Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing by Anne Nelson – Book

I was attracted to the book Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson because I already knew that Evangelicals (white evangelicals in particular) shared Republican ideology, and liked this ideology better as it got more extreme. What I did not know is that Evangelicals, also called Fundamentalists, were prime movers in turning Republican politics into a well-oiled voter turnout machine.

Anne Nelson is on the faculty at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She acknowledges the help of colleagues and students in the end notes. Although I have written on these subjects many times Anne Nelson had access to resources I did not. Her work is important to me because it offers proof that my “cheap seats” interpretations of recent events in our government have merit. It would be more satisfying if the truths did not back up the facts that the church has been meddling in our federal government and that they grew from scratch into a very effective organization, using tools both legal and possibly illegal to get Republicans elected.

Southern Baptists were not leaving the church the way other Americans were. The advent of church-on-TV had given birth to the megachurch phenomenon. Pastors with large numbers of followers became almost religious rock stars. For decades there had been a strong church presence on the radio, especially across the South and Midwest. Stardom can go to your head, at least that seems to be what happened. At first churches met, “convocated,” held conventions, and church leaders talked about the moral decline which they linked to the decline in religious observance in many parts of America. They felt that religion would cure our moral “slippage.” They were angered that it was no longer legal to pray in school. They began to understand that their numbers and their media network gave them power to change the things they did not like about America. Their natural allies were the Republican Party, even more so with the advent of the Tea Party.

Evangelicals began to found a series of social organizations which were ostensibly formed to deal with aspects of America’s slippage, things like the disintegration of the nuclear family, abortion, contraception, the exclusion of religious teachings from school, the increasing concentration of power at the federal level when it could benefit the church’s ability to thrive if power was concentrated instead at the state level (small government).

Evangelicals came to see that if they could get Republican voters to the polls they could get everything they wanted because the Republican agenda matched the Evangelical wish list. They eventually went digital and collected data on a house-by-house basis in places that leaned right.

One problem with this (among many) is that these groups are classified as 501 c3 (nonprofits for religious reasons) and 501 c4 (nonprofits for social welfare reasons). These groups, in order to keep their tax exempt status, are not supposed to be partisan or participate in getting members of any particular party elected. These groups, in an incestuous relationship with the Republican Party and rich Republican donors like the Koch brothers and the DeVos family, were violating their tax exempt status, not to mention colluding to have an outsized effect on our national, state, and local politics. This story is essentially a political thriller, except its real.

Anne Nelson’s very interesting book may not be to everyone’s taste but should be read by anyone who believes that we should participate in our democracy/republic.

NB: This is even more relevant given that an article in Christianity Today backed removing Trump from office.


True Things and Risky Gambles

Certain things appear to be true. The world is moving to the right. Corporations are winning. Wealthy people will continue to add to their wealth. Wealthy people will determine who is in power in nations. The number of Muslims will continue to grow. The number of Christians will continue to fall. The number of white people in the world is on the decline. The left is moving farther left but is also fractured.

How much do white men want to win? How much does the Christian church want to win? How much does power wish to keep white people separate from “others”? How much do corporations want to keep the fossil fuel gravy train intact? Can wealthy white folks hold on to power for the foreseeable future? How will they hold on to it? Will they hold on at all cost? If the next age is not an industrial age how will wealth be generated? How could America stay number one?

I have been reading Shadow Network by Anne Nelson which recounts the lengths the Fundamentalists (White Evangelicals) have gone to in order to keep America as they would like it to be, white, Christian, male-dominated and a capitalist empire. They organized, they met, they congregated, they plotted, they planned in-depth ways to reach the voters they wanted to reach, to get out the vote. Since the voters they needed to appeal to were Republicans, alliances grew between the Republican Party , the Evangelicals, the corporatists, especially the Koch brothers and the DeVos family who became big donors to the movement. Until Trump these behind the scenes organizations multiplied and grew tentacles that reached between organizations and into our government (at first in the House, but now in the Senate). Democrats have no similar apparatus to equal what we find on the right; either secretive or transparent. Democrats seem to be arriving very late to this party/government takeover. Democrats must impeach but it is likely to be too little and too late.

But what Republicans do not accept is that the world will most likely move inexorably onward regardless of what will eventually prove to be the puny efforts of a dying breed of men. It is not that it is any easier for people who are used to their entitlement to accept the changes that are coming than it is for these men clinging to their power. We white folks won’t find it easy to be in the minority. We worry that Christianity will be swallowed up by the Muslim faith and that it will be, as Bill Mahar says, all “new rules” that look like they could drastically curtail our freedoms. But we are just the masses. We will cope somehow.

