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Expert details the secretive ‘shadow network’ behind America’s radical right for the past 40 years

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Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. What is the shadow network behind the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? Who selected and groomed her for this moment? Who’s financing the campaign to get her confirmed? Who’s counting on her to side with President Trump if he’s losing the election and wants the Supreme Court to declare him the winner? For the answers, Bill Moyers talks to journalist and investigator Anne Nelson about her book: SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. In it, she exposes the powerful and little-known Council for National Policy, the organization behind the conservative movement of the past 40 years – from Ronald Reagan’s secret war in Central America to their success in turning the Supreme Court into the Trump Court. Ms. Nelson has received the Livingston Award for her journalism and a Guggenheim Fellowship for historical research.  Here to talk with her is Bill Moyers.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

ANNE NELSON: My pleasure.

BILL MOYERS: Let me begin with the most current part of the story, which comes just a little bit after your book is published when the conservative movement is facing a very decisive encounter with the very forces it’s been trying to defeat now for 40 years. How do you think the shadow network reads the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What are they making of it?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that they consider it a great triumph and a kind of culmination of 40 years of effort. And I demure a bit at the term conservative because this is, for me, the radical right. It is so far to the right of mainstream American public opinion that I feel that it’s in a different category both in terms of its ideology and its tactics. But they decided way back in the day of Paul Weyrich, one of the architects of the movement that they–

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BILL MOYERS: In the early 1970s, right?

Read an excerpt

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ANNE NELSON: We’re going back to the ’70s and even earlier, because he was active on the Barry Goldwater campaign. And he was frustrated time and again by moderates in the Republican Party and people who were willing to work with Democrats to advance policy and solutions to public problems. And he created organizations and tactics that he openly declared should destroy the regime, as he called it, which would be the U.S. government as we’ve known it for the last century.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Weyrich is the man I remember saying–

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PAUL WEYRICH: I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

BILL MOYERS: He was essentially saying, as a newly anointed leader of the religious right, what their philosophy was. The fewer people vote, the better their chance.

ANNE NELSON: That’s right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.

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BILL MOYERS: So that’s why you conclude in your book they were to the right of the Republican Party. They were not just an offshoot of the Republican Party. They were not just fundraisers for the Republican Party, but they were ideologically and organizationally taking the Republican Party far to the right.

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that their prototype was the Southern Baptist Convention, where they decided that in order to move it to the right, they had to use questionable tactics to elevate their supporters to key positions of influence and purge the Southern Baptist Convention of moderates in the seminaries and in the colleges and among the pastors. And it was a fairly ruthless process, and once these tactics were developed, they applied it to the Republican Party. And you had the same kind of tactics going on of purging moderates, some of whom had been in office for years.

BILL MOYERS: I should point out to some of our younger listeners and readers that the Southern Baptist Convention at the time and still today was the largest Protestant denomination in America. You know, something like it eventually reached 16 and a half million members scattered throughout the South and the West. We’ll come back to them in a moment. What do you think about the NEW YORK TIMES’ assessment that Amy Coney Barrett represents a new conservativism rooted in faith. That’s how their headline described a three-page portrait of her life and career. Does that make sense to you?

ANNE NELSON: Not entirely, because as a conservative Catholic, she follows in the footsteps of others such as Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. So that’s not very new. And what I look at in my book SHADOW NETWORK is how these interlocking organizations support each other. The book is about the Council for National Policy– a radical right-wing organization that is very secretive, and it brings together big donors like the DeVos family and oil interests from Texas and Oklahoma and political operatives. And, for example, members include the leadership of the Federalist Society. Well, Amy Coney Barrett was a member of the Federalist Society for a number of years and is still a speaker at their events. It includes the head of Hillsdale College, which is one of their campus partners. Amy Coney Barrett was commencement speaker for Hillsdale College this year. So, there are all of these organizations that have been turning their wheels to promote her really for several years going back. She appeared on previous lists of potential nominees for the Supreme Court, and I don’t believe she would have been included in those lists had she not confirmed to their traditional idea of an activist judge.

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BILL MOYERS: They knew what they were looking for.

