Who's Winning the War for the Soul of America?
A Rigorous Intelligence Analysis Reveals Who, Why, and What Can Be Done About It
Because it has been fully a year since we looked in depth across the entire landscape, we thought it would be a good time to provide readers a fact-based assessment of the U.S. sociopolitical system.
With House Republicans shooting themselves in the foot daily, Russia failing badly on all fronts, Biden increasingly being cast as some sort of 21st Century political savant, and Democrats taking a victory lap, it would be easy to fall in with the pundits and declare American Democracy wonderfully resilient -- and the fascist threat a cyclical but currently spent force. That would be a disastrous conclusion.
Bottom Line Up Front: Our collective indicators lead us to conclude that there is limited cause for optimism on the left. Recent high visibility events including the Democrats’ surprisingly good showing in the 2022 elections, Russia’s failures in Ukraine, and Biden’s domestic and international successes, do not indicate a trend, are not the result of a major shift in power from right to left, and are not repeatable. Most importantly, they mask the continued erosion of American democracy; unbelievably bad and continuously worsening health, justice and equality outcomes; and the ascendance of an oligarchy-supported fascist juggernaut.
Our Key Assessments: As most of you know, at Revelatur we use a rigorous analytical framework for our assessments, leaning heavily on intelligence indicators, resource allocations, and priorities to assess the state of play and discern the intent of system actors, rather than relying on conjecture, the public statements of elected officials, press reports, and history.
The right has achieved its strategic objectives more rapidly than expected after years of almost imperceptible progress. Several of its strategic lines of effort culminated successfully and nearly simultaneously, including: Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary packing, near-total legal impunity from law breaking for plutocrats and elected Republican officials; dominance of the American information space; and the acquiescence of the left of neoliberalism, crony capitalism, mass gun and police violence, massive inequality – even coup attempts.
This has not only caught the left unprepared; the right has essentially outrun its idea supply lines. The right is desperately playing for time to refill its strategic pipeline with new vectors for the destruction of American society and the further securing of privileges for its elites. This presents the left an opportunity, but we see no indications that it is prepared to exploit it.
Nothing is in play to reverse the right’s structural advantages, nor is there a coherent left or Democratic Party strategy to get there. For the left, the recent “not losing as badly” feels like winning – but it is not. The trends that matter are still negative, with massive -- but often unseen – negative effects felt by the majority of Americans, including most Republican voters. For instance, getting Rick Scott to drop Medicare and Social Security from his fascist takeover plan isn’t victory, it’s defeat – it’s us playing their game – and we just can’t seem to come to grips with this conclusion because we’ve been losing for so long.
At Revelatur, we will likely remove the Democratic Party -- as an institution – from its traditional designation of leader of Blue Forces (the good guys) and move them to a neutral designation – in subsequent publications. This is in recognition that after 60 years of failing to field a strategy to counter the right and reverse the ugly tends in American society, that this lack of inaction can no longer be characterized as an oversight or lack of competence. Rather, in concert with the recent designation of a “Battleground Leadership Representative” for the House Democratic Caucus – whose primary job is to beat down progressives in its own party – we assess that the Democratic Party tacitly supports much of the right’s agenda and is too attached to power and perks to vigorously oppose the aspects of the right agenda that it does fundamentally oppose. This is a bold and controversial assertion – but it best fits the facts.
Some Color to Contextualize the Assessments
Our society is largely characterized by: growing Impunity for law-breaking; rampant relativism; the demoralization of all people except the elites (as evidenced by substance abuse, obesity, declining longevity); a left that continuously plays defense vice offense; a desensitization to moral wrongs (craven power seeking being the most egregious from our perspective); a re-orientation of who/what is “American” from big tent/melting pot to white Christian nationalist; crony capitalism “lock-in” through tax codes and a right-leaning Supreme Court; the methodical rendering of labor into a dirty word, in fact the besmirching of the concept of honest work/labor in general; the total degradation of honor, merit, a life well lived, and other American virtues -- and their replacement by the soulless and vacuous concept of “liberty” -- by which the right means not freedom but rather impunity for the powerful and their supporters.
Speaking of craven pursuit of power, Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa), daughter of Indian immigrants, is a perfect example. Living in South Carolina, she had an easier route to power as a Republican, so she become one – and now wants to close the door behind her. When I grew up, to describe an American as craven was about as bad an insult as to call them a communist. Now we simply accept that a large percentage of elected officials seek power above all else – and the pundits spend their time worrying about how to define the word, and whether some particular politician can be clinically classified as a narcissist! Haley has plenty of company and is likely not the worst on this scale – but something about her approach seems especially egregious and emblematic.
