How Did Conservatives Convince the Public to Think Differently About Government?

Part III of a three-part series exploring how conservatives took their worldview to the streets, undermining long-held views about government and society. Click here to read part I, “What We Can Learn from Conservatives About Winning in Politics,” and part II, “Learning from How Conservatives Push Their Cultural Worldview.”

By Sara Robinson / Blog for Our Future, March 14, 2008

The conservative worldview has succeeded so wildly — and is still holding such tenacious sway over the ways Americans approach their current stack of problems — because the conservatives started out 30 years ago with a focused plan that put promoting their model of reality at the center of every other action. Over the past two posts, I’ve been mining the specific strategies that early planners like Paul Weyrich used to advance the conservative worldview, in the hope that we might gain some insight that will help us engage them directly on this deepest, most important territory.

Progressives will not be able to implement their vision of the future until we’re able to supplant the conservative worldview with our own. We won’t win until we take control of the discourse, offer Americans new ways to make meaning and evaluate and prioritize events, and get them to abandon conservative assumptions about how reality works.

I’d like to thank Bruce Wilson at Talk2Actionagain for turning me onto Eric Huebeck’s 2001 document that summarized, updated, and refocused the original Weyrich strategies. In this final piece, we’ll look some of the specific ways the conservatives structured their campaign to take their worldview to the streets, and ultimately replaced long-held democratic assumptions about government, economics, and society with the deadly and wrong-headed assumptions that now drive the thinking of the entire nation.

Capture Cultural Institutions
Thanks to David Brock, Joe Conason, Chris Mooney, Michelle Goldberg, and many others, more and more of us are becoming aware of the ways that conservatives have quietly moved in to take over almost every public and private institution in America. From churches to university faculties to public broadcasting to the Boy Scouts, the vast network of institutions that once taught people how to live in a liberal democracy and reinforced those values across society has been shredded to the point where it no longer functions. In its place is a new network of institutions — some of them operating within the co-opted shells of the old ones, others brand new — that reinforce the conservative worldview at every turn.

This takeover of the very insitutional fabric of the nation was a central part of the conservative plan from the very beginning. Weyrich understood that to change the discourse, you had to capture and control the institutions that were most directly responsible for promoting and sustaining it. And the rising conservatives pursued that goal with a vengeance.

The basic strategy was to build parallel organizations that shadowed the official ones until they could legitimately assume power within their domains. In some cases these were national institutes, professional organizations, formal committees and expert policy groups; in others, they were simply ad hoc groups of conservative citizens who showed up at all the meetings, studied the domain, wrote letters, and eventually became expert in all the same topics and issues the official authorities dealt with. Either way, over the course of a decade or two, there was hardly an influential institution in America that wasn’t operating without a gaggle of conservatives standing by to criticize every decision and thwart every attempt at action.

In some cases, such as government agencies, these self-appointed shadow officials hung around long enough, and demonstrated enough interest and expertise, that they eventually eased themselves into official positions from which they began to enact the conservative agenda. They joined public boards, got themselves appointed to commissions, and inflitrated local offices. In cases where they couldn’t directly take over, they set themselves up as the determined and loyal opposition, acting as political leg weights that hobbled and slowed down every aspect of goverment business for decades on end as they looked for opportunities to press their issues and impose their will. The official policymakers still held sway, but the constant resistance made them far less effective. In time, people would get frustrated with the inaction, and look for other leaders to get the job done. Too often, the people who’d created the resistance in the first place were the first ones tapped to take over.

Massive funding put up by conservative foundations also gave the movement clout over the country’s great non-profits, from which they insinuated themselves into research, health care, social services, education, and the arts. Pressure from investors, advertisers, and avid letter-writers narrowed the range of acceptable narratives in every kind of media. Shadow “professional” groups were established to challenge the basic Enlightenment-era premises of law, medicine, banking, teaching, pharmacy, and other essential professions.

All of this effort was in the service of one goal — to take over these institutions and eventually use them to promote conservative values and worldview. They understood that when you control these institutions, you control the culture — and ultimately, you will also control the very discourse by which everyone inside the culture interprets reality. We’re coming up against the success of this strategy every time a Federalist Society judge comes up for confirmation, every time a hospital refuses to perform abortions, every time the police commission gets a brutality complaint and looks the other way, and every time we try to get a birth control prescription filled.

Huebeck was very clear that none of this about “reform.” He wrote: “We will not reform existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity.” The conservatives knew that of all the various fronts in the war for American hearts and minds, seizing control of the country’s institutional core was is the one that mattered most.

And, unfortunately, we liberals left them to it. Throughout the 1960s, the Boomers had been challenging the authority of the old institutions, which they (often rightly) found stultifying, socially confining, and too often downright criminal. But there was a serious downside to this. When they abandoned the field, they left foundational American institutions (which had been dominated by GI-era rationalists from both parties) wide open for right-wing takeover — and the result is our lives are now dominated by the authority emanating from a new establishment that is far more stultifying, restrictive, and criminal that the 1960s rebels could have ever imagined.

It’s becoming obvious to more and more of us that we will not win until we start taking these institutions back. We’ve made a good start at creating progressive media networks, organizing our own political infrastructure, and defending education at all levels from conservative incursions. We’re having our say in the marketplace, particularly when it comes to agriculture and low-emissions vehicles. Science is not going gently into the ideological good night.

But it’s all just drops in the bottom of a large and leaking bucket. There are vast sectors in which the takeover proceeds unchallenged — and will remain so until we come back with the same pervasive intensity they brought to the job. We need thousands of those same small cadres of dedicated people who make it their business to target one institution, study it, become expert in it, and eventually mount a public challenge to its authority or move in and take it over. We need local MoveOn groups providing those scoutmasters, and local progressive churches taking strong stands against religious right school boards, and teams of local letter-writers who keep our issues on the op-ed pages of the weekly paper. We need professional organizations in every field that stand up to the ideologues and restore the rule of reason. We need to be as pervasive a presence in the life of conservative institutions as they have been in liberal ones.

It took them over 20 years to effect this takeover, so we also need to expect to be in this one for the long haul.

Don’t Trust the Democratic Party
Huebeck noted ruefully that movement conservatives “shot ourselves in the foot by expecting too much from the Republican Party.” It’s a feeling that’s becoming all too familiar to progressives assessing their relationship with the Democrats.

We’re tempted to forget that Progressives are not necessarily Democrats, any more than movement conservatives were necessarily Republicans. In each case, they are a separate movement that often finds its interests in consonance with those of a certain political party. But in both cases, they stand to lose tremendous amounts of power if they allow themselves to become co-opted and turned into an appendage of that party.

In the end, many conservatives — especially the religious right — lost track of that boundary, and forgot to consider their interests apart from the party. Without enough daylight between the two entities, it was easy for the GOP to start taking their Evangelical base for granted. With every passing election, it seemed, the party relied more and more on the religious conservatives for organization, money, and votes — and gave them less and less in return. This year, the conservative churches are in full fury over this betrayal. If the GOP loses, Evangelical disappointment will be at the heart of their defeat.

This is a special problem during election season, while progressives and the party work especially closely together to take back the White House and ensure a Democratic Congress. But, even as we fight the good fight together, progressives need to remember they are not us; and we are not them. Our movement must never forget that its an an entity apart from the Democratic party, with different interests and expectations of a different future. If we allow ourselves to be co-opted by the party, and are diverted into channeling all of our actions into activities that further the Democrats instead of our own progressive agenda, we’ll very quickly end up in the same place Evangelical conservatives are in right now — used, abused, and tossed aside.

It’s basic physics: Holding ourselves at a little more distance gives us extra leverage, forces them to work a little harder for our votes, and ultimately gives us more power to create the changes we seek.

Invest in our own members; grow our own leaders
Political leaders of all stripes like to expand their territory and hoard their power. Weyrich understood that personal empire-building is a selfish indulgence no successful movement can afford — first, because it leads people to put their own interests ahead of the movement, which should never be tolerated; and second, because it stunts the growth of new leaders and inhibits the transmission of leadership skills.

That’s why the early conservatives insisted that leadership should actively seek out leadership talent, nurture it, and groom it to assume power on its own. The more well-trained leaders the movement has, the bigger it can get, the more it can get done, and the faster its agenda will be adopted. Success depends on building a culture in which leaders are evaluated not by how much territory they control, but by the number and quality of new leaders emerging from underneath their wings.

Furthermore, giving people the chance to learn new skills and offering them new opportunities for personal growth is the most powerful way to bond them emotionally, socially, and even economically to the movement. In a time when people aren’t often given the chance to grow to their potential on the job, political work can provide a far more engaging and satisfying outlet for their ambitions. “Every member [must] be given the support to reach his maximum potential,” wrote Huebeck, who also observed that when we raise each others’ personal confidence and skill, it increases the confidence and skill of the movement as a whole.
This was the clause in the plan that launched a thousand wingnut welfare programs, stocked a hundred think tanks, and catapulted countless Young Republicans to positions of real power. But this lesson is far older than that. Earlier progressives understood the role that unions, churches, and civic organizations played in bringing along people who could become local, regional, and eventually national leaders. This isn’t something that happens just inside the Beltway. Finding and grooming emergent talent everybody’s job; and those who do it well have earned their place among our most esteemed leaders.

Ask people to invest in return
Changing the world is not a spectator sport. The early conservatives weren’t afraid to ask their members for incredible investments of time, energy, and money — investments that were essential if their perceived life-or-death struggle for the hearts and minds of America was to be won.

The money, in particular, matters. The conservatives realized that they would need to fund the the early years of their movement themselves until they racked up enough wins to attract foundation support. We progressives are short on corporate white knights; instead, we’ve built our movement on small donations from millions of Americans. Those people are making investments in us — and with every PayPal transfer they send, they are deepening their emotional bonds to our cause.

However, the problem with a lot of progressive fundraising is that it’s too often aimed at winning short-term battles. Pass or defeat this legislation. Win this election. Fund this organization for another year or two. Once that milestone has passed, groups have to conjure a new reason to get people to pony up. Donors figure that the battle’s won, and they can slack off now. Or it wasn’t won, and there’s no point in continuing to give. Either way, it doesn’t take long for donor fatigue to set in.

The conservatives largely avoided that problem by setting out one huge long-range goal that provided the all-in-one justification for an entire lifetime of generous giving. They were in it for nothing less than a total cultural transformation. Every smaller battle was just another step in the long war, which they expected to outlast their lifetimes. The leaders kept up their high expectations that their members would make enormous sacrifices — not just in the early years, but for decades on end until that transformation was complete. Nobody was allowed to slack off — and few wanted to. As the victories racked up and the stakes grew higher, the atmosphere got positively giddy — and the money pile kept getting bigger as people got more and more excited about the movement’s momentum.

We need to remind the progressive donor base that they play the deciding role in a battle that we, too, can expect to be fighting for the rest of our lives — and which will probably be the most important work of all of our lives. As such, we will continue to expect their full support until the job is done. And the more we win, the more we’ll prove that we deserve it.

Think nationally. Organize locally.
The original progressive movements drew on (and helped build up) a vast network of local political gathering places. By the 1920s, there wasn’t a county or town in the nation that didn’t have a permanent progressive hangout — a place where people came together for news, education, organizing, good times, and help when they needed it. Most of these places were union and grange halls; some were civic clubs, Democratic party offices, lodges, churches, pubs, or just some old place the local folks bought and fixed up for their own use.

The collapse of this physical infrastructure is one of the biggest losses we’ve sustained in the conservative attack on American institutions. Even as the country’s last union and grange halls were being emptied out by Republican labor and farm policies, the rising conservative movement was busy building a shadow network of its own. The religious right’s biggest contribution to the cause may have been the ready-made national chain of conservative meeting halls it provided in every small hamlet and burg. Every Evangelical church in the country was a potential nucleus around which a revolutionary cell could form. (Using churches is dicey business, but ministers were taught where the lines were, and the IRS often enough looked the other way. Besides, the broad “cultural transformation” frame meant that a lot of the most important work wasn’t political at all, but rather social and cultural, and therefore entirely appropriate to a church setting.) The GOP money guys still met (as always) at the exclusive downtown and country clubs; but the churches provided a place where conservatives of all classes could gather for social support, education, training, and coordinated local action in service of their revolution.

We’ve suffered mightily by not having that same ubiquitous network of public outposts from which to run our ground game. MoveOn.org has been our biggest boon in re-creating this: it took the lead in using the Internet to help local progressives find each other, and helped them begin to form permanent organizations in remote parts of the country. (Until MoveOn and the Dean meetups brought them together, many rural liberals had spent years believing they were the only ones in town.) The 50-State Strategy is also seeking to correct this, by opening Democratic party offices in as many towns and counties as possible across the country. But, though these are two good starts, we need to stay focused on the task of making sure there isn’t a village in America that doesn’t have a permanent space that progressives can call home. Once we restore our place as an integral part of the country’s physical landscape, becoming a natural and accepted part of its cultural landscape will follow on naturally.

Don’t just talk. ACT.
Huebeck’s definition of political action is pointed and narrow. Action is “1) the subversion of leftist-controlled institutions, or 2) the creation of our own institutions of civil society, whose sole purpose is outreach to, and the conversion of, non-traditionalists.” All action needs to have direct results, and should also deepen the skills of the members who engage in it. And it’s an important way of bonding people to the movement: “Action in the world encourages the identification of the member with, and dedication to the group.”

“For example, we will go to public lectures given by leftists and ask them ‘impolite’ and highly critical questions. We must, of course, be fully prepared beforehand for these sorts of excursions, and we must also be prepared to embarrass ourselves, especially at first,” wrote Huebeck. He also advises local groups to do charity work that will both build esprit de corps and generate good PR. “Bonding with others in one’s generation or society is the means by which values are strengthened and perpetuated. It is vitally important that we bond in such a way that the values perpetuated are our own.”

In other words: Our actions need to be good for the movement’s long-term goal of cultural change; good for the community; good for our group’s reputation; good for our own internal cohesion; and good for us as individuals. It’s an excellent set of criteria, and one that we might want to borrow as a sturdy yardstick for the essential worthiness of every activity we plan.

Concentrate on students and young adults
Conservatives capitalized handsomely on the energy of their youngest members. Weyrich and the rest of the early planners carefully nurtured the small handful of disaffected conservative students remaining on the nation’s campuses. They gave them enormous roles at very young ages, while they still had high enough energy and few enough encumbrances to work crazy hours under insane conditions. They also richly funded conservative college newspapers and journals; granted scholarships to promising students with a conservative bent in law, politics, media, and business; and opened their social and business networks to graduates looking for high-paying work. In a very real sense, they found these kids in their cradles, and promised to look after them to their graves.

They made this investment because they realized that if you get them while they’re young, they’ll stay with you for life. Thirty years later, looking at Washington’s middle-aged conservative True Believers, it’s obvious that this investment in nurturing the party’s most promising young sprouts paid off for them many times over.

We have our moment now, with the vast numbers of young voters who are rushing to the Democrats this election. But the conservative success with an earlier generation of young voters tells us that we need to be very proactive about bringing these kids into the process, giving them some real power and some serious training, and returning their loyalty by attending well to their individual futures using every means available to us. If we want to build a progressive nation that will stand for the next 50 years, it’s not too early to start cultivating solid careers for those who will take over for us when we’re gone.

Be there for each other — especially when the pressure builds
Many of the above strategies — from creating permanent physical structures and solid career paths to establishing reliable internal funding flows — reflects the conservative battlefield mentality. They were determined to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient, beholden to no one in the liberal world. Another piece of this was social independence: Weyrich knew that conservatives had to learn to rely on each other, not the larger culture, for their social and emotional validation.

People creating change take a lot of flak from those profiting handsomely from the status quo. The more you start to win, the stronger and uglier this resistance gets. Movements often crack under this pressure — often when they’re right on the cusp of winning all the marbles, and the opposition is at its most intense.

But the founders of movement conservatism knew that people can withstand almost anything if they have the firm support and acceptance of their peers. They strengthened their followers against this pressure by teaching them not to give two hoots about what the rest of us think. To them, the only people who matter are the ones who believe as they do — the ones they trust to actually have their backs, look after their kids, and throw their bail when the opposition takes out after them with ugly intent.

The changes we seek now will eventually create equally tectonic shifts as we set the country back to right. The money and power is all lined up behind the conservatives; and they’ve already demonstrated their willingness to use it to viciously punish progressives who dare to challenge it.

We will only survive this if we learn to be equally self-sufficient. We cannot care what they think, do, or say about us. We need to make a point of being there for each other when the heat is on, and the cons come after one or another of us, hoping to pick us off. And that kind of defiance comes a lot easier when we make a point of looking to each other for validation, and building bonds of trust that will hold us tightly together when trouble comes.

Don’t Ever Give Up. We’re In This for The Long Haul.
Movement conservatism first started chipping away at the dominant liberal culture in the early 1970s. The strategies in these three articles were largely formulated in the decade that followed; and they’ve been the basic principles governing conservative behavior ever since.

From the very beginning, they realistically viewed their goal of cultural domination as a multi-generational fight. Those who started it didn’t expect to live to see the end of it — and they were right. The people who first plotted strategy and tactics 30 years ago are now passing into death and retirement; their movement is now in the hands of a carefully-nurtured second generation, and a third is already coming of age. The humiliations of the Bush era are sending them back to their local gathering spots to take stock and regroup; but just because they vanish from the scene for a few years, we mustn’t ever delude ourselves that they’ve finally gone away. They will be back — and, no doubt, their comeback will be largely constructed out of these same strategies.

Weyrich and Huebeck warned the faithful about just these kinds of setbacks. “We will not hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. Our strategy will be to bleed this corrupt culture dry.” They told conservatives that good efforts and good intentions count for nothing, because losing is not an option for them. “The real question is: if the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere?”

It’s one last thing to bear in mind, a final challenge from the conservative movement’s master strategists. If the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, then why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere? This struggle for America’s heart and soul and mind has gone on from the beginning, and it will never end. Being progressive means committing our entire lives to the work of promoting America’s founding Enlightenment worldview, building a thriving movement that will outlast us, and raising up people who will carry on when we’re gone. As long as conservative culture warriors are out there trying to undermine the very model of reality that defines American democracy, we’re going to need to be out there resisting their incursions and reminding the country why that foundation matters. We, too, are in this for the long haul.

http://www.alternet.org/story/79776/how_did_conservatives_convince_the_public_to_think_differently_about_government

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.

 

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

Ginni Thomas, Allen West, and a crew of conservative journalists and activists have formed a hush-hush coalition to battle progressives—and Karl Rove.

