The Quiet Plot to Steal America, and What to Do About It
June 15, 2005
By Andrew M. Gracy
is under attack. It's time to pull our collective heads out of the
sand and realize the nature of the political battle that rational,
constitutionally-minded Americans now face. We are, to borrow a
phrase from Bill Moyers, in the fight for our lives. From the decades-long
efforts to eliminate the press as the fourth estate of government
to the onslaught on Social Security, from the attack on academic
freedom in our colleges and universities to the attempts to stock
our judicial system with conservative judges, the Right has garnered
the financial and political resources in recent decades to reshape
the social landscape of America.
And now it's time to take it back, come hell or high water. It's
time to put away the liberal tool box - the principles of rational
adjudication and fair play, the respect for the diversity of ideas
and the pursuit of truth. There is simply too much at stake. It's
time to bring the fight to them, and it's time to fight to win.
The future of our country depends on it, and there are real, human
lives at stake.
So, what does a high-minded, moral, socially-conscious person
do in such circumstances? Political activism is where the rubber
meets the road, and what we need is schooling in the art of political
warfare, a mandate for action, and a road map to manage the terrain.
We need practical guidelines, not theoretical banter. My objective
here is to offer these tools, but the first order of business is
to map out the terrain. And that begins by reflecting on some uncomfortable
truths, truths that the majority of Americans, even informed Americans,
have not yet grasped.
1. The American media have been lost to the Right.
There is no liberal bias, even in the traditional bulwarks
of liberalism, PBS and NPR. Rather, there is a conservative
ruse to propagandize Americans into believing liberal
bias exists to divert attention from the real issues. The loss
of the media as the fourth estate is a function of consolidation,
i.e. corporate control over the media, and the favor-trading
that goes on between corporate America and government. The lesson?
Don't look to the media to help turn back the political clock.
They are part of the problem, not the solution.
2. The electoral system in the U.S. has quietly been privatized
in recent years by the use of electronic voting machines, and
the control of elections has thereby been placed in the hands
of corporations with deep political and financial ties to the
The truth is, the 2004 presidential election was almost certainly
fraudulent (as were many of the Congressional races), and George
W. Bush was ushered into office by subterfuge and against the
will of the voting majority. There is too much evidence to support
this hypothesis to be ignored - from exit polls to statistical
studies of voting patterns in a number of states - but it is
not a story that could break into the corporate media. The lesson?
You've already been disenfranchised, and conventional methods
of political activism will likely prove ineffective against
the power establishment. But there is a darker lesson here as
well: in a true democracy, one has a moral mandate to adhere
the will of the people, even if one is part of the minority;
in a totalitarian state, one has a moral mandate to make government
beholden to the people - a mandate to resist the illegitimate
imposition of power by the ruling class. Without fair elections,
we live in a de facto totalitarian state.
3. The opposition is well-financed, well-versed in the politics
of persuasion, and has a pathological interest in seeing 'liberal'
programs, ideology, and persons wiped off the face of the earth.
One has only to look at the vitriolic rhetoric that spews forth
from conservative organizations like the Project for the New
American Century and the Heritage Foundation, or the political
diatribes that fill the pages of conservative publications like
the American Spectator, to get a sense of how deep the
hatred of liberalism runs. The lesson? Don't waste your time
reasoning with the opposition, because the facts don't matter.
4. The strategy that seeks to refine the message and revitalize
the liberalism of the past is nothing but a Ghost Dance.
Traditional liberalism is dead. You can balk, you can insist
that universal truths never die, that compassion and dignity
always have a seat at the table. And in principle you are right.
But it's precisely this attitude that has led us to this point,
to the brink of theocracy, and to the end of democracy in America.
You may be a hit at the Chancellor's annual holiday party, but
you are living in utter ignorance of the political realities
we face. Simply put, the Republican noise machine has managed
to demonize liberalism to an extent that it can no longer be
resuscitated as a political concept. The lesson? Swallow your
pride and prepare yourself for the thoroughly banal world of
political warfare. If you believe in truth and dignity, you
have to be prepared to fight for it (just fight for it under
the banner "Progressive" rather than "Liberal").
The collective paralysis gripping the liberal majority at the
moment is, I would argue, the result of rejecting one or more of
the four points presented above. If you believe the press is liberal,
you will downplay the threat of the right considerably; if you assume
elections are fair, you will hang your hopes for change on the good
sense of the American people; if you view the Religious Right as
a disorganized or poorly-funded group of fanatics, the current political
climate will appear an anomaly, a mere blip on the radar. And, of
course, if you believe that liberals are in their current situation
because of an inability to refine their message, then you will devote
your energies to the thoroughly ineffectual task of redefining liberalism
and trying to convince your opponents it has some merit. These positions
are not only contrary to fact, they are dangerous. Jousting with
windmills diverts attention and resources from the real fight.
What is the real fight? Who is the real enemy? There are two forces
driving the attack on democracy in America today, one ideological
and one economic. The ideological engine is the Religious Right
and its desire to establish a theological foundation for government.
