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An Intervention for Conservatives About Their Koch Problem

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Dear Republican Party,

I don't know how to do this. The only things I know about interventions are from watching reality TV, listening to Dr. Drew, and this wikiHow. But what I do know is that an intervention is what's necessary when someone has a problem they refuse to admit to, specifically problems with addiction. It also has to come from a place of love, and even though this is a liberal blog, I need all of us to reach down into the deep recesses of our soul and talk about the Republican Party, why we love it, and why it has a serious addiction to money.

Republicans, you have a Koch problem. And when you're under that influence, we don't like you very much. We miss the old Republican Party, where even if we disagreed, we still were colleagues. You never had to call us Fascist, or Socialist, or whatever other epithet just sounded bad. Our politics ended at the water's edge, and you never tried to stop an arms reduction treaty just for partisan reasons.

But you have a problem with money. Specifically corporate money. Specifically from people like the Kochs. You've been legislating under the influence- and it's gotten intolerable so that we almost don't recognize you any more. And we have a great solution for you to get cleaned up: citizen-funded elections, otherwise known by the more wonky name "public financing", most recently introduced in Congress as the Fair Elections Now Act.

I'm going to start in this blog with why you need to get cleaned up- your great potential and what you've lost because of your Koch problem. Then I'm going to deal with your denial issues. You think you don't have a problem, but I'm going to show you how your addiction is controlling you. And finally I'm going to talk about how to get cleaned up. And not only are you going to do it, we're going to do it together. We admit it- we've been a bit of an enabler. Not wanting to deal with our own troubled relationships with money, we haven't wanted to say anything. But this has to end. And it has to end now, or it's going to tear this union apart.

We've had a long history together. On a personal level, I have a soft spot for Republicans. I grew up in red state America- in one of the reddest counties in one of the reddest states in the US. My parents voted for Reagan. When I was 15 my mom took me to a Newt Gingrich book signing. I still have that book. So I have a deep respect down to my marrow for conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, and the right wing of all kinds.

You were the party of Lincoln. He freed the slaves. He started building an intercontinental railroad. Eisenhower continued this tradition with the interstates. You were the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who understood that the root of being a conservative was to conserve: to protect those resources which are finite (debt, public land) so that future generations are not burdened.

He also said in a 1905 address to Congress, "There is no enemy of free government more dangerous and none so insidious as the corruption of the electorate. If legislators are extorted by any kind of pressure or promise, express or implied, direct or indirect in the way of favor or immunity, then the giving or receiving becomes not only improper, but criminal. All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law."

And even though 100 years later, you've completely repudiated these ideas, we want to tell you that we need you. Deep down, even the most liberal of us have a favorite conservative or two. We have conservatives we love and respect -- and occasionally agree with. And our country was founded by people whose ideas we can classify today as both liberal and conservative. And even in bitter political rivalry, they worked together to form a more perfect union.

Ron Paul loves to praise Jefferson, and his sentiment that "government which governs best, governs least." You help balance out the best intentions of liberalism by always asking whether government overreach is impeding the liberty of the little guy. But Jefferson also said of the founding of America, "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

We need one another to balance each other out -- to challenge one another with ideas, and allow the best ideas to float to the top of our public discourse, allowing the people to choose. At its best, we're like Lennon and McCartney: our rivalry with each other makes us perform at our highest level -- just like James Madison laid out in the Federalist Papers.

But you've ceased to be that Grand Old Party. You've lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. And next I'm going to tell you why -- and it's the root of why we all are here: your addiction to corporate money has caused you to stop being the party of the little guy, the entrepreneur. Instead of supporting capitalism and free markets (private risk, private reward) you support crony capitalism (public risk, private reward). And instead of watchdogging liberals to prevent them from redistributing wealth, you've actively encouraged systems of taxation and spending which redistribute wealth at a level no liberal could dream of, but away from the middle class and to the wealthiest.

But this isn't about class or "class warfare" (and we should remind you that real class warfare is what happened in Moscow in 1917 or Paris in the early 1790s), this is about a direct linkage between you taking this corporate money and then doing the will of your donors over what the people really want.

One of the things you need to do is understand that you are powerless in the face of your addiction. It's not your fault -- you're merely responding to the incentives placed before you. We force our politicians to raise campaign money from private sources, and you play by the rules. And we get the results we deserve.

And we shouldn't blame the corporations. Many of them are just trying to make an honest living and be good citizens. But when everybody is shelling out their dollars in order to gain political access, it puts you at a competitive disadvantage NOT to engage in the same game. We can blame the dealers, and the cartels though -- those who push this system for their own benefit, making money hand over fist while they do. This is the Kochs of the world and their Koch cartel that funds everything from climate change denialism to the tea party to people like Gov. Walker.

And no, transparency is no longer the watchdog it used to be. Like the breathalizer, it doesn't prevent you from getting drunk, or from legislating under the influence, but it can only tell you how intoxicated you were when someone finally pulls you over for erratic behavior. But when everybody is driving under the influence, only the very most egregious cases ever get pulled over by the cops. And these days, the cops basically amounts to a handful of independent watchdog groups like Public Citizen, Common Cause, the Center for Responsive Politics, the Center for American Progress -- groups which were targeted by a dirty tricks smear campaign by the Chamber of Commerce because they were exposing what the Chamber was up to. For a politician to actually be removed from office for ethics problems these days you basically have to write up a wish list for defense contractors or keep thousands of dollars in your freezer. Having a ridiculous hairpiece and an even more ridiculous history of ridiculous behavior doesn't hurt either.

But you say, "But Democrats and liberals take money, too!" And yes, denial is a perfectly natural response to your addiction. But, just as the alcoholic is different from the social drinker, so is it also different when your leaders are bought and sold by big money. Speaker Boehner promised special access for those of his largest donors to his leadership PAC. Speaker Pelosi did not.

But, we know that in order for you to get better we need to be supportive of this change. That is why we are willing to go dry if you get the help you need. Already, we've proposed on a bipartisan basis the Fair Elections Now Act, which had over 200 co-sponsors last Congress.
But your Koch problems has affected things all the way to the Supreme Court, with Koched up judges Scalia and Thomas making pronouncements like Citizens United v FEC. We're going to need your help passing a constitutional amendment that clarifies that while corporations have many rights, they aren't exactly people and they certainly don't have freedom of speech rights. According to one George Bush's top consultants, Mark McKinnon, and polls he's done, a majority of Republicans would support both of these things.

It's time for you to once again be the party of the little guy -- let us be the big, bad liberals who want to grow government out of control. We just want our partner in governance back. But we can't work together as long as you have this Koch problem.
Please get help.