May 4, 2018
Our democracy is at a “historic turning point,” said Nancy MacLean, the author of “Democracy in Chains,” last night in Madison, where she was the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s annual celebration.
The Duke University historian likened our current situation to two other perilous periods in U.S. history: the Civil War and the 1930s. In both those periods, she said, “the property supremacists” were trying to prevail over the advocates of democracy.
Today, the Koch Brothers and their big-donor network represent those who value property rights over democratic rights.
She warned that the Koch Brothers have been playing “a very patient long game” to “reverse engineer” the democratic gains of the Twentieth Century. “They want to roll back 100 years of reforms,” she said. They want to “chain democracy to make institutions unable to respond to the will of the people.” And “they want citizens to have no faith in government whatsoever.” They want to “undermine the belief that government can modify market failures.”
She called this a “deadly dogma” and warned that it’s gaining ground. “The right has been winning,” she said.
As evidence, she pointed to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on public sector unionism in 2011 and his subsequent moves to suppress the vote and gut regulations.
And she quoted Charles Koch’s boast to his network earlier this year: “We’ve made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50.”
The Koch Brothers and their network know that their ideas are unpopular, she said, adding that a majority of Americans want to keep their Social Security and their Medicare and their Medicaid, and a majority of Americans want to make sure that corporations aren’t allowed to pollute to their heart’s content.
So the Koch Brothers and their network use two strategies to try to prevail.
First, “stealth”: They don’t tell the public exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, preferring to operate behind the scenes, disguise their aims, and speak in platitudes when in public.
Second, “rigging the rules”: They make it harder to vote, they undermine state judiciaries, they take power away from local governments.
MacLean also talked about President Trump. “The Koch wish list is being granted by Trump,” she said. She called him the “Distracter in Chief.” People are focusing their attention on the Trump circus “while the Koch agenda proceeds,” she observed.
As she put it, “Trump is the tumor, not the cancer.”