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Beating MAGA at its Own Game
In today’s newsletter we update our running analysis of the right-wing ecosystem responsible for the accelerating degradation of American democracy and society. In our reporting we take a structured analytic approach that combines canonical intelligence methodology with systems modeling.
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The right-wing ecosystem (RWE) is large, powerful, unprecedently well-resourced, disciplined, and determined. It operates with strategic intent and long-term focus. The primary objective of the ecosystem is achieving the optimal combination of returned rent (a concept known in economics as “elite extraction”) and impunity for enterprise elites. Every action undertaken and dollar spent by the RWE is in direct pursuit of this meta-objective known as an “ideality.”
The RWE is, contrary to popular belief, profoundly non-ideological. Much like Naziism and the form of Islamism practiced by Bin Laden, its apparent ideology (neoliberalism meets crony capitalism meets constitutional originalism meets white Christian nationalism?) is just cover for a raw elite power grab in pursuit of its rather banal and uninspiring ideality.
The apparent ideology is used to animate, control and reward non-elite movement members, and to distract, divide, and confuse its adversaries – but the RWE elite are not “true believers” in anything except helping themselves do better at the expense of others. To characterize ecosystem members as hypocrites – an activity the press never seems to tire of -- is to miss the while point, fall for atrocious propaganda, and direct responses at the wrong targets.
The RWE maintains the strategic initiative by driving a systems effect known as a vicious cycle through a brilliant, if totally amoral, strategy. This strategy is the continuously calibrated result of models, wargames, and forecasts – allowing the RWE to anticipate and prepare for the most likely Democratic Party counter-responses. This ability to accurately anticipate is a force multiplier that intimidates and demoralizes the left.
The RWE maintains an extensive but heretofore underappreciated network component we have termed its “Landing, Laundry, and Clean-up” (LLC) Crew. The LLC rewards, protects, and restores RWE members who have “fallen” in combat with the left. Together with the impunity system and demoralization of the left, the LLC enables RWE members to act fearlessly and ferociously with little concern for consequence.
The left holds a decisive advantage in combat power but is frittering it away and thus playing into the right’s strategy. We estimate that substantially more than 80% of the left’s resources are wasted on aimless, ephemeral efforts.
While the RWE’s strengths are significant and apparent, it has multiple constraints and weaknesses, many of which are substantially underappreciated -- all of which are insufficiently exploited by the left. Some of the most important include:
Legal System – to keep up the pretense of being legitimate and hide its parasitic nature, the ecosystem must treat the law with a modicum of respect – which puts a brake on its excesses and the rate at which it can consolidate power.
Culture – nobody except the elites really supports the actual elite philosophy, nor desires the inevitable outcomes of, elite power consolidation. Thus, a great deal of energy and resources are expended to obscure real intent and deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance – a burden the good guys don’t bear.
Plausibility Thresholds – similarly, the ecosystem’s actions each must reach a threshold of plausibility. This requires an extensive laundering process. For example, new laws must start with think tanks, find a sponsor (DeSantis plays this role loyally for the RWE, which is why he expected better national traction) get enacted, then withstand a series of legal challenges up to the Supreme Court.
Acceptable Advancement Pace – the RWE was doing just fine for itself (its elites) before Trump. He pushed the pace of rent extraction so that even the New York Times took notice. The ecosystem system is best served strategically by a slow but steady rate of advancement – but this flies in the face of the needs of the type of political leaders who can win modern elections and the needs for continuous action on the part of the base. This disconnect could be exploited through a combined effort on the left, but such has yet to materialize.
Internal Contradictions – The ecosystem’s weaknesses are all the result of internal contradictions that lead to increasing amounts of friction that reduce combat power. The RWE is a thus a house of cards just like the Soviet Union (the Soviet Union lasted 74 years, 1917-1991). It only hangs together as long as it does, and then it can fall apart in a flash. Unfortunately, the left is applying insufficient pressure on the weak points to make a difference.
All that said, the weakest point in the RWE system is the legal support underpinning the impunity Line of Action. Effective exploitation of this weakness by the left (such as is occurring with John Eastman and Mark Meadows) will have the most effect reducing ecosystem power and reversing the vicious cycle of societal degradation the RWS requires to achieve its objectives.
About our Approach:
The specific structured analytic approach we use is termed “target-centric intelligence.” The target is what you are trying to illuminate and “action,” and it could be as simple as the answer to a single question. More often, as is the case here, we wish to illuminate everything relevant about an adversary. The preferred outcome of an intelligence assessment such as we conduct is most usefully known as “actionable situational understanding.”