Resistance to the right’s agenda and its Democratic Party fellow travelers is fragmented, pious, inconsistent, timid and ineffective. We realize that most Americans who identify as Democrats are still true believers in the American way. It’s just that the Party no longer “represents” them, and they have no other choice come election time.
Contrary to almost universal understanding, the mainstream press remains a powerful conservative societal force – which is what all the “bothsidesism” is really all about underneath.
Americans are suffering needlessly due to lack of leadership courage, quality of life is eroding, and the public space is a war zone in which you can get shot or run down by a car driven by a fascist -- who will get away with it – while you’ll still be dead.
The Nature of the Conflict. It’s a war – stop wishing and hoping it isn’t. “War is merely the continuation of policy by other means. We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means,” Clausewitz. That about gets it, right? The right is fighting it as if it were existential, and for them, it is. The left in general, and the Democratic Party in particular, is fighting it like the right is some sort of cyclical nuisance like cicadas. There is a smugness and sense of superiority on the left redolent of our treatment of Vietnam – which has allowed the right to amass power without commensurate response.
Who’s fighting Who? In a war, the forces that can be brought to bear to achieve battlefield results are categorized into what’s called the “Order of Battle.” Here is the order of battle in this fight:
• Red Forces: The right’s ecosystem is composed of:
o 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 in many cases actual laws, and is in a state of semi-declared war (hybrid and asymmetric) with the majority of American citizens and institutions.
o Elected Republican Officials – same analysis as previous paragraph.
o Conservative Think Tanks – such as Cato, American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. They serve as idea, 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 the majority of American citizens.
o 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.
o Foreign Nation State Autocratic Leaders – in some cases they enable elected U.S. officials, particularly the President, to violate U.S. laws with impunity; in all cases they embolden autocratic efforts and accelerate such tendencies by making them appear plausibly legitimate. They also facilitate massive flows of dark money that sustain the Republican ecosystem.
o 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 upon targeted 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 actually 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.
Notably, Trump and the current Republican Party operate exactly as do authoritarian nations and their protected transnational criminal organizations -- a fact we pointed out 36 months ago. Merely being in the same ecosystem with organized criminals results in ever-increasing levels of corruption as it sets in place a vicious cycle of accumulating violations of law that must in turn be covered up, and an ever-increasing number of ecosystem players that must be both bought off and protected.
Finally, we assess it likely that Trump is a decades-long customer, fellow traveler and/or outright active member of one or more organized criminal networks -- which is an underappreciated reason he is so attracted to Putin and Russia. For an in-depth discussion of this subject, see Seth Abramson, “Proof of Conspiracy,” 2019. We include TCOs in the Republican ecosystem breakdown because Trump and the Republican Party are aware of and benefit directly from these nation state-TCO alignments, particularly with but not limited to Russia.
o Selected Broadcast and Social Media Platforms – While Fox News, OAN, Breitbart, and Sinclair are obviously key components of the Right’s ecosystem, 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. Although their leaders bristle at this characterization, they are a part of the Right’s asymmetric warfare capability and serve as a vehicle for its impunity system -- two high-leverage components of Republican strategy. 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 its “costs” Democrats much more to achieve results parity on these platforms.
o “Useful idiots armed with repeating carbines” - the funded and unfunded, witting and unwitting Trumpists who actively engage in his Information Warfare Campaign by generating and/or spreading falsehoods through media and social networks.
o White Supremacist and Anti-Government Organizations – conservatives who organize and advocate for changes in the U.S. political system through illegal or extralegal methods.
o “Low Information” American Citizens – Our team admits to being shocked in 2016 by how many 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.
o Selected Government Law Enforcement Entities – Many Municipal, State and National Law Enforcement agencies align ideologically with the Republican ecosystem. While this alignment remains largely underground, it is nevertheless intuitively and experientially understood by the right, whose behavior and therefore power as citizens is constrained by this ideological tilt.
• Blue Forces:
○ Democratic-Progressive Ecosystem: Democratic Party – while it has had its own issues with “soft” corruption such as institutional favoritism and support of the fossil fuel industry, its major failings have actually been: to accept a national drift to the right in terms of policy that is at odds with the needs and desires of its voters: to fail to appropriately and commensurately address Republican strategy and tactics.
