Kochsteria: Effective or not?

That’s the question I ask in my column today for The Week — and almost immediately got an answer in part on Twitter. We’ve seen this play before, I explain, and under similar circumstances:


The Republican Party routinely demonized [George] Soros during the 2006-08 election cycles in much the same way Democrats are doing with the Kochs in 2014. In both cases, the party in power had nothing more to offer the American electorate other than the demonization of peripheral characters. Neither had the courage to run on their own records and cheerfully withstand accountability on the basis of them.

Republicans didn’t get far with Soros-noia, and so far Democrats aren’t scoring with Kochs-teria, either. The Reid strategy hasn’t actually succeeded in engaging the electorate where those efforts have been concentrated, perhaps in part because fact checkers keep demolishing Democratic attacks on the Kochs. Voters aren’t impressed, which may be the silver lining in this cloud of irresponsibility.

No one should consider Charles and David Koch above criticism, and I doubt anyone does. Entering the public debate means becoming fair game for criticism and scrutiny. But Kochsteria goes far beyond this:

Whether a person contributes to organizations that push a political vision, conducts the speech directly, or even has less direct connections to the policy issues at hand, their activism becomes fair game for criticism and opposition. No one will lose sleep over critics launching attacks on billionaires for their political efforts, nor should they. Advertisements funded in part by contributions from the Kochs are certainly part of that territory. To the extent that their factual claims can be challenged, opponents are well within their rights to correct the record and to challenger their motivations. Free speech does not mean freedom from rebuttals — as the Kochs themselves would surely be the first to acknowledge, given how much of their effort goes into such criticism in the first place.

Democrats, however, have gone far beyond this. Reid has used the Senate floor to cast the two industrialists in terms that echoes the worst of McCarthyism. Starting a few weeks ago, Reiddeclared the Koch brand of dissent “un-American,” a charge he repeated on more than one occasion since. Running ads against ObamaCare — a government program whose incompetent design and rollout practically scream for accountability — amounts to an attempt to “buy America,” according to Reid.


Does demagoguery work? So far, on the larger scale, the answer appears to be as negative as it was with Sorosnoia in 2006 and 2008. On the smaller scale, well …

Normally I leave the Twitter curation to our friends and colleagues at Twitchy, but I’ll offer a few instances of what this column produced. Of course, since the Kochs are fabulously rich and I have a long record of progressivism, the first accusation is that I got bought off:

Next, we find at least one progressive who likes McCarthyism when the target is right:


Somehow, the Kochs’ small-government, small-L libertarian agenda qualifies them as the successors to Benito Mussolini:

Clearly we are failing in our educational efforts on 20th-century history and political science. And we have an “Extreme Liberal” who likes to comment before reading the material:


Let’s not forget the “but … GAIA!!1!!1!” argument for McCarthyism:

It’s their mission? Did I miss that mission statement? I think we have found the target audience for Noah on Twitter.  And if all this sounds familiar …

T. Becket Adams from The Blaze actually took the time to read more than the headline:


Once again, I have no trouble with people criticizing the Koch brothers’ arguments and their activism. To call them “un-American” from the floor of the Senate for engaging in the political process is far beyond that, and into realms that, well, Reid often travels to little effect and unfortunately to far too little criticism. And there is a fringe who clearly likes the Emmanuel Goldstein model for political speech that Reid employs.

Nate Beeler had a great editorial cartoon about this yesterday for the Columbus Dispatch:



Be sure to check out Nate’s blog for more of his excellent work.

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