Is the American Right Winning the Long War With Amy Coney Barrett?

by on October 19, 2020 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Under the Perfect Sun

Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett Despite GOP’s Potential Big Loss in 2020 Electoral Battle

By Jim Miller

With all the ink spilled and word hoards unleashed on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, perhaps the only person who really clarified the big picture significance of her likely confirmation was Christopher Leonard, the author of Kochland, who put Barrett’s nomination in the context of the billionaire Right’s long war against democracy.  In his New York Times column, “Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett,” he explains how:

Since the early 1970s, Mr. Koch has sought to dismantle most federal regulatory institutions, and the federal courts have been central to that battle. In 1974, Mr. Koch gave a blistering speech to a libertarian think tank, called the Institute for Humane Studies, in which he outlined his vision of the American regulatory state, and the strategy he would employ over the ensuing decades to realize that vision.

On the list of government interventions he condemned were “confiscatory taxation, wage and price controls, commodity allocations programs, trade barriers, restrictions on foreign investments, so-called equal opportunity requirements, safety and health regulations, land use controls, licensing laws, outright government ownership of businesses and industries.” As if that list were not exhaustive enough, he added, “… and many more interventions.” In short, Charles Koch believes that an unregulated free market is the only sustainable structure for human society.

Like Jane Mayer in Dark Money and Nancy MacLean in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Leonard recognizes that the end game for the American Right is not just upending abortion and/or gay rights or even defeating Obamacare–it’s thrusting us back to the future to a time when there were no checks on the power of capital.  For them, that’s the era before “Big Government” when workers had virtually no rights and corporate interests never had to worry about any hindrances from pesky unions or social movements of any stripe.  As Leonard outlines:

Mr. Koch is selective about where he spends on politics, and the returns to reshaping the Supreme Court could dwarf the millions he’s invested. The court plays a pivotal role in determining how much regulatory power the federal government has over corporate America. The closest the Supreme Court has come to reflecting Mr. Koch’s vision for regulation is the “Lochner era” of the early 20th century, during which an activist court struck down a wide range of federal regulations on business, turning the country into a free market free-fire zone.

Thus, for Koch and his allies, the decades-long war of shaping the Supreme Court in order to roll back the twentieth century has always been more important than the temporal battles of any given election cycle.  That’s why even though Koch was never a fan of Trump, he has held his nose and enjoyed watching as the wrecking crew dismantled the regulatory state in Washington, D.C.  He is also getting exactly what he wants on the Supreme Court that might just now be able to, as Nancy MacLean has pithily put it, “save capitalism from democracy permanently.”

So while we should be cheered as we observe what seems to be the political unravelling and possible ouster of the Republican Party from power nationally, progressives need to keep their eyes on the long war, not just on the immediate battle.  Of course, we need to do everything we can to vote the bastards out at the national level, but that’s only the beginning of the struggle to preserve American democracy.  Whether it be fighting for health care for all, addressing climate change, strengthening workers’ rights, or pushing for civil rights, it will be that much harder with this new Supreme Court that may just want to put locks and bolts on our democracy to keep the rabble in check.

Effectively countering this will take a lot more than just getting rid of Trump.  It will necessitate bold political initiatives designed to reinvigorate American democracy with a strategic vision that aims at winning the long war by exposing and relentlessly contesting the heartless libertarian ethos that will endorse everything from a murderous COVID herd immunity surrender on the public health front to the complete evisceration of every government effort to battle inequality or enact even the most modest buffers against the hard edges of the market in American life, no less address the dire consequences of catastrophic climate change.

Looking past the election, if successful in November, the Democratic majority will be up against a hostile court and a minority party insisting on austerity in the middle of an economic crisis that will likely be prolonged and intensified by the now emerging Covid-19 surge and the criminal failure of the present government to provide more relief to the American people.  Will they be able to summon the courage to do what it takes to salvage a sustainable, socially just future for the country?

The moment demands more than half measures.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert October 19, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Libertarians object to these coercive regulations in a secular democracy on human rights and results grounds. Regulations typically backfire and are put there in bad faith. Koch also attacked lifestyle regulations, such as LBGT+ oppression, drug laws, etc. which the article should have mentioned.

Koch is, however, a sideshow, not even an actual formal libertarian, and has zero effect on Libertarian policies to protect science and due process. Since 1969, the all-volunteer Libertarian Institute has been quietly training future judges in what is called the Libertarian ‘Gilson Reform’ not only in the US but worldwide. It has volunteers in every country contacting officials on Libertarian options.

The Libertarian Institute policy on judicial appointments is simple: they should reflect the political spectrum proportional to population–period. In the US that means a SCOTUS of 4 conservatives, 4 progressives, and 1 libertarian-alert justice.


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