Historian Nancy MacLean: We’re under attack “by a right-wing machine”

By Chauncey DeVega, salon.com 10.10.2017

Nancy MacLean on her hot book “Democracy in Chains” and the evil genius of the Koch brothers’ donor network https://www.salon.com/2017/10/10/historian-nancy-maclean-were-under-attack-by-a-right-wing-machine/

Excerpt

American democracy is in crisis. Across almost every issue, from the environment to the economy to gun control, the policies advocated by Donald Trump and the Republican Party are widely unpopular with the American people.

Yet Republicans now enjoy a near-monopoly on political power, with control of the White House, both houses of Congress and a large majority of state legislatures and governorships. How did this happen?

One part of the answer is that Republican voters are very obedient. Today’s version of conservatism functions almost as a religion, offering simple solutions to complex problems. There is a right-wing media machine that is without peer in its ability to distort reality by disseminating lies and disinformation. The Republican Party has used gerrymandering, voter suppression, and — now, apparently — aid from a hostile foreign country to manipulate the outcome of elections. By comparison, the Democratic Party in particular, and liberals and progressives more generally, possess no such competitive advantages.

There is another explanation as to why the Republican Party and movement conservatives have been able to sustain and expand their power. An extremely well-funded and highly organized network of right-wing interest groups, financiers, think tanks, lobbyists, media personalities, journalists, educators, activists, public relations firms and politicians has been working for decades to undermine American democracy.

What does this network look like? Who are the personalities and groups involved in this plan? In what ways has this extreme right-wing ideology influenced the Republican Party and Trump’s administration? What are the origins of this political and intellectual tradition? How have Charles and David Koch, and other leaders on the radical right, twisted the country’s laws and regulations to their advantage while hurting the American people? What can be done to stop this onslaught?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Nancy MacLean. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. Last year she published the explosive and controversial book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” which is now a nominee for the National Book Award. It has come under sustained criticism from libertarian academics and intellectuals, many of them funded by the right-wing network MacLean discusses in the book.

A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, which is available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.

As a historian who has studied the philosophy and origins of the radical right in today’s America, how do you explain Donald Trump’s election?

There are many elements to his victory. One very important element is how Trump was the only Republican front-runner in the primaries who appeared to not be carrying the Koch brothers’ agenda. Every other front-runner had signed off on the Koch demands, in terms of radical changes to Social Security and Medicare. Trump, in contrast to the other Republican candidates, said that he would defend Social Security. He called the other front-runners puppets of the Kochs and said he didn’t need the money of these donors. Trump seemed like the only way for the Republican voters who would never vote for a Democrat. He was the only way they could vote for the Republican Party and not swallow the Koch agenda.

And of course, obviously the racism and so much of the ugliness that we’re seeing now were there before. It’s not like it came out of thin air. But Trump is channeling that behavior in ways that we have not seen before from a mainstream politician in recent history.

 You have also studied and written extensively about white supremacy in America. How does the color line factor into Trump’s election?

I would take it back to Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. There’s no way that Barry Goldwater gets to be the candidate without the architects of that campaign making a conscious pivot to the white segregationist South to get voters who were enraged by the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. There were bitter fights between moderate and liberal Republicans on the Republican National Committee and these newcomers from the South who were really, really aggressively racist and pro-states’ rights. So the idea that Trump is bringing something fundamentally new to the Republican Party is, I think, at the very least an overstatement and really misleading in some other ways.

Who are some of the key figures in the story about how the Koch brothers and other elements of the radical right are working to undermine American democracy?

Some people that we know from earlier political history appear in a new light in my story, through their connection to this history.

For example, [former House Majority Leader] Dick Armey — of the so-called Republican revolution — is a crucial player in the Koch brothers’ assault on American democracy. Phil Gramm [a former Texas senator] as well. He is an economist from Texas who ended up in the Senate and first betrayed his Democratic colleagues by assisting Ronald Reagan, then changed parties and became a loyalist of the radical right’s effort to change the country. It is worth pointing out it was Gramm who helped push through financial deregulation, which would prove to be disastrous later on.

Grover Norquist would certainly be one of these individuals as well. Then there are people who are more connected to the academic and the intellectual wing of the extreme right-wing libertarian effort to subvert American democracy.

Tyler Cowen of George Mason University is one. Charles Koch has been directing an academic operation at George Mason called the Mercatus Center. And then there are all the people who come out of the Koch operations who are staffing up the Trump administration. The key senior figures include Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney and Betsy DeVos. I would say it’s almost impossible to overstate how much the Kochs have gotten from this Trump administration and expect to get in the future.

What is the radical right’s vision for America?  

The Koch network and their allies claim they want “liberty.” They actually call themselves “the liberty movement” or sometimes “the freedom movement,” and speak in this very anodyne language about how they want to have limited government and freedom and lower taxes. For older white conservatives this language is very appealing. But what really bothered me in writing “Democracy in Chains” is that they’re not being honest. As libertarians they believe that there are only three functions for a legitimate government: To provide for the national defense, to ensure the rule of law and to maintain social order. Other than that, everything is illegitimate because other functions of government depend on taxing people — and particularly better-off people, in a system with progressive taxation. For this type of libertarian thinking, taxing people to provide for programs, services and resources with which they may not agree is illegitimate coercion and therefore must stop.

In this Koch-donor dream, we are all responsible for ourselves from the cradle to the grave, unless there is a charity that happens to take an interest in us. We do not have federal laws to outlaw pollution or to prevent discrimination. Instead we trust everything to the free market and private property. This cause has pitted itself against the whole American model of 20th-century government. Regulation of food and drugs, the New Deal’s federal support for workers to organize and hold corporations accountable, the civil rights movement, the women’s and the environmental movements, all of these things are illegitimate in the eyes of these people on the right.

In the present, this takes the form of the extreme gangster capitalism that the Republican Party advocates for and is literally embodied by Donald Trump.

One of the key thinkers in this type of extreme right-wing thought is the economist James Buchanan. I detail in my book how he preached, from the late 1960s forward, that it was time to stop focusing on who rules and start to focus laser-like on the rules. So he said, in a sense, that it doesn’t really matter who is elected, right? The question is, “What are the rules that are going to constrain their behavior?”

This is something that the Koch donor network is applying with a vengeance. They did not care who among those empty suits was going to be the Republican candidate in 2016, as long as they followed the Koch agenda.

They’re so much smarter than liberals and progressives in that way. The Koch brothers and their allies are thinking in really strategic ways about how to rig the game so it benefits capital and corporations and it restricts the rights and powers of labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists, women and retirees.

The radical right-wing movement has to operate in this stealth manner because they fully understand that they are a permanent minority who will never persuade a majority. I don’t think that these Koch-type libertarian thinkers could ever get above 10 percent of the American people to agree to their ideas, if the public actually knew what they were really advocating and working towards.

