Trump and the Fundamentalists

After you finish a book as meaty, as full of detail and attribution, as Shadow Network by Anne Nelson, it requires more than one take on the author’s revelations to do justice to the contents. I have not talked about the juiciest bits of this book, (which makes them sound like they are gossip, but they are real). These are the places in the book where the author talks about the fundamentalists and the moment when Donald Trump entered the campaign, and furthermore, the bits where the fundamentalists see that he will most likely win the nomination.

The Council for National Policy had its roots back in the 70’s. It began as a small group of religious leaders and pastors who were worried that the decision to end school prayer (1962) was responsible for a moral nosedive in America. This Council grew in influence and many Republicans and religious leaders have been members and past presidents, although they are not all household names. The CNP inspired many similar organizations of conservative fundamentalists and these groups began to formulate a “wish list” of laws to pass and laws to overturn and courts to stuff. They added a Leadership training program that was very effective and a long list of related groups. Once they knew what they wanted, they decided to analyze fundamentalist voters. They began to devise ways to reach out to fundamentalists and other Christians who would become “Values voters,” to make sure they registered to vote and went to the polls and voted for the candidates the fundamentalists backed.

In the 2016 elections evangelicals (fundamentalists) backed candidates like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. They certainly did not favor Donald Trump. Anne Nelson tells us that “a group of female conservatives…had sent an ‘anyone but Trump’ letter to Iowa voters, stating, “as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women in particular.” (pg.191)

She goes on to say, “as far as the movement’s key issues were concerned, Trump’s loose-cannon rhetoric had been all over the place; he was on record saying he didn’t care to challenge same-sex marriage, and he was wobbly on abortion. His religious credentials were spotty, to put it mildly.” For a coalition that depended on getting out the fundamentalist vote, these were poor optics indeed, says Nelson.

But George Barna, who had done the get-out-the-vote groundwork, an enormous investment of time and organizational strategy, technique and networking, Nelson says, could sense the “taste of victory was turning to ashes. Barna claimed his efforts were more successful for taking place, quite unintentionally, off the national radar.”

“If fundamentalists/Republicans won the presidency and kept the Senate in 2016, they would hold the power to reshape the American judiciary and real change would unfold. They could roll back abortion rights, gay marriage and gun laws, revoke environmental regulations, abolish entire federal agencies, assail the IRS restrictions on the tax free status of churches, make decisions on gerrymandering, and redistricting to set the scale for many elections to come.”

She goes on to say, “[b]ut Trump broke through, riding on his uncanny charisma, the caché of celebrity, and a powerful backlash against political business as usual…but with the disadvantages of a seat-of-the-pants organization, lack of donors and infrastructure, or any ground game.” (pg.192)

Nelson tells us that, “[i]n May, soon after Ted Cruz acknowledged defeat, Time magazine’s Elizabeth Dias reported that Tony Perkins (CNP), Ben Carson, and Bill Dallas had begun organizing a closed-door meeting for Trump and fundamentalist leaders.” (pg. 193)

She describes Trump’s speech in January, 2016 at Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell) sprinkled with the words ‘hell’ and ‘damn’, so “shocking to young fundamentalist ears”. This was the Two Corinthians moment, she reminds us. Nelson sums it up, “Fundamentalists measured a man’s worth by his church attendance, marital fidelity, and knowledge of the Bible, Trump came up short on every count.”

Nelson tells us that conservatives and fundamentalists did not trust Trump’s business sense either and that Charles Koch even considered voting for Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Barna, the fundamentalist vote-technician, refused to see all his hard work go to waste. He called in a fundamentalist named Ralph Reed, who had been cultivating Trump for years as revealed by Elizabeth Dias of Time magazine. Reed scheduled a dress rehearsal for Trump at a June, 2016 Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. at which “Trump praised the right people and listed the correct goals.” (pg. 195)

Then they hosted the big event on June 21, 2016, “A Conversation About America’s Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson” at which over 1,000 fundamentalist leaders came from all over the country to the ballroom of the NY Marriott Marquis. Ben Carson said, “this is like a chess match and God is the great grand master, sometimes he uses a pawn.” Nelson also recounts ‘Franklin Graham’s back-handed support – Was Trump a sinner? Well, Graham reminded his audience, the God of the Old Testament worked through lots of sinners, Abraham lied, Moses disobeyed God. David committed adultery and had a man killed.”

And then Trump said: “this election is about the Supreme Court. The next president will appoint 2, 3, 4, or possibly 5 life-term Justices…He said all his judges would be vetted by the Federalist Society.”

In the end, Nelson tells us about a man, James Robison in these words, “The movement had come full circle. Robison had brought Reagan to Dallas, and now he delivered the fundamentalist war council to Trump. This was a man who made history yet few Americans outside fundamentalist circles had ever heard of him. (pg. 227)

She finishes this tale about the ultimate acts of rationalization on the part of the fundamentalists and how they came to support this particular American president that, it could be argued, they bequeathed us, by saying,

“As of 2017, Republicans held all the cards, they controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, and thirty-three state legislatures. Furthermore their ranks were filled with fresh blood; the average age of the Democratic House leadership was seventy-two and the Republican was 48.”

“Now with the Republican Senate behind him and the Federalist Society nominations in hand, Trump prepared to fill the vacancies in the courts in record time.”

The Koch brothers wrote a paper called, “Advancing Principled Public Policy” which is essentially a victory lap, “the new administration had overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s Stream Protection Rule, rescinded the fracking ban on federal and Indian lands, and initiated the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate agreement. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

From the Koch point of view “it was ultimately about money, in the form of the Republican tax bill.” (pg. 228) The “victories” Republicans won as a result of agreeing to back Trump have been worth all their compromises in their eyes, but Nelson’s book tells us of the less transparent role fundamentalists played in Trump’s election, and while he may be an affliction to some us, he has not been perceived that way in religious circles to our everlasting astonishment. It’s lucky for these folks, I guess, that now the world is operating under New Testament rules.

See, I told you the story has a lot of juicy bits. All these righteous men being yanked around by want and greed. I did not want you to think that Anne Nelson neglected to write about Trump or neglected to expose hypocrisy in her book, Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The New Republic

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.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html

 

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

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/27/opinion/barr-liberals-family.html

Ross Douthat

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/opinion/liberals-marriage.html

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.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-unites-trumps-apologists-minority-rule/2019/11/24/152c5d06-0d6c-11ea-97ac-a7ccc8dd1ebc_story.html

“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.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-creepy-racist-network-behind-trump-aide-stephen-miller

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

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans

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. I am 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 not 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. There are white Americans who still feel superior to anyone with darker skin, anyone who cannot trace their history to Europe.

I am also 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.)

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)

Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, outraged when the Supreme Court ended public school prayer met in March of 1967, Nelson learned, to discuss these 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.

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.

Tell 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? 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: NBC News, Muckety