reading this outline of the Koch brothers and their seeming failure to shape the Republicans in the way that they had hoped, particularly during the Tea Party years, it suddenly came to me that not merely was that latter manifestation of right wing anger over, we were now under Trump in a completely new dispensation.
The Koch brothers are curious – genuinely libertarian in their views on foreign wars, social issues like the war on drugs, and so on, utterly implacably hostile and reactionary on economic issues to workers rights and so forth. Yet Trump is in many respects the antithesis to them. And so, it seems, was the Tea Party. Reihan Salam writes:
…the financial crisis and, soon after, the Obama presidency. President Obama’s fiscal stimulus and the Affordable Care Act gave conservative activists focal points for their outrage, and Americans for Prosperity helped organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies across the country. The Tea Party movement appeared to be exactly what the Kochs had always dreamed of: a libertarian mass movement that was capable of taking over one of America’s two major political parties. At that early stage, at least, the Tea Party didn’t appear to be overly concerned with social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, nor did it talk all that much about immigration. Tea Party leaders were focused on a government that had in their view grown too large and too powerful and that was busy lining the pockets of Wall Street insiders.
But for there is quite a but in all this:
It soon became clear that the Tea Party was not the libertarian mass movement the Kochs and their allies imagined it to be. The opposition of older conservatives to Obamacare was motivated less by a generalized distrust of government than by a fear that it would shift government resources from deserving people like them to the undeserving poor. Moreover, Tea Party conservatives were in many cases more socially conservative than mainstream Republicans. As the Obamacare debate faded from the scene, grass-roots conservatives found themselves energized by other issues, including opposition to the Gang of Eight’s efforts to push comprehensive immigration reform, legislation the Kochs were strongly inclined to support.
The Kochs had hoped that the Republican Party of the future would be led by people like Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who managed to get blue-collar conservatives in his home state excited about rolling back collective bargaining rights for government workers. Instead, the party turned to Trump, an anti-immigration hardliner who maintains that there is absolutely no need to reform Social Security and Medicare and who hardly ever complains about the size of government. The Tea Party voters nurtured by the Koch network have been at least as energized by Trump’s calls for building a wall along America’s southern border as they were by the fight against Obamacare.
Isn’t that something? Perhaps it is explicable by recourse to defining the constraints of the possible in political activity. The Koch brothers ideology breaks down and apart when applied in the context of an enormously complex socio-political and economic structure like the US polity. It can only carry so many – even Republicans – with it before running out of steam in the face of actual issues that impinge on people.
Salam argues that the Koch’s are in it for the long term, and no doubt they are, but one has to wonder if even they with all their financial resources might feel just a little defeated by the dynamics that have become evident in recent years?