Trump’s GOP Is Not What They Had in Mind
Americans for Prosperity, the organization founded and led by the libertarian Koch brothers (Charles and David) has for many years been the most important source of campaign funds for Republicans, helping them to a durable advantage over most Democratic candidates. But in a meeting last week Charles Koch announced that the network would no longer automatically support Republican candidates. They object in particular to several of President Trump’s priorities: restricting immigration, promoting tariffs, and allowing yawning government deficits. They criticize the Trump administration for an “enormous lack of leadership” in Washington.
What we see here is a confirmation that the Big Business wing of the party, having lost control of the party to Trump, is trying to increase their leverage by pressuring GOP candidates to choose.
Trump, in response, tweeted abuse on the Koch network, calling it a “total joke in real Republican circles and saying that he had never sought Koch support because he didn’t need their money or their “bad ideas.”
Trump surely didn’t need Koch support, but the network has been fundamental to what the Republican Party became in the decades prior to Trump. What we see here is a confirmation that the Big Business wing of the party, having lost control of the party to Trump, is trying to increase their leverage by pressuring GOP candidates to choose: support Trump’s heterodox policies without Koch support, or support Koch’s libertarian agenda even if it means breaking with Trump.
In a year when the tea leaves don’t look good for Republicans, this means that candidates can either cozy up to Trump and get the endorsement that will deliver his popular base, or stick with Koch orthodoxy at the risk of being attacked by Trump as a traitor. Take the first choice and they’ll have the base, but not enough money. Take the second choice and they’ll have plenty of money but not necessarily the base.
This split, of course, increases chances of a Democratic takeover of the House, and maybe the Senate. This wouldn’t be so bad for the Koch operation, since a Democratic House would check Trump’s worst ideas in a way that the Republicans have not been willing to do because they fear Trump’s base.
The Kochs have always played the long game. In the long run they would rather regain control of a post-Trump Republican Party, even if the Democrats recapture the White House. If many of this year’s Republican candidates must be sacrificed to serve the long-run goal, so be it. It would actually be best for the long-term project if Trump were denied reelection.
That’s the game. Democrats will be the short-term beneficiaries, but should have no illusions.
These are not our friends, but they are enemies of our enemy.