What the Republicans also refuse to see barreling down on us is climate change, the destruction of our oceans, so necessary to our continued existence, the melting of the poles which changes the environmental equation exponentially and in ways we can’t predict. They talk of the Millennium and the Rapture, as if they are preparing for the end times. However they seem to plan to survive the end times. They are building their survivalist fiefdoms in out-of-the-way places.

But what if they are just pretending to ignore climate change while secretly hoping that it will kill millions or billions of souls all around the world, a sort of population reboot? If people can put forward the belief that helping people hurts them, that white people really are superior to all others, that they deserve to be wealthy, and that their wealth proves that God loves them above all others, would it be totally outside the realm of possibility  to suppose they are trying to hurry along the decimation of the planet? Would it just, to them, represent Earth 2.0?

The attitude of entitlement these people exude, the contempt with which they treat anyone who disagrees with them or who tries to alter their current path, suggests some knowledge the rest of us are not privy to. Perhaps this is just what white privilege looks like, but they do plan to somehow survive the enormous cultural changes arrayed against them so you have to wonder if they have a grand plan or if they are just clueless. They may not have won the world for democracy but they have certainly won the world in favor of Capitalism. Perhaps they think that is their ace-in-the-hole. And if all else fails there is always the Rapture, to which only white Christians are obviously invited.

To me if looks like the right will not get to enjoy its victory for long. What bugs us on the left is that we could be preparing for these changes, trying to soften the impact of change, working together to meet the changes that are inevitably coming, have already arrived; but we are left gawping at it all as at an inescapable tsunami. That is the true source of our feelings of hopelessness.

(Inspiration for my thoughts was also offered by material supplied by Angus Walker at

PS – Russians are white and Christian, sort of – just saying. This could explain all the Republicans canoodling with Russia.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search –


Universe, Please Deliver US from Mitch McConnell!


‘Majority rules’ has always been part of politics, but what happens when the party that represents a minority of the American people keeps winning and everyday governance becomes ‘minority rules’. It used to be that even a majority party did not shut down the minority party. But Mitch McConnell pretends that the party that represents the majority of Americans, which happens to hold only a minority in the Senate, does not exist. He disdains them. He ignores them.

McConnell now leads a Republican Party that has gone rogue and he seems to relish the job. He smiles, he pontificates, he denies, he even looks less turtle-y, less prune-y.

There are 400 bills sitting on the Senate floor and they will not be moved, says Mitch, as he hugs President Trump.

There is no give and take in the Senate these days. Mitch McConnell has turned the Senate into a sinkhole. There is no intelligent discussion, no presentation of facts, and careful deliberation. Mitch McConnell believes that when your party has the majority in the Senate (even when that party represents a minority of Americans), only those bills that agree with that Senate majority’s ideology are valid and even those bills will have to wait because right now he’s busy, he has to stuff the courts.

So when this Trump loyalist, when this stubborn and very partisan person, sticks out his skinny chest and lifts his weak wrinkled chin and pronounces what will and will not happen, the 51% of Americans who he does not represent can see that we are screwed once again, that this man (backed by Trump and his Republicans in the Senate) can and will pretend that there is no other party, that he governs unopposed, and right now he actually does. Kentucky obviously loves that the scourge of the Senate is a favorite son.

We can guess with a fair amount of certainty that Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial will be a total farce, because Mitch McConnell can and will make it so, and the Orange King will smile down upon him and grant him absolute power to do anything as long as Trump does not disagree with it. It must be awful to be a Democrat in the Senate right now, but please hang in Democrats. Evil doesn’t hold sway forever. We were created with an anathema to evil.

Mitch McConnell assaults the Constitution says, The Nation.

Mitch says he’d fill a Supreme Court seat in 2020, reports Time.

Trump comforts Mitch after a Republican loss in Kentucky, as documented in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mitch kowtows to Donald Trump on the border wall says an article in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Mitch sets up ‘nuclear option’ rule change, says The Japan Times

Mitch McConnell say reparations are not happening the Courier Journal tells us.

Mitch says Medicare-for-All is a ‘raw deal’ for Americans in front of the American Hospital Association.

Mitch McConnell gives reasons why he can’t meet with Merrick Garland according to The New Yorker.

Mitch McConnell tells that he wants a short Senate Impeachment Trial.-BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Mitch blames impeachment for the 400 bills he blocked says The American Independent.

Washington Weekly calls Mitch McConnell the biggest threat to our Democracy.

