Note: The Preface and Chapters One through Twenty can be found here: The 15% Solution
This is the twenty-eighth installment of the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022. Herein you will find Appendix III. This Appendix, purportedly written by the 20th century political analyst, (the fictional) “Dino Lewis” presents a description of the Republican Religious Right’s “gradual assault on democratic institutions.” It is certainly fully relevant to the United States right now and what we might face in a future governed fully by the Republican Religious Right.
For readers coming into this serialization at this time, you should know that under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, the book is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.
A commentator had this to say about the book: “I am in the middle of reading ‘The 15% Solution.’ For some reason I assumed it was a recent publication. About 100 pages in I looked to see when it was published. It was published in 1996. That absolutely shocked me. What it was saying then is exactly what is happening now. The race-baiting, anti-homosexual crap that takes one’s attention away from what is actually happening, and it was written about 15 years ago. Even the 14th amendment controversy is discussed in this book, as well as so much more – ownership of the media, talk radio, etc. This is truly frightening, and if the Dems do not wake up and fight, I fear there is much worse to come.” Indeed!
And so, Appendix III
The Gradual Assault on Democratic Institutions
Dino Louis, 1995
Author’s (that’s “Jonathan Westminster”) Commentary
This Appendix consists of sketches and notes by Dino Louis. Apparently they were made for a planned essay on the gradual assault by the Right‑Wing Reactionaries on the institutions that functioned to protect constitutional democracy in the old U.S. from both the threat and reality of a fascist takeover, among other things. The material was all dated from the second half of 1995. Louis apparently never completed the essay for which he put down these jottings, and there is no evidence that he ever published anything like it. Unfortunately, as we now know all too well, Louis’ analysis did play out, for the most part, in historical terms.
To correctly place the thought represented in this Appendix in its historical context, recall that most historians now consider the Transition Era to have begun with the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency of the old U.S. in 1980. Recall too that as noted previously, some historians, this one included, consider that the Fascist Period as a whole began with Pine’s election in the year 2000.
But most historians, this one included, also agree that full‑blown fascism did not appear until the NAR was established in 2011. The historians’ quibble, and it is a quibble, is over whether the Transition Era and Fascist Period overlapped or were sharply demarcated. I don’t get into that issue. The important point is that this material was written at a time about half‑way down the historical pathway from traditional American Constitutional democracy to full‑blown fascism.
Most of the material is fragmentary (although some more attention is paid to the term limits issue than to others). Nevertheless, it is hoped that Louis’ ideas on the subject will help the modern reader better understand the insidious process of “democracy destruction” that was already well underway at the time of this writing. It was appreciated by relatively few of his contemporaries. As noted by Louis, whether consciously or unconsciously, Right‑Wing Reaction was already clearly out to destroy what it viewed as the three impediments to its eventually seizing completely untrammeled Executive Branch power, that is establishing by definition a fascist state. The three impediments as they saw them were: an independent federal judiciary, a Congress with power, and the independent media.
The reader should note that earlier in the same year he wrote down these thoughts, Louis had written a full essay on the results of the elections of 1994, describing them as a “prescription for fascism.” That essay is reproduced in this book as Chapter one. And three years later, Louis wrote a full essay on the nature of fascism and its economic precursors, reproduced in this book as Appendix II.
The reader may also note with interest that Louis makes no direct reference to the thinking reflected in the sketches reproduced here in either the prior or the subsequent essay. That occurrence remains unexplained. He may simply have not thought these thoughts at the time he wrote the earlier piece, although it is safe to say that the thinking reflected in these notes may have been stimulated by the book review by John Gray from which Louis quoted at length in it.
As to the subsequent essay, the thinking described here is reflected in it only indirectly and in passing. Whether this indicates that he changed his mind on the analysis presented here, forgot it, or simply didn’t think it important enough to include in the later work, can only be a matter for speculation. However, once again we can say, with the advantage of historical hindsight, that this analysis was right on the money, whether down the road Louis himself thought it to be of value or not.
The Gradual Assault on the Institutions Protective of Democracy
(Sketches and notes by Dino Louis)
I. The Establishment of Fascism and the Barriers to It
The establishment of fascism requires, among other things a dictatorship. That means, a la Nazi Germany, that even if there is a parliament, the executive branch is in full de facto control of the government. In our country, there are three principal institutional barriers to the establishment of the supremacy of the Executive Branch. Two are the other two Constitutional branches of government: the Federal Courts and the Congress.
The third is non‑governmental: the press, which of course we now take to include all of those electronic and non‑electronic means of communication of news and analysis known as “the media.” But while the media are non‑governmental, they are recognized by the Constitution: their freedom from Federal government legal intervention is protected by the First Amendment. Thus it can be said that in a sense the three major barriers to the development of Executive Branch dictatorship are built into the Constitution. This should come as no surprise, given the experience the Founding Fathers had with George III.
