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).
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.
Finding Phil: Lost in War and Silence traces the author’s search to learn about his Uncle Phil, killed 70 years earlier “somewhere in France” in World War II.
To cope with their grief, Phil’s family – like so many who lost a child in the war – rarely spoke of him, so the author grew up knowing little about his Uncle and, at this late date, expected his quest to reveal little more. Instead it led to many moving and astounding stories that, together, make Finding Phil:
A mystery: The search to locate where Phil died ends in a shocking discovery that prompts the author to confront an unimagined paradox, a Waffen SS Officer said to be humane.
A love story, two in fact: One of Phil and Barbara married for three days before he goes to war, and the other of a nephew who finds and comes to love an uncle he never knew.
A soldier’s story: Of a young tank platoon commander braving the frigid winter of 1944-45 as Allied troops advanced against an increasingly desperate Hitler.
A reflection: Pauses in the narrative where the author ponders family silences, peace and war, heroism, and anti-Semitism.
As Finding Phil unfolds, readers encounter many surprises, among them: etchings on a stone that marks the French-German border, a world record-setting deep sea diver, a famous American author, a French soldier who died in 1967 but recently supplied General David Petraeus with crucial advice, and a boat bound for Australia laden with Winston Churchill’s greatest regret.
Don’t Tell The Joneses
(Concord Monitor, a four-part series, 3-26-15 to 3-29-15)
The series identifies a set of household basics that it calls “The Bundle” – food, clothing, housing & utilities, education, health care, and transportation as well employment and retirement security, police and fire protection, and national defense. Then it makes the following points. First, the cost of an average household share of The Bundle is huge. Second, market economies produce massive amounts of wealth but distribute that wealth very unequally. Third, as a result, only about one-third of households can afford The Bundle, let alone other items such as a vacation, a computer, and a rainy day fund that we usually include in what consider a lower-middle class standard of living.
Fourth, to get The Bundle, many households must pay less for some items than they cost; that is, they need a subsidy. Fifth, many families get such a subsidy; they pay less in taxes than they get back from government. The subsidy provides them with the full bundle or at least more of it than they otherwise could afford. Another term for this subsidy is redistribution of wealth. Sixth, in a true democracy, people have a responsibility to work if they can, and they can expect at least The Bundle (the modern basics) if they do. This is implicit in the concept of equality and in the notion of respect for one another that underlies democracy. Since the economy can’t nearly distribute wealth in a way that produces this result, government must redistribute wealth – if we are to be the market democracy that we pride ourselves in being.
Beware of Tax Freedom Day
(Concord Monitor, 4-26-15)
Tax Freedom Day is a popularized myth. Its creator-promoters identify it each year as the day (typically in April) when, if we each paid our taxes first, we would finish paying taxes and be able to keep the rest of our earnings. The manufactured concept is a bundle of perversions as this article explains.
(Concord Monitor, 11-6-15).
The predicted impacts of climate change (for example, flooding and severe weather events that will cause massive displacement and death) are so overwhelming that many people find it attractive to minimize or ignore them rather than seek to prevent it or modulate its impact. This article responds to another in which the writer invited people.
A Call to Arms
(Concord Monitor, 1-10-16)
The gun lobby’s call to arms and its logic that the best way to stop an armed bad guy is an armed good guy has broad implications for domestic and foreign policy. This article facetiously calls for Armicare, a new act that would implement this notion.