By David Corn | Thu Jul. 25, 2013 9:53 AM PDT

Been hearing the phrase “politics over public safety” deployed against Obama lately by prominent conservatives? Meet Groundswell.

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

MoJo’s full coverage of Groundswell.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks. (For more on Groundswell’s “two front war” against Rove—a major clash on the right—click here [6].)

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm [7]; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

Groundswell has collaborated with conservative GOPers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Cruz and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a leading tea partier. At its weekly meetings, the group aims to strengthen the right’s messaging by crafting Twitter hashtags; plotting strategy on in-the-headlines issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, and the sequester; promoting politically useful scandals; and developing “action items.”

A certain amount of secrecy cloaks Groundswell’s efforts. Though members have been encouraged to zap out [8]tweets with a #GSW hashtag [9], a message circulated to members of its Google group noted that the role of certain advocates should be kept “off of the Google group for OPSEC [operational security] reasons.” This “will avoid any potential for bad press for someone if a communication item is leaked,” the message explained. (The Groundswell documents were provided to Mother Jones by a source who had access to its Google group page and who has asked not to be identified.)

“We want to protect the strategic collaboration occurring at Groundswell and build on it. Please be careful about bringing guests and clear them ahead of time.”

Washington is full of coalitions that meet to coordinate messaging and strategy. For two decades, conservative strategist Grover Norquist [10], who heads Americans for Tax Reform, has held his now-famous Wednesday morning meetings for a broad spectrum of Republicans, including conservatives opposed to gay rights and abortion rights and those who favor them, as well as GOPers on different sides of the immigration reform debate. Groundswell, which meets at the same time as Norquist’s group, appears to be a more ideologically pure version of the Norquist confab, and its emergence—given the prominent role of Ginni Thomas and the participation of journalists—prompts several intriguing questions. 

Critics have contended [11] that Thomas’ work as a lobbyist opposing Obamacare posed a conflict of interest for her husband, who would rule on the constitutionality of the health care reform initiative. (Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court minority that favored striking down the law.) And Common Cause has maintained [12] that Justice Thomas had a conflict of interest when he participated in the Citizens United case because his wife at the time was running a conservative nonprofit fighting the “tyranny” of President Barack Obama that would benefit from removing limits on such groups’ spending and fundraising. With her involvement in Groundswell—which zeroes in on contentious issues that come before the high court, including voting rights, abortion, and gay marriage—Ginni Thomas continues to be intricately associated with matters on which her husband may have to render a decision. Ginni Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.

The participation of journalists in coordinating messaging with ideological advocates and political partisans raises another set of issues. Conservatives expressed outrage when news broke in 2009 about Journolist, a private email list where several hundred progressive-minded reporters, commentators, and academics exchanged ideas and sometimes bickered. (I was on Journolist, mainly as a lurker [13].) The late Andrew Breitbart once offered $100,000 [14] for the full Journolist archives and denounced it as “the epitome of progressive and liberal collusion that conservatives, Tea Partiers, moderates and many independents have long suspected and feared exists at the heart of contemporary American political journalism.” The Groundswell documents show conservative journalists, including several with Breitbart News, colluding on high-level messaging with leading partisans of the conservative movement.
How Groundswellers Win “Brownie Points”
Notes prepared after a Groundswell meeting held on March 27 detailed the group’s mission and origins [9]:

Groundswell evolved out of conversations among conservative leaders after the November elections. This is the eighth meeting. Now others are asking to be included. Growth needs to be strategic; it should be made up of senior level people willing to collaborate. It is important to keep a balance of social conservatives, national security conservatives, and constitutional conservatives. Outreach has occurred to incorporate groups with extensive reach: Heritage, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, AFP [Americans for Prosperity], FRC [Family Research Council] and the NRA, among others…Our country is in peril. This is a critical moment needing critical leadership. We want to protect the strategic collaboration occurring at Groundswell and build on it. Please be careful about bringing guests and clear them ahead of time.

The memo declared that the goal was not to merely ponder, but to be proactive:

What Groundswell is not is a room of note takers. The goal of Groundswell is to sync messages and develop action from reports and information exchanged. Going forward there should be an action item accompanying each report.

At the March 27 meeting [9], Groundswell participants discussed one multipurpose theme they had been deploying for weeks to bash the president on a variety of fronts, including immigration reform and the sequester: Obama places “politics over public safety.” In a display of Groundswell’s message-syncing, members of the group repeatedly flogged this phrase in public. Frank Gaffney penned a Washington Times op-ed [15] titled “Putting Politics Over Public Safety.” Tom Fitton headlined a Judicial Watch weekly update [16] “Politics over Public Safety: More Illegal Alien Criminals Released by Obama Administration.” Peter List, editor of LaborUnionReport.com, authored a RedState.com post [17] called “Obama’s Machiavellian Sequestration Pain Game: Putting Politics Over Public Safety.” Matthew Boyle used the phrase [18] in an immigration-related article for Breitbart. And Dan Bongino promoted Boyle’s story on Twitter by tweeting [19], “Politics over public safety?” In a message to Groundswellers, Ginni Thomas awarded “brownie points” to Fitton, Gaffney, and other members for promoting the “politics over public safety” riff.

“If we lose on immigration, we lose on every other issue. They key to defeating this bill is Sen. Rubio.”

There was much more on the agenda for the March 27 meeting [9] than a single talking point. The group routinely addresses an ambitious to-do list for its campaign against the left. At that session, Groundswellers discussed several immigration-related “action items.” These included attempting to link the pending reform bill to Obamacare and collecting health care reform horror stories to provide to Cruz, a leading opponent of the Senate immigration reform bill. (Cruz has repeatedly compared [20] the legislation to the health care reform law.)

Groundswell members saw immigration as a life-or-death issue. “If we lose on immigration,” the post-meeting memo noted, “we lose on every other issue. The key to defeating this bill is Sen. Rubio. He can gracefully remove himself from the ‘gang of 8′ and still save face…The messaging on this issue has to be ‘we can’t trust Obama’ to enforce immigration laws after the amnesty.” 

The group also reviewed how best to oppose the confirmation of Tom Perez [21], Obama’s nominee for labor secretary. Groundswellers claimed that Perez, then a senior Justice Department official, supported “Muslim Brotherhood organizations and Shariah.” (One Groundswell memo maintained that Perez “is extremely antagonistic toward whites.”) A third agenda item that Wednesday morning was beating back the effort to end the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay Scouts. And there was yet another issue for the Groundswell members to stoke: “John Kerry has family ties to Iran that opens the doors to blackmail and other national security risks. Kerry’s son in law is an Iranian American with extensive family still in Iran.” The post-meeting memo suggested Twitter hashtags to push: #CantTrustObama, #PoliticsOverPublicSafety, #SequesterLies.

“We’re Failing the Propaganda Battle”
The Groundswellers feel that they too often lose the political narrative to their progressive rivals. One memo that circulated among members declared, “We must reclaim the language and put ‘a face’ on our messages; tell stories. Write articles on 4th grade level!” 

A Groundswell memo noted, “Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.’” They proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican.”

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering [22] reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics:We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.’” The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican,” a phrase, the memo noted, that “changes minds.” (His name is actually spelled “Frederick Douglass.”) The meeting notes also stated that an “active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them” with “vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight.” 

The notes from the March 20 meeting [23] summed up Groundswell griping: “Conservatives are so busy dealing with issues like immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts there is little time left to focus on other issues. These are the very issues the Left wants to avoid but we need to magnify. R’s cannot beat Obama at his own game but need to go on the offense and define the issues.” The group’s proposed offensive would include hyping the Fast and Furious [24] gun-trafficking controversy, slamming Obama’s record, and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal. “The problem,” the memo noted, “is Speaker Boehner and [Rep.] Mike Rogers (Intelligence Community) are refusing to deal” with the Benghazi issue. It added, “Leaders can and should be shamed into doing the right thing.”

Another problem for right-wingers, this memo pointed out, was that though “a group of freshmen and sophomore representatives in Congress…are willing and ready to stand up” for conservative causes, “no one is willing to step up and become that leader.” Reflecting the dim view held by Groundswell members of House GOPers, the memo maintained that too many Republican lawmakers were co-opted by power and reluctant to challenge House Republican leaders: “The Speaker holds the control in the House. He controls committees, chairmanships, meeting rooms, etc. Conservatives sell out rationalizing their compromises will position them to advance their agenda through committee work. In reality they are being bought.” Boehner, according to his memo, was too frightened to confront Obama head-on regarding budget issues because he “believes that Newt lost his speakership due to the government shutdown.”

Venting about weak and squishy GOP leaders was a regular feature of Groundswell gatherings. One action item put it bluntly [25]:

GAP of REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP: how do we tell them they are failing their base; will lose in 2014 unless they fight for principles (as opposed to show disdain for them and accommodate Obama; O is dividing Rs and they seem clueless: IDEAS NEEDED!

A week later, Newt Gingrich was scheduled to address the group [26] on the “lack of Republican Leadership right now, and Rove.” For 10 minutes.

At the March 27 meeting, Groundswellers once more voiced their anger with the GOP establishment and Rove—ideological sellouts, they believed, who undercut conservative candidates in order to back Republicans deemed more electable. They discussed the efforts among conservatives to respond to the Republican Party’s recently released autopsy [27] (PDF) of the 2012 elections, which called on the party to be more inclusive of minorities and less severe on social issues.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, the post-meeting memo huffed, “is sending messages to the party…If we were all gay illegal aliens, the party likes us. He is preparing the way for a change on social issues by giving a warning, ‘don’t go Old Testament’ and advising the party to consider what Rove said about the next nominees could speak favorably of homosexual marriage in the campaign.” The memo summed up Groundswell’s preferred solution to GOP woes: “embrace the libertarian and conservative wing of the party.”
“I’m Going to Need Help Pushing Back”
Shortly after its creation, Groundswell started bolstering interactions between right-wing advocates and conservative members of the Senate and the House. On March 5, Gaston Mooney, a staffer for the Senate Republican Steering Committee, posted a message [28] to Groundswell’s Google group asking for questions that could be posed to Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee to lead the EPA, during confirmation hearings or in meetings between her and individual senators. (She was confirmed as EPA chief this month.)

“If we were all gay illegal aliens, the party likes us. [RNC chair Reince Priebus] is preparing the way for a change on social issues by giving a warning, ‘don’t go Old Testament.’

At an April 3 meeting [29], Groundswell members were encouraged to send Paul Teller, executive director of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives, “feasible asks in exchange for raised debt ceiling.” The post-meeting memo noted, “House conservatives want clear consensus on what the conservative grassroots want to see negotiated.” Here was a chance for Groundswellers to shape the next debt ceiling showdown.

In Groundswell’s first months, one of the most active members in its Google group was Danielle Cutrona, chief counsel to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. She frequently placed information—speeches, articles, press releases—on Groundswell’s Google group. In February, she posted opposition research material [30] regarding a judicial appointment and asked members to distribute it: “Any help is much appreciated.” In another message to Groundswell, she requested assistance in opposing the pro-immigration reform GOP establishment. “I’m going to need help pushing back,” [31] she wrote.

On one occasion [32], Cutrona promoted a column [33] from the conservative site RedState.com. Headlined “Who is Going to Put an End to the McCain/Graham Circus?” this RedState.com post excoriated Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham as “Benedict Arnolds” for retreating on their opposition to Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary and for “their treachery on the issue of illegal immigration.” Cutrona, who occasionally used her official Senate email to communicate with Groundswell members, was encouraging this band of conservatives to spread the word that two party colleagues of her boss were ideological traitors. A spokesman for Sessions says that this blog post did not reflect Cutrona’s views and “was simply one of scores of diverse news and opinion pieces she emailed on immigration.”

“Even If the Idea Isn’t Perfect, I Can Help Massage It”
Several conservative journalists have enthusiastically participated in Groundswell’s deliberations. In March, Mark Tapscott, the executive editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, sent his most recent column [34] to group members [35]. It focused on a theme that Groundswellers had resolved to hype: President Obama is a divider. And after a meeting that month, Tapscott wrote to the group [36], “Enjoyed hearing from all of you who spoke earlier today. It’s amazing how much we are accomplishing on so many fronts.” But Tapscott tells Mother Jones that after attending one or two meetings at the invitation of Ginni Thomas, he decided to stop participating: “The implication of attending is that you’re participating in their planning, and, as a journalist, I don’t think that’s appropriate. Other journalists may think differently.”

At another Groundswell gathering, according to the minutes [9], the members decided to ask Breitbart‘s Stephen Bannon to arrange for his media organization “to get senators on the record regarding their support [or non-support]” of the filibuster that GOP Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz were threatening to mount against the gun control bill. This suggested that the Groundswellers thought they could task Breitbart News to pursue a story that would be strategically useful for the group. (Breitbart News was already covering the possible filibuster.)

“It’s amazing how much we are accomplishing on so many fronts,” the Washington Examiner‘s Mark Tapscott wrote to fellow Groundswell members.

Groundswell has forged a particularly close relationship with Breitbart. Matthew Boyle, one of Breitbart‘s more prominent reporters, has attended Groundswell meetings, used the group as a source for tips and a mechanism to promote his stories, and joined in its efforts to whip up coordinated bullet points to be deployed by conservative advocacy shops. In February, he tried to enlist the group [37] to push a story [38] he had written the year before at the Daily Caller, in which he maintained the Justice Department was in cahoots with the liberal group Media Matters to smear conservative whistleblowers and journalists. In a long note addressed to all Groundswellers—written at a time when reporter Bob Woodward was making (what turned out to be inflated) claims about the Obama White House intimidating foes—Boyle said, “Figured this might be a good time to bring this story back up and see if there’s a way to drive it.”

Boyle said he was hoping to prompt congressional Republicans to launch an investigation. He contended he had only revealed the “tip of the iceberg” and shared his suspicion that many government agencies (State, the CIA, the Pentagon, the EPA, and more) were conspiring with “far left wing groups” to undermine conservatives in the media: “I think we can get at the heart of the Obama admin’s weaknesses here.” He explained: “Any evidence obtained would be more proof of collusion between the administration and the media and far left groups, while at the same time serving as evidence of whatever ridiculously moronic big government policies they’re pushing are.” 

The following month, Boyle sent a message to Groundswell members [39] seeking tips and offering to help shape stories Groundswellers wanted to disseminate: “I’m saying we can get pieces out fast on Breitbart. Whenever you have an idea, email or call me with a pitch and I’ll do my best to get the story out there. Keep us on offense, them on defense. Even if the idea isn’t perfect, I can help massage it to get there.”

A high-priority cause for Groundswellers is voter identification efforts—what progressives would call voter suppression—and when Groundswellers developed a thread on their Google group page exploring the best way to pitch the right’s voter identification endeavors as a major voting rights case was pending in the Supreme Court, the coalition’s friendly journalists joined right in. Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent and 2012 Senate candidate, kicked off the discussion [40]: “We need to reframe this. This narrative of the Left has already taken hold in MD. The words ‘Voter ID’ are already lost & equated with racism. Maybe a ‘free and fair elections initiative’ with a heavy emphasis on avoiding ANY voter disenfranchisement combined with an identification requirement which includes a broader range of documents.”

Sheryl Kaufman, communications director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chimed in: “‘OBAMAGRATION’—I love it!! Communicates the similarity with Obamacare.”

In response, Tapscott suggested, “How about ‘Election Integrity’?” And Gaffney weighed in: “I like it.” Fitton noted that Judicial Watch had an “Election Integrity Project.” Boyle proposed, “Fair and equal elections,” explaining, “Terms ‘fair’ and ‘equal’ connect with most people. It’s why the left uses them.” Then came True the Vote’s Anita MonCrief: “We do a lot under the Election Integrity Banner. Does not resonate with the people. Voter Rights may be better. We really have been trying to get the messaging right.”

Minutes later, Breitbart‘s Mike Flynn tried to change the conversation [41], noting that Boyle earlier in the week had reported that Obama’s daughters had been vacationing in the Bahamas while the White House had suspended tours due to the sequester. “The Obama White House has never been so exposed to public criticism as they are right now, because of their decision to cancel WH tours,” Flynn wrote. “Everything should be focused on that front.” He declared, “We have to be willing to march to the sound of the guns.” (Earlier in the week, Boyle had posted his story on the Obama daughters on Groundswell’s Google group page, noting, “I think this fits in nicely with that politics over public safety theme…Enjoy.”) Ignoring Flynn’s missive, Engelbrecht, the president of True the Vote, wrote, “We bill ourselves as an Election Integrity Initiative and have found it strikes the right tone.”

In a response to a request for comment regarding his participation in Groundswell’s message-making, Flynn emailed, “We have reporters covering lots of meetings in DC, as I’m sure you do as well. As you know, it provides critical background to know what’s happening on the Hill.” In a subsequent email, Flynn insisted, “[N]either Boyle nor I have spent 1 minute on any messaging. We haven’t spent any time creating talking points.” Flynn added, “[W]e are journalists with a point of view. We are open about that. We attend meetings of conservatives. Where we are allowed, we attend meetings of leftist activists.” Boyle did not respond to requests for comment.
“We All Lament the Difficulty We Have Persuading Americans”
In between the weekly meetings, Groundswellers keep on scheming, frequently using their Google group to share ideas and need-to-know information. The material is often routine: a John Bolton op-ed [42], a press release opposing [43] the nomination of the EPA administrator, a call to rally support [44] for a Rand Paul filibuster. Often the material reveals the group’s ideological excesses, such as a PowerPoint supposedly proving that John Brennan, the Obama national security adviser who has become CIA chief, is soft on radical Islam. In one post, Ginni Thomas encouraged Groundswell members to watch Agenda: Grinding America Down, a documentary [45] that claims that progressives (including Obama) seek “a brave new world” based on the “failed policies and ideologies of communism” and that an evil left is purposefully “destroying the greatest country in all of world history.” MonCrief posted an email noting that the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon were “similar to Bill Ayers’ Weather Underground nail bomb.”

But Groundswellers constantly brainstorm via their Google group in search of a magic talking point, or a silver bullet of messaging. On April 24, Keli Carender, the national grassroots coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, posted a message to the Google group, writing, “We should have a unified name for the immigration bill so that as the other side is calling it ‘reform,’ we present a unified front against that notion. If we’re all calling it different things, their ‘reform’ message will win. We only combat the idea that it is reform if we hammer back with one different phrase/name.” She tossed out a few ideas: “Schumer-Rubio bill,” “anti-security bill,” and “amnesty bill.” Sheryl Kaufman, the communications director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chimed in that she was fond of a phrase derived by MonCreif: “‘OBAMAGRATION’—I love it!! Communicates the similarity with Obamacare.”

When Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group, sent out an email regarding the sequester headlined “Don’t let Republicans destroy the economy,” Carender sent a message to Groundswell members via the Google group: “What about a ‘stick with sequester’ (or similar) mantra from our side?” Responding to Carender’s note, Peter List of LaborUnionReport.com wrote, “Most Americans don’t understand sequesters. We need to be more clever than the Left on this…Something amusing and easy for LIVs [low-information voters] to understand. Maybe a tie in to Humpty Dumpty (the economy) and all King Obama’s men (‘tax increases’) not being able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. (I’m open to anything…and just made that up.)”

At another point, List emailed Ginni Thomas an idea for an anti-Obama ad [46] that he thought could go viral:

A 15 sec internet [YouTube ad] featuring ethnically diverse children on a merry-go-round [soft music]…
Nuclear explosion.
Two bullet points on the facts.
Call to action:
Tell President Obama & Congress not to cut our nation’s defense.

Thomas posted the note for all in Groundswell to see. “Brilliant idea,” she commented. “…Taker?”

Several months after Groundswell kicked off, Steven Sutton, vice president of development for the conservative Leadership Institute and a former chief of staff to several House GOPers, proposed a “strategic message development project” for the outfit. “What is needed,” he wrote [47], “is an umbrella thematic message under which each specific issue can be magnified and maximized. For those familiar with it, this is an extension and development of the Leesburg Grid [48] (which the Left has co-opted and now uses extensively, and the Right has ignored and allowed to fall into disuse.)” 

Sutton suggested using four main themes: Obama and liberal policies fail; Obama and liberal policies make things worse; there is a lack of leadership in the White House; and Obama “puts politics ahead of people/our country/America.” These themes, he contended, “are best used sequentially, rather than randomly/haphazardly/isolated…The most important thing is to think thematically and drive these messages.” Sutton went on:

Issues matter. Details matter. Substance matters. But theme matters more. Substance matters only as it helps to reinforce the themes.

We all lament the difficulty we have persuading Americans. After all, we have the facts, figures, and data to prove our points. Why can’t we persuade? There are many tactics we can use to help persuade (telling stories, finding victims, tempering tone). But these tactics pale in comparison to the importance of providing a context…a theme…to help people organize their thoughts and opinions.

Groundswell has set itself up as the theme lab for the true-red activists of the conservative movement. Fearing that some hydra of the left has long been running wild, vanquishing the right, and bringing the nation closer to utter ruin, the members of Groundswell have birthed a hydra of their own.

Additional reporting by Kate Sheppard [49].


Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group-ginni-thomas

Links:
[1] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group-ginni-thomas
[2] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-ginni-thomas-war-karl-rove
[3] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/ginni-thomas-groundswell-conflict-interest
[4] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/groundswell-right-wing-strategy-group-members-photos
[5] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/groundswell-secret-tape-boehner-issa-benghazi
[6] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-declares-war-karl-rove
[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/meet-craig-shirley-and-diana-banister-the-rights-pitch-perfect-conservatives/2013/07/21/63cea20e-dffe-11e2-b94a-452948b95ca8_story.html
[8] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739843-redacted-gs-mtg-notes-3-27-2013-google-groups
[9] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739869-redacted-groundswell-mtg-notes-3-27-2013-google
[10] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/01/grover-norquist-soul-new-machine
[11] http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/07/02/new-financial-forms-show-clarence-thomass-wife-continued-to-lobby-against-healthcare-in-2011
[12] http://www.commoncause.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4773617&ct=9039331
[13] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2010/07/journolist-daily-caller-sarah-palin
[14] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2010/06/29/Reward—100-000-for-Full-JournoList-Archive–Source-Fully-Protected
[15] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/5/putting-politics-over-public-safety/
[16] http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/weekly-updates/politics-over-public-safety/
[17] http://www.redstate.com/tag/putting-politics-over-public-safety/
[18] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/06/26/Immigration-agents-ask-public-lawmakers-to-oppose-bill-on-eve-of-expected-vote
[19] https://twitter.com/dbongino/status/350043418094870528
[20] http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/06/24/sen_ted_cruz_compares_senate_immigration_bill_to_obamacare.html
[21] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/tom-perez-justice-department-trayvon-martin
[22] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739816-redacted-gs-notes-and-action-items-from-meeting
[23] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739865-redacted-groundswell-mtg-notes-3-20-2012-google
[24] http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/09/20/the-fast-and-furious-gun-walking-scandal/
[25] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739889-redacted-groundswell-notes-and-action-items-from
[26] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739852-redacted-fwd-country-club-republicans-link-with
[27] http://growthopp.gop.com/rnc_growth_opportunity_book_2013.pdf
[28] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739855-redacted-epa-nominee-questions-google-groups
[29] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739871-redacted-groundswell-mtg-note-april-3-2013-new
[30] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739790-information-action-item-google-groups-2-27
[31] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739525-information-google-groups-2-14
[32] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739831-redacted-who-is-going-to-put-an-end-to-the
[33] http://www.redstate.com/2013/02/27/who-is-going-to-put-an-end-to-the-mccaingraham-circus/
[34] http://washingtonexaminer.com/mark-tapscott-one-dinner-does-not-a-great-divider-unmake/article/2523601
[35] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739833-redacted-links-fr-mark-tapscott-obamacare-hhs-co
[36] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739821-redacted-links-fr-mark-tapscott-obamacare-hhs-co
[37] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739828-redacted-information-opportunity-obama
[38] http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/18/emails-reveal-justice-dept-regularly-enlists-media-matters-to-spin-press/
[39] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739827-redacted-we-can-get-information-out-fast-at
[40] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739867-redacted-13-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-obama-takes
[41] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739798-redacted-11-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-obama-takes
[42] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739774-redacted-ambassador-boltons-op-ed-on-president
[43] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739758-information-cei-press-release-mccarthy-redacted
[44] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739830-redacted-action-rand-paul-filibuster-now-google
[45] http://[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH8LkIqu1c8
[46] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739609-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-idea-on-sequestration
[47] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739611-sutton-redraft-for-041013
[48] http://www.yourpatriot.com/Leesburg_Diagram.aspx
[49] http://www.motherjones.com/authors/kate-sheppard

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group

Scandal Machine

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, May 16, 2013

Excerpt

When politicians want to turn scandals into metaphors, actual details of wrongdoing or incompetence no longer matter…reality simply isn’t solid enough to hold back the vast Republican opportunism on display this week. Whatever cranky point Republicans had been making against President Obama for the last five years — dishonesty, socialism, jackbooted tyranny — they somehow found that these incidents were exactly the proof they had been seeking, no matter how inflated or distorted…For Senator Mike Lee of Utah, these incidents proved that the federal budget has to be cut even more deeply. “We need to return it to a simpler, more manageable government,” he said, “because that’s the only way that we’re ever going to prevent things like this from happening.”

There are no “things like this,” beyond a coincidence of bad timing. But they do have one thing in common: when bound together and loudly denounced on cable television and in hearings, they serve to obscure the real damage that Republicans continue to do to the economy and the workings of government…

For those who are wondering whether this week’s political windstorms will hinder Mr. Obama’s second-term agenda, here’s a bulletin: That agenda was long ago imperiled by the obstruction of Republicans. (See Guns. Jobs. Education. And, very possibly, Immigration.)

Full text

When politicians want to turn scandals into metaphors, actual details of wrongdoing or incompetence no longer matter. In fact, the details of the troubles swirling around the White House this week are bluntly contradicting Republicans who want to combine them into a seamless narrative of tyrannical government on the rampage.

The Internal Revenue Service, according to an inspector general’s report, was not reacting to political pressure or ideology when it singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny in evaluating requests for tax exemptions. It acted inappropriately because employees couldn’t understand inadequate guidelines. The tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, never a scandal to begin with, has devolved into a turf-protection spat between government agencies, and the e-mail messages Republicans long demanded made clear that there was no White House cover-up.

The only example of true government overreach was the seizure of The Associated Press’s telephone records, the latest episode in the Obama administration’s Javert-like obsession with leakers in its midst.

Many of the Republicans who have added this action to their metaphor blender were also the ones clamoring the loudest for vigorous investigations of national security leaks. But reality simply isn’t solid enough to hold back the vast Republican opportunism on display this week. Whatever cranky point Republicans had been making against President Obama for the last five years — dishonesty, socialism, jackbooted tyranny — they somehow found that these incidents were exactly the proof they had been seeking, no matter how inflated or distorted.

“This is runaway government at its worst,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said at a Tea Party news conference on Thursday about the I.R.S. scandal. “Who knows who they’ll target next.” Representative Michele Bachmann knew. Standing next to Mr. McConnell, she said the I.R.S.’s next target would obviously be the religious beliefs of people seeking health insurance.

For Senator Mike Lee of Utah, these incidents proved that the federal budget has to be cut even more deeply. “We need to return it to a simpler, more manageable government,” he said, “because that’s the only way that we’re ever going to prevent things like this from happening.”

There are no “things like this,” beyond a coincidence of bad timing. But they do have one thing in common: when bound together and loudly denounced on cable television and in hearings, they serve to obscure the real damage that Republicans continue to do to the economy and the workings of government.

While Washington was arguing about e-mail messages about Benghazi, it wasn’t paying attention to the hundreds of thousands of defense furloughs announced this week because of the Republican-imposed sequester, which will become a significant drag on economic growth. It wasn’t focusing on the huge drop in the deficit, which has yet to silence the party’s demands for more austerity. And apparently it’s considered old news that Republicans are blocking several of the president’s cabinet nominees.

For those who are wondering whether this week’s political windstorms will hinder Mr. Obama’s second-term agenda, here’s a bulletin: That agenda was long ago imperiled by the obstruction of Republicans. (See Guns. Jobs. Education. And, very possibly, Immigration.)

Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/opinion/the-republicans-scandal-machine.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130517&_r=0

How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class

Truthout / By Michael Meurer [1]  October 17, 2012 |

Excerpt

…the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive…is that crip­pling amounts of pub­lic debt run up by prof­li­gate gov­ern­ment spend­ing have brought us to the brink of finan­cial ruin and must be off­set by deep cuts in social ser­vices and “entitlements.”

It is a false nar­ra­tive that masks the largest ongo­ing finan­cial swin­dle in human his­tory, a swin­dle being car­ried out at pub­lic expense by a small class of elite finan­cial spec­u­la­tors. This spec­u­la­tive class has been unleashed over the past three decades by a Utopian neolib­eral polit­i­cal project….

The $15.2 tril­lion total of reck­less gov­ern­ment give­aways and war spend­ing equals the national debt. Where did this money come from? It came from we the peo­ple...From this per­spec­tive, the ongo­ing finan­cial cri­sis of the past few years is a giant swin­dle that trans­fers wealth from low– and middle-income cit­i­zens to bankers, defense con­trac­tors, real estate spec­u­la­tors and the wealth­i­est 1% via the US Trea­sury, which is act­ing as an agent for upward redistribution.

How did this happen?

In the 1980s, US Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan and British Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher set out to recon­fig­ure and lib­er­ate West­ern cap­i­tal­ism by shrink­ing government’s role in the econ­omy based on the neolib­eral con­cept that mar­kets are “self-regulating” and would pro­duce unprece­dented soci­etal wealth if dereg­u­lated.the “trickle down” the­ory of wealth was accom­pa­nied by promises of a smaller, less intru­sive state, except for a strong mil­i­tary. Fast for­ward through 30-plus years of nearly unin­ter­rupted neolib­eral pol­i­cy­mak­ing — Bill Clin­ton and Tony Blair were dereg­u­lat­ing neolib­eral cham­pi­ons — and not only do we have the most expen­sive, heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized, war-prone, increas­ingly inequitable and intru­sive state in US (and British) his­tory, it is also the most indebted.

Neolib­er­al­ism is fail­ing on its own terms, yet it con­tin­ues to define US pol­i­tics due to its appeal among a siz­able and par­tic­u­larly fer­vent seg­ment [29] of the elec­torate. (12) [30]

The Rise of the Utopians

In order to under­stand the fer­vor of this con­tin­ued pop­u­lar sup­port for failed poli­cies, it is impor­tant to grasp the utopian, quasi-theological nature of neolib­eral ide­ol­ogy. In the neolib­eral world­view [31], the self-regulating mar­ket is not a merely human con­struct, but a form of naturally-occurring “spon­ta­neous order” that pro­duces opti­mum out­comes and max­i­mum indi­vid­ual free­dom if left com­pletely unfet­tered. (13) [32] It is, as Karl Polanyi pointed out in “The Great Trans­for­ma­tion,” [33] a rad­i­cally utopian vision that rests on a blind faith that mar­kets are essen­tially part of the nat­ural order. (14) [34]

On the polit­i­cal right, this faith has reached its fullest expres­sion, ulti­mately mov­ing mar­kets into the realm of the sacred, where their legit­i­macy can­not be ques­tionedit has nonethe­less turned out to have pow­er­ful allure even among those who are being swin­dled out of their hard-earned assets as a result.

Not least among the rea­sons for this allure is the fact that in the US, neoliberalism’s utopian mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism meshes so read­ily with utopian strains of fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian­ity, thereby lend­ing the neolib­eral project a zeal­ous sense of pop­ulist mis­sion. A neolib­eral class project is dressed up and sold as a patri­otic reli­gious project.

While those at the top with access to pol­i­cy­mak­ers reap enor­mous finan­cial ben­e­fits from their embrace of neolib­eral the­ol­ogy, many of those at the bot­tom who stand to lose the most eco­nom­i­cally join forces with them because of polit­i­cal appeals to their utopian reli­gious and patri­otic beliefs. Neolib­eral pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from Ronald Rea­gan to Rick San­to­rum and Mitt Rom­ney have come before vot­ers as kin­dred utopian spir­its, true believ­ers couch­ing their self-regulating mar­ket utopi­anism in the famil­iar and com­pelling lan­guage of patri­o­tism, indi­vid­ual free­dom, mom and pop entre­pre­neurism and reli­gion. (‘Believe in Amer­ica.’) Utopian faith thereby trumps the pain of ugly reality.

And the ugly real­ity is that neolib­eral mar­kets — unlike the ele­gant mod­els of clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics — are rigged. And rigged in favor of the wealth­i­est mem­bers of soci­ety. Income dis­par­ity [35] between the bot­tom and top 20 per­cent in the US has more than dou­bled since 1979. (15) [36] Income for the top 1 per­cent grew by 275 per­cent [37] from 1979 to 2007, while income for the bot­tom 20 per­cent grew just 18 per­cent [38]. (16) [39]

The USnow has 49.1 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in poverty [40], the high­est level since the Great Depres­sion [41] of the 1930’s. (17) [42] Yet among true believ­ers at both ends of the eco­nomic spec­trum, the pow­er­ful emo­tional pull of a shared utopian vision tran­scends the homely real­i­ties of the fact-based world.

Utopi­ans at the Gate

In the 2012 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Repub­li­can Romney-Ryan ticket rep­re­sents the tri­umph of neolib­eral utopian faith over the messy real­i­ties of expe­ri­ence and his­tory…

Polanyi pos­tu­lated three essen­tial ele­ments of West­ern con­scious­ness: knowl­edge of death; knowl­edge of free­dom; and knowl­edge of soci­ety, which is gained expe­ri­en­tially and lib­er­ates us from our utopian illu­sions. (21) [50] The Repub­li­cans of 2012 are in denial about this third ele­ment of consciousness.

The cer­tainty that comes from faith in an imma­nent utopia leaves them unable to acknowl­edge and deal with the enor­mous com­plex­i­ties and uncer­tain­ties of a mod­ern multi-cultural, information-age soci­ety, except through demo­niza­tion and the story of an idol defiled. As a result, the com­mon­weal is eclipsed by a divi­sive utopian vision that defines extreme reli­gious eco­nomic indi­vid­u­al­ism as true patri­otic free­dom.

Given the bil­lions in Super PAC money [53] now avail­able to Repub­li­cans, (23) [54] this utopian strain in US pol­i­tics is not likely to fade away irre­spec­tive of November’s elec­tion results, and that is a trou­bling real­iza­tion in a nation more heav­ily armed [55] with weapons of mass destruc­tion than any other in his­tory. (24) [56]

http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com/how-propagandists-for-the-1-are-manipulating-chr

Full text

In the endless swirl of headlines about the current global financial crisis, the dominant narrative, which is also driving the 2012 US presidential election, is that crippling amounts of public debt run up by profligate government spending have brought us to the brink of financial ruin and must be offset by deep cuts in social services and “entitlements.”

It is a false narrative that masks the largest ongoing financial swindle in human history, a swindle being carried out at public expense by a small class of elite financial speculators. This speculative class has been unleashed over the past three decades by a Utopian neoliberal political project now embodied in its most virulent form in the Republican presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Let’s start with the depth and size of the underlying financial crisis, which is almost in the realm of hyper-reality. In 1997, for example, the total value of annual financial transactions worldwide was an already-staggering 15 times greater than global GDP. Today, it is 70 times greater [2]. (1) [3] In 1995, the six largest US banks controlled assets worth 17 percent of annual GDP. Today, the figure is 64 percent [4]. (2) [5] Again in 1995, the global total of outstanding derivative debt obligations was $17.7 trillion. By 2010 [6], at nearly $470 trillion [7], outstanding derivatives were 741 percent of global GDP [8]. (3) [9]

This wholesale financialization of the US-led global economy has burdened the public sector with the task of propping up unregulated speculative debt in the private sector that is 7.4 times our annual productive capacity. Add USdeficit spending for three wars since 9/11, and major cuts in the top tax rates, and the burden becomes unsustainable. The difference is being made up in the guise of austerity, as everything we own is liquidated, from personal and retirement savings, to homes and public-sector assets that have been built up over generations.

In the US, the inexorable logic of this process is embedded in the numbers that comprise the national debt. By most estimates, the national debt is at least $15 trillion [10].(4) [11] Here is one way to understand where the money went.

  • · The USgovernment spent $7.4 trillion [12] on bank bailouts [13]. (5) [14]
  • · It then spent $5 trillion [15] for three elective wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. (6) [16]
  • · It simultaneously incurred $2.8 trillion [17] in lost revenue due to the Bush tax cuts for the top income brackets. (7) [18]

The $15.2 trillion total of reckless government giveaways and war spending equals the national debt. Where did this money come from? It came from we the people. During the current economic downturn:

The total losses to citizen wealth are also $15 trillion.

