by Edward Ring
By now most America First conservatives have recognized the common agenda of libertarians and progressives. These two groups have significant differences, of course. For example, progressives are pro-union while libertarians prefer employee choice. But on most of the biggest issues, their agendas now align.
The alliance is a mismatch, however, for two reasons. First, because progressives have far more money and institutional power, and second, because progressives are serious, whereas libertarians tend to favor symbolic gestures.
The result of this is a one-sided alliance where the only time libertarians see elements of their policy agenda move from theory to reality is when it also serves the interests of progressives. For example, libertarians:
- Support “free movement of peoples” but can’t prevent expensive welfare programs that attract economic migrants.
- Support “free trade” but are indifferent to the impact that cheap foreign labor and foreign subsidies have on eliminating manufacturing jobs for Americans.
- Support the right to be a homeless drug addict, but can’t prevent government hand-outs that attract more homeless drug addicts, or taxpayer-subsidized developments to give them free housing.
- Support “upzoning” residential neighborhoods but don’t prevent developer subsidies or greenbelts that strangle the growth of cities.
- Oppose government-funded infrastructure, which stops new freeway construction or projects to increase the water supply, but can’t prevent subsidized rail transit projects or water rationing.
- Support the right of big tech platforms to censor free speech, with no apparent recognition that these companies have built monopolies and are manipulating public opinion.
The common thread in all these examples is that libertarians are unable to recognize that when governments only adopt half of a principle they support, it only makes matters worse. The other half of the principle of open borders is no welfare state. The other half of the principle of free trade is fair trade. The other half of the principle of personal freedom is personal responsibility. The principle of reducing zoning restrictions inside cities also requires us to reduce them outside of cities. And so on. Libertarians support the progressives where their principles supposedly align, but progressives take part one and ignore part two.
Progressives are using libertarians, and the libertarians still haven’t caught on. You will now find progressive “thought leaders” welcomed at conferences funded by libertarian billionaires. These progressives sit on panels where they proclaim the virtues of open borders, free trade, urban planning, sentencing reform, and “free market” solutions to climate change. Libertarian attendees fill the conference rooms – at least they used to, before life in the age of COVID-19, and they will again – clucking with approval and deliriously happy to have found “common ground” with the cool kids.
And when libertarians get their turns to speak at these events, expect them, for example, to expound on the ability for anyone in America to build one’s own search engine, internet service provider, alternative internet backbone, and cell phone manufacturing plant, because that’s how we overcome censorship. Throughout this foray into fantasyland, progressives nod indulgently, thinking to themselves, why rock the boat? Of course, Big Tech operates monopolies, and we don’t normally like monopolies. But Big Tech isn’t censoring us, they’re censoring them.
The negative consequences of libertarian naïveté should be obvious. As noted, their think tanks and lobbyists skew policies in critical areas towards outcomes that favor the progressive agenda. And their candidates for office often spoil the prospects for Republican candidates, most recently in Georgia on November 3, where U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue, a Republican, fell 0.3 percent short of a majority because Libertarian Shane Hazel snarfed up 2.3 percent of the vote. Anyone who thinks Perdue wouldn’t have picked up one in seven of the Hazel voters if Hazel had not been in the race is probably . . . a libertarian.
Trillions, Billions, Millions
To properly understand what America First conservatives are up against, it’s important to follow the money. Progressives, collectively, have trillions at their disposal. Just the top 10 richest individuals in America – before the COVID-19 shutdown made them even wealthier – had a cumulative net worth of $974 billion. Review the list—Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Buffet, Ellison, Ballmer, Musk, Page, Brin, and three Waltons. Anyone there who isn’t a progressive? Maybe Musk. Maybe the Waltons—then again, maybe not.
What about the biggest companies in America? Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Visa, Procter & Gamble. How might the political leanings of these conglomerates be characterized? Hint – click on their names to have a look at their “diversity and inclusion” policies. Rarely have search results appeared so fast, or so consistently at the top.
Where there is money, there is also the urge to spend it: Think of Mark Zuckerberg laying down $400 million to “get out the vote” – the Biden vote – in select cities in swing states. Zuckerberg can spend $400 million the way most of us buy a cup of coffee. And then there are George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and dozens of others willing to lay down millions, if not hundreds of millions, to steer public policy according to their will.
