The Threat from the Right

The United States finds itself facing an extraordinary political development with the rise of a far-right Tea Party movement that has largely taken over one of the country’s two major political parties, the Republicans. That development makes Election 2012 especially dangerous, writes Beverly Bandler.

By Beverly Bandler

Today’s American Polity can be roughly divided into three basic groups the Far Right, the Conservative by Temperament, and the Moderate Majority which can be characterized as follows:

–The Far Right (about 10 percent of the population): Overwrought, hyper-vigilant, paranoid ultra-right wing authoritarians, the “True Believers.”

Talk show host Glenn Beck addressing right-wing rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 2010. (Photo credit: Luke X. Martin)

–Conservative by temperament (about 20 to 30 percent): This group hews closer to the political center-right, keeping some distance from the wild-eyed ultra-right, but will embrace hard-right conservatism under extreme social or economic stress.

This faction’s rightward march is being driven by the Tea Party movement. It is not a contiguous block and is a bit more closely tethered to reality, but it is actively decoupling itself from the center-right GOP mainstream and creating a worrisome super-right-wing faction when it combines with the far-right 10 percent.

–The rational, moderate majority (about 70 percent): It ranges from center and left of center.

(Source: Chip Berlet, Political Research Associates. Reed Richardson. See the Pew Research Center for recent party identification statistics.)

Dear “rational, moderate” 70 percent: we don’t have to be just a sheep. And this is the time in U.S. history when we absolutely must not be sheep. Too many Americans are complacent and in denial.

Political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in his 2008 book portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive — and where elites are eager to keep them that way. Both parties have their elites who, it can be argued, have betrayed the trust of the American public.

But it is the Republican Party that has evolved into the party of radical right extremists. For many, November 2012 is the final push by the ultra-right in their hostile takeover of the United States.

Today’s GOP has nothing to do with the party of Lincoln, or the Grand Old Party. It is an authoritarian party that wants to impose its brand of conservatism that would not only roll back the 20th Century, but would replace our democracy, now hanging by a thread, with an oligarchy in firm and complete control.

As David Schwartz notes: “It is no secret that the Koch brothers and others of the super-rich seem to have undertaken a final push to consolidate control through the conversion of a marginally democratic to an essentially fascist state; extreme right-wing, authoritarian, and demagogic. This kind of government is ideal for control of a populace by the moneyed elite.”

Today’s GOP gives new meaning to the phrase: “They know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” The comparison of today’s Republican Party with the 20 characteristics of a fascist political party (see below) is chilling.

Many Americans react to the topic of a fascist threat in today’s U.S. with glazed eyes, they have the simplistic and erroneous perception that all fascists wear jackboots.  For them, the suggested threat is too frightening to accept as a possibility. It is frightening. Henry Giroux’s perspective is that the public’s imagination is limited. Also, Americans’ historical amnesia has been long documented.

And where is the Left? The Democratic Party is supposed to represent the liberal perspective, but for many of its members, it has largely abandoned liberal principles along with the term “liberal,” the New Deal, and moved to the right of center, it is seen by many as a reacting, retrenching, retreating party without strong commitment and effective organization.

The idea that President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is “socialist” is laughable. The general public (which cannot define the term “socialism”) appears to be confused as to just where the Democratic Party stands, in spite of its notable accomplishments over the last four years.

The President and the party’s political courage are seen as less than stellar. There are many progressive organizations but, with notable exceptions, they do not form a solid, effective political bloc, do not challenge the Democratic Party establishment, and the progressive movement generally can be compared to the fragmentation of the Left in the Weimar Republic (Germany’s failed experiment in democracy that preceded the rise of Adolf Hitler). The corporate media remains: corporate,and controlled.

Where are most of the American people? Diane Rehm of Washington D.C.’s NPR recently noted: “America is experiencing an unprecedented rise in political extremism.” Is this true of the country as a whole, or just in the roughly 30 percent that has heavily funded megaphones?

A report by Campaign for America’s Future in 2007 found that: “in study after study, solid majorities of Americans take progressive stands on a full spectrum of issues, from bread-and-butter economics to the so-called ‘values’ issues where conservative claim preeminence.” So what has been going on?

