The Strategy

A recent newsletter from Arwa Mahdawi, who writes forThe Guardian outlined one of the many ways the Right attacks American democratic institutions.  Here are her three most important paragraphs:

The far right constantly introduce extreme bills like this into state legislatures with the full knowledge that there is zero chance they will pass. It’s part of a broader strategy to further their agenda that can be summed up as exhaust and inure. Exhaust: the more they overwhelm legislatures with extreme legislation, the harder it becomes for liberals to fight them. It becomes a game of “Whac-a-Mole”. Inure: proposing extreme ideas like this via legislation helps gradually desensitize people and shifts the Overton window to the right; step by step the unthinkable becomes mainstream.

All this isn’t just my personal opinion, by the way: it’s extracted from a playbook written by Christian nationalists. A few years ago a researcher called Frederick Clarkson uncovered an initiative from a coalition of far-right Christian groups called Project Blitz that gave their supporters detailed instructions on how to codify their views into law and gradually destroy the division between church and state. I highly recommend reading Clarkson’s writings on Project Blitz: they are essential for understanding the current moment. As Clarkson said when he first found the playbook: “It’s very rare that you come across a major primary source document that changes the way you view everything, and this is one of those times. This is a 116-page strategy manual hidden away on a website explaining at least what a section of the religious right are doing in the United States.”

Bills like the one in North Carolina, it can’t be stressed enough, are not just frivolous one-offs by extremists. They’re part of a coordinated – and highly effective – strategy to consolidate power by the right. Democrats should really be paying more attention to these tactics and learning from them. So many centrists are afraid that suggesting things like free healthcare will make them look like radicals hellbent on bringing communism to America. You think the right care about looking “radical”? Of course not. They care about power. And they’re very good at doing whatever it takes to get it.

I actually wrote about Project Blitz back in January of 2020. It was launched in 2015 by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, the National Legal Foundation, and Wallbuilders–the bogus “history” organization founded by David Barton. (Barton is a Republican operative and thoroughly discredited historian who rejects the separation of church and state and claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.) Project Blitz  is to Christian nationalists what ALEC is to corporate plutocrats–-as I wrote at the time, a number of the extreme anti-choice, anti-gay and pro-Christianity measures that have emerged from America’s legislative chambers come directly from Project Blitz’s package of twenty “model” bills.

Just as ALEC has managed to delay and/or defeat regulatory reforms opposed by the plutocracy, laws supported by Project Blitz move the Overton Window toward the theocratic goals supported by Christian Nationalists.

Project Blitz and ALEC are only two of the numerous Rightwing organizations that have been working patiently beneath the radar for years, intent upon changing America’s culture–trying to erase the wall between Church and State, erode our already tattered and inadequate social safety net, and make both plutocratic and White Christian privilege permanent. The numerous propaganda arms of the Right aid and abet the efforts of these organizations.

Meanwhile, opposition to these co-ordinated and well-financed strategies is pretty accurately described in not-so-funny sayings like “I’m not a member of an organized political party–I’m a Democrat” and rueful observations about circular firing squads. That isn’t because Democratic strategists are feckless; it’s because virtually every American who follows politics and is not a theocrat, plutocrat or bat-shit crazy person has fled to the only alternative, the Democratic Party–and as a result, Democrats represent an incredibly wide range of opinions and ideologies. 

Herding cats would be easier.

The old line about the GOP “falling in line” is true: most recently demonstrated by the willingness of Senate Republicans to vote against a bill they had previously supported.  The PACT Act would have delivered desperately needed healthcare to veterans, but because a Democratic deal to pass a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better caused a fit of pique, they turned their backs on those veterans. The bill had easily passed the Senate in June. But a technical error required another vote, and more than two dozen Republicans switched sides–they fell in line. (After a furious reaction–notably, from Jon Stewart– they caved and passed it.)

Thanks to the intransigence of lockstep Republicans, the machinations of the organizations moving the GOP further and further to the Right, and the ideological heterogeneity of the Democrats, lawmakers who want to actually govern don’t have much of a chance.


  1. Organize, educate, and VOTE en masse at all levels of government. EVERY political race is a critical race; school boards, pta elections, city councils, mayors, neighborhood boards, state legislatures, state AG, state secretaries, US congress, and president.