That is probably enough of Mitch McConnel to last a lifetime. It is not as if the rest of the Senate will suddenly return to sanity if Mitch McConnell is voted out of office, but perhaps the next incarnation of Mitch McConnell will not be so capable at partisan stonewalling.

Republican Grievances and 501c Lies

We have learned by listening to the Impeachment mark-up hearings currently being held to pin down the Articles of Impeachment that the Republicans have endless grievances against the terrible Democrats. The Dems have treated Republicans abominably according to the Republicans. Republican testimony at the hearings offers perfect examples of the ways the Republicans like to make our brains hurt. We see the ways they twist the facts. They show us the ways they gaslight (make us think we are the crazy ones).

The Republicans never forget any Democratic “sins”. When the Republicans speak about Trump he sounds so innocent, and so victimized. Democrats are trying to overturn the 2016 election say the Republicans and the Dems want to pretend it turned out differently. But it is actually Trump who cheated in 2016, and Trump who tried to cheat again in 2020, both times asking for interference by a foreign country in an American election. And it is Trump, who says he knows how to build a wall, who has built an impenetrable wall around his administration so that no documents are accessible and no humans are allowed to speak. He has William Barr as the 4-eyed cyclops guarding his domain. And Trump certainly knows how to build a metaphorical wall, although he is having a bit more difficulty building the actual wall.

One of the most ridiculous grievances the Republicans have expressed in these hearings is the 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) IRS grievance they bring up over and over, which is so esoteric that it never gets discussed. The IRS felt that Republicans were abusing these two tax exempt categories. The c3 category is the one used by religious organizations. They are tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics. The c4 category allows social welfare groups to be tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics.

When the IRS started to audit lots of Republican c3 groups and c4 groups, the Republican Party threatened the IRS, something most of us never imagined was possible or even a good idea, and the Republicans even tossed around the idea of getting rid of the IRS. The IRS stated that the 501 c3’s and c4’s that claimed to be religious organizations or social welfare organizations were actually working to elect Republicans and that they should not be tax exempt. The IRS backed down when Republicans accused them of being partisan, and now the Republicans are pretending to lick a wound that was never actually sustained.

Those Republican groups were violating their c3 and c4 status. There were not equal numbers of Democratic groups doing the same thing. The Republicans got away with this tax cheat through intimidation and by calling the IRS partisan, a label apparently intolerable to the IRS. The Republican Party, currently a totally partisan operation, loves to charge everyone else with partisanship. Republicans are not victims. They are liars and they are breaking our tax laws.

Here are the names of some organizations with c3 and c4 tax exemptions that have been printing pamphlets to hand out in church bulletins, suggesting sermon messages to preachers in megachurches, conducting get-out the-Republican-vote studies, collecting information that shows the intimate data on every voter in America, especially Republicans, swing state voters, and minority voters, and sharing that data with state and federal election campaigns, and many more partisan political election activities.

These organizations have learned almost everything there is to know about voters in America and they have incestuous entanglements with the Republican Party and big donors on the right. They are deeply engaged in politics and they have turned voting into a science which is ironic for a group that hates science. These groups, especially the religious groups, own an enormous media network, mostly radio stations and they do conduct religious services for their listeners; but they also discuss and even preach about politics to a huge swath of America. They have hitched their wagon to the Republican political train and their services are tax free. Victims – I think not. They should let this particular grievance claim go. This is just one lie, but it is the tip of a very big iceberg of false claims of grievous wounds supposedly suffered by the Republican Party at the hands of the Democrats.

An incomplete list of groups follows (there are more) and you can check their tax status online:  Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony List, Students for Life of America, Live Action, Faith and Freedom Coalition, United in Purpose, National Religious Broadcasters, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leadership Institute, Federalist Society, American Center for Law and Justice, Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots, State Policy Network, National Rifle Association, i360 (data platform launched with Koch brothers funding), Themis Trust (i360’s original parent company), Data Trust (Republican National Committee database), Barna Group (evangelical polling firm)

The source of this data is the book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson, Bloomsbury Publishing, October 29, 2019, a book which should give you nightmares if you read it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – TechSoup


Trump Horcruxes: The Prescience of Pop Culture

Trump Horcruxes: The Prescience of Pop Culture

So we found a Trump horcrux in Ukraine. Trump has created lots of horcruxes but they have been really hard to uncover. The Mueller Report is full of Trump horcruxes defended by the evil magic of William of Barr. Trump’s bank account is full of the proceeds of Trump’s emoluments horcruxes. We cannot destroy these horcruxes because they are protected by Trump’s arcane knowledge of how to tie his business up in the courts until his forget spell works. Anyone who pays attention to popular culture knows what happens if you only destroy one of many horcruxes. Damage is done but Trump will survive. As long as there were still horcruxes for Harry Potter, et al to find and destroy, the damage to magic grew greater. So as long as Trump’s horcruxes go undestroyed danger to our Constitution will grow ever greater.

