“Koch Zero”: Is The Fall Of Scott Walker A Sign That The Kochs Are Not As Powerful As They Want Progressives To Think They Are?
With big money in American politics remaining a clear and present threat, and the odds of adding a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution specifically stating that money is not speech and corporations are not people still a bit limited, it’s nice to see that there are still times when big money comes up a bit short, especially as it pertains to a certain wingnut from Wisconsin:
A [recent] poll out of Iowa shows most of what we’ve been seeing in recent weeks with Donald Trump at the top of the pack followed by Ben Carson and none of the other candidates in double digits. The real headline out of the poll, though is the seeming collapse of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign…
It’s been quite a collapse for Walker over the past two months. Not only was he leading in Iowa and performing strongly in both nationally and in New Hampshire, but he was widely seen as a candidate that could appeal to both the conservative base of the Republican Party and the more moderate “establishment” and business wings. His rise to national prominence due to the showdown over public employee unions in Wisconsin, and his subsequent victories in not only getting his favored legislation passed but also pushing back against a recall effort that resulted from the union showdown and then wining re-election last years made him something of a national hero among Republicans and the calls for him to run for President began long before his re-election as Governor last November. Before the race for the Republican nomination really began, many analysts foresaw that Walker could be a strong competitor to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, especially if he managed to do as well in the Iowa Caucuses as the early polls were indicating.
As time went on, though, it became clear that Walker was not as good a candidate as his Wisconsin experience and press clippings made it seem. Early on even before he got into the race, Walker got into hot water with conservatives over his hiring of Republican strategist Liz Mair to run his campaign’s social media operation because, among other things, Mair had made comments on Twitter before being hired that were critical of the Iowa Caucuses as well as her personal position on immigration reform. Mair ended up resigning, but it was Walker who ended up coming out of the whole incident looking like someone who would cave to pressure over something as silly as a couple inoffensive tweets. Immigration quickly became the source of another problem for Walker when, although he had once supported immigration reform that included some form of what conservatives call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, he was caught flip-flopping on the issue when campaigning in Iowa. Later, it was reported that Walker had told high level donors in a private meeting that he actually still did support some form of “amnesty” as party of an immigration reform effort. Walker’s effort to get in the good graces of the hard right base of the party has extended to even making statements critical of legal immigration. More recently, he has been caught taking our different positions on the issue of birthright citizenship over the course of seven days in the wake of Donald Trump’s introduction of his immigration plan. All of this has led to the impression that Walker will say whatever he needs to whichever audience he is talking to, which is obviously a much harder thing to do in the era of the Internet and the ease with which someone can record a campaign appearance with their phone.
It’s amazing, and amusing, to bear witness to Walker’s collapse—and the reality that his notorious alliance with Charles and David Koch is seemingly providing no tangible benefit whatsoever to his campaign. Could this be a sign that the Kochs are not nearly as powerful as they want progressives to think they are?
If Walker soon joins Rick Perry as a former Republican presidential candidate, it will be a fitting comeuppance for a man who, like Chris Christie, thought aligning himself with the Kochs would clear a path to the White House. Who would have thought that both men would end up in a political outhouse?
UPDATE: More from Ed Kilgore, Vox and Think Progress. Also, from 2011, Rachel Maddow on the beginning of Walker’s war on labor and his unholy alliance with the Kochs. Plus, from the June/July/August 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, Donald F. Kettl on Walker’s dark legacy.
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 19, 2015
“It’s Increasingly Obvious That Scott Walker Sucks”: When You’re As Bad At Campaigns As Scott Walker, You Should Just Give Up
Scott Walker’s presidential campaign is only a little over 50 days old, and it’s increasingly obvious that Scott Walker sucks. Not for his record or what he believes, although both of those are – to borrow a phrase from William Safire – extremely sucky. But Scott Walker is not good at this campaign thing.
A good campaign introduces a candidate and his best ideas to sympathetic and like-minded voters through a combination of events, press coverage and paid outreach, allowing him or her to attract campaign donations and new supporters alike. A bad campaign forces a candidate to get on the phone to reassure his existing donors that he exists and is going to abandon the “sinking into obscurity” tactic that hadn’t been working. A truly terrible campaign is at hand when the most widely-reported news story is the candidate’s old claim that his bald spot totally isn’t genetic but comes from banging his head against the underside of a cabinet.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way: one of Walker’s selling points was winning three elections in five years (the first one, the recall, then the reelection). In theory, Walker should have been the most experienced, most natural and most effortless Republican candidate. Jeb Bush hasn’t run this decade; Ted Cruz only ran once; Chris Christie is dogged by corruption allegations; Rick Perry has the mental aptitude of two dogs in an overcoat; and Rand Paul was gifted his father’s movement and all his out-of-state donors but none of his charisma at talking about basing an international currency on stuff you dig out of the ground.
