The secret to Conservatives’ success, and why they deserve to win

Summary: Cantor’s defeat to a Tea Party challenger marks Americans move one notch further to the Right. Rather than whine about it, we should consider how and why the Right has won for several decades. They’ve patiently planned and planted; now they reap.

“People, ideas and hardware, in that order!”
— the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF), “A Discourse on Winning and Losing” (unpublished), August 1987. Good advice for all spheres of life. Conservatives have proven it works for politics.

“Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world and its people almost beyond recognition. All that is required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal – and power. These things the Overlords possessed.”
— Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End (1953)

I am a Conservative
By TitanticFan1000, at DiviantART.

 

Contents

  1. Patient, long-term investment
  2. It’s intelligent design of a society…
  3. For More Information
  4. Future historians will study these giants

 

(1) Patient, long-term investment

After 50 years of victories of the Right, slowly people on the Left see a source to their power. As Paul Krugman explains in “Fall of an Apparatchik“, in his blog at the NYT, 11 June 2014 — Krugman is a brilliant economist, Leftist ideologue and Democratic Party hack. Here he displays the last two aspects of his thinking while muting the first.

Movement conservatism — as distinct from just plain conservatism, which has always been a part of the landscape and always will be — is a distinct feature of modern American politics. It dates, more or less, back to the 1970s, when conservatives, with lots of money from the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife, set about building an institutional infrastructure of think tanks, pressure groups, captive media, etc.. At first this infrastructure mainly provided backing to right-thinking (in both senses) politicians. But eventually it provided a career path for up and coming conservatives.

In particular, being a movement conservative in good standing meant considerable career safety: even if you or the politician you worked for lost an election, there were jobs to be had at think tanks (e.g. Rick Santorum heading up the “America’s enemies” program at a Scaife-backed think tank), media gigs (two Bush speechwriters writing columns for the Washington Post, not to mention the gaggle at the WSJ and Fox News), and so on.

In other words, being a hard line conservative, which to be fair involved some career risks back in the 60s and into the 70s, became a safe choice; you could count on powerful backing, and if not favored by fortune, you could fall back on wingnut welfare.

“Wingnut welfare” is Krugman’s mocking description of one component to the conservative infrastructure built during the past 50 years. Someone less inclined to rebuttal by insult than Krugman (it’s his primary mode) would call it large scale, patient investment by the 1% in people .

To see the duration, scale, and depth of this program, see the bios of conservative activists at the SHAME project. Often recruited at college, carefully trained and nurtured through a succession of jobs, it’s a career path for conservative activists run quite differently than anything on the Left.

The 1% also invested in ideas, think-tanks to generate them and news media and conferences (e.g., the CPAC and the CLC) to disseminate them. Like David Brat, who leads banker John Allison’s “BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program” teaching libertarian thought at Randolph-Macon College (for more information see articles at VOX) and at AlterNet).

Conservatives now reap the well-deserved rewards to their time, effort, and money.  They can laugh at Krugman’s mockery.

Money & career success

(2)  It’s intelligent design of a society…

… an emergent program from a small number (thousands?) of wealthy people working loosely together, supported by their legions of courtiers and servants.

Its outlines appear in documents marking key points in the process. Since the Carter administration America they’ve reshaped America, moving it to the Right — with the exception of social policies of no interest to the 1% (e.g., they don’t care about the peons’ mating habits).

Steve M. explains the result in “The Powell Memo had a Baby, and his name was Dave Brat“:

The people who read the Powell memo in 1971 ultimately won — we’ve been living in their world ever since the Reagan presidency. But they’re still fighting. They’re still spreading Randianism far and wide. Dave Brat is one of their propagandists, and tonight he just toppled a giant from the last wave of Republican radicals, who’s now, clearly, not deemed radical — or Randian — enough.

The primary defeat of House Majority Leader Cantor by a libertarian Christian (not a logical combo) illustrates how this machine works today:  “Friends of Dave Brat“, Charles Pierce, Esquire, 11 June 2014 — Excerpt:

A lot of the credit for his upset is going (rightly) to various radio hosts who took the payola from wingnut sugar daddies as described by Ken Vogel and MacKenzie Weinger. … Brat also seems to owe his job to Cato Institute president John Allison.

“The funding for the program came from John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T (a financial-services company) who now heads the Cato Institute. The two share an affinity for Ayn Rand: Allison is a major supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Brat co-authored a paper titled “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” Brat says that while he isn’t a Randian, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged and appreciates Rand’s case for human freedom and free markets.”

