The progressive mind functions by means of mythic narratives that have tenuous connections to reality. Cops shoot a black man, and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post begs “please don’t shoot me,” indulging the myth of a lethal American racism endangering black people’s lives, even though black offenders kill 90% of black murder victims, and 85% of interracial crime is perpetuated by blacks against whites. Criticize Sandra Fluke for demanding that a Catholic university’s health care plan subsidize her birth control, and you’re waging a sexist “war on women” for making them pay a whole $30 for their monthly pills. Another particularly persistent and long-lived political folk tale is that conservatives and Republicans are the party of robber barons who use their exorbitant wealth to undermine democracy for their own nefarious ends.
Just recently this hoary myth was used to explain why Volkswagen autoworkers in Tennessee voted against joining the United Automobile Workers Union. According to MSNBC, the union lost because Grover Norquist’s “nonprofit Americans For Tax Reform . . . turned out to be funding a union-busting arm called the Center for Worker Freedom that waged a public campaign against the UAW in Chattanooga.” This is a variation on the same liberal caterwauling over the malign influence of money on politics allegedly enabled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that held restrictions on political speech by corporations, associations, and unions to be in violation of the First Amendment. In October last year, Obama blamed Citizen United for empowering rich conservative extremists like the Koch brothers: “You have some ideological extremists who have a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics.” Look at the facts, however, and it is the progressives and Democrat elites who are using their fat bankrolls to make the political system serve their ideological and material interests.
Consider the Center for Responsive Politics’ recently released list of “Heavy Hitters,” the biggest donors among political organizations from 1989 to 2014. Number 1 is ActBlue, “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action,” as it styles itself, that bundles individual contributions for distribution to Democratic candidates. ActBlue has already raised $12 million for the 2014 election cycle. In 2012 it tallied $33 million. All but 4 of the top 16 “heavy hitters” give the overwhelming majority of their funds to the Democrats. Only 2 of the top 20 give to Republicans. As FrontPage’s Arnold Ahlert points out, the progressives’ favorite big-money bogeymen, the Koch brothers, didn’t even make the top 50. These data are consistent with the research of David Horowitz and Jacob Laskin in their book The New Leviathan, which counts 122 left-wing foundations worth $104 billion, compared to 86 conservative ones worth around $10 billion.
This blatant hypocrisy and disregard for fact, of course, is nothing new, and reflects a long history of wealthy elites promoting progressive causes and policies from their privileged enclaves. In 2005 Hoover fellow Peter Schweitzer profiled some of these Potemkin populists whose lives have nothing to do with their principles, and who never have to live with the consequences of their policies. MIT professor Noam Chomsky, for example, one of the most prominent left-wing critics of America, has called capitalism a “grotesque catastrophe,” one “crafted to induce hopelessness, resignation, and despair.” Yet Chomsky, Schweitzer writes, is “himself a shrewd capitalist, worth millions, with money in the dreaded and evil stock market, and at least one tax haven to cut down on those pesky inheritance taxes that he says are so important.” Chomsky has set up an irrevocable trust to shelter his money, with his tax attorney and his daughter as trustees. Fans of redistributing wealth via the income tax like Chomsky are careful to make sure that somebody else pays for their political idealism.
Or take progressive filmmaker Michael Moore, who boasted about not owning stock but then set up a private foundation that in 2005 owned nearly $400,000 in corporate stocks and bonds, including pharmaceutical and medical companies like Pfizer, Merck, and Eli Lilly, the targets of his documentary Sicko, which attacked the American health-care system. Moore’s foundation, however, doesn’t lavish funds on activist causes: “For a man who by 2002 had a net worth in eight figures,” Schweitzer writes, “he gave away a modest $36,000 through the foundation, much of it to his friends in the film business or tony cultural organizations that later provided him with venues to promote his books and films.” John Kerry, George Soros, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader––as Schweitzer documents, all these scolds of capitalist greed and champions of the oppressed have done very well manipulating the system to increase their own power and privilege, and ensuring that their money doesn’t end up in the government’s hands to finance the social justice policies they loudly champion.
Examples of this conflict between progressives’ ideals and their lives are as common as flies. People with King-Kong-sized carbon footprints left by private jet travel and 30,000-square-foot homes decry climate change and propose policies that will raise fuel and electricity prices for the masses. Champions of public schools and the policies that enable their failure put their own kids into exclusive private schools even as they attack charter schools that benefit minorities. Congressmen like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, who cast themselves as the defenders of the little guy against rapacious and heartless corporations, endorse environmental policies that dump precious water into the Pacific in order to protect baitfish, throwing out of work Mexican farmworkers. Preachers of multicultural diversity and the boons of integration live in gated enclaves and high-end zip codes far from the dark “other.” Gun-control fanatics eager to gut the Second Amendment protect themselves with armed private security. And the scolds of bigotry and racism routinely indulge the most vicious slander and calumny against conservatives, Christians, pro-life women, and anybody else who doesn’t agree with their doctrines.
The demonization of wealth spent on conservative political causes, even as many more millions are spent on progressive ones, is just another example of liberalism’s moral incoherence. It reflects as well a two-bit postmodern carelessness about the distinction between words and deeds. For the affluent progressive, chanting the right mantras about fairness, equality, and justice creates a reality that masks how their beliefs and policies create unfairness, inequality, and injustice, and obscures how far their lives are from the clients they patronize and exploit politically. But as Eric Hoffer said, “Facts are counterrevolutionary.” The costs of the Democrats’ attempts to realize Obama’s pledge to “fundamentally transform America” are creating a mountain of unpleasant facts that just might awaken enough voters to the hypocritical and duplicitous myths that comprise progressive politics.
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