The Courts and the Congress present barriers to the expansion of Executive Branch power by carrying out their Constitutionally‑mandated authority powers to “check and balance” the actions of the third branch (as well as in turn being “checked and balanced” by it and each other). The media do so by freely reporting to the people on what all branches of the Federal government are doing, and also engaging in analysis and advocacy.
Together the three institutions can function to keep a rapacious Executive Branch (and under the Republicans, the Executive Branch has grown ever more rapacious) under control. Recall GHW Bush’s line from sometime early in his Presidency [note to myself: will have to find that REF]. When asked about how he was planning to work with the Congress, he replied, “who needs Congress?”
II. The Republican Party and the Establishment of Executive Branch Dominance
The Republican Party has been the champion of Executive Branch dominance of the Federal government since the Nixon Presidency. That’s why, I think, the Right‑Wing Reactionaries are out to destroy or at least neutralize/render impotent each of the three institutions protecting constitutional democracy. It is now becoming apparent that since the election of Reagan, the Republican Party has been on a campaign to progressively eliminate, or at least destroy the independence of each one.
A. The Courts
1. “Impeach Earl Warren,” the campaign of Jerry Ford back in the 60s, when he was just Minority Leader in the House. Reacting to a Supreme Court (the Warren Court) that for the first time took seriously its responsibilities for protecting the rights of individuals under the Constitution.
2. Nixon’s jousts with the Courts during Watergate. His Supreme Court appointments reflecting a 19th century view of the Court as the protector of big business and the powers of government against the rights of the people.
3. Reagan weighs in with a vengeance in the character of his appointments and attempted appointments. Bork and his view that if a personal right isn’t specifically spelled out in the Constitution it doesn’t exist. In saying that, Bork of course completely ignores the existence of the Ninth Amendment. It happens to say that: “the enumeration in the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Bork disposes of that impediment to the justifiability of his thinking by labeling the Ninth nothing but an “inkblot” on the Constitution (Barnett).
4. More insidious than the appointments, however, is the well‑orchestrated anti‑Court campaign from within and without the government that gathered intensity throughout the 80s and with a very strong assist from Limbaugh and his minions on talk radio that is just roaring along now. It’s fascinating. A listener to almost any randomly chosen 10‑minute stretch of Limbaugh’s rantings will hear him attack each of these institutions, the Courts, the Congress, and the media, just during that span of time. It’s a major part of his major message: “they’re all no good. The only thing we need is one of our own” (and all his supporters know what that means) “in the White House.”
That’s the campaign to destroy the public trust in the Federal Courts by incessantly braying the lie that by carrying out their duties to review the actions of the other two branches of government, at the Federal, and through the 14th Amendment the state, levels, for their constitutionality, they have arrogated legislative powers to themselves. It’s a classic Republican ploy, when the Supreme Court hands down a decision they don’t like, not to argue the substance of the case but rather to accuse the Court of “judicial legislation.”
They also yelp incessantly about “judicial self‑restraint,” but never bring it up when one of their own, like Antonin Scalia, advocates over‑turning a settled precedent that he happens not to like. Who cares about stare devises, anyway?
5. Hack, hack, hack. That’s what they’re doing. It’s like that Jesse Helms move of 1991 to remove from the Supreme Court the power to review legislation concerning prayer in the public schools. Thank God, that got nowhere. But I think that their ultimate goal is just to get the court out of the way.
6. The intimidation of Bill Clinton in his court appointments, by this campaign.
B. The Congress
1. The Republicans just love to blame everything that’s wrong with the country on the Congress, especially the “Democrat Congress.” In the 90s they love to do nothing better than pretend that they had nothing to do with the Federal government in the ’70s and ’80s, that they did not hold the Presidency for all but four years between 1968 and 1992. (Of course, when Ronald Reagan in particular was President, they loved to say everything was just wonderful, even while his policies were running those huge deficits, and give him all the credit for it.) No, it’s all the fault of that Congress.
And even after they won control of the Congress last year, they had a hard time giving up the line. Limbaugh, for example, still told people that Congress was bad, because it was taking away their independence and telling them what to do (March 1, 1995, at about 12:40PM EST). And this is a Republican Congress he helped to elect. So what’s the implication of all that?
2. The Republicans have adopted several strategies designed to undermine Congressional power.
A. Destroy the Public’s Trust
One is to destroy public trust in the institution, by lying/distorting if necessary. For example, the House “banking scandal” back in 1992. Many House members overdrew their accounts in the special office called a “bank” (it wasn’t really one, because it had no general banking functions such as loan‑making) in which their paychecks were automatically deposited. As I recall, not one House member failed to eventually make the money good, usually when their paycheck came in. The Republicans and their minions presented this as a “check‑kiting” scheme. It was, of course, nothing of the sort.
