The Public Health Story Behind Trump’s Rise

On November 8, 2016, the majority of the White population in the U.S. voted for a leader who ran a campaign rife with fascist themes of restoring “greatness” through a program of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. What we know about income and Trump voters suggests that they are not the poorest Whites, but those who see their communities losing ground. In the New York City and Long Island metropolitan area, for example, the two counties that went for Trump were Suffolk and Richmond. Suffolk County, on Long Island, has a median family income of $102,125, a family poverty rate of 4.8 percent, and 33.5 percent of residents 25 years or older have a BA or higher degree. Richmond, on Staten Island, is somewhat less well-off but still far from poor, with a median family income of $86,619, a family poverty rate of 9.8 percent, and 30.6 percent of residents holding at least a BA. 1)American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov

There has been some debate about the relative places of and interconnections between bigotry, racialized class consciousness, alienation, and economic struggles, in explaining voting patterns among Whites, particularly those outside of major cities. Both before and since the election, there has been a thread of discussion among progressive organizers about the impact of socio-economic dislocation and pain among non-elite Whites, which often leads into very real issues about continuing privilege and relative definitions of “marginality.” Median household income among African Americans in New York City, 2)Bergad, L Trends in Median Household Income Among New York City Latinos in Comparative Perspective, 1990 – 2011. Latino Data Project, report 54, Oct 2013 Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York for example, is in the middle of the range for median incomes in the largely White, and much less expensive, small cities and rural counties in New York State that voted for Trump.3)American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov

Public health data offers a different perspective on the severity of the situation experienced by the primary Trump electorate, although it provides no political analysis or solutions; middle aged Whites are the only population in the U.S. whose life expectancy has decreased in the 21st Century.4)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full In fact, they are the only population in any wealthy country whose life expectancy has declined,5)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full and might be the only population globally whose life expectancy has declined outside of the context of significant social upheaval such as war, epidemic, or national economic collapse. The increase in both mortality and disability largely comes from drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and liver disease.6)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full

Middle aged and older Whites who don’t live in major cities are the core population of Trump voters. They are facing declining communities, destructive substance use in themselves and their children, and the literal loss of lifespan—experiences which the Trump campaign effectively channeled into support for a populist demagogue who offered to restore their former privilege while mobilizing racist, xenophobic, and misogynist language and rage. History demonstrates the consequences when loss of status fuels right-wing politics, and the public health data measures the depth of crisis in White middle and working class populations. If progressives do not recognize and respond to the situation in these communities, then the fuel for right-wing firestorms is likely to grow.

 

References   [ + ]

1, 3. American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov
2. Bergad, L Trends in Median Household Income Among New York City Latinos in Comparative Perspective, 1990 – 2011. Latino Data Project, report 54, Oct 2013 Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York
4, 5, 6. Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full

MEDIA ADVISORY: Political Research Associates Joins Local Social Justice Groups in Resisting Trump’s Assault on Democracy

MEDIA ADVISORY

Political Research Associates Joins Local Social Justice Groups in
Resisting Trump’s Assault on Democracy

CONTACT: Cole Parke, c.parke@politicalresearch.org, 617-666-5300 (office) or 774-994-2110 (cell)

WHAT: Political Research Associates (PRA) joins more than a dozen local social justice organizations in criticizing the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School for providing a platform to members of president-elect Donald Trump’s inner circle and other anti-democratic strategists. Although the Institute of Politics has a decades-long tradition of hosting presidential campaigns post-election, this is no time to stand on tradition. Harvard, along with all of civil society, should condemn in the strongest terms the broad assault on human, civil, and constitutional rights conducted throughout the Trump campaign—an assault that now adds to its arsenal the full power of all three branches of the federal government. These extraordinary circumstances demand we stand for democracy rather than tradition.

The scheduled two-day forum, “War Stories: Inside Campaign 2016,” features key players from the 2016 Presidential Election, including Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s pick for White House Chief Strategist and the former executive chairman of Breitbart News (a website that promotes white nationalists and antisemites), was among the original confirmed speakers, but has since canceled his participation. Other scheduled speakers include the chief strategist and presidential campaign manager for Senator Ted Cruz, whose campaign foregrounded the dominionist (theocratic) agenda of the contemporary religious right, now carried into the executive branch by vice president-elect Mike Pence.

BACKGROUND: Political Research Associates is a Somerville-based progressive think tank devoted to exposing movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights. Since 1981, PRA has tracked, analyzed, and exposed the economic, political, and social processes that have coalesced into the dramatic recent (and ongoing) realignment of our country’s governing coalition. Reflecting on Trump’s victory, PRA Executive Director Tarso Luís Ramos warns, “Trump’s public statements and appointments since the election show a high degree of continuity between the priorities and comportment of candidate Trump and president-elect Trump. The inclusion of leading apologists and strategists for white nationalism in the president-elect’s inner circle is just one of many clear indications that our human, civil, and constitutional rights—and indeed our very democracy—are in serious jeopardy.”

WHO: Chip Berlet, senior analyst emeritus at PRA, is an expert on the “Alt-Right,” and is available for interviews. He is the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America, and has written scores of scholarly and popular articles on human rights, fascism, and right-wing movements. His article, “‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action” is featured in the Winter 2016 edition of The Public Eye, PRA’s quarterly journal, and online.

Frederick Clarkson, senior research fellow at PRA, is also available for interviews. He has written about the Religious Right for more than three decades, with work appearing in such publications as Mother Jones, Church & State, Ms. Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and Religion Dispatches. Clarkson co-founded the group blog, Talk to Action, and has authored, co-authored, or edited several books including Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America and Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. His recent essay, “Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight,” offers a critical examination of the policy agendas of Cruz and Pence.

Privatizing Massachusetts: The Right-Wing’s Blue State Game Plan

Click here to download the article as a PDF.

For more on the Pioneer Institute go to: http://www.politicalresearch.org/pioneer/.

In October, the Fiscal and Management Control Board overseeing MBTA, Boston’s public transit system, took quick action after determining the hardware and software used to track fare collections was faulty.  The governor-appointed body decided to fire all the employees who count the money and outsource their work to a private company instead. The move had some people scratching their heads—why not fix the technology if that was the source of the problem?

“It’s as if a supermarket chain decided to replace its cashiers and supervisors because their cash registers aren’t working properly,” said Rafael Mares, Vice President and Program Director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice program who regularly attends the fiscal control board’s meetings.

But what if shrinking government itself is a major goal, perhaps even bigger than fixing public transit? Your confusion ends. And that is the stated goal of The Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, the right-leaning think tank that seems to be everywhere these days—including on the MBTA control board. You find Pioneer people, past and present, as regulars on Boston public radio’s RadioBoston, writing op-eds for struggling newspapers, and even leading the state as governor.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Jr. is a former executive director of Pioneer, as is his Education Secretary James Peyser. They are privatizers in search of opportunities.

Unless you are a policy insider, you may not know much about Pioneer. It is sometimes hard to know why it is even “right-leaning” and why some of the most influential right-wing funders in the country give it money. With a growing, $1.8 million annual budget, Pioneer hosts liberal historians, honors abolitionist hero Frederick Douglass with a high school essay contest, and hires Democratic politicians who cowrite opeds with other Democratic politicians. Former Gov. Michael Dukakis did just that this spring with Pioneer “senior fellow” Thomas Birmingham, the Democratic former leader of the state Senate, to promote a statewide history test for high schoolers. Another Democrat, the former undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Barbara Anthony, is now a Pioneer senior fellow looking at healthcare.

The MBTA Fiscal Control Board’s vice chairman is an affable fellow named Steve Poftak, executive director of Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Kennedy School. At one time Pioneer’s Director of Research and Director of its Center for Better Government, Poftak is a far cry from a conservative ideologue. To the contrary, Poftak even expressed support for low-income transit fares.

Why attack Pioneer as right wing, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi asked the Carmen’s Union last fall,when all it does is present “data”?

