In today’s New York Times digital edition, Thomas Edsall takes on the symbiosis, as he puts it, between Trump and the Koch Bros.
It’s as devastating as you’d think — or, rather, as I have been thinking for years, ever since I first read about the Kochs.
It’s also what I thought when first reading Anonymous’s self-elevation to hero status in yesterday’s Times: what Anonymous describes as the “adults in the room” of the White House is a coup d’état by the Kochs’ Neu Wannsee Conference.
(Did you learn the word symbiosis the way I did? Something about a rhino or a lion or a hippo or some other large animal who was cool with having a particular type of bird sit on its back pecking away at annoying little insects who irritate the beast. Symbiosis: the beast gets a free exterminator service and the bird gets food. That’s how I picture the word. In this case, Trump is the bird — but a deranged bird who occasionally forgets what he’s supposed to be doing and flutters off to his nest where he flings his wings around and squawks….oh, I have to stop this, it’s too easy.)
By the way, I was pretty annoyed watching MSNBC last night, when I heard a lot of very intelligent people I usually respect (one of whom I’m related to) go off on the Anonymous opinion piece with great indignation, in what I think was not anywhere near the point. Their take was, “This guy is a coward. If he wants to be a hero, he has to come forward, say this openly and quit the administration.”
No. This guy isn’t trying to be a hero for telling us what anybody who has been paying attention already knew. He did precisely what he wanted to do: he’s deviously proclaiming that everything is OK, because the Kochs and their ilk have taken over our government.
The Kochs’ policy objectives that have been realized since Trump took office are legion: enactment of the $1.5 trillion tax cut; the opening of public lands to mining; the appointment of men and women with industry ties to key regulatory posts; weakened enforcement of worker safety rules; the proposed elimination or rollback of numerous environmental regulations; the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, along with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, and the appointment of judges favored by the Kochs to all levels of the federal bench.
Trump and the Kochs are not just complementary; they are symbiotic. Trump is essential to marketing the Kochs’ vision. Without him, the Koch agenda would fail.
Any realistic assessment of the policy victories achieved by the Kochs shows that the public is firmly opposed to much of what the Kochs have gained from the Trump administration and a pliant Congress — and the public is opposed to much of what the Kochs still want and have not yet achieved.
A crucial point Nancy MacLean brings out in her prequel, in effect, to Jane Mayer’s Dark Money — Democracy in Chains, which gives us the history underlining the Kochs’ “libertarian” theories: they are so radically anti-democratic (fascist?), they would be unacceptable to the majority of voters in this country, so must be kept a secret shared only by…well, you know. The cabal. (Equally significantly, MacLean highlights the necessity for “libertarians” to suppress the votes of people who do find out what they’re trying to do and disagree with them. The Kochs, under GOP cover [or, rather, by owning the GOP], have done this quite well, as we are all furiously aware.)
If the Russians don’t have something on key GOP members, the Kochs do: money.
If public opinion were the guiding force, key elements of the Kochs’ policy goals would be dead in the water. And without Trump’s ethnonationalist appeal, these proposals (for the most part) would not survive either on their merits or on popular support.
“Recently we have seen a much overhyped supposed split between Koch and the network and the Trump administration around free trade questions,” Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology at Harvard, said by email. “This is mostly sound and fury with little impact.”
In practice, Skocpol wrote,
The Koch network has gotten 85 percent of what it has always wanted out of the Trump presidency so far — especially the huge government-starving, upward tilted tax cuts, the evisceration of the EPA, weakening of labor regulations and unions, cuts in social spending, and ultraright judges who will eviscerate government regulatory capacities and further weaken liberal forces.
That’s it, right up there.
P.S. The only criticism I have of Edsall’s piece is, like all smart people trying to write about Trump, he gives Trump credit for intelligent calculations.