There are ironies in the Koch-funded exhibit in our nation’s capital. I have written before about the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Its theme purports to show how great leaps forward in human evolution have come during times of great climate change. It’s an excellent exhibit that student groups seem to really enjoy as well as learn from. However, I still contend that the real and subtle intent is to encourage the public to presume that the current climate change is part of the natural order of things rather than a result of human activity.
David and his brother Charles are major financiers of the Fox-Republican-TEA Party. For the 2012 elections, they spent millions of their billions to elect their candidate-supporters on state and national levels of government. They also held – what were supposed to be – secret conferences with other plutocrats to raise money to defeat President Obama. FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and the-rich-are-Taxed-Enough- Already (TEA) Party are all Koch brothers operations.
Where’s the irony? While their party may mostly represent the plutocracy (the extremely wealthy), it also represents creationists, who make up much more of the party’s voting bloc. Creationists do not want Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution taught in public schools. They also believe the earth is only about 6000 years old. Marco Rubio – a rising star among conservatives –fell all over himself trying to not answer a question about how old the earth is. You have to expect that most right-wing legislators actually do know something about evolution even though they can’t admit it to their constituents.
What really matters, though, is how they legislate. Prospects are not good. The state government of Kentucky has allocated taxpayer dollars to support what amounts to a fantasy museum that promotes creationism – it has dinosaurs living alongside Adam and Eve. Fox-Republican-TEA Partiers control the U. S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. All the majority members are anti-science, creationists, and climate-change deniers. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked U.S. students 25th in math and 17th in science out of 34 countries studied. Is there hope for the future of our country? We should all be concerned.
With all the creationists in their party, how does David Koch get away with his Hall of Human Origins? The Kochs are essentially anonymous. There have been many efforts in the past several years to publicize their connections to their radical-reactionary party, but it seems that many voters still don’t know who they are or how influential they are in our elections. In October before the election, I spoke with a middle-aged woman from Kansas who took pride that she studied each presidential candidate very carefully before making a decision. Sadly, she eventually admitted having no knowledge of the Koch brothers. And their empire is based in Wichita, Kansas!
As you may recall, I consider the Koch brothers and their ilk to be the Wizards of Was. There’s also Rupert Murdoch of Fox “News.” And don’t forget the man who is their de facto “President of the United States,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax fanatic to whom most “Republicans” in Congress have sworn an oath of loyalty – although some party members are beginning to regret it. These wizards work in anonymity, behind the curtain – as in Oz, to return the nation to the way it was before the 20th century. The Gilded Age, which they long for, was a time in which the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Carnegies paid no income tax.
Social Darwinism is the other ironic factor in this story. Even though the plutocrats like David Koch and creationists co-exist in spite of the issue of Darwin’s biological theory of evolution, they all believe – whether they are aware of it or not – in the same variation of social Darwinism. The term “survival of the fittest” was not first used by Charles Darwin. It was coined by sociologist Herbert Spencer in England in 1864. Social Darwinism was advanced in America during the Gilded Age in 1883 by William Graham Sumner. Essentially what he said was that the different social classes owed each other nothing. If you helped those in need, you encouraged others to be in need. And if you removed taxes and regulations from businessmen, you allowed the fittest to survive. We heard the same philosophy from Mitt Romney in the last presidential campaign.
The plutocrats’ spokesmen on the U. S. Supreme Court (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas), with their notorious Citizens United ruling in 2010, gave unlimited spending power in our election system to corporations and wealthy individuals. The most visual beneficiary was the plutocrats’ plutocrat – millionaire Mitt Romney, who promised them (and himself) everything they wanted. George W. Bush had a 30-33 percent approval rating when he left office. Romney promised to double-down on the Bush policies that gave us the Great Recession, and he still got a whopping 47 percent of the vote! While that’s 4 points less than they paid for, it’s 14 percent more than they should have expected.
Next time, the plutocrats, creationists, and other social Darwinists will probably spend even more anonymous millions. However, for all that money to deliver the vote, they will have to find a less obnoxious presidential candidate. Many voters “vote for the man, not the party.” Remember, Ronald Reagan was liked by 60 percent of the voters, but his policies were supported by only 40 percent. They came close with Romney even though his policies had already proved to be disastrous and his personal demeanor and business tactics made him virtually impossible to like. Don’t count the plutocrats out yet. In 2016, they may still be able to return us to the Gilded Age, the way it was before the 1900s.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published in the January 16, 2013, edition of the Arkansas Times.