Functionally, the structured intelligence approach provides us with all the facts, rigorous analysis places the facts into context, and modeling determines which facts matter from the standpoint of the entity that will “action” the completed intelligence product.
But the most important contribution of an intelligence approach is to frame the environment from the perspective of your adversary, enabling insights and countermeasures that would not occur otherwise. Intelligence is not a soft, fuzzy effort at bridging a communications gap to enable dialogue and consensus – it is a disciplined methodology enabling effective action leading to victory -- conducted against an adversary that is attempting to annihilate you. If this paragraph disturbs your sensibility than we have achieved our objective in this piece.
While target-centric intelligence (hereinafter referred to simply as intelligence) is a complex systems approach with multiple interlocking levels, mechanisms, models, processes, and feedback loops, we can simplify it by way of analogy.
In a police murder investigation, the target is the perpetrator, and we identify him/her/them through the classic “means-motive-opportunity” mnemonic. In intelligence we use the “adversary-strategy-center of gravity” framework. The critical difference in the police analogy and intelligence is that intelligence must forecast the future to be of any value – and this adds a layer of analytical complexity most people cannot or will not factor into their decision-making. To skip this step is to doom oneself to failure – and this is a key mistake the left is making.
In warfare between enemy combatants, the identification of the adversary is simple – it’s the guys who are shooting at you. But when the adversary is an entire ecosystem – and our hypothesis is that the U.S. Republican Party is but one piece of a vast right-wing ecosystem, identifying and assessing the strength and motivations of all system participants is crucial to effectively countering it. Not having done so is a major reason the Democratic Party and progressives are losing this war. Unwillingness to recognize that their adversary is on a war footing and to respond in kind is another.
Most elements of an adversary’s strategy are visible. The strategy is simply the reasoning behind what our adversary routinely does. What it does – 99% of which is visible -- are known as “indicators” of strategic intent. For some reason, the Democratic Party routinely focuses on the right’s tactics and responds to the indicators rather than strategically responding to adversarial intent. This mistake cedes the strategic advantage and initiative to the enemy.
The Center of Gravity is the long-term, purpose-built power base of an adversary. It is usually hard to identify, and it is highly protected. It requires a monumental, focused effort to remove the adversary’s center of gravity from the equation – but it must be done to achieve victory. Other efforts may be worthwhile in shaping the battlespace or buying time to build combat power – but if they are not ultimately decisive in attriting the adversary’s center of gravity they squander resources and are thus counter-productive.
Organization: To assess combat power and identify potential weaknesses for exploitation, every comprehensive intelligence analysis must illuminate its adversaries’ form of organization and its organizational components.
The form of organization for the RWE is “network;” and its type is “Organized Criminal Enterprise.” It is conducting an insurgency whose objective is not the overthrow of the U.S. government structure but its parasitic usurpation.
Importantly, the RWE is not White Christian Nationalist, Fascist, Authoritarian, or a secret society. It often manifests characteristics of those entities, but those aspects are either incidental to its strategy, deliberate provocations designed to dishearten its adversaries, or sops to its base.
To defeat the RWE, we must deliberately adopt a hybrid counter-network/counter insurgency approach specifically tailored to combat organized criminal enterprises. Fortunately, there is doctrine and successful experience to draw from in this effort.
Republican Party – includes the official party structure and registered/habitual voters. Its long-term existence as one of only two major U.S. political parties provides it an apparent equivalence with the Democratic Party in terms of values, objectives, and acceptance of the rules of engagement in the transactional environment. However, analysis of its strategy and tactics make it quite clear, and the belated confessions of several prominent Republicans confirm, that the Republican Party no longer shares the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, does not consider itself bound by norms and inmany cases actual laws, and is in a state of undeclared war (hybrid and asymmetric) with most American citizens and institutions.
Conservative Think Tanks – such as Cato, American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. They serve as idea launders and as policy, strategy, and tactics incubators, as communications platforms, and as paid employment for out of office conservative politicians. The ‘think tank’ name and their non-profit status provide these organizations an undeserved measure of gravitas, sincerity, objectivity, and analytic rigor, and by extension provide their customers’ strategies an important patina of democratic legitimacy. In essence, conservative think tanks serve as “strategic cutouts” that both “launder” and conceptually blunt the sharper edges of policies that directly benefit Republican benefactors at the expense of most American citizens.
