Roger Wolfson is originally from New Haven, Connecticut. He would go on to attend The University of Pennsylvania Law School where he received his law degree and later John Hopkins University where he earned his Masters in writing. He was featured, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders and Jenk Uyenger of the Young Turks at the Sister Giant Convention in Washington, DC in 2017.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”
Anyone know what that’s from/what it means?
It’s actually from Henry VI. Far from being a dig at lawyers, the words are uttered by Dick the Butcher, who is advising the rebel Jack Cade on how to become King. The first step of Dick’s plan was to eliminate anyone who knew enough about individual rights to stop him.
It was a plan. An effective one. Now.
We all know that Trump didn’t end up President because he was the most qualified candidate, the best debater, or had intentions for this nation that aligned with our needs.
No, Trump’s so-called victory is purely the result of a long-term, well-oiled, well-executed plan hatched more than three decades ago. A plan he didn’t even come up with. But, like a surfer who just happens to be in place when the wave of a lifetime appears on the horizon – Trump’s clinging to his surfboard and he’s gonna ride it for all it’s worth.
As no method of stopping him will be comprehensive or successful until we all have a clear grasp of what we are up against.
So. What was the plan that brought Trump to power?
The year is 1979. Republicans haven’t controlled either chamber of Congress, or a majority in state legislatures, for over a quarter of a century. They haven’t had a majority of governors in over a decade. Not only are the Republicans overmatched at winning elections, but those with strong ideological convictions — “movement conservatives,” as they liked to call themselves — were a faint voice even within Republican ranks.
The States Controlled by Democrats in 1979
But at the end of this year two things happened. One was the election of Ronald Reagan – a relatively inexperienced right wing entertainer who had once been a Democrat (sound familiar). Two was an utterly private event whose significance wouldn’t be noticed for years. Charles and David Koch, the owners of the nation’s second largest privately held company, decided that in was in their best interests as the world’s largest polluters – and, secondarily, as die-hard libertarians – to get conservatives elected at all levels of American government.
The Koch Brothers’ Money Trail
They put into action a long-term plan that was stunningly well-designed and executed. They funded their own political machine, which, in size, dollars and sophistication, exceeds that of the two major parties. They provided the initial funding for the Cato Institute, they are key donors to the Federalist Society, and they also support, the Mercatus Center, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Institute for Justice, the Institute for Energy Research, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Reason Foundation, the George C. Marshall Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Fraser Institute.
Specifically, they invested in training, involving, and cultivating young people. They set out to change political language. Employing techniques pioneered by Frank Luntz, they used their surrogate think tanks and quasi-academic organizations to literally change the language of the debate. (Want some examples? These are from the Frank Luntz Republican Playbook PART X “APPENDIX: THE WORDS NEVER TO USE” Tell me if these sound familiar.)
NEVER SAY: Government INSTEAD SAY: Washington
NEVER SAY: Tax Reform INSTEAD SAY: Tax Simplification
NEVER SAY: Inheritance/Estate Tax INSTEAD SAY: The Death Tax
NEVER SAY: Undocumented Workers INSTEAD SAY: Illegal Aliens
NEVER SAY: Drilling for oil INSTEAD SAY: Exploring for energy
By virtue of the size of their commitment and their long-term strategy, the Kochs were able to heighten the effectiveness of other come-and-go billionaire donors like Adelstein, the Coors family, and Rupert Murdoch. Now – it is vitally important to note if you add together all the billionaire donors on the left (including George Soros), they contribute about as much as the average nameless, billionaire contributing donor to the Kochs. Who himself is overmatched dozens of times over by the Koch’s. Furthermore, no Democrat has funded a left wing propaganda enterprise that can even closely resemble FOX news. Lastly, Democratic efforts tend to come in spurts, in emergencies. We have no one on the Left playing the long game with a blank check.
The end result is measurable.
Now let’s look at the states that are under Democratic control, today.
States under Democratic control and States under Republican control.
In the 2010 midterm elections alone, Republicans picked up 675 seats in state legislatures. Republicans now have four times as many districts to gerrymander as the Democrats and the legislative power to suppress the vote of almost anyone who opposes their agenda.
Furthermore, they have a bench depth that dwarfs anything the Democrats can imagine. Young people holding office, honing their message, relevant experience, messaging abilties, and cultivating the skills needed to run for higher office. The Kochs have active programs in hundreds of American universities in this country, and feed the kitty of any Young Republican organization they can find. Meanwhile – the DNC recently stopped offering any money to Young Democrats.
The Koch brothers and their allies insist, and no doubt believe, that their war on big government has been motivated by their commitment to the individual freedoms that government interferes with. Still, “it’s impossible not to notice,” says Jane Mayer in Dark Money, “that the policies the Kochs embrace benefit their own bottom lines first and foremost. Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not help others, but they most certainly strengthen the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth.”
One of the most startling revelations in Dark Money concerns the number of billionaires in the Koch network who have had “serious past or ongoing legal problems” and whose companies have been fined for violations of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts. The Koch Brothers themselves are the No. 1 producers of toxic waste in the world.
No wonder they’ve funded think tanks committed to raising doubt about climate change. And no wonder Scott Pruit is headed toward the EPA.
