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.