may uh thei’m seeing with a little more claritythat all these moments ofyou know reactionary apparelthe sociological parallel is that youhave or a political parallelis that you have a reactionary minoritypartythat has a parliamentaryand a paramilitary wingand the republicans are just reproducingthis pattern with with just you knowelegance right and if you look at thejanuary 6uh investigation you know they’reproceeding on two tracks and the twotracks are the majority literally themajority of senators and house representhouse members who tried to overturntheir elections using their votesas outside the gates you have you knowpeople kind of messing you know withwith truncheonsrightandyou have to kind of follow that threadyou know in 2020 you know you talk aboutyou know the movement you know for blacklivesat the same time asi think it was about a dozen states wereindemnifying people for the crime of umdriving their vehicles vehicularhomicide into crowds rightand if you look at the statistics ithink there was something like you knowlike there were there there were nearlya hundred vehicular assaults you knowthis is terrorism right the automobileas a weaponuh uh and you know kind of pushing backyou know movements for democracy andequalityandyou justyou know we we we need to be and youknow i thinkand then as we look at this january 6investigation you have this housecommittee that seems to be doing veryaggressive work and this justicedepartment that seems to be you knownowhere to be found because they’requote unquote institutionalists that’swhere you get into the democratic partyfecklessness where we have this attorneygeneral whoum you know hopefully is building thesecases from the ground up but we don’tknow we haven’t heard anything right sowe have no kind of organized voicewithin the democratic partywho is saying you know really kind ofnaming the stakes with any kind ofuh clarity and aggressivenessumthat has the power to do something aboutit or maybe not and that’s why we’rekind of on the the precipice you knowumand you know you still have this kind ofadlai stevenson kind of obama strain inthe democratic partythat says the problem ispolarization and we’re saying too manymean things about the oppositionrightumand that’s a real problemand billyeah so um
see first of all i think i i’m going to
say two things that will sound perhaps
one is that i think this moment was
the second is
i do not think that the outcome
so i think that this moment was was
inevitable because this is the result of
racial settler colonialism
this is the result of
the failure of the civil war
part of the question
and it was also the result of the fact
that during this great democratic or
small d moment in the south called
native americans were being annihilated
in the west
right so yeah these contradictory things
are going on so in in so i think that
the the failure of the united states to
ever come to grips with its own past and
with the question of a genuine democracy
um even within the context of capitalism
made this inevitable this clash
and and i think that when i talked
before about right-wing populism as the
herpes of capitalism it’s because the
virus is in the system
it’s not outside of the system and
periodically like a stomach bug hitting
you right it’s in the system
so the system needs to be cleansed
um and and and so the outcome of this
is not inevitable
we have at least
of the population that has not lost its
i mean that’s very significant
and and i think that what is critically
important mark you and i have talked
is that people have to organize at the
and and it can’t be relying on
the eloquence of barack obama or the
feistiness of of biden in order to stop
when the right shows up at school board
we need to be there
when the right attacks
uh or tries to
stop the vaccine
we need to be there
when they come after election officials
we need to be there
now i realized the implications of this
i realize that that may lead to physical
altercations but in general i have found
the right to be quite cowardly
this is true not just in the united
states but in other places they are
and they they often think they can get
away quite literally with murder
until and unless progressives stand up
no pass iran
we’re not playing this game yep
um and and we should remember just
historically the spanish fascists in
could have been defeated in a matter of
months had it not been for the nazis and
the italian fascists
intervening we can actually stop this
thing from happening so i think it’s
really important that we do not fall
prey to fatalism which i see certainly
in the liberal media
but also in segments of the left and one
final thing mark there’s also segments
on the left you and i have discussed
that really downplay this danger from
right wing authoritarianism and continue
to think that the main enemy are
i want to go upside people’s heads and
ask them what what are you smoking what
is it is it like alcohol and herb or
you’re adding some other stuff
what is it that that you think is going
on here yeah so i think we just have to
grapple with that
so let me let me jump in here for a
minute and this is we so we brought us
youtube just brought us to this moment
let’s talk about this moment what that
what what you just said um uh really
means bill and what you were saying
earlier rick that so so how does that
happen though let me posit something
that may sound negative but let me just
pause it anyway and you can tear it
so i’m watching the right
and i see a right wing
appears to be
than progressives of the left or anybody
and well-armed i might add
in all these complications that we
talked about whether it was hitler in
1930 germany 1932 or
or or 1877
or right now a lot of it is being fueled
by no no don’t take that back that part
of it is
people who have been in the military
are upset and angry and on the right
as my two grandsons who now serve in the
united states army said to me
that almost all the guys they meet
in the combat units are on the right
as opposed to units they’re in when
they’re much more open-minded
because they’re in the space core and
all that kind of stuff so they’re in a
very different kind of place but so so
they so so that reality exists
and the fact that
the right wing inside the republican
literally control of 26 states in the
union and in 41 states they’re put in
legislation to diminish voting rights
and to control the vote so they can
control the elections coming up
and that means that they could possibly
for numerous reasons including the
failure of bodies and others to take
over in 2022 the the federal legislature
which is significant
and the left is kind of and progressives
are kind of embedded inside the
democratic party and i’m not saying here
go start another party that has no power
at the moment but that are embedded
inside the democrats with very little
power within them
and the unions are now struggling to get
back on their feet and you see strikes
taking place and people organizing
but the power of the unions are not what
so what do we mean
and what do you mean but when you say
now it’s time to kind of stand up i i
mean i understand standing up to them
even in my even if even in my if my
dotage here i’m willing to stand up
against these fools
but but the question is what does that
mean if we are not organized to really
polls or in the community in the
elections in school boards and more
so that that so so what is it going to
take to really stop them
is the question i’m asking the two of
you well mark the democratic party
didn’t organize the civil rights
the democratic party didn’t organize the
chicano moratorium in 1970 right right
democratic party didn’t organize
right i mean so i think it’s really
important that people
break with passivity and start thinking
how do we organize
uh like like i’ve been talking for years
about the necessity to organize
democracy brigades and my critical image
was the union leagues of the 1860s and
1870s that were organized based