If the progressives now control trillion dollar chunks of American wealth, and they do, libertarians control billions. The libertarians who immediately come to mind are Charles Koch and his late brother David, whose support of “right-wing” organizations earned them years of enmity from progressives. But the Kochs, and the organizations they funded, were never devoted to America First conservative ideology. They were devoted to globalism and libertarianism, in that order.
That would explain why the Koch network withheld support for three Republican U.S. Senate candidates in 2018. One of them, Dean Heller, who was the incumbent U.S. Senator in Nevada, subsequently lost to Democrat Jacky Rosen, endangering the GOP’s razor thin majority. More recently, Charles Koch told the Wall Street Journal, “partisanship was a mistake.” That’s because the common ground libertarians have with progressives is now in the open. But the Koch money, and libertarian money in general, was never anywhere close to the scale of progressive wealth.
Last of all in line for money are the America First conservatives. As candidates, they will face progressives who will use their trillions to destroy them, as libertarians withhold their billions and, at best, stand on the sidelines. If these America First candidates are lucky, they’ll raise a few million, mostly from small individual donors. Very few wealthy individuals have been willing to step up. If it weren’t for the personal magnetism and powerful message of Donald Trump, and the populist movement he ignited, there wouldn’t be an America First movement. It would lack critical mass. It would be irrelevant.
Globalism Unites Libertarian and Progressive Elites
Before Donald Trump was president, before there was MAGA, and before Americans realized their national sovereignty was at risk, it was easier for the elites to maintain the illusion of competition between Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians and progressives, for that matter, and especially at the grassroots, were far more focused on the issues where they disagreed. But then in came Trump, totally unexpected, terminating the Transpacific Partnership negotiations, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, increasing border security, approving the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, demanding trade reciprocity, pressuring NATO allies to pull their weight, and standing up to China.
These actions threatened wealth. They threatened every trillion-dollar and billion-dollar interest group in America. They served notice, for the first time in decades, that the American people mattered more than America’s super rich. And with this, the progressive trillions and the libertarian billions found the ultimate common ground, their mutual commitment to globalism. But they may have grossly miscalculated.
Even if their preferred candidate, Joe Biden, takes office in January, his announced cabinet choices may finally have awakened the progressive grassroots. His appointees are a combination of Wall Street kingpins and Obama Administration military interventionists—uniparty neocons wearing blue. His administration may be expected to resume exporting jobs, importing welfare recipients, and starting wars. Meanwhile his progressive policies on the environment will make housing and energy unaffordable across the nation, and his progressive policies on “systemic racism” will create more racial tension while solving absolutely nothing.
There is a possibility that a Biden presidency will split the progressive grassroots. Many of them will start to realize that Trump might not have been so bad after all. Some will look at Biden’s unabashedly corporate, globalist, interventionist cabinet and have a Red Pill moment. They will realize that corporations are taking over the world and the privilege of American citizenship is not something to discard lightly.
Others – and we are already seeing this – will be Hispanics and blacks, who will recognize that Biden’s globalism is a bigger threat to their upward mobility than Donald Trump’s MAGA movement, and they will join the growing number of Hispanics and blacks who are already a big part of the America First grassroots. Their defection will realign America, and the America First wing of the Republican Party will retake control of Congress in 2022 and Trump, or his handpicked successor, will win the presidential election in 2024.
This is the most benign of scenarios if Biden and his China beholden globalist gang take office, and it is not unlikely. But there are other possible outcomes. What is extremely unlikely is that the progressives in America unanimously accept a Biden presidency. It is possible the most toxic among them, the communists, the anarchists, and the hardcore BLM and Antifa militants, will reject the Biden regime as illegitimate, and intensify their violence with a clarified target – all corporate wealth, all federal power. And there is a possibility that the most hardcore among the American Right, the militias, the Three Percenters, and others, will align with these progressive militants in an alliance against a common foe.
The corporate elites that circled the wagons and did everything they could to destroy Bernie Sanders in the primaries and Donald Trump in the general election have installed a president who is a transparent sham. They have shown everyone who is really in charge. That may be a miscalculation with historic consequences.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness and co-founder in 2013 of the California Policy Center.