The Wrecking Crew
Thomas Frank's political exposé The Wrecking Crew is a meaty, but completely biased account of how the conservative movement in America undermines the very foundation of democracy.
This is not a book for wealthy conservatives.
For everyone else, including conservatives who keep scratching their heads and trying to figure out why the conservative movement seems to routinely betray their most fundamental ideals, this book is not to be missed.
Frank reveals in the book how, over the course of about 60 years, the conservative political machine employed a tactic of publicly espousing one ideology while privately practicing a completely opposite one, an ideology that is in fact detrimental to the labor-class group of people attracted by the public face of the platform.
"By which I do not mean that conservatism abandoned laissez-faire, its raison d'être, but that from now on it would present itself to the world as a form of opposition to the established order, changing its shape as circumstances required. From now on it would be a movement not of bankers and manufacturers but of outsiders, of rebels, of freedom fighters, even."
The public rhetoric even goes so far (and, really, I'm sure you've heard this before) as to accuse any conservative who gets caught moving the private agenda forward of being a "bad conservative" or "not a real conservative." The conservative machine uses this propaganda to such an extent, that it accuses the head of its own state of being "not a real conservative" when public opion of George W. Bush is low, even though Bush has done more for the conservative agenda in the last 8 years than anyone could have possibly predicted.
"Refute this, and the wingers fall back on another favorite bit of buncombe: that their leaders weakened and failed because once they got to Washington they had "gone native"; they had gotten "cozy with Beltway mores.""
But the contradictions don't end there. Oh, no. Anyone listening with even half an ear has heard the invective against big government, and yet, curiously, we've seen government grow under conservatives. Why is that?
"If we adopt the conservatives' own timeline and date their "revolution" to Reagan's election, it has been twenty-eight years. From that day to this, with only a few interruptions, conservatives have held either executive or legislative power over the very state that it is their first article of faith to despise. The big government that they rail against is, by and large, their government."
Why You Need to Read This Book
OK, I will admit it, this book spoke to me on many levels. I am a liberal, and I'm unapologetic about that. Frank is obviously also unapologetic about his bias-- he is not afraid to call the conservatives "wingers" and all manner of other terms that I know conservatives aren't fond of.
And I was damn angry reading this book, let me tell you. Furious, in many cases. At one point, I almost threw up, I was so angry about what these people have done to my country. If you're a liberal, you need to read this book so you can identify when the conservative rhetoric is being trotted out for its weekly passion play.
If you're an independent voter, you need to read this book for the same reason. Cut through the BS the conservative machine throws at you and take a good look at what's really going on, who's making the money, and why a group of people who supposedly are interested in the rights of "working class America" supports a "guest worker" program (hint: indentured servants were "guest workers," too!)
Finally, if you are a non-billionaire conservative-- one of the millions of people in this country who believes in fiscal responsibility, lean government, and personal responsibility, you must read this book. You, more than anyone else, should be furious at what this cynical, greed-driven machine is being done in the name of your beliefs. The conservatives are not friends to conservative people. They are friends only to businesses and the rich people who own them. You should be red with rage.
A Shady History
Frank goes on to uncover all the shady background in the conservative machine (consisting largely of Norquist, Abramoff, and Ollie North), and its role in undermining democracy in developing states, like South Africa:
"That the IFF was itself from the very beginning a cynical effort to use "the concept of freedom" to shore up a racist prison state is merely another whopping duplicity that we must wearily add to conservatism's rapidly growing account."
Undermine the Whole System
But the core of Frank's argument (taken largely from conservatives' own writings , newsletters, and operational guidelines) is that conservatives:
- Want to do away with democratic government entirely. Period.
- Are in favor of a "free market" in the sense of completely unregulated markets that are free to abuse workers, the environment, and anyone who does not hold the wealth.
- Have absolutely no obligation to play fair in political arenas, won't do so, and are cynically and unashamedly pleased to make strides toward completely destroying the left.
" When Putnam published Making Democracy Work in 1993, he took it for granted that a functioning, democratic government is something everyone wanted..."
"And people being pissed off at government is the very ore of right-wing discontent. Corrupt earmarks, inserted by conservatives, lead to conservative victory. "
In short: Even when the conservatives let their corrupt panties show, the result is to undermine and ultimately destroy democracy itself-- the very objective the conservatives really want to achieve. Once democracy is destroyed, the wealth-holders can do what they want without the labor class getting in the way and making them do things, like pay a living wage.
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