Are the Kochs Just Preaching to the Choir?

Conservative AmericaThe Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s “Addicted To Koch” campaign is supposed to “hold Republican Senate candidates accountable for the millions of dollars they are receiving from the Kochs in exchange for their support of a reckless and irresponsible agenda that hurts America’s middle class,” says the DSCC’s Justin Barasky.

The campaign will include “web ads, online ads, Twitter and Facebook, and up to the minute ‘Addicted To Koch!’ news alerts,” according to the DSCC, which warns that “Republicans will pay a price in 2014 for their unshakable allegiance to the Koch Brothers.”

I hope they will. I fear they won’t.

The Democrats have more going against them than the Kochs spending like drunken sailors on Republican candidates.

Polls show President Obama is unpopular, at least for now. Too, the party that holds the White House almost always loses house and senate seats in mid-term elections.

But there is built-in GOP edge in every election cycle that most pundits ignore: politically, religiously and socially, the U.S. is the most conservative Western industrial democracy, by far.

“You can travel almost anywhere in the country and almost never find a real socialist,” one of my old college professors used to say. “But you can go almost anywhere and find the John Birch Society.”

The JBS is still around. But today, my prof would probably say “find the tea party.”

Anyway, most Democrats seem to think that Charles and David Koch’s millions are changing millions of minds. This Democrat begs to differ.

More likely the Kochs’ mega ad buys are merely reinforcing the views of multitudes of Americans who already agree with the substance of the siblings’ message.

When Republican ads, bankrolled by the Koch brothers and other plutocrats, claim that unfettered “free enterprise” capitalism is good for everybody and that “socialistic” unions and government regulations to protect workers, consumers and the environment are “job killers,” they are preaching to a big choir.

More than 50 years ago, media researcher Joseph Klapper argued – conclusively to this old reporter – that mass communication, including advertising, mostly reinforces what people think.

In other words, mass communication by itself seldom changes opinions. When the media does change somebody’s mind, it is because that person was leaning toward change, Klapper said.

koch-walking-dog-350Anyway, in no other Western country is conservatism so revered – even deified – as in America. Long gone are liberal and moderate Republicans. Just about everybody in the GOP loudly and proudly professes conservatism.

At the same time, the American political center of gravity has steadily shifted rightward for several years. The Democrats are in a long retreat from FDR’s New Deal, JFK’s New Frontier and LBJ’s Great Society.

Democrats — especially in my part of the country – flee the liberal label. All Democrats nearly pop veins in denying Republican charges that they are socialists.

Indeed, America is the only Western nation where most people consider “socialism” a dirty word. Every other Western country but the U.S. has a significant democratic socialist or social democratic party.

Brian Moore, candidate of the Socialist Party USA, got 6,581 votes nationwide in 2008. Another Socialist candidate managed just 4,430 votes in 2012.

“Calling Obama a socialist is an insult to socialists,” said Moore, who has stuck up for his party on the Colbert Report and even on Fox News.

“It’s more than an easy sound bite, it’s an outright lie,” he added. “The fact that anybody can utter, with a straight face,‘ President Obama’ and ‘socialist’ in the same sentence is simply beyond my comprehension.”

The fact is, our two big parties are capitalist – the Democrats moderately so and the Republicans conservative, if not reactionary.

To be sure, public opinion ebbs and flows between the Republicans and the Democrats. But the shift is always in the confines of a capitalist framework.

The Depression-fighting New Deal was the closest America came to socialism. But the Socialist Party scorned Roosevelt and the Democrats, arguing the New Deal amounted to mere halfway measures that did little to help the working class and ultimately saved capitalism.

Berry CraigBy the standards of Western Europe, home of the world’s strongest democratic socialist and social democratic parties, the Democrats are center-right. The Republicans would be on the far-right fringes in the Old World, way beyond mainstream conservative parties.

If America weren’t so deeply conservative, all the money in the world couldn’t buy the GOP victories at the polls. The DSCC’s “Addicted To Koch” program has a steep hill to climb, though I chipped in a few dollars in hopes of helping level the grade at least a foot or two.

Berry Craig

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