George Soros and Other Lefty Moneybags Types Aren't Primarying Lousy Old Democrats Because the Party Is More Ideologically Diverse! Wait, What?

Former Reasoner David Weigel has an interesting article up that seeks to answer why there aren't any Club For Growth/FreedomWorks/Tea Party/Paulista-style primary-election challenges to the worst of the Democratic Party's status quo (like, say, the execrable Dianne Feinstein). This section in particular is unintentionally revealing:

Two months ago, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis left the Democracy Alliance, a lefty donor coalition.  Earlier this month, billionaire George Soros made his first 2012 political donations—$1 million each to America Votes and American Bridge 21st Century. That’s $23.5 million less than he gave to liberal groups in 2004. According to David McKay, chairman of the Democracy Alliance and board member of the Priorities USA super PAC, most big liberal money is going toward grassroots organizing. “There’s a bias towards funding infrastructure as it relates to the elections,” he told the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore.

Why no money to change the Democratic Party itself? The big guys aren’t interested, and don’t think it’s possible. “The reason there's not a Club for Growth-like organization on the left,” says Soros spokesman Michael Vachon, “is that there is a greater diversity of views in the Democratic Party than there is in the Republican Party. There's less of a hierarchically enforced ideological structure."

For the sake of this argument, let's imagine what a "hierarchically enforced ideological structure" might look like. Start with someone high up in the Republican Party's hierarchy; say, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). Mitch McConnell enforces ideology in part the same way all powerful politicians do: by backing particular candidates in primary elections and then throwing the party's machinery behind them. For example, Trey Grayson in the race to be the junior senator in McConnell's home state of Kentucky. The Club for Growth (and the Tea Party, and the Ron Paul movement, and other groups) in this case felt strong enough about their diverse-from-McConnell ideology that they rejected GOP hierarchy and backed outsider Rand Paul instead.

By this method Republicans who truly believe in limited constitutional government, as opposed to merely mouthing vague rhetoric in that direction whenever Democrats hold power, are attempting to change their own party into something more responsive to those beliefs. Such Republicans, it should be stressed, are still a wholly outnumbered group within the party. 

I don't know which of the major parties is more ideologically diverse, but it's clear that (with a few exceptions), Democrats have elected to eschew open ideological competition for the soul of the modern party, which may help explain why Democrats in power are able to perpetuate policies that many of their voters strongly dislike: drone warfare, mass deportation, targeting Americans for assassination, maintaining the Guantanamo Bay prison, raiding legal medical marijuana facilities, laughing off pot legalization, starting new and expanding old wars, reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act, and so on. If settling for this status quo is a function of diversity, then maybe it's time for a little monomania.

As I wrote about in "What the Left Can Learn From the Tea Party," the aforementioned Soros and Peter Lewis can be seen as poster children for the limits of using major parties to advance your strongly felt beliefs, particularly when you decline to influence primary contests:

Consider that three of the biggest supporters of the Democratic Party since the end of Bush’s first term have been George Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling—who also happen to be three of the country's most generous supporters of drug policy reform.

Soros in particular is a case study in how giving blanket support to a political party can undermine your favorite causes. According to a 2004 New Yorker article about anti-Bush billionaires by Jane Mayer, Soros' bill of particulars against Obama's predecessor included Bush's attempts to spread democracy at gunpoint, his expansions of presidential power, and his prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. In every one of those areas, as in the drug war, Obama has not been significantly better than Bush.

Here's hoping that the Soros/Lewis retreat from funding Democratic politics as usual so far this year is actually an expression of their dissatisfaction with the way their pet issues have been treated. Because as we've seen with gay marriage (on both sides of the aisle) ideological competition among campaign donors can help focus political minds as well.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John Thacker||

    Certainly agree (though you trimmed one of the quotes to leave out the emphasized phrase), and had the same thoughts when I saw that ludicrous quote.

    Obama defenders will chime in that he really wanted to close Gitmo, but I fail to see how holding people in different places or in secret or killing them with drones is better. Gitmo was at least visited by the Red Cross.

