When Donald Trump first emerged as a genuine threat to seize the Republican nomination, Charles and David Koch represented the epitome of elite right-wing opposition to the populist interloper. They fretted his discriminatory agenda would “destroy free society” and froze Trump out of their confabs. In return, Trump mocked their allied politicians as “puppets.” But let us see Donald Trump’s Presidency Is the Libertarian Moment.
The evolution of the Koch brothers’ disposition toward Trump can be traced in headlines measuring their gradual warming. See February 2016: “Can the Koch Brothers Stop Trump?”; January 31, 2017: “The Koch Brothers Are Worried About President Trump”; May 18, 2017: “The Koch Brothers Found One Thing They Hate More Than President Trump”; and, now, to the present: “How the Koch Network Learned to Thrive in the Trump Era.”
The latest development in the relationship between the Kochs (right-wing heirs to a business fortune) and Trump (also the right-wing heir to a business fortune) is that the former have thrown the weight of their massive organization unhesitatingly behind the latter. Largely satisfied with Trump’s conservative judicial appointments, lax regulation of business, and regressive tax cutting, the Kochs are spending several hundred millions of dollars to protect the Republican majority. Whatever points of contention remain between the two have been reduced to squabbles between friends.
The Koch rapprochement mirrors a broader trend: Among the conservative intelligentsia — where resistance to Trump has always run far deeper than it has among the Republican rank and file — libertarian have displayed some of the greatest levels of friendliness to the Trump administration. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is a bastion of pro-Trump conspiracy-theorizing about nefarious deep-state plots, in addition to celebrations of the administration’s economic record. Grover Norquist, Stephen Moore, and Ron and Rand Paul, among others, have all staunchly defended the president.
To be sure, some libertarian have dissented fiercely. The Niskanen Center has nurtured a cell of moderate libertarians that has lobbed attacks on the administration and its allies. But Niskanen’s rejection of Trump has come alongside a broader rejection of the priorities of the politically dominant wing of libertarian politics; they have criticized Trump for the same reasons most libertarians have supported him.