This also speaks to how many Americans confuse democracy with capitalism, as if they were one and the same thing. In reality, unregulated capitalism results in extreme wealth and income inequality, which in turn undermines democracy.

Actually, I think that more people are increasingly aware how America is an oligarchy where capitalism is swallowing up our democratic institutions. Bernie Sanders and his surprising success point to the fact that the American people no longer see a direct link between capitalism and democracy.

Conservatives, especially right-wing libertarians, have been enraged by your book. 

Well, I clearly have agitated some libertarians on the right, many of whom are affiliated with the organizations about which I’ve written in the book. They have made various charges against “Democracy in Chains,” most of which have been refuted by people who’ve actually read it.

These critics don’t read very closely. Most of them are either economists by training or legal scholars or just libertarian journalists. They do not seem to understand what historians actually do, which is close reading of documents and interpreting them in context with what we know about the author.

What is really impressive to me is the number of historians in particular who have taken on these allegations and refuted them brilliantly point by point. I do not know those people. But what’s been interesting to see is that those refutations make absolutely no difference to the people living the charges.

Ultimately, I think the attack on my work is also part of a larger effort to undermine the legitimacy of higher education more generally, and scholarly research in particular, that might disapprove or stand against the policies and ideas advocated for by the radical right wing. I do not think it’s coincidental that these critics are getting so frenzied at a time when the Koch donor network is expanding the number of implants it has around in schools around the country.

To them, it seems like you have violated the tenets of their political religion.

They’ve certainly never had an outsider research and write about their movement. So what I have done, in effect, is create a mirror to this cause and its history, and I believe these critics are looking at that mirror and they don’t like what they’re seeing. It’s deeply disturbing to them. Emotion is a huge part of what is driving the response.

The right wing’s effort to subvert democracy by rigging the system and working against the common good and the American people is so well-funded and expansive, as you have documented. I can imagine readers of “Democracy in Chains” feeling powerless when they finish it. What has the reaction by readers been like so far?

What you’re describing was part of my fear as I was writing the book because, frankly, I too was getting nauseated by what I discovered. As I started to put some of these pieces together and see how big and well-funded it was, yes, I did fear that reaction.

I am really gratified by the people who are writing to me about my book. It is amazing. What they’re feeling empowered by, and what they’re saying to me, is that they felt like they knew something was going really wrong in the country. That there were all these different ways in which things had gone haywire — the phrase they keep using is that my book is connecting the dots for them in a way, and in helping them to see, to understand. Almost like an X-ray.

What are some concrete things that the American people can do to resist the Koch brothers, as well as the radical right more generally?

Rebuild civil society. Protect our existing organizations such as labor unions, public teachers unions and other groups that defend American democracy. Stand up for civil rights groups. Fight voter suppression.

It is also important to get out of the silos that we’ve been in for a long time. For example, it is crucial for the AARP to understand that they need to care about what’s happening to African-Americans, whether it’s voter suppression or police brutality.

It’s crucial for environmentalists to understand that these attacks on Planned Parenthood are also an attack on the model of government on which environmentalists depend. We’re finally in a position where the connections between all these progressive causes are becoming clear — and they’re becoming clear because we’re all being attacked by a right-wing machine that wants to destroy everything.

Full text 

Historian Nancy MacLean: We’re under attack “by a right-wing machine” by Chauncey DeVega, .salon.com 10.10.2017 https://www.salon.com/2017/10/10/historian-nancy-maclean-were-under-attack-by-a-right-wing-machine/

Nancy MacLean on her hot book “Democracy in Chains” and the evil genius of the Koch brothers’ donor network – American democracy is in crisis. Across almost every issue, from the environment to the economy to gun control, the policies advocated by Donald Trump and the Republican Party are widely unpopular with the American people. Yet Republicans now enjoy a near-monopoly on political power, with control of the White House, both houses of Congress and a large majority of state legislatures and governorships. How did this happen? One part of the answer is that Republican voters are very obedient. Today’s version of conservatism functions almost as a religion, offering simple solutions to complex problems. There is a right-wing media machine that is without peer in its ability to distort reality by disseminating lies and disinformation. The Republican Party has used gerrymandering, voter suppression, and — now, apparently — aid from a hostile foreign country to manipulate the outcome of elections. By comparison, the Democratic Party in particular, and liberals and progressives more generally, possess no such competitive advantages. There is another explanation as to why the Republican Party and movement conservatives have been able to sustain and expand their power. An extremely well-funded and highly organized network of right-wing interest groups, financiers, think tanks, lobbyists, media personalities, journalists, educators, activists, public relations firms and politicians has been working for decades to undermine American democracy. What does this network look like? In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Nancy MacLean. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. Last year she published the explosive and controversial book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” which is now a nominee for the National Book Award. It has come under sustained criticism from libertarian academics and intellectuals, many of them funded by the right-wing network MacLean discusses in the book. Q – As a historian who has studied the philosophy and origins of the radical right in today’s America, how do you explain Donald Trump’s election?Trump seemed like the only way for the Republican voters who would never vote for a Democrat. He was the only way they could vote for the Republican Party and not swallow the Koch agenda. A – And of course, obviously the racism and so much of the ugliness that we’re seeing now were there before. It’s not like it came out of thin air. But Trump is channeling that behavior in ways that we have not seen before from a mainstream politician in recent historyit’s almost impossible to overstate how much the Kochs have gotten from this Trump administration and expect to get in the future.  Q -What is the radical right’s vision for America?  A – The Koch network and their allies claim they want “liberty… and speak in this very anodyne language about how they want to have limited government and freedom and lower taxes. For older white conservatives this language is very appealing. But what really bothered me in writing “Democracy in Chains” is that they’re not being honest. As libertarians they believe that there are only three functions for a legitimate government: To provide for the national defense, to ensure the rule of law and to maintain social order. Other than that, everything is illegitimate because other functions of government depend on taxing people — and particularly better-off people, in a system with progressive taxation. For this type of libertarian thinking, taxing people to provide for programs, services and resources with which they may not agree is illegitimate coercion and therefore must stop.

In this Koch-donor dream, we are all responsible for ourselves from the cradle to the grave, unless there is a charity that happens to take an interest in us. We do not have federal laws to outlaw pollution or to prevent discrimination. Instead we trust everything to the free market and private property. This cause has pitted itself against the whole American model of 20th-century government. Regulation of food and drugs, the New Deal’s federal support for workers to organize and hold corporations accountable, the civil rights movement, the women’s and the environmental movements, all of these things are illegitimate in the eyes of these people on the right.

In the present, this takes the form of the extreme gangster capitalism that the Republican Party advocates for and is literally embodied by Donald Trump.

One of the key thinkers in this type of extreme right-wing thought is the economist James Buchanan. I detail in my book how he preached, from the late 1960s forward, that it was time to stop focusing on who rules and start to focus laser-like on the rules. So he said, in a sense, that it doesn’t really matter who is elected, right? The question is, “What are the rules that are going to constrain their behavior?”

