The Conservatives' Premeditated Murder of Democracy
Folks around the world are wondering how so many Americans suddenly went absolutely batshit crazy in just the past few years. We went so crazy that we sometimes elected people who were crazier than ourselves. Millions of us seemed to simply switch off our sanity when Trump announced his 2016 presidential bid.
Washington Republicans were no exception as they quickly flipped from staunch defenders of democracy to active agents of authoritarianism the moment Trump won. It was a surprisingly easy transition, even for them – almost as if they stumbled into their “sweet spot”. They continually ignored the laws and norms of our Democracy and their own Constitutional duties, even as Trump’s dangerous actions grew.
The thing is, when we look past their Constitution waving, we discover that this is nothing new for Republicans (along with their conservative, libertarian, and corporatist chums). They have been using their endless resources and endless greed to lead us away from democracy for the past 50+ years. Their harmful policies, divisive rhetoric, and scapegoating primed us to embrace hate, conspiracy theories, and extreme distrust of our government. They put many of us in a state of continual anxiety which made us eager for the “safety” offered by Donald Trump and Fox News.
The right-wing capture of our minds was planned and methodical, and we have become frogs slowly boiling in the billionaires’ pot. Their efforts were so effective that many of us frogs are demanding that our government turns up the heat.
The term “planned” is not used lightly here. Below we review a sampling of very specific plans that Republicans concocted to wrangle democracy from our hands by corrupting our government and re-engineering our society.
Divide and Conquer
We can start in the late 1960s when mainstream conservatives hatched a power grab plan that was to be fueled by a combination of divisive and patriotic rhetoric. Their divide and conquer approach started with their infamous “Southern Strategy” which gently fanned the flames of racism with coded words such as “states’ rights”, “urban crime”, and “law and order”. This fearmongering was effective enough to shift the South from Blue to Red.
Republicans were also able to frame Vietnam War protesters as lazy and high hippies, spoiled college kids, and elitists from the left who were betraying the country and the troops. This was highly misleading as these protests were largely focused on efforts to “bring our boys home”. It was also ironic because Nixon and his operatives purposefully extended the war for political advantage. The bottom line though, is that the rhetoric helped the Republicans lure in a solid number of blue-collar workers.
The Reagan era saw the continuation of the Southern Strategy and introduced an attack against government. Conservatives conjured up imagery of countless lazy “Welfare Queens” exploiting an overly generous and wasteful “socialist” government. They pitted this against a supposedly shrinking number of rugged and righteous individuals who survived only on liberty, Christian values, and their ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
While all this rhetoric was slowly taking hold of the American psyche, corporate-funded conservative think tanks were quietly weaving their pro-wealth “free market”, and “trickle-down economics” ideologies into Republican policies and into our government. For the wealthy, these were policies of their desire and had nothing to do with the common good. Conservatives, led by President Reagan, provided cover for these policies with their rhetoric of “Government IS the problem” and government getting in the way of “free enterprise”.
So their subtle message was: don’t worry about what the corporations and billionaires are doing to you – just blame the government and your neighbors – we’ll protect you.
While the above was less structured than a typical plan, In an effort to make themselves more likable, the Republican National Committee formally apologized in 2005 for their Southern strategy and the racial division it caused. As usual with Republicans, the apology was all about appearances as their Southern strategy is alive and well today.
Fox News – The Early Edition
Imagine how much more effective the Republicans’ early rhetoric would have been if Fox News was around during their early power grab. Now imagine them imagining the same thing. Conservatives knew that mainstream media was too competent at that time for them to have their way with the public – and they wanted to do something about that.
In 1970, aides of President Nixon, including Roger Ailes, conceived, planned, and budgeted for the creation of their own conservative-biased news stories. These stories were primarily for distribution to local news stations to avoid scrutiny by the major networks. A 318-page memo laid out their plan for unfair and unbalanced disinformation using “our own news” that would provide “a brutal, vicious attack on the opposition.” The plan also revealed their lack of respect for voters and their willingness to manipulate them: “People are lazy, …. With television, you just sit — watch — listen. The thinking is done for you.”
