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Tilting at Windmills

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October 11, 2010

SOROS ON THE SIDELINES.... I suspect in the minds of many conservatives, George Soros remains a dangerous boogeyman, who's secretly working with ACORN to help Democrats salvage the midterm elections.

But ACORN is long gone, and Soros has decided to "sit out" this election cycle altogether.

"I made an exception getting involved in 2004," Mr. Soros, 80, said in a brief interview Friday at a forum sponsored by the Bretton Woods Committee, which promotes understanding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

"And since I didn't succeed in 2004, I remained engaged in 2006 and 2008. But I'm basically not a party man. I'd just been forced into that situation by what I considered the excesses of the Bush administration."

Mr. Soros, a champion of liberal causes, has been directing his money to groups that work on health care and the environment, rather than electoral politics. Asked if the prospect of Republican control of one or both houses of Congress concerned him, he said: "It does, because I think they are pushing the wrong policies, but I'm not in a position to stop it. I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche."

I'm not sure what that means. Soros is (a) concerned about health care and environment; (b) convinced the far-right Republican Party will have a detrimental effect on the issues he cares about; and (c) sitting out the elections anyway.

What people do with their money is obviously their business, and if Soros wants to stay on the sidelines, that's his call. But the reasoning here escapes me. Soros wants to see U.S. advances on health care and environmental policy, but he doesn't want to make investments to at least try to protect his own chosen priorities?

Jon Chait suggested that Soros may just have "a desire not to be associated with defeat." Perhaps. But Soros was involved in 2004, John Kerry lost, and Soros kept with it for the next two cycles. The country -- and Soros' principal goals-- were better for it.

If he had reason to believe Republican majorities would be fine when it came to health care and the environmental policies, I could see why someone like Soros could justify a passive, lackadaisical attitude. But if he's genuinely worried, watching this unfold without lifting a finger is hard to understand.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Shorter Soros: Democrats suck so bad right now, I'm not going to throw good money after bad.

Steve, hope this clears up your confusion.

Posted by: Observer on October 11, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that Soros, like just about everyone else, lost a pile of money in late 2008 and, while
still obviously very rich, doesn't find it quite so easy and convenient to lay his hands on $50M in cash as he used to. Just a guess though.

Posted by: Richard Cownie on October 11, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, ACORN has not disappeared, but has splintered into a number of smaller more local entities continuing its mission of fair housing. So its not so scary anymore. But then, it never was really scary.

Posted by: k l m on October 11, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Presumably Soros made his pile by picking winners. Maybe he's just as good at spotting losers.

Posted by: fradiavolo on October 11, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

What is the purpose of the Democratic party anyway. As near as I can tell it's only function is to help one bunch of inside the beltway politicians and lobbyists beat another bunch of inside the beltway politicians and lobbyists.

It has abandoned any interest in helping the American people generally.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 11, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Snark and ignorance in the comments. Which pretty much explains the mess the country is in. One is hard-pressed to find comments virtually anywhere anymore that aren't fundamentally juvenile.

Much easier to ignorantly complain than to intelligently critique, to debate, to actually approach an honest with an open mind, capable of changing in the face of better information.

Hyuck. Hyuck.

Posted by: Hart Williams on October 11, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

And herein lies a fundamental problem: Billionaires like Soros may say they're on our side, but the fact is that he benefits from GOP policies the same as any other rich person. It doesn't hurt him a bit if the Republicans take over. He may end up better off.

Same goes for a lot of prominent Democrats, including most of the Democrats in Congress.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on October 11, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

George Soros seems to be a fairly progressive person. I can imagine he would be some what miffed with the Democratic Party right now. They took (a lot) of his money, promised to actually lead using progressive values & promptly lead as corporatist whores just like Clinton did. Oh sure, they can correctly point to Republicans and say they are worse, but it still isn't what they promised to do.

I'm voting and I'll be voting for the liberals for the most part. But the party and the Obama Administration has taken their base for granted on just about every important issue.

Screw that. I'll hold my nose and vote for 'em, but I can't say I blame George Soros for sitting out.

Posted by: kindness on October 11, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, given the right wing demonization of Soros, he simply feels he is more of a detriment than a benefit.

