For Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and his supporters, the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are the focus of evil in the modern world.
Reid has blamed the Koch brothers for climate change, opposition to minimum wage hikes, the House Republican budget, the slow delivery of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, and virtually all of the opposition Democrats have faced in the Congress from GOP members. The outgoing Senate majority leader has gone so far as to call these private citizens “un-American” on the floor of the upper chamber of Congress.
Apparently, and despite the fact that the New York City native has quite possibly attended a ballet or received medical care in a building named for one of the Kochs, all Barbara Walters knows about the prolific political and philanthropic donors is what Reid says about them.
Walters recently interviewed David Koch, labeling him one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014. According to Politico, her line of questioning reflected the fact that she has been consuming the caricatured portrait painted of him by congressional Democrats.
“You have given money to all of these different hospitals, universities, different schools and so forth. Yet there are people would call you an evil billionaire. Why?” Walters said.
“Well, I don’t understand that,” Koch answered.
Walters asked Koch to explain his political views, stating that he’s “not well-liked” because of his “very conservative politics.”
“Well, I’m basically a libertarian,” Koch said. “I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal.”[Emphasis added]
You don’t have to be a member of the press to know that David Koch is a comparatively strict libertarian. He supports the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, American retrenchment from the Middle East, and relatively unconstrained access to both contraception and many forms of abortion. He has also suggested that Congress should pursue a balanced budget by considering both cuts to the Defense Department and targeted tax hikes.
“The fact that Koch holds these very un-Republican views… really isn’t news,” Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell wrote.
Koch is a board-member for the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine) and the Cato Institute. Both groups have long been vocal supporters of gay rights, drug legalization, civil liberties, non-interventionist foreign policy; and vocal opponents of things like police abuse, executive overreach, and excessive government spending on all things including the GOP’s sacred-cow military. Heck, the demonized brothers reportedly once gave $10 million each to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight the PATRIOT Act.
In fact, in some ways it is arguable that these Koch-funded organizations have done more for many so-called “progressive” causes than progressives themselves. Koch funding has helped produce countless writers who have blown the lid off rampant police abuse, exposed horrific injustices from the War on Drugs, and repeatedly criticized the foreign policy blunders of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Koch’s libertarianism apparently vexed Walters. She insisted that his politics were “very conservative” and probed him as to why he supports Republican candidates for office when he describes his views as “socially liberal.” Did Walters just throw out the pre-interview and wing it? Did her team do no research on the subject of this profile before she sat down with him? This is an embarrassment.
Moreover, to get a little philosophical, Koch does not support Democrats not in spite of his “socially liberal” views but because of them. The left is many things, but “liberal” is not among them.
Today’s Democrats are inspired by opposition to choice like that made by Hobby Lobby to exert its rights protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Today’s Democrats firmly oppose right-to-work legislation, which gives laborers the ability to refuse to join a union if they so choose. Today’s Democrats are represented by members of Congress who voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would limit the First Amendment freedoms of people like Koch that protect his right to contribute to the candidates and causes of his choice. Today’s Democrats oppose even debate about the legalization of same-sex marriage and drug legalization because to oppose these initiatives is to expose one’s prejudice.
Increasingly, modern progressivism has comforted itself in the notion that all opposition to its favored programs is based in bad faith. No one could honestly disagree with progressive policy prescriptions, so it is only fair to limit the public’s ability to access and be potentially swayed by that dishonesty. These are not “socially liberal” views; they’re authoritarian.
Perhaps Walters, rather than probing Koch with the aim of exposing some subjective measure of hypocrisy, should have asked herself what the Democratic Party has done to alienate a potential ideological ally so completely. David Koch’s message to the Democrats is that it is them, not him. The implications there are fascinating and worth exploring. It’s a shame that this veteran interviewer doesn’t see them.