In brief, Brat’s job, and the support he got from the Raving-Loon Industrial Complex, all was financed in some way or another by the same vast lagoon of plutocratic payola with which we’ve all become sadly familiar. This is not going to be prominent in the mainstream analysis of what happened.

Krugman and his team has fun mocking conservatives while they win. “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.” Deservedly so by the harsh logic and justice of Mother Nature. It’s a circle of life kind of thing.

The usual concluding message:  Collectively we have superior numbers and resources, but without organization we’re little more than sheep. Change becomes possible when we decide to no longer be sheep. It will happen one person at a time.

Abraham Lincoln quote
Speech, May 1958

(3)  For More Information

(a) Reference pages about American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. How can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
  3. Posts about reforming America

(b)  Other posts exploring why the Left loses:

  1. Why liberals lose, 1 July 2012
  2. Important: Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
  3. Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve, 24 January 2014
  4. Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins, 29 January 2014
  5. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  6. Why the Left is losing: another example of incompetent marketing, 26 February 2014
  7. This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists, 17 March 2014
  8. America swings to the Right. The Left loses. How has the Left dug itself into this hole?, 28 March 2014

(4)  Future historians will study these leaders

Mocked now by the Left, unless trends reverse historians will study these leaders, there at the beginning of the Right’s triumph, and at its maturity. Those like Obama, who entrenched its key doctrines (e.g., wars, expanded domestic surveillance, government secrecy, assassination, low taxes) will get small mention.

Nixon campaigns

Bush Jr brought the conservative movement to maturity. Eventually he’ll be recognized as one of the most influential in our history.

Bush on Mt Rushmore

 

 

26 thoughts on “The secret to Conservatives’ success, and why they deserve to win

  1. Sounds good, but,…

    Voter turnout was only 12% and Brat, according to Opensecrets.org, raised only $223,000 through May. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/06/dave-versus-goliath-by-the-numbers/

    No question that well-organized factions can accomplish much when the majority is passive. But Cantor raised over $5 million from his supporters among the 1%. Tea Party activists talk about stopping crony capitalism by defunding the Import-Export bank (against the wishes of Boeing and Caterpillar). Brat seems to have activated his base by being anti-immigration and anti-Washington, not exactly what the 1% wants.

    I don’t know what to make of all this.

    1. DMK,

      Most of the news media ignores the values of the conservative media, which gave Brat massive exposure. Drudge, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Breitbart — support like that is far more effective in a primary than expensive media adverts.

      As for how our new Mr Smith we do in Washington, remember we have seen this play before. The Tea Party was born in opposition to the bank bailouts, and helped elect one of the most banker-friendly Congress in generations.

      My guess is that Brat will be a reliable vote for the things the 1% most want: low taxes (and shifting them from the rich to the middle class), limited government (esp by reducing funding for education, health care, and the social safety net), and less regulation of business (more pollution, lower safety standards, lies as advertisements, less protection for workers).

      I suggest not holding your breath for the populist revolution.

    2. The ‘tax the rich’ thing is never getting anywhere. The Left has been drumming on this since the stone age, and the problem is nobody trusts them. They say ‘tax the rich’ but people are afraid they’ll tax them too. That’s why this has been a dead dog since about the 1970’s.

      It’s not ‘tax the rich’ — that gets the people stirred up. It’s ‘Put the people responsible for the 2008 crash in prison.’ That has some meat behind it. I heard the CNBC clones doing the 2 minutes of hate on Brat, and I was thinking, “put them in prison, wait a minute? Hmm.”

    3. Cathryn,

      I agree, and would go much farther with this. A majority don’t trust the Left, and the Left frequently makes this work. The current enthusiasm for reparations for slavery probably pushes a few more million voters to the Right.

      It’s a post in my long list of drafts, another in the Why the Left loses series.

  2. John Nichols of The Nation has, I believe, an insightful evaluation of the Cantor defeat. He believes it was a reaction to Wall Street and the job market – continued importation of low wage workers. This would be the upper 1% pitted against the upper .01%. Eric Cantor is a tool of Wall Street and the South has always been anti-Wall Street. Glass (Virginia) and Steagall (Alabama) are two examples. Ted Cruz is a modern example.

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/180189/eric-cantor-defeated-conservative-who-rips-crony-capitalism

    1. SDW,

      Perhaps so. Eventually detailed surveys will tell us why people voted for Bart.

      But I don’t know if that matters. Conservatives have proven skillful at playing the public’s cut tent hot buttons to get elected. Then they play the standard policy program.

