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Review of “Banana Republicans” (Rampton and Stauber) by Dr. Eric Karlstrom (2006)

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Part VIII: Cult Connections

February 19, 2024

A Review of “Banana Republicans:”

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber

Professor Eric T. Karlstrom, 2006

Today (2005), the neocons quote Trotsky: and call for a “permanent worldwide revolution” and an all out “war on tyranny”.

For the Republican hard right (“movement conservatives”) politics is “war by other means”. During 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of Congress received a free pamphelt from Congressman Tom DeLay, the party’s majority whip. It was called “The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win” by David Horowitz. It was endorsed by Karl Rove, senior advisor to candidate G.W. Bush. The Heritage Foundation sent another 2,300 copies of the pamphlet to other conservative activists.

The pamphlet states: “Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy’s fighting ability…. In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails.”

Horowitz offers Lenin’s words of advice: You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can do it only by following Lenin’s injunction: “In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.”

This axiom inverts a statement made in 1832 by German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz who stated that “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” However, if politics is just a continuation of war, then war becomes the norm.

Grover Norquist- a prominent leader in the conservative movement’s political war: Sometimes he is referred to as the “Field Marshall” Since 1992, he has hosted Wednesday morning meetings in Wash. D.C. of his organization, American’s for Tax Reform. “The meeting functions as the weekly checklist so that everybody knows what’s up, what to do” says regular attendee, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick.

Norquist’s organization advocates.

1) abolishing taxes, minimum wage laws, affirmative action, health and safety regulations for workers, environmental laws and gun controls. They want to cut or eliminate student loans, state pension funds, welfare, Americorps, the national Endowment for the Arts, farm subsidies and research and policy initiatives on global warming. Medicare and Social Security are slated to be privatized.

It was Norquist who declared that his goal was “to cut government in half in twenty five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

In her book Whatever it Takes: The Real Struggle for Political Power in America, Elizabeth Drew states: He (Norquist) has a long-term view, which is the lower the revenues that the government takes in, the less spending it will be able to do, the less money will go to the groups that he sees as the base of the Democratic party and its power- the teacher’s unions, welfare workers, municipal workers and so on. This is a big, long-term war. It’s total. It’s Armageddon. And I have to say that the people on the right, I think, have thought this through much more than their opponents…”

Whereas Republicans see politics as war, Democrats see it as a debate. In fact, the majority of the American people agree with most of their views- they want environmental protection, they want health care, they (70%)
support the Kyoto Protocal, etc.

Norquist: “We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals- and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.. Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”

With the same party controlling all branches of government, you have a one-party state. Meanwhile, Bush II has launched two wars, reversed long-standing policies on worker safety and the environment and cut taxes for the rich while 2.7 million private-sector jobs have been lost and the number of unemployed americans has increased by over 45%.

Republican Party successes are based on decades of work, in which they built a network of grassroots organization and think tanks that formulate and promote conservative ideas. A 25 year alliance between organized business, ideological conservativsm, advocacy research, and the Republican Party. They invest about $70 million a year.

They have developed techniques for blocking voter turnout in minority communities and have used old fashioned gerrymandering to marginalize minority votes. The conservative movement accuses its adversaries of “treason”, “terrorism” and “un-Americanism”.

Foundations, think tanks, subsidized media:

Charles G. and David H. Koch (each worth $4 billion, operating oil pipelines) have funded:

1) David H. Koch Charitable Foundation
2) Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
3) Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
4) Cato Institute (libertarian, which Charles co-founded in 1977)
5) Citizens for a Sound Economy (David helped launch in 1986)
6) American Legislative Exchange Council,
7) The Reason Foundation
8) The Heritage Foundation
9) Landmark Legal Foundation
10) Young America’s foundation

Richard Mellon Scairde, (of the mellon banking and oil family) funds:

1) Heritage Foundation
2) The Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation
3) The Carthage Foundation
4) The Allegheny Foundation
5) The Scaife Family Foundation

Lynde and Harry Bradley (electronic and radio components) fund ($25 million a year):

1) William F. Buckley’s National Review
2) The American Enterprise Institute
3) The Heritage Foundation
4) Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation

Other conservative funding foundations:

1) John M. Olin Foundation
2) The Adolf Coors Foundation
3) The Castle Rock Foundation (anti-gay)
4) The Smith Richardson Foundation (financed by Vicks Vapo-Rub fortune- which grants over $20 million/year).
5) Michagan based Earhart Foundation
6) J.M. Foundation
7) Phillip M. McKenna Foundation

The largest foundations are:

1) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (assets = 24.1 billion)
2) Ford Foundation (assets = $9.3 billion)
3) Rockefeller Foundation ($2.6 billion)

Ideas promoted by conservative think tanks:

1) Social security privatization
2) School vouchers
3) Welfare causes poverty
4) Antitrust enforcement backfires
5) Oppose gay rights
6) oppose and roll back environmental regulations
7) Push for welfare cuts and tax cuts
8) Keep the minimum wage as minimum as possible

For example, Heritage Foundation claims they get 200 or more stories nationwhide from each of the position papers it writes. It specializes in “backgrounders” or bulletins- between 2 and 20 pages long.

Council for a Sound Economy (CSE) has position papers stating acid rain is a “so-called threat that is largely non-existent” and global warming is “a verdict in search of evidence”. CSE president has dismissed warnings about global warming as “junk science”, even as he received $175,000 from ExxonMobil to fund its work on climate issues. It makes over 100 policy papers/year and delivers them to every congressional office.

Sally Covington in 1997 (National Committee for Responsible Philanthrophy) found out that 12 leading conservative foundations between 1992 and 1994 (that controlled over $1.1 billion in assets) gave over $300 million in grants, of which $210 million went to support conservative policy objectives.

Of this:

1) $90 million went to support conservative scholarships and programs at universities (Harvard, yale, University of Chicago),
2) $80 million went to support think tanks and advocacy groups like
The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Inst., the Free Congress Foundation, The Cato Inst., Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Hudson Inst, the Hoover Inst.
4) $16.3 million went to finance alternative media outlets with conservative slant.

Several conservative think tanks are housed at universities:

1) Hoover Institute on War
2) Revolution and Peace (Stanford)
3) Institute for Humane Studies (George Mason University)
4) The Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies
5) The Bradely Fellows Program (U. of Chicago)
6) The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
7) National Association of Scholars
8) Univ. of Chicago’s John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into Theory and Practice of Democracy

Major conserrvative think tanks:

1) American Enterprise Inst.
2) American legislative Exchange Council
3) Cato Institute
4) Center for Strategic and International Studies
5) Citizens for a Sound Economy
6) Family Research Council
7) Heritage Foundation
8) Hudson Institute
9) Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research

Had annual budgets of $147 million/year (vs. $23 million for leading progressive think tanks- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for Policy Alternatives, Center for Public Integrity, Economic Policy Institute and Inst. For Policy Studies.

There are now over 1000 think tanks in the US- and their purpose is for hired thinkers think thoughts that their employers tell them to. Think tanks have been described as “the shock troops of the conservative revolution”.

What warfare and marketing have in common is their use of propaganda to influence the behavior of large groups of people- “target populations”.

There are even state think tanks:

1) Wisconsin Policy Research Inst.
2) Hudson Inst. Of Indiana
3) The Heartland Inst. Of Illinois
4) The Pacific Research Inst. In California
5) The Manhattan Inst. In NYC

Again, goal is get state legislatures to adopt policies such as tax cuts, welfare cuts, privatization of public services, parental choice in schools and deregulation of workplace safety.

Many of these state initiatives are coordinated and led by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

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