Mike Lofgren, who retired after a nearly 30-year career as a Republican professional staff member on Capitol Hill, believes he knows what has been going on.

George Packer of The New Yorker, reviews Lofgren’s new book: “Lofgren’s ideas are trenchant and far-reaching. … With the feel of a long-repressed confession and the authority of an insider’s testimony, like the anti-war views of a decorated infantry officer … he writes about how the Republican Party took advantage of a profoundly ignorant electorate, an easily conned and distracted media, and a cowed Democratic Party to press the ideological struggle in spite of the deep unpopularity of many of its positions.”

That echoes Sebastian Haffner’s assessment of the non-fascist politicians in the Weimar Republic who lacked a clear counter-narrative based on principle, courage, and commitment.

The 70 percent of Americans still grounded in reality need to shed their ignorance, gullibility and apathy. Those who embrace the progressive values that have been the hallmark of our success as a nation in improving the quality of our lives need to demonstrate to the elite of both main political parties that they demand a democratic United States, and that they support progressive values. They need to confirm where they stand at the polls this November.

As Larry Sabato reminds us: “Every election is determined by the people who show up.”

As Mike Lofgren observed: “[B]oth parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP… the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today…The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy…

“A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages. The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism.”

Historian Geoffrey Kabaservice wrote: “The appearance of a Republican Party almost entirely composed of ideological conservatives is a new and historically unprecedented development. It is only in the last decade or so that movement conservatism finally succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party.”

Cultural critic Henry A. Giroux noted: “The lessons of history provide clear examples of how the emergence of reactionary politics, the increasing power of the military, and the power of big business subverted democracy in Argentina, Chile, Germany, and Italy.

“In spite of these histories, there is no room in the public imagination to entertain what has become the unthinkable, that such an order in its contemporary form might be more nuanced, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent, what one might call a mode of authoritarianism with a distinctly American character.”

Author Chip Berlet commented: “The only way to stop the antidemocratic right is to contest every inch of terrain. Politics is not a pendulum that automatically swings back and forth, left and right. The ‘center’ is determined by various vectors of forces in an endless multidimensional tug of war involving ropes leading out in many directions. Whether or not our country moves toward democracy, equality, social justice, and freedom depends on how many hands grab those ropes and pull together.”

Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico. 


Berlet, Chip.  Challenging the Right Wing Backlash. South End Press, Boston, 1995. A Political Research Associates Book
_______Political Research Associates. “Studying the U.S. Political Right.” The Public Eye.
Berlet, Chip and Margaret Quigley.  “Theocracy and White Supremacy: Behind the Culture War to Restore Traditional Values”  The first version of this article appeared in December 1992, and reviewed the role of Dominionism <> inside the Christian Right. To understand the Tea Party of today, it helps to see where the trend emerged. This article is taken from the book Eyes Right!: Challenging the Right-Wing Backlash. <>
Dean, John.   Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches. Viking Adult (September 11, 2007).
Greider, William.  “The Right’s Grand Ambition: Rolling Back the 20th Century.” The Nation, May 12, 2003. Pg. 11.
Haffner, Sebastian, Oliver Pretzel. Defying Hitler: A Memoir.Picador (August 1, 2003).
Kabaservice, Geoffrey.  Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (Studies in Postwar American Political Development) Oxford University Press, USA (January 4, 2012).
Lakoff, George.  DVD “How Democrats and Progressives Can Win: Solutions from George Lakoff.”
_______ The Dems Need to Speak to Progressive Values, or Else Lose Badly in November.”
Lofgren, Mike. The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. Viking Adult (August 2, 2012).
_______“Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult.” Truthout, 2011-09-03.
Lotke, Eric, Robert Gerson, Paul Waldman, & Andrew Seifter. “The Progressive Majority. Why a Conservative America is a Myth.” Campaign for America’s Future & Media Matters for America, June 1, 2007.
Lux, Mike.  “The Progressive Revolution.” VIDEO.
Mann, Thomas and Norman Ornstein.  WAMU. The Diane Rehm Show: Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein: “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” 2012-05-06. Transcript.
_______ It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. Basic Books (May 1, 2012).
McGovern, Ray.  “Creeping Fascism: History’s Lessons,”, 12-27-07.
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.  “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology.” 2011-05-04.
Richardson, Reed in Alterman, Eric. “So Long, it’s Been Bad to Know Ya” Reed Richardson: “The 27 Percenters.”  The Nation, 2012-01-19.
Robinson, Sara.  “State of the Union: A Status Report on the Far Right.” Campaign for America’s Future,
Schwartz, David. “The Rise of the Second-String Psychopaths.” CommonDreams, 2011-06-05.
Taylor, Charles. “Defying Hitler” by Sebastian Haffner. Salon, 9-3-2002.
Wolin, Sheldon S.    
Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton University Press (April 27, 2008).

