Politics & Policy

Conquest of the Oligarchs

The Left loses its marbles as the post-McCutcheon Gilded Age begins.

Just when it seemed Senator Harry Reid (D., Nev.) might run out of material about the Koch brothers for his rants, along came McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that lifted some limits on campaign contributions — and gave Democrats even more ammunition to inveigh against the American “oligarchy.”

From left-wing commentators to members of Congress to Democratic candidates, here are some of the best outbursts:

1. Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to warn that “we have got to be very, very careful that we do not allow this great country where people fought and died to protect American democracy become a plutocracy or oligarchy.”

What the heck is an oligarch anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary defines an oligarch as “one of a few holding power in a state,” while Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary says oligarchy is “a form of government which places the supreme power in a small group; an aristocracy.” Random House Dictionary calls oligarchy “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.”

According to Google Ngram, the rate of appearances of the term “oligarch” reached its lowest point since the 1850s in 1996, but it’s been shooting up since then, probably on the strength of many stories about “Russian oligarchs.” By 2008, the rate of “oligarch” mentions had nearly tripled from the rate during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency.

— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.

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