B. Shift the Constitutional Balance of Power
Another is to undermine its constitutionally mandated powers, by such measures as the line‑item veto. That measure would drastically shift the balance of power over spending money to the Executive Branch.
C. Amateurism in the Congress
They love to talk about having “the people” “take back” “their government.” To that end, they promote amateurism in the Congress, using the “oh, anyone can do this job” to further denigrate the institution. Of course, amateurism is just what is needed at the top of this ever more complex country of ours. But if there are only amateurs in the Congress while there are professionals in the Executive Branch, who do you think is going to control things? This amateurism bit is just another ploy to concentrate power in the Executive Branch, which they expect to win back control of in 1996, of course.
D. Control by the “Special Interests”
Another is to complain, long and loud, about how moneyed interests and lobbyists control the Congress (which more and more they do do these days). The Republicans usually refer to such influences, however, not as moneyed interests and lobbyists, but as the “special interests.” It was Reagan who had attached that term to agencies representing the interests of labor, various minorities, and environmental preservation. Such agencies have in fact relatively little influence on the workings of the Federal government. (Proof of that statement? Just look at how poorly the interests of such groups have fared, even under Clinton.) But a public which thinks that 15% of the Federal budget goes to foreign aid (it’s less than 1.5%) is easily confused and/or misled.
It is, of course, the Republicans who are most beholden to the corporate and financial interests which shower the Congress with campaign contributions (and other perks when possible), and who also make sure that no legislation is ever passed that is designed either to reduce the power and influence of lobbyists (first by just exposing them to public scrutiny), or to remove the power of the private purse from participation in the public’s elections.
E. Undermine the Democratic Process
Another “undermining strategy” is to give Congressional minorities control of law‑making, undermining the democratic process there. The three‑fifths rule for raising the Federal deficit offered as part of the “Balanced Budget” amendment which failed to pass earlier this year would have done that. So too would have the provision many of the famous 1994 “Freshman Class” of Republicans in the House wanted, to require a three‑fifths vote in both Houses for raising taxes.
Note that I haven’t been talking much about anti‑democracy here. But that theme is part and parcel of the whole strategy to get the American public in line with untrammeled Executive Branch decision‑making (the essence of fascism). We seem to be moving in the direction of the Hitlerian “Ja vote.”
To hell with representative, deliberative, democracy. Let’s substitute the hot‑button, simplistic, Initiative and Referendum method of legislating and even of amending the constitution in certain states. Let’s for example remove from the people in local communities the right to democratically enact ordinances protecting the civil rights of homosexuals and call it democracy. That’s what the so‑called “Amendment 2,” adopted through Initiative and Referendum, did in Colorado.
Let’s put legislation into the Constitution, with a “Balanced Budget” amendment, limiting the ability of any Congress in the future to democratically decide to increase the Federal deficit or (horrors) increase taxes.
Let’s elect Presidents, like Ross Perot, who claim to “know the will of the American people” intuitively, just like the Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco (like Sen. Joe McCarthy, a hero of Pat Buchanan’s father) claimed to “embody the soul of Spain.”
And finally there is term limits, the ultimate anti‑democracy/ weaken‑the‑Congress weapon. It was originally designed to facilitate Republican takeover of the Congress and the State legislatures, and enhance the “amateurism‑in‑government” (read “in the Legislative Branch”) movement. It’s ironic that those goals were achieved at the national and many states levels through the use of the democratic process: as of the opening of the 104th Congress in 1995, close to 190 of 435 House members were at the beginning of either their first or second terms.
The term limit movement had begun back in the 1980s (Town of Brookhaven; Woodruff). The ostensible reasons for the movement were to (Kamber): break up the lock that special interests have on today’s Congress; produce legislatures that are truly responsive to the people; reduce the powers, perquisites and fundraising advantages of incumbency that make elections inherently unfair; stop institutional corruption; infuse legislatures with new talent and fresh ideas; enhance democracy because most voters favor them. It was claimed that the term-limits movement was bi-partisan.
In a thorough analysis, my good friend Vic Kamber showed that, contrary to the latter claim, the term limit movement, especially as it was applied to the United States Congress, was almost entirely a creature of the Republican Party and their allies in a variety of reactionary political organizations.
As to the substantive claims, none hold water. The only way to deal with the lock that the moneyed interests and the lobbyists do have on Congress today and make the Congress “truly responsive to the people” is to enact meaningful campaign finance and lobbying reforms, something the Republicans are wholly opposed to. (And why not? For example, no two Congress people are more beholden to special interests than Newton Gingrich in the House [drug and health care companies] and Phil Gramm in the Senate [Texas banks, corporations, “investment advisors,” and S&Ls] [Sherrill].) Term limits would just provide a revolving door for a stream of Right‑Wing Reactionary candidates who could raise big campaign bucks from the Right‑Wing moneyed interests.
As noted, in 1994 the Republicans themselves showed how just effectively using the democratic process itself can bring a limit to anyone’s term. Even that useless old evergreen Tom Foley got it in the last election. There is absolutely no provable direct connection between corruption and either long‑time Congressional membership or newness to the institution. Both the new and the old can be corrupted, and are, from time to time. New legislators may bring new ideas, but they are not necessarily ones that will benefit the country as a whole in the long run. Just look at Gingrich’s “Contract on America,” so avidly supported by the “Freshman Class” (Author’s Note: That was the group of Right-Wing Reactionary Representatives newly elected in 1994).
Finally, “enhance democracy” by permitting those people voting at one point in time to deny democratic choices to the people as a whole at any other points in time in the future? Ha. Voting by itself doesn’t guarantee democracy. It’s how the voting is done. Just because the mass of voters like an idea, doesn’t make it a democratic one. Term limits remove the democratic right of any voter to pick the representative of his or her choice, just because that representative has run out of terms. That’s undemocratic.
Hitler’s dictatorial powers were voted to him in 1933 under the so‑called “Enabling Act” by the democratically elected German Reichstag (Davidowicz). (Nazi state‑terror had already begun, both inside and outside the parliament by the time that vote was taken. But the original elections that brought Hitler to power as a minority Chancellor were constitutional and democratic. And it should be noted that the non-Nazi elected Right‑Wing members of the Reichstag were perfectly happy to vote for Hitler’s gang, even though it was already clear that it would use violence as a major weapon of governing.)
Hitler’s dictatorial powers were then confirmed to him a couple of times in national votes where the choices were “yes,” for him, or “no,” against. There was always voting in the Soviet Union–for one slate of candidates. Did those events mean that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were democratic?
No. The term limits movement is just part of the anti‑democracy, anti‑Congress strategy being pursued by the Republicans. Nothing more. Nothing less.
C. The Media
Creating the myths of the “predominant liberal media,” and the “voiceless conservative masses.” Using the dominant reactionary talk radio to control political discussion in the U.S., all the while pretending that Right-Wing arm doesn’t exist and there is no “fairness.” Actually, there is no “fairness,” but not in the sense the Right talks about it. True liberals have very little exposure on either political radio or television. And when they are permitted to appear, unlike the reactionaries who appear uncontested on all the electronic media all of the time, they are almost always presented in a “politically balanced” setting.
As for the print media, except when they from time to time just present some embarrassing facts, like the proportion of American children growing up in poverty, or get into political exposes, the “mainstream media” are hardly hot‑beds of liberalism. But the Right continues to characterize them that way.
Bash, bash, bash. Knock ’em down. Undermine them. Destroy the public trust in them, just as the public trust in the Congress and the Courts is being destroyed. That’s the third protector of democracy in America on its way to biting the dust.
It’s fascinating. Of course, the Republicans attack the President all the time. But they never attack the institution of the Presidency like they attack the institutions of the Congress, the Courts, and the free media. That really does give the game away, doesn’t it?
At this point, Louis appears to have stopped writing on this subject. Whether something else grabbed his attention at the time or he simply ran out of gas, we’ll never know.
Barnett, R.E., The Rights Retained by the People, Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, 1989.
Davidowicz, L.S., The War Against the Jews: 1933‑45, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1975, Part I, p. 51.
Kamber, V., “The Term Limitations Movement,” The O’Leary/Kamber Report, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20036, Vol. 6, Issue 1, Fall 1991, pp. 1‑2.
Sherrill, R., “The Phil Gramm File,” The Nation, March 6, 1995, p. 301.
Town of Brookhaven, New York, “Town Report Update,” August, 1993.
Woodruff, J., “1991 U.S. Taxpayer Opinion Poll,” 6137 Lincoln Road, P.O. Box 11839, Alexandria, VA 22312.
The original hardcover and trade paperback editions (1996) of The 15% Solution are available on both Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. The 2004 print-on-demand re-issue of the book from Xlibris, with a New Introduction dealing with the first four years of the real Republican Presidency that began in 2001, can be found at Xlibris.com (http://www2.xlibris.com/), as well as at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. There is a “Sub-Home Page” for this serialization at the lower right-hand corner of the Home Page of TPJmagazine (www.TPJmagazine.us). It contains a full archive of all the chapters as they are published over time. It also has such items as the Disclaimer, the cast of characters, the author’s bio., cover copy, and several (favorable) reviews. The serialization is also appearing on www.BuzzFlash.com, Dandelion Salad; The Greanville Post; and TheHarderStuff newsletter.
Jonathan Westminster and biography are based on a pseudonym.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.