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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Jun 4, 2020

Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with Nancy Maclean @NancyMacLean5 on her book #DemocracyInChains. What follows is a reprise of an interview a while back with Maclean about a book she wrote which offers an explosive exposé of the Right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education and change the US Constitution. 

While Maclean's 'Democracy in Chains' was much vilified, it is surely becoming more clear to many that the content in her book was not only spot on when she wrote it, but can be seen to be a very specific foreshadowing of what has come to pass since. 

Because, behind today's headlines of billionaires taking over our government, Maclean maintains that there is a political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots.

The capitalist radical right has, she argues, been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance.

But billionaires, she says, did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect - the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan - and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. This is perhaps especially relevant to all those who have watched George Floyd's unnecessary and unnecessarily vicious death. 

In response to the widening of American democracy, Buchanan - and through his disciples now, AG Barr and the 45th President, developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan's, and Trump's, work in teaching others how to divide America into "makers" and "takers." And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.

Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism.

Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan.

Nancy K. MacLean (born August 22, 1959) is an American historian. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. MacLean's research focuses on race, gender, labor history and social movements in 20th century U.S. history, with particular attention to the U.S. South.

That plan, all can now clearly see in practice, includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting.

Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.