Two years ago, in a move that barely made headlines – even to those of us who follow these sorts of things – the Koch brothers’ older half, Charles Koch, bought the Florida State University Economics Department. What does this mean for this 64th ranked economics school in the country? It means that Florida’s taxpayers are no longer paying for a balanced education. As with the worst in private educational institutions, they are paying for an agenda.
The deal came at a price. Koch has veto power over all hires. He has ability to control the curriculum – including requiring the reading of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” the modern libertarian’s bible.
Of course, the ramifications go far beyond the state of Florida. The Koch funded Florida State School of Economics will soon unleash a new batch of economists and people who will help mold the nation’s economic policies for generations to come.
We are witnessing the collapse of a party. The leaders of the Republican party are ideologues. It has devolved from a party of relatively pragmatic people to an unholy marriage of evangelicalism and libertarianism. Some, like Paul Ryan, are somehow able to pay lip service to both.
Over the last several years, “Jesusy” Republicans have taken food from the poor, tried 37 times to repeal healing the sick, all while lavishing the money changers with adoration and full control over our legislative process.
Of course, that’s not all the legislative disciples of God have done for us. In 2011 alone, they introduced over 1,100 anti-abortion bills. In Mississippi, a woman might go to prison because her drug use might have caused a miscarriage – a move which might sound reasonable until the same charge might be made toward any woman who had a miscarriage. Did she eat properly? Did she drink alcohol? Did she smoke?
They’ve done everything in their power to stop marriage equality – or for that matter, equality of anyone who’s not wealthy, white, male and (at least publicly) heterosexual. All this has been accomplished by hugging their guns tighter than they hug their broadly edited Bibles.
At the head of the party are the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires who have hired lobbyists to promote their agendas of unfettered free market capitalism. They advocate eliminating the minimum wage, regulations and taxes. They’ve made our tax code so complicated that those who can afford the best accountants can make force taxpayers to pay them while the rest of us struggle with what’s left of our paychecks.
If you’re having a difficult time following the seemingly incompatible agendas of the Republican party, you’re not alone. So are many Republicans. Even more significantly, the Republican party is becoming inhospitable to its own rank and file. Those who dare buck the evangelical corporate ruled trend are called RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). Those who agree to set aside petty grievances with the President – for the sake of governing – are called traitors.
Even evangelical Republicans are becoming disillusioned. Despite the fact that Americans are beginning to overwhelmingly support issues like marriage equality, drug legalization and immigration reform, some powerful evangelicals are warning of taking their support elsewhere if Republicans don’t hold firm.
The Democrats aren’t tone-deaf to Republican dissatisfaction and alienation. Like Christians, Democrats welcome all with open arms. We shouldn’t. It might be tempting to court the sometimes reasonable Chris Christie. After all, Christie as a Democrat would probably win. However, a “D” behind his name is not going to change the fact that his positions are almost in direct opposition to those of the current Democratic party.
It’s quite common for people to use liberal and Democratic interchangeably, just as they might do the same with Republican and conservative. The fact is, they are anything but interchangeable. We don’t have to look too far back in history to remember a time when Republicans were the liberal party and Democrats were the conservatives. During the civil rights era, as Republicans are generally so proud to point out, Democrats were the more staunchly racist party. However, an influx of northerners and African-Americans moved the party so far to the left that conservatives were forced to leave. The final straw was Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act. The Democrats haven’t had the conservative vote since.
The current Democratic party is as close to centrist as during any time in history. Many, such as the Blue Dog Democrats, are far more in line with the last 50 years of Republican values than they do with any era’s liberal values. They are, for the most part, less temperamental Chris Christies. The party doesn’t fight it. Even a bad Democrat is better than a Republican – or so the conventional wisdom goes.
Parties have one goal and that is to win. Typically, party leadership – the people whose jobs include fund-raising and winning elections – aren’t ideologues. They don’t really care if a Democrat is pro-choice or if a Republican has enough gay hate. If they can win their district, they will support them.
Surprisingly, the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends don’t care whether they support Republicans or Democrats. They have one religion and it’s money. They push the evangelical agenda simply because they know evangelicals can be easily manipulated. Like the fascists of old, the true powers that be call government evil, praise the benevolence of the wealthy and of corporations (job creators) and call it patriotic to hate. While traditional conservatives can be intellectual, new conservatism prides itself in shunning intellectualism.
The Koch brothers have a much bigger goal in mind than simple party politics. Not only are they buying departments in public universities, they are buying the public airwaves and print media. Soon, it will be very difficult to avoid their anti-tax, anti-labor, anti-regulation propaganda.
The mysteriously powerful anti-tax advocate, Grover Norquist, once said that he wants to shrink government down to a size that could drown in a bathtub. The strict ideologues of the Republican party are shrinking their party down to the size that could be drowned in a sink.
Democrats shouldn’t cheer, though. The extreme conservatism of the Republican party has already started to invade ours. Barack Obama, despite being called the most liberal President ever by conservative media, is arguably liberal on many core Democratic issues, but in order to win, he has had to bow to far too many corporate interests.
Citizens United and corporate personhood are pet causes to many liberals, but you barely hear a mention of them in the mainstream media or from Democratic leaders.
To the corporatists who rule our country, Ds and Rs don’t matter. If corporate conservatives switch to the Democratic party, that could even be better. They could attract the votes of disillusioned Republicans and of straight ticket Democrats. In a few years, the graduates of Florida State University’s economics department might be elected as Democrats – and believe me, the Koch brothers (or the heirs to their thrones) will be just fine.
What about the liberals? While we might form another party, we’ll be left in the cold with no money to actually be elected.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page, on her Facebook blog page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|