This group is highly motivated as a result of a widespread feeling
by its members that religious interests have been trampled in recent
decades, and by the sense that it is now in a position to fulfill
its mandate. The second engine is the modern trans-national corporation,
an entity that sees liberalism as a threat to the accumulation of
capital and the free market atmosphere that allows it to pursue
its objectives untrammeled. There are other factors, to be sure
– ideologues and power brokers who support the attack on liberalism
out of self-interest or megalomania. But in general, these are the
primary forces at work.
In recent decades, these forces have formed an unholy alliance
in the interest of undermining democracy. Ideologues on the Right
have recognized that they must harness the economic power of corporate
America to undermine the political and economic power of the left,
and corporate America has realized that establishing the conditions
that work in its favor requires selling the American people on a
world view that justifies privatization on a massive scale. It is
this union that has ushered in an era of overworked, overweight
consumers who believe that the American way of life is the Blessed
Way of Life and spend their time watching reality TV and gorging
themselves on fast food. It is a union that hides the dysfunction
of American society behind the rhetoric of family values and patriotic
slogans, an era that reverberates with contradictions like "fighting
for peace" and "vote Catholic, not Kerry." It is
also, and unquestionably, a union that has allowed Republicans to
outmaneuver their opponents, and has led to a new political orthodoxy
that will soon eclipse more enlightened ideas almost entirely.
If the people are to turn the tide and restore democracy, they
must be willing to fight a new kind of war. When faced with overwhelming
force, it is suicide to mount a frontal assault; the only workable
strategy is subversion - a guerilla war that exploits the weaknesses
in the opposing force and redirects the resources of the enemy inward,
against itself. It is time for Americans to mount such an offensive,
an offensive forged with words and carefully orchestrated political
action, an offensive that exploits the inherent tension between
the Religious Right and corporate America to undermine the conservative
movement. Without the 'liberal threat' to unite them, corporate
America and the Religious Right are like oil and water: the moral
interests of the Right are incompatible with the pathological pursuit
of wealth and power that continues to drive corporate expansion.
What we need is a carefully placed wedge to divide the opposition,
and that wedge comes in the form of a campaign to exploit the growing
fear that corporate America is a threat to family values and the
viability of our communities.
More specifically, activists need to form community-based organizations
that function as independent groups, united by a common ideology
and common purpose, but autonomous in function. These groups should
make their presence felt both locally and nationally, utilizing
the Internet as a medium for getting their message out and coordinating
their activities with other, like-minded organizations. They should
be structured as political action committees or non-profits, they
should engage in their own fundraising and community service projects,
and they should build support for their cause through the adoption
of hard-hitting political strategies that strike at the heart of
the conservative movement.
True, many such organizations already exist, but they exist in
a form that makes it easy for conservatives to identify and dismiss
them as part of the 'liberal threat.' What makes this strategy different
is that the proposed organizations will adopt a platform that sounds
as moralistic and self-righteous as the Christian Coalition. That's
right, these groups should don the garb of the Religious Right,
should invoke scripture, and wrap themselves in the Stars and Stripes
at every turn. Concerns about the moral fabric of America and the
threat of corporate power simply will not be heard if they emanate
from the mouth of the 'dreaded liberal.' We need to sound the alarm
from within the conservative camp in the interest of harnessing
their considerable resources in our favor. After all, the same corporations
fueling America's imperialistic policies in Iraq are promoting violence
on television and exposing Janet Jackson's breast, and while most
people don't give a thought to the tens of thousands of dead Iraqi
civilians, they will challenge corporate power over the marketing
of tobacco to children or the fat content of a Happy Meal.
Although I am reluctant to admit it, the best weapons we have
are half-truths and misinformation (i.e. marketing). As progressives,
we are unable to fight the conservative establishment, but as pseudo-conservatives
we may well be able to awaken many Americans to the threat corporations
represent to family values. So it's time to back away from the argument
that the environment should be preserved for its natural splendor,
and tell the conservative establishment that Bush's environmental
policies threaten the lives of unborn children by exposing expectant
mothers to toxic levels of mercury. Don't talk about the rights
of the poor or the rights of the worker, promote progressive economic
ideas by noting that the rate of abortions in America is on the
rise because of Bush's economic policies ("If we raise the
living wage, we protect the unborn!"). If you think this is
a pointless strategy, or distasteful, it is perhaps worth remembering
that Al Capone was put away for tax evasion rather than smuggling,
racketeering, and murder.
In short, it is time to stop talking like a liberal and start
fighting like a conservative; it's time to fight for the moral fiber
of America, but in a way that exposes the conflict between corporate
power and Mom's apple pie. To win our country back we will have
to be wily and resourceful (characteristics that are part of the
business ethos, but often lacking in the academy). In this
spirit, I offer the following strategies:
1. Seek or establish alternative outlets for your ideas.
The corporate ownership of the major media makes it highly
unlikely that political battles will be fought out in the limelight.
