In the face of mounting criticism from the notorious libertarian billionaire industrialists, Charles and David Koch, Donald Trump flamed the Koch Brothers on Twitter Tuesday, tweeting:
"The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas. They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made..... ....them richer. Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn. They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker - a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas. Make America Great Again!"
Here are 5 things you need to know about the Koch Brothers and their dispute with Donald Trump:
1. The Koch Brothers are not conservatives. They're libertarians.
Most of the mainstream media is referring to the Koch Brothers as conservatives, as in CNN's lede:
"President Donald Trump railed Tuesday against billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, accusing them of being against key components of his populist agenda and suggesting they're irrelevant in today's Republican Party."
But the Kochs (pronounced "Coke," not "Kautch" or "Coach") are not conservative. They are libertarian. Really they would prefer to describe themselves as classical liberals, which means they believe in the philosophy of limited government advanced by the early American colonists and European political philosophers of that era, and they oppose both liberal and conservative efforts to expand the size, role, and influence of the government into the private lives of individuals, and into the complex interactions of the marketplace.
So unlike many conservatives, the Kochs opposed the war in Iraq (which even many Democrats supported), supported gay marriage before even many Democrats (like Hillary Clinton) did, and support open borders and the free flow of people as well as goods and ideas across borders.
2. The Koch Brothers are hardly a joke in Republican circles.
As the conservative National Review points out:
"It’s hard to be 'highly overrated' when you win most of your battles. In 2016, seven of eight Koch-backed Senate Republicans and 96 percent of all Koch-backed candidates nationwide won on Election Day. The Koch network spent $250 million in that cycle but effectively sat out the presidential race, as Charles Koch summarized the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the choice between 'cancer or a heart attack.'"
3. Steve Bannon has warned GOP candidates to refuse Koch money
Trump's former advisor, Steve Bannon, piled on as well, warning Republican candidates in an interview with CNBC:
You take Koch money, it's going to be toxic. We are going to let people know that if you take Koch money there's a punishment. If you take money from people who are against the president and are looking to put a knife in the back of the president, you are going to pay."
James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch network, responded to Bannon's criticism in a statement Tuesday, saying:
"We are focused on uniting the country to help remove barriers that are preventing people from reaching their potential, and we look forward to working with anyone to help people improve their lives."
4. But Koch money is already refusing GOP candidates
As Bloomberg reports:
"The network’s decision Monday not to support Representative Kevin Cramer against Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota was cast as a warning to other Republicans who might be tempted to stray from the free-market, fiscally restrained approach backed by the Kochs and their followers. The decision not to back Cramer, as the network sought to put on a more bipartisan face, was announced at a briefing for more than 500 donors gathered at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 'We can’t support him at this time,' said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the network’s flagship political organization."
5. This dust up is one more example of how the political party duopoly no longer makes any sense
As libertarian Washington DC-based Reason Magazine (which is partially funded by grants from the Koch Foundation) points out:
"Political tribalism, unlike its hippie counterpart, demands blind loyalty. Shut up and get with the program, as Steve Bannon puts it. But the tribe that Donald Trump and the Republican Party represent is growing smaller every day. The same holds true for Democrats as well. Each party has devolved into less-appealing clusters of incoherent special interests that, while being less representative of America in general demand even more unthinking loyalty. Go find a pro-choice Republican and a pro-life Democrat (these creatures once existed). Since when did believing in lower taxes mean you had to rage against millionaire football players for kneeling during the National Anthem? Or that allowing children brought here illegally by immigrant parents meant you had to support single-payer health care? As Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina told Reason earlier this year: 'You have two parties in a heterogeneous country where people have all kinds of views....It's simply not enough to represent diversity in this country.'"