Koch Proxies Threaten to Destroy Conservative Populism
A recent guest column in the Dallas News offers new evidence that Conservatism Inc. is bent on destroying conservative populism. As well it helps confirm the primary streams of money in American politics: Trillions flow to progressives, billions flow to libertarians, and millions – on a good day – flow into the conservative populist movement.
The column is entitled “By supporting Trumpism, the GOP is in danger of losing libertarian support,” with the subtitle adding that “Many libertarians split from the party to vote for Biden.” The authors of this column are Daniel Smith, an Associate Professor of Economics at Middle Tennessee State University and director of the Political Economy Research Institute, and Alexander Salter, an associate professor of economics at Texas Tech University and a research fellow at Texas Tech’s Free Market Institute. But these two professors are not some random intellectuals. They are part of a billion dollar machine, built to produce paid for ideas.
As disclosed on its own website, the Political Economy Research Institute was established with initial seed money from the Charles Koch Foundation. Per a 2016 investigation by the Texas Observer, the Free Market Institute is “largely bankrolled by the Koch network and other conservative interests and individuals.”
To be clear: This column is not an analysis. It is a threat. Not because Libertarians will ever become a viable political party, but because Conservative Inc., backed by libertarian billionaires, has decided that Democrats are preferable to “Trumpist” Republicans.
The column starts out by claiming Republicans are blaming libertarians for Trump’s electoral defeat, then immediately confirms that in fact libertarians were responsible for defeating Trump, writing “The libertarian problem is much bigger than Republicans realize. The official libertarian vote exceeded Biden’s margin of victory in several key states.”
In this the authors are correct. The libertarian vote exceeded Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and came within one-tenth of one percent in Pennsylvania (the state where Biden-friendly judges conveniently expelled the Green Party candidate from the ballot). Of nearly equal significance, U.S. Senate candidate Shane Hazel, one of the most obnoxious symbols of libertarian arrogance in American history, threw the Georgia election into a runoff, which ultimately cost the GOP control.
Smith and Salter go on to acknowledge that “Libertarians, a cantankerous and individualist bunch, do not share a coordinated electoral strategy. Rather, their political tactics have been a mixed bag of not voting, voting for the capital-L Libertarian Party with practically zero chance of success, or voting Republican.” They go on to claim that this time, libertarians didn’t just reject Republicans, they voted Democratic. How they explain this, to the extent their arguments aren’t simply incoherent, reveals just how aligned libertarians are becoming with progressives.
In terms of incoherence, Smith and Salter claim that libertarians are “deeply concerned about the detrimental effects of regulation, taxation and a hike in the minimum wage on economic growth and prosperity.” But how do they translate any of these concerns into a vote for Biden over Trump?
Equally incoherent is the authors’ concern that Trump “would not accept the results of the election.” How does this square with the massive, coordinated efforts by every major American institution to deny Trump victory, an effort backed by thousands of militant thugs who burned down American cities, and encouraged by countless politicians that openly proclaimed their intention to not recognize a Trump victory?
What’s going on here? These are libertarians. They’re supposed to be smart. They’re supposed to have integrity. They’re willing to vote for hopeless candidates because they hold their principles so dear. So why are the authors displaying such obvious double standards? Why such willful denial that the Leftist juggernaut that was activated to oppose Trump was far more dangerous and far more odious than Trump, his tweets, or his policies? Why are Smith and Salter throwing paragraphs into their column that could have been at home on a CNN teleprompter?
The answer to this speaks not to incoherence, but to the calculated alliance that is growing between libertarians and progressives, an alliance that is cemented by billions, if not trillions of dollars of corporate power. Consider this penultimate paragraph:
“If Democrats embrace important libertarian concerns, such as criminal justice reform, drug legalization, ending cronyism, and ceasing foreign interventionism, they could have a real shot of persuading marginal libertarians. And if the left retreated from their destructive economic policies, so much the better.”
There’s a lot to chew on here. Criminal justice reform, for starters, was accomplished under a Trump administration, and for many conservative populists, it is a dubious accomplishment. But it wasn’t Biden or the Democrats that pushed the First Step Act through Congress, it was Trump. And then there’s “drug legalization,” a libertarian fantasy they share with progressives, presumably involving hard drugs since marijuana is pretty much already legal. But letting criminals out of jail and legalizing drugs have consequences. Smith and Salter are invited to spend a few nights in Venice Beach, California, so they may experience first hand the impact of their principles in action.
And then there’s “ending cronyism, and ceasing foreign interventionism.” Really! Because the foundation of Democratic party power, public sector unions along with private sector unions that are borderline communist, has not created a nexus of politically connected corporations and public sector power brokers that’s not destroying every Blue State in America? Who do these guys think they’re kidding? As for “ceasing foreign interventionism,” how many times do Never Trumpers have to be reminded that the supposed horrible dictator did not start new wars, strengthened America’s military deterrent, and brokered historic peace agreements in the Middle East and in the Balkans?
Finally, they write “And if the left retreated from their destructive economic policies, so much the better.” They just sort of throw that in. As if that’s an afterthought. But it isn’t an afterthought. It’s the heart of the choice between Trump and Biden. Regulations. Higher taxes. A hike in the minimum wage. The Green New Deal. “If the left retreated from their destructive economic policies.” Reality alert. They’re not. The Left is not going to “retreat from their destructive economic policies.” The authors must know this. But apparently indulging populist progressivism is preferable to populist conservatism.
Smith and Salter are producing paid for ideas. It’s part of their job. Just as it would be an unthinkable, career ending move for a progressive columnist to question the climate change narrative, for Smith and Salter to acknowledge Trump’s contributions could be problematic for their professional futures.
It isn’t conservative populists who need to do the soul searching in the wake of Trump’s defeat. It is these libertarians who need to decide what they want to do when they grow up. They can keep on taking money from globalist billionaires, and write columns that are in equal measure incoherent or regurgitations of progressivism-lite, or they can face reality. Trump, notwithstanding his bombastic personality, was a pragmatic moderate, whose crime – if you want to call it that – was to care about the working men and women of this nation.
This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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