      Yet each time political gurus and the media announce The Big Change is Coming!

      I will bet on “more of the same.”

  3. One of your best pieces but didn’t see that they have mastered the art of “disinformation” and diversion which they have.

    Furthermore you never tell us how to organize since They own the means of communication.

    The usual concluding message: Collectively we have superior numbers and resources, but without organization we’re little more than sheep. Change becomes possible when we decide to no longer be sheep. It will happen one person at a time.

    1. Yaker,

      “They own the means of communication”

      False.

      The most effective means of communication is direct to those you know. Memes under the right circumstances go viral, seizing a population at warp speed.

      The second most effective is via affinity groups. To people like you, via networks and groups (formal and informal). Via meetings, newsletters, email chains, websites, etc.

      The communication media I think you mean — advertisements, talk shows, the Subday talking heads on TV, newspaper op-eds — are far down the ladder wrt impact, but still powerful. There’re open to reform movements, in a limited sense — although usually tilted against them.

      More formally your statement is operationally false. Most of the most important communication systems in America are open to all (except criminals): telephone, mail, the internet. And mail includes direct mail and also delivery of movement periodicals.

      This is yet another response to the most-frequent reaction to posts about reform: “we’re helpless! Where is the remote?” Everything I just wrote was already quite obvious to Charles, whom past comments show to be intelligent and informed.

  4. I may be intelligent and informed but seemingly unable to convince my friends and relatives that what they see on the Communication Media ( Main Stream Media would have been a better choice) just isn’t the whole story. But you are correct it does take a lot of time and effort and most don’t care enough. I also notice you didn’t address my comments about “disinformation” and “Diversion” or organizing.

    I am also sorry you get the impression that I think it’s hopeless. It took the 1% over 40 years. I do what I can and keep searching for more ways to make a difference. I read your posts don’t I ? I may not live to see a change but it will happen unless as they say “this time it’s different” and I don’t think it is.

    Especially when I see Bundy/Miller/Recapture Canyon and the financial collapse along with the squelching of OWSs as features not bugs.

    I would of course love to know ( although don’t expect an answer) how long people will allow themselves to be fooled by the Bratt’s, Obama’s, Cantor’s and Clinton’s etc. or put another way will people ever follow you, Ritholts and Black
    (See the articles below)

    http://t.ritholtz.com/bigpicture/#!/entry/why-dont-we-hold-pundits-accountable,5398dd73025312186c1ae870

    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/06/worst-get-top-economics-ceos.html

    1. Charles,

      ” I also notice you didn’t address my comments about “disinformation” and “Diversion” or organizing. ”

      Thanks for the reminder!

      It is discussed in some lengths in posts you will find on the “Reforming America: steps to political change” page in the For More Information section.

      For more detail see the “Information & disinformation, the new media & the old” page listed on the right side menu.

      These posts are 1000-1500 words. Roughly 2x or 3x ideal length. And still there will ALWAYS be aspects of a problem not mentioned. Isn’t that obvious?

      When you have a question like that…
      (1) check the For More Information section at the end of every post.
      (2) look at the reference pages on the right side menu.
      (3) look at the tag cloud, bottom of right menu.
      (4) try the category drop&-down menu , top of right menu.
      (5) last, try the SEARCH box.

      The FM website is extensively cross-indexed. Any one of these will usually work.

  5. The claim that conservatives allegedly “own the means of communication” is a cheap excuse, the same cheap excuse used by conservatives to explain the 30-year-long dominance of liberals from the 1930s to the 1960s. “Liberal media” is as much a myth as “conservative media” — the truth is that any media respond to the power of money, and as FM points out, the top 1% in America have diligently used their cash in the service of a unified message.

    Compare with the Occupy movement: a chaotic thrashing mix of conflicting messages, all shouted incoherently from the street. No wonder the Occupy movement failed. The did not convey a unified message, they did not back it up with pseudo-intellectual support from pet think tanks, and they did not put serious money behind their message. Conservatives in America have done all these things.

    This raises an interesting question. Conservative policies have today become so insane (for example, the Texas Republican platform for 2016 includes an anti-vaccination plank, which threatens the general public with mass illness if put into practice) that they are starting to pose real harm to the public.

    Will the vast amounts of money and discipline and institutional backing from conservatives overcome the essential self-destructive craziness of their message?

    In other words, if Jim Jones succeeds in getting elected in America, can he actually convince the majority of American to drink the poison Kool-Aid that will kill them?