This is something that the Koch donor network is applying with a vengeance. They did not care who among those empty suits was going to be the Republican candidate in 2016, as long as they followed the Koch agenda.

They’re so much smarter than liberals and progressives in that way. The Koch brothers and their allies are thinking in really strategic ways about how to rig the game so it benefits capital and corporations and it restricts the rights and powers of labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists, women and retirees.

The radical right-wing movement has to operate in this stealth manner because they fully understand that they are a permanent minority who will never persuade a majority. I don’t think that these Koch-type libertarian thinkers could ever get above 10 percent of the American people to agree to their ideas, if the public actually knew what they were really advocating and working towards.

This also speaks to how many Americans confuse democracy with capitalism, as if they were one and the same thing. In reality, unregulated capitalism results in extreme wealth and income inequality, which in turn undermines democracy.

Actually, I think that more people are increasingly aware how America is an oligarchy where capitalism is swallowing up our democratic institutions. Bernie Sanders and his surprising success point to the fact that the American people no longer see a direct link between capitalism and democracy.

Conservatives, especially right-wing libertarians, have been enraged by your book. 

Well, I clearly have agitated some libertarians on the right, many of whom are affiliated with the organizations about which I’ve written in the book. They have made various charges against “Democracy in Chains,” most of which have been refuted by people who’ve actually read it.

These critics don’t read very closely. Most of them are either economists by training or legal scholars or just libertarian journalists. They do not seem to understand what historians actually do, which is close reading of documents and interpreting them in context with what we know about the author.

What is really impressive to me is the number of historians in particular who have taken on these allegations and refuted them brilliantly point by point. I do not know those people. But what’s been interesting to see is that those refutations make absolutely no difference to the people living the charges.

Ultimately, I think the attack on my work is also part of a larger effort to undermine the legitimacy of higher education more generally, and scholarly research in particular, that might disapprove or stand against the policies and ideas advocated for by the radical right wing. I do not think it’s coincidental that these critics are getting so frenzied at a time when the Koch donor network is expanding the number of implants it has around in schools around the country.

To them, it seems like you have violated the tenets of their political religion.

They’ve certainly never had an outsider research and write about their movement. So what I have done, in effect, is create a mirror to this cause and its history, and I believe these critics are looking at that mirror and they don’t like what they’re seeing. It’s deeply disturbing to them. Emotion is a huge part of what is driving the response.

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The right wing’s effort to subvert democracy by rigging the system and working against the common good and the American people is so well-funded and expansive, as you have documented. I can imagine readers of “Democracy in Chains” feeling powerless when they finish it. What has the reaction by readers been like so far?

What you’re describing was part of my fear as I was writing the book because, frankly, I too was getting nauseated by what I discovered. As I started to put some of these pieces together and see how big and well-funded it was, yes, I did fear that reaction.

I am really gratified by the people who are writing to me about my book. It is amazing. What they’re feeling empowered by, and what they’re saying to me, is that they felt like they knew something was going really wrong in the country. That there were all these different ways in which things had gone haywire — the phrase they keep using is that my book is connecting the dots for them in a way, and in helping them to see, to understand. Almost like an X-ray.

What are some concrete things that the American people can do to resist the Koch brothers, as well as the radical right more generally?

Rebuild civil society. Protect our existing organizations such as labor unions, public teachers unions and other groups that defend American democracy. Stand up for civil rights groups. Fight voter suppression.

It is also important to get out of the silos that we’ve been in for a long time. For example, it is crucial for the AARP to understand that they need to care about what’s happening to African-Americans, whether it’s voter suppression or police brutality.

It’s crucial for environmentalists to understand that these attacks on Planned Parenthood are also an attack on the model of government on which environmentalists depend. We’re finally in a position where the connections between all these progressive causes are becoming clear — and they’re becoming clear because we’re all being attacked by a right-wing machine that wants to destroy everything.

 

American democracy is in crisis. Across almost every issue, from the environment to the economy to gun control, the policies advocated by Donald Trump and the Republican Party are widely unpopular with the American people.

Yet Republicans now enjoy a near-monopoly on political power, with control of the White House, both houses of Congress and a large majority of state legislatures and governorships. How did this happen?

One part of the answer is that Republican voters are very obedient. Today’s version of conservatism functions almost as a religion, offering simple solutions to complex problems. There is a right-wing media machine that is without peer in its ability to distort reality by disseminating lies and disinformation. The Republican Party has used gerrymandering, voter suppression, and — now, apparently — aid from a hostile foreign country to manipulate the outcome of elections. By comparison, the Democratic Party in particular, and liberals and progressives more generally, possess no such competitive advantages.

There is another explanation as to why the Republican Party and movement conservatives have been able to sustain and expand their power. An extremely well-funded and highly organized network of right-wing interest groups, financiers, think tanks, lobbyists, media personalities, journalists, educators, activists, public relations firms and politicians has been working for decades to undermine American democracy.

What does this network look like? Who are the personalities and groups involved in this plan? In what ways has this extreme right-wing ideology influenced the Republican Party and Trump’s administration? What are the origins of this political and intellectual tradition? How have Charles and David Koch, and other leaders on the radical right, twisted the country’s laws and regulations to their advantage while hurting the American people? What can be done to stop this onslaught?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Nancy MacLean. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. Last year she published the explosive and controversial book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” which is now a nominee for the National Book Award. It has come under sustained criticism from libertarian academics and intellectuals, many of them funded by the right-wing network MacLean discusses in the book.

A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, which is available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.

As a historian who has studied the philosophy and origins of the radical right in today’s America, how do you explain Donald Trump’s election?

There are many elements to his victory. One very important element is how Trump was the only Republican front-runner in the primaries who appeared to not be carrying the Koch brothers’ agenda. Every other front-runner had signed off on the Koch demands, in terms of radical changes to Social Security and Medicare. Trump, in contrast to the other Republican candidates, said that he would defend Social Security. He called the other front-runners puppets of the Kochs and said he didn’t need the money of these donors. Trump seemed like the only way for the Republican voters who would never vote for a Democrat. He was the only way they could vote for the Republican Party and not swallow the Koch agenda.

And of course, obviously the racism and so much of the ugliness that we’re seeing now were there before. It’s not like it came out of thin air. But Trump is channeling that behavior in ways that we have not seen before from a mainstream politician in recent history.

 You have also studied and written extensively about white supremacy in America. How does the color line factor into Trump’s election?

I would take it back to Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. There’s no way that Barry Goldwater gets to be the candidate without the architects of that campaign making a conscious pivot to the white segregationist South to get voters who were enraged by the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. There were bitter fights between moderate and liberal Republicans on the Republican National Committee and these newcomers from the South who were really, really aggressively racist and pro-states’ rights. So the idea that Trump is bringing something fundamentally new to the Republican Party is, I think, at the very least an overstatement and really misleading in some other ways.