8 comments for “The Threat from the Right

  1. Frances in California
    August 9, 2012 at 19:01

    Please, Paul, I agree that expanding the article is good but “lesser-of-two-evils” has already been done to death. As long as the Electoral College can’t be done away with, we’re stuck with LOTE.

  2. August 9, 2012 at 01:24

    Thank you for providing an assessment without telling us how to vote like some previous articles have. I would like to see this article expanded though; could be a lot more detailed. The “more effective(in the bad sense) of two evils” theory could be explored also.

  3. F. G. Sanford
    August 4, 2012 at 14:55

    I enjoy the comments of the respondents to this site as much as the articles. Many of them are enlightened and insightful, some more so that the authors of the articles. In general, they exhibit a level of enlightenment which is exponentially superior to the population at large. That being said, they are not all well informed. I am thinking of one who remarked that Libya and Syria are part of the so-called “Arab Spring”.

    This article illuminates the specter of American Fascism, a creeping vine that in my opinion, has been elongating its tentacles for years. In order to appreciate fascism, one must realize that it takes on a character which reflects some unique characteristics of the culture from which it is spawned. In order to grasp this, it must be understood that fascism is not founded on a universal doctrine like communism or socialism. Franco’s fascism is not like Hitler’s fascism which is not like Pinochet’s fascism which is not like Mussolini’s fascism, or Horthy’s, or Petain’s, or Pavelic’s, or Tiso’s. But they all have things in common (Pretend I didn’t say, for example, they were all Catholics). In order to really appreciate this, one must read a lot of very thick, very boring and often very painful books. That is not something our population is inclined to do. Besides, the emotional response to these histories is usually something like, “How could they ever have fallen for anything so awful?” The general inclination is to believe, “That could never happen here.”

    Suffice to say, I have read enough of those books to recognize the pattern, and it is real. Let’s move on to the fascist agenda: Geopolitics. In our case, destabilization of Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others in order to preserve Western hegemony over the supply of oil, and to maintain the status of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The alternative would be a lifestyle like that of Weimar Germany. Impending economic collapse and a cloak of religious righteousness are always part and parcel of fascism. Ask yourselves this: in the run-ups to the 2008 elections, could any of you have envisioned Hillary Clinton as a hysterical war-monger pushing for military intervention in Middle Eastern affairs? Or the irrational outbursts of Susan Rice at the U.N.? Or the Hopey-Changey platform mutated into military adventures in six different countries? So, how did we get here?

    A friend of mine believes that the gray-haired bankers, industrialists and moneyed oligarchs took President Obama into a back room shortly after the election and showed him the uncut version of the Zapruder film. I would hesitate to believe that. I think they merely explained the economic realities of the scam that’s been going on since the end of WWII and let him make up his own mind. Fascism isn’t so detestable when the alternative is utter collapse. Cleaning up the hog-trough, at any rate, would require arrests for fraud and treason, and equitable redistribution of wealth. That isn’t going to happen. No matter how openly scandalous, immoral or degenerate fascist regimes become, they are always characterized by a “law and order” mandate and a prison-industrial complex. The inmates are never the perpetrators of the crimes; they are the petty offenders and the whistle-blowers.

