When some “controversy” explodes on the scene overnight, rest assured some organized, well-financed force is behind it. And sure enough, such is the current hysteria to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT). As it turns out, this entire episode is one of “manufactured outrage.”
Critical Race Theory is an academic concept developed over 40 years that seeks to understand U.S. history as inseparable from the legacy of slavery and racism as a social construct embedded in the nation’s economic, social, legal, and political system. No public schools teach the subject.
“Critical race theory just says let’s pay attention to what has happened in this country and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes, so we can become that country that we say we are,” says Kimberlé Crenshaw, Law Professor at Columbia and UCLA, and a leading developer of CRT.
Nevertheless, the extreme right-wing has masterfully turned the “controversy” into another means to exploit racial anxieties and hatred in a country of rapidly changing demographics to cement white racial domination. The same people trying to suppress CRT are pushing the “ great replacement “ theory and stopping the right to vote and free speech.
This story has many intersecting, alarming, and overlapping pieces. They include the 2020 election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and a Democratic Congress, the January 6 insurrection, the GOP Big Lie of election fraud, raft of voter suppression, election subversion, and anti-abortion laws, the anti-mask, anti-vaccine fervor, climate crisis denialism, and the power of the right-wing mass disinformation and brainwashing media eco-system.
The GOP and right-wing coalition exploit these and other issues to regain power in 2022 and 2024. As before, racism is central to mobilizing, confusing, disorienting, and brainwashing most white voters, including white working-class voters, into voting against their self-interests.
Shattering the unity and power of the mass democratic movement is another aim of the anti-CRT campaign, thereby blocking the emergence of a true multi-racial democracy and an accompanying ideological outlook. An orchestrated backlash against the growing anti-racist majority sentiment in the U.S. and anti-racist victories, including the 2020 elections victory, is taking place.
Together, these campaigns, and those forces backing them, represent a peril to democracy. The battle to defend and expand democracy requires the broadest unity and most energetic mobilization of the pro-democratic alliance to obliterate GOP power wherever it exists.
Behind the CRT and other campaigns are familiar forces and reactionary billionaires who keep turning up like a bad penny. According to Right Wing Watch and Jane Mayer, much of the dark money and organization behind the CRT and voter suppression laws flow from the network of institutions, think tanks, academics, and elected officials associated with the Koch Brothers or forces who work with them. They include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Action Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation bankrolled by the owners of ULine.
“It’s a massive covert operation run by a small group of billionaire élites. These are powerful interests with practically unlimited resources who have moved on to manipulating that most precious of American gifts-the vote,” said Sen. Shelton Whitehouse, D-R.I., of the assault on voting and elections. But the same forces are involved in the anti-CRT crusade and the anti-masking, anti-vaccine resistance.
In addition to these billionaires and others connected with the military and fossil fuel corporations, the other main pillars of the extreme-right and neo-fascist movement are the entire GOP apparatus, white Christian nationalists, and other religious fundamentalists, and the propaganda and brainwashing media eco-system led by Fox News. All are involved.
Local school board takeover
The current campaign to take over local school boards reflects the overlapping interests of this coalition. The Koch Brothers advocate privatization of public schools and the elimination of the Department of Education. Christian nationalists and other religious fundamentalists want to use public schools as vehicles for creating a theocracy. And white supremacists seek to uphold a white supremacist indoctrination of students and block all attempts to replace it with the true history of the U.S. and the dominance of systemic racism.
These groups seek to portray the outrage against CRT as a spontaneous grassroots Tea Party-type rebellion by parents, students, and community members. In actuality, the campaign is highly orchestrated. According to Principal James Whitfield, the Texas educator being drummed out of his job by a mob, most meeting crashers have no connection to the school.
The campaign ostensibly began when Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the extreme-right Manhattan Institute, stoked the anti- CRT fires on Tucker Carlson’s show last fall. According to some accounts, then-President Trump saw the interview and instructed the White House Office of Management and Budget to stop funding federal training on diversity and critical race theory.
However, the issue lay dormant until the election of Joe Biden, who reversed Trump’s order. Then the right-wing began to regroup and plot a path back to power. After the failed Capitol fascist insurrection, the Koch-related network began pushing outrage over CRT. Articles and mentions in the news and on social media skyrocketed (Although over August — September 2021, the topic of Ivermectin overtook CRT on right-wing media!).
“These articles came out in a trickle last year, but then suddenly became a flood starting in February 2021, as President Biden took office and the threat to corporate profits became real. An average of five pieces per week dropped from late March to June 30, 2021. The pace of propaganda surged in both late May and late June-coinciding with the surge in action by state politicians,” wrote Jasmine Banks, Executive Director of UnKoch My Campus.
According to Banks, the Koch Brothers have used white supremacy and connections with known white nationalist scholars to drive an economic agenda benefiting America’s wealthiest families for decades, at the expense of the multi-racial working class and communities of color.
Legislation banning the teaching of CRT was introduced into 25 state legislatures, passing in eight states. Except, no public schools teach CRT, and none of the legislation, except Idaho, even mentions it. The goal is to eliminate any teaching and discussion of racism and discrimination.
“We have successfully frozen their brand — Critical Race Theory — into public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions,” Rufo tweeted in March. “We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all the various cultural insanities under that brand category.”
“The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think “critical race theory. We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans,” he boasted.
ALEC is the primary source of anti-CRT legislation, cookie-cutter bills like the voter suppression I.D. laws passed by many legislatures in 2012. Half of the 62 bills introduced that year traced to ALEC.
Heritage Action, the legislative arm of Heritage Foundation, says its top legislative priorities are anti-CRT legislation and “election integrity,” aka voter suppression and election subversion. Heritage Action is mainly responsible for the spate of voter suppression bills adopted by GOP-dominated state legislatures and the massive disinformation campaign behind “election integrity.”
Heritage Action, ALEC, the Bradley Foundation, and Freedom Works (another Koch Brothers connected group) are critical funders of the sham Arizona election audit that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars. They are also behind the massive Big Lie brainwashing by the right-wing propaganda eco-system beginning with Fox News.
The Bradley Foundation has been funding an assault on voting rights since at least 2012, and dark money comes from the Thomas Smith Foundation, a shady Florida foundation tied to hedge fund investors.
Last summer, the Bradley Foundation was a major funder of the right-wing sabotage of local government restrictions, social distancing directives, and mask mandates against the Covid-19 pandemic. This action, joined by ALEC and Freedom Works, Tea Party Patriots, and Committee to Unleash Prosperity, another Koch Brothers group, has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Today’s mobilization by right-wing and neo-fascist forces employing physical threats and intimidation is reminiscent of the Tea Party mobilization at Congressional Town Hall meetings in 2009 to oppose Obamacare. The key issues now are mask and vaccine mandates, critical race theory, and “stopping the left, socialists, and communists” from indoctrinating youth with “subversive” ideas.
Want to destroy democracy
These groups want to fundamentally destroy democracy, including public education, one of its key pillars. They are behind the campaign to take over local school boards, electing, among others, QAnon supporters. The Christian Coalition claimed their stealth campaign in the 1990s took control of 2,000 local school boards. Then issues involved banning books, sex education, and LGBTQ rights.
In addition to ALEC, Heritage Action, and the Bradley Foundation, other critical organizations include:
The Leadership Institute, led by Morton Blackwell, has trained thousands of activists in the dark arts of infiltration and disinformation. Alumni include Steve Bannon, Karl Rove, Grover, Norquist, and Ralph Reed. “Morton Blackwell’s maxim is that moral outrage is one of the most motivating forces in politics,” says Jennifer Cohn, attorney, and election integrity advocate.
Turning Point USA, led by Charlie Kirk, another graduate of the Leadership Institute and close ally of Trump, is another critical group. The group propagates right-wing ideas on college campuses and targets left and progressive professors for harassment and firing. The group became a troll farm of mass disinformation during the 2020 elections.
These groups are part of the Council for National Policy. Members include Bannon, Kelly Ann Conway, Michael Flynn, Ali Alexander, Elsa Prince (mother of Betsy DeVos and Erik Prince), Wayne LaPierre from the NRA, and other former Trump administration officials. During the Trump presidency, they advocated abolishing the Department of Education.
The groups produced and distributed materials on how to take over local school boards and held an online training for candidates in August to “stop the teaching of Critical Race Theory before it destroys the fabric of our nation.”
They also work with the Family Research Council led by Tony Perkins, a Christian Nationalist, who described the campaign as an “unexpected blessing.” The Christian extreme-right includes DeVos, who spent her time as Trump’s Department of Education Secretary transforming public schools into mechanisms to build “God’s Kingdom.”
Bannon is gleeful over packing school board meetings with angry and intimidating right-wing anti-CRT activists. He called it “the Tea Party to the 10 thpower” and the way to mobilize the GOP right-wing base for the 2022 and 2024 elections. “This isn’t Q, this is mainstream suburban moms — and a lot of these people aren’t Trump voters.”
The epidemic and normalization of violence, death threats, and physical intimidation, what MSNBC host Chris Hayes called “thug politics,” are dangerous new political and civic developments. Including violence directed at school board members, teachers, election boards, administrators and poll workers, health care and other frontline workers, restaurant workers, the January 6 insurrection, or domestic terrorists who invaded the Michigan capitol to kidnap and execute the governor.
Terrorizing elected officials, public workers, and voters, destroying democratic institutions, and gutting the rule of law, is the aim. This is a road to fascism.
The campaign against CRT, voting rights, masking and vaccine mandates, and reproductive rights demonstrates the high stakes in the outcome of the 2022 and 2024 elections. The mass democratic movement will need to reject the threats, organize a mass voter turnout, and field an army of candidates for school boards and local government.
Once the American people in their majority understand the threat to democracy, as they did in the 2020 elections and the California recall election, they will again be energized and ready to go.
Originally published at https://peoplesworld.org on September 20, 2021.