Robert Reich: What is Oligarchy?

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Democrats, This Isn’t Politics as Usual

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
July 3, 2019

Imagine an opposition political party in a land being taken over by an oligarchy, headed by a would-be tyrant.

The tyrant and the oligarchy behind him have convinced many voters that the reason they feel powerless and economically insecure isn’t because the oligarchy has taken most of the economic gains and overwhelmed the government with their money. It’s because the country has been taken over by undocumented immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans, and a “deep state” of coastal liberals, intelligence agencies, and mainstream media.

This is rubbish, of course, but the tyrant is masterful at telling big lies, and he is backed by the oligarchy’s big money.

Imagine further that the opposition party will soon face another election in which it could possibly depose the tyrant and overcome the oligarchy. But at the rate they are consolidating power – over the courts, politics, and the media – this could be the opposition’s last chance.

What would it do?

Would it allow virtually anyone to seek to be the party’s candidate for president (and gain valuable brand recognition along the way) – including spiritual gurus, one-issue entrepreneurs, and minor elected officials who have never even run for state office?

I doubt it. The party would establish criteria to filter out those who had no real chance.

Would it let almost every one of them go on television to debate one other – thereby placing a premium on one-line zingers, fast talk, and rapid-fire putdowns? Would it assign them randomly to one of two nights, so several candidates with the most support wouldn’t even get to debate one other?

Of course not. Instead, it would take the half-dozen who had the best chance, and structure the debates so they could demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the forcefulness of their ideas in lengthy back-and-forth exchanges.

Would it encourage them to split the party over policy issues that almost no one understands, such as the meaning of “Medicare for all” – thereby causing some voters to become alarmed about a government takeover of the healthcare system, and others to worry the government won’t go far enough?

No. It would encourage the candidates to emphasize the larger goal – in this case, to provide health insurance to everyone, and have them explain that a so-called “public option” to buy into Medicare would eventually displace for-profit private insurers anyway, because it would be so much cheaper.

Would it let any of this deflect attention from the tyrant keeping children in cages at the border, coddling foreign dictators and inviting them to help him in the next election, shattering alliances with other democracies, using his office to make money for himself and his family, lying non-stop, subsidizing fossil fuels and downplaying climate change, claiming the media is guilty of treason, and undermining other democratic institutions and norms?

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The Right-Wing Is Weaponizing Gender Panic

From The Advocate:

Around the globe, conservative forces are using the “gender ideology” movement to score all kinds of victories.

By J. Bob Alotta<
June 23 2019

The Trump Administration’s leaked gender memo, the recent transgender military ban, and the expansion of the global gag rule aren’t coincidences. They are part of a well-coordinated, funded global movement designed to control our communities by restricting the rights and bodily autonomy of women, LGBTQI communities, and people of color — eerily reminiscent of Reagan era oppressive tactics.

For LGBTQI communities, this kind of backlash is not new. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the Reagan administration demonized our communities, as did right-wing forces around the world, spreading the false notion of the “gay plague” and blaming men who have sex with men for the transmission of the HIV virus. LGBT people were denied equal access to healthcare, faced intense violence, were stigmatized, stripped of basic rights, and often forced into the shadows. But we fought back.

Today, we know the far-right are sewing those same seeds of paranoia, creating gender panic with the use of an intentionally ambiguous organizing framework termed “gender ideology”by some and “anti-gender ideology” by others. Originating in the 1990s, gender ideology is a construct that depicts efforts to expand rights for women, LGBTQI people, and people of color, as radical, dangerous, and elitist, arguing that we are a threat to traditional family values.

What we have been less aware of is that this gender ideology movement is extremely well-funded, and well-organized across sectors and regions. While we don’t have a comprehensive map of the funding of these movements, we know the size and scope is significant. For example, the gender ideology movement’s receives a lot of funding from churches and we know their budgets are sizable; for example, Chile gave the Catholic Church $16 million in one year alone, and Russia gave the Russian Orthodox church $189 million over three years. Of course, not all of this is to oppose gender and sexuality rights, but it demonstrates the scope and capacities of these institutions.

More specifically, the World Congress of Families is one of the most influential far-right networks which “seeks to unite and equip leaders, organizations, and families to affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.” In 2019, they hosted a conference in Verona less than a year following their last in Moldova, with a speaker lineup that included the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, the President of Moldova, an MP from Malawi, and the President of the WCF’s parent American organization, the International Organization for the Family.

From Poland to Brazil and Colombia to Kenya, gender ideology movements are showing up across the world and are growing in size and power. By bringing together right-wing authoritarian leaders, legislators, and civil society and religious leaders to develop policies which paint us as threats to the natural order, they are gaining legitimacy by the day, and directly restricting our rights and freedom. Their strategies take the form of police violence, anti-immigrant rhetoric, restricted access to sexual and reproductive rights, white supremacist ideologies, and the use of gender paranoia to mobilize masses of people toward these conservative agendas.

Many of Astraea’s grantees have been on the frontlines of this battle. In 2016, Colombia was making inroads in the fight for gender justice after coordinated organizing from local LGBTQI activist groups. A progressive subcommission was formed as part of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — to ensure a sufficient gender focus in the accords. This was the first peace agreement to use a gender-based approach to ensure the inclusion of women and LGBTI people. Concurrently, the Colombian Education ministry, led by openly lesbian Minister Gina Parody, released educational materials for teachers to prevent discrimination against LGBT students.

However, these actions resulted in major critique from former Colombian president and current Senator Álvaro Uribe — leader of the opposition — and his followers, “uribistas.” They vehemently argued that the government had used the peace deal as an opportunity to promote a “confused gender ideology.” On Facebook, a flyer posted by uribistas read, “Colombia is in danger! Of falling under the control of a communist dictatorship and the imminent passage of a gender ideology.”

The Colombia example reveals how the political forces behind gender ideology have existed for decades, fighting to deny the rights of women and LGBTI people. Today, they have rebranded to exist directly in opposition to gender ideology and utilize populist, fear-based messaging to attack the rights of LGBTI people and women with renewed vigor. Álvaro Uribe framed the inclusion of the rights of LGBTI people and women in the peace agreement as an imposition of gender ideology. By doing so, he equated a “yes” vote in the referendum to a vote against Christian values and the traditional Colombian family, as opposed to a vote to end the 50-year conflict.

The global anti-gender ideology movement has built and funded a network that knows few boundaries and has core shared goals — across different religions and bridging secular and religious divides. They have found messaging that resonates, and they have not limited themselves by issue, population, or even geography in their funding strategies. Where they see an opportunity, they show up.

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