○ Elected Democratic Officials
○ Western Democracies
○ Progressive Activist Groups
○ Lobbying Firms
○ Liberal Think Tanks
○ Statistically relevant American voter majority
Where is this War Being Fought? All wars are fought somewhere, not everywhere. Here are the primary Arenas of Conflict in this fight, and our evaluation of which side is prevailing in each:
Strategy, Operational Art, and Tactics – Republicans have a superior strategy due to their alignment with reality, and economic, social, and technological trends. Their operational art is superior as they have become adept at leveraging and amplifying trends to create vicious cycles and races to the bottom. Tactics is a draw.
National Politics – A draw in which the right punches above its weight due to structural advantages – those of long standing/Constitutional in nature; and those they’ve engineered. But the left has a deep well of natural advantages including demographics and the moral high ground. It fails to press its advantages because it has no coherent long-term strategy and fails at operational art.
Legal – nuanced and hard to call, we give a slight edge to the right due to the Supreme Court tilt. But the left has, and can increase, use of the legal system to stall right’s momentum and continuously populate the informant space with bad news for the right and paint them as “bad guys” using Americans’ inherent respect for the rule of law.
State and Local Politics – heavily favors the right due to structural imbalances like the Senate and unlimited dark money.
Government and Law Enforcement – favors the right because non-political government actors (99% of the total) are neutral by Constitutional oath and don’t push back due to bureaucratic conditioning even in the face of rule-breaking; law enforcement is in bed with the right, in fact exacerbates its worst aspects by providing right actors with impunity.
Schools – Another Draw. Like government, academics are relatively passive rule followers, making the public school system an easy target for the right. The home-schooling trend is dominated by the right and is an underappreciated contributor to the right’s ascendance over the past 60 years. That said, the university system provides a powerful balance and could/should be called upon to shape the environment more in favor of the left, as it has traditionally done in most other countries -- and did here at home during the Vietnam War.
Public Spaces – Favors the right due to their ultimate control by law enforcement and increasing impunity for outrageous acts such as mass shootings and vehicular crowd attacks. This is the real public safety issue we face -- shame on Democrats for ceding the reciprocal of this argument to the right with its crime mania.
Economics – Right wins. Fight over. We are a neoliberal oligarchy masquerading as a capitalist democracy.
Information Space – The right wins most hands despite consistently drawing worse cards. The left, particularly the Democratic Party, does not mobilize and inspire except for short time periods and in discrete locations, such as Georgia over the course of the last few election cycles. Why is that model not exported to all fifty states? The answer to that question is why we’re losing.
The left does not have an advantage in any of these areas – at best they hold their own in the legal, public spaces, and government spaces. They are not in the ascendant in any area either – and they are not addressing the structural imbalances in any, nor are they driving a compelling agenda in any.
Special Analytical Frame – The Principles of War. Here is a deep dive into one analytical frame we used in this assessment. The United States Armed Forces use the following nine principles of war. We are comfortable using this frame because we previously characterized the state of sociopolitical play in the U.S. as War. We evaluate right and left against each other in the italicized text following descriptions of each principle:
o Objective – Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy's ability to fight and will to fight. It should be clear that the right hews to this principle, and that the left does not even understand that it should be doing so.
o Offensive – Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Offensive action is the most effective and decisive way to attain a clearly defined common objective. Offensive operations are the means by which a military force seizes and holds the initiative while maintaining freedom of action and achieving decisive results. This is fundamentally true across all levels of war. The right seized the offensive around 1968 and has forced the left to react and slowly abandon its principles over time. 60 years of playing defense has rotted out the Democratic Party from the inside – but the lack of effective response from the Party and the failure of the populace to demand the Party represent their interests effectively is a sociological phenomenon outside the scope of this study.
o Mass – Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time. Synchronizing all the elements of combat power where they will have decisive effect on an enemy force in a short period of time is to achieve mass. Massing effects, rather than concentrating forces, can enable numerically inferior forces to achieve decisive results, while limiting exposure to enemy fire. The right has done this well in red states – making them redder – and by focusing on the Supreme Court -- while the left dissipates its strength in a thousand battles of dubious value relative to the stakes of strategic victory and loss.
o Economy of Force – Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts. Economy of force is the judicious employment and distribution of forces. No part of the force should ever be left without purpose. The allocation of available combat power to such tasks as limited attacks, defense, delays, deception, or even retrograde operations is measured in order to achieve mass elsewhere at the decisive point and time on the battlefield. See comments under Mass, above.