From this perspective, the ongoing financial crisis of the past few years is a giant swindle that transfers wealth from low- and middle-income citizens to bankers, defense contractors, real estate speculators and the wealthiest 1% via the US Treasury, which is acting as an agent for upward redistribution.

To give a comparative sense for the historic scale of the swindle, it is worth noting that the entire inflation-adjusted cost of World War II [27] was $3.6 trillion.(11) [28]

How did this happen?

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set out to reconfigure and liberate Western capitalism by shrinking government’s role in the economy based on the neoliberal concept that markets are “self-regulating” and would produce unprecedented societal wealth if deregulated. Using the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek of the famedAustrianSchool as macro-economic underpinning, Reagan and Thatcher sought to limit or eliminate government regulation that might inhibit the actions and movement of capital.

From the start of this Reagan-Thatcher revolution, the “trickle down” theory of wealth was accompanied by promises of a smaller, less intrusive state, except for a strong military. Fast forward through 30-plus years of nearly uninterrupted neoliberal policymaking – Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were deregulating neoliberal champions – and not only do we have the most expensive, heavily militarized, war-prone, increasingly inequitable and intrusive state in US (and British) history, it is also the most indebted.

Neoliberalism is failing on its own terms, yet it continues to define US politics due to its appeal among a sizable and particularly fervent segment [29] of the electorate. (12) [30]

The Rise of the Utopians

In order to understand the fervor of this continued popular support for failed policies, it is important to grasp the utopian, quasi-theological nature of neoliberal ideology. In the neoliberal worldview [31], the self-regulating market is not a merely human construct, but a form of naturally-occurring “spontaneous order” that produces optimum outcomes and maximum individual freedom if left completely unfettered. (13) [32] It is, as Karl Polanyi pointed out in “The Great Transformation,” [33] a radically utopian vision that rests on a blind faith that markets are essentially part of the natural order. (14) [34]

On the political right, this faith has reached its fullest expression, ultimately moving markets into the realm of the sacred, where their legitimacy cannot be questioned. In this utopian setting, regulation is not merely ill advised; it is a violation of natural law that is nearly sacrilegious. Witness, for example, the reactionary explosion on the right to the apostasy of Barack Obama’s health care plan to regulate the insurance cartels.

Although this pernicious sacralization of the self-regulating market is absurd on its face – modern markets being embedded in particular cultures and dependent on enormous government intervention and expenditures, full of frictions and totally absent the perfect information required by economic models – it has nonetheless turned out to have powerful allure even among those who are being swindled out of their hard-earned assets as a result.

Not least among the reasons for this allure is the fact that in the US, neoliberalism’s utopian market fundamentalism meshes so readily with utopian strains of fundamentalist Christianity, thereby lending the neoliberal project a zealous sense of populist mission. A neoliberal class project is dressed up and sold as a patriotic religious project.

While those at the top with access to policymakers reap enormous financial benefits from their embrace of neoliberal theology, many of those at the bottom who stand to lose the most economically join forces with them because of political appeals to their utopian religious and patriotic beliefs. Neoliberal presidential candidates from Ronald Reagan to Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have come before voters as kindred utopian spirits, true believers couching their self-regulating market utopianism in the familiar and compelling language of patriotism, individual freedom, mom and pop entrepreneurism and religion. (‘Believe in America.’) Utopian faith thereby trumps the pain of ugly reality.

And the ugly reality is that neoliberal markets – unlike the elegant models of classical economics – are rigged. And rigged in favor of the wealthiest members of society. Income disparity [35] between the bottom and top 20 percent in the US has more than doubled since 1979. (15) [36] Income for the top 1 percent grew by 275 percent [37] from 1979 to 2007, while income for the bottom 20 percent grew just 18 percent [38]. (16) [39]

The USnow has 49.1 million people living in poverty [40], the highest level since the Great Depression [41] of the 1930′s. (17) [42] Yet among true believers at both ends of the economic spectrum, the powerful emotional pull of a shared utopian vision transcends the homely realities of the fact-based world.

Utopians at the Gate

In the 2012 US presidential election, the Republican Romney-Ryan ticket represents the triumph of neoliberal utopian faith over the messy realities of experience and history. There has been much discussion about the political calculations of Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, but it seems entirely plausible that he was picked because he is a kindred utopian spirit.

Born to wealth and privilege, Romney’s utopian worldview was formed among the high priests in the secretive and cloistered worlds of the Mormon Church and equity capital markets. At every turn in his insular pilgrim’s path, Romney’s utopian economic and religious beliefs have been reinforced in untroubled environments far removed from the struggles of daily life. He can change positions at will because his overriding utopian faith remains untouched irrespective of the particulars of individual policy prescriptions.

Also born to wealth, Ryan was a youthful devotee of neoliberal founding fathers von Mises and Hayek, supplementing his market faith with the culturally corrosive, ego-centered atheism of Ayn Rand, until the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, representing his professed Catholic faith, publicly objected to the cruelty and inhumanity of his 2011 US budget proposals.

The bishops described Ryan’s budget as being antithetical to their call to create “a circle of protection” [43] around the poor and vulnerable. With his tea-vangelical base of support threatened, Ryan quickly discovered St. Thomas Aquinas [44] as a more appropriate religious vehicle for channeling his market utopianism. (18) [45]

The presentation of the Romney-Ryan ticket by the Republican Party tells us that the path to utopia is stony and difficult, as it should be. Reaching the neoliberal Promised Land requires sacrifice. In order to scale the utopian summit, we must cast out the unbelievers (Obama, Democrats, liberals, environmentalists, feminists, et al.) and balance the divine books with the purifying fire of “austerity,” the neoliberal equivalent of self-flagellation.

Austerity-mandated cuts in vital public services must be accompanied by ever-increasing tax reductions for the top income brackets – aka, the priestly class of “job creators” – thus intentionally accelerating the insolvency of the iniquitous public sector. Someone has to pay for the extravagant incomes, lifestyles and war profiteering of the oracular speculative class in order to keep the swindle going, and it turns out to be us.

Where does this lead?

Were Romney and Ryan to be elected in November, it is probable that some of their more radical policy pronouncements [46] would be constrained by the realities of Washington. (19) [47] Yet there is something disquieting about the seriousness with which they embrace discredited utopian ideals. Fascism has been described as “a utopian movement in search of a utopia [48].” (20) [49] Today’s Republican Party, headed by true believers Romney and Ryan, comes dangerously close to this description.

Polanyi postulated three essential elements of Western consciousness: knowledge of death; knowledge of freedom; and knowledge of society, which is gained experientially and liberates us from our utopian illusions. (21) [50] The Republicans of 2012 are in denial about this third element of consciousness.

The certainty that comes from faith in an immanent utopia leaves them unable to acknowledge and deal with the enormous complexities and uncertainties of a modern multi-cultural, information-age society, except through demonization and the story of an idol defiled. As a result, the commonweal is eclipsed by a divisive utopian vision that defines extreme religious economic individualism as true patriotic freedom. Romney’s recent comments dismissing the lives of half the electorate [51] offer a clear illustration of the utopian incapacity to deal with society as it exists. (22) [52]

Given the billions in Super PAC money [53] now available to Republicans, (23) [54] this utopian strain in US politics is not likely to fade away irrespective of November’s election results, and that is a troubling realization in a nation more heavily armed [55] with weapons of mass destruction than any other in history. (24) [56]

Endnotes

1) Tobin isn’t enough now, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2012

2) The Bill Daley Problem, from BaselineScenario.com.

3) International Swaps and Derivatives Association.NOTE: The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) actually reported a much higher total of $708 trillion for “notional amounts outstanding of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives…” in a detailed 28 page analysis released November 2011 for the first half of 2011. To stay conservative, I have used the ISDA figure of $470 trillion. The BIS report can be found here: . [57] GDP from Wikipedia Public Data.

4) External government debt is actually $11.2 trillion. Getting to $15 or $16 trillion depends upon how one accounts for intra-governmental obligations. For the purposes of this article, the point is to show the orders of magnitude, not up to the minute totals, which are difficult to get in any event and tend to vary widely depending upon who is doing the calculations.ConcordCoalition.

5) Bloomberg Media.”Follow the $7.4 Trillion: Breakdown of US Government’s Rescue Efforts.”. NOTE: The real total of federal bailouts may be much higher. For example, a July 2011 GAO report documents over $16 trillion in secret loans to both US and foreign financial institutions.

6) Joseph Stiglitz estimated the total cost of Iraqand Afghanistanas high as $5 trillion in 2008, and in Sep. 2011 opined that this figure was too low. Project Syndicate, Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of 9/11. . [58] A June 2011BrownUniversity study reported by Voice of America, estimates the total forIraq andAfghanistan at nearly $4 trillion with a projected interest cost of an additional $1 trillion.Iraq,Afghanistan Wars Cost US Nearly $4 trillion. A detailed Sept. 2011, report by the Fiscal Times (more than a year ago) estimated the total US cost of war since 9/11 at over $5 trillion, with the wars inIraq andAfghanistan still in progress when the analysis was published. Fiscal Times, 9/11 and the $5 Trillion Aftermath.

7) Washington Post, Revisiting the cost of the Bush tax cuts.

8) For simplicity, I am using the CEPR figures below. While a more complicated case could be made for a higher total of lost citizen wealth, the main point is to show the logic of the process and the general orders of magnitude in the losses, which the CEPR figures conveniently encapsulate. Center for Economic and Policy Research, Paper Wealth and the Economic Crisis.

9) Other sources documenting US losses to citizen wealth. Reverse Mortgage Daily, Home Equity Declines more than 60% During Great Recession Says Fed Report. Federal Reserve Bank ofNew York, Household Debt and Saving During the 2007 Recession. American Progress, The Consequences of Conservatism (Estimates total losses at $12.8 trillion)

Urban Institute, How is the Financial Crisis Affecting Retirement Savings? ($3.4 trillion loss from 2007 to 2009). Reverse Mortgage Daily, Home Equity Declines more than 60% During Great Recession Says Fed Report. Dr. John Rutledge, Rutledge Capital, Total Assets of US Economy $188 trillion, 13.4 x GDP (Calculated $13 trillion loss to”household net worth” in 2008.) Don Shelton, The Great Recession of 2008-10.

10) Center for Economic and Policy Research, The $1 trillion wage deficit.

11) Don Ritholtz, The Big Picture.com, Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks.

12) See Raymond Plant, The NeoliberalState, OxfordUniversityPress, 2009.
See also, David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, 2005.
[29]

13) Library of Economics andLiberty, Friedrich Hayek.

14) Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Beacon Press.

15) Mother Jones, March/April 2011, It’s the Inequality Stupid.

16) Congresssional Research Service, March 7, 2012, The US Income Distribution and Mobility: Trends and International Comparisons
Congressional Budget Office report to Congress, Trends in Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007 [59]
CBO Director’s Blog, October 25, 2011, Trends in the Distribution of Income [59]
Top 1% income crew 275 Percent Grew 275 Percent from 1979 to 2007 [59]

17) Fox News, Nov. 7, 2011, Census Data Show Americans Hit by Poverty at All-Time High
CBS News, Nov. 8, 2011, New data shows poverty at an all-time high [40]

18) [40] Letter to Congressional leaders from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, April 16, 2012
New Yorker, August 11, 2012, Ayn Rand joins the Ticket [43]

19) Harper’s Magazine, Sep. 2012, Spend, Baby, Spend

20) Fascism – The Tensile Permanence, Dr. Sam Vaknin

21) Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Beacon Press, 2001, p. 267-268

22) Mother Jones, Full Transcript of the Mitt Romney Secret Video

23) Rolling Stone, Right-Wing Billionaires Behind Mitt Romney, May 24, 2012

24) Wikipedia, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/how-propagandists-1-are-manipulating-christian-teachings-rob-middle-class

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/michael-meurer
[2] http://mondediplo.com/2012/02/01tobin
[3] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#I
[4] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/baselinescenario.com/2011/01/09/the-bill-daley-problem/
[5] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#II
[6] http://www.bis.org/publ/otc_hy1111.pdf
[7] http://www.isda.org/statistics/recent.html%20%20
[8] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=ny_gdp_mktp_cd&tdim=true&dl=en&hl=en&q=global+gdp
[9] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#III
[10] http://www.concordcoalition.org/issues/indicators/us-total-national-debt.%20Daily%20Beast.%20http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/05/the-u-s-government-doesn-t-really-owe-16-trillion-in-debt.html
[11] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#IV
[12] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.bloomberg.com/apps/data?pid=avimage&iid=i0YrUuvkygWs
[13] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.sanders.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/GAO%20Fed%20Investigation.pdf.%20http:/www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3
[14] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#V
[15] http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-price-of-9-11
[16] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#VI
[17] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/revisiting-the-cost-of-the-bush-tax-cuts/2011/05/09/AFxTFtbG_blog.html
[18] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#VII
[19] http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/paper-wealth-and-the-economic-crisis
[20] http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr482.pdf
[21] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/reversemortgagedaily.com/2011/02/13/home-equity-declines-more-than-60-during-great-recession-says-fed-report/
[22] http://rutledgecapital.com/2009/05/24/total-assets-of-the-us-economy-188-trillion-134xgdp/
[23] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#VIII
[24] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#IX
[25] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.policyarchive.org/handle/10207/bitstreams/21115.pdf
[26] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#X
[27] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.ritholtz.com/blog/2008/11/big-bailouts-bigger-bucks/
[28] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XI
[29] http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281756.001.0001/acprof-9780199281756
[30] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XII
[31] http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Hayek.html
[32] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XIII
[33] http://truth-out.org/%20http:/www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?SKU=5643
[34] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XIV
[35] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph
[36] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XV
[37] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/income-doubles-top-percent-1979/story?id=14817561
[38] http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42729
[39] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XVI
[40] http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/07/census-data-show-americans-hit-by-poverty-at-all-time-high/#ixzz1zxaCJHpF
[41] http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7387553n
[42] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XVII
[43] http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture-nutrition-rural-issues/upload/Letter-to-House-Committee-on-Agriculture-2012-04-16.pdf
[44] http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/08/paul-ryan-and-ayn-rand.html
[45] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XVIII
[46] http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/08/hbc-90008826
[47] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XIX
[48] http://samvak.tripod.com/fascism.html
[49] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XX
[50] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XXI
[51] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/full-transcript-mitt-romney-secret-video
[52] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XXII
[53] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/right-wing-billionaires-behind-mitt-romney-20120524
[54] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XXIII
[55] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction
[56] http://truth-out.org/news/item/12044-blind-faith-as-profit-engine-how-free-market-worshipers-use-christian-utopianism-to-bilk-the-middle-class#XXIV
[57] http://www.bis.org/publ/otc_hy1111.pdf.
[58] http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-price-of-9-11.
[59] http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42537
[60] http://www.alternet.org/tags/profit
[61] http://www.alternet.org/tags/free-marketm-utopianism
[62] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-0
[63] http://www.alternet.org/tags/financial-crisis-0
[64] http://www.alternet.org/tags/neoliberalism
[65] http://www.alternet.org/tags/romney-0
[66] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ryan-0
[67] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-0
[68] http://www.alternet.org/tags/election-2012
[69] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Tentacles of rage: the Republican propaganda mill, a brief history by Lewis H. Lapham

Harpers Magazine v.309, n.1852, September 1, 2004

Excerpt

…1964…[when] the Republican Party [nominated] Senator Barry Goldwater as its candidate in that year’s presidential election…The “basic American consensus” at the time was firmly liberal in character and feeling, assured of a clear majority in both chambers of Congress as well as a sympathetic audience in the print and broadcast press. Even the National Association of Manufacturers was still aligned with the generous impulse of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, accepting of the proposition, as were the churches and the universities, that government must do for people what people cannot do for themselves

And yet, seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly at the rostrum of the San Francisco Cow Palace in a roar of triumphant applause, here was a cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness threatening to sack the federal city of good intentions, declaring the American government the enemy of the American people….

The star-spangled oratory didn’t draw much of a crowd on the autumn campaign trail. The electorate in 1964 wasn’t interested in the threat of an apocalyptic future or the comforts of an imaginary past, and Goldwater’s reactionary vision in the desert faded into the sunset of the November election won by Lyndon Johnson with 61 percent of the popular vote….the basic American consensus has shifted over the last thirty years from a liberal to a conservative biasplaced Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and provides the current Bush Administration with the platform…affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal–government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answerHow did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?