    Heck, they wanted to move them to the Supermax ADX Florence, which I think is worse torture than waterboarding.

  • Matt Welch||

    Thanks for the catch.

  • ||

    It's as I've said before, liberals/progressives are 80% about wealth redistribution and 20% everything else. As long as old-fart-incumbant A is for wealth redistribution (and has proven capable of whipping out the class warfare card to further the cause), then all is good with them.

  • Tman||

    ^^This^^.

    Why would Democrats want diversity in their party? They get everything they want out of their team. They even were able to get an Affirmative Action Superhero elected as president, and he's been towing the party redistributionist/spread the wealth/Marxist philosophy like the good progressive little foot soldier he is.

    I see no reason why Democrats would want a Tea Party-like organization. They are perfectly happy with ignoring the failures of Obama from a civil liberties perspective because he mouths platitudes about being down with the gays and doing a little blow back in the day. As long as he keeps trying to "spread the wealth" he's doing his job.

  • wareagle||

    a TP-style organization would force the left to confront is own failures, something liberals are not willing to do. The TP looked at Repubs who talk about cutting spending just as harshly as Dems who say nothing about it.

    At heart, the Dem Party is a coalition of single-issue interest groups bound by one common theme: the only way these groups can achieve their aim is through force, through central govt.

  • Azathoth!!||

    What failures?

    Is the State expanding? Yes. Then there are no failures.

    Anyone who thinks the left has 'failed' in any way is buying the lies they use to get the gullible to vote for them.

    The Tea Party exists because the 'right'(such as it is) woke up a bit and started to excise the left from it's ranks. A much harder task than one would think.

  • GILMORE||

    Tman|5.24.12 @ 12:37PM|#

    Why would Democrats want diversity in their party?

    silly rabbit. blacks and latinos make great shock troops in a political class war.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I think he meant intellectual diversity.

  • Tman||

    I did, I should have specified.

  • robc||

    The key would be an issue like drug legalization (which IIRC, Soros supports).

    Surely he could find a pro-wealth distribution, pro-legalization leftist to fund against some pro-wealth distribution, anti-legalization incumbent?

  • ||

    Obama has been pretty bad at wealth redistribution as well.

    TARP and stimulus took money from the relatively poor and gave it to the mega-rich.

    Obamacare is nothing more then a giant government trough for insurance companies to feed from.

    Green Jobs was nothing more then a way to funnel tax dollars through solyndra type companies to reelection funds.

    He talks a good redistribution game but his actual game is horrible.

  • ||

    Obama has also been bad on inflation which helps the entrenched rich and hurts the poor trying to save enough so they are not poor.

  • o3||

    stick to baseball NAL since there's plenty of stats to back-up any crackpot theory

  • ||

    Thanks for your input, Mary.

  • o3||

    mary doesnt like baseball

  • T||

    No, baseball doesn't like you.

  • o3||

    o3 played baseball. o3 like baseball und baseball like o3.

  • mr simple||

    So are these different personalities some schizophrenic delusion or some otherkin nonsense? I wouldn't put either one past Mary.

  • perlhaqr||

    o3 is Mary's dragon personality.

  • Robert||

    I'd wanted to post this here, but first found another comment thread it applied to. So I'm duplicating it:

    This is what Mort Sahl meant decades ago by saying there are no liberals any more only social democrats. I didn't know what he meant at the time.

    I was skeptical maybe 15-20 yrs. ago when David Nolan and Jim Ostrowski said that "liberals" (they also said this of "conservatives"; more on that later) prioritized their authoritarian goals over their libertarian ones, but that does seem to be the case, and validated Mort Sahl's earlier observ'n.

    Harry Levine, confining his remarks to drug policy around that same time, said more or less the same thing in that the programatics of the "left" allowed that once we had achieved socialism, then people would be able to handle their choice of drugs, but not until then.

    It does seem that the great bulk of interest on the "left" is on authority first, freedoms 2nd -- and since we're always operating at the margin in between, they never get around to pushing the freedoms, because there's a more important struggle on their plate.

