FIFTY YEARS OF AMERICA’S
RADICAL RIGHT-WING MOVEMENT
[Paul Levy © 2019]
For 50 years a powerful Right-Wing Movement has transformed America, capturing the Republican Party and achieving many other notable victories such as Citizens United, popularizing school vouchers, and reversing a growing commitment to address climate change by promoting climate change denial.
Recent exposés such as Jane Mayer’s Dark Money and Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains help reveal this often stealthy Movement, but it has actually been recognized for some time. An early description of it, for example, was a book by John Saloma III entitled Ominous Politics: The New Conservative Labyrinth. Saloma was a moderate Republican and a founder of its Ripon Society. Writing in 1984, he saw the movement as a major danger to the advancement of his Republican Party. Here is how he summarized it:
Over a period … political conservatives have quietly built a vast coalition of think tanks, political action groups, religious broadcasters, corporate political organizations, senators and representatives, Republic Party officials, and other groups with budgets totaling hundreds of millions of dollars annually. I emphasize the “quietly” because this major development … has arrived almost unannounced.
Although the Movement has grown enormously since 1984, many of its early benefactors and most of its original design such as think tanks, political action committees, and partnership with the Religious Right remain at its core today. We think of the Koch brothers as being pivotal to today’s Movement, but they were already key players in 1984 and their father was before them. In fact, the term Kochtopus, commonly used today to refer to the brothers’ broad influence, was coined in 1980.
Progressive and Centrist activists need to confront this Movement – to shape an effective vision and set of strategies and launch a countermovement, if you will. But a prerequisite to doing this is to understand the Movement’s history, affluence, structure, strategies, institutions, entrenchment, victories, and core ideology.
This document is an attempt to advance these understandings. It is a collection of relatively brief descriptions of key Movement elements. Each contains citations and often supplemental material as well as references and links to Related Essays that I have written.
 Mayer and MacLean use the term “Kochtopus” to identify the reach of Koch activity and influence, so it seems recent. However, Saloma also uses the term, and it was originally coined by Edward Konkin III, a left-wing libertarian in 1980 (New Libertarian’s Manifesto).
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FIFTY YEARS OF AMERICA'S
RADICAL RIGHT WING MOVEMENT
For 50 years a powerful Right-Wing Movement has transformed America, capturing the Republican Party and achieving many other notable victories such as Citizens United, the advancement of school vouchers, and a concerted promotion of climate change denial that reversed a previously growing consensus to address global warming.
If Progressives and Centrists are to confront this Movement more effectively, we need to understand its history, affluence, structure, strategies, institutions, entrenchment, victories, and core ideology.
Fifty Years is a free set of brief (5- to 15-page) descriptions of Movement features. Its Parts include the Movement’s:
HISTORY – it emerged in the early 1970s as a response to expanding progressivism.
FINANCES – it is a rich people’s movement that has expanded enormously, adding new funders and funding
KEY STRATEGIES – it has pursued 5 strategies from its inception: to create think tanks, infiltrate academia, reform the law, develop a media presence, and create a base.
IDEOLOGY – it has adopted essentially a Libertarian or Deep Conservative ideology.
KEY ORGANIZATIONS – it has hundreds of organizations operating thousands of projects, and its lead organizations are usually quite affluent and powerful.
CASE HISTORIES – its victories reflect a capacity to quickly mobilize resources.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS – currently in process, this part offers ideas for Progressives and Moderates to counter the Movement more effectively.
RELATED ESSAYS -- various essays address topics of special interest such as a critique of Libertarianism and a description of public choice theory.