…the numbing of America’s political senses didn’t happen by mistake…the re-education program undertaken in the early 1970s by a cadre of ultraconservative and self-mythologizing millionaires bent on rescuing the country from the hideous grasp of Satanic liberalism. To a small group of Democratic activists meeting in New York City in late February, Stein had brought thirty-eight charts diagramming the organizational structure of the Republican “Message Machine,” an octopus-like network of open and hidden microphones that he described as “perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system.”…-fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years for the fabrication of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”…

Full text

When, in all our history, has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus, ever got so far? —Richard Hofstadter

In company with nearly every other historian and political journalist east of the Mississippi River in the summer of 1964, the late Richard Hofstadter saw the Republican Party’s naming of Senator Barry Goldwater as its candidate in that year’s presidential election as an event comparable to the arrival of the Mongol hordes at the gates of thirteenth-century Vienna. The “basic American consensus” at the time was firmly liberal in character and feeling, assured of a clear majority in both chambers of Congress as well as a sympathetic audience in the print and broadcast press. Even the National Association of Manufacturers was still aligned with the generous impulse of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, accepting of the proposition, as were the churches and the universities, that government must do for people what people cannot do for themselves.*
* With regard to the designation “liberal,” the economist John K. Galbraith said in 1964, “Almost everyone now so describes himself.” Lionel Trilling, the literary critic, observed in 1950 that “In the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” He went on to say that “there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation,” merely “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”
And yet, seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly at the rostrum of the San Francisco Cow Palace in a roar of triumphant applause, here was a cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness threatening to sack the federal city of good intentions, declaring the American government the enemy of the American people, properly understood not as the guarantor of the country’s freedoms but as a syndicate of quasi-communist bureaucrats poisoning the wells of commercial enterprise with “centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.” A band played “America the Beautiful,” and in a high noon glare of klieg light the convention delegates beheld a militant captain of capitalist jihad (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”) known to favor the doctrines of forward deterrence and preemptive strike (“Let’s lob a nuclear bomb into the men’s room at the Kremlin”), believing that poverty was proof of bad character (“lazy, dole-happy people who want to feed on the fruits of somebody else’s labor”), that the Democratic Party and the network news programs were under the direction of Marxist ballet dancers, that Mammon was another name for God.
The star-spangled oratory didn’t draw much of a crowd on the autumn campaign trail. The electorate in 1964 wasn’t interested in the threat of an apocalyptic future or the comforts of an imaginary past, and Goldwater’s reactionary vision in the desert faded into the sunset of the November election won by Lyndon Johnson with 61 percent of the popular vote, the suburban sheriffs on their palomino ponies withdrawing to Scottsdale and Pasadena in the orderly and inoffensive manner of the Great Khan’s horsemen retiring from the plains of medieval Europe.
$2 BILLION ASSETS CONSERVATIVE FOUNDATIONS (200I ASSETS)
(in $ Millions)
The Bradley Foundation          584
Smith Richardson Foundation         494
Scaife Family (Four Foundations)       478.4
Earhart Foundation    84
John M. Olin Foundation   71
Koch Family (Three Foundations)  68
Castle Rock (Coors) Foundation   50
JM Foundation     25
Philip M. McKenna Foundation   17.4

Departed but not disbanded. As the basic American consensus has shifted over the last thirty years from a liberal to a conservative bias, so also the senator from Arizona has come to he seen as a prophet in the western wilderness, apostle of the rich man’s dream of heaven that placed Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and provides the current Bush Administration with the platform on which the candidate was trundled into New York City this August with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the heavy law enforcement, and the paper elephants.* The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal—government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maid-en’s prayer—and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that Hofstadter didn’t stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?
* The rightward movement of the country’s social and political center of gravity isn’t a matter of opinion or conjecture. Whether compiled by Ralph Nader or by journalists of a conservative persuasion (most recently John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in a book entitled The Right Nation) the numbers tell the same unambiguous story—one in five Americans willing to accept identity as a liberal, one in three preferring the term “conservative”; the American public content with lower levels of government spending and higher levels of economic inequality than those pertaining in any of the Western European democracies; the United States unique among the world’s developed nations in its unwillingness to provide its citizens with a decent education or fully funded health care; 40 million Americans paid less than $10 an hour, 66 percent of the population earning less than $45,000 a year; 2 million people in prison, the majority of them black and Latino; the country’s largest and most profitable corporations relieved of the obligation to pay an income tax; no politician permitted to stand for public office without first professing an ardent faith in God.
About the workings of the right-wing propaganda mills in Washington and New York I knew enough to know that the numbing of America’s political senses didn’t happen by mistake, but it wasn’t until I met Rob Stein, formerly a senior adviser to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, that I came to fully appreciate the nature and the extent of the re-education program undertaken in the early 1970s by a cadre of ultraconservative and self-mythologizing millionaires bent on rescuing the country from the hideous grasp of Satanic liberalism. To a small group of Democratic activists meeting in New York City in late February, Stein had brought thirty-eight charts diagramming the organizational structure of the Republican “Message Machine,” an octopus-like network of open and hidden microphones that he described as “perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system.”
It was an impressive presentation, in large part because Stein didn’t refer to anybody as a villain, never mentioned the word “conspiracy.” A lawyer who also managed a private equity investment fund—i.e., a man unintimidated by spread sheets and indifferent to the seductions of the pious left—Stein didn’t begrudge the manufacturers of corporatist agitprop the successful distribution of their product in the national markets for the portentous catch-phrase and the camera-ready slogan. Having devoted several months to his search through the available documents, he was content to let the facts speak for themselves—fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years for the fabrication of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”
The effort had taken many forms—the publication of expensively purchased and cleverly promoted tracts (Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations), a steady flow of newsletters from more than 100 captive printing presses (among them those at The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in the Media, the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), generous distributions of academic programs and visiting professorships (to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities), the passing along of sound-bite slanders (to Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge), the formulation of newspaper op-ed pieces (for the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well as for the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Times). The prolonged siege of words had proved so successful in its result that on nearly every question of foreign or domestic policy in this year’s presidential campaign, the frame and terms of the debate might as well have been assembled in Taiwan by Chinese child labor working from patterns furnished by the authors of ExxonMobil’s annual report.
No small task and no mean feat, and as I watched Stein’s diagrams take detailed form on a computer screen (the directorates of the Leadership Institute and Capital Research Center all but identical with that of The Philanthropy Roundtable, Richard Mellon Scaife’s money dispatched to the Federalist Society as well as to The American Spectator), I was surprised to see so many familiar names—publications to which I’d contributed articles, individuals with whom I was acquainted—and I understood that Stein’s story was one that I could corroborate, not with supplementary charts or footnotes but on the evidence of my own memory and observation.
The provenience of the Message Machine Stein traced to the recognition on the part of the country’s corporate gentry in the late 1960s that they lacked the intellectual means to comprehend, much less quell or combat, the social and political turmoil then engulfing the whole of American society, and if I had missed Goldwater’s foretelling of an apocalyptic future in the Cow Palace, I remembered my own encounter with the fear and trembling of what was still known as “The Establishment,” four years later and 100 miles to the north at the July encampment of San Francisco’s Bohemian Club. Over a period of three weeks every summer, the 600-odd members of the club, most of them expensive ornaments of the American haute bourgeoisie, invite an equal number of similarly fortunate guests to spend as many days as their corporate calendars permit within a grove of handsome redwood trees, there to listen to the birdsong, interest one another in various business opportunities, exchange misgivings about the restlessness of the deutschmark and the yen.
In the summer of 1968 the misgivings were indistinguishable from panic. Martin Luther King had been assassinated; so had Robert Kennedy, and everywhere that anybody looked the country’s institutional infrastructure, also its laws, customs, best-loved truths, and fairy tales, seemed to be collapsing into anarchy and chaos—black people rioting in the streets of Los Angeles and Detroit, American soldiers killing their officers in Vietnam, longhaired hippies stoned on drugs or drowned in the bathtubs of Bel Air, shorthaired feminists playing with explosives instead of dolls, the Scottsdale and Pasadena sheriffs’ posses preparing their palomino ponies to stand firm in the face of an urban mob.
Historians revisiting in tranquility the alarums and excursions of the Age of Aquarius know that Revolution Now was neither imminent nor likely—the economy was too prosperous, the violent gestures of rebellion contained within too small a demographic, mostly rich kids who could afford the flowers and the go-go hoots—hut in the hearts of the corporate chieftains wandering among the redwood trees in the Bohemian Grove in July 1968, the fear was palpable and genuine. The croquet lawn seemed to be sliding away beneath their feet, and although they knew they were in trouble, they didn’t know why. Ideas apparently mattered, and words were maybe more important than they had guessed; unfortunately, they didn’t have any. The American property-holding classes tend to be embarrassingly ill at ease with concepts that don’t translate promptly into money, and the beacons of conservative light shining through the liberal fog of the late 1960s didn’t come up to the number of clubs in Arnold Palmer’s golf bag. The company of the commercial faithful gathered on the banks of California’s Russian River could look for succor to Goldwater’s autobiography, The Conscience of a Conservative, to William F. Buckley’s editorials in National Review, to the novels of Ayn Rand. Otherwise they were as helpless as unarmed sheepherders surrounded by a Comanche war party on the old Oklahoma frontier before the coining of the railroad and the six-gun.
The hope of their salvation found its voice in a 5,000-word manifesto written by Lewis Powell, a Richmond corporation lawyer, and circulated in August 1971 by the United States Chamber of Commerce under the heading Confidential Memorandum; Attack on the American Free Enterprise System. Soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court, lawyer Powell was a man well-known and much respected by the country’s business community; within the legal profession he was regarded as a prophet. His heavy word of warning fell upon the legions of reaction with the force of Holy Scripture: “Survival of what we call the free enterprise system,” he said, “lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”
The venture capital for the task at hand was provided by a small sewing circle of rich philanthropists—Richard Mellon Scaife in Pittsburgh, Lynde and Harry Bradley in Milwaukee, John Olin in New York City, the Smith Richardson family in North Carolina, Joseph Coors in Denver, David and Charles Koch in Wichita—who entertained visions of an America restored to the safety of its mythological past—small towns like those seen in prints by Currier and Ives, cheerful factory workers whistling while they worked, politicians as wise as Abraham Lincoln and as brave as Teddy Roosevelt, benevolent millionaires presenting Christmas turkeys to deserving elevator operators, the sins of the flesh deported to Mexico or France. Suspicious of any fact that they hadn’t known before the age of six, the wealthy saviors of the Republic also possessed large reserves of paranoia, and if the world was going rapidly to rot (as any fool could plainly see) the fault was to be found in everything and anything tainted with a stamp of liberal origin—the news media and the universities, income taxes, Warren Beatty, transfer payments to the undeserving poor, restraints of trade, Jane Fonda, low interest rates, civil liberties for unappreciative minorities, movies made in Poland, public schools.*
*The various philanthropic foundations under the control of the six families possess assets estimated in 2001 at $1.7 billion. Harry Bradley was an early and enthusiastic member of the John Birch Society; Koch Industries in the winter of 2000 agreed to pay $30 million (the largest civil fine ever imposed on a private American company under any federal environmental law) to settle claims related to 300 oil spills from its pipelines in six states.
Although small in comparison with the sums distributed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, the money was ideologically sound, and it was put to work leveraging additional contributions (from corporations as well as from other like-minded foundations), acquiring radio stations, newspapers, and journals of opinion, bankrolling intellectual sweatshops for the making of political and socioeconomic theory. Joseph Coors established The Heritage Foundation with an initial gift of $250,000 in 1973, the sum augmented over the next few years with $900,000 from Richard Scaife; the American Enterprise Institute was revived and fortified in the late seventies with $6 million from the Howard Pew Freedom Trust; the Cato Institute was set up by the Koch family in 1977 with a gift of $500,000. If in 1971 the friends of American free enterprise could turn for comfort to no more than seven not very competent sources of inspiration, by the end of the decade they could look to eight additional installations committed to “joint effort” and “united action.” The senior officers of the Fortune 500 companies meanwhile organized the Business Roundtable, providing it by 1979 with a rich endowment for the hiring of resident scholars loyal in their opposition to the tax and antitrust laws.
The quickening construction of Santa’s work-shops outside the walls of government and the academy resulted in the increased production of pamphlets, histories, monographs, and background briefings intended to bring about the ruin of the liberal idea in all of its institutionalized forms—the demonization of the liberal press, the disparagement of liberal sentiment, the destruction of liberal education—and by the time Ronald Reagan arrived in triumph at the White House in 1980 the assembly lines were operating at full capacity. Well in advance of inauguration day the Christmas elves had churned out so much paper that had they been told to do so, they could have shredded it into tickertape and welcomed the new cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness with a parade like none other ever before seen by man or beast. Unshredded, the paper was the stuff of dreams from which was made Mandate for Leadership, the “bible” presented by The Heritage Foundation to Mr. Reagan in the first days of his presidency with the thought that he might want to follow its architectural design for an America free at last from “the tyranny of the Left,” rescued from the dungeons of “liberal fascism,” once again a theme park built by nonunion labor along the lines of Walt Disney’s gardens of synthetic Eden.
Signs of the newly minted intellectual dispensation began showing up in the offices of Harper’s Magazine in 1973, the manuscripts invariably taking the form of critiques of one or another of the absurdities then making an appearance before the Washington congressional committees or touring the New York literary scene with Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer. Over a period of several years the magazine published articles and essays by authors later to become well-known apologists for the conservative creed, among them George Gilder, Michael Novak, William Tucker, and Philip Terzian; if their writing in the early seventies was remarkable both for its clarity and wit, it was because they chose topics of opportunity that were easy to find and hard to miss.
* Paul Weyrich, the first director of The Heritage Foundation, and often described by his admirers as “the Lenin of social conservatism,” seldom was at a loss for a military analogy: “If your enemy has weapons systems working and is killing you with them, you’d better have weapons systems of your own.”
The liberal consensus hadn’t survived the loss of the Vietnam War. The subsequently sharp reduction of the country’s moral and economic resources was made grimly apparent by the impeachment of Richard Nixon and the price of Arab oil, and it came to be understood that Roosevelt’s New Deal was no longer on offer. Acting on generous impulse and sustained by the presumption of limitless wealth, the American people had enacted legislation reflecting their best hopes for racial equality and social justice (a.k.a. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”), but any further efforts at transformation clearly were going to cost a great deal more money than the voters were prepared to spend. Also a good deal more thought than the country’s liberal-minded intelligentsia
were willing to attempt or eager to provide. The universities chose to amuse themselves with the crossword puzzles of French literary theory, and in the New York media salons the standard-bearers of America’s political conscience were content to rest upon what they took to be their laurels, getting by with the striking of noble poses (as friends of the earth or the Dalai Lama) and the expression of worthy emotions (on behalf of persecuted fur-seals and oppressed women). The energies once contained within the nucleus of a potent idea escaped into the excitements of the style incorporated under the rubrics of Radical Chic, and the messengers bringing the good news of conservative reaction moved their gospel-singing tent show into an all but deserted public square.
NATIONAL “THINK TANKS” (200I BUDGETS)
(in $ Millions)
The Heritage Foundation   33
American Enterprise Institute   25
Hoover Institution    25
Cato Institute     17.6
Hudson Institute     7.8
Manhattan Institute     7.2
Citizens for a Sound Economy    5.4
Reason Foundation     4.9
National Center for Policy Analysis   4.7
Competitive Enterprise Institute   3.2
Free Congress Foundation    2.7
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis   2.5

Their chief talents were those of the pedant and the critic, not those of the creative imagination, but they well understood the art of merchandising and the science of cross-promotion, and in the middle 1970s anybody wishing to appreciate the character and purpose of the emerging conservative putsch could find no better informant than Irving Kristol, then a leading columnist for the Wall Street Journal, the author of well-received books (On the Democratic Idea in America and Two Cheers for Capitalism), trusted counselor and adjunct sage at the annual meetings of the Business Roundtable. Asa youth in the late 1930s, at a time when literary name and reputation accrued to the accounts of the soidisant revolutionary left, Kristol had proclaimed himself a disciple of Leon Trotsky, but then the times changed, the winds of fortune shifting from east to west, and after a stint as a CIA asset in the 1950s, he had carried his pens and papers into winter quarters on the comfortably upholstered bourgeois right.
On first meeting the gentleman at a literary dinner in New York’s Century Club, I remember that I was as much taken by the ease and grace of his manner as I was impressed by his obvious intelligence. A man blessed with a sense of humor, his temperament and tone of mind more nearly resembling that of a sophisticated dealer in art and antiques than that of an academic scold, he praised Harper’s Magazine for its publication of Tom Wolfe’s satirical pieces, also for the prominence that it had given to the essays of Senator Daniel Patrick Monahan, and I was flattered by his inclination to regard me as an editor-of-promise who might be recruited to the conservative cause, presumably as an agent in place behind enemy lines. The American system of free enterprise, he said, was being attacked by the very people whom it most enriched i.e., by the pampered children of privilege disturbing the peace of the Ivy League universities, doing lines of cocaine in Manhattan discotheques, making decadent movies in Hollywood—and the time had come to put an end to their dangerous and self-indulgent nonsense. Nobody under the age of thirty knew what anything cost, and even the senior faculty at Princeton had forgotten that it was none other than the great Winston Churchill who had said, “Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production.”
In the course of our introductory conversation Kristol not only referred me to other old masters whom I might wish to reread (among them Plutarch, Gibbon, and Edmund Burke); he also explained something of his technique as an intellectual entrepreneur. Despite the warning cries raised by a few prescient millionaires far from the fashionable strongholds of the effeminate east, the full membership of the American oligarchy still wasn’t alive to the threat of cultural insurrection, and in order to awaken the management to a proper sense of its dire peril, Kristol had been traveling the circuit of the country’s corporate boardrooms, soliciting contributions given in memory of Friedrich von Hayek, encouraging the automobile companies to withdraw their advertising budgets from any media outlet that declined to echo their social and political prejudices.
“Why empower your enemies?” he said. “Why throw pearls to swine?
Although I didn’t accept Kristol’s invitation to what he called the “intellectual counter-revolution,” I often ran across him during the next few years at various symposia addressed to the collapse of the nation’s moral values, and I never failed to enjoy his company or his conversation. Among all the propagandists pointing out the conservative path to glory, Kristol seemed to me the brightest and the best, and I don’t wonder that he eventually became one of the four or five principal shop stewards overseeing the labors of the Republican message machine.
It was at Kristol’s suggestion that I met a number of the fund-raising people associated with the conservative program of political correctness, among them Michael Joyce, executive director in the late seventies of the Olin Foundation. We once traveled together on a plane returning to New York from a conference that Joyce had organized for a college in Michigan, and somewhere over eastern Ohio he asked whether I might want to edit a new journal of cultural opinion meant to rebut and confound the ravings of The New York Review of Books. The proposition wasn’t one in which I was interested, but the terms of the offer an annual salary of $200,000, to be paid for life even in the event of my resignation or early retirement—spoke to the seriousness of the rightist intent to corner and control the national market in ideas.
* Henry Ford II expressed a similar thought on resigning as a trustee of the Ford Foundation in late 1976. Giving vent to his confusion, annoyance, and dismay, he took the trouble to write a letter to the staff of the foundation reminding them that they were associated with “a creature of capitalism.” Conceding that the word might seem “shocking” to many of the people employed in the vineyards of philanthropy, Mr. Ford proceeded to his defense of the old ways and old order:

“I’m not playing the role of the hard-headed tycoon who thinks all philanthropoids are Socialists and all university professors are Communists. I’m just suggesting to the trustees and the staff that the system that makes the foundation possible very probably is worth preserving.”
The work went more smoothly as soon as the Reagan Administration had settled itself in Washington around the fountains and reflecting pools of federal patronage. Another nine right-thinking foundations established offices within a short distance of Capitol Hill or the Hay-Adams hotel (most prominent among them the Federalist Society and the Center for Individual Rights); more corporations sent more money; prices improved for ideological piecework (as much as $I00,000 a year for some of the brand-name scholars at Heritage and AEI), and eager converts to the various sects of the conservative faith were as thick upon the ground as maple leaves in autumn. By the end of Reagan’s second term the propaganda mills were spending $I00 million a year on the manufacture and sale of their product, invigorated by the sense that once again it was morning in America and redoubling their efforts to transform their large store of irritable mental gestures into brightly packaged policy objectives—tort reform, school vouchers, less government, lower taxes, elimination of the labor unions, bigger military budgets, higher interest rates, reduced environmental regulation, privatization of social security, down-sized Medicaid and Medicare, more prisons, better surveillance, stricter law enforcement.
If production increased at a more handsome pace than might have been dreamed of by Richard Scaife or hoped for by Irving Kristol, it was because the project had been blessed by Almighty God. The Christian right had come into the corporate fold in the late I970s. Abandoning the alliance formed with the conscience of the liberal left during the Great Depression (the years of sorrow and travail when money was not yet another name for Jesus), the merchants of spiritual salvation had come to see that their interests coincided with those of the insurance companies and the banks. The American equestrian classes were welcome to believe that slack-jawed dope addicts had fomented the cultural insurrection of the I960s; Jerry Falwell knew that it bad been the work of Satan, Satan himself and not one of his students at the University of California, who had loosed a plague of guitarists upon the land, tempted the news media to the broadcast of continuous footage from Sodom and Gomorrah, impregnated the schools with indecent interpretations of the Bible, which then gave birth to the monster of multiculturalism that devoured the arts of learning. Together with Paul Weyrich at The Heritage Foundation, Falwell sponsored the formation of the Moral Majority in I979, at about the same time and in much the same spirit that Pat Robertson, the Christian televangelist, sent his congregation a fundraising letter saying that feminists encourage women to “leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Before Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term the city of God signed a nonaggression pact with the temple of Mammon, their combined forces waging what came to be known as “The Culture War.”
* The proposed journal appeared in 1982 as The New Criterion, promoted as a “staunch defender” of high culture, “an articulate scourge of artistic mediocrity and intellectual mendacity wherever they are found.” Joyce later took over direction of the Bradley Foundation, where he proved to he as deft as Weyrich and Kristol at what the movement conservatives liked to call the wondrous alchemy of turning intellect into influence.

