In a most interesting article on “Alternet” by Sean Illing the author refers to Charles Koch’s frustration over the lack of civility in today’s politics — as reported in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. Illing is delighted by the irony he sees in the Tea Party founder’s frustration over the Frankenstein he has created and now cannot control. As the story relates, in part:
The “lack of substance and civility” about which Charles complains began in earnest with the rise of the Tea Party between 2009 and 2010. To the extent that the Tea Party is a centralized movement, it is so because it has been mobilized by the groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, both of which are Koch-financed. As it happens, these groups were formerly a single organization, called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded in 1984 by, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers.
The Tea Party, from the very beginning, was designed for disruption, and it was a pet project of the Koch brothers (they actually created the first national website for the movement). Charles Koch says he’s interested only in advancing “free-market, small-government ideals,” but what he’s done is manufacture a faux-populist movement that has whipped the conservative base into an anti-government frenzy.
In the process of serving his narrow and self-interested ideological ends, he allowed the worst elements of the conservative movement – the xenophobes, the nationalists, and the theocrats – to hijack the Republican Party. Initially this worked, because it sent obstructionists to Congress whose only mission was to shut the government down. But, over time, it’s created a political climate in which it’s nearly impossible to govern. And it’s prepared the way for someone like Donald Trump (whose campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is a product of Americans for Prosperity), who exists only because he’s been able to tap into the sentiments let loose by the Tea Party movement.
As the article suggests, the problem goes much deeper than mere lack of “civility,” though that is certainly something to deeply regret. The problem goes to the very core of a democratic system which demands an enlightened electorate, open discussion, civil disagreement, and willingness to compromise. The Koch brothers and their ilk have turned over some rocks and the like-minded vermin that have crawled out have taken over the system and are determined to break it down completely — in the name of lower taxes and “free-market, small government” ideals. Their goals are absurd, of course, since the agencies they target are the warp and woof of our political system — not to mention the fact that this country has never experienced a “free-market” economy. There have always been economic restraints built in by various state and federal agencies.
Democracy requires a government committed to the common good, not huge profits for some. But this is the goal of the obscenely wealthy who can spend millions of dollars in order to turn our democracy into an oligarchy, which is precisely what is happening before our very eyes. The Koch brothers spent over $400 million on the last election and plan to spend $750 million on this one. And their goal is not to merely control the Presidency and the U.S. Congress, but also numerous key legislatures around the country. Their scope is large, indeed. Charles may have regrets, but it certainly hasn’t altered his goals at all.
Indeed, there is irony here. But there is also a terrible sadness due to the fact that the monster let loose by the greed of a few is threatening to destroy one of the greatest political experiments since the Roman Republic.