    Speaking of presidents, there has to be more than an age minimum and birth origin as qualifications to run for the highest office. Also, we must REQUIRE candidates to show the last 10 years of their taxes. Too many important things are left to norms that the Former Guy ignored without consequence – ridiculous and dangerous. Safeguards must become laws subject to rigorous accountability, enforcement, and serious consequences.

  2. And just yesterday a funkily-clad bisexual with a PhD and law degree who also happens to be be a Senator from Arizona sided with her handlers on Wall Street, located 2,414 miles East of Tucson, and forced the Senate Leader to remove a provision from the Inflation Reduction Act that would treat hedge fund operators’ management fees as ordinary income instead of the much lower capital gains rate they have enjoyed for years.

    It should be noted that millions of Seniors who have been blessed with the opportunity to retire on savings in their IRA’s or 401(k)’s don’t enjoy the same benefit. When they reach age 72 they are required to begin taking withdrawals RMD’s), which consist of their original payroll contributions as well as any employer matching contributions over the years, but ALSO the capital gains on those assets. But guess what? 100% of the withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, not capital gains? Why? Because Wall St. convinced Congress that it would just be TOO HARD to track and report deposits vs gains.

    The point here, besides the venting of my spleen, is that there is GOOD REASON for circular firing squads in the Democratic Party and Sen. Sinema should be – politically speaking – blindfolded, bounded, gagged and SHOT in such a squad at her next reelection campaign, should she bother to even pursue it.

    What the Dem cognoscenti and national leadership can’t seem to get into their thick pompous skulls is that clueless miscalculations like this are just more FUEL for MAGA!!

  3. patmcc is right, we need to vote in November. But there are fewer races more important than for Secretary of State. We need to support Destiny Wells!

  4. Seriously, Patrick!!

    “What the Dem cognoscenti and national leadership can’t seem to get into their thick pompous skulls is that clueless miscalculations like this are just more FUEL for MAGA!!”

    Have you fallen for the two-party combat theory is real?

    Do you honestly not believe these “machinations” aren’t brewed up by political strategists for the oligarchs?

    The latest name used by those breaking the Russian oligarchy is silogarchists – oligarchs tied into the security world.

    Propaganda is propaganda…

  5. Pat:
    good thought and outlook, i can see where she is getting flack at home,and lookin to be booted
    in the next round. (2024)though she stands with hedgefund ,corp money,the dollars she gets makes a perfect money trail, and pacing backwords for the less fortunate who voted for her. theres a hopeful who wants her job,Garcia. i get his mailings,and i like his style, but the DNC doesnt like incumbants being challenged. maybe its to we challenged the DNC,and thier lockstep with the rightwing to fuel wall street over what we the working class lost since reagan..

    my wife worked for a corp enity for 3 and half years,she never signed up for their 401k, you had to opt out, she just ignored the 18 bucks a paycheck,(blue collar wages mind ya) with the companys match. that came to $1800 when her sweetheart supervisor decided to have a bad day and yell at my wife for doing her job.. she quit,gone. in the process we were informed by the princpal group hed her 401k needed to be paid out, seems since my wife didnt make 4 years,and quit for reasons attributed by the above,her final payout amounted to $1100.. now go think, this is how wall street and the corp enity she worked for (pilot/flyingJ) treats a employeee,who only got payraises above other employees her whole tenure.. labor laws have changed to charge the employee for quiting, in various forms now,like wavers. p.s. her present employer has the same 401 k, i personally told them to..

  6. Which one? “Bills like the one in North Carolina” …. There are so many extreme bills being put forward in so many states, it’s difficult to keep track. I plan to research Clarkson’s writing on Project Blitz & hope it’s not too depressing to read.

  7. I had an interesting discussion yesterday with a fairly diverse group of people. We were talking about traveling to Canada and how everything seemed calmer and nicer, even drivers were more polite, stopped before crosswalks, etc…. And somebody asked why. I threw out my theory on divisive politics to make voters angry and inflamed and that spills over into everyday life. Almost immediately the conversation dived into some of those divisive culture war wedge issues. What amazed me, is in the discussion, how some of the people on the right were spouting pre-crafted statements prepared by right wing site about how radical the left was. It took a while to bring the conversation back to the the main point and that one of the political parties is making it their job to make sure Americans are angry and upset.

