The far right is not a monolithic project; it is, rather, a movement of movements that have grown out of the failures of capitalism as a social order and that are fueled by human society’s darkest tendencies (racism, misogyny, xenophobia, greed, domination, etc.). What are these different movements that make up what we call the far right today? What vision of social order are they fighting to impose? What does it mean for all of us that the heterogenous tendencies and motivations of the far right are converging into a powerful coalition that is willing to resort to political violence to achieve its collective ends? And how do we fight back?
In this special series of The Marc Steiner Show, co-hosted by Marc Steiner and Bill Fletcher Jr., we will examine the rise of the right in the US and beyond, we will explore the different tendencies and motivations fueling today’s surge in far-right politics, and we will engage with a range of critical voices who can help us understand how we got here and what we can do about it. In Episode One of “Rise of the Right,” Marc and Bill are joined by Tarso Ramos and Nancy MacLean to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol not as a violent aberration, but as one manifestation among many of far-right forces that are converging into a broad, antidemocratic coalition and exerting power on the streets, in the courts and legislatures, and in corporate boardrooms.
Tarso Ramos is the executive director of Political Research Associates, and he’s been researching and challenging the US rightwing for more than 25 years. A renowned public speaker, commentator, and political strategist, his work has been featured in a range of outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and Time Magazine. Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. She’s the award-winning author of numerous books, including Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace, and Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.
Listen to Episode Zero of “Rise of the Right” here. Tune in every Monday over the next month for new installments of this special series of The Marc Steiner Show on TRNN.
Pre-Production: Dwayne Gladden, Stephen Frank, Kayla Rivara, Maximillian Alvarez, Jocelyn Dombroski
Studio: Dwayne Gladden
Post-Production: Stephen Frank
Marc Steiner: Welcome to the special edition here on The Marc Steiner Show and The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you all with us. We’re going to examine the rise of the far right here in the United States and across the globe. Joining me as co-host for this important series is a friend and longtime political and labor activist, award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, Bill Fletcher. Good to have you with us. I’m glad we’re doing this together. I’m really excited about this. And today we present episode one of our five part series examining the growth of the far right. We’re going to primarily focus on the United States. We’re also going to look at the far right as a global phenomenon.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: So what do we mean by the far right? We’re discussing not one political organization, but a political tendency that seeks to radically alter our political system in ways that would produce, well, it would reproduce the United States of 1953. In other words, the far right, most of which can be described as right wing populists, sees the future in the past. So in that sense, we’re not talking about just a conservative movement. We’re talking about something very different that wants to radically alter society and has a completely different vision, not just preserving, not just restraining progress, but a different vision and alternative universe. Marc.
Marc Steiner: And this program is going to begin with an overall look at the far right and the various tendencies that compose it. Our next episode will examine the far right and white supremacy, which, as you’re going to see, a relationship that is both symbiotic and dialectic. And our third episode focuses on the far right and male supremacy, particularly what someone described as a global counterrevolution against women. The fourth episode, we look at the global dimensions of the right-wing populous and neofascist wounds across the world that have emerged. And we’ll end it looking at what we can and must do to stop this plague that is coming upon us. And it can be done.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: In today’s program we have two guests. Been really looking forward to this. And they’ll help us understand the nature and growth of the far right. To emphasize once more, we’re not discussing a monolithic project, but instead a movement that has existed as a virus in the system of capitalism. As I am fond of saying, right-wing populism is the herpes of capitalism.
Marc Steiner: I love that line. And with that, let us induce our guests and get into the heart of this program. Tarso Ramos is the executive director of Political Research Associates, and he’s been challenging and researching the US right wing for more than 25 years. Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe distinguished professor of history and public policy at Duke University. And she’s the author of the book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. And folks, welcome. Good to have you with us here on The Marc Steiner Show. And Bill, why don’t you roll with it here?
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Thank you. Again. Thanks for joining us at the show. So I want to start with a question of both of you. Jan. 6, 2021. Where were you? What were you thinking when you watched what was unfolding? And what do you see now, looking back, as the implications of what I would describe to have been a coup attempt? Whoever would like to start. Nancy. I’m going to pick on you.