ANNE NELSON: And I should add that one of the most powerful components in the Council for National Policy is the anti-abortion movement. Organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America and other interests, which are anti-environmentalist interests from the fossil fuels industry. So, I think that we’ve seen a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me, who does make up the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: So, the Council for National Policy has traditionally been around 400 members. From the beginning, it’s included people with big money, a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma oil industries, but also the DeVos family of Michigan from the Amway fortune, and Betsy DeVos, of course. So, it has the big money to pay for things. It’s got the leaders of so-called grassroots organizations. Now, I say so-called, because they do not spring from the grassroots the way that you would expect from the name. They are organized with a great deal of money from the top down. So, for example, the National Rifle Association– their leadership is part of the CNP. They get money from the donors, they organize their millions of members, and you combine these with the strategists and the media owners. And I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the power of fundamentalist and conservative radio in swing states. Things that people on the East Coast overlook to a terrible degree. And the same thing with fundamentalist broadcasting, which has really several of these broadcasters — the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network have really turned into outlets replicating the messaging from this organization. So, you have them interlocking and interacting and each supporting each other’s function. And I should explain something here, which is that they represent historically a white, Protestant, I’m sorry, but male-dominated patriarchy–

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BILL MOYERS: No, that’s okay.

ANNE NELSON: And I have to say that demographically its time has passed. The United States has become more diverse religiously, ethnically, and racially. And they recognize that their core positions are not supported by the majority of Americans. So, they went to the limit, pulled out all the stops to get Trump elected by a tiny margin, but they doubt that they can do that again. The signs are not good. What they can do is make their hold on the federal courts concrete through the Supreme Court, and therefore, get majorities in cases like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and their political activation of the churches with tax-exempt status. And further their hold on power through the courts.

BILL MOYERS: So which part of the shadow network do you think chose, mentored, and groomed Amy Coney Barrett for this moment?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I have to speculate here. But I would see a fairly straight line from her position to Leonard Leo’s. Now, Leonard Leo is a very conservative Catholic. He was the operational figure of the Federalist Society for a number of years, and recently he shifted from that position to an even more activist position. Amy Coney Barrett was already a member of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has a pipeline through the lower federal courts, which she benefited from. So, in terms of this Catholic interaction they would be quite close to each other. Another key figure is Carrie Severino, who is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which was co-founded by Leonard Leo. And again, very right-wing Catholics who have tended to be overlooked while people focus on the fundamentalist Protestants. But Ralph Reed, who has been somebody who’s been active with the fundamentalist politicization for decades declared openly years ago that the next step to their campaign was to enlist the Catholic vote. And they’ve been aggressively doing that in recent years.

BILL MOYERS: And then there’s Don McGahn who was for three years Donald Trump’s chief White House counsel, graduate of Notre Dame, admirer of Amy Coney Barrett, who was scouting himself for recruits to bring up, train, groom, and put into the mix for potential Supreme Court justices. And I read that he was highly enthusiastic about her, had talked to Leo and that they had you had both these White House and legal forces behind her, knowing that she was one of them.

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ANNE NELSON: Yes. And I would guess that they suffered enough embarrassment over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the discussion of possible sexual harassment that was involved, that it was a convenient moment to bring a female to the top of the list to avoid that. So, there were a number of elements in her favor. I should add that in the process of these nominations Trump cut a deal in 2016 with this movement, and it was publicly reported that he was going to accept lists of nominees from three organizations run by Council for National Policy members: the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, and the National Rifle Association, believe it or not. And he has actually followed suit with that. The Federalist Society has taken the lead on this, but you will find the Heritage Foundation in the background of all of these proceedings, as well as the NRA.

BILL MOYERS: Did you see anybody from the shadow network at the White House when President Trump announced her nomination? Could you identify any there as members of the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: Why, as a matter of fact, I could. I’ve got the September 2020 membership list. So, I went through U.S.A. Today’s publication of who was present at that event, which has been called the COVID superspreader event on September 29th. And what I found was that they had six members of the White House staff, nine members of congress, and 14 current members of the Council for National Policy.

BILL MOYERS: Fourteen?

The moment of truth in those hearings came when she [Amy Coney Barrett] was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn’t answer that. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

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ANNE NELSON: Fourteen, and 12 of them were from the leadership bodies, the board of governors, and the gold circle elite members. So, they were there in force. They were having a victory dance this was a culmination of plans that had been in the works for decades.

BILL MOYERS: But if she is willing to put people at risk that way, to go along with the president in ignoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, are we okay in asking questions about her judgment? I mean, could she not have said, “Mr. President, I’m honored by this nomination, but can you wait until there’s better days for us to do this?”

ANNE NELSON: I think that statement would have required someone who could restrain their ambition. And for me, the moment of truth in those hearings came when she was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn’t answer that either. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

BILL MOYERS: I was noticing in a story in THE WASHINGTON POST that the Council for National Policy had a three-day meeting in Southern California. And one member — a woman named Rachel Bovard — described Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Thomas as a crucial link to the White House. “She is one of the most powerful and fierce women in Washington. She is really the tip of the spear in these efforts.” Did you come across Ginni Thomas in your book?

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ANNE NELSON: I came across her repeatedly, and she has risen to the rank of the executive committee of CNP Action, which is their lobbying arm. She also is very active with another CNP member named Charlie Kirk who runs something called Turning Point U.S.A. She’s also a so-called correspondent for a right-wing media platform called The Daily Caller, which is owned by members of the Council for National Policy. So, Ginni Thomas, who is from Omaha is married to a Supreme Court justice and is both a public and behind-the-scenes radical right-wing activist across the country. I don’t know what the protocol is for spouses of Supreme Court justices, but I find it difficult to believe that people think this is appropriate.

BILL MOYERS: But what struck me about that is that so many of the characters that are now on stage in the third and fourth year of Trump’s administration are clearly linked by the Council for National Policy, something few Americans have heard of. How did you come upon it?

ANNE NELSON: In my early 20s, I was a reporter in El Salvador. And from there, I joined the staff of Human Rights Watch. And so, I knew a lot about death squads in El Salvador, and learned in writing this book that the Council for National Policy and its partners had hosted death squad leader, Roberto d’Aubuisson, in Washington. An idea that was just shocking to me. They were heavily involved in the Contras during the Reagan administration. The support for the extreme right wing in El Salvador. I didn’t know that at the time. I circled back to them decades later. I was in my hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma, driving to Walmart and had the radio on. And started hearing some radio accusations against John Kerry who was running for president at the time, that shocked me, because the local preacher was claiming that John Kerry would make heterosexual marriages unsanctified by promoting marriage equality. And it was a very strange statement. So later I started tracking who owned that radio station, and then I found out it belonged to a group of radio stations owned by members of the Council for National Policy. And then I said, “Well, what’s that?” And, as you know, an investigative reporter just keeps pulling at the thread until something emerges. They were incredibly secretive, and I think it’s only thanks to the internet and things that they’ve inadvertently published online that’s made this research even possible.

BILL MOYERS: Let me summarize what I take away from your book the SHADOW NETWORK. You say that, for these past four decades, it’s been a strategic nerve center for channeling money and mobilizing votes out of sight, correct?

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ANNE NELSON: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: How did they get away with that?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I say a few times in the book that I think the Democrats have been asleep at the wheel. But part of the problem is rooted in our crisis in journalism. Because when I was growing up, you had lots of vibrant local newspapers that published AP and New York Times syndicate stories on international and national news, as well as the local news and the basketball scores. And you had a population across the country that was working from the same page, as it were. These newspapers have been dying off. They have lost their business model due to the digital revolution and the economic crises. And nature abhors a vacuum. In their place, these fundamentalist radio stations and this engine for misinformation has taken their place. And it makes me angry. When you lose the local professional news organizations, the substitutes can lead people down a terribly damaging path.

BILL MOYERS: How do you connect that to the growth of the Council for National Policy.

ANNE NELSON: They use a lot of stalking horses in terms of their organizations. So, I think most people wouldn’t think of the National Rifle Association as primarily a political organization. Certainly, they didn’t in the 1970s. It was kind of a shooting club. It’s been converted into a political organization. And that has happened with tens of thousands of churches. And I grew up in those communities. I don’t think my friends and neighbors and family members went to church thinking, “We’re going to go get told how to vote.” That’s not what they went for. But now that’s what they get. And they are given voting guides in the sanctuaries inserted into the church bulletin, right? You turn the page from the hymn, and there you get the voting guide basically telling you to vote for a Republican. But it doesn’t have the signature of the Council for National Policy. It just says, iVoterGuide produced by the Family Research Council, whose president has been the president of the Council for National Policy. So, you’ve got t0 connect the dots, but the dots are all there and highly connectable. You have people who are identifying with organizations, and they’re looking at news media such as The Daily Caller, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, such as Salem Media, which are tied into this system. And it’s not about journalism. It’s about messaging: we’re going to tell you what to think.

BILL MOYERS: But this organization started, with a handful of people. How did they multiply their effect so thoroughly throughout our political system that they now dominate. How did that happen?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that what you had is this odd element of our electoral system where the electoral college carries this weight. And a lot of candidates for national office focus on the popular vote, but the strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters who were corresponding to these mostly religious organizations in critical states. If you could reach these millions of voters, many of whom were not engaged, and convince them that it was a sin to vote for a Democrat, then you could win the state. And if you won the right states, you’d win the electoral college. And they worked on this approach over various decades. And they kept going to various Republican candidates and bringing their voters to them and trying to cut a deal where they would deliver the response in terms of power. And I have to say that, a number of presidents including Reagan and the first President Bush had those conversations and reneged on the deal, right? They did not deliver the cabinet appointments. They did not deliver the reactionary social policies. And what they found with Trump was a transactional president who didn’t really care about abortion or gay marriage or any of the rest of it. He just wanted the office. So, he cut a deal and he honored it. And he gave the former president of the Council for National Policy, Tony Perkins, carte blanche to write elements of the Republican Party platform in 2016, which have been just renewed for 2020 without amendment. So, they worked behind the scenes. It’s been influence peddling, and it’s been big, big money. The book traces hundreds of millions of dollars that have sloshed around in this circular way where the DeVoses fund the Koch brothers’ operations. And the Koch brothers fund the DeVoses and Foster Friess funds The Daily Caller. And when you have the Democrats not paying sufficient attention to the swing states, when you have the local media in a state of collapse, that is the window of opportunity.

Strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters.

BILL MOYERS: So, we have the pastors on one side and the plutocrats on the other side. You have this alliance between very dogmatic, religious zealots and men of huge wealth whose interest is not in piety. What joins them?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that, in religious terms, it’s all about mammon.

BILL MOYERS: Mammon being the biblical term for money.

ANNE NELSON: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: The biblical metaphor for money.

ANNE NELSON: Yes. I keep looking at their so-called positions of principle. And, you know, you scratch at them and they don’t go very deep. But what you do have with the Kochs’ and the DeVoses and the various fossil fuel interests are people who’ve made immense fortunes and are terrified of losing their economic power.  But also, these people don’t want to pay taxes, and so pushing through a tax bill that favored the fraction of a 1% was a priority. And Donald Trump and the Republican Senate delivered it.

BILL MOYERS: The Washington Post last week released some video of the August meeting of the Council for National Policy. Let me just read a few things that were said at that meeting. Videos provided to the Post covering dozens of hours of CNP meetings over three days in February and three in August offer an inside view of participants’ obsessions. Here are some of the things that were said:

BILL WALTON: This is a spiritual battle we’re in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.

BILL MOYERS: –said the Council for National Policy’s executive committee president, Bill Walton. Ralph Reed, chairman of the nonprofit, Faith and Freedom Coalition told the CNP audience that conservatives are going to be harvesting ballots in churches. “We’re going to be specifically going in, not only to white evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches and collecting those ballots.’” And then, here’s the one that really stands out. At that meeting, J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a charity, described mail-in voting as the number one left-wing agenda. He urged the activists not to worry about the criticism that might come their way. Quote, “Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor.” Any of that surprise you?