Start your own newsletters, webzines, and websites. Consider
using direct mailings as a strategy for reaching the voting
public, and mail out provocative literature that incites animosity
toward corporate power (and toward those in office who cater
to that power). If you are mailing material to Republicans,
put the return address of your local Republican party on the
envelope to encourage recipients to look at the material.
2. Target local and state politicians for extended "information"
Each independent group will be tuned to the particular local
issues that drive the voting behavior of the community. Identify
representatives who will suffer from 'ethical scrutiny,' research
their backgrounds and voting histories, personal affiliations
and financial ties, and start a public campaign to discredit
them long before their reelection campaign (there is a lot of
information about individuals available for sale on the web).
Get people to write letters to the editor of the local paper,
stock public hearings with citizens who can make forceful and
credible challenges to the candidate's integrity on the spot,
place fliers on car windshields at grocery stores, and mail
pamphlets to local residents. Be relentless, ruthless, and thorough,
and make sure you create an image of the offending representatives
as selfish promoters of corporate malfeasance.
3. Infiltrate the Republican Party.
Recruit disgruntled Republicans to provide information about
their political strategies, funding sources, candidate support
structure, etc. Or, register as a Republican and start attending
party meetings. Once you have someone inside the local party,
you can sow the seeds of unrest by leaking information to others
who can use it strategically, documenting misdeeds and unethical
behavior, or disrupting meetings by focusing on irrelevancies,
spreading misinformation, and engaging in bureaucratic behavior
that slows down progress.
4. Start a misinformation campaign.
What ten years of siege could not accomplish, a single Trojan
horse could. Conservative groups and government agencies monitor
liberal Internet sites and keep track of blogging activity.
Use this to your advantage. Post "Trojan horse" articles
on the web that direct attention and resources in the wrong
direction. Present false strategies, identify individuals in
the conservative establishment who might be plausible defectors
and insinuate that they have already transitioned to your side.
Create suspicion among conservatives about the commitments and
activities of Republican supporters, and use the web liberally
to accomplish your objectives.
5. Put your money where your mouth is.
It's time to ante-up and donate to organizations fighting the
right kind of fight. Whether you give to MoveOn, Watchcorp,
or DemocracyNow!, you must be committed to financing the new
generation of freedom fighters. If you're starting your own
organization and are tapped for resources, you can support other
groups by linking to their websites or writing favorable reviews
of their activities. However you choose to do it, it is time
to step up to the plate.
6. Utilize the enemy's resources.
Corporate America has invested a lot of energy into figuring
out how to shape the American mindset through various marketing
strategies, and these strategies are available in the advertising
literature. Use this information. If you think spreading the
political message through viral marketing will work in the demographic
you're interested in reaching, use it. If you have to sell political
action as a counterculture, as sexy, or as revolutionary, do
it. Capitalize on the psychology of youth, the elderly, or the
politically disenfranchised to shape your message and manipulate
the mind set. Conservatives have long known that their plan
to steal America depends on generating the right perceptions,
and it is high time liberals adopted a comparable strategy.
7. Frame the issues.
This is the most difficult thing to do, to know how to tap
in to the conservative mindset and present your position in
a way that resonates with the moral and political concerns of
the Right. First, you must know your enemy: read material on
the web that gives you an idea of their interests, logic (if
you can call it that), and their rhetoric. Read George Lakoff's
book, Moral Politics, and other literature that deconstructs
the conservative world view, then work on addressing the threat
of corporate America from within that framework. Take Social
Security as an example:
The way we see it: a social safety net to stave off
poverty and help the disenfranchised.
The way they see it: An unjustified handout to those
with moral failings.
How to frame the issue: "I'm a believer in personal
responsibility and self-reliance, but corporate America is going
to have control over my money if Social Security is privatized.
The people in charge of Wall Street are a bunch of corporate
crooks – look what happened at Enron and Worldcom - and they're
gonna take advantage of this situation by stealing my money."
8. Bring back the boycott.
Boycotting works if it is well organized, and the internet
allows for the wide dissemination of information about individual
corporations that can fuel a boycott (go to www.corpwatch.org,
for example). Be creative and select companies that are central
to an issue, particularly vulnerable, or both. Consider selective
boycotting where appropriate: We still need gas for our cars,
but if Americans select BP for a boycott, the financial pinch
will reverberate throughout the oil industry.
These suggestions are meant to provide a general framework for
ideological warfare, but they should not be seen as excluding the
more conventional and public methods for imposing the will of the
people. Let us fight alongside those who still want to work within
the Democratic Party, and those who don't have the stomach for the
strategy I am describing. But let us also be clear that traditional
tactics will fail without the support of a new kind of activism,
one that is capable of bloodying the political noses of those like
Tom Delay using methods they are sure to understand.
There is too much at stake not to engage in this kind of fight.
To hang your hopes on the idea that truth and justice will inevitably
reemerge is idle sentimentality. Focus your anger. Focus your outrage.
And then get to work turning the Religious Right against its historical
ally, corporate America.
Andrew M. Gracy is a retired school teacher. He lives in Baltimore,