Posted by: doubtful on October 11, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Doctor Whom, I assume by "better off" you mean financially.

-but there are OTHER 'better offs' in the human condition. For some examples, Google: Jesus, Christ, sermons. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 11, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche."

Wherever he would choose to deploy his money to support Democrats, a larger amount of Republican money would flow to oppose it. Face it, we've got one billionaire on our side, they've got all the rest.

Perhaps Mr. Soros sees a larger benefit to actually aiding his causes directly, rather than promoting candidates that advocate for them. He could spend his $50M eradicating a disease or two in Africa, or researching more efficient power transmission (to enable solar collection in the desert to be economically transferred across the country), or any number of projects that directly affect the causes he cares about, and which would benefit the country and the world regardless of the election results.

Posted by: MCD on October 11, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Soros thinks the political process is so totally broken that it is better for someone like him to funnel his money to groups that are trying to do public education or demonstration projects or innovations of one sort or another in the healthcare and environment fields. His level of money could probably make a huge practical difference. Plus donations to many of these kinds of projects are tax deductible.

Perhaps when/if the system gets less broken he would be willing to get involved in electoral politics again. I confess some sympathy for his position, though I've still been donating to campaigns here and there.

Posted by: Mimikatz on October 11, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

The naive optimist in me hopes that Soros is being a little snarky himself. Maybe he likes being the boogeyman to neoconservative pants-wetters, and as we all know, boogeymen thrive in environments where people deny their existence.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 11, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

i dont think the comments are snarky at all. I think they are accurate.

Look, Soros didn't make his millions by being a sentimentalist about investing. If he has come to the belief that no amount of cash he puts in will materially change the outcome this November, why would he -- to slightly paraphrase Observer -- throw good money down a rat hole?

Issue groups are a more attractive investment for him right now because they aren't an investment for a short-term horse race. No matter if any individual Dem wins or loses in November, the environmental groups go on. Think of it as the difference between trying to time the market on an individual stock versus buying a more diverse mutual fund for a longer term.

Those of us who are political junkies, and even moreso those of us who are partisans, may not like it, but it is hard to argue that Soros is not acting rationally.

Posted by: zeitgeist on October 11, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Soros could at least fund some sort of media/informational pushback to the Faux coalation, the "RepubliCorp" as the satire entity has been put up e.g. on Facebook. In any case all this cynicism isn't going to help preventing RepubliCorp from taking over, far worse than anything in the indulgent fantasies of the equivalency brigade. Really, do you like being High Broderists with just a grimmer twist?

Posted by: neil b on October 11, 2010 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny how Soros gets portrayed as a foreigner interfering in U.S. politics while Murdoch doesn't, even though Fox has a much larger impact on the U.S. political scene.

Posted by: H-Bob on October 11, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

When Murdoch and Koch put their money into the process, the expect and receive unvarnished committment. Republican congressmen talk about going nuclear, vote in virtual lock step, lie, and make total assess of themselves to obstruct progressive legislative priorities.

When Soros puts his money out there, he gets Senators who side with oil companies, committee chairs that exclude liberal members for the negotioating table, and a senate leader who will not enforce party loyalty.

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 11, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

You don't have any idea how much it pains me to say this but the man didn't get rich flushing money down the toilet . The baggers are a hard headed bunch and need another reminder of what the Bush policies do evidently they have forgotten or don't care . The reps and their corporate sugar daddies have bamboozled enough gullible voters that are frustrated with the economy and want everything better yesterday .

Fortunately I am in a position that it doesn't matter much to me economically which side wins I profit one way if the Dems win and another if the reps win . So I feel very badly for the majority and the country as a whole if the rep baggers take control again .

But that is the avalanche that Soros is talking about he doesn't by himself have the financial heft to turn this around so why should he waste money with the SC ruling the rep baggers will just go back to their corporate wells to cancel Soros out .

The baggers need and deserve what they will get.It is just a shame that so many good , honest, hard working , deserving Americans will be drug down into the dutch with them .

Posted by: Chago on October 11, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

H-Bob @ 5:20, excellent point!

Posted by: Athena on October 11, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK


Very few people change their position based on high brow "intellectual" engagement.