    As to the "right", the situation at least in the USA doesn't seem so bad. It's gotten worse even there since the Terror, but it does look like "right" activists give some liberties att'n equal to the other things on their agenda.

  • Mike M.||

    Yeah, the response to Cory Booker a couple of days ago really shows just how tolerant of diversity of opinion the democratic party is these days.

  • sarcasmic||

    Dude, they're totally tolerant. They tolerate anyone who agrees with them.
    They're totally inclusive as well. As long as you agree with them that is.
    And they're totally about equality. Everyone who agrees with them is their equal.
    See?

  • John||

    A bit off topic, but speaking of super rich people. Someone explained to me yesterday how the super rich avoid paying taxes. They never sell their assets, they just borrow against them.

    So, if you are a newly minted facebook billionaire or have say a billion in stock holdings, as long as you don't sell the holdings you don't pay taxes. So what you do is put the stock up as collateral and borrow whatever money you need. Say you have a few billion in google stock, you borrow $20 million dollars against it. Make the payments out of the $20 million and when you run out borrow $20 million more. With that kind of collateral, there will always be someone willing to lend to you.

    That got me to thinking about the relationship between this and the Fed. If you are borrowing on that kind of collateral you are going to get prime or near prime rates. Thus, when the fed keeps prime rates artificially low, they are allowing billionaires of the world to borrow money and avoid taxes for free or close to free rates.

    Call me cynical, but I think that plays a factor in the Feds unwillingness to raise rates.

  • sarcasmic||

    Damn your cynical. Like so totally cynical and stuff. You know?

  • Cyto||

    " ' "

    " e "

    Here ya go. I saw that you left these lying around and figured you needed them for your post.

    You're welcome.

  • sarcasmic||

    Radical, dude!

  • Mo' $parky||

    I'm SHOCKED, shocked I tell you, to find out that loopholes exist for rich people to avoid paying higher taxes! We need to get people on this RIGHT NOW!

  • Brandon||

    Flat tax? Consumption tax? FairTax? Anything other than the system of punishing initial success and entrenching those who are already wealthy?

  • perlhaqr||

    No tax. Use fees.

  • ||

    Not only what John noted, but if you borrow in current dollars against an asset that tracks inflation, as equities or real estate or businesses tend to, when the fed prints 2.7 trillion dollars and inflation never happens dramatically lowers the value of currency you can pay back your loan with much cheaper currency.

    The Fed and a policy of inflation massively benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

  • Paul.||

    Needs more ratfucker.

  • ||

    Just like righties talk about smaller government and then vote for larger government, lefties talk about illegal wars, etc. then vote for them anyway. If the Tea Party ever manages to get enough politicians into various offices to make a difference, I guarantee they'll start growing government too. All they want is for their gang to be in charge.

  • Tman||

    I don't disagree with your skepticism, but if we had a party -any party, call it whatever you want- that had a stable full of Rand Paul's as their representatives, I would feel much less pessimistic about their chances in remaining true to their ideals.

    True, this isn't happening any time soon, but there is clearly a large portion of the population that supports the idea that we need less government.

  • sarcasmic||

    there is clearly a large portion of the population that supports the idea that we need less government

    Yes, but as long as the cut doesn't affect them or their friends or their family.

    So yeah, in theory people want less government, but in practice any actual cut results in someone losing their job or no longer receiving a check.

    Talking about cutting government is one thing, but doing it is political suicide.

  • ||

    It's a self-selection problem. Libertarians (generally) don't run for office because we don't give a fuck if you want keep 20 chickens in your basement or kiss your cousins. People who run for office do so because, more than anyone else in the world, they want to henpeck you to death. The stable isn't full of Rand Pauls because most of them are out doing anything in the world that isn't politics.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's a self-selection problem.

    Exactly.
    As a general rule, people do not seek positions of power so they can dismantle them.
    People seek power because they want power.

  • Brandon||

    What about the ones who seek power because they want to get laid?

  • ||

    Unfortunately, those ones will vote for whatever the pretty girl tells them to vote for.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Bitchez love free stuff.
    .
    .
    .
    and the strong pimp hand of government.