But of all their accomplishments, the one they hold most dear, is that as recently as fifteen years ago – back when I worked in the Senate – there were enough moderate Republicans to close the Senate Dining room down for lunch every Monday. Now, thanks to the Kochs, Republican moderates have largely vanished from local, state, and federal politics altogether.
So, that’s the Wave Trump saw in the horizon, and he was uniquely positioned to ride it, largely because of his high profile and his ability to attract an audience. But – the surfboard he’s using is no more his own invention than was the Wave.
His surfboard has been called the Fascist Playbook. I don’t like that term because I believe it suggests an ideology I can’t be certain Trump upholds. And, it’s an inflammatory label that can undermine our arguments. Nonetheless, call it fascism or tyranny, it is a strategy, to which he’s adhering perfectly. This playbook is his bible. Expect him never to depart from it. And, if history is any guide, we can expect the playbook to succeed, unless a critical mass of the population understands what he is up to, and becomes committed to stopping him.
So. What is this playbook?
For the next slide, I picked a source from 2003 specifically because, by pre-dating Trump’s campaign, it couldn’t have been tailored to “Fit Trump.” Which is precisely what makes this slide that much more chilling.
Now, I could match all fourteen elements from this list with a recent news clip showing Trump doing exactly these things, but do I need to? I do want to show one slide to illustrate one point, because it so perfectly pertains to what we are doing here.
The flagrancy here is too obvious. As the Times reports, most clergy see no reason to lift the prohibition, because making political endorsements could divide their congregations.
In fact – no one lobbied Mr. Trump to make the amendment an issue. This was confirmed by Johnnie Moore, a Christian publicist who serves on Trump’s evangelical advisory board. He himself was surprised by Trump coming up with this on his own.
But we’re not surprised now, are we? Trump’s just following the playbook.
So – one advantage to knowing his plan, is we know his next steps.
He’ll do everything possible to break up potential opposition (characteristic 3). He’s already succeeded in using Race to turn White Blue Collar workers against minority blue collar workers. This again was a wave started by the Kochs but Trump pegged that one but good. Expect him to keep his scattershot proposals moving. Create too many holes in the dyke for us to plug with our fingers (characteristic 6). Expect him to divide labor; by busting any union he can, while inviting the building trades to the White House and promising them cushy projects to mute their potential opposition (characteristic 10). Expect Trump to continue to demonize the government so that those who would be Democratic bedrock voters feel so discouraged by Government that voting seems like a waste of time, or that voting for “non-traditional” candidates makes sense. Expect him to keep talking about voter fraud so that he can pass more laws restricting voter rights. Expect him keep talking law and order so he can imprison more minorities to keep them from voting. We already have more black men ineligible to vote today because of our so-called justice system than we did during Jim Crow. (characteristic 14).
Worst of all, Trump’s seen how other Presidents have played with characteristic 4. Specifically, he’s familiar with George W Bush’s Guide to Winning a Second Term when you lost the popular vote the first time around.
Create an environment that begs an attack from foreign extremists; then come up with fake reasons to ignore your own intelligence community if and when they try to warn you.
What other reason (besides throwing red meat to his base, that already would support him if he murdered someone – according to his own words) – does Trump have for banning Muslims that aren’t even from countries that attacked us on 9/11? Make no mistake about it – Trump has painted a big fat target on America’s forehead. On yours, and mine.
Furthermore, he’s also seen what other presidents did with characteristic 9; specifically, Reagan’s playbook for increasing the size of your electoral college victory. And that involves inflating the stock market and creating an illusion of jobs by offering massive tax cuts to individuals, huge corporate tax breaks, de-regulating industries, and unprecedented spending on the military. We all know where that leads.
So. What is our playbook? Well, Marianne didn’t ask me to include that in my presentation. Stay tuned for the civics panel, which I hope I’m still part of.
I will say this. Because of atomized voters and disintegrated media, every election for the rest of our lives is gonna be close. So, the good news – every American counts. From now on. We will win again, maybe not for a while, and maybe not as decisively as we should, and we may not see a Liberal Supreme Court in our lifetimes and we’ll be suffering immensely for that. But one thing we can control is to be as engaged, involved, and informed as we are together, right now. Individually, we need to make civic participation a part of our daily lives; we need to get to know our Members of Congress, we need to take over the conversations at Town Halls, bark questions at Press events, sign petitions. We need to read the papers (and pay for the ones that report honestly – it’s not enough to read ten articles a month on NYT for free!). We need to show up at our Representative’s offices and demand to talk with them (if you live someplace liberal – shame, but perhaps you were born in a red state? Went to summer camp there? Good enough!). We need to join protests and some have to be disruptive. We need to think about what we can offer with our own talents – we need art, we need music, we need folklore, we need poetry. We need photography. We need to not abandon the Democratic Party. The Tea Party didn’t abandon the Republican Party, they just took it over. We need to take the Democratic Party over. Collectively – we need a sustained movement. We need a counterforce to the Kochs, on an even larger scale; we need voter education and civic education and leadership training and consciousness raising of a magnitude none of us have ever seen before in our lives. In short – when people ask, what can we do? The people in this room already have the answer.
We here in this room are already committing our time, our money, and our efforts. When someone asks you, what’s the answer? Say whatever you want, you’ll do great — but what I hope you’ll be thinking is: I Am.