MASS MEDIA DISTRIBUTION
$300M CONSERVATIVE MESSAGE MACHINE
• TELEVISION
Pat Robertson’s 700 Club
Fox News Channel
MSNBC’s Scarborough Country
Oliver North’s War Stories
• RADIO
The Rush Limbaugh Show
The Cal Thomas Commentary
Radio America
• PUBLISHING
Eagle Publishing, Inc.
• NEWSPAPERS
The Washington Times
The Wall Street journal
• WEBSITES
Townhall.com
AnnCoulter.com
The Cold War against the Russians was fading into safe and nostalgic memory, and the tellers of the great American fairy tale (the one about the precious paradise ever in need of an invincible defense) found themselves in pressing need of other antagonists to take the place of the grim and harmless ogre in the northern snow.
The Japanese couldn’t play the part because they were lending the United States too much money; the Colombian drug lords were too few and too well connected in Miami; Manuel Noriega failed the audition; the Arab oil cartel was broke; and the Chinese were busy making shirts for Ralph Lauren.
In the absence of enemies abroad, the protectors of the American dream at home began looking for domestic signs of moral weakness rather than foreign shows of military strength; instead of examining the dossiers of distant tyrants, they searched the local newspapers for flaws in the American character, and the surveillance satellites over Leipzig and Sevastopol were reassigned stations over metropolitan Detroit and the Hollywood studios filming Dynasty and Dallas. Within a matter of months the conservative committees of public safety rounded up as suspects a motley crowd of specific individuals and general categories of subversive behavior and opinion—black male adolescents as well as elderly female Buddhists, the New York Times, multiculturalists of all descriptions, the I960s, welfare mothers, homosexuals, drug criminals, illegal immigrants, performance artists. Some enemies of the state were easier to identify than others, but in all instances the reactionary tellers of the tale relied on images seen in dreams or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies rather than on the lessons of their own experience.
For a few years I continued to attend convocations sponsored by the steadily proliferating agencies of the messianic right, but although the discussions were held in increasingly opulent settings—the hotel accommodations more luxurious, better food, views of the mountains as well as the sea—by 1985 I could no longer stomach either the sanctimony or the cant. With the coming to power of the Reagan Administration most of the people on the podium or the tennis court were safely enclosed within the perimeters of orthodox opinion and government largesse, and yet they persisted in casting themselves as rebels against “the system,” revolutionary idealists being hunted down like dogs by a vicious and still active liberal prosecution. The pose was as ludicrous as it was false. The leftist impulse had been dead for ten years, ever since the right-wing Democrats in Congress had sold out the liberal portfolio of President Jimmy Carter and revised the campaign-finance laws to suit the convenience of their corporate patrons. Nor did the news media present an obstacle. By 1985 the Wall Street Journal had become the newspaper of record most widely read by the people who made the decisions about the country’s economic policy; the leading editorialists in the New York Times (A. M. Rosenthal, William Safire) as well as in the Washington Post (George Will, Richard Harwood, Meg Greenfield) ably defended the interests of the status quo; the vast bulk of the nation’s radio talk shows (reaching roughly 80 percent of the audience) reflected a conservative bias, as did all but one or two of the television talk shows permitted to engage political topics on PBS. In the pages of the smaller journals of opinion (National Review, Commentary, The American Spectator, The National Interest, The New Criterion, The Public Interest, Policy Review, etc.) the intellectual décor, much of it paid for by the Olin and Scaife foundations, was matched to the late-Victorian tastes of Rudyard Kipling and J. P. Morgan. The voices of conscience that attracted the biggest crowds on the nation’s lecture circuit were those that spoke for one or another of the parties of the right, and together with the chorus of religious broadcasts and pamphlets (among them Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and the publications under the direction of Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon), they enveloped the country in an all but continuous din of stereophonic, right-wing sound.
The facts seldom intruded upon the meditations of the company seated poolside at the conferences and symposia convened to bemoan America’s fall from grace, and I found it increasingly depressing to listen to prerecorded truths dribble from the mouths of writers once willing to risk the chance of thinking for themselves. Having exchanged intellectual curiosity for ideological certainty, they had forfeited their powers of observation as well as their senses of humor; no longer courageous enough to concede the possibility of error or enjoy the play of the imagination, they took an interest only in those ideas that could be made to bear the weight of solemn doctrine, and they cried up the horrors of the culture war because their employers needed an alibi for the disappearances of the country’s civil liberties and a screen behind which to hide the privatization (a.k.a. the theft) of its common property—the broadcast spectrum as well as the timber, the water, and the air, the reserves of knowledge together with the mineral deposits and the laws. Sell the suckers on the notion that their “values” are at risk (abortionists escaping the nets of the Massachusetts state police, pornographers and cosmetic surgeons busily at work in Los Angeles, farm families everywhere in the Middle West becoming chattels of the welfare state) and maybe they won’t notice that their pockets have been picked.
So many saviors of the republic were raising the alarm of culture war in the middle eighties that I now can’t remember whether it was Bob Bartley writing in the Wall Street Journal or William Bennett speaking from his podium at the National Endowment for the Humanities who said that at Yale University the students were wallowing in the joys of sex, drugs, and Karl Marx, disporting themselves on the New Haven green in the reckless manner of nymphs and satyrs on a Grecian urn. I do remember that at one of the high-end policy institutes in Manhattan I heard the tale told by Norman Podhoretz, then the editor at Commentary, the author of several contentious books (Making It and Why We Were in Vietnam), and a rabid propagandist for all things antiliberal. What he had to say about Yale was absurd, which I happened to know because that same season I was teaching a seminar at the college. More than half the number of that year’s graduating seniors had applied for work at the First Boston Corporation, and most of the students whom I’d had the chance to meet were so busy finding their way around the Monopoly board of the standard American success (figuring the angles of approach to business school, adding to the network of contacts in their Filofaxes) that they didn’t have the time to waste on sexual digressions either literal or figurative. When I attempted to explain the circumstance to Podhoretz, he wouldn’t hear of it. Not only was I misinformed, I was a liberal and therefore both a liar and a fool. He hadn’t been in New Haven in twenty years, but he’d read William F. Buckley’s book (God and Man at Yale, published in 1951), and he knew (because the judgment had been confirmed by something he’d been told by Donald Kagan in 1978) that the college was a sinkhole of depraved sophism. He knew it for a fact, knew it in the same way that Jerry Falwell knew that it was Satan who taught Barbra Streisand how to sing.
If Kristol was the most engaging of the agents provocateur whom I’d encountered on the conservative lecture circuit in the 1980s, Podhoretz was the dreariest—an apparatchik in the old Soviet sense of the word who believed everything he wished to prove and could prove everything he wished to believe, bringing his patrons whichever words might serve or please, anxious to secure a place near or at the boot of power. Unfortunately it was Podhoretz, not Kristol, who exemplified the character and tone of mind that edged the American conservative consensus ever further to the right during the decade of the 1990s.
The networks of reactionary opinion once again increased their rates of production, several additional foundations recruited to the cause, numerous activist organizations coming on line, together with new and improved media outlets (most notably Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Weekly Standard) broadcasting the gospels according to saints Warren Harding and William McKinley. By 1994 the Conservative Political Action Conference was attracting as many as 4,000 people, half of them college students, to its annual weekend in Arlington, Virginia, there to listen to the heroes of the hour (G. Gordon Liddy, Ralph Reed, Oliver North) speak from stages wrapped in American flags. Americans for Tax Reform under the direction of Grover Norquist declared its intention to shrink the federal government to a size small enough “to drown,” like one of the long-lost hippies in Bel Air, “in a bathtub.”
STUDENTS AND SCHOLARS (200I ESTIMATES)
(in $ Millions)
George Mason University    7
Harvard University     6
Intercollegiate Studies Institute 5.8
University of Chicago    5
Yale University    5
Washington University    4
Stanford University    3
Institute for Humane Studies   2.9
National Association of Scholars  1.2
Although as comfortably at home on Capitol Hill as in the lobbies of the corporate law firms on K Street, and despite their having learned to suck like newborn lambs at the teats of government patronage (Kristol’s son, William, serving as public-relations director to Vice President Dan Quayle; Podhoretz’s son-in-law, Elliot Abrams, a highly placed official within the Reagan Administration subsequently indicted for criminal misconduct), the apologists for the conservative cause continued to pose as embattled revolutionaries at odds with the “Tyranny of the Left.” The pretense guaranteed a steady flow of money from their corporate sponsors, and the unexpected election of Bill Clinton in 1992 offered them yet another chance to stab the corpse of the liberal Goliath. The smearing of the new president’s name and reputation began as soon as he committed the crime of entering the White House. The American Spectator, a monthly journal financed by Richard Scaife, sent its scouts west into Arkansas to look for traces of Clinton’s semen on the pine trees and the bar stools. It wasn’t long before Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr undertook his obsessive inspection of the president’s bank records, soul, and penis. Summoning witnesses with the fury of a suburban Savonarola, Starr set forth on an exploration of the Ozark Mountains, questioning the natives about wooden Indians and painted women. For four years he camped in the wilderness, and even after he was allowed to examine Monica Lewinsky’s lingerie drawer, his search for the weapon of mass destruction proved as futile as the one more recently conducted in Iraq.
Although unable to match Starr’s prim self-righteousness, Newt Gingrich, the Republican congressman from Georgia elected speaker of the House in 1995, presented himself as another champion of virtue (a self-proclaimed “Teacher of the Rules of Civilization”) willing to lead the American people out of the desolation of a liberal wasteland. Like Starr and Podhoretz (also like the newscasters who now decorate the right-wing television studios), Gingrich had a talent for bearing grudges. During his sixteen years in Congress he had acquired a reputation (not undeserved) for being nasty, brutish, and short, eventually coming to stand as the shared and shining symbol of resentment that bound together the several parties of the disaffected right—the Catholic conservatives with the Jewish neoconservatives, the libertarians with the authoritarians, the evangelical nationalists with the paranoid monetarists, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition with the friends of the Ku Klux Klan. Within a few months of his elevation to the speaker’s chair, Gingrich bestowed on his fellow-plaintiffs his Contract with America, a plan for rooting out the last vestiges
of liberal heresy in the mind of government. As mean-spirited in its particulars as the Mandate for Leadership handed to Ronald Reagan in 1980, the contract didn’t become law, but it has since provided the terms of enlightened selfishness that shape and inspire the policies of the current Bush Administration.
During the course of the 1990s I did my best to keep up with the various lines of grievance developing within the several sects of the conservative remonstrance, but although I probably read as many as 2,000 presumably holy texts (Peggy Noonan’s newspaper editorials and David Gelernter’s magazine articles as well as the soliloquies of Rush Limbaugh and the sermons of Robert Bork), I never learned how to make sense of the weird and too numerous inward contradictions.
EIGHT INFLUENTIAL BOOKS AND THE FOUNDATIONS WHO SPONSORED THEM
• Free to Choose, Milton Friedman — Scaife Foundation Olin Foundation
• The Naked Public Square, Richard John Neuhaus — Lilly Endowment Bradley Foundation Olin Foundation
• The Dream and the Nightmare, Myron Magnet — Scaife Foundation
• Losing Ground, Charles Murray — Olin Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation
• The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington — Bradley Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation
• Illiberal Education, Dinesh D’Souza — Olin Foundation
• Politics, Markets &America’s Schools, John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe — Olin Foundation
• The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky — Bradley Foundation
How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases “personal initiative” and “self-reliance” to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communications, and weapons industries, square the talk of “civility” with the strong-arm methods of Kenneth Starr and Tom DeLay, match the warmhearted currencies of “conservative compassion” with the cold cruelty of “the unfettered free market,” know that human life must be saved from abortionists in Boston but not from cruise missiles in Baghdad? In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. It was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words were coming from (a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on the sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. Navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale—money ennobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.
But if a set of coherent ideas was hard to find in all the sermons from the mount, what was not hard to find was the common tendency to believe in some form of transcendent truth. A religious as opposed to a secular way of thinking. Good versus Evil, right or wrong, saved or damned, with us or against us, and no light-minded trifling with doubt or ambiguity. Or, more plainly and as a young disciple of Ludwig Von Mises had said, long ago in the 1980s in one of the hospitality tents set up to welcome the conservative awakening to a conference on a beach at Hilton Head, “Our people deal in absolutes.”
Just so, and more’s the pity. In place of intelligence, which might tempt them to consort with wicked or insulting questions for which they don’t already possess the answers, the parties of the right substitute ideology, which, although sometimes archaic and bizarre, is always virtuous.
Virtuous, but not necessarily the best means available to the running of a railroad or a war. The debacle in Iraq, like the deliberate impoverishment of the American middle class, bears witness to the shoddiness of the intellectual infrastructure on which a once democratic republic has come to stand. Morality deemed more precious than liberty; faith-based policies and initiatives ordained superior to common sense.
As long ago as 1964 even William F. Buckley understood that the thunder on the conservative right amounted to little else except the sound and fury of middle-aged infants banging silver spoons, demanding to know why they didn’t have more—more toys, more time, more soup; when Buckley was asked that year what the country could expect if it so happened that Goldwater was elected president, he said, “That might be a serious problem.” So it has proved, if not under the baton of the senator from Arizona then under the direction of his ideologically correct heirs and assigns. An opinion poll taken in 1964 showed 62 percent of the respondents trusting the government to do the right thing; by 1994 the number had dwindled to 19 percent. The measure can be taken as a tribute to the success of the Republican propaganda mill that for the last forty years has been grinding out the news that all government is bad, and that the word “public,” in all its uses and declensions (public service, citizenship, public health, community, public park, commonwealth, public school, etc.), connotes inefficiency and waste.
The dumbing down of the public discourse follows as the day the night, and so it comes as no surprise that both candidates in this year’s presidential election present themselves as embodiments of what they call “values” rather than as the proponents of an idea. Handsome images consistent with those seen in Norman Rockwell’s paintings or the prints of Currier and Ives, suitable for mounting on the walls of the American Enterprise Institute, or in one of the manor houses owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, maybe somewhere behind a library sofa or over the fireplace in a dining room, but certainly in a gilded frame.

Full text

When, in all our history, has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus, ever got so far?–Richard Hofstadter

In company with nearly every other historian and political journalist east of the Mississippi River in the summer of 1964, the late Richard Hofstadter saw the Republican Party’s naming of Senator Barry Goldwater as its candidate in that year’s presidential election as an event comparable to the arrival of the Mongol hordes at the gates of thirteenth-century Vienna. The “basic American consensus” at the time was firmly liberal in character and feeling, assured of a clear majority in both chambers of Congress as well as a sympathetic audience in the print and broadcast press. Even the National Association of Manufacturers was still aligned with the generous impulse of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, accepting of the proposition, as were the churches and the universities, that government must do for people what people cannot do for themselves. *

And yet, seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly at the rostrum of the San Francisco Cow Palace in a roar of triumphant applause, here was a cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness threatening to sack the federal city of good intentions, declaring the American government the enemy of the American people, properly understood not as the guarantor of the country’s freedoms but as a syndicate of quasi-communist bureaucrats poisoning the wells of commercial enterprise with “centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.” A band played “America the Beautiful,” and in a high noon glare of klieg light the convention delegates beheld a militant captain of capitalist jihad (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”) known to favor the doctrines of forward deterrence and preemptive strike (“Let’s lob a nuclear bomb into the men’s room at the Kremlin”), believing that poverty was proof of bad character (“lazy, dole-happy people who want to feed on the fruits of somebody else’s labor”), that the Democratic Party and the network news programs were under the direction of Marxist ballet dancers, that Mammon was another name for God.

The star-spangled oratory didn’t draw much of a crowd on the autumn campaign trail. The electorate in 1964 wasn’t interested in the threat of an apocalyptic future or the comforts of an imaginary past, and Goldwater’s reactionary vision in the desert faded into the sunset of the November election won by Lyndon Johnson with 61 percent of the popular vote, the suburban sheriffs on their palomino ponies withdrawing to Scottsdale and Pasadena in the orderly and inoffensive manner of the Great Khan’s horsemen retiring from the plains of medieval Europe.

Departed but not disbanded. As the basic American consensus has shifted over the last thirty years from a liberal to a conservative bias, so also the senator from Arizona has come to be seen as a prophet in the western wilderness, apostle of the rich man’s dream of heaven that placed Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and provides the current Bush Administration with the platform on which the candidate was trundled into New York City this August with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the heavy law enforcement, and the paper elephants. * The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal–government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maiden’s prayer–and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that Hofstadter didn’t stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?

About the workings of the right-wing propaganda mills in Washington and New York I knew enough to know that the numbing of America’s political senses didn’t happen by mistake, but it wasn’t until I met Rob Stein, formerly a senior adviser to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, that I came to fully appreciate the nature and the extent of the re-education program undertaken in the early 1970s by a cadre of ultraconservative and self-mythologizing millionaires bent on rescuing the country from the hideous grasp of Satanic liberalism. To a small group of Democratic activists meeting in New York City in late February, Stein had brought thirty-eight charts diagramming the organizational structure of the Republican “Message Machine,” an octopus-like network of open and hidden microphones that he described as “perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system.”