But once we find a horcrux we need the Senate to destroy the horcrux, except that this Senate is not loyal to the House, to Congress, to ‘we the people’; it is loyal to Trump, as Voldemort’s cult members were loyal to him. How many horcruxes will we have to find and send to the Senate for them to destroy before the Senate will remember that it did not take an oath to uphold whatever crimes a President gets up to. How long will it take the Senate to see that this is a really corrupt path to power. How long will it take Republicans in the Senate to remember that Senators take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.

Now that we found Trump’s first horcrux, if the Senate does not destroy it, what will be the damage to the Constitution? Will it be damaged enough to give Trump absolute authority as long as he is President? Will it be damaged enough to allow Trump to declare himself President for Life, a title he is obviously enamored of? How far will the Senate go? How will it benefit the Senate (Republicans) to nullify our founding documents? They seem to think it will benefit them a lot, that Trump is ticking off the points on their wish list for things like small government and beating down the Democratic Party. They don’t mind if he rips off the government for personal gain because they have done the same. They might wish he was a bit better at keeping his crimes on the down-low, but when the Democrats are upset it makes them happy. Universal wisdom usually tells us to “follow the money.” But there is so much more than just money at stake here. All we have to do is follow the smell of rot.

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts – Book

Although I found fault with the adolescent atmospherics in the second book in Nora Roberts most recent trilogy which began with Year One and continued with Of Blood and Bone, I decided that I enjoyed the first two books enough to want to read The Rise of Magicks, the last volume in the trilogy. (It could just be that, like Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, I am unable to leave something unfinished.) I liked this last volume almost as much as I liked the first volume. Although I don’t believe in magic or even ‘magicks’, there was enough universal cultural commentary relevant to the times to keep me hooked. And I will confess that one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to reading was a love of the romance genre, especially the Regency romances of Barbara Cartland and Amanda Quick. I blame this on (or credit this to) my sister who loved these books so much. Although I rarely crave this particular genre these days, I’m guessing that particular endorphin pathway is still neurologically strong. Nora Roberts trilogy has enough romance to reengage those particular neurons and she does it with all the delicacy some of those Regency romances entailed.

When the seal that holds magick away from humans is broken in Scotland and both good and evil magic are loosed on the world they come in the form of a virus. Many die from this virus, millions, and the world is thrown into chaos. Some humans begin to learn that they have morphed into magical beings and some other humans, who have no magic are horrified by these magical humans and see them as abominations. They capture them and put them in containment centers where they devise experiments with various deviant purposes. So we have a culture that is dealing with the ‘others’, aliens, and it is not a proud moment in fictional human history, but which has some parallels in the real world.

Lana and Max, the first generation heroes, are witches who are being hunted by a group called the Purity Warriors, and by magical people who chose the dark side, the Dark Uncanny. They decide to halt their desperate escape at a small town which they, along with other first generation virus survivors, will turn into a community called New Hope. But this final book is the story of Lana and Max’s daughter, Fallon Swift, known far and wide as The One. And she is a refreshingly down-to-earth female heroine even though she is trained by her own Merlin and her path to power resembles the Arthurian legends (but this Arthur is a girl/woman). This final book in the trilogy, The Rise of Magicks is full of war and of love. This time Duncan and Fallon are grown-ups, no longer teens, and if you were frustrated that they each went their own way at the end of Book 2, then you will find it was worth the wait. While these are not the great American novel(s) they are an entertaining and addictive read delivered by a really talented, and very prolific, writer.

December 2019 Book List

December 2019 Book List

I decided not to put together a book list for December, although I may do that later when life slows down. But here are links to lists of the best books of 2019.

New York Times


Publisher’s Weekly


Trump, the Senate, and Impeachment

Trump, the Senate, and Impeachment

Will the Senate of the United States of America let Trump micromanage his own impeachment trial? Since the Senate majority is in the hands of the Republican Party and since the Republican Party is in Trump’s pocket it looks like that is exactly what will happen. Trump is already trying to set the Senate rules for how his impeachment trial will be conducted.

