Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images
the national interest

Republican Billionaires No Longer Upset About Insurrection

The absurd rationalizations of Trump’s oligarchs.

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images

After Donald Trump’s failed coup attempt, many Establishment Republicans promised never to support him again. One of them, Eric Levine, reiterated this vow repeatedly. Last month, appearing on Fox News in his capacity as a Nikki Haley surrogate, Levine softened his stance only slightly. “If they get somebody like Michelle Obama, if they push out Biden,” he speculated, “that could push me to support Donald Trump, but I don’t see that happening.”

A full month has gone by, and there is no sign of Obama coming off the sidelines to impose Kenyan socialism on America. Levine, though, has lost patience and is endorsing Trump anyway.

In an email to his network, Levine explains that he is reversing himself “due to a dramatic change in circumstances.” That dramatic change, which he couldn’t have foreseen as recently as last month, is that “the cancer of the Social Justice agenda continues to metastasize.” The completely unforeseeable metastasis of the “Social Justice agenda” has forced Levine to rethink everything and endorse the insurrectionist.

Most people tend to see the progression of intellectual movements through society as a gradual process. Conservatives have called the spread of left-wing academic social-justice theory since the 1960s the “long march,” the very name of which implies an extended period of time. For Levine, however, its progress has come as a bolt from the blue.

A more cynical analysis would suggest Levine was never going to oppose Trump’s reelection. Republicans who denounced Trump after the insurrection are flocking to him en masse. The Washington Post recently noted that many of these prodigal sons are returning for the prospect of a large bag of loot.

Despite the constant drumbeat of demographic analysis that Republicans are attracting more working-class support as Democratic voters grow more affluent, the gulf in substantive economic positioning between the two parties remains unchanged. Joe Biden is running on a plan to increase taxes on the very wealthy, while Trump is promising to cut those taxes. In 2025, most of the Trump tax cuts will expire, as will Obamacare subsidies extended by the Inflation Reduction Act. The 2024 elections will therefore determine whether hundreds of billions of dollars remain in the pockets of wealthy people or instead fund things like health insurance for the middle class.

Oil billionaire Harold Hamm once complained, “January 6 separated a lot of people in the [Republican] Party … the fact that he wouldn’t accept the result.” The Washington Post notes that Hamm “often rants, according to people who know him, about Biden’s energy and electric-car policies, and had a private meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in recent months.” Trump, of course, promises to end the electric-car revolution, which would obviously benefit Hamm’s oil business.

Robert Bigelow, a billionaire developer, said January 6 “lost me as a supporter … He showed that, in that particular hour, he was no commander.” Bigelow is now donating to a pro-Trump group and the former president’s legal-defense fund. He’s just a Bigelow, as the song almost goes.

I would hesitate to suggest all these donors are motivated entirely by class interest in some crude Marxist materialist fashion. (I don’t want to send some other wavering Republican scurrying back to Trump — they seem to be highly sensitive to the metastasis of left-wing theories.) Plenty of billionaires support Biden even if his agenda directly costs them money. Still, self-interest does seem to be playing a role in the large-scale reconciliation between Trump and the billionaire class observed by the Post.

Self-interest tends to work its magic through subconscious channels. Levine’s missive offers a useful study in rationalization. His rant is devoted to a long denunciation of the poisonous effects of social-justice ideology, the nexus between it and anti-Israel protests. The point at which it goes totally off the rails is when Levine writes, “These folks are the core of Joe Biden’s voting base.”

The core of Joe Biden’s voting base? They have been disrupting Biden’s speeches and denouncing him as “Genocide Joe,” which is not behavior associated with being in, let alone being the core of, a candidate’s voting base. Literally the same day Levine sent this email, left-wing protesters repeatedly shouted down a Biden fundraiser.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if Trump has apologized for his coup attempt, the event that prompted Levine’s “permanent” break. To the contrary, he has elevated its participants to political martyrdom and promised to free them from prison while continuing to insist any election he loses is by definition illegitimate.

The hatred for Biden from the far left sits in stark contrast to the adoration Trump receives from antisemites. His appearance on the scene opened the door for white nationalists and other antisemites to take a role in the Republican coalition, which had previously, mostly, shut them out. His gestures to the Nazi and Nazi-adjacent right are intermittent yet disturbing (hosting Nick Fuentes and Kanye West for dinner, insisting there were fine people on both sides of the Charlottesville march, etc.), but the devotion of the white nationalists to Trump is total. His promise to pardon the insurrectionists will have a galvanizing effect on the radical right.

Allowing roving paramilitary bands to feel empowered by the state to commit political violence with impunity is not a policy that historically favors the Jews. Levine writes, “The question becomes, as between [Trump and Biden], who will leave a better, safer, and more prosperous America? Hands down, the answer is Trump.”

Only one of those candidates is willing to accept the absolute minimal conditions of a functioning democracy — that the loser abide by the result and the winner be bound by the law while in office. The other candidate is willing to let Levine pass on a much larger fortune to his heirs tax free.

Republican Billionaires No Longer Upset About Insurrection