Four hundred protesters associated with the Democracy Spring movement were arrested in Washington, D.C. last week after demonstrators descended upon the U.S. Capitol. They spoke out against money in politics, the Koch brothers, and the Citizens United ruling that overturned key provisions of campaign finance law. The demonstration was clearly a statement against corporate influence in politics.
The protesters aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, political influence is unequally distributed because money begets power and vice versa. A guy who changes oil for a living doesn’t have as much pull as a guy who owns an oil company. But what can be done about it? Societies that have experimented with radical egalitarianism have yielded horrific results — and none of them can even claim to have achieved their purported goal of leveling the playing field for everyone.
We’re left to ponder why efforts to equalize political power always fail. Could it be that even those who demand equal voices in government don’t really want it? From observing Democracy Spring in action I can only conclude that the answer is yes. They’re neither class warriors nor small-“d” democrats; they’re just hacks.
Take, for example, Democracy Spring’s fixation on the libertarian Koch brothers, the Left’s new Emmanuel Goldstein. I’m sure that Democracy Spring would have you believe that they simply want the Koch brothers to butt out of politics because their substantial fortune buys them outsize influence; but that can’t be the real reason because they don’t want all filthy (emphasis on “filthy”) rich political donors to butt out. Tellingly, there’s no Two Minutes Hate against George Soros.
George Soros is exactly the kind of unscrupulous hedge fund manager that the Left should despise by default — and yet they don’t. Gee, do you think it’s because he’s their sugar daddy? A 2010 report from Opensecrets.org contrasting the Koch brothers’ contributions to Soros’s contributions revealed that both sides dump money into politics by the truckload. Trying to calculate who spends more is difficult because they spend differently.
But Democracy Spring, while claiming that it only wants to eradicate money’s corrupting influence, doesn’t mention Soros’s substantial contributions. Is it because Soros is funding Democracy Spring? Campaign Director Kai Newkirk says Soros hasn’t “given us a dime,” but the same cannot be said of its supporting organizations. Democracy Spring’s website boasts of endorsements from more than one hundred groups, some of which are funded with Soros money. The political titan MoveOn.org, for example, is listed as a Democracy Spring endorser and has received funding from Soros. Other endorsing groups that have taken Soros money include People for the American Way and Demos.
One endorser, an organization calling itself The Other 98%, even has a handy infographic on its website to explain why the billionaire Koch brothers are bad but billionaire George Soros is good. I could find no evidence that The Other 98% is funded by George Soros, though its infographic wreaks of agitprop. It depicts Soros as a public-minded philanthropist and the Koch brothers as greedy, evil tycoons who use their money to advance the devil’s agenda. It’s more “our money good, their money bad” propaganda — and that is why these people lack credibility. Despite their rhetoric, it’s not “We the People” versus the corporations, nor is it the 98% versus the super-rich 2%. It’s their favorite billionaire against yours.
Once you understand the endorsing organizations’ support from (and for?) George Soros, it suddenly becomes clear why these crusaders against money in politics don’t protest his influence-peddling. Even if the leaders of this Democracy Spring movement are completely sincere in their desire to drive all the big donors from politics (and I’m not sure that they are), their endorsing organizations are not. There’s almost an unspoken agreement — the endorsing organizations will continue to support Democracy Spring as long as their own donors are shielded from criticism. Democracy Spring accepts this condition because it wants their support.
If Democracy Spring wants to end the corporate corruption of our democratic process, they might want to focus their efforts on the troubling trend of corporations threatening states with economic sanctions. This tactic appears to work well because large corporations can inflict real pain upon the populations of states that refuse to do their bidding.
For example, the Walt Disney Company recently threatened Georgia that it would pull all film production from that state if the governor signed a religious freedom bill. The bill, which really shouldn’t be necessary in a country that already has the First and Thirteenth Amendments, protects private business owners from homosexuals who want to make them unwilling participants in same-sex weddings. After much piling on from many other large companies, Governor Nathan Deal, who originally supported the bill, vetoed it. I guess that in Governor Deal’s appraisal the very real cost to Georgia in dollars and cents outweighed our constitutional rights. Coward.
Why are these anti-corporate activists not raising hell? Disney is an enormous, out-of-state media conglomerate that issued an ultimatum to a state governor to veto a bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the people’s elected representatives — and the governor complied. A huge corporation said “jump” and Governor Deal said “how high?” Sadly, I think nearly all of our state governors would have done the same.
I can hear the objections now — that the bill was terrible, awful, discriminatory, practically Jim Crow all over again. That’s nonsense of course, but it’s also irrelevant. What matters is that the people of Georgia wanted that bill and presumably still do but they can’t have it because the corporations sounded a resounding “No!” The Left’s support for these corporate boycotts tells me that they don’t always side with the people against the corporations. When the people are “bigots,” they like to see corporations thrash them into line. They can’t say unequivocally that the will of the people should prevail when it collides with the will of corporations. It depends, really. Are the corporations progressive? Are the people backward hicks? These details matter.
If that’s your position, you are neither anti-corporate nor pro-democracy. You’re not leading a People’s movement against corporate interests. Stop lying to yourselves and the rest of us. Hacks like you don’t get to claim lofty ideals because you don’t have any. You have an agenda, nothing more.
Other states have had fights with corporations over other bills, most of which involve protecting people of faith targeted by homofascist bullies. That’s because homosexuals, far from being the underdogs they pretend to be, are well-organized, well-connected, and extremely well-funded. When people try to defend themselves the homofascists unleash the corporate hounds. Works every time.
Walmart, for example, exerted a lot of political pressure on Arkansas’s governor to veto a religious freedom bill in that state. The governor signed a watered-down version. So it’s official — liberals took the side of Walmart over religious freedom. Walmart! Hating Walmart is reflexive for liberals, almost like breathing. The aforementioned Other 98% has even started its own Walmart boycott, though not because Walmart hates religious freedom or because it used its political clout to overrule the will of the people. They’re boycotting Walmart because it doesn’t yet pay its employees $15 an hour. Liberals would rather waterboard a baby seal than shop at Walmart, but clearly they don’t hate Walmart as much as they hate Christians. That’s a special kind of hate.
It’s undeniable that people with big checkbooks exert more power than the rest of us. That’s a truism that will probably never change. But the people who complain the most about it should get real and admit that they aren’t really concerned about corporate influence or money in politics. That’s a pose, not a position. What they don’t like is when it’s used against them, to thwart their policy goals and block their legislation. That’s understandable, I suppose, but it shouldn’t be confused with principle.