It was an impressive presentation, in large part because Stein didn’t refer to anybody as a villain, never mentioned the word “conspiracy.” A lawyer who also managed a private equity investment fund–i.e., a man unintimidated by spread sheets and indifferent to the seductions of the pious left–Stein didn’t begrudge the manufacturers of corporatist agitprop the successful distribution of their product in the national markets for the portentous catch-phrase and the camera-ready slogan. Having devoted several months to his search through the available documents, he was content to let the facts speak for themselves–fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years for the fabrication of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

The effort had taken many forms–the publication of expensively purchased and cleverly promoted tracts (Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations), a steady flow of newsletters from more than 100 captive printing presses (among them those at The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in the Media, the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), generous distributions of academic programs and visiting professorships (to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities), the passing along of sound-bite slanders (to Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge), the formulation of newspaper op-ed pieces (for the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well as for the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Times). The prolonged siege of words had proved so successful in its result that on nearly every question of foreign or domestic policy in this year’s presidential campaign, the frame and terms of the debate might as well have been assembled in Taiwan by Chinese child labor working from patterns furnished by the authors of ExxonMobil’s annual report.

No small task and no mean feat, and as I watched Stein’s diagrams take detailed form on a computer screen (the directorates of the Leadership Institute and Capital Research Center all but identical with that of The Philanthropy Roundtable, Richard Mellon Scaife’s money …

Full text

When, in all our history, has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus, ever got so far? —Richard Hofstadter

In company with nearly every other historian and political journalist east of the Mississippi River in the summer of 1964, the late Richard Hofstadter saw the Republican Party’s naming of Senator Barry Goldwater as its candidate in that year’s presidential election as an event comparable to the arrival of the Mongol hordes at the gates of thirteenth-century Vienna. The “basic American consensus” at the time was firmly liberal in character and feeling, assured of a clear majority in both chambers of Congress as well as a sympathetic audience in the print and broadcast press. Even the National Association of Manufacturers was still aligned with the generous impulse of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, accepting of the proposition, as were the churches and the universities, that government must do for people what people cannot do for themselves.*
* With regard to the designation “liberal,” the economist John K. Galbraith said in 1964, “Almost everyone now so describes himself.” Lionel Trilling, the literary critic, observed in 1950 that “In the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” He went on to say that “there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation,” merely “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”
And yet, seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly at the rostrum of the San Francisco Cow Palace in a roar of triumphant applause, here was a cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness threatening to sack the federal city of good intentions, declaring the American government the enemy of the American people, properly understood not as the guarantor of the country’s freedoms but as a syndicate of quasi-communist bureaucrats poisoning the wells of commercial enterprise with “centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.” A band played “America the Beautiful,” and in a high noon glare of klieg light the convention delegates beheld a militant captain of capitalist jihad (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”) known to favor the doctrines of forward deterrence and preemptive strike (“Let’s lob a nuclear bomb into the men’s room at the Kremlin”), believing that poverty was proof of bad character (“lazy, dole-happy people who want to feed on the fruits of somebody else’s labor”), that the Democratic Party and the network news programs were under the direction of Marxist ballet dancers, that Mammon was another name for God.
The star-spangled oratory didn’t draw much of a crowd on the autumn campaign trail. The electorate in 1964 wasn’t interested in the threat of an apocalyptic future or the comforts of an imaginary past, and Goldwater’s reactionary vision in the desert faded into the sunset of the November election won by Lyndon Johnson with 61 percent of the popular vote, the suburban sheriffs on their palomino ponies withdrawing to Scottsdale and Pasadena in the orderly and inoffensive manner of the Great Khan’s horsemen retiring from the plains of medieval Europe.
$2 BILLION ASSETS CONSERVATIVE FOUNDATIONS (200I ASSETS)
(in $ Millions)
The Bradley Foundation          584
Smith Richardson Foundation         494
Scaife Family (Four Foundations)       478.4
Earhart Foundation    84
John M. Olin Foundation   71
Koch Family (Three Foundations)  68
Castle Rock (Coors) Foundation   50
JM Foundation     25
Philip M. McKenna Foundation   17.4

Departed but not disbanded. As the basic American consensus has shifted over the last thirty years from a liberal to a conservative bias, so also the senator from Arizona has come to he seen as a prophet in the western wilderness, apostle of the rich man’s dream of heaven that placed Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and provides the current Bush Administration with the platform on which the candidate was trundled into New York City this August with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the heavy law enforcement, and the paper elephants.* The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal—government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maid-en’s prayer—and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that Hofstadter didn’t stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?
* The rightward movement of the country’s social and political center of gravity isn’t a matter of opinion or conjecture. Whether compiled by Ralph Nader or by journalists of a conservative persuasion (most recently John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in a book entitled The Right Nation) the numbers tell the same unambiguous story—one in five Americans willing to accept identity as a liberal, one in three preferring the term “conservative”; the American public content with lower levels of government spending and higher levels of economic inequality than those pertaining in any of the Western European democracies; the United States unique among the world’s developed nations in its unwillingness to provide its citizens with a decent education or fully funded health care; 40 million Americans paid less than $10 an hour, 66 percent of the population earning less than $45,000 a year; 2 million people in prison, the majority of them black and Latino; the country’s largest and most profitable corporations relieved of the obligation to pay an income tax; no politician permitted to stand for public office without first professing an ardent faith in God.
About the workings of the right-wing propaganda mills in Washington and New York I knew enough to know that the numbing of America’s political senses didn’t happen by mistake, but it wasn’t until I met Rob Stein, formerly a senior adviser to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, that I came to fully appreciate the nature and the extent of the re-education program undertaken in the early 1970s by a cadre of ultraconservative and self-mythologizing millionaires bent on rescuing the country from the hideous grasp of Satanic liberalism. To a small group of Democratic activists meeting in New York City in late February, Stein had brought thirty-eight charts diagramming the organizational structure of the Republican “Message Machine,” an octopus-like network of open and hidden microphones that he described as “perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system.”
It was an impressive presentation, in large part because Stein didn’t refer to anybody as a villain, never mentioned the word “conspiracy.” A lawyer who also managed a private equity investment fund—i.e., a man unintimidated by spread sheets and indifferent to the seductions of the pious left—Stein didn’t begrudge the manufacturers of corporatist agitprop the successful distribution of their product in the national markets for the portentous catch-phrase and the camera-ready slogan. Having devoted several months to his search through the available documents, he was content to let the facts speak for themselves—fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years for the fabrication of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”
The effort had taken many forms—the publication of expensively purchased and cleverly promoted tracts (Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations), a steady flow of newsletters from more than 100 captive printing presses (among them those at The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in the Media, the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), generous distributions of academic programs and visiting professorships (to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities), the passing along of sound-bite slanders (to Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge), the formulation of newspaper op-ed pieces (for the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well as for the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Times). The prolonged siege of words had proved so successful in its result that on nearly every question of foreign or domestic policy in this year’s presidential campaign, the frame and terms of the debate might as well have been assembled in Taiwan by Chinese child labor working from patterns furnished by the authors of ExxonMobil’s annual report.
No small task and no mean feat, and as I watched Stein’s diagrams take detailed form on a computer screen (the directorates of the Leadership Institute and Capital Research Center all but identical with that of The Philanthropy Roundtable, Richard Mellon Scaife’s money dispatched to the Federalist Society as well as to The American Spectator), I was surprised to see so many familiar names—publications to which I’d contributed articles, individuals with whom I was acquainted—and I understood that Stein’s story was one that I could corroborate, not with supplementary charts or footnotes but on the evidence of my own memory and observation.
The provenience of the Message Machine Stein traced to the recognition on the part of the country’s corporate gentry in the late 1960s that they lacked the intellectual means to comprehend, much less quell or combat, the social and political turmoil then engulfing the whole of American society, and if I had missed Goldwater’s foretelling of an apocalyptic future in the Cow Palace, I remembered my own encounter with the fear and trembling of what was still known as “The Establishment,” four years later and 100 miles to the north at the July encampment of San Francisco’s Bohemian Club. Over a period of three weeks every summer, the 600-odd members of the club, most of them expensive ornaments of the American haute bourgeoisie, invite an equal number of similarly fortunate guests to spend as many days as their corporate calendars permit within a grove of handsome redwood trees, there to listen to the birdsong, interest one another in various business opportunities, exchange misgivings about the restlessness of the deutschmark and the yen.
In the summer of 1968 the misgivings were indistinguishable from panic. Martin Luther King had been assassinated; so had Robert Kennedy, and everywhere that anybody looked the country’s institutional infrastructure, also its laws, customs, best-loved truths, and fairy tales, seemed to be collapsing into anarchy and chaos—black people rioting in the streets of Los Angeles and Detroit, American soldiers killing their officers in Vietnam, longhaired hippies stoned on drugs or drowned in the bathtubs of Bel Air, shorthaired feminists playing with explosives instead of dolls, the Scottsdale and Pasadena sheriffs’ posses preparing their palomino ponies to stand firm in the face of an urban mob.
Historians revisiting in tranquility the alarums and excursions of the Age of Aquarius know that Revolution Now was neither imminent nor likely—the economy was too prosperous, the violent gestures of rebellion contained within too small a demographic, mostly rich kids who could afford the flowers and the go-go hoots—hut in the hearts of the corporate chieftains wandering among the redwood trees in the Bohemian Grove in July 1968, the fear was palpable and genuine. The croquet lawn seemed to be sliding away beneath their feet, and although they knew they were in trouble, they didn’t know why. Ideas apparently mattered, and words were maybe more important than they had guessed; unfortunately, they didn’t have any. The American property-holding classes tend to be embarrassingly ill at ease with concepts that don’t translate promptly into money, and the beacons of conservative light shining through the liberal fog of the late 1960s didn’t come up to the number of clubs in Arnold Palmer’s golf bag. The company of the commercial faithful gathered on the banks of California’s Russian River could look for succor to Goldwater’s autobiography, The Conscience of a Conservative, to William F. Buckley’s editorials in National Review, to the novels of Ayn Rand. Otherwise they were as helpless as unarmed sheepherders surrounded by a Comanche war party on the old Oklahoma frontier before the coining of the railroad and the six-gun.
The hope of their salvation found its voice in a 5,000-word manifesto written by Lewis Powell, a Richmond corporation lawyer, and circulated in August 1971 by the United States Chamber of Commerce under the heading Confidential Memorandum; Attack on the American Free Enterprise System. Soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court, lawyer Powell was a man well-known and much respected by the country’s business community; within the legal profession he was regarded as a prophet. His heavy word of warning fell upon the legions of reaction with the force of Holy Scripture: “Survival of what we call the free enterprise system,” he said, “lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”
The venture capital for the task at hand was provided by a small sewing circle of rich philanthropists—Richard Mellon Scaife in Pittsburgh, Lynde and Harry Bradley in Milwaukee, John Olin in New York City, the Smith Richardson family in North Carolina, Joseph Coors in Denver, David and Charles Koch in Wichita—who entertained visions of an America restored to the safety of its mythological past—small towns like those seen in prints by Currier and Ives, cheerful factory workers whistling while they worked, politicians as wise as Abraham Lincoln and as brave as Teddy Roosevelt, benevolent millionaires presenting Christmas turkeys to deserving elevator operators, the sins of the flesh deported to Mexico or France. Suspicious of any fact that they hadn’t known before the age of six, the wealthy saviors of the Republic also possessed large reserves of paranoia, and if the world was going rapidly to rot (as any fool could plainly see) the fault was to be found in everything and anything tainted with a stamp of liberal origin—the news media and the universities, income taxes, Warren Beatty, transfer payments to the undeserving poor, restraints of trade, Jane Fonda, low interest rates, civil liberties for unappreciative minorities, movies made in Poland, public schools.*
*The various philanthropic foundations under the control of the six families possess assets estimated in 2001 at $1.7 billion. Harry Bradley was an early and enthusiastic member of the John Birch Society; Koch Industries in the winter of 2000 agreed to pay $30 million (the largest civil fine ever imposed on a private American company under any federal environmental law) to settle claims related to 300 oil spills from its pipelines in six states.
Although small in comparison with the sums distributed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, the money was ideologically sound, and it was put to work leveraging additional contributions (from corporations as well as from other like-minded foundations), acquiring radio stations, newspapers, and journals of opinion, bankrolling intellectual sweatshops for the making of political and socioeconomic theory. Joseph Coors established The Heritage Foundation with an initial gift of $250,000 in 1973, the sum augmented over the next few years with $900,000 from Richard Scaife; the American Enterprise Institute was revived and fortified in the late seventies with $6 million from the Howard Pew Freedom Trust; the Cato Institute was set up by the Koch family in 1977 with a gift of $500,000. If in 1971 the friends of American free enterprise could turn for comfort to no more than seven not very competent sources of inspiration, by the end of the decade they could look to eight additional installations committed to “joint effort” and “united action.” The senior officers of the Fortune 500 companies meanwhile organized the Business Roundtable, providing it by 1979 with a rich endowment for the hiring of resident scholars loyal in their opposition to the tax and antitrust laws.
The quickening construction of Santa’s work-shops outside the walls of government and the academy resulted in the increased production of pamphlets, histories, monographs, and background briefings intended to bring about the ruin of the liberal idea in all of its institutionalized forms—the demonization of the liberal press, the disparagement of liberal sentiment, the destruction of liberal education—and by the time Ronald Reagan arrived in triumph at the White House in 1980 the assembly lines were operating at full capacity. Well in advance of inauguration day the Christmas elves had churned out so much paper that had they been told to do so, they could have shredded it into tickertape and welcomed the new cowboy-hatted herald of enlightened selfishness with a parade like none other ever before seen by man or beast. Unshredded, the paper was the stuff of dreams from which was made Mandate for Leadership, the “bible” presented by The Heritage Foundation to Mr. Reagan in the first days of his presidency with the thought that he might want to follow its architectural design for an America free at last from “the tyranny of the Left,” rescued from the dungeons of “liberal fascism,” once again a theme park built by nonunion labor along the lines of Walt Disney’s gardens of synthetic Eden.
Signs of the newly minted intellectual dispensation began showing up in the offices of Harper’s Magazine in 1973, the manuscripts invariably taking the form of critiques of one or another of the absurdities then making an appearance before the Washington congressional committees or touring the New York literary scene with Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer. Over a period of several years the magazine published articles and essays by authors later to become well-known apologists for the conservative creed, among them George Gilder, Michael Novak, William Tucker, and Philip Terzian; if their writing in the early seventies was remarkable both for its clarity and wit, it was because they chose topics of opportunity that were easy to find and hard to miss.
* Paul Weyrich, the first director of The Heritage Foundation, and often described by his admirers as “the Lenin of social conservatism,” seldom was at a loss for a military analogy: “If your enemy has weapons systems working and is killing you with them, you’d better have weapons systems of your own.”
The liberal consensus hadn’t survived the loss of the Vietnam War. The subsequently sharp reduction of the country’s moral and economic resources was made grimly apparent by the impeachment of Richard Nixon and the price of Arab oil, and it came to be understood that Roosevelt’s New Deal was no longer on offer. Acting on generous impulse and sustained by the presumption of limitless wealth, the American people had enacted legislation reflecting their best hopes for racial equality and social justice (a.k.a. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”), but any further efforts at transformation clearly were going to cost a great deal more money than the voters were prepared to spend. Also a good deal more thought than the country’s liberal-minded intelligentsia
were willing to attempt or eager to provide. The universities chose to amuse themselves with the crossword puzzles of French literary theory, and in the New York media salons the standard-bearers of America’s political conscience were content to rest upon what they took to be their laurels, getting by with the striking of noble poses (as friends of the earth or the Dalai Lama) and the expression of worthy emotions (on behalf of persecuted fur-seals and oppressed women). The energies once contained within the nucleus of a potent idea escaped into the excitements of the style incorporated under the rubrics of Radical Chic, and the messengers bringing the good news of conservative reaction moved their gospel-singing tent show into an all but deserted public square.
NATIONAL “THINK TANKS” (200I BUDGETS)
(in $ Millions)
The Heritage Foundation   33
American Enterprise Institute   25
Hoover Institution    25
Cato Institute     17.6
Hudson Institute     7.8
Manhattan Institute     7.2
Citizens for a Sound Economy    5.4
Reason Foundation     4.9
National Center for Policy Analysis   4.7
Competitive Enterprise Institute   3.2
Free Congress Foundation    2.7
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis   2.5

Their chief talents were those of the pedant and the critic, not those of the creative imagination, but they well understood the art of merchandising and the science of cross-promotion, and in the middle 1970s anybody wishing to appreciate the character and purpose of the emerging conservative putsch could find no better informant than Irving Kristol, then a leading columnist for the Wall Street Journal, the author of well-received books (On the Democratic Idea in America and Two Cheers for Capitalism), trusted counselor and adjunct sage at the annual meetings of the Business Roundtable. Asa youth in the late 1930s, at a time when literary name and reputation accrued to the accounts of the soidisant revolutionary left, Kristol had proclaimed himself a disciple of Leon Trotsky, but then the times changed, the winds of fortune shifting from east to west, and after a stint as a CIA asset in the 1950s, he had carried his pens and papers into winter quarters on the comfortably upholstered bourgeois right.
On first meeting the gentleman at a literary dinner in New York’s Century Club, I remember that I was as much taken by the ease and grace of his manner as I was impressed by his obvious intelligence. A man blessed with a sense of humor, his temperament and tone of mind more nearly resembling that of a sophisticated dealer in art and antiques than that of an academic scold, he praised Harper’s Magazine for its publication of Tom Wolfe’s satirical pieces, also for the prominence that it had given to the essays of Senator Daniel Patrick Monahan, and I was flattered by his inclination to regard me as an editor-of-promise who might be recruited to the conservative cause, presumably as an agent in place behind enemy lines. The American system of free enterprise, he said, was being attacked by the very people whom it most enriched i.e., by the pampered children of privilege disturbing the peace of the Ivy League universities, doing lines of cocaine in Manhattan discotheques, making decadent movies in Hollywood—and the time had come to put an end to their dangerous and self-indulgent nonsense. Nobody under the age of thirty knew what anything cost, and even the senior faculty at Princeton had forgotten that it was none other than the great Winston Churchill who had said, “Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production.”
In the course of our introductory conversation Kristol not only referred me to other old masters whom I might wish to reread (among them Plutarch, Gibbon, and Edmund Burke); he also explained something of his technique as an intellectual entrepreneur. Despite the warning cries raised by a few prescient millionaires far from the fashionable strongholds of the effeminate east, the full membership of the American oligarchy still wasn’t alive to the threat of cultural insurrection, and in order to awaken the management to a proper sense of its dire peril, Kristol had been traveling the circuit of the country’s corporate boardrooms, soliciting contributions given in memory of Friedrich von Hayek, encouraging the automobile companies to withdraw their advertising budgets from any media outlet that declined to echo their social and political prejudices.
“Why empower your enemies?” he said. “Why throw pearls to swine?
Although I didn’t accept Kristol’s invitation to what he called the “intellectual counter-revolution,” I often ran across him during the next few years at various symposia addressed to the collapse of the nation’s moral values, and I never failed to enjoy his company or his conversation. Among all the propagandists pointing out the conservative path to glory, Kristol seemed to me the brightest and the best, and I don’t wonder that he eventually became one of the four or five principal shop stewards overseeing the labors of the Republican message machine.
It was at Kristol’s suggestion that I met a number of the fund-raising people associated with the conservative program of political correctness, among them Michael Joyce, executive director in the late seventies of the Olin Foundation. We once traveled together on a plane returning to New York from a conference that Joyce had organized for a college in Michigan, and somewhere over eastern Ohio he asked whether I might want to edit a new journal of cultural opinion meant to rebut and confound the ravings of The New York Review of Books. The proposition wasn’t one in which I was interested, but the terms of the offer an annual salary of $200,000, to be paid for life even in the event of my resignation or early retirement—spoke to the seriousness of the rightist intent to corner and control the national market in ideas.
* Henry Ford II expressed a similar thought on resigning as a trustee of the Ford Foundation in late 1976. Giving vent to his confusion, annoyance, and dismay, he took the trouble to write a letter to the staff of the foundation reminding them that they were associated with “a creature of capitalism.” Conceding that the word might seem “shocking” to many of the people employed in the vineyards of philanthropy, Mr. Ford proceeded to his defense of the old ways and old order:

