|The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right|
Author: Lee Fang
After the 2008 and 2012 elections, we all thought the country was shifting toward liberal values. The right wing saw it too, so they warmed up their machine built over 30 years, stretching from Capitol Hill to local school boards. Think tanks and lobby houses, new media and old, consultants and old-time party hacks all fell into line to rev up The Machine against the newly-elected moderate Democrat named Barack Obama.
Yes, Hillary Clinton, there was and still is a vast right wing conspiracy. Luckily for us, Lee Fang has written the story of the conspiracy in the Clinton years and following right up to the 2012 election. Names, dates, and secret meetings are all in one compact book, where Lee's narrative proves what we all know: A small handful of billionaires and corporations drive politicians, the news, and day-to-day political discourse in this country.
Lee is one of the best investigative reporters out there, and his light shines brightest when he takes what he knows and puts it into the context of what we're living through. Those astroturf groups cropping up all over the place during the health care debate? Lee places them with their founders and paints the larger picture of how all of the cogs move together to grind out the daily message. From top to bottom, Lee takes the reader through the mazes of lobbyists, front groups, think tanks, strategists and their associated social media branches.
All of that is great, but it would be a boring read if it were something like a dictionary of right-wing organizations and their roles in the larger scheme. It is a lot of things, but it is definitely not boring. It reads more like a spy novel. Beginning with the tobacco lobbying groups and the Clinton administration through their relative dormancy during the Bush years, to the pre-emptive planned strike when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, readers get to jump on the ride and observe it in real time as Fang unfolds the story, dropping names, places, and dates of meetings. Lee brings an insider's view to the intense competition on the right between the fiscal conservative machine headed up by Grover Norquist and the lesser-known Weyrich Lunch, named as a tribute to Paul Weyrich. Despite some overlap between the two groups, there's a constant tension to control the overall message. Right now the Weyrich Lunch bunch are winning that battle, but winning is less important than keeping the war raging on more than one front.