    I don’t go looking at extreme left or right wing sites, but time after time and almost ALWAYS in discussions about right wing wedge issues with people that lean right, I am presented with what I could only call inflammatory counter propaganda. This takes the form of the crazy extremes the left is going to go to to make sure the right does not succeed.

    Part of shifting the Overton window to the right is shifting the perceptions of how extreme the left could be. The current incarnation of the American right wing are masters of projecting what a radical left might do.

  8. Nice post, Professor! I appreciate it that you name one the underlying forces that are creating chaos in America. The Christian nationalist movement is clearly a way for fascists – yes, I said fascists – to propagate a manufactured narrative about America to overthrow democracy.
    Becoming aware of these forces is half the issue, because they create chaos under the guise of a supposedly sacred religious tradition. Wait, isn’t that the description of Satan’s dark angels … appearing as light, deceiving many?
    It’s up to average Americans to recognize these monsters and slay them … politically speaking.

  9. Oligarchy/authoritarianism in plain sight – the MAGA ecosystem. It is tearfully ironic that “they” have a strong, active, engaged community when the rest of us, who dearly embrace the value of “community” do nada to get together to face them off.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”. And they clearly and powerfully show that” voting D” ain’t enough.

  10. The purpose of Fox provided entertainment is to discredit the left. That’s the mission of their scripts simply because it gives them a large loyal audience and it’s pretty cheap to create, even if the actors who deliver it on screen are expensive.

    There is also a purpose in what they don’t ever do. That is to inform their audience to hold the Republican Party accountable.

    It’s the perfect political pervasive persuasive propaganda platform.

  11. Another excellent post with an equally excellent analysis.

    I will add just one more thing. The Democrats, for over 40 years, have been suffering from Reagan shock.

    Americans (mostly) loved FDR’s persona.
    Americans (mostly) love FDR’s policies.
    Americans (mostly) loved Reagan’s persona.
    Americans (mostly) love —- Reagan’s persona.

    Democrats have lived in fear of Reagan, believing that it must have been his anti-labor, pro-big business, anti-welfare mother policies that were popular rather than his moderate acting ability.

    Although – it actually started before then, probably with McCarthy.
    On one of the LBJ’s tapes, he admitted that he knew escalating the war in Vietnam was wrong, but he was afraid of being called “weak on communism”
    LBJ had the spine to sacrifice the Democratic Party’s southern votes for the higher purpose of Civil Rights; he lost his spine over Vietnam red baiting.

    Both parties had big tents – remember Rockefeller Republicans? They both managed to hold their coalitions together and compromise with each other. Those days are gone.

  12. Len – the GOP has one tent full of angry, fearful folks working and voting together. The DEMs have an encampment of “identity” and “issue” tents sorta encircling a few wagons of life and liberty.

  13. I will not vote for Sinema again. I just voted for Mark Kelly and hope someone primaries Sinema.

  14. “They” have a narrow, and discreet agenda, I’m saying again, that provides focus and energy for them, while “We” do not.
    “They” think that they have a god-thing for whom they are, in some manner, preparing the way, whose imagined wishes
    they are obeying. There are no lessons from history that they do not ignore, from how former cultures “knew” that their
    god-things were real (Romans, ancient Greeks, e.g.) to no avail, to some of their brethren “knowing” that the world was
    going to end, as in May of 2011.
    Paying attention to established historical fact would be just another one of St. Reagan’s “annoyances.”
    Maybe this week’s vote in Kansas (KANSAS!!!!????) is a harbinger of sanity returning to politics…I can dream, can’t I?

  15. The very sad news about the Kansas vote is that a material number of the voters didn’t bother to vote for anything else on the ballot. Identity/issue politics anyone?

  16. @ Mullendore … your comments and observations about Canada are right on. We live in southeastern Ontario during summer and fall at a lakeshore residence we own. Indianapolis is our stateside home. Coming up here with a view across the St Lawrence Seaway toward the USA is somewhat surreal. Canadians are very concerned about the out of control divisiveness of The South. The conclusion is that there are far too many Americans ranting about their demands for personal freedom and not near enough who take responsibility to care for their fellow man (neighbors).

  17. Lester – you are right – too many tents for the Dems – they need to learn to work together to get things done – Manchin finally did a bit; Sinema a bit less (both revel in their power and compromise means they dictate, but Schumer got a compromise) – you haven’t heard a peep from the “progressives” complaining about what they didn’t get – maybe the many tents are learning to cooperate. I only hope.

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