particularly among african americans but
also among poor whites to fight to
reconstruction the problem
is that they didn’t take the necessary
to ultimately smash the terrorists the
white terrorists but i think that we
need to be thinking at the local level
of building brigades of people
that are engaged in this fight for
and i think that the longer that we sit
back and we wait
for something to come out of congress or
out of the white house it ain’t gonna
happen and i agree with you rick about i
i keep hoping that the justice
department is working something up and i
actually think that they probably are
but man are they quiet
yeah you know and and and so i think
that that’s necessary i mean you know i
want to see
at a school board meeting
when these lunatics show up i want to
see our forces there
right and basically saying to these
lunatics do you want to debate about
critical race theory let’s have the damn
but you are not going to bully this
board into some ridiculous stuff like
these different uh pieces of legislation
are being uh passed in in various state
legislatures but we have got to we we
can’t we are our own liberators we’re
the ones that are going to have to
constitute these organizations and so it
might not be entire national unions it
might be local unions it might be naacp
chapters it might be immigrant rights
groups right that come together even if
on an ad hoc basis
and say one of the things we’re going to
take up making sure to protect these
election officials making sure that
people can vote making sure that
uh making making sure to protect the
right to abortion right that we’re gonna
do this and we’re gonna do it in the
rick you want to jump in on that
but another thing is you know i’m a big
fan of um
a socialist thinker carl palani who
points out that um
society is organized around market
values always create you know basically
and that there are always people within
basically the the ambit of capital in
the ruling class who grasp this
and so we have allies within the ruling
class like you know the Rockefellers who
you know in the 1860s and 70s you know
built a school system in the south for
african americans right which was a very
radical thing to do
so we have allies and we have to search
them out uh because these people grasp
that um if you know we’re uh talking
about a republic of of insects and grass
um uh you know who was it the great
writer about nuclear apocalypse you know
they they don’t win either
you know when after but you know power
yields nothing without a demand and you
know after the urban rebellions of the
60s one of the things that happened was
you know employers were like holy crap
you know if you read the harvard
business review they’re like we need to
bring african-americans into you know
corporate america right
we have to find all sorts of pressure
points right all sorts of pressure
points because you know we’re talking
civilization or barbarism and
uh we might have allies that um
you know um
are not our usual allies because we’re
talking about whether the thing you know
basically human life can
be sustained on the planet
and um so bottom up top down inside out
outside in you know we got a you know we
got to build a real popular front for
i i want to just add to that i just
agrees 100 rick and and uh just point
uh something that uh your comment
in in response to the 50s and 60s
there was what you described
and but there was also
the response from the right the the the
what become becomes a right-wing
and this this this politics of revenge
yeah uh that we see
germinating in the late 60s and and and
then spreading out
and i um i thought about that a lot
because we had this historic post-george
uh uh movement around the country right
we had demonstrations uprisings
so there were two responses part of
corporate america and the political
establishment responded with greater
attention to so-called diversity
to re-examining u.s history et cetera et
but then there was equally this
that i would argue that the black lives
matter movement as a whole was
completely unprepared for
because that right-wing backlash was
organizing it wasn’t just protesting
they were organizing and the george
floyd black lives matter movement
was protesting but did not create
lasting organizations and points of
it was predictable
it’s what we saw in 1968
nixon didn’t appear out of nowhere
george wallace didn’t appear out of
nowhere it was a particular response
that we have to always keep in mind it’s
of the the this virus
in the u.s system
that’s an interesting analogy i i think
that’s that’s true i mean i
as someone who was in the midst of 1968
i think about all the failures of 68
that those of us who were too busy in
the streets battling as opposed to uh in
the community organizing and i think
that’s that’s part of part of the issue
um but i’m gonna be getting this in kind
of a positive note that there is
there’s light at the end of this tunnel
and there’s room for there’s room to
the right and to build something new and
i think that’s really the kind of
message that we that we need to kind of
push really hard
that’s right um and and i and i you know
we in the conversation they both have
been really great and kind of describing
why we’re here and also what we have to
do to get there um and i do want to
thank both of you for joining us today
um uh and rick palestine and bill
fletcher this has been a really good
and i want to tell all the folks out
there who are watching listening to us
today um that we’re going to continue
this conversation that bill fletcher and
i will be producing a whole series of
conversations not just about oh woe is
me but what can be done why we’re here
and what can we do
um and we’ll also be also talking to
organizers from across the country the
poor people’s campaign and other
organizations who are actually
organizing on the ground there is a way
to stop this and that’s what we’re going
to focus on
uh and we are uh in the middle of a
battle for the future and i think
we’re all here and for me who has
children and grandchildren and waiting
and even great grandchildren which is
kind of scared to say but i do
that it’s for them
not we’re going to let them inherit a
better society not something that the
right can control
uh and again thank you both so much both
for the work you do and for being with
us here today on the steiner show on the
real news it’s always good to talk to
both of you i mean it’s really important
to do that thank you so much
and uh i want to thank you all for
listening here today
with uh and loving hearts like like
these we can’t fail
amen to that and i want to and all of
you out there remind you that to hear
the real news you can still go to
realnews.com forward slash donate
continue your donations real news to
keep these things alive uh and look at
to our reports on the rise of the right
and uh other projects we’ll be doing i’m
gonna thank dwayne gladden and stephen
frank for editing and monitoring this
broadcast and thank you all for watching
today and listening to the i mean and
being part of the mark steiner show here
on the real news thank you take care and
keep on fighting stay the course
Published: Nov 8, 2020
Transcript:well howdy there internet people it’sbeau againso today we’re gonna talk about aquestion i got umbecause it kind of threw me through aloop pretty thought provokingactually when you really get down to itum it was about systems of governmentand it was trying to determineif there was a uha comparable system to social democracyon the other side and basicallythe idea of the question was iunderstand that socialdemocracy is kind of a blend ofsocialism and capitalism it’s socialismlightis there something on the other side isthere something in the right wingthat is a blendbetween normal capitalism normal westerngovernments as we know itand fascismleads to an interesting place sowe’ve got our list the one we’ve beenusing on this channel which isuh put out by lawrence britt i think ishis name 14 characteristicsof fascism to be clear i use this onebecauseit is it tends to speak to americansmoreit’s more practical there are otherliststhat break down the characteristicsthere’s one by umberto echobut this is more practical rather thanphilosophicalso it’s the one that i tend to use ifyou really want to get into the subjectyou might want to look at the others toookay so the first one is powerful andcontinuingnationalism now if you’re looking at alightversion you would just kind of lightenit up so maybe you don’t havethe marches and parades all the timebut you have like flags everywhereso much so that it kind of loses meaningbecomes more like a bumper sticker asports team logothan a display of the nationit’s something that everybody feels istheirsymbol disdain for the recognition ofhuman rightsso you want to lighten it up maybe it’snot overtyou know maybe it’s not legislated thatpeople don’t have human rightshowever if you know somebody that’saccused of a crime gets roughed up alittle bitnobody’s going to cry over it you knowin this case it’s going to be more defacto it’s going to be stuff thatjust happens rather than it beinginstitutionalizedidentification of enemies and scapegoatsis a unifying causenow when you’re talking about the overtversion of this it’stypically an internal enemythat they get scapegoated ifit’s a light version it would probablybe externalyou know well the ones of that groupthat are inside the countrythey’re different they’re okay but we’regonna all rally around the ideathat those on the other side of the lineon the map they’re badsupremacy of the military so in a lightversion you could imagine thatrather than it just basically havingcontrol of the entire governmentit uh itmaybe has a place of honor that isyou know really revered and probablygets the biggest share of the budgetrampant sexism again this would besomething that’s a de factoit’s a male-dominated society butthere’s not legislationthat backs up a whole lot of it it’sjustthe way it is because traditionis also a characteristic that uhgoes along with this system but thatgets into the philosophical listcontrolled mass media sorather than it being overt andthe government just basically tellingthe news organizations what to saymaybe it’s just more collusion maybeit’s more of the mediaparroting the government talking pointsso they can get accessand so everybody’s on the same pageagain it’s just de facto it’s just theway it is in practicerather than something that’sinstitutionalizedobsession with national securityin regimes like this i don’t think youwould findum a light version i think you wouldstill have a mazeof agencies that were devoted tonational security and anytime thegovernment needed something donethat’s the card they would pull becausethey would have thatthat reverence for the military alreadyestablishedso they’d be able to gain compliancefrom the population by kind of pullingthat cardwe need to do this so we don’t have tosend our troops over therewe just need you to comply and do whatwe ask it’s going to keep you safereligion and government are intertwinedagain they’re going to want to keep upthe facadeof some form of liberal democratdemocracyso it probably wouldn’t be legislationit wouldn’t be institutionalizedbut there would be like little ritualsto show that you were on the right teammaybe youswear in on a holy text when you takeofficeyou know there’d be little things thatyou would do to demonstrate thatyou were one of the good guys you werepart of the clubcorporate power is protected and that’sone of the ones on this list that ireally object toin the overt form it’s not protectedit’s blendedthe government has a lot of controldirect controlof corporate power in that systemif you’re just talking about corporatepower being protected it’s what you havein the united statesi mean that that’s what it is the thegovernment looks out for corporateinterest for the sake of the economyand that’s how it gets framed but it’salso for their own personal benefitlabor power is suppressed it probablywouldn’t be as brutalas you find in the over regimes it wouldbe morelegislation that just underminescollective bargainingmakes it harder to unionize and justundercuts the rights of the workerdisdain for intellectuals in the artsso it probably wouldn’t be openhostilityit would just besomething that they didn’t encouragemaybe they don’t fund artin school they don’t teach theappreciation of itand they don’t encourage the youth to beintellectual so it just goes by thewayside on itselfall all by itself there’s no reason forthe government topush against it too hard they’re justgoing to let it fade outobsession with crime and punishment soyou’d probably have a huge prisonpopulation in a regimeoperating under a blend like thisrampant cronyism and corruptionso what you’d have is like no bidcontractsyou’d have government officials giving[Music]jobs and construction contracts to theircousins and stuff like thatthat’s what you’d find again it wouldn’tbe overtthe last one is fraudulent elections youprobably wouldn’t see any of thisnot much because they’d want to keep upthe facadethat it isn’t one of those regimesso it would just be controlled in adifferent mannerperhaps the major partieswould keep everything in houseand really only give you a coupleoptionsbut they’d want to keep that one atleast the appearanceof legitimate electionssounds really familiar doesn’t ityeah if you want to know what fascismlight looks likelook out the window the united statesis the blendum that’s one of the reasons it’s soimportant that we watchfor the creep towards the overtreal thing because we’re already reallyclose to itwe’ve talked about it before on thischannel even ourleft wing party in the united statesis center right because the country isthat far right to begin withif you’re talking about a blend betweenfascismand the idea of western liberaldemocracyit’s the usthat that’s where we’re at already wewouldn’t need to go anywhereit already exists umagain i think it’s an interesting littlethought exercise and something i’d neverthought of beforenobody’s ever asked um that’s probablyone of the biggestdangers to the united states as a wholeis the creep that direction further andfurther rightto an authoritarian ruleespecially when it’s done slowlyand it’s this soft form of it that wedon’t even realize is there so much sothat we don’t even think about itbecause it’s justthe way it is it’s just tradition it’sde factoanyway it’s just a thought y’all have agood day
–A compilation of moments from debates mostly between left and right-wing media personalities
00:00 David Pakman vs. Tim Pool
00:55 Joe Rogan vs. Dave Rubin
03:00 Cenk Uygur vs. Dinesh D’Souza
03:35 Sam Seder vs. Darryl Perry
05:28 Destiny vs. Tim Pool
06:31 David Pakman vs. Ben Shapiro
07:48 Kyle Kulinski vs. Michael Knowles
08:43 Joe Rogan vs. Steven Crowder
10:06 Sam Seder vs. Tim Pool
11:35 Ana Kasparian vs. Ann Coulter
13:03 Chris Hahn vs. Michael Knowles
14:29 Marianne Williamson vs. Dave Rubin
16:23 David Pakman vs. Jesse Lee Peterson
17:08 Andrew Neil vs. Ben Shapiro
18:44 Joe Rogan vs. Candace Owens
20:22 Vaush vs. Tim Pool
21:54 David Pakman vs. Dave Rubin
23:12 Sam Seder vs. Steven Crowder
The right’s success in media is not a shadowy conspiracy; it has been achieved out in the open, largely through ordinary politics. Much of it can be countered the same way.
At his first official press conference in 2017, Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a telling choice. After giving the first question to the New York Post, he then called on Jennifer Wishon, who was sitting at the back, in the seventh row. He didn’t mention the news organization she represented, but it was no secret: since 2011 she had served as the White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The consumption of ideological media has been a core part of conservative identity in the United States for two generations.
That President Trump’s press secretary chose to highlight CBN, the evangelical network started by Pat Robertson in 1960, may come as a surprise. After all, even the network’s top official, Gordon Robertson, laughs at the notion that Donald Trump is a devout Christian. But the Trump-CBN partnership dates to well before Spicer took the podium, back to 2011 when Trump was weighing a presidential bid. In the intervening years he has been interviewed on the network about twenty times, including several times as president.
Yet that relationship has received relatively little attention in the press, save a handful of articles a few years ago. While journalists have zeroed in on Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting and even the upstart network One America News, they have largely ignored CBN and the network of conservative evangelical radio and television stations that crisscross the nation.
Has that relationship simply been overlooked, or has it been deliberately concealed? That is the question that stalks the pages of Anne Nelson’s new book Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right. The “secret hub” at the heart of the book, the Council for National Policy (CNP)—for which CBN founder Pat Robertson served on the board of governors—is a banal-sounding organization with significant conservative political ties. Everyone from presidential candidates to big-money donors to movement organizers has attended the annual meetings or sat on the organization’s board. Add the CNP’s air of secrecy—the meetings are private, and it won’t reveal who attends—and you have the perfect set-up for Shadow Network’s central argument: that a shadowy organization has been coordinating a secret assault on democracy and truth for the better part of forty years.
What Nelson describes as a “shadow network” could better be understood as a political movement.
That argument is not entirely wrong, but it is wrongly framed. What Nelson describes as a “shadow network” could better be understood as a political movement. To be sure, it is a political movement that has worked to undermine faith in media, democracy, and facts. But if we detach the argument from Nelson’s conspiratorial framework, it is much easier to see how the right built a coalition capable of restructuring American politics and doing lasting damage to democratic governance.
Broadly speaking, Shadow Network is the story of how white conservative evangelicals became a core part of the Republican base. In Nelson’s telling, that story begins in the 1960s with the New Right, a set of political operatives who saw an opportunity to mobilize white evangelicals by emphasizing religious and social issues. Using targeted political messaging—one of the founders of the New Right, Richard Viguerie, was an innovator in direct mail—these political operatives turned evangelical devotees into evangelical voters. The New Right used these voters first to transform the Republican Party, then the country.
When the New Right looked at liberals’ elite connections, they saw a clearinghouse of American power. And they wanted in on the action.
The Council for National Policy played a central role in achieving this goal. Modeled after the Council on Foreign Relations (of which Nelson is a member), the CNP sought to bring together conservative donors, politician, and grassroots organizers—to connect “the donors and the doers,” as one member put it. In practice, that largely meant setting a political agenda through regular closed-door meetings—an agenda that would then filter out through organization leaders and right-wing radio—and channeling funds to political initiatives such as the Values Voter Summit, conservative media outlets, and now the Koch-funded i360 data platform, a new data platform developed to target and mobilize Republican voters.
It is telling that they modeled the CNP after the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which was a who’s-who of the American elite, especially during the Cold War. Scholars, politicians, journalists, diplomats, presidents—they all found in the CFR a place to connect to other elites and to the deep pockets of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. So influential was the CFR that it staffed a good chunk of the foreign policy leadership for three consecutive administrations (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson). When the New Right looked at this configuration of elite connections, they saw a clearinghouse of American power. And they wanted in on the action.
Copying the liberal establishment of midcentury America was a common tactic of the conservative movement long before the CNP was founded. Many conservatives saw their marginalization in American politics as a function of having been out-organized. When William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review in 1955, he explicitly credited magazines such as the New Republic and the Nation for the success of the New Deal, and he hoped to start a similar political revolution with his new conservative magazine. Likewise, the American Conservative Union was modeled after Americans for Democratic Action and the National Association of Evangelicals after the mainline National Council of Churches.
Copying the liberal establishment of midcentury America was a common tactic of the conservative movement long before the CNP was founded.
That’s not to say that the right simply copied the institutions of liberalism. More often, they copied their fever-dream version of what they saw as overtly liberal institutions. Seeing the powerful political influence of liberal organizations in twentieth-century America, they assumed that those organizations had been designed precisely to transform American politics: that New Republic editors wrote only to advance a liberal political agenda, or that universities were dedicated to propagandizing Keynesian economics and secularism. So Fox News became a right-wing fun-house-mirror version of CNN, the Koch Foundation of the Ford Foundation, and the CNP of the CFR.
As that lineage suggests, the CNP was not particularly unusual as a right-wing organization. Like all the above organizations, it was founded with explicit political goals and systemic political strategies already in place. And in fact, though the shadow organization lurks throughout the book, the broader phenomenon Nelson is describing is not a semi-secret network but rather the institutional core of the conservative movement.
That becomes clear in the way Nelson describes the influence of the CNP. She does this primarily by signaling how someone influential, such as Pat Robertson or Mike Pence, was connected to the CNP. These connections become looser later in the book, as Nelson moves into the 2000s and 2010s: CNP founders give way to “CNP members,” “CNP donors,” “CNP affiliates,” and finally “friends of the organization.” But the proliferation of CNP connections often feels like a substitution for a broader argument. Ties to the CNP ultimately serve as a narrative device rather than evidence. Aside from founders and board members, it is not clear that being connected to the CNP means anything for conservatives other than another membership in one of the myriad umbrella organizations that proliferate in politics, such as the American Conservative Union, the Young America’s Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Democracy Fund.
And much of what is actually being done by the CNP and “friends of the organization” is not particularly scandalous. Nelson writes that, for the CNP to achieve its goal of a vastly more conservative government, they would need “a long-range strategy to target critical districts and activate previously unengaged voting blocs.” Later, she lays out the right’s new model of grassroots mobilization:
Identify an invisible, disengaged group of potential voters. Find a hot-button issue to activate them. Keep them riled up with targeted media and direct mail. Facilitate their interactions in gathering places they frequent, to reinforce their commitment with groupthink. Follow up with onsite voter registration and transportation to the polls on Election Day.
That . . . sounds a whole lot like run-of-the-mill politics. Even the threat of theocracy doesn’t quite land. For instance, Nelson acknowledges that materials like the Family Research Council’s iVoter guides are used by countless groups, but darkly warns about the role of religious leaders in conservative evangelical organizing: “By making pastors and churches their vehicles of distribution, the iVoter guides gave their recommendations the imprimatur of spiritual leaders—perhaps even an air of divine authority.” But church-based organizing is hardly limited to the right. “Souls to the polls” might sound frightening if deployed by someone like Jerry Falwell, but it is a regular part of Democratic voter turnout.
Set the conspiratorial framework aside, though, and there is something deeply important that Nelson’s work is doing. By focusing on the way central political institutions, especially the press, fractured in the post-Reagan era, she helps explain why right-wing organizations and politics have flourished in the past few decades.
Why did the collapse of journalism benefit the right far more than the left? In part because the right had been hard at work since the 1940s establishing alternative media institutions.
For Nelson, who has held leadership positions at the Columbia School of Journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalism, the “colony collapse” of journalism in the past few decades is a key factor in that explanation. That is partly due to the economic and technological changes that have decimated local news and transformed national outlets, and partly due to changes that have happened to the practice of journalism with the rise of right-wing media in the second half of the twentieth century. Why did the collapse of journalism benefit the right far more than the left? In part because the right had been hard at work since the 1940s establishing alternative media institutions, from magazines to radio shows to television networks. They paired these new institutions with a novel and effective argument about existing news outlets: that these purportedly objective outlets were riddled with liberal bias and could not possibly be trusted.
As a result, the consumption of ideological media has been a core part of conservative identity in the United States for two generations, something that has no parallel on the left. That built-in base allowed conservative media not only to survive the colony collapse of journalism in the late twentieth century, but to thrive—especially after the elimination of the Federal Communication Commission’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987 opened up the radio dial for the proliferation of right-wing voices.
In tying the transformation of media to the transformation of politics, Nelson is advancing an important argument. Our media environments and our political environments constitute one another; they cannot be separated. This is as true today as it was at the founding, when a free press was seen as vital to a healthy republic. The current fractured, factious, and fact-challenged landscape of political news both reflects and promotes the same qualities in our politics.
The right’s undermining of democracy has not been the function of a secret cabal of conservative elites—who are often forced to bow to the desires of their base, rather than brainwashing the base into following their lead.
The institutional decline that Nelson is less attuned to, and which helps explain the rise of organizations such as the CNP, is the decline of political parties. Yes, the Democratic and Republican parties still exist. But their traditional function, as Nelson ably charts, have been outsourced to other institutions. On the Republican side, that means the conservative movement has largely taken over for the party. The party’s fundraising function now belongs to foundations, Super PACs, and dark-money peddlers. The messaging function now belongs to right-wing media. And the mobilization function now largely resides with groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Turning Point USA.
The collapse of these core institutions of American democracy is deeply worrisome, highlighting the fragility of democracy. A few technological changes, a few tweaks to the institutional apparatus of elections, and suddenly the whole structure of democracy has been weakened. Not just weakened, but willfully undermined. The American right has taken aim at key parts of the democratic process: access to the ballot box, accurate information, checks and balances.
But that undermining has not been the function of a secret cabal of conservative elites. It has been as much, if not more so, about the desires of the base—the grassroots that organizations such as the CNP are “registering, indoctrinating, and mobilizing,” as Nelson puts it. It is far from clear that these conservative evangelicals are in as subservient a position as Nelson suggests. Their theology and politics are largely absent from Shadow Network, but the evangelical base is a powerful force in American politics. Yes, organizers help find a language and urgency that drove white evangelicals to the polls in the 1980s and 1990s. But to call that “indoctrination” is to posit a unidirectional line of political influence that simply does not exist.
In fact, as the durability of Trump support suggests, conservative organizations and media are often forced to bow to the desires of their base, rather than brainwashing the base into following their lead. Trump led in the polls well before he led among conservative elites. A base-driven perspective undermines the idea of a “shadow network,” but it is far more in line with how GOP politics have functioned in the past decade or so.
The dislocations of the Trump era have stoked a hunger for books like this: works that try to find Patient Zero for the dramatic reorientation of the American right away from the now familiar conservative politics of the Reagan era and toward those of 2016. Pinpointing a shadowy conspiracy behind that transformation is comforting: if it was something that happened out of sight, then we couldn’t have known about it, and therefore couldn’t have stopped it and aren’t responsible for it. Yes, the norms of democracy have been violently violated, but it was done in secret, so we can be forgiven for not understanding what was happening.
Pinpointing a shadowy conspiracy behind the transformation of conservative politics is comforting. But it lets us off too easily.
That lets us off too easily. The attacks on America’s democratic institutions and processes have not been happening in some secret hub of the radical right. They have been happening out in the open, little by little, with too few people paying attention. In the early days of conservative organizing, right-wing activists were dismissed, understandably enough, as fringe figures with no real relevance to American politics. And at the time they were, in fact, a small contingent. If journalists and liberal activists could be forgiven for missing the organizational strength of conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s, however, there was no excuse for dismissing it in the 1980s and 1990s, after Reagan had won two landslide elections and Republicans had swept the 1994 elections. That they were continuously caught offguard by conservative political success, and regularly overlooked conservative organizing, marked a catastrophic failure to understand the core operations of American politics.
By the time liberals started to take conservative organizing seriously, they were several decades behind and often failed to understand the broader ideological rationale that gave conservative institutions their power: the belief that all institutions are ideological, and that any institution that purports to be objective is untrustworthy. Without that, it is almost impossible to build reliance on ideological media. That became clear when Air America launched in 2004. It was supposed to be the left’s answer to conservative talk radio. Though a few commentators such as Rachel Maddow launched their careers out of Air America, by 2010 it had collapsed. There just wasn’t enough demand for left-wing talk.
The liberal-left has had more success in copying right-wing institutions in other arenas. In 2014 Democratic activists launched SIX, the State Innovation Exchange, as an answer to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has developed model legislation for conservative state legislatures across the country. Founded in 1973, ALEC had a forty-year head start, but it is significant that left-wing activists are finally following its lead.
There is, finally, a growing awareness of how effectively the right has organized to seize control of American politics—an awareness Shadow Network will help spread. But now that a critical mass of people is waking up to the assault on American democracy, we need to be straight with them: this wasn’t some secretive plot against America. It has been happening out in the open the entire time, largely through the normal functioning of politics. And as a result, much of it can be countered the same way.
Elliott Abrams was once an innocent child. And then he decided to spend the rest of his life covering up brutal atrocities and defending right-wing dictatorships.
Elliott Abrams once said the animating force behind his and Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy was that the world is “an exceedingly dangerous place.” And this is true, largely because men like Elliott Abrams exist in it.Last month, Abrams was tapped by Trump to serve as his special envoy to Venezuela, to essentially help steer the Trump administration’s slow-burn effort to topple that country’s government — or as Mike Pompeo put it, “restore democracy” in the country.
It should go without saying that the idea the Trump administration is pursuing regime change in Venezuela for the sake of democracy and human rights is as laughable as calling Jamal Khashoggi’s murder a surprise party gone wrong. But in case you need to explain this to politically confused friends and relatives, here are eight good reasons why the appointment of Abrams, in particular, makes a mockery of any such high-minded rhetoric.
1. He was knee-deep in human rights atrocities
Let’s start with the most obvious point, which is that Abrams’ chief claim to fame is his role in Ronald Reagan’s blood-soaked foreign policy in Central America in the 1980s, for which he earned the nickname, “contra commander-in-chief.” The contras were the brutal right-wing paramilitary groups in Nicaragua who terrorized civilians throughout the decade, cutting a swath of torture, rape, and murder aimed at everyone from the elderly to children. Their methods were similar to those of right-wing paramilitaries in the other countries of the region, including El Salvador and Guatemala, all of which were supported by the Reagan administration. If you have the stomach to read about them, there’s no shortage of sources that outline their barbarity.
To Abrams, however, they were “freedom fighters,” their work in El Salvador was a “fabulous achievement,” and he mocked critics of Reagan as people forced to “run the risk” of arguing that such groups were “doing something wrong and ought to stop it.” He himself had no illusions about what it is that the contras were doing. “The purpose of our aid is to permit people who are fighting on our side to use more violence,” he said in 1985.
This “micromanagement” at one point also involved Abrams secretly delivering military equipment to the contras under the guise of humanitarian aid. As commentators have noted, this is particularly relevant now, when the Trump administration attacks Maduro for refusing to let humanitarian aid from the US into Venezuela.
2. He covered up brutal acts of terror
Key to Abrams’ role under Reagan was playing down and denying the copious human rights abuses being committed by the forces and governments he and the administration supported.
As Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar pointed out in her grilling of Abrams earlier this week, part of the Reagan administration’s “fabulous achievement” in El Salvador was the horrific El Mozote massacre, which took place shortly before Abrams took up his post. In his attempt to convince the Senate to certify that El Salvador’s government was improving its human rights record — a precondition for receiving US aid — Abrams testified that the massacre had been “publicized when the certification comes forward to the committee,” and was “being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” He claimed he had sent military officers to investigate the reports, and that the massacre couldn’t be confirmed.
Another incident was the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed on the orders of Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, one of the administration’s partners in the country. “Anybody who thinks you’re going to find a cable that says that Roberto d’Aubuisson murdered the archbishop is a fool,” said Abrams. In fact, two such cables existed. Abrams would later insist that any criticism of the Reagan administration’s activities in El Salvador were simply “a post-Cold War effort to rewrite history.”
Meanwhile, as Guatemalan dictator Ríos Montt embarked on a campaign of genocide in the country, Abrams said he had “brought considerable progress” on human rights. He defended Reagan’s lifting of a military aid embargo on Montt’s government, claiming the slaughter of civilians was “being reduced step by step” and that it was “progress” that had to be “rewarded and encouraged.”
3. He’s an unrepentant liar
Abrams told Omar that it is “always the position of the United States” to protect human rights, including in Venezuela, and he stressed the US didn’t want to arm anti-Maduro forces. Besides his well-documented record of doing exactly the opposite, Abrams’ words are even less relevant when you consider his history of outright lying.
We’ve already seen how Abrams regularly lied to cover up or play down abuses by the right-wing forces he supported. This practice would ultimately land him in trouble when he misled Congress about the Iran-Contra affair with statements that ranged from outright lies (“we’re not in the fund-raising business”), to lawyerly parsing of the truth (“I said no foreign government was helping the contras, because we had not yet received a dime from Brunei,” he would write later).
Abrams would forever maintain he did nothing wrong, later writing a sanctimonious book that painted himself as the victim of an unjust, vindictive system that had criminalized “political differences.” “This kind of prosecution is something new in America, and it is wrong,” he wrote, before bleating about the “bloodsuckers” and “filthy bastards” who wanted to do him in.
Abrams rained ire upon Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor tasked with investigating the Iran-Contra scandal: “You, Walsh, eighty years old, and nothing else to do but stay in this job till the grim reaper gets you. Is this your idea of America?” Abrams insisted the independent counsel law under which Walsh (along with Watergate prosecutor Archibold Cox) served was unconstitutional, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had upheld it 7-1, with even the conservative chief justice Rehnquist affirming (Scalia dissented). It didn’t matter anyway, because the late George H. W. Bush pardoned him.
Abrams managed the trifecta of showing contempt for the truth, the constitution’s separation of powers, and the concept of checks and balances, all in one fell swoop. There’s no reason to believe any of his assurances now.
4. He hates democracy
Abrams has also shown a lifelong contempt for the very thing he’s now meant to be advancing: democracy.
When the Uruguayan military government imprisoned Wilson Ferreira, the country’s most popular politician and a fierce liberal opponent of its rule, Abrams defended the Reagan administration’s meek response, which the New York Times had called “stunning.” Abrams explained that “the transition [to elected government] itself is more important than the immediate situation of any individual politician.” Abrams had earlier insisted there was no evidence the Uruguyan military was stifling political freedom, even as it
- closed newspapers,
- arrested its opposition, and
- continued to ban political leaders, among other things.
Around this same time, Abrams was one of a number of Reagan officials who supported Oliver North’s call to pardon Honduran general Jose Bueso Rosa, despite his having received a relatively lenient sentence. Rosa had been convicted after being caught in Florida plotting to overthrow the Honduran government.
In 2002, Abrams reportedly “gave a nod” to the military coup that attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to remove the democratically elected Hugo Chavez from power. The Observer, which broke the story, called Abrams “the crucial figure around the coup.” Abrams has had his eye on toppling Venezuela’s government for some time.
When Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, Abrams, then the point man for George W. Bush’s Middle East policy, helped implement a scheme to nullify the results by fomenting a Palestinian civil war which, they hoped, would remove Hamas from power. When the plan backfired, with Hamas emerging victorious and in full control of Gaza, Abrams accused Hamas of staging a “coup.”
5. His only political principle was anticommunism
Abrams’ disregard for democracy is part and parcel of his general philosophy, which views left-wing governments uniformly as threats to be stamped out.
Abrams, who once told a reporter that he’s “been a counterrevolutionary for a long time,” cut his teeth opposing student protesters at Harvard in the 1960s. He believes the idea that human rights extend past the political and into the economic realm to be “nonsense” and “old Soviet bromides.” As such, he viewed defeating the Soviet Union as the greatest US priority, telling one interviewer that “the greatest threat to human rights is the Soviet Union, not Guatemala or the Philippines.”
In 1984, Abrams quite candidly explained to Policy Review that his human rights policy was one of double standards: fierce opposition to communist rights abusers, and coddling of oppressors friendly to the US.
“Liberalization for purposes of letting out steam always involves line drawing,” he said. “How much steam should you let out? At what point do you risk anarchy and destabilizing the regime?” He went on to explain that “the line drawn varies from country to country,” and that “even a highly imperfect regime may well give a much better prospect of democratization than would the Communist regime that might follow.”
In other words, no matter how brutal or outright fascist a government, it was by default preferable to a communist one, a philosophy he applied in obvious ways to his work in the Americas. It was also evident in his treatment of Cuba, whose prisons he denounced in 1984 as “barbaric” and whose leader, Fidel Castro, he labeled “oppressive” and accused of “betrayal.” He attacked human rights groups, politicians, reporters, and church groups who praised Cuba as “apologists” who “will never take off their rose-colored glasses” and had spent “years defending tyrants” and “years obfuscating the truth.”
At literally the same time he was doing this, Abrams publicly defended Turkey, a key regional ally, from criticism of its human rights record. Abrams praised Turkey, which had recently been pilloried in an Amnesty International report for widespread torture of its people, for “extraordinary progress,” charging that “some who criticize Turkey’s human rights situation have no interest in human rights in Turkey or anywhere else,” but “simply use this issue as a weapon with which to attack a vital member of the Western alliance.” He dismissed Amnesty’s claims as “false history,” criticized human rights groups for “an appalling shallowness of analysis” that ignored social, political, and historical context, and charged that the Turkish people “resent the activists’ shrill and uninformed criticisms of their country.”
As Abrams had earlier said, “the line drawn varies from country to country.” If you played nice with the Reagan administration, your human rights record was tempered by nuance and context, and it was getting better anyway. And if you didn’t, you were beyond redemption.
6. He dislikes journalists and accountability
Abrams no doubt sympathized with Turkey’s rulers because he himself had first-hand experience dealing with pesky journalists and human rights groups.
He said critics of Reagan’s support of the contras would have “blood on their hands,” and accused human rights groups of having communist sympathies. He hopped aboard the Reagan administration’s McCarthyite attempt to shame congressional critics into giving him a blank check in Latin America, claiming that there was an “elaborate and skillful” campaign by Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to “manipulate Congress and the press.” When the GAO released a report alleging contra corruption that was inconvenient for the administration’s attempts to secure aid, Abrams dismissed it as a “smear campaign” cooked up by Democrats.
While Abrams didn’t have a police state at his disposal, that didn’t prevent him from lobbing heavy-handed broadsides against reporters he didn’t like. He refused to be questioned by or debate certain journalists he perceived as critical. Most infamously, from 1986 to 1987, Abrams accused left-wing Colombian journalist Patricia Lara of being a “Cuban agent” and “an active liaison” between Colombian terrorist organization M-19 and “the Cuban secret police.” In October 1986, Lara was stopped by New York immigration officials and imprisoned, before being sent back home, without explanation.
Abrams claimed to have “concrete evidence” that Lara was “heavily engaged” with M-19, but when challenged to reveal evidence, claimed it was based on “intelligence information” that he couldn’t reveal. The Colombian Defense Ministry, then battling M-19, categorically denied they had any such information, and assigned her a bodyguard because Abrams’ accusation had put her in danger. The country’s foreign minister said “we don’t know where the US government obtained” such information.
Abrams also granted a “meritorious honor” award on the Office of Public Diplomacy, a government body responsible for waging an illegal domestic propaganda campaign, in which Iran-Contra architect Oliver North was closely involved, that disseminated Abrams’ preferred narrative about the region. Abrams praised it for “setting out the parameters and defining the terms of the public discussion on Central America policy” and countering the “formidable and well established Soviet/Cuban/Nicaraguan propaganda apparatus.”
7. He’s a fan of regime change
Like any neoconservative worth his salt, Abrams has an abiding faith in the US government’s ability to simply remove world leaders it dislikes at will. (He’s also continued the neocon tradition of never personally fighting in any war, avoiding Vietnam thanks to a hurt back that happened to clear up once the war was over.)
When Abrams wanted to remove former ally Manuel Noriega from power in Panama, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan wrote, he threatened sanctions, then actually imposed sanctions, then established a Panamanian government-in-exile on a US military base. Abrams finally called outright for the US military to topple Noriega, in an op-ed titled “Noriega Respects Power. Use It,” which is what George H. W. Bush ultimately did. It was a chilling preview of where US policy on Venezuela may now be heading if Maduro stays in power.
Reflecting on the mistakes of Reagan’s Latin American policy in 1989, Abrams’ regret was that it hadn’t been more forceful. “You can make a very good argument that after the successful rescue mission in Grenada the president should simply have said, ‘Look, we have to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, we cannot have a Communist government in Nicaragua,’ and done whatever we needed to do to get rid of it, including a naval blockade or possibly even an invasion,” he said.
In 2007, Abrams blessed Bush’s plan to launch a covert operation to destabilize Iran’s government. Two years later, he mused about what should happen if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. “Responsible leadership cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “Preventing it through military action perhaps is the second worst decision we could make. The only worse one being to say it’s all right now, it’s acceptable, we will not act.” But this wouldn’t involve regime change or the killing of civilians, he stressed; just a strike on nuclear facilities. Iran, Abrams warned, was one to three years away from developing a nuclear weapon.
