Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Brief Recap


And that is our history as we know it. Starting in the 1970s, at about the time of the Lewis Powell memo, an interlocking network of right wing billionaires and theocrats began to fund the institutions whose dominance we take for granted today: The American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, The Family Research Council, the Federalist Society, the Brookings Institute (over time), and on and on. During this period, College Republican operatives like Rove, Abramoff, and Gary Bauer became important figures in this network, as did the ex-Trotskyite neocons who broke away from the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. The period was also marked by the steady retreat of the press from reporting, under the twin pressures of the right “working the refs”, as Eric Alterman put it, and winger billionaire owners slashing news coverage in favor of “entertainment,” and by the steady advance of Rush Limbaugh and, later, Matt Drudge. And if you got hooked into that network, you got the cradle to grave protection typical of socialism: You always had a job, whether as a “fellow” or “scholar” at the AEI, a shouting head on Crossfire, as a columnist, as a contractor, as a political appointee or staffer, or as a lobbyist, and so on and on and on. You always got funding. You were made. Just for the sake of having an easy label for this dense network of institions, operatives, ideologues, and Republican Party figures, let’s call it the Conservative Movement (instead of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, since it’s not really a conspiracy, except possibly an emergent one. The billionaires don’t — except for Scaife during the Arkansas project, or Rupert Murdoch playing editor — generally pick up the phone and give orders; rather, they manage the Conservative Movement like an investment portfolio of entertainment properties; some start-ups (Politico), some stars (FOX), some cash cows (Limbaugh), some dogs (American Spectator). Slowly but surely, well funded and well organized Conservatives pushed their ideas from unthinkable, to radical, to acceptable, to sensible, to popular, and finally into policy, in a process described as The Overton Window. As surely and ruthlessly, progressive ideas were marginalized, and then silenced altogether. And spending what it took, the winger billionaires used the Conservative Movement to restructure politics, and having restructured politics, economics. To their economic benefit.

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