Nancy MacLean: Okay. I actually started out the morning so thrilled to see the new senators in Georgia, and still am furious that we didn’t have a chance to celebrate that before the coup attempt and insurrection came upon us. I was actually in the parking lot of Target when my friend texted me and said, are you watching TV? Are you seeing what’s going on? So anyway, once I understood what was happening I rushed home. And it was such chaos then, but I think what we can see now is that it was a combined effort of the suited inner circle of the Trump campaign and its supporters and advisors who have deep roots in the radical corporate right over the years trying to achieve a coup that would exploit the American federalist system. And they were relying upon the violence that would be enacted by the right-wing white power paramilitary types who came ready and prepared for a fight and whose example and agitation set off the rest of the crowd of MAGA supporters.
So I think looking at those three rings is really key to understanding what we’re going to face in the future. Because we know that third ring of MAGA supporters now supports the big lie, and 50% of them say they’d never vote for a candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden won the election. 30% think violence is necessary to change the system. And they think that the people who are a threat to democracy are the Democrats who are trying to save democracy. So it’s a lot to come to terms with, but it’s really important that we do it and that we do it quickly.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Tarso, same question.
Tarso Ramos: On Jan. 6, my team of researchers and I were monitoring the situation in Washington, DC, on behalf of social justice movements in this country as we’d monitored earlier demonstrations by the far right, by the Proud Boys, by Stop the Steal convoys and so forth in DC and elsewhere. We had anticipated and warned that Trump would call on Proud Boys and other armed paramilitaries to disrupt and create opportunities and pretexts for a strategy to hold onto power. We couldn’t have known. We didn’t know that Jan. 6 would turn out to be the decisive day for that call to action. And so we spent a lot of our day monitoring live feeds, including live feeds from insurrectionists themselves who are filming and trying to coordinate and provide safety and other strategic advice to social justice movements about how to respond to the moment.
I think among the things that we’ve learned since that time, just building on some of Nancy’s important observations, I think we learned that there were in fact a series of coup attempts, and in some ways Jan. 6 was the last of them. But they included, of course, mobilizing attorneys general from all of the states of the Confederacy as well as several more in an attempt to sign onto the Texas lawsuit and attempt to delay certification of election. They included a variety of other legal maneuvers. And I think one of the most important things that we’ve learned since then is that both the coup and the insurrection did not end on Jan. 6. These are ongoing, slow-moving, and continual processes that are building towards a continuing and culminating strategy for capturing state power that will have key chapters in November of this year, the 2022 midterms, but also in the next presidential. And it won’t look like what it looked like on Jan. 6.
So if it wasn’t obvious already, it should be obvious that there is a strategy of state capture in order to enshrine a mechanism of minority in this country, white minority rule, that is no longer only the agenda of insurrectionists or armed paramilitaries, it’s the mainstream strategy of the Republican Party.
Marc Steiner: Okay. You want to say something else? Okay. You’re about to jump in and say something else. I can wait a second.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: What I was going to ask you then is what do we mean by the far right? There’s a tendency among progressives and leftists to use the term, “right” or to use the term “fascist” to describe any number of things that we don’t like and anything that’s repressive. But when we’re talking about the far right, we’re talking about something else, and I’m interested in how both of you look at how to define that? What are we talking about? And how’s that different from George Will?
Nancy MacLean: Hmm. Tarso, you want to start this time?
Tarso Ramos: Yeah. I’d be happy to start this time. I really [inaudible] school on the American right wing starting in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And in that period of time, we used the term far right really to refer to white supremacists in the United States. People who believed in the cultural and especially the biological superiority of white people, and sought to transform the United States into a homeland for white people incrementally through initiatives like the Northwest Imperative, where the Aryan Nations moved to Idaho and so forth. Today, I would use the term somewhat differently. I think that the far right in the United States is best thought of not as a fascist movement, at least not in this moment, but as an authoritarian coalition of different tendencies. Some of which are, in fact, racial and ethnic nationalists who aren’t interested in their grandfather’s white supremacy, which is really modeled on exploitation and cultural superiority of white people in this country.
They’re actually interested in a white homeland and are highly interested in tolerant and even exhorting creating conditions for a permanent white population, super majority in the United States, a notion about an ethnic homeland for whites. So you have that, but you also have Christian nationalists and Christian theocrats who are part of this coalition. You have significant parts of the business [inaudible] and capital in the United States. The Koch brothers and fellow travelers – And this is an area of Nancy’s particular expertise – Who have advanced libertarian policy, and particularly advanced strategies to deregulate and hollow out public funding for education and public services, healthcare, and other kinds of things.
These different wins of the anti-democratic right, or the authoritarian right in the United States, actually have different endgames. They have different ideas of what a good society would be. Each one of them is a dystopia for most of us, but they all understand that implanting their vision requires a set of authoritarian relationships. And so they’ve all agreed that formal democracy and free and fair elections do not serve their purposes, and they’re aligned in strategies to make sure that rule is not determined by free and fair elections in the United States.
Marc Steiner: Nancy.
Nancy MacLean: I think that was such a superb summary. I don’t need to respond to the question, we’ll be able to keep going. Unless you want me to add my particular bit there, Fletch.
Marc Steiner: Add your particular bit. What is it?
Nancy MacLean: No, no, no. I mean, I would just emphasize, I think, the importance of the funding behind all of this in a money-driven political system, and ask us all to imagine for a moment that you took all that money out. I think we’d be looking at a very, very different world where these actors would not be able to come together in the same ways, would not have the force that they did, would not get the strategic direction that they have, would not have access to a media network considered mainstream, Fox, which is actually a wing of this authoritarian movement. So, really what I would just… I was gilding the lily there a little bit. But yeah. I think the essential point is that we’re looking at this coalition, all parts of which seem to be converging in ways that we have not quite seen before and in ways that speak to the urgency of our moment. And as you mentioned in your opening, Marc, this is something happening not only in the United States, but globally. So really important that we dig in.
Marc Steiner: Let me push this a bit further. I mean, it seems to me that what we’re facing then, we talked about the far right or parts of the mainstream conservative movement, is really a dangerous and dialectical relationship that we do not understand yet what the outcome could be. Both its internal contradictions, but also what its potential power is. Because the elements in this movement to me seem to be very broad. It’s like people who secretly support or would feel good when they watch what’s happening on January the 6th, gives them a little thrill up their spine, but would never publicly say they support it and actually might say the opposite.
But the reality is that this minority – And that you have written about this in some of your work for the Public Research Associates, Political Research, excuse me, thank you, Political Research Associates – That this has fueled the political power of state Republicans in legislatures across the country that are changing laws. Changing laws about what districts people can vote in, where they can’t vote. Voter suppression and much more. Anti-choice, limiting abortion rights, giving the industry free range to do what they want environmentally. I mean, it’s part of a larger picture, a larger unstructured movement that’s not necessarily controlled by anybody. And I think that’s part of what the problem is, and I don’t think people quite know how to address that.
Tarso Ramos: Well, I do think that there is a kind of call and response, not only between Trump as the central figurehead for this movement, but between the architects of the legislative, political, legal strategies, communication strategies, of this movement and a growing mass base. And it is a mass base. You are right, Marc, that it’s a minority still, but it’s substantial.
Marc Steiner: A huge minority.
Tarso Ramos: It’s about 50 million people in the United States who believe that the election was not settled legitimately. 30% of those, as Nancy said, believe that violence is justified to achieve what they would consider a legitimate political outcome. Legit being not tied to the question of a fair election but whether the person who supports their vision of the future holds power at the end of that election. So this is really a mass constituency. And I would say that it’s a mass constituency that is coming to imagine itself as the real nation, the real people of the United States. And it’s prepared to mobilize for, to defend and to sanctify a new state, a more authoritarian state that upholds its sense of place in this country. And while I agree with elements of what Bill said in the introduction, that this is a very reactionary movement and it looks back to antiquated notions of who’s a real American that are rooted in the colonization of this land, it’s rooted in whiteness and male supremacy in a particular kind of Christian dominionism on the one hand.
On the other hand, it’s not our grandparents’ white supremacy. They are looking forward in a very clear-eyed way to a new set of social and economic relations that are not just about going back to the early 1950s United States and where they do envision a different crisis for the United States that is driven in part by demographic change. And so, whereas in the past the discourse on the far right was more about exploitation and cultural domination, it’s really now about domination and expelling. It’s about maintaining population majorities that are white. And this shift of your Overton Window creates a situation where the functional debate within the Republican Party at this point is, will we have white minority rule through a mechanistic way, technically legal perhaps and unconstitutional in terms of state capture and the wide-scale disenfranchisement of tens of millions of people in the United States, or will we have permanent white population majorities?
Well, we have political violence that leads to ethnic cleansing. And this is, in fact, what the right wing now, the GOP, is calling for. And so that’s the degree of shift that’s happened in the United States. I guess the last thing to share is this is happening very quickly. It is very plausible – Not inevitable, but very plausible that we will see the capture of both chambers of Congress by a coalition that is anti-democratic and authoritarian in the midterm elections in 2022. And if what’s happening in the states now in terms of rewriting the ways in which elections will happen, the demographic maps, the district maps, but also the ability of state legislatures to simply overturn the results of elections conducted within their state boundaries, then we could very easily see the capturing of the White House in 2024 by a figurehead of this coalition, whether that’s the restoration of Trump or someone like Trump, a DeSantis or an Abbot or another political figure like that.
Nancy MacLean: Part of our challenge in understanding this is that we still have… You used the phrase movement conservatism, Marc, and movement conservatism has disappeared, the kind of movement conservatism that was spoken of as convened by William F. Buckley around the National Review in 1955. And that was always much more soiled by white supremacy than many people acknowledge. But at this point that doesn’t exist. The voices of sanity in the Republican Party are so marginalized. I mean, I think we’re all familiar with the Lincoln Republicans and the Bulwark, their publication, the Bulwark but there aren’t very many of them and they don’t have a big following and that really became clear during the election.
It’s all the more clear now where the only Republicans who support… I mean, if you consider the number of Republicans who voted against certifying the election after the violence that had driven them into safe hiding in the Capitol, and then everything that’s happened since, including, as Tarso was saying, the efforts to rig future elections at the state level using this notion of the independent state legislative… We don’t have to go in the weeds on that, but it’s really frightening and bizarre. But it is a constitutional fig leaf that comes out of the Federalist Society, which had been considered more mainstream.
So the lines are really, really muddied now, but I think we can keep our eyes on what is happening to Republicans who try to stand up for the truth and the facts and democracy like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Adam Kinzinger isn’t even going to run again because it’s hopeless for him, and the two of them were condemned by the Republican National Committee saying that they were harassed… What was it? Harassing citizens engaged in ordinary political discourse or some such thing. So the Republican Party has gone completely off the rails of the constitutional order and we are in this new territory that’s really frightening. But I think within that, we really need to keep our eyes on the courts and legal change because part of what the right has done so strategically and so skillfully for so many years now is try to capture the justice function of our society in order to protect this authoritarian project. And so they have a six to three majority now of their folks on the Supreme Court, and they have interfered with the independent judiciary in the states. Trump judges are operating throughout the court system.
So we’re just in a really, really new era in which I think even language like movement conservatism, unless it’s updated to say now movement conservatism is the kinds of things Tarso was talking about. It’s just almost hard to get our footing.
Marc Steiner: So before I turn this back over to Bill, I want to… You mentioned the courts, and I think it’s important to explore this for a moment. I mean, we look at what’s happening in the court system, and I want to look at this with the two of you, the three of you – Actually, all of us – From a historical perspective and what it says about this moment. So to me when I look at the courts in this country, especially the federal courts in this country, what happened in the ’60s and the ’50s was an aberration. It wasn’t the history of our court system. I mean, after reconstruction, the courts upheld all these laws and all these cases that destroyed the right to vote for Black people in the South and across the country, and changed the nature of and destroyed reconstruction and destroyed Black voting rights and led to this 90 years of Black terror, which the Klan did, and others in the South.
So let’s look at where we are. So, I mean, it becomes a political question, and it becomes a question of how you confront it. And I worry that some people are going to sit around and worry and complain about what the courts are going to do and how they’re going to overturn these laws. And that is something for us to worry about and fight around, but it’s not the end of the fight. It’s not… So let’s talk a bit about what has happened in our past and how that relates to this moment in terms of what that really means.
Nancy MacLean: I will say there, and then I’ll pass it to Tarso [crosstalk] now, because he’s very much involved in that fight. But when, Bill, when you opened and talked about these guys wanting to go back to 1953, sadly, no, the ones that I wrote about, they want to go back to 1900. And they have actually said that, the kind of people that theorists and Koch network operatives I wrote about in Democracy in Chains. They believe in something called the Constitution in Exile. So it’s not just the ’60s legislation they don’t like, it’s the so-called constitutional revolution of 1937 in which the Supreme Court finally acknowledged that the New Deal was legitimate and was constitutional. They want to go back from that to what was called the Lochner court of the turn of the century, in which workers had no legal right to organize for collective powers, in which no states and the federal government could not pass any popular reform without getting it thrown out by the Supreme Court as a violation of freedom of contract, or some other notion of liberty that only applied to a few.
And also that was a Supreme Court that upheld Plessy, which allowed segregation and that upheld the mass disenfranchisement of African Americans and many poorer whites in the South. So we’re talking about a vision that is much more radical than I think most of our country recognizes. And it is more urgent than our political class seems to get, by and large. So there I pass to Tarso on how do we deal? And I will say one thing I can say as a historian in this is that our court system can only function well if it has a sense of legitimacy. And I think that’s what John Roberts as high pooh-bah… I forgot his title temporarily with jet lag. But as the chief justice of the Supreme Court, he’s very nervous now about the legitimacy of the court because it is so obviously partisan. It’s carrying through an agenda that’s to the right of 90% of Americans by many studies. So they know they’re in trouble. And I think it’s the job of progressives to increase that perception of illegitimacy. So how does that happen Tarso? [crosstalk].
Tarso Ramos: [crosstalk]
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Actually, before you respond, Tarso, I want to just look at this for a second. You, Nancy, were describing some forces that want to take us back. Grover Norquist, there’s another one. They want to take us back to the pre-1912. But while it is absolutely the case that every time there’s been progress there’s been right-wing backlash, it seems to me that post the Goldwater campaign, something happened within the US right that was different. Because it’s not that it became more violent. Because in the 1950s, it was clearly very violent in response to Brown v. Board of Education, et cetera, et cetera. But something seems to have changed that has brought us forward within the right. And I’d like to understand better. What was it that Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich and others were introducing to the right that had not been there before?
Tarso Ramos: I’ll take a first cut at that. Although, acknowledging that there are some within this coalition who would take the United States back to pre Civil War constitutional amendment. So there’s a spectrum here. So I think a couple of things, Bill. First of all, the key strategists, and we named a few of them, of the [new reich] starting in the late 1960s, really getting traction in the mid ’70s, and includes justice, the person who goes on to become Supreme Court Justice Powell and writing the infamous Powell memo, they did sort of come… They thought they’d lost the culture. They’d lost power. They’d lost the culture. They were at the nadir point, they looked at the anti-war movement, they looked at the alignment of mainstream Protestantism with the social justice movements and the civil rights movement.
They looked at the gay and feminist movements, the Black Civil Rights and subsequent Black Power, Red Power and other movements, and we’ve lost. We do not have the ability to maintain even a conservative governing majority, nevermind a right-wing one in the United States. And they set about figuring out how to change that. And they recognized that it required limiting access to democracy, but it also required building an alliance among constituencies that didn’t exist. And that in fact wouldn’t get in the same room together. You could not get Pentecostals in the same room with right-wing libertarian of the Koch variety. Those relationships didn’t exist, and in fact many of those people weren’t even politically active at that point. And so they set up a project that took them decades to build. To build an alliance, initially an opportunistic alliance, that over time evolved into a strategic alliance across these different constituencies.
So that’s part of what happened. The second thing I think that happened is that the Soviet Union collapsed, and in 1989 the question of what does it mean to be an American shifted. The internal discussion and debate about that shifted in the United States away from the mythology that we are the freedom people in the United States and around the globe. And it opened the door for different definitions of Americanness beginning with Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns in the late ’80s and then in 1992, which culminates in the infamous culture war speech from the stage of the Republican National Convention in 1992. Which is really the beginning of this shift into an explicitly racist and authoritarian and misogynist project for the right. And so in those ways it’s quite different.
The third element that I think is critical is that we are in a situation where their center is not holding. The neoliberal consensus is in collapse in the United States and around the globe, and something will replace it. And either we’ll get some version of authoritarianism, which is not only what’s on offer in the United States, it’s what’s on offer around the globe, and we should talk a little bit about that, might be a little bit more Christian nationalists, or a little bit more white nationalists, a little bit more corporate dominant, but some [inaudible] mixture of that will have the United States. Or we’ll get instead of a fully robust authoritarian redemption to hold up a notion of the white Republic in the United States, we’ll have a third reconstruction and we’ll build forward through that to something like a just, multiracial, and feminist democracy – In other words, democracy – In this country, and those are really the choices.
And the challenge for us is to figure out, how do we block and build at the same time? What do we need to block the full capture of the state apparatus in the culture by this authoritarian coalition and at the same time build the infrastructure, the relationships, the narrative, the sense of ourselves as a people that will carry us forward into an alternative future. I think those three – There are other things, but those are three major ingredients for why this moment is so different, Bill, than it was in the mid 1950s.
Nancy MacLean: I really agree with Tarso’s summary there. And I just want to add one thing, though, that I think is really important for folks on the left to understand and which almost none of us do. And it took me a good while to wrap my brain around this. But the right is operating with a strategy informed by the kind of economic thinkers, political… Essentially revolutionaries that I wrote about in Democracy in Chains. And one thing that they understood and worked on is that they said, if you don’t like the direction public policy is going, stop thinking about who rules, and start focusing on the rules and changing the rules to get what you want. Within that they also consistently think about incentives and how to change what the incentives are and how they work. So I just want to point to why that’s so important in two domains. One is they knew they would never be able to achieve their project working within the kind of media system that existed in the early 1970s as Louis Powell was issuing that memorandum.
And so they worked assiduously to litigate and to lobby to get rid of the fairness doctrine in broadcasting, which they achieved in 1987, and then the deregulation of the telecommunications industry in the 1990s. And those two things enabled the growth of Fox News and of all these other right-wing media bodies, this whole echo chamber that is systematically misinforming the public as a way of achieving power. And they had the foresight to know that once they did that – And Grover Norquist has bragged about this – That they would be then engorging – That’s my verb, not his – But they would be engorging these media corporations who would never go away from the fight because there was too much money to be had. So again, incentives there. Also you see the incentives in gerrymandering. Through their gerrymandering, they have created essentially a political monopoly system for the Republican Party in states like my North Carolina, where the only candidates who will be viable are candidates further to the right than those they would be replacing.
And so part of the chaos in our public life right now is precisely because the incentives are rewarding the farthest actors on the right. And we can even see that with Marjorie Taylor Green, who, what does she do when she’s stripped of her committee assignments? She is 24/7 on social media raising money so that she can stay forever. And so I do think we have to keep that in mind, this kind of dark genius of realigning incentives to reward the kind of behavior that we’re seeing, because that does mean that it’s going to be more challenging to roll this back than simply bringing vast majorities to agree and align.
Marc Steiner: Let’s think for a moment about the linkage between our patriarchal and racist past as part of the American landscape. I mean, there’s many other wonderful parts of the American landscape. You can say that for people are watching or listening at this moment. But that is part of it as well. And that relationship, what is that relationship to what this movement is doing today? It has roots to now. And what does that say about what we should be doing and thinking about and where we should be going? So clearly you look at what’s happening. You see at least in 26 states, and in some of the states that could turn the election, they are remapping the districts and putting people who are progressive or liberal and/or communities of color and mixed and dispersing them into other districts so they can ensure their electoral victory. You’re seeing that happening all over the place. So it becomes a political battle. It’s a battle about organizing. It’s a battle in the courts. And there’s something that’s very serious about what’s being faced for the future of this country.
Nancy MacLean: Yeah, I think that’s a huge piece of the puzzle that is too often not attended to, the role that male supremacy plays in this and a fear of lost power and prerogative among white men in particular. If you look at the crowds at the Capitol, definitely there were women there and Ashli Babbitt or whatever her name is now is their martyr, the woman who got shot. But it looked to my eye like 90% to 95% of those involved in the militant insurrection in the Capital were male. And all of these groups have a notion of the fallen imperiled manhood. I mean, Steve Bannon has been very, very explicit about that, about manhood being threatened and therefore Western civilization.
So it is very much about restoring and enforcing male power. And we certainly see that through the religious right, which as Tarso and I were talking about before we started today, is quite global now. And there are groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom which is based in the US and enjoys donor funding from the Kochs and others but which operates globally. And they actually have people sitting in Scottsdale, Arizona, in little cubicles combing the world’s news to find any religious or gender or sexual bit of news that they can capitalize on to agitate to build their ranks abroad.
So that is huge and fundamental, and I think there are a number of things that need to be done to address that. I mean, I think one of them is dealing with our broken political economy and the levels of inequality that we have to at least reduce some of that pressure and that fear that exists among a large group of middle aged white men who have been rendered… I mean, real wages going down for decades, et cetera. So lots of problems there, but it also needs to be tackled head on. And with that, I’ll turn over to Tarso because I know he’s in the thick of this fight.
