There are conspiracy theories, often based purely on paranoia about unexplainable vexations and there are actual conspiracies that can be mapped using real data. How did this nation arrive at a place where almost 70% of one of our two major political parties believes that a widely disproved lie (massive Democratic voter fraud, abetted by disloyal Republicans) justifies political violence and the nullification of millions of legally cast ballots?
You can read books like Jane Mayer’s great “Dark Money” and Nancy MacLean’s detailed follow-up, “Democracy in Chains” and emerge with a clear view of how super-wealthy American reactionaries have methodically used their fortunes to shift the cultural debate and the government and its laws toward their goal — unfettered enjoyment of perpetual privilege free from the “coercion” of “majoritarian tyranny.”
They have done this by tireless engineering work, work that resulted in the Supreme Court declaring that spending infinite amounts of “dark money” to influence elections and law enforcement is simply free speech, protected under the First Amendment. After Charles Koch became convinced that their reactionary ideas could never win via the ballot (his brother, as VP candidate on a Libertarian ticket got less than 1% of the vote in the 1980 presidential election) they began engineering alternative influence mechanisms. They created many “think tanks,” endowed university chairs, gave scholarships to promising young right-wing thinkers, deployed armies of lobbyists, used smart, audacious media strategies, funded “grassroots” movements like the Tea Party when the time was right to show that ordinary Americans coast to coast were united in opposition to a tyrant of mixed-race who was possibly not even legitimately entitled to be the president. They used these devices to create “climate change skepticism,” a fever over gun rights, to gin up a host of violent debates to divide a populace that would otherwise be united in opposition to this powerful elite’s larger plan — eternal luxury for unaccountable, unregulated corporate masters of the universe.
One of their most important innovations is an almost forty year-old fraternity that selects true believers for the highest lifetime judicial positions in the nation. These frat brothers (and some sisters) are then in position to have the final unappealable word on what is constitutional and what is illegal in the USA. Unlimited expenditures of secretly donated money becomes protected free speech. Five of their frat brothers have the power to overturn a 98-0 Senate vote, and the enthusiastic support of a conservative Republican president, with a few pages of bloodless legalistic right-wing fantasy, as John Roberts did in his infamous Shelby County v. Holder decision that ended federal enforcement of minority voting rights. Since we now have a half-black president, he reasoned, we live in a post-racial society and there is no longer need to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 5-4, case closed. If you read the decision, the dissent had the better of every argument, but, no matter, there is no appeal available once the majority has signed on. We can all see the predictable results of gutting enforcement of a law that successfully evened the electoral playing field after a century of winked-at legal racism at the polls in many states.
The Federalist Society is a quasi-religious right-wing fraternity that trains young law students and lawyers in its conservative doctrine and grooms them to become solid, right-wing judges. It provides members with fellowship, support, a network of powerful mentors and a career path to power for the most loyal and ambitious among them. Six of its most illustrious members and supporters now compose the 6-3 Trump Court majority.
It is not entirely unfair to call a faith based organization like this a cult, since it demands adherence to a strict set of values — “originalism” (faith to the Constitution without those pesky post Civil War Amendments) the rights of corporate “persons”, the right for everyone to have guns, the right of the religious to discriminate, based on their faith, the rights of the fetus — and rewards that adherence to these values with advancement to lifetime judicial appointments. All three of Trump’s picks were handed to him off a list Leonard Leo and his friends at the Federalist Society drew up, as Trump had promised. Doing that was one of the few promises Trump ever kept in a life of compulsive “transactionalism”.
Here is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on The Federalist Society: