#1590 Red Caesar and Project 2025: A fascist fever dream being given a vaguely respectable coat of paint by the Claremont Institute and the Heritage Foundation (Transcript)

Air Date 10/23/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall take a look at the people who want to pull the country in directions that are only supported by a small minority of the population, and therefore have to develop a very intricate plans to have any hope of succeeding. This is the story of the latest plan to establish unchecked rule, to implement unpopular policies supported only by the far right. 

Sources today include The ReidOut, Keeping Democracy Alive, The Majority Report, Wisecrack, Leeja Miller, and The Thom Hartmann Program, with an additional members-only clip from Tom Nicholas.

‘The endgame of election denial is that we shouldn't have elections’: Authoritarianism expert - The ReidOut - Air Date 10-6-23

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: On Thursday, Fox's Greg Gutfeld went on the air and said this: 

GREG GUTFELD: We had a war over slavery. We knew slavery was inhumane and immoral, but somehow we couldn't solve slavery peacefully. It was an evil, but one side refused to acknowledge that it was evil because it was too big of an admission for [00:01:00] them to make.

Doesn't that feel that way now, that this defiant refusal to reverse this decline argues against the survival of a country? What does that leave you with? It leaves you with, you need to make war to bring peace, because you have a side that cannot change, because then that means an admission that their beliefs have been corrupt all the time.

So in a way, you have to force them to surrender. Or we could make love, not war. Ah, I tried that once. Or we have an election. I had to go to a doctor. Right, election. Yeah. No, elections don't work, we know that. We know they don't work. 

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: Just stop for a second and think about what he just told millions of Americans, that this country needs war to bring peace because you have a side that cannot change. You have to force them to surrender. And he couched his little rant in the Civil War, a war in which the people who could not change and whose beliefs were corrupt the whole time, shot and killed US troops and declared war on the United [00:02:00] States as well as secession for the purposes of keeping millions of people in bondage.

So what exactly are you suggesting, Greg? Because in addition to civil war, it sure sounds like you're calling for an end to elections. So, then what? Are you calling for violence against Democrats until they bend the knee? And what happens next? Do you militarize democratic states and cities and force the 84 million people who voted for President Biden and the majority of Americans who want women to own their own bodies and gun reform and police reform and to save the climate and let LGBTQ people live their lives? Will that majority have to live under armed occupation? 

This is the madness that is being broadcast to millions of Americans on one of Fox's most popular shows, apparently with the full support of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. 

To be clear, no normal news network would allow that to be said on air, but you can say it on Fox.[00:03:00] 

I should note we reached out to Fox, but we did not receive a response in regard to whether or not this is acceptable. 

The same day that Greg Gutfeld was calling for a new civil war, we learned that a man was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin, because he illegally brought a loaded handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Then, after posting bail, he returned to the Capitol with an assault rifle. Fortunately, the governor was not there. 

Less fortunate is the indigenous justice activist who was shot in the chest last week by a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat during a protest against the reinstallation of a statue honoring a Spanish conquistador in New Mexico. According to the arrest affidavit, the perpetrator was smiling and laughing during an interview with investigators. 

These are just two recent examples, but in the age of Trump, we have seen a long list [00:04:00] of violent attacks. From the antisemitic terrorist attack that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; the deadly stabbing of O'Shea Sibley, a black gay man who was murdered for dancing with friends at a New York City gas station; to the deadly massacre at an El Paso Walmart, where the gunman said, quote, which the gunman said was, quote, "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," mirroring rhetoric that continues to be used by major conservative political figures and media organizations. And, of course, there is the assault on our Capitol back on January 6, 2021, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed Congress, assaulted police, and looked to lynch elected officials, including the Speaker of the House and the Vice President of the United States, for the apparent crime of certifying an election that was over, according to the US Constitution. The list just goes on and on and on. 

And yet, despite all of these events, Republican [00:05:00] rhetoric remains authoritarian and violent because that is what their leader does. 

Violent Authoritarianism: How Did This Become the GOP? - Keeping Democracy Alive with Burt Cohen - Air Date 11-23-21

JOSEPH LOWNDES: There's no way to think about the violence in the Republican Party or the violence on the right without seeing the ways in which there's a glorification of masculinity, and new kind of expressions of masculinity, which are really at work here, whether you're talking about the Proud Boys or the militias, or obviously Trump himself had a particularly potent and brutal form of masculinity. 

And if you look at a lot of the mass killings on the right that have happened in the last decade or so, over half of those have been incel killings. Half of those have been this kind of rageful, anti-woman violence. So I just wanted to say, I think you're absolutely right there. 

That the Kyle Rittenhouse thing is also the return, in some ways, to earlier forms of masculinity, masculine violence. He depicts himself as a helper, as kind of a community protector, as someone who is there not just to harm people, but to protect the community. And so he's almost like a Norman Rockwell figure of civic nationalism. There's pictures of him scrubbing graffiti off the walls and [00:06:00] that kind of thing.

But you know, what was particularly dangerous about Kyle Rittenhouse is that he can essentially enact far-right political violence and have it not seen as anything particularly nefarious because he's not identified with a white supremacist organization. 

So if you go back just a couple years earlier, James Fields, the white neo-Nazi who killed Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the neo-Nazis at Unite the Right were roundly condemned by everyone, except for Trump himself. But even Steve Bannon, every Republican wanted to keep their distance from Unite the Right and say these were not our people, we have nothing to do with them, and James Field was tried and given life imprisonment. 

Fast forward a couple years, you have Kyle Rittenhouse, who takes an AR-15 and shoots to death two people and wounds a third,[00:07:00] and he can be treated in a very different way, partly because, I think, two reasons.

One, now political violence in the right has become so commonplace that there's more room for it. There's more room for Republicans to embrace this kind of thing. But the other part of it is that the far right has begun not using the language of white supremacy, but of American nationalism, of law and order, of protecting people and property, and in doing so, they're able to reframe far right violence and reframe far right politics. And even to go further, actually to package it as anti-racist. My colleague Dan HoSang and I wrote a book, came out two years ago called Producers, Parasites, Patriots. And partly it's about the strange racial politics on the far right, that even though it's white supremacist, it incorporates themes of anti-racism. The Proud Boys, they always trumpet their multicultural membership.[00:08:00] And it's true, they're not wrong about that. And there are other elements of the militia movements now which were not tied openly to white supremacy, but to an idea of American nationalism.

So, if you were to go before January 6th to the websites of, say, the 3 Percent Militia, which is one of the most prominent paramilitary organizations involved in many of the attacks in the summer of 2020 on Black Lives Matter activists, but also during the January 6th riots, if you go to their website, if you go to their About page, the first thing you see is, in all caps, WE ARE NOT WHITE NATIONALISTS, WE ARE NOT WHITE SUPREMACISTS. They want to make it clear that race was not their agenda. If you went to the Oath Keepers website, the other major paramilitary organization involved in January 6th, on the front page is a YouTube video of a black member of the Oath Keepers, and the caption under it is, Oath Keepers come in all colors. So there's a way in which the far right has come to understand that if you want to advance right wing politics in this country, [00:09:00] you can't do it under the banner of white supremacy, you have to do it under the banner of American nationalism and ideas of law and order. There's other things you can throw in there: evangelical politics, anti communism, among a number of other things. But open racism, it's kind of a non-starter, I think. 

And so you have Kyle Rittenhouse comes out in an interview with Tucker Carlson and he says, I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I believe in institutional racism, and there's really nothing surprising about that. There's nothing surprising because Kyle Rittenhouse never framed himself as a racist to begin with. He said he was just protecting against disruptive forces. And that's what makes the current movement of the far right that much more dangerous, is that it now can enter the mainstream, because it doesn't have any kind of open identification with neo-Nazi organizations.

And so we're in a very dangerous place now, where someone like Rittenhouse can be seen as a heroic, lionized figure of American civic nationalism, of somebody who's just a caretaker, a protector, and his whiteness is clearly at [00:10:00] the heart of this, and so is his masculinity, but it's not done, it's not expressed in a way that it can be easily attacked as white supremacist.

BURT COHEN - HOST, KEEPING DEMOCRACY ALIVE: Interesting. And I'm reminded, I read a book a while ago called 1848 about the revolutions in Central Europe largely, which were pre-Marxist, but I found it fascinating that some of the aristocracy's most ardent defenders were the peasants. And now, I do find it interesting that masculinity, a lot of women support Trumpism and the far right. I guess it's comfortable and familiar to have this protective masculinity myth out there. And who would have thunk it? Rather than risking, I suppose, feminism and homosexuality and, that kind of social and cultural freedom, it's there, and it's often mystified me why some of the poorest people support the really, really wealthy [00:11:00] people. But that's what happens. 

And clearly America's founders set us up in direct opposition to an all-powerful monarchy. Trumpists put this aside as they enthusiastically and openly embrace executive authoritarianism, the very thing we rebelled against, and they claim to hold the true patriotic banner, which they showed on January 6th. 

And they still call themselves conservative, which kind of baffles me. This is the antithesis of conservatism. And the Republican Party seems to have gone from genuine conservatism to radical, anti-traditional Americanism.

Analyzing The Dark Roots Of Modern Conservatism - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 10-15-23

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: The early 20th century is very, very important for the rise of conservatism, especially the 1920s, I think, were a really important moment because you have this renewed fundamentalist vigor, you know, fighting against evolution being taught in public schools, you've got the rise of the second [00:12:00] Klan, and the nativism and racism that that brought to the forefront, and that version of the Klan had some one to three million members, including men of society, politicians, it was not, you know, just a bunch of ex-Confederates in the backwoods. I mean, this was a real legitimate movement. And then, when you build into the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt becomes president and starts instituting the New Deal, empowering labor, creating larger government programs, it kind of consolidates a large amount of the conservative, I guess opposition to the New Deal.

You have businessmen who don't want empowered unions. You have southern segregationists who don't like the fact that, you know, Black and Brown people are getting government benefits or are getting government jobs, and that might, you know, prevent them from being exploited in other ways that they had historically.

You have, you know, conspiracy theorists who believe that Franklin Roosevelt is going to bring, you know, communism to America, and there was also legitimate fascist [00:13:00] movements happening in the 1930s, the German-American Bund, the Silver Shirts. And so all of this together is this broader kind of conservative ecosystem that was trying to fight against New Deal liberalism and the advent of or the implementation of social democracy in America. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Were they, uh, as coordinated as they became later in history, or was this really kind of different factions, you know, which, again, you could totally extrapolate onto modern day anti-communism, the racists, and the anti-labor part of conservative, or I guess you can put the anti-communist, anti-labor together. But based on FDR's success and popularity, and again, that had to do, obviously, with factors, you know, the Depression as well, but outside of the conservatives' control, but were they not as organized, as you would say, as they became decades later?

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: That's a really interesting question, and in terms of kind of the themes of conservatism, I will say the song very much remains the same, but I would definitely argue that [00:14:00] they do become more consolidated later for a number of different reasons. In the 1930s, the conservative movement that I write about is a little bit more disconnected, right?

You had guys like, for example, there was a group called the Jeffersonian Democrats, and their whole goal was, what they would view it as redeeming their Democratic party, they didn't like Roosevelt, they felt like he had perverted their party. And so their main goal was just to get him off the ticket and get a real conservative on there, but Roosevelt was so popular that they struggled to do this, so instead they pivoted to actually supporting the Republican, who himself was kind of like a moderate to even liberal sometimes guy named Alfred Landon. And so as a result, their politics was very much centered on getting rid of Roosevelt. Later on, the conservative movement will coalesce in a way that they will eventually take over the Republican party, right? And that's where figures like Barry Goldwater and even William Buckley become important because they are spearheading a broader [00:15:00] conservative coalition than the oNes in the '30s and '40s..

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So, can we talk a bit more about the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan, and how that fit into, particularly, what was it, 1915, when they were founded once again, into that time Birth of a Nation comes out... We were chatting about this before the show and Matt, our producer, was saying that some people call the Klan the first real U. S. fascist organization in the United States. Is that a fair assessment? And, perhaps, you can draw comparisons to the present as well. 

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: So, I am not necessarily a scholar of fascism, but I do think that there are notes of fascism, certainly, within the Ku Klux Klan, the authoritarian inclinations, the calls to replenish America somehow, you know, not to put too fine a point on it, but make "America Great Again" is very much a, you know, we need to renew, we need a renaissance in this country, and that's what the Klan was offering, and they very much, you know, clung [00:16:00] both to the flag and to the cross at the same time, using Christianity and patriotism as a way to otherize certain people, whether it was immigrants, or Black Americans, or whomever, to create a Whiter nation, or at least a nation in which White people had all the power.

And, you know, so I do think that there is an element of fascism in that. A lot of those notes are very similar. And part of the problem with the fascism conversation, which I'm sure, if you guys on Twitter, you know very well, it's been debated very much by academics. Part of the problem is that, you know, many people will only say, well, if it wasn't... Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, then it can't be fascism. But I think that misses the point of political culture, right? A culture of violence, a culture that says that, you know, we need to bring America back to when it was great, usually which means a Whiter, more restrictive, less democratic America, you know, these very much are the same sort of appeals that previous fascists have made. And I do think that that connection is warranted.

How Often Do YOU Think About the Roman Empire? - Wisecrack - Air Date 10-16-23

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: How often do you think about the Roman Empire? Now, this is a question [00:17:00] that recently took over TikTok and lots of mainstream media. Now, Mehdi reacted with disbelief upon discovering that the people closest to them are just secretly daydreaming about the ancient civilization. Like, all the time.



TIKTOKER: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?

TIKTOKER'S BOYFRIEND: Three times a day. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: Now, while it might feel a little cliche today, this phenomenon is actually nothing new. In fact, the West's obsession with Rome has shaped history for centuries, ever since the last great empire's toga orgy had its last call at the Coliseum Bar. As writer Johann Chapoutot notes, just about every ambitious ruler since Rome's fall has sought to assume the faded robes of the defunct imperium romanum.

Now Rome's loomed especially large since the dawn of Italian humanism in the 14th century, which flowered into the Renaissance as scholars rediscovered classical works of history, poetry, and science, a canon that fueled Western thought, art, politics, and so on for centuries. And of course, this makes sense because the whole point of history [00:18:00] is to learn from it, right?

Well, the problem is, whether it's an 18th century monarch or a catpoop666 on X, people typically don't talk about Rome with a clear historical understanding, at least according to scholar Peter Bondanella. Rather, they invoke the powerful Roman mythos, a narrative that has modified, changed, or even distorted historical fact over the centuries. It's a mythology so powerful, Bondanella argues, that it's no less than changed the course of history. Because Roman history contains multitudes on multitudes, you can use it to symbolize practically anything.

Now, many trace the beginning of Western modernity to the French Revolution and its twin American showdown. Ironically, that means modernity owes a lot to images of antiquity. Philosopher Hannah Arendt argues that Roman republicanism gave French and American revolutionaries both the blueprint and the courage for their unprecedented uprisings.

Now, most of America's founding fathers were classically educated, [00:19:00] and especially after the Revolution they sought to model after Roman republicanism. George Washington used the Roman play Cato to inspire downtrodden troops. And historian Nicholas Cole notes, that Thomas Jefferson replicated Rome's architecture in Virginia's state capitol to evoke the notion of legitimate authority. And to this day, just about every government building in America has followed his lead. 

In the late 19th century, a rising American empire deemed itself a new and improved heir to Rome, holding what Malamud calls the view that America was exceptional, that it could embrace wealth and empire whilst indefinitely or permanently avoiding Rome's imperial decline. That's because, unlike Rome, America was Christian and therefore impervious to imperial corruption and power lust. 'Cause as you all know, if you're a Christian, you can never have, you know, a lust for corruption or imperial power because no one who is Christian has ever done imperialism. 

Roman [00:20:00] imperialism was celebrated in American culture through a wave of Roman inspired urban architecture, which created a deeply satisfying illusion of imperial grandeur, civic order, prosperity, and authority. Now, fast forward to the more-is-more 1980s, when images of Roman imperialism would permeate culture and spectacles like Vegas Casino Resort, Caesar's Palace, and later its Roman themed shopping mall. 

RON CAREY, AS SWIFTUS, IN HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART I: Just the best gig in all of Rome, a date that every stand up philosopher, including Socrates, would die for. Believe it or not, you are going to play Caesar's Palace. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: Now, according to Malamud, these nostalgic sights of splendor collapse the historical specificity and diversity of ancient and modern empires. At the same time, she adds, they also sanction and even glamorize the contemporary exploitative behaviors of America's corporate elites. Cloaked in decadent Roman imagery, she notes, rampant consumerism takes on a historical bent and justification. 

Now, back in the 1930s, Roman imperialists were depicted as the enemy of the working man. [00:21:00] But by the 1980s, they become aspirational symbols of America's excessive wealth and consumerism. Rome's sheer malleability, as well as its sprawling history has made its mythos easy to fit just about any agenda. As such, Malamud argues, representations of the Roman past tell us little about the real Rome, but a lot about the prevailing attitudes and perspectives of the times when the representations were made. Given all this context, it no longer seems particularly remarkable that we've all still kind of got the hots for ancient Rome. But given the checkered legacy of the mythos, what agenda is today's vision of the Roman Empire serving? A complicated one. 

Now, obviously, plenty of women love a good biography of Brutus, and in fact, tons of top classical scholars are women. But as became clear on TikTok, the fascination with Rome doesn't really seem to be a gender neutral matter. And it makes sense, because Rome was not a fun place for women, who, depending on your class status, were reduced to either daughter/wife who never leaves [00:22:00] the house, or slave. So, you know, not really a ton to feel nostalgic for. But for men, Rome offers a safe space to explore its masochistic patriarchy. It's far enough in the distance that the violence and oppression associated feel less vivid and, uh, less icky. Similarly, super violent video games set in antiquity offer an escapist sight for projecting our voyeuristic fascination while watching heads fly off, when they get cut off with swords and stuff. However, presenting ancient violence as normal serves another purpose. Scholar Irene Berti writes, "the modern interest in ancient violence appears to be at least partially driven by a desire to legitimize contemporary violence". 

In both these ways, fantasizing about ancient Rome lets us safely indulge in images of patriarchal power. And that's potent in an era of widespread male anxiety about shifting gender roles, the post industrial decline of male dominated blue collar labor, and so on.

The Conservative Plan to Take Over the Country Part 1 - Leeja Miller - Air Date 9-26-23

RICHARD NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. [00:23:00] 

DONALD TRUMP: It's a thing called Article 2. Nobody ever mentions Article 2. More importantly, Article 2 allows me to do whatever I want. 

PAUL DANS: Our common theme is to take down the administrative state, the bureaucracy. Preparing to march into office and bring a new army of aligned, trained, and essentially weaponized conservatives ready to do battle against the deep state 

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: For the last 18 months, conservatives from every corner of the far right establishment, from extremist think tanks to former members of the Trump administration to tenured academics, have been working both publicly and privately on a new project.

The project's goal: to rescue the country from the grip of the radical left, uniting the conservative movement in the American people against elite rule and woke culture warriors. And the stakes are high. According to this group, if we fail, the fight for the very idea of America may be lost. Last month, this group of far right leaders, known as Project 2025, released a 920-page manifesto titled [00:24:00] Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise.

In it, the document's 35 different named authors, united and copyrighted by the far right Heritage Foundation, lay out an explicit, comprehensive plan to completely overhaul the US government from the inside out, with the ultimate goal of furthering far right wedge issues and concentrating as much power as possible in the hands of the President. Project 2025 is touted  as the ultimate solution to paving the way for the next conservative dministration, which they  believe will take power in January 2025. While the entire project mimics the same talking points that Trump has harped on throughout his presidency and current campaign, the leaders of this project make clear that the plan is not dependent on a specific person winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the White House. Instead, it's a blueprint for the next conservative executive, whoever they may be, to push the limits of presidential power so far that they will answer to no one, wreaking havoc on the delicate balance of our three branches of government that have allowed us to function as a democracy for nearly two and a half centuries.

This is the conservative plan to take over the country. 

Launched in April 2022, Project 2025 is the brainchild of the far right think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Project 2025 is systematically building the future of the conservative movement and promoting policy objectives that would have [00:25:00] devastating consequences not only in our government, but for every person living in this country.

That might sound hyperbolic, but I'm telling you, I cover a lot of batshit stories about conservatives, and this one has me spooked as hell, y'all. 

Their plan to further these goals has four pillars. Pillar number one is the policy, embodied in that 920-page manifesto they dropped last month. Pillar number two is the personnel database, described as the conservative LinkedIn. The objective of the database is to collect resumes and information for thousands and thousands of conservatives from all walks of life and industries, in order to source the best candidates to pack every branch and administrative body in Washington and throughout the states. To ensure that this database of personnel and the chosen warriors who will infiltrate the government at every level are properly prepared to represent the conservative goals set forth in the policy, Project 2025 relies on pillar number three: training. Through an online institute, Project 2025 will prepare the foot soldiers of the conservative agenda to push their policies from day one. And because they've been preparing for years, they will be ready [00:26:00] on day one of the new conservative presidency thanks to pillar number four. Pillar number four is the 180 day playbook, the step by step guide for the next conservative president to implement the policies laid out in the manifesto as quickly and systematically as possible in the first 180 days of their term.

Through these four pillars - policy, personnel, training, and the playbook - Project 2025 aims to overhaul the entire U. S. government from the inside out, putting in place draconian policies and gutting important government agencies, all in the name of the Constitution and good, White, Christian family values.

The note at the beginning of the paper, authored by Project 2025 director Paul Dans, a former Trump official, lays out what's at stake. "The long march of cultural Marxism through our institutions has come to pass. The federal government is a behemoth, weaponized against American citizens and conservative values. With freedom and liberty under siege as never before, the task at hand to reverse this tide and restore our republic to its original moorings is too great for any [00:27:00] one conservative policy shop to spearhead. It requires the collective action of our movement. With the quickening approach of January 2025, we have two years and one chance to get it right". 

The language throughout the policy manifesto and the Project 2025 website is militant. Clearly meant to play into the fears and the patriotic duty that far right constituents feel so strongly. The same militant language that led to the righteous anger of the January 6th insurrection.

The report starts with, "We want you. The 2025 Presidential Transition Project is the conservative movement's unified effort to be ready for the next conservative administration to govern at 12 noon, January 20th, 2025. Welcome to the mission. By opening this book, you are now a part of it. Indeed, one set of eyes reading these pages will be those of the 47th president of the United States, and we hope every other reader will join in making the incoming administration a success".

This is positioned as a mandate, making readers, ostensibly the conservative foot soldiers who'll do their bidding, feel like they're in on a top secret mission, like this is [00:28:00] some G. I. Joe mission shit, because the authors know that that is the absolute conservative wet dream and they're playing into it. 

The foreword includes a tidy summation of all the conservative wedge issues and talking points that have been flying around over the last few decades, all of which are addressed at length in the document.

"Look at America under the ruling and cultural elite today. Inflation is ravaging family budgets, drug overdose deaths continue to escalate, and children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism, with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries. Overseas, a totalitarian communist dictatorship in Beijing is engaged in a strategic, cultural, and economic cold war against America's interests, values, and people. All while globalist elites in Washington awaken only slowly to that growing threat. Moreover, low income communities are drowning in addiction and government dependence. Contemporary elites have even repurposed the worst ingredients of 1970s radical chic to build the totalitarian cult known today as the Great [00:29:00] Awokening. Most alarming of all, the very moral foundations of our society are in peril". The foreword goes on to list the four broad fronts that the policy mandate will cover. Those are, "1) restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children; 2) dismantle the administrative state and return self governance to the American people; 3) defend our nation's sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats; 4) secure our God given individual rights to live freely, what our constitution calls the blessings of liberty". And the manifesto goes on to lay out over 920 pages and 5 sections how they plan on furthering those four fronts.

Chief among the policies promoted in the manifesto are a gutting of the administrative state and furtherance of the unitary executive theory.

The GOP’s "Red Caesar" New Political Order Plan Marches Forward - The Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 10-3-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: An awful lot of this is a handful, maybe 20, 25 Republicans in the GOP caucus, in the Republican caucus, who are dancing to the tune of Vladimir Putin via Donald Trump. And that's [00:30:00] really what's going on here. 

Which brings me to the GOP's Red Caesar's new political order plan. Seriously. Damon Linker is a senior lecturer at Penn State University's Department of Political Science, and he said, "30 years ago, if you'd told me that a bunch of billionaires and intellectuals on the far right are waiting in the wings to impose a dictatorship on the United States, I would have said that you were insane." He says, "But it's no longer insane. It's now real. There are those people out there. And the question is, will they get their chance?" 

This is what's really going on. The simple reality is that Republicans are rejecting democracy right across the board. Whether it's a Supreme Court Justice in Wisconsin who is elected with a substantial majority of the voters that Republicans are trying to impeach. Whether it's purging some 40 million people from the voting rolls in the last decade. 17 million people purged from the voting rolls just in two years, the first two years that Donald Trump held power. [00:31:00] Massive gerrymandering, making it harder for particularly people who live in blue cities that are located in red states, like Houston, where the Republicans just took over the entire voting system for the the city. It's one in six Texas voters. Dark money TV carpet bombing campaigns filled with lies and half truths, like the one going after Sherrod Brown right now. And now, North Carolina, the legislature in North Carolina just created its own gestapo force answerable to the Republicans who are running the House and Senate.

Now, North Carolina, actually, the majority of North Carolinians vote for Democrats, which is why they have Ray Cooper -- or is it Roy -- is their governor. He's a Democrat. Because the majority of people in North Carolina vote for Democrats, but the Republicans control their House, their Senate, and their Congressional delegation. Why? Because of gerrymandering. So these guys in North Carolina created their own police force, answerable not to the governor, but to [00:32:00] them, to the Republicans. They created this thing called the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Operations, or GovOps. And Judd Legum is writing about this over at Popular.info, he said basically now anybody who is a contractor, subcontractor, works for any non-state entity, receiving directly or indirectly public funds, including charities and state universities, the Government Ops staff can now bust into your home without a warrant, go through your papers, go through your apartment, take your computer with them, go through your computer, go through your phone. He writes, "This includes the private residences of subcontractors and contractors. Alarmingly, public employees under investigation will be required to keep all communication and requests confidential." In other words, if this Republican-controlled gestapo comes after you in North Carolina, you can't tell anybody about it. They cannot alert their supervisor to the investigation, nor [00:33:00] consult with legal counsel. You can't even have a lawyer. Violating this rule shall be grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal. Those who refuse to cooperate face jail time. In the event the Government Ops searches a person's home, these rules mean that the person, number one, must keep the entry secret; number two, cannot seek outside help; number three, could face criminal charges if GovOps deems them uncooperative. 

Meanwhile, down in Florida, Ron DeSantis has created two armed forces: his Election Integrity Police -- election integrity is the Republican phrase that means stop black people from voting -- and his new State Guard. As Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, said, No governor should have his own hand-picked secret police.

You got armed fascist movements, basically the reincarnation of the Klan all across the country. Donald Trump saying if he gains the White House again, it'll be the last election ever, he's gonna put his political opponents in prison, and he's gonna shut down [00:34:00] NBC. This is pretty clear fascist stuff.

Trump said that, in January of last year, he said that he wanted to terminate the Constitution. And now some of the Republican thinkers are talking about a post-Constitutional new political order. In fact, they're trying to get together to rewrite the Constitution itself. As Robert Reich says, these are not the elements of authoritarianism, they are the essential elements of fascism.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are calling people like you and me fascists. They're calling Democrats fascists. Honest to God. This has been going on all, I've been doing this radio show for 20 years, and during that entire period of time I, from time to time listen to my colleagues on the right, and they are constantly talking about how Nazis are actually leftists. Don't you know? Nazi is short for National Socialist. Socialist is left. Not so much, actually. Nazis are on the right. But in a survey, 76% of Republicans said that fascists are on the left side of the [00:35:00] spectrum. 68% of Republicans think Nazis are left of center, and 43% say Nazis are the pinnacle of leftism.

Democrats and everybody else understands that Nazis are on the right. They wanna bomb Mexico. They want to defund the FBI. They're promoting homophobia, misogyny, racial hatred. They stole $50 trillion from America's working class families and put it in the money bins of the morbidly rich.

What we're looking at here is the road to fascism right here in the United States. 

The Conservative Plan to Take Over the Country Part 2 - Leeja Miller - Air Date 9-26-23

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: The unitary executive theory says, actually, inherent in Article Two of the Constitution, the president has complete control of the executive branch, so Congress can't create all of these agencies and put power in the hands of agency heads to make decisions. That power is supposed to be concentrated in the hands of the one singular executive.

Reagan's lawyers came up with the idea in order to push deregulatory efforts. Bush Jr. used it to lend validity to [00:36:00] his exercises of power after 9/11. While Obama expressed a more modest view of presidential power initially, he too exercised authority that circumvented Congress in several policy areas, especially in the deployment of US military forces overseas.

And then Trump, of course, came in and was like, hold my Big Mac. Let me try this. And he frequently tested the bounds of acceptable exercise of executive power, from Muslim bans, to the border, to threatening sanctuary cities, he declared over and over that his authority extended to overriding congressional laws and funding authority.

As one judge stated in response to Trump's threats against sanctuary cities, "The separation of powers acts as a check on tyranny and the concentration of power. If the executive branch can determine policy and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken".

Trump considered himself and his presidential powers not only beyond the bounds of Congress, but even beyond the bounds of judicial review, [00:37:00] arguing that his travel ban was unreviewable by the federal courts. The judge in that case declared, "There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy".

Even scholars who are in favor of wide reaching executive power are appalled at Trump's behavior. John Yoo advocates in favor of the unitary executive theory and famously wrote a memo defending the legality of waterboarding under Bush. But he also wrote a New York Times editorial entitled, "Executive Power Run Amok", saying, "Even I have grave concerns about Mr. Trump's uses of presidential power". Yikes. 

But it appears that Project 2025 is supporting the idea that the president should constitutionally be entitled to vast levels of control over all administrative agencies, what they do, and who runs and staffs them from the top down, and Congress should have no ability to check that executive authority.

Many, many constitutional law scholars argue that this is beyond the bounds of the constitution, no matter [00:38:00] how you look at it. But the first administration of Donald Trump, whether or not there's a second, has already done the damage. As Jeffrey Crouch writes in his 2020 book, On the Unitary Executive Theory - yes, there are entire books about this - "Once precedents have been established for presidents to exercise expansive presidential powers with little pushback, future chief executives will be less likely to feel responsible for dialing them back.

And Project 2025 is betting on just that, with its expansive overhaul of every administrative agency in the country. If he does get back in the White House, Trump has made clear that he'll finish what he started, declaring he will find and remove the radicals who have infiltrated the Federal Department of Education and promising to demolish the deep state.

DONALD TRUMP: We will expel the war mongers from our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists, Marxists, and fascists, and we will throw off the sick political class that hates our country. 

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: He plans to do this in part through what's been called Schedule F, a plan that Project 2025 appears to adopt as well. In the [00:39:00] waning days of Trump's presidency, he passed an executive order called "Creating Schedule F in the Accepted Service". This order removed employment protections from career officials, those who work in government agencies in a non-political, non-appointed position, deeming them Schedule F employees who may be fired at will by the president, presumably if they don't show sufficient loyalty or execute the duties of the agency in the way the president deems necessary, effectively stripping any sort of checks or balances on the president's ability to control federal agencies from the top down. 

In fact, two former Trump White House aides, Johnny McEntee and Russell Vought, who were instrumental to Schedule F, are also involved in Project 2025, indicating a continuation of the policy by whatever conservative president next takes the White House. McEntee is quoted as saying, "Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies. There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It's not enough to get the personnel right. What's necessary is a complete system [00:40:00] overhaul".

And that is at the heart of Project 2025's plan. None of their policies and wedge issues work without gutting the administrative states and concentrating more power in the hands of the president. Of course, their goal is also to pack Congress and the courts with as many conservatives as possible, but that's less of a problem when you establish an executive with unchecked power and through that unchecked power, the new conservative executive will be able to gut agencies and put people in place to further conservative agendas. Those include a push away from environmental protections in favor of becoming a fossil fuels industry leader, a move away from what they call globalism, including encouraging corporations to bring jobs back from overseas, and the forward to the manifesto declares, "Those who run our so-called American corporations have bent to the will of the woke agenda and care more for their foreign investors and organizations than their American workers and customers. Today, nearly every top tier U. S. university president or Wall Street hedge fund manager has more in common with a socialist European head of state than with the parents at a high [00:41:00] school football game in Waco, Texas. Many elite's entire identity, it seems, is wrapped up in their sense of superiority over those people. But under our Constitution, they are the mere equals of the workers who shower after work instead of before."

And while that passage is absolutely unhinged for many reasons, there are a few things we can agree on here. American corporations absolutely do care more for their foreign investors and organizations than their American workers and customers. And yeah, they hide behind woke language, like DEI, while also being awful for workers, the environment, and equality writ large. But I think conservatives genuinely think that corporations actually believe the DEI bullshit they spew, and that it's not just a way to avoid lawsuits. Like, come on guys, I thought you were a little smarter than that. Also, I would wager a bet that the framers of our constitution, largely products of the academy, did not consider themselves equal to laborers who showered after work. 

Okay, so I hope that I have sufficiently communicated the gravity of this plan. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2024, they will [00:42:00] be handed this plan. They, of course, aren't required to do anything with it, in theory, but given that Trump and DeSantis, the two frontrunners for the nomination, are both batshit fuckin' off their damn rockers, it seems likely that whoever wins the nomination would wholeheartedly back most, if not all, of the policy items put forth by Project 2025. Lord knows Trump isn't going to read any of this, so he'll likely just hand it off as-is to be implemented by people who can read good and stuff. 

So what do we do? We make extra damn fuckin' sure that the Republican doesn't win the election in 2024. This is an all hands on deck situation, my friends. Do I want Biden? No! But he is, once again, the best choice that we have. You also need to vote in Democratic senators and representatives as well. You need to bring your roommates and your partners and your family members and make sure that they vote. You need to call them ahead of time and be like, Hi, what's your plan for voting? You need to be thinking about this early and often. You need to be just a little bit scared. Not to be fear mongery, but this is genuinely a terrifying prospect for our [00:43:00] government that feels really, really imminent. 

Of course, any of these unilateral actions that a Republican president could theoretically take could then also be challenged in courts, but he's packed the courts, including the Supreme Court, and the result of attempting to implement all of these new policies in the first 180 days would be sheer chaos.

John F. Kelly, Trump's literal chief of staff, has said, "It would be chaotic. It just simply would be chaotic because he'd continually be trying to exceed his authority, but the sycophants would go along with it. It would be a nonstop gunfight with the Congress and the courts". Even if the theoretical Republican president couldn't get through all of these policy proposals, it would still create a level of chaos that could further undermine trust in the government as a whole.

The good news, if you could call it that, is that Project 2025 is radical. It does not comport with how the majority of Americans feel. 71 percent of Americans support same sex marriage. 85 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal under at least certain circumstances. And only 13 percent say it should be illegal under all circumstances. [00:44:00] 69 percent of Americans believe that the U. S. should take steps to become carbon neutral by 2050. The number of adults in the U. S. who identify as Christian has fallen by 25 percent since the 1990s. 

For most people - Democrats, centrists, and even some Republicans - Project 2025 goes way too far. And represents an upheaval and existential threat that is beyond what most people want to see in the US government. So my hope is that the more people who know the actual contents of the Project 2025 plan, the more people will get out and vote to make sure the hellscape it presents never comes to fruition. 

Think Tanks: How Fake Experts Shape the News - Tom Nicholas - Air Date 5-13-23

TOM NICHOLAS - HOST, TOM NICHOLAS: The story of the modern day think tank begins in America in 1916 with this brilliantly bearded fellow Robert S. Brookings. 

Brookings was very much a Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg of his day. He'd made his fortune manufacturing, transporting and selling wooden furniture. And he must have had a pretty good eye for dining room tables, because by the age of 47, he'd become [00:45:00] so unbelievably wealthy that he was able to pack in his day job entirely and focus on the larger questions in life. Which, I mean, it's not like a businessman getting into politics has ever been a bad idea, is it? See, if you were a wealthy industrialist in turn of the century America, then you were all about the two Ps: philanthropy and progressivism. By philanthropy, I, of course, mean sharing a portion of your wealth with honourable causes. This was the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller, both of whom loved to dish out cash in return for the modest gesture of having their names chiselled in massive letters on the side of a library or lecture theatre. By progressivism, I mean a new political philosophy that was taking the American elite by storm.

Now, while related, it's important to say that the progressivism that gained traction at the beginning of the 20th century wasn't quite [00:46:00] the same as what's sometimes referred to as progressivism in American political commentary today. These titans of industry weren't about to call for a Bernie Sanders style political revolution. Instead, for rich folks, turn of the century progressivism was all about taking a more evidence-based approach to politics. In an era of continuous labour disputes, strikes and lockouts, figures such as Robert S. Brookings felt that politics had grown too ideological and that society would benefit, instead, from a more reasoned approach, which found solutions to society's ills in the then blossoming field of economics and other social sciences. It was to this end that, in 1916, Brookings founded the Institute for Government Research. His goal was for this organisation to hire a ragtag bunch of economists and other social scientists to conduct studies [00:47:00] and undertake research which could then be shared with politicians, and those who vote for them, to help them make more informed, rational decisions.

Again, allergic to what he thought of as ideological thinking, the Institute was to be, in Brookings own words, "free from any political or pecuniary interests, and would simply lay before the country in a coherent form the fundamental economic facts, as objectively as possible". And, in case anyone's worried that Brookings was being a little modest in his founding of the Institute for Government Research, fear not. He renamed it the Brookings Institution a few years later.

Of course, it's important to acknowledge that this notion of being able to transcend ideology and enact a perfectly logical politics is a load of rubbish. As Abigail Thorn of Philosophy Tube highlights in her video on Jordan Peterson, what one considers to be [00:48:00] ideological and what one views as just logical is itself informed by one's ideological view of the world. This is, in turn, often shaped by one's material interests. It speaks volumes, for instance, that the Brookings Institution was a committed opponent of the New Deal, arguing instead that FDR should have responded to the Great Depression with the implementation of austerity measures. 

Nevertheless, there was clearly some degree of intellectual freedom at the Brookings Institution. In 1933, for example, one Brookings researcher wrote a paper which called for the nationalization of the American coal industry, which is unlikely to have been the natural political position of the institution's capitalist benefactor. Brookings' reputation for high quality, independent research led to a small coterie of similar organizations popping up over the following decades. The National Bureau for Economic [00:49:00] Research and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for example, both similarly hired researchers to produce reports on economic trends and defense policy. In all honesty, these early think tanks were pretty boring. They largely consisted of a bunch of policy nerds sitting in offices, writing books, and compiling studies that very few people actually read. 

Yet soon, all of that was to change. See, as the 20th century wore on, this brief trend among the super rich for having a social conscience began to wane. The economic elite in both America and Europe increasingly began to embrace a politics of libertarianism or what's now often called neoliberalism. These political philosophies viewed most state intervention in the economy, whether that be progressive taxation, the provision of unemployment benefits, or the requirement of workplaces to comply with health and safety regulations, [00:50:00] as denying rich people their fundamental human right to get even richer. What they needed, however, was a way of making this clearly self-interested worldview palatable to the general public. 

A key figure in this campaign was a British businessman called Antony Fisher. Fisher first became interested in neoliberal economics when he read an abridged version of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, which is essentially the sacred text of people who like to shake their fists at big government. Fisher sought out Hayek at a public lecture at the London School of Economics and explained that the book had inspired him to embark upon a career as a politician. Hayek, however, convinced Fisher that he could have far more influence over politics by using his time and wealth to found a research institute devoted to producing evidence to [00:51:00] support the implementation of right wing policies.

There were a handful of pre-existing organizations which Fisher was able to draw inspiration from when he founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in 1955. Since the mid 1940s, concerned groups of businessmen in the United States had begun to similarly fund so called research organizations which, on the surface, seemed similar enough to the bureaucratic offerings of the Brookings Institution. With names such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education, they certainly sounded boring enough. Yet, these organisations were driven by a far clearer political agenda. Their role was no longer to undertake research which could inform recommendations for political policy, but to pick a conservative, libertarian or otherwise right wing policy their funders would want to see implemented and then [00:52:00] work backwards to piece together some research which showed that policy to be beneficial.

Antony Fisher's creation, the Institute of Economic Affairs, was an overwhelming success. Over the course of 20 years, it waged a quiet yet dedicated campaign to popularize free market economic ideas among both British politicians and those who voted for them. These efforts would pay off in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister, and began to implement many of the IEA's favorite policies.

Fischer was not content with influencing British politics, however. Spurred on by the victories of the IEA, he soon set about internationalizing this model of propaganda with an academic facade, founding the Manhattan Institute in America, the Fraser Institute in Canada and the Centre for Independent Studies in Australia. [00:53:00] In fact, all in all, Fisher has been credited with contributing to the founding of 150 of these institutes across the globe, all with the goal of providing advocates of unregulated capitalism with academic sounding evidence to support their arguments.

The most influential of what was slowly becoming known as "think tanks" in the United States, however, was not one of Fisher's. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973, with a donation of $250,000 from Joseph Coors, then president of the Coors Brewing Company, a position we can only assume that he obtained through merit. If Antony Fisher established the model for the modern day think tank, Then the Heritage Foundation perfected it. The Foundation did away with book length studies and boring original research almost entirely, instead focusing on the publication and circulation of policy briefs. These consisted of [00:54:00] super short pamphlets containing, uh, evidence to prove why a certain bill being considered by the US Congress was good or bad, and which would be distributed to politicians and journalists to try and shape the political and media conversation around that bill. Much like the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK, the Heritage Foundation, and other right wing think tanks like it, played a key role in popularizing libertarian and neoliberal ideas among the American public. In doing so, they helped lay the groundwork for the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. 

As more and more businesses and rich folks began to donate greater and greater amounts of money to support their work, the Heritage Foundation also began to put pressure on politicians themselves. When Reagan first took office in 1981, Heritage presented his administration with a 3, 000 page, 20 [00:55:00] volume report called Mandate for Leadership, which detailed all the policies that they thought he should implement. And It worked! By the end of Reagan's first term, he had enacted around half of the reforms that the Heritage Foundation had pushed for.

While the first think tanks were founded with the intention of having at least a modicum of intellectual independence, then, during the second half of the Twentieth Century, they became increasingly partisan. Later organisations such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Heritage Foundation were able to draw upon the relatively good reputation of firms such as the Brookings Institution to dress up their propaganda as legitimate, serious research.

Final comments discussing the Red Caesar movement and our strange allies opposing it

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The ReidOut, looking at the now explicit calls to simply do away with elections and have a civil war. Keeping Democracy Alive, looked at how the GOP has embraced toxic and outdated modes of [00:56:00] masculinity. The Majority Report looked at the historical conservative movement of the past 100 years. Wisecrack discussed the fascination lots of people seem to have with ancient Rome. Leeja Miller, in two parts, explained project 2025 from the Heritage Foundation. And Thom Hartmann gave a laundry list of examples of the GOP using authoritarian tactics here and now. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from Tom Nicholas who looked into the history of think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, that help shape so much of our politics. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I actually thought we should dive just a bit deeper into the Red Caesar idea because it turns out we might actually be a little bit early to [00:57:00] this party, at least on the left. So I had a chat with producer Deon who helps produce this show about the horrifying research he did, including listening to lots of right-wing takes both for and against an emperor taking over the country. Weird times, right?

All right, Deon, welcome to the show. This is a special occasion because this is a special topic, I think. We're a curation show. We try to pull interesting thoughts and information from outside sources and pull them together. Red Caesar, though, and its slightly more respectable cousin, Project 2025, is... I think we're a little on the cutting edge of this discussion, would you say?

DEON: I think so.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And the left has not fully caught on yet, and so you sort of submitted as tribute to be thrown into[00:58:00] the darker areas of the internet and have learned not just about Project 2025 that we heard plenty about on the show today, but the Red Caesar-fascist-fever-dream-4chan- troll version of this. And so we thought, well, I guess we just have to hear from you what you heard. So, um, who are the people putting forward the Red Caesar theory?

DEON: The Red Caesar movement is definitely supported by what you would call, like, the 4chan troll type people. It's the people that have bronze busts in their, uh, Twitter, or X avis. It's the people that think that all the wrongs that are going on in society can be righted by one strong male figure in the mold of a Caesar. And the Claremont Institute [00:59:00] is pushing in that direction. I'm not sure if they specifically have ever said they want a Red Caesar, but that's the type of organization that wants it. The Heritage Foundation is the foundation that's behind the Project 2025 that is buttoned up. It seems semi-respectable until you really read it and it's scary and terrifying. But it seems more respectable. The Red Caesar movement is just, We want an authoritarian daddy to rule us.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Does anyone ever explain why they think that the authoritarian daddy will agree with them personally on everything they want to have happen? Or do they not dive that deep?