ANNE NELSON: Not in the least. On the contrary, you’ll find the footprints of those statements in my book. One of the techniques that this movement has used is using data profiles and directing information to voters to either get them to vote for Republicans or to suppress the vote if they’re not likely to. The Koch brothers brought state-of-the-art political data operations to the table with an organization called i360. And that was harnessed to organizations that were run by CNP members. So, for example, one of them was the Susan B. Anthony List, which is anti-abortion. One of them was the NRA. They also combined data from churches and from political data and consumer data. So that allowed canvassers for these organizations to do their door-to-door canvassing having a huge amount of information about each individual voter, and a tailored individual script for them. So, for example, if you are canvassing in Springfield, Missouri, and you’re working for the Susan B. Anthony List, you know that at such-and-such an address, there’s a Catholic housewife with six kids there who watched an anti-abortion film on Netflix and ordered LIVES OF THE SAINTS from Amazon. You have all of that in your cell phone, and you also have a script that’s been prepared and tailored for that voter, right? But you’re going to have a totally different script based on the data for the next-door neighbor who’s a gun owner who’s all about the second amendment. And the Democrats have lagged behind, not in terms of the data they have, but the way they’ve networked data across state lines and to organizations that are doing their political groundwork. So that’s been a factor. The use of data has been very important in the last few campaigns, and not always well-understood. But there’s also a really important matter of how data is used to suppress votes. And that’s where I would direct people to a news story done by Channel Four in Britain. The Council for National Policy partners and the Koch brothers’ data platform i360 used data from Cambridge Analytica with several hundred million voters, with some 2,000 data points for every voter. So that includes you and me, Bill, okay? They know a lot about us, and so what they did in this story documenting what happened with African Americans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was find that if voters were not likely to vote for Republicans. If they leaned Democratic, they would target them with misinformation that would disincline them to vote at all. And in other cases, such as what’s been documented in Michigan, some 90,000 African American voters were persuaded not to vote for the top of the ticket for Hillary Clinton by these methods. So, in these states, they always go by very, very narrow margins. So, I would argue that a lot of these data operations, some of them of questionable legality, have actually changed the course of electoral history.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think they’re doing for this election in two weeks?

ANNE NELSON: Well, we know that the Trump 2020 app has highly questionable practices, in terms of its privacy and the way it accesses people’s cell phone directories, all of their contacts, friends and family, and then sends messages out to them, often without the user knowing that they’re doing it. They also combine that with consumer data. So, for example, if you downloaded their app on one phone that was a different account, they could trace your credit card records back to your own account. They also use geolocation, so once you download the app, they figure out where you are and what kind of messaging would appeal to you and leverage you to attract other voters. And they use this through beacons that are placed around areas like political rallies and churches, right, to locate the people with the apps and then engage them for political purpose. It has been recently revealed that these beacons had even been implanted in Trump yard signs. So, they’re really, I would say, on the cutting edge of political technology. And it’s in this very murky area of law where there are abusive practices involving privacy, but there’s no clear legal framework to govern it.

BILL MOYERS: And what stuns me is their ability to connect this very sophisticated information gained by very up-to-date, modern technology to a lot of poor pastors in East Texas and Southern Alabama who are concerned about the state of the world. And here, they’ve been led into, one of the most sophisticated political campaigns that really has not their interest at heart. And they become soldiers in the crusade–

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely. And again, these are the people I grew up with, and I see a lot of cases where the pastors have been bullied into it. And they say, “Wait a minute, I want people to come to church and reflect on spirituality. We’re not here to run a political campaign.”

BILL MOYERS: Yet the fact remains, as you make clear in the book, that they have a very acute grasp of electoral college politics. How do you win the 270 votes of the electoral college, even if you lost the popular vote? How did they get there?

ANNE NELSON: Well, they work harder at it. I think they worked harder at it than the Democrats have. They’ve got a pollster named George Barna.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

ANNE NELSON: And he has paid a lot of attention to these voters. He has identified characteristics to them, and one of them is that older white evangelicals from largely rural areas have a 91% turnout at the polling places. That is powerful. And that’s something where it’s not exactly fashionable in Democratic circles to talk about that. And why we should have a dialogue with these voters. So, when you get that information, and when you work over and over again to refine messaging that will touch a nerve with these groups, some of it’s misinformation, and some of it’s just hard work and smart strategy.