Walker should have been able to campaign circles around everyone else in the race. Instead, he’s getting his rear end handed to him by a meringue-haired hotelier and a political neophyte surgeon who speaks with the dizzy wonderment of someone trying to describe their dream from last night while taking mushrooms for the first time.
Donald Trump’s existence in the race actually seems to be goading Walker into looking worse, when you’d think that The Donald’s hogging all the attention might have helped Walker avoid embarrassing revelations. After all, Walker’s political record basically involves refusing to tell anyone what his plans are and then doing something politically craven: he first campaigned on fixing Wisconsin’s budget, then once elected decided that it was public-sector unions’ fault and used a short-term crisis as an excuse to gut them; he evaded discussion about potential anti-union “right-to-work” legislation by calling it a distraction, then signed a right-to-work bill; he ducked questions about legislating more abortion restrictions, then signed a 20-week abortion ban.
And that doesn’t even get into the hail of convictions and indictments in his administration and the campaign finance investigation that suddenly stopped thanks to Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who received donations from many of the same groups being investigated. Walker was always going to have trouble with the scrutiny of a national campaign, outside those justices’ reach and outside the demographics of an overwhelmingly white state whose racial divisions he heightened with the help of a sycophantic right-wing media.
Instead, Walker seems to have felt that any gap in his coverage should have an unforced error hurled through it. He’s blamed cop-shootings (which are down since the Bush Administration) on President Obama and declared himself the candidate who can heal racial divides by getting black people to forgive, instead of protest, racists and racist violence. Instead of just mouthing the Republican repeal-and-replace Obamacare mantra, he came up with an actual replacement plan for the other candidates to criticize – a medley of conservative ideas so old they’ve got whiskers – while his competitors simply promise to deregulate the sucker and tell poor people they can pay for healthcare with trickling-down Ayn Rand fun-bucks. Walker even unsuccessfully tried his hand at xenophobic Trumpism, calling out Barack Obama for meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping – the same Chinese president that Walker himself flew to China to meet.
And, most incredibly, last weekend Walker started talking about the need to secure the border with Canada: not only securing it, but building a wall, never mind the fact that the border is 3,500 miles longer than the US-Mexico border and goes through four of the Great Lakes. When you start speculating about a US-Canada wall, maybe you should be doing literally anything else; this gig is probably just not for you when your most recent big idea is seeing what happens when you confront a wholly unnecessary problem with a solution that’s completely insane.
Still, Walker soldiers on, trying to get political mileage out of being a Harley Davidson owner, a problematic and confused form of symbolism at best. It’s not like you have to do or be anyone to buy a Harley – they sell bikes on the basis of currency, not biker credibility. Harley Davidson is, however, a union company that has benefited from millions in state subsidies and government assistance during the 2007-8 financial crisis – not quite the right fit for an anti-union, anti-government assistance poster boy.
Walker, touring New Hampshire on said Harley, seems to love any photo op when he’s in his leather jacket, though it does nothing to obscure the fact that he looks like he wakes up every morning and frowns at 30 identical chambray button-downs before picking one to tuck into one of 30 identical flat-front chinos. Scott Walker looks like every dad who is trying too hard to look cool during his Saturday afternoon trip to Home Depot to buy an Allen wrench because he lost the one that came with his wife’s Ikea Hemnes dressing table.
But trying and failing to look hardcore is sort of a thing with Walker. On the debate stage near a one-man burn unit like Donald Trump, Walker did everything short of vanish into the background. At CPAC, he burnished his credibility as someone who can stop Isis by saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. But he didn’t take on 100,000 protesters. During the protests, he slunk to and from the Wisconsin state capitol via underground tunnels and his legislature hasrepeatedly revised rules to restrict capitol protests. He even lied about having his car threatened.
On Tuesday, a benighted Walker told CNBC that he doesn’t think he’s a career politician: “A career politician, in my mind, is somebody who’s been in Congress for 25 years,” he said. Walker, who is 47, first ran for office at age 22, and finally did so successfully at age 25. That was 22 years ago. When you have negligible work experience outside your current field, which you’ve been in for nearly half your time on this earth, sorry, it’s your career. It’s like someone who just drank a case of 3.2% beer claiming he’s sober because he didn’t touch any hard liquor. Sure, pal, take the keys and fire up the road beast and try to peel out of here.