The only thing that kept their “GOP News” from starting up was the Watergate scandal – something they probably would have spun enough to prevent Nixon’s need to resign. We can use the comparison of what Nixon didn’t get away with and what Trump did get away with to understand the devastating impact Fox News has had on truth and the American mind.
It wasn’t until 1996, with the help of cable television and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, that Ailes was able to finally get his Fox News deception machine up and running. Once they had a following, they started to gently groom us. Now they are fully dedicated to dividing us and replacing truth with tribalism. Fox News and conservatives have spent years warping the minds of their followers to the point where they now demand insanity from their favorite news hosts and their politicians.
Fox News was created of, by, and for Conservatives. This gives us insight into what conservatism is truly all about – a willingness to harm people and destroy Democracy for their own gain. Leadership based on lies and manipulation will create a void that will be replaced by authoritarians – we are already seeing it.
The Lewis Powell Memo
In the period between the New Deal to the early 1970s, pressure from voters, activists, scientists, and overall human decency was slowly pushing the government to start creating agencies and laws to curtail corporate America’s long-running exploitation of workers, consumers, and the planet. Unfortunately, exploitation was exactly what the business community relied on to keep their profits growing and these initiatives threatened not only those profits but also their power over the filthy masses.
In 1971, The U. S. Chamber of Commerce (a lobbying and advocacy organization for big business) contacted Lewis Powell Jr. to come up with a plan to turn things back in their favor. Powell, an attorney for the tobacco industry battled against the science of tobacco dangers. His instincts for prioritizing profits over life made him just the man for the job. Powell gladly accepted the challenge and came up with a brilliantly evil plan which he laid out in his memo “Attack on American Free Enterprise System” – aka “The Lewis Powell Memo” – aka “The Corporate Blueprint to Dominate Democracy”.
To get us back to the Gilded Age, Powell directed the business community to join forces, share their vast resources and expertise, and spend as much time and money as needed to pull this off. Using this approach, they immediately started forming political organizations, think tanks, and legal groups that slowly and stealthily permeated all levels of government, all types of news media, academia, and certainly the minds of Americans. The Koch network and the 1000s of political groups aligned with Dark Money today owe their existence and their stunning social engineering successes to the Powell Memo. The wealthiest among us can sway our opinions, beliefs, votes, and actions simply by writing a check or two.
Just as damaging was Powell’s directive for the corporate takeover of the judicial system – he knew this would give the biggest bang for their corruption buck. Since then, conservative organizations and legal groups have been grooming and funneling pro-corporate judges, law clerks, and lawyers into our court system, creating a justice system that favors profits over people. Pretty impressive since corporations did not even exist in America when the Constitution was written.
Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly, Powell himself was confirmed to the Supreme Court within six months of delivering his memo. Memos show that, under the influence of Justice Powell, the court became comfortable with ignoring precedence and existing laws which started us down the path of corporate dominance by equating money to speech and equating corporations to people, thereby weaponizing the Freedom of Speech against Democracy. The fox was guarding the hen house.
The Contract with (on) America
At this point, our Congress was still functioning. Both sides regularly compromised on policies and got along quite well (even in their personal lives). This appalled the power-hungry Congressman Newt Gingrich who, in the early 1990s, began engineering the dysfunction of Congress. There was always some partisanship in Congress but Gingrich turned it into tribalism.
For Gingrich, politics was not about policies and leadership, it was a war for power – nothing else mattered. He headed up the GOPAC political organization which formalized and distributed his battle plan in training material. This included a memo called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” which specified terminology to use to demonize and dehumanize Democrats, portraying them as traitors that are out of touch with American values.
Newt’s comfort zone was manipulating the American people. A classic example was when he (or some of his freshman Congressional minions) would regularly castigate Democrats to a completely empty Chamber late at night. It was shown on and distributed to other networks by CSPAN, which was not allowed to show the empty chamber. This allowed him to say whatever he wanted, without rebuttal, to an “attentive” chamber. He was literally acting – and lying to Americans.
His most famous abuse of Americans was his 1996 “Contract with America” which continued the “government is the problem” mantra, but like most things from the Right, it reflected the desires of billionaire donors, which were wrapped in words of patriotism in order to fool voters. The Republicans knew most of these policies would never happen, but they loved the soundbites.