But the Republican Party, wants desperately to stay in power, even as it lost the popular vote for president in the last six elections. The party has been plotting for over a decade to arrange voting in America so that, as the GOP becomes the party of the minority, it will be able to stay in the majority in state governments and in, at least, the Senate. Tons of energy, hours of meetings, documents full of thousands of words, and millions and billions of dollars have been spent on ginning up a base that would reliably vote for Republicans, without weighing the candidates, just along the party line. Republicans have been very successful, and Donald Trump did not even help the Senate achieve its current position. America’s election maps have been looking redder and redder as Democrats are confined to coastal cities and larger inland urban centers.

The Senate is unique because every state gets equal representation. Every state gets two senators regardless of population. Top five states (California, 40 m., Texas, 30 m., Florida, 21 m., NY, 19.5 m, Penn., 12.8 m) get two senators each. Bottom five ( S. Dakota, 882 K, No. Dakota, 786 K, Alaska, 737 K, Vermont, 626 K, Wyoming, 578 K) also get two senators each. This math which made sense to the founders, half of whom were farmers, makes plenty of sense to modern Republicans since they had already had influence in rural states through Evangelicals, media, and a Republican campaign to collect state governorships and legislatures to help them enact their small-government-privatize-everything agenda. The Republicans have a pretty fair hold on the Senate and it may be difficult to flip it. (We shall see.)

And although the Senate has mostly done Trump’s business, it is not only in Trump’s interests but also in the interests of Republicans to stuff the courts with conservatives. The Senate has defied Trump a few times, especially on issues of foreign policy, sanctions, etc. Trump has already tried to sideline the House of Representatives by refusing to offer any documents to assist the House in their lawful investigations and to prevent government employees from testifying. The grand jury documents from the Mueller investigation have still not been made available to the House. It was obviously a big mistake to not get a special prosecutor, a mistake to conduct the Mueller investigation under the auspices of the Justice Department (although who knew an AG would ever become so partisan).

The Republicans have already almost turned over the Senate to Trump. Are they actually going to let Trump run his own impeachment trial? Are they, despite all their hard work to turn the Senate into a Republican stronghold, going to fix the impeachment trial, make it just a show trial, and give their last stronghold to Trump? I must admit I am astonished. I’m not so surprised that they are treating the Constitution with so little respect, or that they are Trump fanatics, but I am surprised that the Senate will give up its Article I power to the president, will bargain away their hard-won and very useful position of power for this term-limited guy, a move that could affect them in perpetuity. If the Democrats can put up a fight, it is difficult to believe that the Senate will just knuckle under to an imperious president who only acknowledges the Senate as long as it is full of spineless sycophants.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Atlantic

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans: Revised

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans

Could it be that the Great American Divide is about white power? There is a lot of evidence that this may be exactly the case. This is an undercurrent in Republican politics that we should be aware of because it turns one faction of Christianity into a secretive lobbying group with an agenda that subverts the Constitution in the name of purifying it. These extra-governmental groups get their power from big money, from savvy manipulation of people’s faith, and, they claim, from God. They have been able to divide America while they carry out a campaign to control politics in Washington and in the states.

I am reading a book called Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson who is offering evidence that there are long tentacles of connection between American Fundamentalists and the Koch Network, which also includes the DeVos family – and that white supremacy and the supremacy of the Christian religion are the doctrines around which these folks coalesce. Nelson looks at the founding of a group called the Council for National Policy, and at its past presidents who include people from just about every radical conservative group in America.

“A century earlier the US population was close to 90 percent non-Hispanic white but by 2016 the figure dropped to 60% and was falling steadily.” (pg. 2)

In 1972 Protestants made up 2/3 of the US population, but by 2012 they had dropped to less than half.” (pg. 2)`

“[The men we are speaking of] represented an American past dominated by white Protestant male property owners. They dreamed of restoring a nineteenth century patriarchy that limited the civil rights of women, minorities, immigrants and workers, with no income tax to vex the rich or social safety net to aid the poor.” (Prologue, pg. xiv)

“If the country abided by a clear-cut democratic process, these constituencies, leaning Democratic, would consolidate their power based on majority rule.” (pg. xiv)

“Once Democratic-leaning youth and minorities reached a decisive majority – which could be as early as 2031 – there might be no turning back.”

Perhaps this explains the conservative meme on the demise of the American nuclear family and the passionate campaign to end birth control and abortion and the constant comments that inform white folks that they are not having enough offspring, which some conservatives are wont to let slip in unguarded moments. (As in, we need more white babies.)