In 2013, Abrams told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the US had to get militarily involved in Syria. Why? Because “a display of American lack of will power in Syria will persuade many Iranian officials that while we may say ‘all options are on the table,’ in reality they are not — so Iran can proceed happily and safely toward a nuclear weapon.” Two years later, he said at a Council of Foreign Relations event that Netanyahu had two options: either strike Iran right then, or wait two years and see if an administration willing to take a tougher line, or sanction an Israeli strike, would be elected. Abrams, it seems, got his wish.
8. He’s beloved by the Right
In case anyone still believes the fiction that “anti-Trump” conservatives actually oppose Trump, Abrams is a living reminder that there’s no daylight between Trump and the establishment Right that pretends to dislike him.
Abrams was once an “anti-Trump” Republican who signed a letter opposing his candidacy in 2016. He tutored Paul Ryan in foreign policy when he was Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, and served on Marco Rubio’s so-called National Security Advisory Council in 2016. It’s no surprise the Florida senator, long viewed as an establishment-friendly, “sensible” conservative alternative to Trump, is now all but directing Trump’s Latin American policy, sounding virtually indistinguishable from Abrams.
Abrams has now served in every Republican administration since he first entered government bar one. In between, he’s worked at the Heritage Foundation (whose head of Latin American policy just called him “a patriot and dedicated voice for repressed communities”), helped found “anti-Trump” Bill Kristol’s Project for the New American Century, was a fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the US government’s arm for foreign political meddling.
Meanwhile, just look at who came to Abrams’ defense after his grilling by Rep. Omar. The National Review — which not long ago put out a much-celebrated “Against Trump” issue whose purpose, according to its editor, was to say, “He’s not one of us. He’s not a conservative, and he’s not what conservatism is” — just published an editorial calling Abrams “one of the wisest, most experienced foreign-policy heads in this country,” and “a steadfast advocate of freedom, democracy, and human rights.”
A former Bush administration official and current Harvard professor defended Abrams as “a devoted public servant who has contributed much of his professional life to our country.” The newly rebranded neocon Max Boot, who very publicly proclaims he’s seen the error of his ways and broken with the ugliness he now sees in the GOP, deemed him “a leading advocate of human rights and democracy.” Unfortunately, it’s not just the Right; the Center for American Progress’ vice president of National Security and International Policy called him “a fierce advocate for human rights and democracy” who simply “made serious professional mistakes.”
That someone like Abrams, who’s now leading Trump’s regime change efforts in Venezuela, is warmly embraced by the coterie of establishment and “never-Trump” conservatives should tell you everything you need to know about these groups.
Why do Republicans enable right-wing extremism?
Why has the Republican Party become a systematic enabler of terrorism?
Don’t pretend to be shocked. Just look at G.O.P. responses to the massacre in El Paso. They have ranged from the ludicrous (blame video games!) to the almost honest (who would have expected Ted Cruz, of all people, to speak out against white supremacy?). But as far as I can tell, not one prominent Republican has even hinted at the obvious link between Donald Trump’s repeated incitements to violence and the upsurge in hate crimes.
So the party remains in lock step behind a man who has arguably done more to promote racial violence than any American since Nathan Bedford Forrest, who helped found the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization if there ever was one — and who was recently honored by the Republican governor of Tennessee.
Anyway, the party’s complicity started long before Trump came on the scene. More than a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning about a surge of right-wing extremism. The report was prescient, to say the least. But when congressional Republicans learned about it, they went on a rampage, demanding the resignation of Janet Napolitano, who headed the agency, and insisted that even using the term “right-wing extremism” was unacceptable.
This backlash was effective: Homeland Security drastically scaled back its efforts to monitor and head off what was already becoming a major threat. In effect, Republicans bullied law enforcement into creating a safe space for potential terrorists, as long as their violent impulses were motivated by the right kind of hatred.
No, not exactly. No doubt some members of Congress, and a significant number of Trump administration officials, very much including the tweeter in chief, really are white supremacists. And a much larger fraction — almost surely bigger than anyone wants to admit — are racists. (Recently released tapes of conversations between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon reveal that the modern G.O.P.’s patron saint was, in fact, a crude racist who called Africans “monkeys.”)
But racism isn’t what drives the Republican establishment, and my guess is that a majority of the party’s elected officials find it a little bit repugnant — just not repugnant enough to induce them to repudiate its political exploitation. And their exploitation of racism has led them inexorably to where they are today: de facto enablers of a wave of white supremacist terrorism.
The central story of U.S. politics since the 1970s is the takeover of the Republican Party by economic radicals, determined to slash taxes for the wealthy while undermining the social safety net.
With the arguable exception of George H.W. Bush, every Republican president since 1980 has pushed through tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the 1 percent while trying to defund and/or privatize key social programs like
- Social Security,
- Medicaid and the
- Affordable Care Act.
So how do Republicans win elections? By appealing to racial animus. This is such an obvious fact of American political life that you have to be willfully blind not to see it.
For a long time, the G.O.P. establishment was able to keep this game under control. It would campaign using implicit appeals to racial hostility (welfare queens! Willie Horton!) but turn postelection to privatization and tax cuts.
But for some reason this bait-and-switch started getting less effective in the 2000s. Maybe it was the reality of America’s growing racial diversity; maybe it was the fact that American society as a whole was becoming less racist, leaving the hard-core racists feeling isolated and frustrated. And the election of our first black president really kicked hatred into overdrive.
The result is that there are more and more angry white people out there willing to commit mayhem — and able to do so because those same Republicans have blocked any effective control over sales of assault weapons.
A different, better G.O.P. might have been willing to acknowledge the growing threat and supported a crackdown on violent right-wing extremism, comparable to the F.B.I.’s successful campaign against the modern K.K.K. in the 1960s. A lot of innocent victims would be alive today if Republicans had done so.
But they didn’t, because admitting that right-wing extremism was a threat, or even a phrase law enforcement should be allowed to use, might have threatened the party’s exploitation of racial hostility to achieve its economic goals.
In effect, then, the Republican Party decided that a few massacres were an acceptable price to pay in return for tax cuts. I wish that were hyperbole, but the continuing refusal of G.O.P. figures to criticize Trump even after El Paso shows that it’s the literal truth.
So as I said at the beginning, the G.O.P. has become a systematic enabler of terrorism. Why? Follow the money.