Federalist Society and the Supreme Court: The two organizations -- which are just two faces of the same coin -- provide legal cover for all but the most egregious usurpations of Founders’ intent and national legal precedent. The court has liberal members, granted, but for most of its existence it has served as a reactionary brake on the expansion of natural and civil rights to the whole of society. The Supreme Court will remain a part of the RWE for quite some time going forward and will have to be dealt with extra-constitutionally to prevent it from single-handedly – from the institutional perspective -- dooming American Democracy.
Lobbying Firms – among other impacts, these organizations subtly distort elected officials’ perceptions of reality, and dilute individual voting power by dominating access to, and mindshare of, elected officials.
Selected Broadcast and Social Media Platforms – While Fox News, OAN, Breitbart, and Sinclair are obviously key components of the RWE, it is important to point out that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are integral mechanisms in the Right’s campaign because of their ubiquity, structures, and business models. They form a key piece of the Right’s asymmetric warfare capability and serve as a vehicle for its impunity system. Functionally, it is easier to attack than defend on those platforms, and easier to spread disinformation than information -- so they “privilege” the Right as platforms even though they are ostensibly neutral politically, because it “costs” Democrats much more to achieve results parity on these platforms.
“Landing, Laundry and Clean-up” (LLC) Crew - We identified this element while tracking down the answer to one of our key intelligence questions, namely, “what accounts for the sudden rise in brazenly illegal, immoral, questionable, anti-democratic behavior of Republican candidates and elected officials, and their apparent lack of concern for consequences and accountability?” We could not find evidence for the theory that the brazenness was primarily a function of example, because seeing Trump get away with something is not the same thing as a state or local official avoiding prosecution for illegal behavior.
What become apparent through intelligence analysis and modeling is that the only factor that would impel such behavior is the foreknowledge that no matter what happened to the perpetrator, he/she and their family would be defended pro bono by the RWE, and/or provided for financially in the event things go south. Further, this network gets involved early in the political recruitment process, with the added effect of enabling the RWE to widen its net and attract such toxic people such as Boebert and MTG.
We hypothesize that the LLC is extensive and includes all the entities noted in the organization section of this report, but also many Universities and for-profit corporations that would really prefer to keep their involvement hidden. We believe the LLC routinely funnels money and -in-kind services directly to political and elected candidates and family members, finds well-paid jobs for them post-office holding (and even following unsuccessful campaigns such as with Kari Lake), enables children and grandchildren to matriculate to competitive feeder schools and universities on a non-merit basis, provides no-risk investment opportunities and passes along stock tips – the list of such is endless and we are just beginning to dive into a detailed analysis of this aspect of the RWE.
Transnational Criminal Organizations: (“TCOs”)
Many nation states, primarily authoritarian ones such as China and Russia, but also many putative democracies such as Italy, Albania, and Mexico, are intertwined with transnational criminal organizations as a matter of policy and/or political necessity. In the cases were this is deliberate but unacknowledged nation state policy, the external objective is to create asymmetries in which those organizations can act upontargeted governments with impunity, hidden behind governmental smoke screens. Interestingly, they are also a source of ideas and tactics that governments have adopted, such as the concept of operating with relative impunity, as opposed to accountability to citizens and/or measures of good governance. They are extremely diligent in maintaining the illusion that they are at war with their co-opted governments.
The principle also operates in reverse, where TCOs provide cover to nation states -- such as in Russia --where Putin often blames ‘rogue’ Russian criminals for activity he sponsors. In China, the People’s Army (official armed forces of the state) operates a global criminal enterprise whose businesses include counterfeiting, human, drug, and arms trafficking. The U.S. is its biggest market for these services. Our systems analysis indicates the likely existence of a powerful link between transnational criminal organizations, the U.S. market for their products and services, and the Republican Party -- with one or more autocratic nation states as interlocutor -- worthy of investigation.
White Supremacist and Anti-Government Organizations – elements of the RWE who organize and advocate for changes in the U.S. political system through violent, illegal and/or extralegal methods.
The Base -- Low Information, easily aggrieved, authoritarian-friendly American Citizens: Our team admits to being shocked by how many (between 35-40% of the population) of these there are; how aligned they have become with the Far Right; how sticky are their views; and how unprincipled they are. Nonetheless, this is a long-term phenomenon exploited and accelerated by deliberate strategy, and powered by underlying drivers that are not being commensurately countered by the Left. History indicates that this problem is addressed best through education -- and that doing so effectively requires a multi-generational effort. Democrats will find it more effective to account for (not accept) these numbers and work around the challenge in the near term, while simultaneously addressing it with its long-term strategy.