    Sadly, fascist regimes generally don’t change via internal mechanisms. Military defeat or economic collapse is usually the cure. To some extent, the economic viability of the geopolitical strategy ceases to be lucrative, as the cost of the war to maintain it exceeds the profits rendered. Hermann Goering told his first wife, an aristocrat, that his dream would be to become a Reichs Minister. Hitler was installed after the obligatory periods of economic chaos, with von Papen’s mission to keep him under control. The NAZIS didn’t ask for much-just the interior ministry. Goering got the job, and essentially became Speaker of the House. With his ministerial portfolio came control of the media and the police. Sound familiar? Yes, I agree, it’s not quite that blatant in America. It’s much more subtle, which makes it virtually impossible to undo. Ours is a kinder, gentler fascism with smiley faces and “Christian” values instead of brown shirts and swastikas.

    • jo6pac
      August 4, 2012 at 16:38

      Ours is a kinder, gentler fascism with smiley faces and “Christian” values instead of brown shirts and swastikas.

      So true so far but I expect the shirts are on order for those kind folks at Mother Land Security. Here’s a link for you that add to what you are saying.

    • F. G. Sanford
      August 4, 2012 at 20:11

      You may have heard the term, “Pipelinestan”. Control of the entire theater is necessary not just to exploit resources but to deny those resources to competitors. Geography is the key. Someday, I suspect Israel will be cut off like a malignant growth; its role in the grand scheme is irrelevant. Deep down, well educated people of all faiths see through the hypocrisy there, not the least of whom are some of her own citizens. In the meantime, she possesses nuclear weapons, which complicates the issue. Israel serves as a convenient excuse for USA to be there. I wouldn’t confuse loyalty to Israel with the grand plan. As long as Americans think that we are there because of our “ally” Israel, they don’t pay much attention to the economic reality. Israel knows that too, which is why she developed nuclear weapons in the first place. If the USA was really Israel’s ally, why would she need nukes? I won’t live long enough to see this game played out, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

  4. JonnyJames
    August 4, 2012 at 14:47

    Yes the Obama regime under the D faction of the far-right wing ruling Oligarchy has outdone Bush Jr:

    NDAA 2012, Obama Kill Lists, suspension of posse comitatus, suspension of habeas corpus, suspension of the legal precedents laid out in the Magna Carta of 1215, refusal to re-regulate the financial industry (FIRE sector), Declaring Bradley Manning guilty before due process. etc. etc.

    Forgive me but someone please explain how Obama is not a rightw-wing authoritarian just like Romney puts Obama and Romney as right wing autoritarians almost identical to each other.

    Can someone explain the substantive POLICY differences between the two rather than just empty rhetoric and promises?

    This site appears to be a blatant apology for the status quo urging us to vote for the supposed “lesser evil” in our WinnerTakesAll, BigMoney, CorporateMedia orchestrated “election”

    Obama has the upper hand: he is already a treasonous war criminal, Romney is just a wannabe.

    • jo6pac
      August 4, 2012 at 16:39

      Thankd JJ love the last line

  5. bluepilgrim
    August 4, 2012 at 12:50

    It’s easy to get lost is words and lose track of the complexities of reality.

    For instance, I am conservative by temperament, and I am also a socialist; I tend to be methodical and skeptical in forming ideas, and I also strongly support the concepts of morality, truth-telling, self-control, personal and social responsibility, individual freedom, fiscal prudence, and adherence to principles. I am also a radical, however, and support fundamental change (revolution) at the roots (root — radix).

    Liberals are not left — especially classical and neoliberals. There are communists and socialists, and then there are left communists and socialists, in a wide range and diversity. Left doesn’t include liberals, and Social Democrats are quite different from Deomocratic Socialists (I tend towards the latter).

    It’s very problematic trying to discuss politics liitied to the words we have now, but especially so when are continually under-defined, redefined, or simply used for propaganda. “Progressive” for instance, is now virtually meaningless. Orwell would likely be greatly amused by it all.

    As for the Tea Party, many of them are simply dumb dog ignorant with no capability for critical thinking, nor respect for factual knowledge — even in comparison to great unwashed American masses who have been dumbed down and brainwashed to the point of blindness (from both the ‘educational’ system and the corporate mass media).

    Where is the left? Largely quashed, ignored, bullied, and worn down. But you can find some of it, or at Arthur Silber’s blog, The Power of Narrative, or elsewhere in the world, often being warred on by the empire.

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