Who are some of the key figures in the story about how the Koch brothers and other elements of the radical right are working to undermine American democracy?

Some people that we know from earlier political history appear in a new light in my story, through their connection to this history.

For example, [former House Majority Leader] Dick Armey — of the so-called Republican revolution — is a crucial player in the Koch brothers’ assault on American democracy. Phil Gramm [a former Texas senator] as well. He is an economist from Texas who ended up in the Senate and first betrayed his Democratic colleagues by assisting Ronald Reagan, then changed parties and became a loyalist of the radical right’s effort to change the country. It is worth pointing out it was Gramm who helped push through financial deregulation, which would prove to be disastrous later on.

Grover Norquist would certainly be one of these individuals as well. Then there are people who are more connected to the academic and the intellectual wing of the extreme right-wing libertarian effort to subvert American democracy.

Tyler Cowen of George Mason University is one. Charles Koch has been directing an academic operation at George Mason called the Mercatus Center. And then there are all the people who come out of the Koch operations who are staffing up the Trump administration. The key senior figures include Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney and Betsy DeVos. I would say it’s almost impossible to overstate how much the Kochs have gotten from this Trump administration and expect to get in the future.

What is the radical right’s vision for America?  

The Koch network and their allies claim they want “liberty.” They actually call themselves “the liberty movement” or sometimes “the freedom movement,” and speak in this very anodyne language about how they want to have limited government and freedom and lower taxes. For older white conservatives this language is very appealing. But what really bothered me in writing “Democracy in Chains” is that they’re not being honest. As libertarians they believe that there are only three functions for a legitimate government: To provide for the national defense, to ensure the rule of law and to maintain social order. Other than that, everything is illegitimate because other functions of government depend on taxing people — and particularly better-off people, in a system with progressive taxation. For this type of libertarian thinking, taxing people to provide for programs, services and resources with which they may not agree is illegitimate coercion and therefore must stop.

In this Koch-donor dream, we are all responsible for ourselves from the cradle to the grave, unless there is a charity that happens to take an interest in us. We do not have federal laws to outlaw pollution or to prevent discrimination. Instead we trust everything to the free market and private property. This cause has pitted itself against the whole American model of 20th-century government. Regulation of food and drugs, the New Deal’s federal support for workers to organize and hold corporations accountable, the civil rights movement, the women’s and the environmental movements, all of these things are illegitimate in the eyes of these people on the right.

In the present, this takes the form of the extreme gangster capitalism that the Republican Party advocates for and is literally embodied by Donald Trump.

One of the key thinkers in this type of extreme right-wing thought is the economist James Buchanan. I detail in my book how he preached, from the late 1960s forward, that it was time to stop focusing on who rules and start to focus laser-like on the rules. So he said, in a sense, that it doesn’t really matter who is elected, right? The question is, “What are the rules that are going to constrain their behavior?”

This is something that the Koch donor network is applying with a vengeance. They did not care who among those empty suits was going to be the Republican candidate in 2016, as long as they followed the Koch agenda.

They’re so much smarter than liberals and progressives in that way. The Koch brothers and their allies are thinking in really strategic ways about how to rig the game so it benefits capital and corporations and it restricts the rights and powers of labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists, women and retirees.

The radical right-wing movement has to operate in this stealth manner because they fully understand that they are a permanent minority who will never persuade a majority. I don’t think that these Koch-type libertarian thinkers could ever get above 10 percent of the American people to agree to their ideas, if the public actually knew what they were really advocating and working towards.

This also speaks to how many Americans confuse democracy with capitalism, as if they were one and the same thing. In reality, unregulated capitalism results in extreme wealth and income inequality, which in turn undermines democracy.

Actually, I think that more people are increasingly aware how America is an oligarchy where capitalism is swallowing up our democratic institutions. Bernie Sanders and his surprising success point to the fact that the American people no longer see a direct link between capitalism and democracy.

Conservatives, especially right-wing libertarians, have been enraged by your book. 

Well, I clearly have agitated some libertarians on the right, many of whom are affiliated with the organizations about which I’ve written in the book. They have made various charges against “Democracy in Chains,” most of which have been refuted by people who’ve actually read it.

These critics don’t read very closely. Most of them are either economists by training or legal scholars or just libertarian journalists. They do not seem to understand what historians actually do, which is close reading of documents and interpreting them in context with what we know about the author.

What is really impressive to me is the number of historians in particular who have taken on these allegations and refuted them brilliantly point by point. I do not know those people. But what’s been interesting to see is that those refutations make absolutely no difference to the people living the charges.

Ultimately, I think the attack on my work is also part of a larger effort to undermine the legitimacy of higher education more generally, and scholarly research in particular, that might disapprove or stand against the policies and ideas advocated for by the radical right wing. I do not think it’s coincidental that these critics are getting so frenzied at a time when the Koch donor network is expanding the number of implants it has around in schools around the country.

To them, it seems like you have violated the tenets of their political religion.

They’ve certainly never had an outsider research and write about their movement. So what I have done, in effect, is create a mirror to this cause and its history, and I believe these critics are looking at that mirror and they don’t like what they’re seeing. It’s deeply disturbing to them. Emotion is a huge part of what is driving the response.

Report Ad

The right wing’s effort to subvert democracy by rigging the system and working against the common good and the American people is so well-funded and expansive, as you have documented. I can imagine readers of “Democracy in Chains” feeling powerless when they finish it. What has the reaction by readers been like so far?

What you’re describing was part of my fear as I was writing the book because, frankly, I too was getting nauseated by what I discovered. As I started to put some of these pieces together and see how big and well-funded it was, yes, I did fear that reaction.

I am really gratified by the people who are writing to me about my book. It is amazing. What they’re feeling empowered by, and what they’re saying to me, is that they felt like they knew something was going really wrong in the country. That there were all these different ways in which things had gone haywire — the phrase they keep using is that my book is connecting the dots for them in a way, and in helping them to see, to understand. Almost like an X-ray.

What are some concrete things that the American people can do to resist the Koch brothers, as well as the radical right more generally?

Rebuild civil society. Protect our existing organizations such as labor unions, public teachers unions and other groups that defend American democracy. Stand up for civil rights groups. Fight voter suppression.

It is also important to get out of the silos that we’ve been in for a long time. For example, it is crucial for the AARP to understand that they need to care about what’s happening to African-Americans, whether it’s voter suppression or police brutality.

It’s crucial for environmentalists to understand that these attacks on Planned Parenthood are also an attack on the model of government on which environmentalists depend. We’re finally in a position where the connections between all these progressive causes are becoming clear — and they’re becoming clear because we’re all being attacked by a right-wing machine that wants to destroy everything.

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option”

By Robert Parry, Consortium News posted on truth-out.org, October 9, 2013

The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires who provoked the government shutdown and now are angling for an even more devastating credit default see themselves as the people who deserve to rule the United States without interference from lesser citizens, especially those with darker-colored skin.