Combat Power/Capacity Estimates: We assess that the RWE possesses the combat power/citizen capacity to subvert American Democracy and render the United States into an autocracy within 10 years. Passion, previous progress, momentum, and structural imbalances multiply the RWE’s combat power such that it can overcome the left’s superior -- but inadequately mobilized -- potential combat power and societal capacity. However, war always generates profound, unanticipated results, and the RWE cannot be certain of ultimate victory. This uncertainty renders it vulnerable and can be exploited through sufficient intelligence, thoughtful strategy, and rigorous execution of countermeasures.
RWE Center of Gravity – System of Impunity: The RWE is securing ever-increasing levels of impunity through a combination of purposeful long-term efforts, including: the funding of the Republican Party, Federalist Society, think tanks, and their “Landing, Laundry and Clean-Up Crew;” strategic and tactical collusion with right wing media; tilting the Congressional playing field to enable them to appoint a disproportionate share of judges, the establishment of corrupt relationships with judges, and the cooptation of multiple less-than-ethical lawyers. The ecosystem is also both cause and beneficiary of the societal trend of decreasing personal accountability.
While these specific efforts have been used often by authoritarian governments, the RWE System of Impunity more closely resembles those perfected by transnational criminal organizations, most specifically Mexican Drug Cartels. In Mexico, the Government and cartels and part of a common network that presents itself to citizens and other countries as adversarial but is in fact symbiotic. Thus, Mexico is a useful model of what the U.S. would resemble should the RWE prevail -- albeit at a totally different scale.
Nearly unlimited financing – the funds available to the RWE exceed all possible uses, which means all strategic efforts can be resourced simultaneously, putting intense pressure on the left to counter the key efforts effectively. The ecosystem can spend money just to tie the left down in useless endeavors – and the left has been all too willing to oblige.
Amoral financiers – Yes, the rich have always been with us. But Carnegie and Vanderbilt became philanthropists; Musk and Thiel became fascists. We’ve got to do something about the billionaire problem in this country in addition to addressing inequality in general.
Bad Citizens: We are increasingly producing hateful, amoral, narcissistic, sociopathic, easily aggrieved, inhumane, and deliberately ignorant citizens. Trying to “fix” democracy while ignoring this trend is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Brilliant exploitation of communications technologies and channels. Enough said.
Unparalleled combination of analytics, strategy, and continuous adaptation. The RWE exploits intelligence as well as the Israeli Government, wields strategy as effectively as the Chinese Government, and flows with and adapts to reality like a championship-caliber sports team. It is a tough and determined adversary that will only be thwarted by a tougher, more determined force.
Ecosystem Constraints; Gaps; and Weaknesses:
Strategic Impatience – the execution of Illegal activities such as January 6 expose the ecosystem to illumination and reduction in the power of its center of gravity. They are counterproductive because they invariably do not achieve their own objectives and delay the achievement of objectives that would have been achieved otherwise. Thus, such activities should not be feared, nor should their potential constrain the left. Rather, we should be prepared to rapidly take advantage of such mistakes through the legal system and strategic communications.
Legal System – to maintain the pretense of legitimacy, the ecosystem must treat the law with a modicum of respect – which puts a brake on its excesses and the rate at which it can consolidate power.
Culture – nobody except the elites really supports the actual elite philosophy, nor desires the inevitable outcomes of elite power consolidation. It requires a lot of energy to hide things, as the Soviet Union found out. While many U.S. citizens are glad to support authoritarians, they also need and want things that authoritarians won’t deliver for them. This disconnect is easily exploitable, and why the Democratic Party does not prioritize this effort is unfathomable.
Plausibility Thresholds – another brake on pace of power consolidation – the ecosystem must launder its actions through an onerous and time-consuming process. And they must reach a threshold of plausibility for each policy – which for things like new laws must start with think tanks, then work their way up from local and state courts to the Supreme Court, then get worked in piece by piece at the glacial pace of legislatures.
Acceptable Advancement Pace – RWE was doing just fine for itself (its elites) until Trump. He pushed the pace of rent extraction so that even the New York Times took notice. It is best served by a slow but steady rate of advancement – but this flies in the face of the needs of the type of political leaders who can win modern elections and the needs for continuous action on the part of the base.
