Peter Ackerman's recipe for disrupting government
Never let it be said that Republicans make politics easy or understandable, despite their Frank Luntz talking points, and the mysterious Americans Elect group is a terrific example of how they muddy up elections, messages, and confuse voters.
Let's start with what David Atkins wrote last week over at Digby's place:
The GOP has figured out that it is much more intelligent in American politics to consolidate an unassailable ideological voter and donor base, win what elections they can essentially by default, and push the Overton Window as far as humanly possible toward conservatism while in office. And when Democrats hold office, as they inevitably will? Then prevent them from governing as Democrats:
At our 25th college reunion in 2003, Grover Norquist — the brain and able spokesman for the radical right — and I, along with other classmates who had been in public or political life, participated in a lively panel discussion about politics. During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.
One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.”
Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”
Far from being insane, this approach is actually eminently rational. The GOP needn't hold the presidency every cycle. All they need to do is prevent a Democratic President from accomplishing much of anything progressive while forcing him or her to clean up Republican messes. Then when they inevitably get back in office, they can continue to ratchet public policy as far to the right as possible until they inevitably lose again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Aligning with this strategy, they pull their most insane ideologues out of the mothballs to take a run at the presidential nomination, engaging their wingnut base and getting voters mobilized for the general election where a centrist will be nominated (Bush, McCain, Dole, and so on) and the rest will jockey for the VP slot.
This is how Republicans do it, and with a complicit media, they get away with it. The constant false equivalence, the appeal to the mysterious "independent" voter in the news, the polls that report how disgusted everyone is with partisan politics. All of it, points directly back to the core strategy of never allowing a Democrat to govern as a Democrat.
Enter "Americans Elect," the "populist internet" alternative to the two party system. Here's what AE's creators know: By being vague and inviting "clicktocracy" they can fool the ones who aren't already fiercely partisan, that "center of the spectrum" group that blows with the wind. And boy, have they fooled some people.
Who is Americans Elect?"
According to their pretty website, it's just voters like you and me who are tired of the party machines and want to use this fabulously democratic Internet thing to nominate a candidate for President.
What they really want to do is use hedge fund money, Republican shills, and a touchy-feely sort-of-social website to run a third party candidate. Think about this: So far, it's got moderate Republicans and pissed-off lefties on it. You think they'll make a willing coalition?
What's in it for Peter Ackerman?
There's only one party that sort of candidate harms, and it isn't the wingnut right wing. They may as well have hung out a shingle inviting Ralph Nader and Ross Perot to hang out, have a beer together. But in case there's any doubt in your mind, the primary bankroll comes from Peter Ackerman, who also was the project director and project co-chairman of the Social Security project, a Cato-backed non-profit formed to bolster the case for privatizing Social Security.
Ackerman also authored a book in 2001 entitled A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, which at first glance would seem to be an attractive strategy for effecting change, but when examined in the context of our political landscape a more sinister picture emerges, where populist sentiment is used to overthrow existing governments but always with an eye to replacing them with different, yet no less authoritarian overseers whose interests may be less ideological and more financial, for example. Using Poland as an example:
By manipulating the Polish Communist Party into socially inappropriate overreactions, Solidarity swept away the myth of Communist Party legitimacy, just as Gandhi’s strategic provocations swept away the myth of a legitimate British Raj (pp. 106-110, p. 118). Through many difficulties, according to Ackerman, the leadership skill of Lech Walesa kept Solidarity from acceding to the extremist, volatile and even violent impulses of rank-and-file workers. Solidarity succeeded best when populist demands were restrained by wise and prudent leadership. (pp. 153-160)
Of course, Walesa is a Republican darling, mostly because he did, in fact, turn away from the rank-and-file workers and their populist revolt, converting Poland to a free-market system under the careful tutelage of Ronald Reagan and his advisors.
The video at the top of this post is Peter Ackerman discussing his theories on civil resistance. Unless he has undergone some sort of radical shift in thinking, I'm pretty certain you can consider Americans Elect his answer to what's wrong with American politics, and that answer is orchestrated regime change by manipulating, harnessing and ultimately constraining the angry unruly masses.
The transcript follows, courtesy of Irregular Times:
Question: “What are the key elements of waging a successful civil resistance movement?”
Peter Ackerman: “The first thing is unity. A civil resistance movement must unify the widest possible spectrum of society: young, old, all ethnic groups, all religious groups, all economic strata, around a limited set of achievable goals, and designate for the moment a leadership that has legitimacy to mobilize all these groups in service of those goals. So, unity.
The second thing that’s required is planning. There has to be capacity to, for that leadership to look objectively at what its capabilities are, how it can mobilize, what tactics are at its disposal, how to sequence those tactics in a way that has the biggest negative impact on the opponent, where the cost is greater to the opponent than it is to your selves.
That planning needs to go on at an offensive and defensive level. Defensive level means there are some things you should anticipate are going to happen to you. For example, you might have an oppression that might end up killing some of the leadership. There needs to be planning for redundancy of leadership. And then there’s offensive things that can be done, which are all in the tactics of nonviolent resistance that are strikes, boycotts and mass protests.
So you have unity and then you have the capacity for continuous planning. And then the last of the three is nonviolent discipline. Now, nonviolent discipline, uh, the reason I use the term discipline is to emphasize it’s a strategic choice, not a moral one. Because civil resistance can’t succeed unless you induce loyalty shifts and multiple defections from the other side, that basically weakens the other side’s power base. And two problems with injecting violent tactics to a civil resistance movement. The first is, once for sure the violent tactics will be responded to by the party that has a monopoly or predominance of armed power. And so once that response comes, it’s highly likely that the wide majority of the population will go indoors, because not everybody’s willing to take the same risks for a civil resistance movement. The general population that you worked so hard to get involved, they’re the group that’s most likely to take the least risk. And when violence is afoot, they’ll go indoors. And the second reason is that you’re specifically trying to create loyalty shifts amongst the opposition, and it’s very hard to create those loyalty shifts when you’re threatening to kill them or main them. It just, you know, the two don’t go together.
So unity, planning, and nonviolent discipline are the ingredients that are sort of the necessary conditions for a successful civil resistance movement. And I think expressed this way they transcend all cultures and all time.”
It's important to remember that the foundation of all this theory rests in his belief that nonviolent action creates an ungovernable state, and an ungovernable state is vulnerable to sea change. And who else believes in the political tactic of creating an ungovernable state? That's right. Grover Norquist and his gang of tax fetishists. Full circle we go.
Before embracing this organization, I'd be asking some strong questions about a guy who made zillions at Drexel Burnham Lambert by setting off the savings and loan crisis in the 80s with his pal Michael Millken, who is using a known Republican dirty trickster petition factory to slide onto the ballot in as many states as possible.
Irregular Times has a great archive of information about this organization. Beware.