Their “masters of the universe” world view is that they or their daddies or their daddies’ daddies were the ones who “built America” and, thus, it’s their right to tear down the remarkable edifice of U.S. law, politics and economics created over the past two-plus centuries — if the country’s less-deserving inhabitants insist on raising taxes on the rich to fund programs benefiting the poor and the middle class.

That is what we’re watching now, what might be called the Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option,” pulling down the temple to destroy their enemies even if doing so is also destructive to them and their fortunes.

Charles and David Koch and other right-wing billionaires and near-billionaires are blind with anger after wasting millions of dollars on Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and the Republican Party in a failed attempt to defeat Barack Obama, the Democrats and health-care reform. These were the guys who smirked knowingly when Romney sneered at “the 47 percent” of Americans who receive some government help; they got snappish when Obama called them “fat cats”; they demanded the honorific title of “job creators.”

Then, they had to sit in their plush party rooms waiting to celebrate Romney’s victory only to be frustrated by a coalition of voters led by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites who are comfortable in a more diverse country.

Despite all the money and electoral tricks, the Koch Brothers and friends failed to block the reelection of the first African-American president; they watched the Democrats defy the odds and retain the Senate; and they barely managed to hold onto a slender Republican House “majority” through aggressive gerrymandering and other anti-democratic anomalies that overcame the GOP’s loss in the popular vote of about 1½ million ballots.

To make matters worse, these rich white guys had to listen to endless commentary about the coming demographic changes and the need for Republicans to improve their image with racial and ethnic minorities. Through a blinding rage, the Right’s billionaires plotted revenge.

Plotting Obama’s Downfall

Of course, many pragmatic rich folk understand how the extraordinary U.S. system – built by the sweat and ingenuity of countless “average Americans” and protected by the blood of heroic common citizens – has made their fortunes possible. These patriotic multi-millionaires cringe at the spectacle of a U.S. government shutdown and panic at the thought of defaulting on U.S. debt.

But the right-wing billionaires and their political front groups welcome the current chaos. Indeed, they began planning today’s fiscal crisis as soon as their stunning defeat of last November sank in. Rather than behave as a loyal opposition, the Right started plotting soon after Obama took the oath of office a second time, as the New York Times reported:

“Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

“Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed ‘blueprint to defunding Obamacare,’ signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. …

“To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. …

“Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”

The Right also has relied on its well-financed propaganda machine to obscure for millions of Americans what is actually underway in Washington. The curtain on that was lifted briefly on Sunday with the recognition that the Democrats agreed to the budget terms demanded by House Speaker John Boehner, who then double-crossed them.

On TV interview shows, Boehner conceded that he had struck a deal with the Democrats in which the Senate would accept the lower House budget figures, which included the so-called “sequester” cuts, in exchange for passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government going.

Reneging on a Deal

As the Times reported, “the speaker acknowledged that in July he had gone to the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid … and offered to have the House pass a clean financing resolution. [Boehner’s] proposal would have set spending levels $70 billion lower than Democrats wanted, but would have no contentious add-ons like changing the health-care law. Democrats accepted, but they say Mr. Boehner then reneged under pressure from Tea Party conservatives.”

So, Boehner had laid out terms for a deal that the Democrats disliked but agreed to accept, only to see Boehner pocket their major concession, tack on a host of new demands including stopping health-care reform, and then berating them with the “talking point” that it was the Democrats who wouldn’t negotiate.

There was also the point that House Republicans had refused for six months to appoint members of a conference committee to hammer out budget differences between the House and Senate.

If not for the powerful right-wing media which continues to repeat the “Democrats won’t negotiate” mantra, the American public would have no doubt who provoked the current crisis. But what’s even more significant is what this right-wing strategy means to the future of American democracy.

The position of the Koch Brothers and other right-wing plutocrats is that democracy itself is the problem. It’s bad enough that they have to listen to views that they disagree with; they certainly shouldn’t have to sit back and watch these lesser beings elect leaders and enact policies that involve raising taxes on the rich to provide benefits to other Americans.

While reflective of “free-market” extremism, this right-wing view also has a racial component, since the Right’s billionaires have relied on Tea Party foot soldiers to fight these political wars – and many of those white populist right-wingers are attracted by neo-Confederate ideology, i.e. the supposed “rights” of states to ignore federal mandates, especially those designed to help blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

“States’ rights” have had a long and grim history in the United States, touted from the early years of the Republic as necessary to defend slavery, then leading to the Civil War and to a near-century of Jim Crow racial segregation.

After the civil rights movement of the 1960s, opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, saw their chance to snatch the South by playing to white resentment against integration. So, they played up their commitment to “states’ rights” and were rewarded by switching the Deep South from the Democrats to the GOP.

Danger of Fair Elections

Today, however, the Right fears that the nation’s demographic changes could mean that fair elections would end frequently with the selection of candidates who favor stronger federal action to address problems confronting the nation and the world, from the economic risk posed by the concentration of wealth in the top one percent to the existential threat posed by global warming.

An energetic federal government is needed to address these challenges. If the Great American Middle Class is to survive, Congress will have to raise taxes on the rich and invest that money in national infrastructure, cutting-edge research, affordable education, expanded health care and other domestic programs. If global warming is to be slowed and eventually reversed, the federal government must move quickly to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions while revamping the U.S. energy system.

But the Right wants to prevent such government activism. So, it has developed strategies to give more weight to the votes of white Republicans and less weight to the votes of blacks, Hispanics and other groups that tend to go Democratic. That’s why organizations supported by the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires have backed Republican efforts to impose strict voter ID laws, reduce voting hours and aggressively gerrymander congressional districts to lump Democratic votes in one while ensuring solid Republican majorities in others.

The Right is implementing a strategy as old as the southern poll tax and literacy tests for blacks, i.e. the need to negate post-Civil War amendments that guaranteed equal rights under the law and the right to vote regardless of the color of a person’s skin.

Today’s right-wing strategy follows the thinking of urbane conservative William F. Buckley, who explained in 1957 – when Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders were agitating for enforcement of post-Civil War provisions – that “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”

Now the Buckley doctrine is being applied nationwide. But the problem for the Right is that even with all the voter suppression and shorter voting hours creating nightmarish lines especially in minority neighborhoods, the American people still reelected Barack Obama and favored Democrats over Republicans for Congress.

Thanks to gerrymandering and other anti-democratic moves, the Right still has a tenuous foothold through its control of the House and can count on the Senate GOP minority to filibuster nearly everything.

However, for the Right to have the power to implement policies of its choice, a new strategy was needed. It surfaced first in 2011 with the threat to default on the nation’s debt, which coerced President Obama into accepting severe cuts in federal spending, called the “sequester.”

Now, in 2013, the Republican Right has doubled down on that strategy, merging a government shutdown with an impending credit default in an effort to extort more concessions from Obama and the Democrats. But the larger goal is to create a new constitutional structure in which the Right, regardless of its minority status, gets to dictate what the federal government can and cannot do.