And this characteristic of people is neither confined to the 21st century nor is confined to American politics.

You should think about that for a while.

Posted by: Observer on October 11, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Much easier to ignorantly complain than to intelligently critique, to debate,[...] -- Hart Williams, @16:56

Pot, kettle. Your comment could have been posted on *any* thread/subject, for the zero amount of new insight, critique and debate it contributes...

Posted by: exlibra on October 11, 2010 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Soros could do the most good by providing a counterbalance to Fox. His reaction is rational: The right wing has clogged the airwaves with crap and not much can be done short term. We need to mount a lont term strategy to shut down propaganda.

Posted by: Sparko on October 11, 2010 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of good comments here, but especially--to my way of thinking--those of zeitgeist, mimikatz and Chago. And maybe Soros is just worn-out-exhausted for the moment and thinking, "If Republican misgovernment is what American voters want, then let them have it."

Posted by: Coop on October 11, 2010 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

I also wonder if Beck sending one of his pet psychopaths after the Tides Foundation might have (justifiably) spooked him. The billionaires of the Nazi-Right can do whatever they want with impunity, but someone like Soros probably has legitimate grounds to fear assassination at the hands of some Teabagging nutjob.

Posted by: Alan on October 11, 2010 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand your confusion Steve. Soros makes his point very clearly. "I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche". He isn't contributing this cycle because he doesn't believe it would help, any more than standing in the way of an avalanche would protect a town below.

He's putting his money into things he hopes will help, instead.

Posted by: Jinchi on October 11, 2010 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I know you don't understand what's going on this cycle-- you do an "I don't understand why the base and the contributors aren't doing everything they can to stop the Republic Party from winning" post about every day.

But let's try it again.

1. The Republic Party and all its elected officials and candidates are doing everything they can-- to the point of advocating policies that HURT the county-- to take control of the House and Senate.

2. The Democrats and their candidates are doing everything they can to surrender control of the House and Senate. Not voting on tax cuts, not campaigning on economic issues, taking position after position that alienates the base and muzzling and blasting their longtime allies. Many are even running against their leaders and accomplishments.

3. If the candidate is doing and stupid and counterproductive things, there is nothing a field worker, a strategist or a contributor can do to prevent a loss.

4. People who were smart enough to anticipate what would happen are choosing not to waste their time and money trying to prevent the inevitable loss of seats held by idiots.

Soros cares about the environment. The Democrats, as a party, do not. He can:

1. Beggar himself to try to elect people who are unlikely to win-- and will do nothing to help if elected.

At that point, Soros will have to fund primary challengers to the people he elected-- whom the DNC will beggar itself to support.

2. He can put money into lobbies that will (as the banking and HMOs have done) p-whip Congress into doing its bidding.

Option 1 helps the Democratic Party. Option 2 is a better use of his resources-- both short and long-term.

If you think it's better to elect Democrats you can't trust-- who vote against every core position you have when you need them-- then I guess this must be confusing.

If you prefer not to waste time and money electing people you know will oppose you-- even on cloture votes-- it isn't.

Posted by: Woodrow L. Goode, IV on October 11, 2010 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

What we need is someone like Mark Zuckerberg to lay $100 million or so on us. Soros may be physically intimidated by right-wing attacks.

Posted by: bob h on October 12, 2010 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

Soros may just realise the only way to beak the addiction system is to not enable it and let it crash and burn. Let the repubs win and when it crashes and burns again on their watch maybe it will wake up the american public.

Posted by: awake108 on October 12, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Soros supports drug legalization, particularly marijuana. It's been a HUGE cause of his for a long time. The national Democrats could care less, and Obama says he is against legalizing marijuana.

He's also big on human rights, and the Dems voted unanimously to keep Guantanamo open immediately after Obama announced that he would close it (which he didn't).

It's sour grapes, but it's understandable.

Posted by: 6079smithW on October 12, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he just believes he's getting a better ROI on his contributions directly to non-political charities and non-profits. Fact is, I often feel like the small amounts I donate to political campaigns is money down the drain. I know when i've actively campaigned door to door or by phone I didn't feel like i accomplished anything.

Posted by: kahner on October 12, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK



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