Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire daughter of Robert Mercer—who has been dubbed the “reclusive hedge-fund tycoon behind the Trump presidency”—came out of hiding on Wednesday night with a rare op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The Mercers, who have famously bankrolled ventures like Breitbart, are notorious for rarely giving statements to the press. That’s what makes the WSJ op-ed particularly interesting. Headlined “Forget the Media Caricature. Here’s What I Believe,” it’s a clear attempt by Rebekah Mercer to reform her image by supposedly being candid about her views.
“I support a United States that welcomes immigrants and refugees to apply for entry and ultimately citizenship. I reject as venomous and ignorant any discrimination based on race, gender, creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” Mercer writes. She also goes on to defend her involvement in Breitbart, saying, “I believe it adds an important journalistic voice to the American conversation. Stephen Bannon, its former chairman, took Breitbart in the wrong direction. Now that Mr. Bannon has resigned, Breitbart has the opportunity to refine its message and expand its influence.”
In what are clear overtures to humanize herself, Mercer asserts that she wants to create a “kind and generous” country and emphasizes that she is a “first and foremost, a mother.”
All of this, of course, is bullshit. If one wants to shine light on what the Mercers “believe” one only needs to look at where their money goes, not what they write in the Wall Street Journal. The Mercers have backed a president who is terrorizing immigrants and transgender people on a daily basis. They funded the rise of Breitbart, which was pumping despicable views into the American media ecosystem when its founder, Andrew Breitbart, was still alive, long before Steve Bannon turned it into a mouthpiece of the far-right. Oh, and they also bankrolled Steve Bannon.
But there is one line in Mercer’s op-ed that is telling. In regards to her strategy, Mercer writes: “I support ideas and policies, not individual politicians as people.”
This is exactly what makes donors like the Mercers and the Kochs successful—and dangerous. They invest in long-term ideas that push politicians and the country towards their extreme vision of society. That means they funnel money not only into getting Republicans elected, but also into the institutions—universities, think tanks, media—that will shift the political landscape towards their ideological goals. As Jane Mayer wrote in her investigation of the Mercers, “Adopting the strategy of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire libertarians, [Robert] Mercer enlarged his impact exponentially by combining short-term campaign spending with long-term ideological investments.” This includes organizations like Breitbart as well as more traditional policy infrastructure. According to The Washington Post, the Mercer family foundation, run by Rebekah Mercer, “put $35 million into right-wing think tanks and policy groups between 2009 and 2014.”
It’s almost beside the point that we don’t know exactly what the Mercers want. The essentials of their political ideology—dismantling the social safety net and “big government”—are all there. As David Magerman, a former colleague of Robert Mercer’s, told Mayer, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Another former high-level employee said that “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”
Supporting ideas and policies, not individual politicians, is a lesson that Democrats could learn a lot from. The difference is that ideas on the left would drastically reshape society for the better, rather than for the wealthy few. That latter goal is, of course, what Rebekah Mercer and her family want, despite what she might say.