To make this strategy work, however, requires a readiness to play Samson and to pull down the temple on your enemies as well as yourself. That appears to be the extreme option that the Koch Brothers and their fellow right-wing billionaires have chosen. If they can’t rule America, they will reduce the country to economic rubble through a fiscal crisis and a premeditated financial collapse.

Then, perhaps out of the rubble, a chastened American people will emerge to accept their subordinate position in this new plutocratic structure. In the future, they will know better than to do something that the Koch Brothers and their right-wing friends don’t like.

All that stuff about a government of the people, by the people and for the people will finally have perished from the earth.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19331-the-koch-brothers-samson-option

The Billionaires Behind The Hate

RADICAL RIGHT – by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Lee Fang, and Alex Seitz-Wald, progress@americanprogressaction.org, December 8, 2009

Excerpt

Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama’s progressive agenda…are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. Over the years, millions of dollars in Koch money has flowed to various right-wing think tanks, front groups, and publications…In addition to its efforts to misinform the public, Koch Industries has spent nearly $9 million dollars so far on direct lobbying, much of it on climate change legislation…In their quest to block health care reform, Koch-funded groups have fostered extremism…part of their opposition stems from a long family tradition of funding conservative movements to shift the country to the far right. Fred Koch, father of Charles and David and the company’s namesake, helped to found the John Birch Society in the late 1950s. The John Birch Society harnessed Cold War fears into hate against progressives, warning that President Kennedy, Civil Rights activists, and organized labor were in league with communists. By presenting progressive reform as a capitulation to the Soviet Union, Fred Koch and the other industrialists bankrolling the Birch Society were able to galvanize hundreds of thousands of middle class people into supporting their narrow agenda of cutting corporate taxes and avoiding consumer regulations.

Full text

Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama’s progressive agenda. They have been looming in the background of every major domestic policy dispute this year. Ranked as the 9th richest men in America, the Koch brothers sit at the helm of Koch Industries, a massive privately owned conglomerate of manufacturing, oil, gas, and timber interests. They are best known for their wealth, as well as for their generous contributions to the arts, cancer research, and the Smithsonian Institute. But David and Charles are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. Over the years, millions of dollars in Koch money has flowed to various right-wing think tanks, front groups, and publications. At the dawn of the Obama presidency, Koch groups quickly maneuvered to try to stop his first piece of signature legislation: the stimulus. The Koch-funded group “No Stimulus” launched television and radio ads deriding the recovery package as simply “pork” spending. The Cato Institute — founded by Charles — as well as other Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, produced a blizzard of reports distorting the stimulus and calling for a return to Bush-style tax cuts to combat the recession. As their fronts were battling the stimulus, David’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent the opening months of the Obama presidency placing calls and helping to organize the very first “tea party” protests. AFP, founded in 1984 by David and managed day to day by the astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips, has spent much of the year mobilizing “tea party” opposition to health reform, clean energy legislation, and financial regulations.

 

 

STOPPING CLEAN ENERGY: David Koch presents himself as a champion of science. Next year, because of his donations, a wing of the Smithsonian will be named after him. Nevertheless, Koch has done more to undermine the public’s understanding of climate change science than any other person in America. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, funded in part by Koch foundations, has waged an underhanded campaign to falsely charge that a set of hacked e-mails somehow unravels the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring. Koch finances the “Hot Air” tour, a nationwide roadshow using a balloon to depict climate change science as “hot air.” Despite the brothers’ extravagant wealth, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has run populist ads mocking environmentalists as spoiled brats more concerned about their “three homes and five cars” than about economic conditions. In addition to its efforts to misinform the public, Koch Industries has spent nearly $9 million dollars so far on direct lobbying, much of it on climate change legislation. With a team of Koch-funded operatives going as far as attempting to crash the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this week, the brothers may succeed in scuttling any prospect for addressing climate change.

 

 

STOPPING HEALTH REFORM: Much of the fierce opposition to health reform can be credited to Koch organizations. As the health care debate began, AFP created a front group, known as “Patients United,” dedicated itself to attacking Democratic health care reform proposals. Patients United has blanketed the country with ads distorting various provisions of the health reform legislation, particularly the public option. Patients United even centered a media campaign around Shona Robertson-Holmes, claiming she had a brain tumor the Canadian system refused to treat. However, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Patients United has been exaggerating Holmes’ case, and that she in fact had a benign cyst. In their quest to block health care reform, Koch-funded groups have fostered extremism. A speaker with the roving Patients United bus tour repeatedly compared health reform to the Holocaust while an eight-by-five foot banner at an AFP health care rally with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) read, “National Socialist Health Care: Dachau, Germany” superimposed over corpses from a concentration camp. Although many were surprised at the level of anger AFP channeled into Democratic healthcare town halls in August, it wasn’t the first time Koch groups have helped to hijack the health reform debate. Back in 1994, Americans for Prosperity, then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy, worked closely with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to bring mobs of angry men to health reform rallies with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

A LONG HISTORY OF STOPPING PROGRESS: The Koch brothers clearly have a financial stake in blocking reform. Koch Industry oil refineries are major carbon dioxide polluters, and George-Pacific, a Koch Industries timber subsidiary, is one of the largest contributors to the loss of carbon-sink capacity. According to the EPA, Koch Industries is responsible for over 300 oil spills in the U.S. and has leaked three million gallons of crude oil into fisheries and drinking waters. So there are clear business-related reasons why Koch would want to block regulatory enforcement, clean energy, labor, and other reforms. But part of their opposition stems from a long family tradition of funding conservative movements to shift the country to the far right. Fred Koch, father of Charles and David and the company’s namesake, helped to found the John Birch Society in the late 1950s. The John Birch Society harnessed Cold War fears into hate against progressives, warning that President Kennedy, Civil Rights activists, and organized labor were in league with communists. By presenting progressive reform as a capitulation to the Soviet Union, Fred Koch and the other industrialists bankrolling the Birch Society were able to galvanize hundreds of thousands of middle class people into supporting their narrow agenda of cutting corporate taxes and avoiding consumer regulations.