“I’m not playing the role of the hard-headed tycoon who thinks all philanthropoids are Socialists and all university professors are Communists. I’m just suggesting to the trustees and the staff that the system that makes the foundation possible very probably is worth preserving.”
The work went more smoothly as soon as the Reagan Administration had settled itself in Washington around the fountains and reflecting pools of federal patronage. Another nine right-thinking foundations established offices within a short distance of Capitol Hill or the Hay-Adams hotel (most prominent among them the Federalist Society and the Center for Individual Rights); more corporations sent more money; prices improved for ideological piecework (as much as $I00,000 a year for some of the brand-name scholars at Heritage and AEI), and eager converts to the various sects of the conservative faith were as thick upon the ground as maple leaves in autumn. By the end of Reagan’s second term the propaganda mills were spending $I00 million a year on the manufacture and sale of their product, invigorated by the sense that once again it was morning in America and redoubling their efforts to transform their large store of irritable mental gestures into brightly packaged policy objectives—tort reform, school vouchers, less government, lower taxes, elimination of the labor unions, bigger military budgets, higher interest rates, reduced environmental regulation, privatization of social security, down-sized Medicaid and Medicare, more prisons, better surveillance, stricter law enforcement.
If production increased at a more handsome pace than might have been dreamed of by Richard Scaife or hoped for by Irving Kristol, it was because the project had been blessed by Almighty God. The Christian right had come into the corporate fold in the late I970s. Abandoning the alliance formed with the conscience of the liberal left during the Great Depression (the years of sorrow and travail when money was not yet another name for Jesus), the merchants of spiritual salvation had come to see that their interests coincided with those of the insurance companies and the banks. The American equestrian classes were welcome to believe that slack-jawed dope addicts had fomented the cultural insurrection of the I960s; Jerry Falwell knew that it bad been the work of Satan, Satan himself and not one of his students at the University of California, who had loosed a plague of guitarists upon the land, tempted the news media to the broadcast of continuous footage from Sodom and Gomorrah, impregnated the schools with indecent interpretations of the Bible, which then gave birth to the monster of multiculturalism that devoured the arts of learning. Together with Paul Weyrich at The Heritage Foundation, Falwell sponsored the formation of the Moral Majority in I979, at about the same time and in much the same spirit that Pat Robertson, the Christian televangelist, sent his congregation a fundraising letter saying that feminists encourage women to “leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Before Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term the city of God signed a nonaggression pact with the temple of Mammon, their combined forces waging what came to be known as “The Culture War.”
* The proposed journal appeared in 1982 as The New Criterion, promoted as a “staunch defender” of high culture, “an articulate scourge of artistic mediocrity and intellectual mendacity wherever they are found.” Joyce later took over direction of the Bradley Foundation, where he proved to he as deft as Weyrich and Kristol at what the movement conservatives liked to call the wondrous alchemy of turning intellect into influence.

MASS MEDIA DISTRIBUTION
$300M CONSERVATIVE MESSAGE MACHINE
• TELEVISION
Pat Robertson’s 700 Club
Fox News Channel
MSNBC’s Scarborough Country
Oliver North’s War Stories
• RADIO
The Rush Limbaugh Show
The Cal Thomas Commentary
Radio America
• PUBLISHING
Eagle Publishing, Inc.
• NEWSPAPERS
The Washington Times
The Wall Street journal
• WEBSITES
Townhall.com
AnnCoulter.com
The Cold War against the Russians was fading into safe and nostalgic memory, and the tellers of the great American fairy tale (the one about the precious paradise ever in need of an invincible defense) found themselves in pressing need of other antagonists to take the place of the grim and harmless ogre in the northern snow.
The Japanese couldn’t play the part because they were lending the United States too much money; the Colombian drug lords were too few and too well connected in Miami; Manuel Noriega failed the audition; the Arab oil cartel was broke; and the Chinese were busy making shirts for Ralph Lauren.
In the absence of enemies abroad, the protectors of the American dream at home began looking for domestic signs of moral weakness rather than foreign shows of military strength; instead of examining the dossiers of distant tyrants, they searched the local newspapers for flaws in the American character, and the surveillance satellites over Leipzig and Sevastopol were reassigned stations over metropolitan Detroit and the Hollywood studios filming Dynasty and Dallas. Within a matter of months the conservative committees of public safety rounded up as suspects a motley crowd of specific individuals and general categories of subversive behavior and opinion—black male adolescents as well as elderly female Buddhists, the New York Times, multiculturalists of all descriptions, the I960s, welfare mothers, homosexuals, drug criminals, illegal immigrants, performance artists. Some enemies of the state were easier to identify than others, but in all instances the reactionary tellers of the tale relied on images seen in dreams or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies rather than on the lessons of their own experience.
For a few years I continued to attend convocations sponsored by the steadily proliferating agencies of the messianic right, but although the discussions were held in increasingly opulent settings—the hotel accommodations more luxurious, better food, views of the mountains as well as the sea—by 1985 I could no longer stomach either the sanctimony or the cant. With the coming to power of the Reagan Administration most of the people on the podium or the tennis court were safely enclosed within the perimeters of orthodox opinion and government largesse, and yet they persisted in casting themselves as rebels against “the system,” revolutionary idealists being hunted down like dogs by a vicious and still active liberal prosecution. The pose was as ludicrous as it was false. The leftist impulse had been dead for ten years, ever since the right-wing Democrats in Congress had sold out the liberal portfolio of President Jimmy Carter and revised the campaign-finance laws to suit the convenience of their corporate patrons. Nor did the news media present an obstacle. By 1985 the Wall Street Journal had become the newspaper of record most widely read by the people who made the decisions about the country’s economic policy; the leading editorialists in the New York Times (A. M. Rosenthal, William Safire) as well as in the Washington Post (George Will, Richard Harwood, Meg Greenfield) ably defended the interests of the status quo; the vast bulk of the nation’s radio talk shows (reaching roughly 80 percent of the audience) reflected a conservative bias, as did all but one or two of the television talk shows permitted to engage political topics on PBS. In the pages of the smaller journals of opinion (National Review, Commentary, The American Spectator, The National Interest, The New Criterion, The Public Interest, Policy Review, etc.) the intellectual décor, much of it paid for by the Olin and Scaife foundations, was matched to the late-Victorian tastes of Rudyard Kipling and J. P. Morgan. The voices of conscience that attracted the biggest crowds on the nation’s lecture circuit were those that spoke for one or another of the parties of the right, and together with the chorus of religious broadcasts and pamphlets (among them Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and the publications under the direction of Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon), they enveloped the country in an all but continuous din of stereophonic, right-wing sound.
The facts seldom intruded upon the meditations of the company seated poolside at the conferences and symposia convened to bemoan America’s fall from grace, and I found it increasingly depressing to listen to prerecorded truths dribble from the mouths of writers once willing to risk the chance of thinking for themselves. Having exchanged intellectual curiosity for ideological certainty, they had forfeited their powers of observation as well as their senses of humor; no longer courageous enough to concede the possibility of error or enjoy the play of the imagination, they took an interest only in those ideas that could be made to bear the weight of solemn doctrine, and they cried up the horrors of the culture war because their employers needed an alibi for the disappearances of the country’s civil liberties and a screen behind which to hide the privatization (a.k.a. the theft) of its common property—the broadcast spectrum as well as the timber, the water, and the air, the reserves of knowledge together with the mineral deposits and the laws. Sell the suckers on the notion that their “values” are at risk (abortionists escaping the nets of the Massachusetts state police, pornographers and cosmetic surgeons busily at work in Los Angeles, farm families everywhere in the Middle West becoming chattels of the welfare state) and maybe they won’t notice that their pockets have been picked.
So many saviors of the republic were raising the alarm of culture war in the middle eighties that I now can’t remember whether it was Bob Bartley writing in the Wall Street Journal or William Bennett speaking from his podium at the National Endowment for the Humanities who said that at Yale University the students were wallowing in the joys of sex, drugs, and Karl Marx, disporting themselves on the New Haven green in the reckless manner of nymphs and satyrs on a Grecian urn. I do remember that at one of the high-end policy institutes in Manhattan I heard the tale told by Norman Podhoretz, then the editor at Commentary, the author of several contentious books (Making It and Why We Were in Vietnam), and a rabid propagandist for all things antiliberal. What he had to say about Yale was absurd, which I happened to know because that same season I was teaching a seminar at the college. More than half the number of that year’s graduating seniors had applied for work at the First Boston Corporation, and most of the students whom I’d had the chance to meet were so busy finding their way around the Monopoly board of the standard American success (figuring the angles of approach to business school, adding to the network of contacts in their Filofaxes) that they didn’t have the time to waste on sexual digressions either literal or figurative. When I attempted to explain the circumstance to Podhoretz, he wouldn’t hear of it. Not only was I misinformed, I was a liberal and therefore both a liar and a fool. He hadn’t been in New Haven in twenty years, but he’d read William F. Buckley’s book (God and Man at Yale, published in 1951), and he knew (because the judgment had been confirmed by something he’d been told by Donald Kagan in 1978) that the college was a sinkhole of depraved sophism. He knew it for a fact, knew it in the same way that Jerry Falwell knew that it was Satan who taught Barbra Streisand how to sing.
If Kristol was the most engaging of the agents provocateur whom I’d encountered on the conservative lecture circuit in the 1980s, Podhoretz was the dreariest—an apparatchik in the old Soviet sense of the word who believed everything he wished to prove and could prove everything he wished to believe, bringing his patrons whichever words might serve or please, anxious to secure a place near or at the boot of power. Unfortunately it was Podhoretz, not Kristol, who exemplified the character and tone of mind that edged the American conservative consensus ever further to the right during the decade of the 1990s.
The networks of reactionary opinion once again increased their rates of production, several additional foundations recruited to the cause, numerous activist organizations coming on line, together with new and improved media outlets (most notably Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Weekly Standard) broadcasting the gospels according to saints Warren Harding and William McKinley. By 1994 the Conservative Political Action Conference was attracting as many as 4,000 people, half of them college students, to its annual weekend in Arlington, Virginia, there to listen to the heroes of the hour (G. Gordon Liddy, Ralph Reed, Oliver North) speak from stages wrapped in American flags. Americans for Tax Reform under the direction of Grover Norquist declared its intention to shrink the federal government to a size small enough “to drown,” like one of the long-lost hippies in Bel Air, “in a bathtub.”
STUDENTS AND SCHOLARS (200I ESTIMATES)
(in $ Millions)
George Mason University    7
Harvard University     6
Intercollegiate Studies Institute 5.8
University of Chicago    5
Yale University    5
Washington University    4
Stanford University    3
Institute for Humane Studies   2.9
National Association of Scholars  1.2
Although as comfortably at home on Capitol Hill as in the lobbies of the corporate law firms on K Street, and despite their having learned to suck like newborn lambs at the teats of government patronage (Kristol’s son, William, serving as public-relations director to Vice President Dan Quayle; Podhoretz’s son-in-law, Elliot Abrams, a highly placed official within the Reagan Administration subsequently indicted for criminal misconduct), the apologists for the conservative cause continued to pose as embattled revolutionaries at odds with the “Tyranny of the Left.” The pretense guaranteed a steady flow of money from their corporate sponsors, and the unexpected election of Bill Clinton in 1992 offered them yet another chance to stab the corpse of the liberal Goliath. The smearing of the new president’s name and reputation began as soon as he committed the crime of entering the White House. The American Spectator, a monthly journal financed by Richard Scaife, sent its scouts west into Arkansas to look for traces of Clinton’s semen on the pine trees and the bar stools. It wasn’t long before Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr undertook his obsessive inspection of the president’s bank records, soul, and penis. Summoning witnesses with the fury of a suburban Savonarola, Starr set forth on an exploration of the Ozark Mountains, questioning the natives about wooden Indians and painted women. For four years he camped in the wilderness, and even after he was allowed to examine Monica Lewinsky’s lingerie drawer, his search for the weapon of mass destruction proved as futile as the one more recently conducted in Iraq.
Although unable to match Starr’s prim self-righteousness, Newt Gingrich, the Republican congressman from Georgia elected speaker of the House in 1995, presented himself as another champion of virtue (a self-proclaimed “Teacher of the Rules of Civilization”) willing to lead the American people out of the desolation of a liberal wasteland. Like Starr and Podhoretz (also like the newscasters who now decorate the right-wing television studios), Gingrich had a talent for bearing grudges. During his sixteen years in Congress he had acquired a reputation (not undeserved) for being nasty, brutish, and short, eventually coming to stand as the shared and shining symbol of resentment that bound together the several parties of the disaffected right—the Catholic conservatives with the Jewish neoconservatives, the libertarians with the authoritarians, the evangelical nationalists with the paranoid monetarists, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition with the friends of the Ku Klux Klan. Within a few months of his elevation to the speaker’s chair, Gingrich bestowed on his fellow-plaintiffs his Contract with America, a plan for rooting out the last vestiges
of liberal heresy in the mind of government. As mean-spirited in its particulars as the Mandate for Leadership handed to Ronald Reagan in 1980, the contract didn’t become law, but it has since provided the terms of enlightened selfishness that shape and inspire the policies of the current Bush Administration.
During the course of the 1990s I did my best to keep up with the various lines of grievance developing within the several sects of the conservative remonstrance, but although I probably read as many as 2,000 presumably holy texts (Peggy Noonan’s newspaper editorials and David Gelernter’s magazine articles as well as the soliloquies of Rush Limbaugh and the sermons of Robert Bork), I never learned how to make sense of the weird and too numerous inward contradictions.
EIGHT INFLUENTIAL BOOKS AND THE FOUNDATIONS WHO SPONSORED THEM
• Free to Choose, Milton Friedman — Scaife Foundation Olin Foundation
• The Naked Public Square, Richard John Neuhaus — Lilly Endowment Bradley Foundation Olin Foundation
• The Dream and the Nightmare, Myron Magnet — Scaife Foundation
• Losing Ground, Charles Murray — Olin Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation
• The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington — Bradley Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation
• Illiberal Education, Dinesh D’Souza — Olin Foundation
• Politics, Markets &America’s Schools, John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe — Olin Foundation
• The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky — Bradley Foundation
How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases “personal initiative” and “self-reliance” to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communications, and weapons industries, square the talk of “civility” with the strong-arm methods of Kenneth Starr and Tom DeLay, match the warmhearted currencies of “conservative compassion” with the cold cruelty of “the unfettered free market,” know that human life must be saved from abortionists in Boston but not from cruise missiles in Baghdad? In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. It was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words were coming from (a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on the sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. Navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale—money ennobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.
But if a set of coherent ideas was hard to find in all the sermons from the mount, what was not hard to find was the common tendency to believe in some form of transcendent truth. A religious as opposed to a secular way of thinking. Good versus Evil, right or wrong, saved or damned, with us or against us, and no light-minded trifling with doubt or ambiguity. Or, more plainly and as a young disciple of Ludwig Von Mises had said, long ago in the 1980s in one of the hospitality tents set up to welcome the conservative awakening to a conference on a beach at Hilton Head, “Our people deal in absolutes.”
Just so, and more’s the pity. In place of intelligence, which might tempt them to consort with wicked or insulting questions for which they don’t already possess the answers, the parties of the right substitute ideology, which, although sometimes archaic and bizarre, is always virtuous.
Virtuous, but not necessarily the best means available to the running of a railroad or a war. The debacle in Iraq, like the deliberate impoverishment of the American middle class, bears witness to the shoddiness of the intellectual infrastructure on which a once democratic republic has come to stand. Morality deemed more precious than liberty; faith-based policies and initiatives ordained superior to common sense.
As long ago as 1964 even William F. Buckley understood that the thunder on the conservative right amounted to little else except the sound and fury of middle-aged infants banging silver spoons, demanding to know why they didn’t have more—more toys, more time, more soup; when Buckley was asked that year what the country could expect if it so happened that Goldwater was elected president, he said, “That might be a serious problem.” So it has proved, if not under the baton of the senator from Arizona then under the direction of his ideologically correct heirs and assigns. An opinion poll taken in 1964 showed 62 percent of the respondents trusting the government to do the right thing; by 1994 the number had dwindled to 19 percent. The measure can be taken as a tribute to the success of the Republican propaganda mill that for the last forty years has been grinding out the news that all government is bad, and that the word “public,” in all its uses and declensions (public service, citizenship, public health, community, public park, commonwealth, public school, etc.), connotes inefficiency and waste.
The dumbing down of the public discourse follows as the day the night, and so it comes as no surprise that both candidates in this year’s presidential election present themselves as embodiments of what they call “values” rather than as the proponents of an idea. Handsome images consistent with those seen in Norman Rockwell’s paintings or the prints of Currier and Ives, suitable for mounting on the walls of the American Enterprise Institute, or in one of the manor houses owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, maybe somewhere behind a library sofa or over the fireplace in a dining room, but certainly in a gilded frame.
http://harpers.org/archive/2004/09/0080196