o Maneuver – Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power. Maneuver is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to gain positional advantage. Effective maneuver keeps the enemy off balance and protects the force. It is used to exploit successes, to preserve freedom of action, and to reduce vulnerability. It continually poses new problems for the enemy by rendering his actions ineffective, eventually leading to defeat. Stochastic violence and flooding the communication zone with content are just two examples of how the right excels in this principle. The left always feels “hemmed in,” and it is because the right has mastered this principle and the left does not even know it exists.
o Unity of Command – For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort. At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose. Trump (and Nixon before him, and Robert E. Lee before him) is an example of how the right – for reasons of psychology and the untrammeled pursuit of power – will rally around their guy. Biden is a much more effective leader – but his power is curtailed by the failure of the Party and mainstream press to fully exploit his victories. The U.S.-led coalition’s support of Ukraine and Ukraine’s successes are in large degree a direct result of Biden’s capabilities and personality traits. But we’ve got the New York Times more worried that Putin will unleash nuclear weapons, or China will be forced to enter the fight or make a lightning grab for Taiwan, or the lights will go our all over Europe due to Putin cutting off the oil, or the fifty other things they come up with to cut Biden back down to size because he had the nerve to be unpredictable -- thereby giving the lie to their narrative.
o Security – Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage. Security enhances freedom of action by reducing vulnerability to hostile acts, influence, or surprise. Security results from the measures taken by a commander to protect his forces. Knowledge and understanding of enemy strategy, tactics, doctrine, and staff planning improve the detailed planning of adequate security measures. The right is not really very good at this – they are vulnerable to strategic and tactical surprise and prone to shooting themselves in the foot – but the left isn’t very good at this either, so they can’t press the advantage.
o Surprise – Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. Surprise can decisively shift the balance of combat power. By seeking surprise, forces can achieve success well out of proportion to the effort expended. Surprise can be in tempo, size of force, direction or location of main effort, and timing. Deception can aid the probability of achieving surprise. The right does not exploit this principle because they can’t – they are following a script laid down by the oligarchy. The left is quite capable of surprise as evidence by the Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives movements, Stacey Abrams transformation of the Georgia voting pattern, and Boden showing up in Ukraine. Edge to the left, but they should do more of this.
o Simplicity – Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding. Everything in war is very simple, but the simple thing is difficult. To the uninitiated, military operations are not difficult. Simplicity contributes to successful operations. Simple plans and clear, concise orders minimize misunderstanding and confusion. The right are masters of this – of course they must be because their supporters are dullards. But there is brilliance in the right’s use of this principle in terms of laser focus on just a few issues, and their rendering of complex issues to talking points. A thinking person finds it difficult to make things simple – but this is of course what marketeers are for. Why the Democratic Party does not employ all the top marketing firms in the world is beyond us.
Where the right is vulnerable, and how to exploit that. The right’s strategic impatience and greed are its Achilles heels – they can’t be satisfied with winning. These vulnerabilities can, and must be, exploited. Here’s how:
Ruthlessly seize and wield real power by leveraging participative democracy (going high) and civil disobedience (going low) in tandem, as appropriate to the arena/zone of conflict.
Get out the vote in every election – Georgia is doing it right with a grass roots, righteous effort, while right next door, Florida is flailing by relying on its old school party structure. There is no reason Florida (the authors are FL residents) should be red – only monumental and sustained incompetence and neglect got us here.
Support every left and Democratic candidate with hard-hitting, accurate information content aligned with a robustly resourced strategy.
Fight for every inch of the Information Space; with the long-term objective of dominating it.
Starve oligarchy of funds and legitimacy through economic warfare and illumination in the information space.
Transform the party model and adopt a multi-nodal network governance mode; force the Democratic Party back into Blue Force but as part of a networked coalition, but not as its lead.
Get comfortable with war-fighting concepts, terms, and sacrifices. The first step in victory and the first role of a leader is defining reality – which the right has done quite nicely while the left remains stuck in denial.
The left is nowhere near where we need to be in terms of power, ideas, momentum, strategy, momentum – and the temporary lull in right ascendance due to overrunning their supply lines won’t last much longer.
If we put 10% of the energy and resources into fixing democracy that we do supporting Ukraine I’d take heart. But if we don’t achieve justice at home, we’re limited at what we can do abroad – and this contradiction further demoralizes thinking Americans – most of who are Democrats.