BILL MOYERS: And they have enlisted these fundamentalist white churches to serve as their political proxies by doing smart things, like inviting them on junkets that the CNP pays for, writing sermons for them to download, producing their church bulletins for them, and delivering voter guides to them for distribution to their congregations. That’s down at the very grassroots. And they do it.

ANNE NELSON: They’ve even constructed a multi-million-dollar Museum of the Bible, steps from Capitol Hill. And it’s really a kind of monument to conservative fundamentalist political ideology.

BILL MOYERS: It’s really a remarkable turn of American politics in the last 40 years, and you have written a very smart, detailed, informative, and narratively-driven book on it. You say, in your epilogue, in the beginning, there were the Southern Baptists, and there were two of them in particular, Pastor Paige Patterson — who became president of the Baptist seminary I had attended long before him — and a state judge named Paul Pressler. In effect, you say, they started it all. The Southern Baptists were the core.

ANNE NELSON: They were kind of the godfathers, I would say, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Southern Baptists had long believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, that the Bible is literally God’s word. But my generation of Baptists were discovering historical criticism of the Bible and began to change the denomination. And what Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler did was to alarm the Baptists who still believed in the literal meaning of the Bible and said, “They’re going to take it away from you if you’re not careful.” And so they were able to drive the moderate leaders out of the Southern Baptist Convention and replace them with literalist, fundamentalist pastors from churches around the country, including some very large churches. And before we knew it, the Southern Baptist Convention had become a radically conservative Republican denomination.

ANNE NELSON: Yeah, and I see that as tragic, because it divides families, it divides communities. It changes the nature of spirituality in these communities. But then you see those tactics, which are all about power, right? And they’re replicated in the Republican Party. Same thing happens. You drive out the moderates, you defeat the moderates, and you replace them with ideologues or card-carrying members of the movement. And I think we can look at Amy Coney Barrett as another iteration of the same thing. What you’re doing is weeding out the moderate and liberal judges and replacing them with people who will march to this beat. And traditionally, that’s not been the principle for our court. People could say, “The courts need to have some kind of standard that’s open to all Americans,” not something that’s driving a particular minority ideology. So, for me, that’s the glaring danger that’s facing our democracy.

BILL MOYERS: And you sum up the Council for National Policy as, “An elite club of high-powered fundamentalists, oligarchs, and their allies, deploying a media empire to flood the country with propaganda, bankrolling handpicked colleges to promote extremist Libertarian ideas, and to groom up and coming politicians,” and I would say judges, “to advance its cause.” And you say this is all aimed at the very heart of democracy.

ANNE NELSON: Well, democracy is the blind man and the elephant, because my democracy is an America where people from diverse religions and national backgrounds came together and chose to live together under the rule of law. It aspired to give everyone equal opportunity and rights as citizens. And I don’t want another religion imposing its practice on me, that’s not my idea of being an American or respecting my fellow Americans. If their idea of the American ideal is so different, I would think they’d have to show some evidence that the majority of Americans saw it their way. And the evidence is all to the contrary and moving in the opposite direction. So that’s why we’re seeing so many manifestations of questionable maneuvers for securing power, as opposed to winning it through the ballot box. We’ve got two weeks before the elections. Then we’ve got another period which is the interregnum until the inauguration. But then we’re going to have this entire cohort in the judiciary which is going to be defining our public life for years, perhaps decades to come. So I’m afraid it’s going to be no rest for the weary. The cliche is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” And I think that eternal vigilance is going to be very important for everyone who wants to defend other people’s rights.

BILL MOYERS: Anne Nelson, thank you so much for SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. And thank you for your time today.

ANNE NELSON: Thank you so much, Bill.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Moyers on Democracy. On our website, you can read an excerpt from Anne Nelson’s book.  Until next time, you’ll find all this and more at Billmoyers.com.


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Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday tried to get Congress to adjourn as part of a stunt to attack some Democratic members who are taking votes over Zoom instead of in person.

The motion was filed by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), a Trump-loving conservative hardliner who has relentlessly attacked medical professionals during the novel coronavirus pandemic, who wanted to adjourn because so many of his colleagues are not voting in person.

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