Tarso Ramos: Just a few thoughts to add. Thank you, Nancy, for all of those observations, I couldn’t agree more on that. There’s a tendency to underestimate the importance of misogyny as an organizing principle for authoritarianism wherever it rears its head. And that’s certainly true in the United States. Look, let’s get out of the US just for a second. In 2001, roughly the majority of the population, 51% of the global population, found itself, for the first time in many decades, living under authoritarian regimes. By 2021 that had grown to 58%. So we’re experiencing the third great march of authoritarianism since the beginning of the 20th century on the globe. The first gave us mid-century fascism. The next were characterized in the postwar period by the military dictatorships that drove my family fleeing from Brazil. And now we’re in a third period of the march of authoritarianism.
That’s not unique to the United States. And some of the most important work on authoritarianism and authoritarian personality postwar, the work that was done by Adorno, Theodore Adorno, really emphasized the extent to which traditional patriarchal family order and thinking that is the model for the national order really drove the reaction that produced fascism in the 20th century. And I think that that’s very operative now, and I agree with Nancy and all those pieces.
With respect to that, fast forward to where we are now, Marc, Bill, and Nancy, a couple of things. I do think that we are at risk of this third period of white redemption producing a national version of what was created in the South after the clocks of reconstruction, which was a white racial dictatorship that ruled for 75 years. Marc, you laid it out really well, where you’re seeing the rise of a one party racial dictatorship and patriarchal dictatorship in the United States. I use dictatorship loosely, speaking here under authoritarian umbrella.
One of the things that this tells us is that we need to organize much more broadly than we have a united front of resistance of people who actually don’t have the same vision for where we need to end up as a society, but actually believe in democracy. We [may] think democracy means different things, but actually believe in democracy. And that’s still a majority. It’s a large majority of people in the United States that are anti authoritarians. We just don’t act like a majority. We don’t move together as a majority. So that united front needs to be, ideologically, very diverse. It has to be multiracial and certainly cross-class. It’s not the same coalition that’s going to transform this country to a just democracy. It is a coalition, if built, that could forestall the consolidation of power of the kind that we’re looking down the barrel of right now.
So I do think that there are lessons in that. One last thing before I hand it off. It is a moment to think it may be a parallel, not analogous, way. So the way those strategists that Bill referenced earlier, the Weyrichs and the Vigueries and others thought, we need to think differently about how we build a mass coalition, an undeniable coalition that can produce a governing majority in this country. And it’s going to require building relationships and engaging in communities that the left and liberals traditionally haven’t. There are a majority of religious people in this country who are pro-choice. You would never know it based on how politics are conducted. So a largely secular liberal and left movement needs to think really differently about who we need to be in a relationship with in order not only to resist, but to build forward.
And so in that sense, I’m very hopeful. I actually do think there’s a majority that’s anti authoritarian. I think there is a majority that is or can be convinced that the only good life to be had in this place is through a transformation into multiracial feminist democracy. But we’re not going to win that if we’re not in a relationship. And so there’s a tremendous amount of organizing that needs to be done. I do believe in pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the spirit. So we have to be very honest about the threats that we’re facing, but we have to, on that basis, not be deer in the headlights. We have on that basis to get about the hard work of what’s probably a generational struggle for democratic possibility in the United States and around the globe. And if we think of it in those terms, we can build for it and win it.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Tarso Ramos, Nancy MacLean, thank you both very much.
Nancy MacLean: Such a pleasure to be in conversation with all of you.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: This is fantastic. It’s a great opening to this series that we’re having, and we’re honored to have had both of you join us. Thanks very much.
Tarso Ramos: It’s been our honor to participate. Thank you.
Marc Steiner: Pleasure to meet you both. It was a great conversation.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: [crosstalk] Stay well.
Marc Steiner: And there is more to come. We have another four episodes coming up where we’ll be covering patriarchy and the right, and looking at what can be done in the future and more. So you want to stay tuned for all of this and stay with this. And a big part of this goes to Bill Fletcher Jr. who is co-hosting this series here on The Marc Steiner Show, who’s dedicated his work and life to this and has really added huge amounts in terms of guests and ideas and thoughts about where this should go. So I’m glad we’re doing this together. Let me just throw that out there. I’m really am glad we’re doing this together.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Thank you.
Marc Steiner: And so for Bill Fletcher and all the folks here at The Real News and making this possible here today, Kayla Rivara, Dwayne Gladden, Stephen Frank, who are helping get this production done and out there, I want to thank them. And thank you for joining The Marc Steiner Show. Take care, stay involved, and keep listening and watching.