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).
A Call to Arms
Concord Monitor 1-10-16
In Arm America Act (Armicare) would -- I am persuaded as I listen to the Republican Primary candidates – help the Party coalesce its national security beliefs and clarify how it, in our nation of guns, sees the core values of security and equality merged.
Armicare would provide every American with a free semiautomatic handgun of one’s choice from a list of options, all of a quality equal to a Smith and Wesson 5900 with a night sight in case of late night intruders. It also would require each person to carry their fully loaded weapon openly in public although, at the owner’s option, it would permit guns to be concealed at funerals and political fund-raisers and in churches, banks, and unisex restrooms. The Act’s legislative history would carefully explain the reasons for these exceptions.
The Act would be realistic. It would recognize that gun control radicals will likely delay implementation of the Act, so it wisely would provide for incremental implementation over the first 4 years of President Trump’s first term of office. It also would call for arming the nation’s “most vulnerable groups” first, should initial appropriations fail to pay for arming all Americans. Although Armicare wouldn’t list these priority groups, I am certain that Congress would draw on our nation’s extensive experience with gun violence to immediately arm the following:
Legislators – based on our own New Hampshire experience with endangered lawmakers.
Homeless people -- based on widespread violence experienced by this vulnerable group.
Divorced women and their young children -- given the spate of murders of ex-wives and children by ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands.
School children and teachers – since schools are the site-of-choice of American mass murderers.
Residents of minority neighborhoods – since, too often, they are victimized rather than protected by local police.
Muslims -- as the favorite, current, religious vilification target of the Christian Right.
Refugees and other immigrants – based on escalating resentment and threats.
Because of the special vulnerability noted above, Armicare would provide a gun to children of any age whose parents are divorced or separated, but it would deem this an exception. For Congress, after a careful study of gun violence, would recognize that some youngsters are simply too young to carry guns. Therefore Armicare would not provide its free guns to children under the “Age of Gun Viability” (the age at which, if you’re old enough to kill people with a gun, you’re old enough to defend yourself with one). Setting this age might be controversial, and the Age surely will become lower and lower as children continue to mature more rapidly in our modern society. Lobbyists would likely urge a gun viability age of one year arguing that, “if you’re old enough to suck on a gun barrel, you’re old enough to carry a gun.” But the final statute would set the Age of Gun Viability at eight years of age, allowing children ages six to eight to obtain their security gun if they are willing to relinquish their security blanket.
A Fiscal Impact Statement accompanying Armicare shows that it will pay for itself within three years.It concludes that “revenue from increased income of gun and ammunition producers and distributors, and from increased income in related industries such as armor and funereal services, will more than pay for the free firearms distributed by the Act.”
The irresistible logic behind Armicare – “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” – would also change our military and foreign policy.Immediately the State Department would plan to spend 75% of FY2017 foreign aid on a global Martial Plan that will provide handguns to all citizens of the world beginning in the Middle East. One major attraction of this Plan is that gun recipients will not need to be vetted.Since the bad guys of the world are already armed, universal handgun distribution will add only negligibly to their arsenal while adding immeasurably to the fire power of all the good guys of the world.It is, of course, this outcome that has also captured the interest of our Defense Department. At long last the good guys of the world will be able to defend themselves, and relieve America of being the world’s watchdog.
The State Department and Pentagon are both convinced that the UN Security Council – it’s not called the Council for nothing -- will support U.S. initiatives, and that a Universal Arms Patrol Treaty is likely. They are certain that the world will welcome our new leadership just as it has long-recognized us as the world’s policeman, its prime arms manufacturer, innovator, and dealer, its leader in deployed nuclear warheads, and its leader in per capita gun ownership.
However, even if we have to foot the entire arm-the-world bill, the savings will be enormous. Not having to build a wall on the Mexican border, for example, alone will save many billions of dollars; and with little need for foreign intervention, our defense costs will plummet. Moreover, by offering large cuts in defense spending, Congressional conservatives will be in a great bargaining position to secure large domestic spending cuts from liberals. It is easy to see Armicare as the new Social Security Program supplanting the old one.
Armicare, a Martial Plan, and an International Arms Patrol Treaty will shape a new Peace on Earth.Together, for us Americans, they will reflect our growing appreciation of the relationship between freedom and guns.Freedom – whether of speech, religion, assembly or whatever -- struggles in the face of fear and can only thrive in the face of security, security of the type promised by our new initiatives.
To dramatize this new civic vision, I might add a simple proposal to the Republican position, a simple Constitutional Amendment that can, I believe, occur without the normal, long delay caused by our slow, state-by-state, amendment process.Congress should simply re-codify our Constitution, reversing the First and Second Amendments without changing a word in either of them. Arms trump freedom.
In conclusion, although I am a lifelong Democrat, this article has been inspired entirely by the Republican Primary. From it we have all learned what seemed so illogical throughout history, that security can only be attained if we each have a firearm to defend ourselves. This logic becomes particularly compelling when applied globally, for who could have imagined that Peace on Earth simply lies at the far end of an open-access shooting range.