Thomas Edsall

Ross Douthat

Nelson says that “[t]he key players learned how to achieve minority rule through long-term strategies, which they would soon apply to the country as a whole, manipulating the electoral process and reshaping the judiciary.” (pg. 2)

E. J. Dionne, Jr.

“Two questions are asked again and again: How can white evangelical Christians continue to support a man as manifestly immoral as President Trump? And how can congressional Republicans refuse to condemn Trump’s thuggish effort to use taxpayer money to intimidate a foreign leader into helping his reelection campaign?”

“The answer to both relates to power — not just the power Trump now enjoys but also to the president’s faithfulness to a deal aimed at controlling American political life for a generation or more. Both evangelicals and Republican politicians want to lock in their current policy preferences, no matter how much the country changes or how sharply public opinion swings against them. As a party, the GOP now depends on empowering a minority over the nation’s majority.”

“Still, voter suppression and the electoral college (along with partisan gerrymandering) are not foolproof. There is, however, one part of government entirely immune from the results of any particular election: the lifetime appointees to federal judgeships, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court. And here is where Trump has delivered big time for those willing to let him do just about anything else.”

“But white evangelicals turn out to be the premier pragmatists of U.S. politics, as the historian Matthew Avery Sutton argued last week in The Post’s “Made by History” section. They know they are losing ground in public opinion on issues such as same-sex marriage. An older group than the country as a whole, they are also in demographic decline as our nation grows more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse.

“The best defense evangelicals have against the new majority is control of the courts, which Trump is giving them. Everything else is negotiable, or ignorable.

The courts also matter to Republican economic elites alarmed by the growing support, even among political moderates, for higher taxes on the wealthy and limits on corporate power. Conservative judges are rather solicitous toward the interests of property and have historically limited the regulatory reach of government’s democratically elected branches. No wonder Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has turned the Senate — where, by the way, the most diverse and populous states are underrepresented — into an assembly line sped up to confirm right-wing judges as quickly as possible.”

“There is nothing new about established conservative interests trying to limit democracy’s reach, as a student of mine, Humza Jilani, helpfully reminded me last week in discussing his thesis topic. What ought to disturb us now is how far evangelical conservatives and Republicans (and let’s honor the Never Trumper exceptions) are willing to go to defend Trump’s indefensible behavior because they are entirely complicit in his minority-rule project.”


In Shadow Network Anne Nelson tells us that Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, outraged when the Supreme Court ended public school prayer, met in March of 1967, to discuss this and other matters and to come up with an organized response which would eventually become the Council for National Policy. Southern Baptists figured prominently in these events. Jerry Falwell was also in the loop. Paul Weyrich would become one of the architects of the CNP. “According to journalist David Grann’s account in the New Republic, Weyrich’s idea for a conservative network arose in Washington one day in 1969. In 1970 Weyrich cofounded The Heritage Foundation, the Republican Study Committee, and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council which become the building blocks of the Council for National Policy.”

Since this movement involved the church there was already a network of Christian radio stations all across America. “Over time the media empire has expanded its reach into Fox News operations and grown to include fundamentalist television broadcasting, digital platforms, book publishing, and feature film production.” (pg. xv)

“ The ‘wallpaper effect’ of wraparound media can have a powerful effect,” says Nelson. (pg. xvi)

“The CNP set its sights on the Republican Party” (pg. xvii)

Nelson goes on to say, “the movement has also appropriated a vocabulary that it redeploys with Orwellian flair. ‘Family’ is a code word for homophobic, and ‘defense of marriage’ means prohibition of same sex unions…” (pg. xvii) hardly surprising to most of us.

Once we are versed in the history of the CNP and related organizations such as the Leadership Institute, the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots and many more on the right, Anne Nelson begins to delineate the connections of this fundamentalist network with the Koch brothers and their network of organizations mostly connected to the oil and gas industry, very important in the states the CNP grew up in. The most famous Koch organizations include Americans for Prosperity and Donors Trust.


I began to be aware that what was going on in the federal government and in the states was not business-as-usual sometime around 2013 when the scope of Republican obstructionism in Congress became too obvious to ignore. Saying that you plan to make Obama a one term president was a bit abstract, but the use of the filibuster and the Hastert rule to bring legislation to a virtual standstill was pretty concrete. Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham may have amused some Americans, but I found it snarky and disrespectful. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling, shutting down the government – all these actions began to look planned, strategic, ways to prevent the majority party from governing. And of course, I was not the only one who noticed.

