Bernie Sanders is bought by the Koch brothers.
We’re continually told that politicians adopt positions only to meet the approval of their well-heeled benefactors and receive donations. Thus, if Sanders and Charles Koch agree, the former must be bought by the latter. That is the only reasonable explanation why Koch wrote an OpEd in The Washington Post outlining all the areas of agreement between them. Right?
Of course not.
Unfortunately, the myopic prism through which Sanders views the world — class warfare! — does not provide room for these gray areas of agreement. The fact is, in our pluralistic society, individuals can come together on various policy initiatives while simultaneously fighting on others.
Numerous political issues do not evenly divide on the left-right axis. For example, you’ve got President Obama and Susan Collins lining up against Angus King and Rand Paul on the Apple “backdoor” debate. Or the shared purpose of the Oregon Militia and Black Lives Matter; they all agree overly broad federal criminal law is a significant problem. Koch and Sanders stand with them.
Or look at the so-called “bank bailout.” Sanders and Sam Brownback joined in opposition, while Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain supported it. There are numerous other examples, but these illustrate the simple reality that individuals can agree on certain matters despite strong disagreements between them.
Nevertheless, despite common ground on problem areas or on which policies are not the correct course of action, there may not be agreement on how best to proceed. Looking at the differing options offered by Sanders and Koch illustrates this well.
Sanders offers solutions based in a “political revolution,” where the full power of government is brought to bear against those deemed in the wrong. It presupposes our entire existing political system is corrupted by donors like George Soros, Donald Sussman, and the Kochs. Of course, Sanders’ 26 years in Washington is the exception to this assumed corruption, and his elevation to the presidency — an elevation made possible only through the existing electoral system — would be a rebuke to this corruption.
Trying to be charitable to his position, he would revive the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. Big Government would enter into gladiatorial combat with Big Business, prevailing in the end and using that unfettered power for good. This is predicated upon a one-size-fits-all approach, as the equal protection requirements of the Constitution limit the flexibility of Washington.
The other option, generally ensconced in the GOP and articulated by supporters like Koch, is diametrically opposed. If an overly broad federal criminal code is the problem, the proposed solution is simply to not make a federal case out of everything. Let states deal with criminal matters, especially drug crimes. To stop interest groups like the ethanol lobby from successfully obtaining special privileges, do not empower a Big Government to convey those privileges in the first place.
In short, most Republicans believe the best way to fight this perceived corruption is to decentralize power. For graft to take hold nationwide, it would require a concerted effort in 50 state capitals, with thousands and thousands of legislators. The smaller an electorate and more locally issues are addressed, the less power money provides. After all, if dollars spent were all that mattered, Ben Chin would’ve beaten Bob Macdonald in the Lewiston mayoral race by 15-to-1.
The vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party, want the same things. A strong military, fair tax code, equality before the law, reasonable criminal penalties, and a safety net that does not disincentivize work. We can disagree over the best ways to achieve them. But we need to be able to separate disagreements from the individuals espousing different ideas.
Charles Koch isn’t evil, nor is Bernie Sanders. In fact, they agree on a lot of things. That agreement isn’t based upon Bernie seeking donations or Koch trying to purchase policy positions. It is based on two people seeing problems and trying to address them to the best of their ability.
And Americans trying to solve problems, even if their solutions are different, is what will really make America great again.