Internal Contradictions – The ecosystem’s weaknesses are basically all internal contradictions – it is a house of cards just like the Soviet Union. It can limp along with all its weaknesses and contributions for a long time, and then it can fall apart in a flash. Unfortunately, a lot of bad things can, and likely will, happen before that blessed event occurs.
Anti-human Nature: The RWE ideality is antithetical to human nature. If the left would relentlessly communicate the long-term implications of RWE ascendancy, a significant percentage of its membership would drift away from it. I know, because I am one of those people, having been a Republican for my first 49 years.
The left’s Combat Power Potential: The right is fully mobilized. It has no crossover appeal. There are no reserve forces and no one else that can be drafted into the fight. The left has yet to tap into its immense potential combat power, its national resources, or its international partners. Should it develop a solid strategy, methodically unleash its capabilities, and commit itself to the new “Long War,” the RWE is ultimately doomed. 55 years after Nixon’s ascent and 7 years since Trump accelerated the RWE’s pace of execution, we have yet to see anything like such a commitment from the left, and each day that passes makes any serious attempt to take the RWE on more problematic and costly.
“Limited Trust” Network: In an organized criminal enterprise trust is limited by the potential implications of its breach. Many such networks have been effectively eroded by amplifying this problem through information operations and network penetration.
Limited Operational Sustainability and Focus: The RWE can’t really do much operationally because it does not have trained troops, it can’t openly rehearse, it can’t reinforce operations logistically should they go south, and the activities it seeks to conduct are either illegal or run counter to American cultural norms. The January 6 uprising is a good example. The aftermath has essentially crippled the RWE’s operational capability, but the left continues to fear a follow-up and bemoan what occurred instead of exploiting the RWE’s dramatic reduction in combat power post 1-6.
Elite Narcissism and Greed: For the RWE elite to achieve its ideality, American citizens, including most notably its base, must experience inequalities and sub-optimal outcomes for themselves and their families. Even the dumbest of people can be made aware of this, and the inability or unwillingness of the left to exploit this disconnect is unfathomable.
Over-reliance on Majority Acquiescence – the mere existence of the RWE, much less its flourishing, is only possible in a scenario where “good people do nothing.” It is un-American for Americans to go very long doing nothing. They will respond appropriately to the right appeal – the Democrats just refuse to make it.
Its infrastructure and resources are limited to financial and people – the RWE is a parasite that must disguise or justify “borrowing from” societal, institutional, and government-provided infrastructure. This parasitic activity can be exposed and messaged to good effect.
Each of these weaknesses are important and should be exploited strategically. Some may feel compelling but not “deserve” resource expenditure now because the effects would not be high leverage. Some probably seem boring and banal but are worth every penny and person we can throw at them because doing so generates the highest return on our investment. But these decisions can only be made considering a comprehensive intelligence effort, in support of a unified anti-RWE coalition, and directed by a joint strategy. Only the first of these has any traction.
· Organize: Form the anti-RWE Coalition. Create and diligently execute a joint strategy. We love the name “Just Nation Movement,” but we’re not hard over on that. Here’s our concept.
· Discover and Illuminate:
· Fund a coalition of investigative entities such as Accountable.io and Bellingcat to fully illuminate the entire RWE through network analysis and other tools.
· Self-publish and jointly publish the running findings in a continuous stream of press reports as was done with Watergate, 9/11, Wars, etc.
· Identify, illuminate, and, where applicable, prosecute the RWE’s “Landing, Laundry and Cleanup” (LLC) network.
· Fight Back Ferociously:
· Attack the RWE Center of Gravity relentlessly through the social, economic, and legal isolation of lawyers supporting the impunity system, and by funding legislative efforts to ensure individual and systematic accountability. This is the single most important countermeasure the left can take in defeating the RWE.
· We routinely accept corrupt practices here at home that we deride when they occur overseas. To ignore blatantly corrupt actions such as those recently revealed at the Supreme Court is to tacitly accept and encourage corruption. This leads in turn to a demoralized and disengaged population which favors the RWE. We should tighten and expand our national anti-corruption efforts and participate in the creation of a global standard.
· The Democratic Party must focus on dominating the Hispanic Demographic. It is being lost through insufficient counter-messaging and limited proactive messaging. This is an “own goal” on the Democrats’ part, and yet another strategic deficiency indicative of Party incompetence and timidity.
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