I’m not sure the connection to white supremacy was as clear in those years as it is today but actions like defusing the Voting Rights Act to end preclearance for Jim Crow states began to offer us a strong suspicion that white supremacy was not dead and gone in these United States. Voter ID’s, getting rid of convenient polling places and polling times and other anti-voting moves that would be likely to most affect minorities, or would echo techniques previously used to suppress minority votes, brought issues of racism back to the forefront, as did the events that precipitated the Black Lives Matter movement. And Charlottesville.

Journalists started to connect the dots among the various conservative and fundamentalist organizations that had sprung up like pernicious weeds in a garden that was unattended. In 2013 a group called Muckety traced the web of the Koch brothers influence (along with other wealthy conservative political families). Anne Nelson, finally in 2019, does her more exhaustive analysis of these groups whose goals are to steer American politics inevitably in such a way that white power will stay in charge in America regardless of what changes we see in our population.

Small wonder how we end up with someone like Steven Miller, the merchant of white supremacy (renamed white nationalism) by the side of a president who the Republicans will not touch, because he is busy preserving the white America they have been manipulating Americans to want for an astonishing 50 years.

Republicans don’t blink when Trump tells Americans that Muslims are terrorists and that people from south of the border are gang members. After several terrorist bombings in America, (after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings and more), after exaggerating MS-13 presence in America, it is pretty easy to understand why people believe the white supremacist activities of this administration are protecting them. The Muslim ban and the Wall calm Americans’ terror of these new immigrants that people have been incited to fear, who are so different from European immigrants of previous migrations.

There is some truth to the fear. If we accept Muslim immigrants some of them could be terrorists. If we give sanctuary to people from South America or Central America some of them could be gang members. But stoking fear of these groups is wrong, it is un-American, it over-generalizes, and, because it relies on Europe to deal with the upheaval driving Muslims into Europe all on its own, it will eventually create massive anti-American sentiment in Europe if these policies outlast Trump. Europe seems to be cutting us some slack for Trump. Can we save ourselves from economic chaos in South America by building a wall? Probably not for long.

As it turns out this is not really about immigration at all and we instinctively knew this; it is about white supremacy; it is about preserving white power. It is about wealth and who gets to keep it. It is about old energy and holding the line. It is the antithesis of globalization which would attempt to see that we all try to understand each other and get along as best we can to offer a life that meets the needs of people everywhere on the planet.

It is about change, an end to white hegemony, and it is so frightening to some that they are willing to destroy our democracy to keep the status quo in America. The Republicans are part of this strategic program to keep America white and Christian and that has everything to do with why they back a guy like Trump who is not afraid to cozy up to white supremacists to get it done (and who insists at the same time that he is doing nothing of the kind). This is not about the base, although heaven knows they need their base. This is about white male Christian power; it is about a minority finding ways to continue to exercise power over a new majority.

Can the left come up with an equally strategic plan to counteract this right wing cabal, to peacefully wend a way to inclusion, to lifting up those who will be affected by climate shifts, and inventing a new more equitable economy?

I also am  in the midst of reading the Frederick Douglass biography, Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. Douglass began his life in America as a slave but he taught himself to read, write, and speak at great hazard as reading and writing were forbidden to slaves. Once he escaped north he became a tireless member and leader in the abolitionist movement. David Blight describes Frederick Douglass’s impatience  with Lincoln in 1862. Douglass was waiting for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and to allow them to fight on the Union side in the Civil War. Lincoln had dissenters to appeal to and perhaps that explains why he dithered. Perhaps it explains why the government in Washington pushed colonization along with freedom. Slaves who wished to be sent to found a colony, perhaps in Central America would be freed. Frederick Douglass felt that American slaves belonged in America. It was now the nation they called home. They should not be uprooted again because white people did not accept black folks as equals.

Douglass says “If men may not live peaceably together in the same land, they cannot so live on the same continent, and ultimately on the same world -If heterogeneity could not work in America where could it. If the black man cannot find peace from the aggressions of the white race on this continent,” he reasoned, “he will not be likely to find it permanently on any part of the habitable globe.” (pg.375)

Here is General Montgomery Blair on the subject (responding to a letter Douglass had written to Senator Pomeroy), “Blair sought to assure Douglass that there ‘was no question of superiority or inferiority involved in the proposed removal.’ Blair invoked the reputation of Thomas Jefferson to underscore the necessity of racial separation. The minority race, argued Blair, must go elsewhere to initiate the civilization established by the majority race: the propriety of colonization stemmed from the differences between them…and it seems as obvious to me as it was to…the mind of Jefferson that the opinion against which you protest, is the necessary result of indelible differences made by the Almighty.” (pg. 375-76)

So brother fought brother in a deadly Civil War and when it ended the union of states remained together, but the racial animosity also remained. Obviously there are white Americans who still feel superior to anyone with darker skin, anyone who cannot trace their history to Europe.