 

Right wing operatives

The Massive Republican Campaign to Sabotage the Affordable Care Act by Bob Cesca, HuffingtonPost.com, 11/20/2013 … This is serious business: the well-financed, broadly implemented sabotage campaign designed to rig the law for failure, while also making it more difficult for Americans to receive insurance. Sabotaging the Website…Hackers have attempted more than a dozen cyber attacks against the Obamacare website…Sabotaging the Medicaid Expansion…Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles and David Koch, launched advertising campaignsSabotaging ACA Marketplace Enrollment…All roads lead back to the Kochs. There’s something especially visceral and sinister about well-protected billionaires telling middle class Americans to go without health insurance… if not enough people enroll in the exchanges, the law entirely falls apart. Combined with everything else, that’s sabotage, plain and simple…

Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown by Lee Fang, This post first appeared in The Nation, posted on BillMoyers.com, October 9, 2013

Republicans Facing a Test of Unity By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 26, 2013 — conservative advocacy groups have emerged as central players — exerting outsize influence, investing tremendous time and resources.… number of key conservative organizations…ForAmerica, a Tea Party group…Heritage Actionthe political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization… Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers… The Club for Growth…Senate Conservatives Fund

The Ten Hardline Conservatives Pulling the Strings of the GOP Shutdown by BillMoyers.com Staff, October 11, 2013 – Much of the coverage of the government showdown has focused on a relatively small group of hardline conservatives within the Republican caucus who have backed their party’s leaders into a fight they didn’t want. As Ryan Lizza noted in The New Yorker, these lawmakers mostly represent very safe, heavily Republican and disproportionately white districts that don’t look much like the rest of the country. Many of those on the front lines are recent arrivals to Capitol Hill, and they’re pushing a leadership they see as having been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past. It’s an important angle… If there’s only a relatively small group of lawmakers who think defunding the law is a dandy idea… Why is this supposedly silent majority of Republicans so docile? Why don’t they push back? The answer lies in the clout wielded by an extensive web of non-governmental conservative groups supported by mountains of dark money. Those groups see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat to their worldview and their party and have waged a multipronged campaign to kill it in its cradle…Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy… “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. With a broad, well-funded campaign, these groups have effectively shifted the balance of power in conservative Washington away from Republican leaders on the Hill and onto a cadre of true believers who will go to any length to destroy a modest set of health care reforms that, just 20 years ago, the very same conservative movement was itself advancing. So just looking at the rank-and-file members of the “suicide caucus” isn’t enough – it’s like focusing on the marionette rather than the puppet-master. View Interactive: Who’s pulling the strings?

Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind the Shutdown By STEPHEN MOORE, Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2013 – The 31-year-old Stanford business grad [president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the nation's largest conservative think tank] explains how he outmaneuvered GOP leaders and why he thinks House Republicans can defund ObamaCare…Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to “defund” ObamaCare, the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham. From a tactical view, the strategy has been deployed with precision…Needham is not apologetic at all for the shutdown that he sees as regrettable but necessary collateral damage if it focuses the public on the horrors of the health-care law…Mr. Needham and another young activist, Tim Chapman, wrote the business plan for Heritage Action four years ago. The idea was to tap Heritage’s network of conservative donors across the country and create a political lobbying machine to carry conservative ideas across the goal line. “The strategy from day one once it [ACA] passed was repeal, repeal, repeal,” Mr. Needham says… Mr. Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Needham is…conservative to the core, uncompromising and skilled in the smash-mouth politics now played in Washington. His first job was as research assistant…for Heritage founder Ed Feulner…Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Feulner was famous for preaching that “in the war of ideas there is no room for pacifists,” and Mr. Needham has taken those words to heart. To his admirers, he has pushed the Republicans to show backbone and stand up for principle. His detractors, many of them inside the party, denounce him as everything from cocky to a GOP wrecking ball…The concern of many Republicans, including strategist Karl Rove, is that Heritage Action’s take-no-prisoners approach is hurting the party. The latest Gallup poll shows the GOP is viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down 10 points since September…

Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

Look Who’s Covertly Con­trol­ling the GOP By Amy Good­man. Craig Unge, Democ­racy Now!   Alternet.org, August 22, 2012   [Karl Rove] Karl Rove, Schem­ing Elec­tion Theft and Rais­ing a For­tune for Vicious Attack Ads, Democ­racy Now! [1] / By Amy Good­man [2], Craig Unger [3]  posted on Alternet.org, August 22, 2012AG… Karl Rove has become the ulti­mate party boss.…CU:… it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s [in] ­Texas…to show Karl Rove’s power dur­ing the Bush years… in 2000…in O­hio in 2004…Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have endur­ing con­se­quences, and they rep­re­sent real threats to democ­racy…I don’t think he’s an ide­o­logue. I think he’s about win­ning….There’s always been this talk of a per­ma­nent Repub­li­can major­ity that Rove is try­ing to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Repub­li­can….…Karl Rove barely escaped indict­ment and rose to be the biggest pow­er­house, polit­i­cal pow­er­house, in Amer­ica today…the Valerie Plame scan­dal…Joe Wil­son…Sad­dam Hus­sein…Pres­i­dent Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war again­st I­raq. And the alle­ga­tions, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged doc­u­ments…this showed that they would stop at noth­ing to main­tain their nar­ra­tive…it’s most impor­tant to under­stand about this man who has now become per­haps the most pow­er­ful polit­i­cal oper­a­tive in America…

Grover Norquist, Enemy of the State? By Thom Hartmann, AlterNet, November 26, 2012 – Is it possible that Grover Norquist, the multi-millionaire K-Street lobbyist long funded by billionaires, is an enemy of the state?…he has connived over the years to get hundreds of members of Congress to violate their own oath of office by pledging a higher oath to keep billionaires’ taxes low than their pledge to the Constitution itself….

And the Constitution, to which they take the Modern Oath, explicitly says that Congress has the explicit power to impose taxes, both to pay for our defense and to provide for the General Welfare of the nation…So, how is it possible that, when the Constitution explicitly says that one of the specific jobs of Congress is to “lay and collect taxes,” and the oath they take explicitly says that they take will do so “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” that a member of Congress could possibly swear an oath to a multimillionaire K-Street lobbyist to refuse to perform one of their Constitutional duties?

…Is not a man who essentially uses threats – blackmail – that billionaire money will be used to politically destroy members of Congress who refuse to sign his pledge an enemy of the state itself – or at least an enemy of the very Constitution that lawmakers have sworn to uphold without mental reservation or evasion?

Grover Norquist has led hundreds of Republican lawmakers to the brink of treason, swearing to him that they will carry into office mental reservations about the taxation power the Constitution gives them.  It’s high time to de-throne Grover, and let Congress go back to doing its Constitutionally-mandated  job of taking care of the nation’s defense and general welfare, instead of just looking out for the nation’s defense contractors and cranky billionaires.

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party by Paul Harris, Guardian/UK, November 12, 2012 – A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media…the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical think tanks have been an integral part of the Republican party…internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist…Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa…Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association…Limbaugh…Herman Cain…What do these people all have in common? No one elects them.They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose…Among the GOP’s elected representatives – and its more traditional elites – there is a sudden outbreak of moderation.…it is not really a battle between two sets of warring politicians. Instead, it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings. Even Democrats should hope the politicians win.

Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

Norquist still calling cadence in GOP ranks

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party

Is Karl Rove Losing It?