Closing Office of Technology Assessment was one way the Contract with America shifted power to the wealthy. The OTA provided Congress with important non-partisan technical information. Unfortunately, science, facts, and data were counter to most policies of Conservatives and corporate America – so Newt and the Republicans made it go away, purposefully making Congress ignorant. As always, they framed it as saving taxpayers from a wasteful and incompetent government. The reality-based OTA was replaced by profit-driven corporate lobbyists – this perfectly sums up the conservative movement.
The Structure of Social Change
In 1996, Richard Fink, a high-level operative of the Koch organization, developed a strategy he called the “Structure of Social Change”. In a nutshell, the overall goal was to make American life about prioritizing and existing for corporate greed. It was a fairly straightforward multi-tiered approach that embedded their ideology into three critical layers of our society: academics, government, and Main Street.
1. Install and fund research centers at universities and stock them with hand-picked like-minded “intellectuals” to groom into their future minions and to develop desired “free market” concepts and theories.
2. Use think tanks, political organizations, and their lobbyists to introduce those “scholarly” theories to elected officials, candidates, government agencies, etc.
3. Convince Americans that these policies or ideas are needed in order to gain their support or simply to pacify them.
In reality, these activities had been going on for years, with varying levels of success. Fink’s plan assembled these largely disparate activities into a single, cohesive three-pronged campaign. This new “big picture” view gave the perpetrators the motivation to integrate, allowing them to better fund, coordinate, and optimize their insurgency. With the core components already in place, it didn’t take much for Fink and his accomplices to spread their tentacles of control and influence throughout our institutions and our minds.
For decades, they have been spending tens of millions of dollars yearly to establish beachheads (professors, department heads, and research centers) in universities. They continually watch for students with the highest potential, providing scholarships and internships, and funneling them into the other two layers. Incredibly, they are not shy about similarly exploiting grade school children. Simultaneously, they establish national organizations, recruiting local students and parents to attack curriculums, professors, teachers, and programs that dare to focus on the common good. Note how all three layers are used together here to reshape education to meet their needs.
That pipeline of manipulated students feeds into their already captured system of government agencies, elected positions, lobbying firms, think tanks, legal organizations, and, probably worse of all, the judiciary – all dutiful to the cause. An unlimited supply of untraceable money and favors is used to lure even more actors into this parasitic government that they have established within our elected government.
They’ve perfected a hierarchy of political organizations that reaches down to the local level, pushing their own pre-fab legislation into state and local governments, infiltrating school committees, pushing disinformation such as CRT and stolen elections, and even banning books. Local and temporary “activist groups” are created, funded, and guided as needed to exploit opportunities or squelch threats. Various organizations were used to concoct similar, but false studies and opinions, creating a false sense of agreement among “intellectuals”.
The birth and evolution of the Tea Party show just how effective Fink’s plan was. While it was presented as a grassroots movement, the Tea Party movement was initiated by floor traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange led by CNBC report Rick Santelli (a strange place for a grassroots movement). Within two short weeks, local political groups were established nationwide to create and fan the flames of an artificial uprising. Talking points were sent down from above. Good Americans would be unknowingly drafted into a war against themselves. “Boots on the ground” would be provided if enough local activists couldn’t be recruited. Tea Party Republicans, supported by billionaires from above and misled voters from below, began replacing RINOs in Congress to execute a long and stealthy attack against Democracy.
Ironically, Santelli’s rant was over the bailout of “loser” homeowners after the 2008 financial collapse – a bailout that was needed because free-market scholars, think tanks, and lobbyists pushed for the deregulation of banks (and everything else). Finks’ three layers created the environment for the Tea Party, used it to manipulate and exploit Americans, and used it to further infiltrate our government.
This hierarchy of influence and action is a case study of guerilla warfare.
The story of Project REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project) is a story about billionaires and corporate America taking control of our country. It revolves around the highly problematic election engineering tactic known as gerrymandering. Briefly, gerrymandering is when a state’s majority party is able to redefine voting districts in a way that gives them an unfair advantage by allowing them to choose their own voters.