Will our democracy, born in a crucible of racism, be able to survive into a brave new tolerant future? It is not looking good.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – NBC News, Muckety/Daily Kos, Daily Beast, Newsday

Talking to Chuck Todd About Impeachment

Talking to Chuck Todd

At least half of America has watched Donald Trump, our president, sworn to uphold the US Constitution, abuse our nation’s laws and act as if the Constitution needs to be rewritten according to Trumpian requirements. We have watched Trump call the media “the enemy of the people” except for any media outlets that refuse to call out his lawlessness, who praise and appease him. We have watched him hire and fire people until he found someone who he felt could be absolutely loyal to him. And these people are only there on sufferance because as soon as they defy him in any way they will also be gone. Almost all the top people on Trump’s 2016 campaign committee are in jail which suggests that the only reason Trump is not in jail is because he is the president. Now that he has William Barr as his AG, the Justice Department has been coopted and will no longer deliver justice for we the people and Trump’s power seems formidable. William Barr believes a president’s power is absolute, that patriotism requires unquestioning loyalty to the Chief Executive and that he cannot be indicted or even investigated as long as he is president. We know this is against the entire concept of our republic, we know this gives permission to monarchy or autocracy.

We are fairly certain that Russia interfered more deeply than usual in the 2016 election by spreading disinformation and that they used data about the Democrats that they had hacked from the DNC to help Trump’s team plan election strategy. We can’t be absolutely certain because of presidential obstruction, Justice Department obstruction, and obstruction by the Republicans in Congress. We can’t be absolutely certain because the Grand Jury testimonies, which would normally be made available to Congress, are still being kept secret. These events do not represent business-as-usual in America. And all Trump’s loyal toadies can say is, “Prove it,” while they make very sure that nothing can be proven.

So, yes, Chuck Todd, we do have many more reasons to impeach this president than the Democrats are citing in their Impeachment Report, but we can’t prove them. However, for once Democrats caught Trump making a boo-boo. He lost his deniability. His coded language was not coded well enough. On the telephone with the new Ukrainian president Zelensky, he happened to say, “I need you to do me a favor though.” This request perked up a number of ears of a number of staffers, both in the White House and abroad. This single sentence reeks of bribery even if it could not be proven that $400,000 in military aid was withheld to make sure the fix was in. And all Trump expected to get from this was dirt on a political opponent. It had nothing to do with American foreign policy. He did not need to win anything for the American people. And no matter how many times Trump says it was about Ukrainian corruption, Trump was the corrupt actor in this affair.

Even when Trump forbade testimony from his toady-peeps, America’s civil servants defied the prohibition and came forward. And while the deliberately obvious activities of Rudy Giuliani, who was all over Ukraine supposedly doing one piece of legitimate business while he was actually involved in extortion and bribery on behalf of the president, have been harder to pin down, they certainly look awful (because they are). They look clandestine and lawless to us because a personal lawyer for a president has no place in conducting the foreign affairs of this nation unless Congress is also involved, and Congress was not involved. So on this one unconstitutional presidential scheme, Trump has slipped up and he has been caught and people are willing to testify to that.

Chuck Todd says that this is rinky-dink. He scoffs at the Democrats all the time for being too timid and he is doing that very same thing now. He is doing it tonight after the Impeachment Report has been written, when a vote will be taken. He says that the Democrats should have waited until they could get the goods on everything Trump has done that puts our democracy/republic in danger of becoming something our forefathers tried to protect it from, the plaything of a monarch or a dictator. The Democrats should wait and play hardball until they can go really big.

Well that would be very nice, Chuck Todd, but given the obstacles Democrats face; Trump, the toadies, the Justice Department, the State Dept., the Senate firmly in the hands of Republicans probably for the foreseeable future, the lawyers who back Trump’s claims of “executive privilege” and who suddenly claim absolute power for the executive; and a president whose whole life taught him how to get away with small crimes by using mafia magic, I don’t think piling on is helpful. The Democrats are being demonized by everyone who is not a Democrat and even some people who are. When the media piles on in a situation like this they do the work of the devil. Do Democrats have to stop at one Impeachment? Can’t they go again and again if they can get the goods?

Photo Credit: Esquire