Shiv Roy Not Like Rest Of Family
Kathryn Murdoch wants to save American democracy. Good on her.
The New York Times published a flattering profile of Murdoch — complete with a book-jacket suitable photo. She’s a sensible centrist who’s frustrated with how partisan politics make constructive policy achievements all but impossible in Washington DC.
A gridlocked Congress made bipartisan policy wins close to impossible. Campaign-finance reform? The Supreme Court effectively put a stake in it in 2010. Climate legislation? Time and again, it hit a phalanx of Republican opposition.
“Basically, everything that we were looking at would run up against a nonfunctioning government,” said Kathryn Murdoch, who has become a leader of a network of donors seeking to change the way Americans choose their elected officials.
Yeah, that’s a shame.
So, the M. Night Shyamalan twist here is that Kathryn Murdoch is the daughter-in-law of Rupert Murdoch, who the Times refers to as "the Australian media mogul.” That’s a rather benign description for the man who started the countdown to American democracy’s destruction when he launched the Fox News network in 1996.
The Kathryn Murdoch profile begins with the line "Over the last decade, as America’s two dominant political parties pulled farther apart ... ,” yet the Times doesn’t make the simple observation that Fox News radicalized an entire generation with toxic rightwing propaganda.
The Times insists that "Kathryn Murdoch has often found herself at odds with the conservative politics of her family’s TV, print and radio empire.” Yeah, she sounds like Michael Corleone at the start of The Godfather. She probably shares terrifying stories about Laura Ingraham and reassures the listener, “That’s my family ... not me.”
Murdoch, a registered independent who supported President Joe Biden in 2020, reportedly spent “years funding efforts to slow climate change, only to encounter political obstacles at nearly every turn.” Some of those obstacles were clearly her father-in-law’s media empire. Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal, which has published op-eds from climate change deniers, who the Times later hired.
Fox News has served as a fountain of disinformation about the climate crisis. "The Five” bashed Joe Biden and other Democrats for even mentioning climate change when discussing the tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky last December. Unseasonably warm moist air was the culprit, but Fox News wouldn’t hear of it.
Kathryn Murdoch has apparently moved on from the climate crisis to another serious issue that Fox News only makes worse.
Her new focus is building a movement to reshape American democracy itself, and she has set a goal of mobilizing $100 million to do so over the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.
This focus has meant pitching her fellow philanthropists on why they should donate to democracy groups rather than to their own causes.
It occurs to Murdoch that "the chief villain” in our collective drama is the partisan primary. She believes primaries help elect extremists such as GOP sedition caucus member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and forces poor little moderates like GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski into the role of rightwing flunky. Of course, political primaries have existed for quite a while. The Republican party truly started rotting like bananas after 1996. Now, what happened that year?
“What I hear all the time is that there are people who want to work on legislation, but they can’t before their primary, because they are terrified — and particularly if there’s an extreme Trumpy candidate or something like that,” Murdoch said. “They’re terrified of being seen as bipartisan. And that’s absolutely the wrong thing for the American people.”
You’ll notice that she can’t come out and say that Republicans are the ones beholden to partisan obstruction, a tactic Senator Mitch McConnell perfected well before Donald Trump ran for president. That was a big driver in the Tea Party “revolution” that Fox News helped build.
Democrats aren’t afraid of being bipartisan. They often beg Republicans to support certain policies — and not just items from a progressive wish list. Republicans don’t care about what the public wants. They only want to create chaos and blame Democrats for the fallout.
Kathryn Murdoch currently puts her considerable resources behind Unite America, "collection of groups that backs organizations, campaigns and candidates that support her reform goals.” She’s big on ranked choice voting, which we also like even if it gave us New York City Mayor Eric Adams. She’d also like to move toward more nonpartisan primaries.
It’s unclear how these reasonable solutions would keep more radicals like Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn out of Congress. They’re the product of a rightwing media ecosystem that breeds fear and rage, and made the Murdoch family very wealthy. Fox News remains the true threat to American democracy, and Kathryn Murdoch rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic won’t stop this ship from sinking.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."