DEON: The people that are against it, like, especially the people on the right that are against it, say almost explicitly that. It just tracks naturally that if you have a strong man, one person in charge, the chances that he's [01:00:00] going to agree with you, specifically, are pretty slim. And that is like a big pushback. And I found this borderline hopeful, in the sense that, when researching this, that the biggest pushback was on the right. What we would call conservative Christians or whatever you wanna label 'em. They're not in favor of it. Maybe we don't agree on the reasons why we should be against it. Maybe they think there should be a different version of this. I don't know. But they definitely disagree with this movement specifically because they see it as hedonistic. There's an odd kind of unaddressed but maybe slightly addressed homoeroticism that goes along with it because it is a worship of a strong, bronzed, shirtless man. That's the idea. So those are some of the objections from the right specifically.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah. And we were sort of theorizing that, I mean, as I said at the top that we, for a left wing [01:01:00] show, might be a little cutting edge on this. And it may just be that we're hearing more pushback from the right because they're actually catching wind of it first

DEON: Yeah, that's real.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Because like they're the people who are trying to be recruited into this movement and much to our, maybe, surprise but, joyful surprise, like, there's plenty of pushback on the right. You also wanted to dive a little bit into the sort of philosophical underpinnings of it, like what draws people towards these things, romanticizing the past, and so forth? 

DEON: I think this really taps into something that the people that I agreed with that disagreed with it on the right seem to disagree with it for the wrong reasons. But a lot of their beliefs are also based in this Western-centric, Western civilization history teaching that we all get here in America and in Europe, that the [01:02:00] past, no matter how fully it's discussed, is if it's so central to all of history, then it must be the most important history. So, clearly, they had the right ideas. Clearly, we need to go back. And that's the conservative mantra like, Make America Great Again, what they're talking about is going back to a better time. Well, maybe go back even further to when it was even more greater, the greatest of great times. Like, let's go back to when they actually had the columns and the coliseums. And I think that's a huge draw of it. And you can see that I instantly thought of 300. I looked up some people trying to talk about 300 to connect it to it. And I couldn't really make it fit. But, like, right after 9/11, that movie 300 with the painted-on abs, hero men pushing back the hordes of the unwashed masses of vaguely brown and black people, that's the draw. And I think that there are [01:03:00] people who spend more time online that are more drawn to it, and the people that, like, in Heritage Foundation or like, the Christian conservatives that are on the Bulwark podcast talking about how terrible this is, they don't feel the same draw. They're more intellectual in their version of a conservative ruling class, and these are more visceral, more emotional connections to a past that probably never existed.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Right. I mean, the thread, from our perspective, sort of like completely outside of this movement, seems really clear, that you've got like, absolute, misogynistic trolls who want an unauthoritarian daddy, who are being represented sort of officially by the Claremont Institute, which is maybe like the ugly stepchild that the Heritage Foundation would probably disown, even though they have a lot more in common than they would maybe [01:04:00] want to admit, 

DEON: Yeah. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: But I think that the divide that you were describing before we started recording was like, almost like a pure masculinity versus a Christian ideology. Like that's kind of the divide, whereas on the left, we see those as blended so seamlessly, but we're diving so deep into this right wing rabbit hole that we're finding the divergence between those almost. 

DEON: Yeah. And that's like the hopeful aspect of it to me is that maybe some of the people that are opposing this movement will do some introspection and see that it's just an outgrowth of the things that they have believed and pushed. The only thing missing from that is instead of God being the center of it, it's just man. Man is the most important, and men specifically need to rule. And not with the backing of some divine creator's rules, but just the rules of the jungle. [01:05:00] Like, I think that's, that was brought up like a lot. It's just that violence brought about peace and we need to have righteous violence. And it's hard to say that and disconnect it from "because God told me to", as opposed to, "because that's just what men do", right?

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah. The fractal of diverging thought on this is endlessly fascinating to dive into. I think you and I both separately found the same potential video from a literal Oath Keeper, absolute boogeyman to the left, who, you know, they're militiamen, they're crazy, they're racist, to me they would stand out as, like, one of the first groups who would stand up in favor of some sort of a Red Caesar figure, and this guy getting 200 views on his video, was railing against the MAGA cult, who were dedicated [01:06:00] to tearing down the system and the constitution that he swore an oath to protect, and was like, ready to take up arms against his fellow far right maniacs because of that divergence in thought.

So, yeah, I mean, that is definitely the happiest conclusion we're gonna come to, is we've got the strangest bedfellows have ever come across in this fight. But, man, that Heritage Foundation has the ear of Republican presidents like no other think tank and, as was described in the show today, they will hand that manifesto to the next Republican president, and they will rubber stamp it so fast there will be no discussion about it, and it will be chaos.

DEON: It's called Project 2025. If it doesn't work out in 2024, it'll be called Project 2029, be called Project 2033, that's what they're going to do.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah, there's a comedian, Lee [01:07:00] Camp, who I used to play on the show a lot, and we had, as happened with a lot of people on the left, we ended up on opposite sides of the major divergence that happened on the left, sort of around the Bernie Sanders campaign, and continued splitting from there, but there is a segment, a bit, that he did 12 years ago, that I still quote on a monthly basis, at least, and with no other subject ever has it been more fitting than right now.

LEE CAMP: You know the difference between the good and the evil in this world, the caring and the selfish, the Mel Gibson circa Lethal Weapon and the Mel Gibson circa Apocalypto? The difference is that bad people have plans. They always have a f*cking plan. Good people don't have plans, or missions, or agendas. They just stumble through life, thinking we'll all treat [01:08:00] each other right if given the chance. Evil people have dry erase boards, and PowerPoint presentations, and iPad apps, to keep track of just how the evil's coming along, whether it needs a course correction, because this quarter's evil is 3.5% lower than last quarter's. Good people don't have PowerPoints. Good people have donuts and word jumbles. Bad people have plans. We don't have plans. I don't have a plan. You don't have a plan. Your plan was, I'm gonna watch internet videos. Meanwhile, Halliburton's plan was to cause a military coup in the sovereign country of Eritrea, a place neither you nor I ever knew existed. But they know, because they also have maps. They have dry erase boards and f*cking maps. I'm just saying the good people on this planet are never gonna get the upper hand until we get some f*cking office supplies up in here. 

DEON: Perfect. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Back in my day, when I started [01:09:00] this show, it was the Project for a New American Century, that was the big conservative boogeyman. This is the new game in town, and the pattern continues. Any final thoughts?

DEON: Go watch, uh, John Oliver's bit on McKinsey that he just did right before this show went out, talking about people with plans.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Members can hear more from Deon in our bonus episodes, so do check those out or sign up as a member to get access. 

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send a text to 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian and LaWendy, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, [01:10:00] activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today, it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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  • Jay Tomlinson
    published this page in Transcripts 2023-10-23 20:38:23 -0400
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