    1. cyaker,

      Thanks for posting those article, which go to the heart of our present situation. I’ll focus on the first one, as it’s operationally significant for a reform movement (the second is important in a different way, but is a long discussion).

      The power of the government and its associates has grown greatly during the past few generations. A direct confrontation is hopeless, at least under current conditions.

      The government’s surveillance machinery has become immensely power, and continues to increase over many dimensions. A reform program will have no secrets from the government. Radical transparency is the only available path.

      For more about these things see:

      1. The second step to reforming America (the most frequently requested subject on the FM website), 14 August 2013
      2. Scoring the game so far: NSA is winning, we’re losing, 23 August 2013
    2. This is debatable.

      As to “A reform program will have no secrets from the government” (you probably mean “will not be able to keep any secrets from the government”, not “obtaining secrets from the government”):

      What the background on 2001-09-11, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, the Bali bombing, the underwear bomber, the Boston bombing, the assassination sprees in France and Belgium by French jihadists teach us is that even after amassing vast troves of detailed information about who was planning to do what, even when monitoring the suspects closely, even when other knowledgeable parties explicitly point out the culprits of future actions, the State seems either unable or uninterested in following leads and taking measures accordingly. No matter how much it knows, some developments seem to remain complete enigmas wrapped inside riddles for it.

      As to “Radical transparency is the only available path”:

      There are techniques, technologies and principles on how to organize clandestine work. The fact that people are simply ignorant about them, or the tradition in this area broken, or literature about it forgotten or difficult to obtain, does not mean that secretive approaches are not effective, even in the face of the supposedly omniscient intelligence services and presumably omnipotent security agencies.

    3. aguest,

      You appear to conflate a small band of insurgents with a mass movement for national reform. The latter is several orders of magnitude in size larger than the former — in numbers of people involved, in the funding required, the the complexity of operations.

      It’s not a relevant comparison.

    4. You seem to conflate “secretive” and “clandestine” with “small” and “insurgency”.

      A look at the history of large reform movements like the Gülen community in Turkey or the Muslim Brotherhood might be instructive. These movements have a two-tiered structure — a public, open front-end with plenty of very legal activities, and a closed, opaque and even outright clandestine back-end with careful coordination between them with a view on security and foiling penetration attempts by security forces. This kind of structure is not untypical.

      As another example, a movement like Solidarnosc switched back and forth between public and clandestine activities throughout its history. It was neither small, nor insurgent.

      Your comment seems to confirm what I suspected: there is a widespread lack of understanding (perhaps lost knowledge, perhaps simple ignorance) about the role, relevance and implementation of secrecy in a movement.

      Actually, I fear there is a lack of know-how about how to organize any kind of movement in general amongst current Western populations. Which means that the 1% will keep their head start.

  6. Hack (according to the Oxford English Dictionary on my Kindle): a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work.

    Krugman is no hack, because he is never dull and seldom unoriginal. Krugman IS partisan, ideological and mendacious, in the sense that while he usually tells the truth and nothing but the truth, he seldom tells the whole truth. And he is superficial, because while his dense mixture of half-truths and jeering makes for lively reading, it doesn’t help to understand things, which is why I don’t bother reading him. Krugman resembles Voltaire in all these respects, and will remembered as such, long after the world has forgotten the talentless nobodies who take cheap shots at him by falsely calling him a “hack”.

    1. Well said.
      (Nor do I read him for exactly your reasons)
      Older Lib friends love him and they know better but he is on their Team!

      Breton

  7. When FM says “America is well governed,” I presume he means that it is well governed for the top 1%. Of that, there’s little doubt today. America’s current governance is not so great for the bottom 99% of the population, but of course as FM points out, they don’t count in the current political setup in America.

  8. Please forgive my snark, but neither liberals nor conservatives are winning.

    ISIS is winning.

    My point is that the rise of Reaganism and related phenomena coincided withthe demise of liberalism during the 1970’s. Nothing since then has occurred to revive it.

    However, since 2000, Reaganism likewise has declined. While it continues to exercise much raw power, much as you have described in your article, it has been discredited.

    This decline in Reaganism has not translated into any liberal revival; for we do not have a zero sum game; where one side’s decline QED translates into the other’s gain. Both can decline. And numerous polls and other evidence demonstrates that American institutions generally suffer disrespect.

    American polity generally is fraying. So any conservative victories such as your post suggests would be increasingly parochial.

    1. FM:

      The House Democrats thought something like that until 1994.

      And the Soviets until 1989.

      As did the popes until 1517.

      And the Byzantines until 634.

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