Another 20th c. conservative organizer: Lewis Powell

“(In) Lewis F. Powell Jr.’s 1971 memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ‘Attack on the American Free Enterprise System(,)’ Powell, soon to be a Supreme Court justice, urged friends of capitalism to retake command of public discourse by financing think tanks, reshaping mass media and seeking influence in universities and the judiciary. (Below right, class warrior Lewis F. Powell in full warlock battle regalia.)

This did happen in the decades to follow. What had once been far-right fantasies — abolishing welfare, privatizing Social Security, deregulating banking, embracing preventive war — became legitimate policy positions, emanating from institutions that cost a lot of money to maintain: the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Fox News Network, as well as numerous corporate lobbying organizations and university professorships. Money talked.

None of this ideological infrastructure has disappeared. Whether the Obama administration can stand up to its power remains to be seen. Despite popular support for a robust public option in health care coverage and even a single-payer system, the airwaves are pervaded by the buzzwords of the market — competition, incentives, consumer choice. Foreign policy, too, remains dominated by right-wing assumptions. Whatever President Obama’s intentions (and it would be a mistake to underestimate him), he will find the imperial presidency difficult to repudiate. The bureaucratic labyrinths of the national security state will be dismantled no more easily than the hundreds of American military bases around the world, many of them shrouded in secrecy. Nor will it be easy to challenge the assumptions that underlie empire: the ‘humanitarian’ (my scare quotes) dreams of interventionists in Mr. Obama’s own party and the relentless Republican demands for toughness. Here as elsewhere, the right wields far more power than its weak popular support warrants. Reports of its death have been exaggerated.”

Excerpt from a book review by Lears, Jackson. 2009. “The waxing and waning of America’s political right.” The New York Times, September 28.

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