Deconstructing a Demagogue By Timothy Egan, New York Times, January 26, 2012 (Newt Gingrich)

Grover Norquist, the Enforcer by Drake Bennett, Business Week, May 26, 2011

Koch Brothers: Secretive Billionaires With Eye on 2012 by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian/UK November 7, 2011

Newt Gingrich: The Indispensable Republican By John H. Richardson, Esquire, September 2010

Rove Rides Again Bush’s former strategist is secretly seizing control of the GOP – and amassing $135 million to destroy the Democrats by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone magazine, May 27, 2010

Secrets of the Tea Party: The Troubling History of Tea Party Leader Dick Armey by Beau Hodal, Truthout, March 26, 2010

Zev Chafets’s ‘Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One,’ reviewed by David Frum, Special to The Washington Post, May 25, 2010

The Rove Presidency - Karl Rove’s Life and Political Career by Joshua Green, The Atlantic, September 2007

Karl Rove’s Split Personality by Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair magazine, December 2006

Meet Mr. Republican: Jack Abramoff by Matt Taibbi, Rollingstone.com, March 24, 2006

 

Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

People power or money power?

** Money Unlimited by Jeffrey Toobin, Annals of Law, New York Times, May 21, 2012 (Citrizens United)

** Lobbyists, Guns and Money by Paul Krugman, New York Times, March 25, 2012

** How Big Money Bought Our Democracy, Corrupted Both Parties, and Set Us Up for Another Financial Crisis By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company, January 22, 2012

** How Big Business Subverts Democracy by Joseph Huff-Hannon and Andy Bichlbaum, The Guardian/UK, February 16, 2011

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party by Frank Rich, New York Times, August 28, 2010

The ‘Devastating’ Decision by Ronald Dworkin, The New York Review of Books, January 29, 2010  (Citizens United)

 

Where Do Anti-Government Ideas Come From? by Joe Brewer

 Cognitive Policy Works, October 20, 2010

Excerpt

…candidates across the country are engaging in an ideological battle with one side claiming that government is the problem and the other side claiming that we cannot solve our problems without effective government.  This battle is taking place on a dramatically uneven playing field.  It has been stacked against the public good for decades by deep pockets of corporate wealth….For nearly 40 years now, this system has been growing in size and sophistication.  And it is surgical in its precision and effectiveness. The impacts on the US economy and political system have been devastating…

Full text

An article came out this week in the New York Times about a strategy meeting hosted by the Koch brothers, two billionaires who have funded a staunchly anti-government agenda for years.  This event highlights a deeper current of money that has been invested in an anti-government policy agenda that goes back decades.

In the midst of this election season, candidates across the country are engaging in an ideological battle with one side claiming that government is the problem and the other side claiming that we cannot solve our problems without effective government.  This battle is taking place on a dramatically uneven playing field.  It has been stacked against the public good for decades by deep pockets of corporate wealth.

Policy Agendas More Important Than Election Cycles

David Calahan, a researcher who studies the ideological basis of philanthropy, published a major report in 1999 titled “$1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990′s” that describes the web of money that flowed through the top 20 Conservative think tanks in the United States.  He identified the strategies that allow a well funded minority to dominate public discourse and set the agenda for the country.  One of his major assertions was this:

“In fact, the more fundamental changes in American politics may not be in election results, but rather in the rise and fall of different ideas and their attendant policy agendas.”

Consider the impacts of the Tea Party Movement that arose after President Obama took office.  A non-election agenda was initiated to frame the debate around anti-government sentiments.  It’s veneer of grassroots populism conceals a vast network of media outlets, high-profile spokespeople, training centers, and deep pocketed funders who made the Tea Party possible.  And yes, the Koch brothers are major donors of the effort.

How were they able to get Tea Party candidates on so many ballots?  Why do even the incumbent Republicans feel that they must conform to the extreme views of people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh?  The answer is that a massive communications infrastructure has been built to reward those who conform (and punish all the rest).

Investing in the long haul pays off.

After building a vast infrastructure it was pretty straightforward to rile millions of people up, especially since these very people experience the brunt of economic collapse.  The ironies run deep in that those who have been hurt the most by deregulation and privatization are the foot soldiers rallied to the call of freedom by this effective system for mass manipulation of public opinion.

How Far Back Does This Go?
The first major effort to build an anti-government communications system can be traced back to 1971 and the Powell Memo, written by Lewis F. Powell.  It laid out the ideas that influenced wealthy conservative businessmen to build a web of think tanks, media outlets, and recruitment centers that would go on the offensive and destroy public good will toward government.  For nearly 40 years now, this system has been growing in size and sophistication.  And it is surgical in its precision and effectiveness.

The impacts on the US economy and political system have been devastating.  These graphs tell the story well… rising international debt, increasing concentrations of wealth, lost savings of working people, explosive individual debt.  The list goes on and on.  All corresponding with the advance of an anti-government agenda throughout the 80′s, 90′s, and 2000′s.

A toxic attitude was spread like a virus and the harmful policies followed.  We are now living in a country where the top 10% control nearly all of the wealth alongside a working poor living in third world conditions.  The uneven playing field has given obvious advantage to those who had the wealth to begin with.

Where Is The Progressive Response?
All hope is not lost.  A number of progressive donors finally got the wake-up call in 2005 and created the Democracy Alliance.  They began pooling their money to invest in think tanks and media outlets of their own.  Organizations like Campaign for America’s Future, Commonweal Institute, and Center for American Progress have come into being and are attempting to catch up.  But the opposition has a 35 year advantage.

Unfortunately, the progressive movement suffered a major casualty in April of 2008.  The Rockridge Institute closed its doors due to inadequate funding support from donors.  Rockridge was a unique think tank founded by George Lakoff to analyze political frames in public discourse in order to help progressives navigate the toxic culture wars of American politics.  One of the major causes for this loss was the massive flux of money into the 2008 election cycle.  Short-term gains were given myopic focus and the long-term was sacrificed.

I worked at the Rockridge Institute during this period.  On the last day of the institute, Evan Frisch and I made a plea to the progressive community that we must invest in cognitive infrastructure.  Here’s a snippet of what we said:

Create a new progressive infrastructure that embodies our ideals and values. This includes a cognitive infrastructure – the ideas, values and modes of thought that express the progressive vision. Simply churning out more policy proposals and statistical analyses without taking into account what people understand the situation to be will leave the populace bored, confused, and distant from the political process.”

This plea is more timely than ever today.  The progressive response remains inadequate because we don’t share a common vision, nor do we invest in the long-haul.  So we see an election in our midst where Democrats are blamed for the harms caused by anti-government Republicans (and a spattering of Conservative Democrats who have infiltrated the other party).  The instigators of harm are smearing the real heroes.  And it’s working!

If we are to turn the tide on this culture war and reclaim the Spirit of America, we’re going to need to arm ourselves with knowledge about the origins of anti-government sentiments.  And we’re going to need to invest in pro-government, pro-community ideas of our own.

Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.

http://www.cognitivepolicyworks.com/blog/2010/10/20/where-do-anti-government-ideas-come-from/