The longer a presidential campaign goes on, the more fundamental truths you inevitably encounter, usually things the candidates and their handlers labor tirelessly to obscure. But sometimes the revelations come fast, and when they do, they are usually particularly unkind.
Scott Walker should’ve been the Republicans’ – or at least the Koch Brothers’ – Dark Money Knight, riding manfully to Washington on his union-busting, climate-change-denying Harley, driving the real career politicians from the city like Sobieski lifting the siege of Vienna. Instead, he’s looking more like a man destined to return to Madison with a wad of Delta Sky Miles to haunt the capitol tunnels, a wraith occasionally seizing hapless passersby at underground crossroads and demanding they tell him if they’ve seen Ronald Reagan, what causes male-pattern baldness and how big Canada is.
By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, September 3, 2015
Every year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, gathers thousands of conservative activists to share strategies for building a popular movement to advance their small-government, low-tax philosophy. This year’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 21-22, attracted about 3,600 people to compare notes for weakening labor unions and stopping Medicaid expansion. Yet everyone on the floor seemed to be talking about the one topic left off the agenda: immigration.
That may be a problem for the Kochs and their network of like-minded donors, who’ve invested heavily in broadening their appeal beyond the traditional conservative base of older, white voters—and, specifically, in appealing to minorities, immigrants, and young people. In Columbus, activists got training on how to reach Snapchat-happy millennials and knock on doors in black neighborhoods to spread the gospel of the free market. They heard a former farm laborer, the son of Mexican immigrants, describe a Koch-backed program in Las Vegas that helped Latinos pass their driver’s tests and get licenses. The crowd dutifully took notes and applauded politely.
When it was time to file into the bleachers to see presidential candidates speak, talk of outreach faded away. The crowd went wild for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose plan for guarding the Mexican frontier includes 90,000 repurposed IRS employees, and for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, who promised to build a wall on the nation’s southern border within six months. “Immigration without assimilation is invasion!” proclaimed Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants.
The message struck a chord with summit-goers as they filed into a nearby bar for an AFP-sponsored “Buckeye bash.” “Send ’em back,” said David Dandrea, an 82-year-old former school custodian from Altoona, Pa., referring to undocumented immigrants. “A lot of them are coming over and getting on welfare. They overload the hospitals. A woman who’s eight months pregnant comes over the border to have her kid.” Fellow conservatives in bright red and highlighter-yellow AFP T-shirts wandered past. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” blared from the speakers.
Donald Trump, who’s dominated media coverage of the presidential race and made a crackdown on “the illegals” the centerpiece of his campaign, was never far from people’s minds in Columbus. Praise for Trump, who wasn’t invited to speak, was virtually unanimous, even from those who said they were backing other candidates. “He’s like the last little bit of salt you put in the stew to bring out the flavor,” said Rita Singer, a retired fabric store saleswoman from Moncks Corner, S.C. “He says what everyone else is thinking.”
Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, cautioned against reading too much into the Trump buzz. “It’s partly impacted by the breathless 24/7 coverage,” he says across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the event was held. “If the summit were in two more months, and it’s 24/7 coverage of the Iran nuclear deal, you would find people bringing that up more.” Phillips pointed out that the activists the Koch network cultivates care about all kinds of issues, from abortion to gun control, but AFP, he said, remains solely focused on shrinking government and taxes. “We still have good friends who care passionately about these issues,” he says. “It shows a healthy, vibrant movement to have those discussions.”
The Kochs’ wealth comes from Koch Industries, the Wichita industrial behemoth they run. Their net worth is estimated at about $49 billion each. They’ve bankrolled libertarian causes for decades, although in recent years they’ve forged bonds with nontraditional allies. They gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund and are working with the Obama administration to reduce the ranks of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation’s prisons. Yet they’ve also come to rival the Republican Party as an organizing body of the American right, securing pledges from other wealthy donors to spend as much as $889 million this year and next pushing their agenda.
Their strategy for recruiting Latinos hinges on Daniel Garza, a son of migrant fruit pickers who runs the Libre Initiative, funded by Koch-affiliated groups including the nonprofit Freedom Partners. Seated before more than 500 AFP members in Columbus, he described going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods to make the case against Obamacare. When someone asked if Trump is threatening conservatives’ chances with Latinos, Garza said conservatives need to be respectful and appreciate the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He called Trump’s proposal to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants “not realistic.”
Dorothy Osborne, a stay-at-home mom from Tennessee, disagreed. “Yes it is!” she called out as Garza spoke. In the hallway outside, Osborne said she agrees with much of Garza’s message. “We have to go and talk to these people,” she said. “We want them to love freedom.” But she said she doesn’t think an immigration crackdown would alienate Latinos who live here legally. “It’s economics, it’s crime, it’s the drain on our resources. And it’s keeping America American,” she said. “If our country becomes more like Venezuela, that’s not helping anyone.”
By: Zachary Mider, Bloomberg Politics, August 27, 2015
“Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King … Charles Koch?”: Why the Koch Brothers Are Heroes In Their Own Minds
When Charles E. Wilson appeared before a Senate committee in January 1953 as President Eisenhower’s nominee to become Secretary of Defense, he was asked whether his large holdings of stock in General Motors, where he had been president and chief executive, might cause some conflict of interest. “I cannot conceive of one,” he replied, “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.” While Wilson is often misquoted as saying that what’s good for GM is good for America, a quote often used as a symbol of corporate arrogance, his intent seemed at least somewhat more benign. But however you interpret it, Wilson was almost certainly sincere in believing that when you get right down to it, the country and its largest corporation, as GM was then, rise and fall together.
Koch Industries is not quite as big as General Motors was then, at least not relative to the rest of the economy. But the two men who control it, Charles and David Koch, seem just as sure that what’s good for them is good for America. They probably wouldn’t put it that way, and maybe they don’t even think about it that way. All they know is that the things they believe are right and true, which in at least one way makes them no different from you or me.
This weekend, the Kochs, who plan to spend nearly a billion dollars of their money and their friends’ money to elect a Republican president in 2016, held a confab where they could gather to discuss their plans to move America in a direction they find more amenable. When Charles addressed the plutocrats, he told them to give themselves a hearty pat on the back:
Charles Koch on Sunday compared the efforts of his political network to the fight for civil rights and other ‘freedom movements,’ urging his fellow conservative donors to follow the lead of figures such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.
‘History demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished,’ Koch told 450 wealthy conservatives assembled in the ballroom of a lavish oceanfront resort [in Dana Point, California].
‘Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement,’ he said. “All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”
Other reports note that Charles talked a good bit about the disadvantaged and downtrodden, and how they will be the true beneficiaries of the expansion of liberty that is the Kochs’ fondest dream.
You can call that ridiculous, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But while Democrats see the Kochs as cartoon villains, twirling their moustaches as they contemplate a future with low top-end marginal tax rates, I assure you that they believe themselves to have only the purest motives for their political action.
Ask any liberal activist why it’s a threat to democracy when the Kochs spend millions to elect their favored candidates, but less so when liberal billionaires do the same thing, and you’ll get two answers. The first is that “We can’t unilaterally disarm,” which is also what you hear from candidates who support campaign finance reforms but would like to get money from super PACs. It’s reasonable enough, if not particularly high-minded. The second answer, and perhaps the more common one, is that when the Kochs advocate for things like low taxes for the wealthy and loose regulation on corporations, they’re being self-interested, while a liberal billionaire who takes the opposite position is acting altruistically.
It’s an answer that is simultaneously true, at least to a degree, and unsatisfying. First of all, there are times when the Kochs advocate on issues that don’t have anything to do with their bottom line. And if they succeed in helping a Republican get elected president, only a portion of what that president does will affect them directly, even if they wind up being pleased with almost all of it.
Secondly, it runs the risk of devolving into a caricature that doesn’t help us understand the Kochs. Right now, Charles is probably asking himself why anyone would make a fuss about his speech. After all, he believes that the liberty embodied in unfettered capitalism is a source of prosperity and human flourishing. How could anyone think otherwise?
Of course, there’s a difference between telling yourself, “We’re advocating for the right things,” and telling yourself, “This thing we’re doing is as noble as anything anyone in our nation’s history has done.” But perhaps grandiosity isn’t surprising in a man whose fortune is estimated to be over $40 billion.
We all justify our actions and rationalize our decisions, and no one thinks they’re the villain of their own story. We all believe we’re good people, that we have a strong moral sense, and that the world would be a better place if it were ordered in the way we’d like. If would be shocking if the Kochs thought differently about themselves.
My point isn’t that we should automatically forgive people for their outrageous claims of moral rightness, any more than we ought to excuse outlandish claims of suffering and oppression (see War on Christmas, The). But it’s useful to appreciate that when someone like Charles Koch looks in the mirror and says, “You know, I really am a lot like Martin Luther King,” he may be utterly wrong in a hundred ways, but it isn’t a surprise that he feels that way. It’s human nature.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 2, 2015