Normally, each state-level legislative candidate does his/her best to win their district. After election day, one party will have a majority in their state legislature. If that election year ends in zero (2010, 2020, etc.) then that party can redraw districts for their state to reflect changes in population data. Depending on the laws of the state, this opens the door for gerrymandering. The key point is that the ability to control redistricting within a state is earned as it is based on the outcome of the collective effort of individual candidates and their platforms.
In the run-up to the 2010 election, Project REDMAP flipped that upside down by switching the power to redistrict from a voter-given trickle-up right to a top-down sledgehammer of billionaire-funded voter manipulation and election theft that ultimately pushed many states, and the nation, into minority rule.
Project REDMAP was primarily the brainchild of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). They realized that by winning a small number of state-level legislative elections (just over 100 across 16 states) they could control the redrawing of well over 200 Congressional seats. This would allow them to gerrymander the districts in these states (and in the protected Republican-majority states) and control who could vote for who at the state and federal levels.
Their plan was to first analyze states to determine which were the most friendly to Republican-led redistricting (based on their current legislative makeup, laws, Governors, judges, etc.). Once the states were targeted, individual districts were analyzed to determine those that were the most winnable.
After determining which districts to attack, they created a centralized data center for polling data and opposition research, established localized political organizations, recruited lieutenants, and trained candidates and their staff. This allowed them to do a deep dive into local residents. Not only did they analyze local demographics and voter data, but they also dug into voters’ minds – exploring local values, traditions, concerns, etc.
Once they understood what would appeal to voters’ emotions in each district, they were able to trigger them – exploiting fears and pulling heartstrings. The localized political groups initiated various astroturfing activities such as robocalls, opinion pieces, door-to-door campaigns, etc. They attacked the opposition (and voters’ minds) with brutal negative ads, disinformation, and outright lies. They framed Democrats, including well-liked and conservative-leaning incumbents, as dire threats to the area and democracy.
The REDMAP folks estimated it would cost $31 million to implement their plan. This made the timing of Citizens United (earlier that year) important because it allowed wealthy donors, and corporations, who were worried about being associated with this plot, to funnel unlimited and untraceable money through political organizations all the way down to those local astroturfing groups.
The majority of that $31 million was spent on attack ads at the very end of the campaign season – catching the local Democrats off guard and low on funding. Millions of dollars went into small rural districts (even outspending some national campaigns) to attack long-standing and well-respected conservative Democrats – even those that often voted with the Republicans. There was so much outside money pouring into these districts that Republican candidates often had no idea where those ads were coming from – but they were grateful. The doings of just one local operative, his sidekicks, and some political organizations are extraordinary.
In the end, Project REDMAP worked. Republicans, using their unlimited outside money to drown out local voices and manipulate voters, captured enough of those desired districts to give them the power (aided by more money, better data, and new technology) to then gerrymander their way into a locked-in minority rule. Going forward, this would force Democrats to spend much more money and win significant majorities but still lag behind.
As an example of how effective (and damaging) this was, in 2012 (just two years later), Pennsylvania Democrats won 51 percent of the vote. Still, they ended up with only 28 percent of the seats in their state legislature. That is not a democracy.
We are the only “democracy” in the world that allows politicians to draw their own lines and essentially choose their own voters.
TBD – Literally
Not enough is known at this point to accurately describe the “Fake Electors” scheme, the January 6th coup attempt, and the cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign. One thing that is known however is the Republican party has shown no interest in doing anything about any of it.
A plan to do nothing about the attempts to destroy our democracy is the exact same as planning to destroy our democracy.
Anyway, you get the idea, the Republicans have always been full of shit. They pretended to be the “true patriots” and “one of us” while they torched our health, wealth, future, and democracy, all in the name of the wealthy, corporate America, and their own personal gains. No matter how patriotic they sound, no matter how adeptly they tug at your heartstrings, the conservative movement is about manipulation, exploitation, corruption, obstruction, and destruction – and nothing else.
If at the moment, you happen to feel “safe” in their version of Democracy, then you better start paying attention. All of this has been conceived by operatives that are funded by billionaires and corporate America. When was the last time that billionaires and corporate America have done anything for you?