  • Robert||

    Then how why the last round of politicians in East Germany run for office, promising to end their gov't, which they then did?

  • Mo' $parky||

    Today's articles, I'm starting to notice a curly-haired theme running through them.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Kochtopus: "Welch, you fool! I said push "R and D" today!"

  • Mo' $parky||

    Even Doherty's 20-page essay is about Rand instead of Ron. Is everyone hopping off the bandwagon?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Hey here's a crazy idea. Maybe Soros was never the left-wing bogey man that the Republican establishment made him out to be, and his donations in the 2004 and 2008 cycles were just an extension of his life-long anti-totalitarianism. That is, he was never pro-democrat, he was just anti-Republican imperialism.

  • Brandon||

    "...There is a greater diversity of views in the Democratic Party than there is in the Republican Party. There's less of a hierarchically enforced ideological structure."

    Yeah, he's totally not just a Team Blue shill.

  • Brett L||

    Uh. life-long anti-totalitarianism? Citation please. I'm not one to hold joining the youth squad in WWII against him, but I need to see some credentials on anti-totalitarianism.

  • Stormy Dragon||

  • ||

    Or he, like everyone else on the planet, has some good politics and some bad politics.

  • wareagle||

    I don't know which of the major parties is more ideologically diverse

    give me a major fucking break. It is possible to be a pro-choice, pro gun control, pro gay marriage, big govt embracing Repub. It is not possible to be a Dem in good standing and hold any position that is counter to party dogma. Yes, there are some outliers in the ranks but that is what they are, outliers.

  • Robert||

    There tend to be more of them than just outliers in polities that are so heavily Democratic that you're pretty much forced to work with the Democrats to do anything in politics. So, plenty of moderate and "reform" Democrats in the big cities.

  • NL_||

    Just basing this off of my many years knowing and talking to lefty types, but my sense is the vast majority of them don't really have a specific philosophical or policy endpoint in mind. They just want "more" government tinkering and regulating and balancing.

    So as long as the elected Democrats are more in favor of government intervention than Republicans, and frame the intervention as a fight for justice against the powerful, the Democrats will mostly follow along.

    Lieberman got primaried because on a major litmus issue, he repeatedly and aggressively framed himself to the right of most Republicans on foreign policy.

    Republican grassroots are susceptible to arguments about constitutionalism and small government. They aren't necessarily very rigorous or consistent about these views, but it produces a different mindset. The Republicans like to argue that there is some (vague) objective philosophical end to government, where the Democrats seem to assume that policy is all a relative spectrum. So Republicans can be measured against some abstract Platonic ideal and found wanting, whereas Democrats just need to be somewhat to the left of Republicans.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Nice headline. I read the article in question, but couldn't see the stupid forest because of all the stupid trees.

  • GILMORE||

    Perhaps Soros et al are spending less on their Progressive Democrat lackeys because they've already pretty much gotten what they want, and don't think it will take as much to keep it?

  • ||

    In our post-Citizens United lives, the whims of a millionaire or billionaire can transform an election.

    I am shocked and surprised that Weigel opposes the citizens united decision.

  • ||

    Doughnut commercials MAKE you fat. Car commercials MAKE you buy a car. And as Meg Whitman clearly demonstrated in California, commercials for millionaire candidates MAKE you vote for them.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    In our post-Citizens United lives, the whims convincing free speech of a millionaire or billionaire free and dedicated man can transform an election.

    That really bothers some of these fascist mother fuckers. I hope they die in rat fucking fire.

  • Robert||

    I think I understand the Peter Lewis quote. He's saying that Democrats are so ideologically diverse that it would not pay to organize something like the Club for Growth, because there's no commanding lever of power to capture. You'd wind up assembling a pot of money without effective control as to where it wound up going. And who knows, he may be right.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Except that they're not.

  • ||

    Former Reasoner David Weigel has an interesting article up

    Is "interesting" a euphemism for "rat fucking"?

    On a side note I don't think David read your book Matt.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement