All right, I admit it — I didn’t see this coming. Just as quickly as concerns over Russia went from Barack Obama’s “the Eighties called and they want their foreign-policy back” to the bête noire of Democrats, opponents of Donald Trump have begun rehabbing two familiar bogeymen, according to the Washington Post.
Help us, Bro-bi-wan Kochnobis, you’re our only hope:
The weekend gathering of wealthy donors who help finance the conservative Koch network was supposed to serve as a celebration of the policy victories within reach now that Republicans control Washington: a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a rollback of environmental regulations, perhaps even a corporate tax overhaul.
But with President Trump already embroiled in chaos and controversy, the conservative financiers assembled at a desert resort here were also forced to contend with a new uncertainty: whether the new president will be an ally or an obstacle.
In their first formal break with the administration, top network officials on Sunday condemned Trump’s travel ban on some refugees and immigrants, calling it “the wrong approach.” Some here expressed alarm that Trump has staked out positions anathema to the network’s libertarian principles, targeting individual companies that produce goods abroad and indicating possible support for a border tax on imports. And the network’s chief patron, billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, who pointedly declined to back Trump in the presidential campaign, warned in stark terms of the potential perils of the anti-establishment mood that gave rise to Trump.
“We have a tremendous danger because we can go the authoritarian route . . . or we can move toward a free and open society,” he told a packed ballroom Sunday afternoon.
It would be almost worth it to have Harry Reid back in the Senate while the opposition elevates the Koch brothers to saviors of the Republic. (Heavy, heavy emphasis on almost.) For years, Reid used the Senate floor to smear David and Charles Koch as malign forces bent on destroying democracy, and replacing it with an authoritarian oligarchy of billionaires. Now suddenly Democrats see them as anti-authoritarian Messiahs.
Meanwhile, the Kochs haven’t shifted a bit. Despite the media hysteria over their political activism, the Kochs have a lengthy track record of fighting authoritarianism and federal overreach through libertarian policies, which is why the Left made them villains in the first place. They resented it when the Kochs fought against their brand of authoritarianism when they held power. This sudden rehabilitation of the Kochs has everything to do with their own loss of power, not an embrace of the actual policies the Kochs have always championed.
Ironically, had the Left listened to the Kochs all along, most of their fears of Donald Trump becoming the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man of politics would have already been addressed. They cheered as Barack Obama arrogated executive power through federal agencies, which the Kochs repeatedly warned would set precedents all sides would later regret. Like Harry Reid’s nuclear option in the Senate, the Left didn’t listen, and only now regret that the presidency has become nearly unmoored from the constitutional checks and balances that the Left considered archaic and moot.
One excellent reason to vote for Donald Trump was that it would force the Left — and the media — to address the erosion in checks on executive power. That’s especially true in expansions of jurisdiction at federal agencies. That’s precisely what the Kochs have been arguing through administrations of both parties. If the Left wants to avoid authoritarians now and in the future, then they’d be better off combining forces with conservatives and libertarians to restore our federalist structure to its original design and devolving authority and power back to the states, and to the people, rather than continuing to concentrate it in Washington DC.
If they did that, though, they wouldn’t be the Left and their entire raison d’être would evaporate, so don’t bet on them experiencing The Federalist Epiphany. They just want their power back and are willing to ride the Kochs as far as they will take them. You can bet the Kochs know it, too.