Winning Hearts to a Free Market Agenda

Pioneer’s mix of politics is confusing for those who assume the right wing is always openly racist or homophobic or engaged in a frontal assault against unions akin to that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Indeed, Pioneer has positioned itself much differently from the polarizing politics of fellow conservative think tanks in the State Policy Network, like Michigan’s Mackinac Center, which boasted of its role in passing that state’s 2012 right-to-work law undermining unions.  But its special mix of bipartisan players promoting privatized government is influential in the administration of Massachusett’s Republican Governor Charlie Baker,Jr., a former executive director of the think tank. And it may prove influential as the Republican Party seeks to rebuild after Trumpism.

Pioneer was founded by conservative businessman Lovett “Pete” Peters in 1988 and for years was kept afloat by donations from far right funder David Koch (more recently Koch failed to make the public donor list). But in pursuing relevance in a blue state, Pioneer deliberately sought a formula that wins hearts to a free market agenda even as the Republican Party is roiled in Trumped confusion. Because underneath Pioneer’s support for “best practices” and good government is a conservative pursuit of shrinking and privatizing government functions, in alignment with its mission supporting “limited government” and policy based on “free market principles.”

In pursuit of this mission, Pioneer participates in the State Policy Network, the Koch-funded association of 65 regional right-wing think tanks that opposes climate change policy and promotes sharp tax cuts for the wealthy, antiunion “right-to-work” laws, restricting voting rights, privatizing public education, and cutting the minimum wage. Pioneer gave up an embarrassing membership in the secretive corporate bill-mill American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which links state legislators with company lobbyists who write legislation for them to pass; the think tank left this climate-denying rightwing network in 2013 but reportedly not because of climate politics. Pioneer opposes the federal Common Core education standards initiated in the George W. Bush Administration that ALEC continues to support.

Still we need to take Pioneer’s own mission statement seriously. For Pioneer, you create limited government— what it claims is good government—by privatizing services and letting businesses make money off the state’s taxpayers. That is just what Brinks will now do with its new MBTA contract, presumably by paying workers in the newly privatized counting room less than $15 an hour as it does elsewhere.  This is the core mission that wins it steady support from such conservative heavyweights as the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation. In Pioneer’s model, privatization, not public institutions, will serve our communities best because it brings the sanctified “competition” to bear in providing public services including education. Shawni Littlehale, the tea-partying director of Pioneer’s Good Government Competition, once handled privatization in the administration of Governor William Weld in the 1990s and until recently boasted of her affiliation with the Tea Party group Smart Girl Politics in her official Pioneer bio.  The cronyism and abuse of power that can come with public contracts is not high on Pioneer’s radar screen — even as some red states  pull back from unregulated privatization.

“Selling Our Ideas”

This bipartisan playbook is not entirely new for Pioneer. Democrats have been part of its effort to “sell” the idea of limited government since its first decade, as documented in Pioneer Institute: Privatizing the Commonwealth, a 2002 report by the progressive think tank Political Research Associates. Pioneer founder Lovett “Pete” Peters shared his thinking at a State Policy Network workshop in July 2003. Conservatives haven’t been “selling our ideas half as well as we know how,” he told the SPN audience. For a model, he looked to Britain’s Institute for Economic Affairs, which set out “to change the British intellectual climate toward much more limited government.” His lessons? “Take one brick away at a time” instead of trying to knock everything down all at once with a bulldozer. And, “Keep free market principles—individual liberty and responsibility — clearly in mind, but also recognize that what we are talking about is changing the intellectual climate.” Academics might say Pioneer is about fostering a new governing rationality or shaping a new policy culture. It set out to change how people see the role of government and what they can and should expect from it. Investing in communications and working with the media was key in winning this shift, said Peters.

The result? Now the nation has charter schools, Peters told his audience, “and they are raising hell with the teachers union” and even vouchers have a foothold in some cities, “putting teachers’ unions on the defensive.” Peters also advised conservatives to think long term. “Pick something that you can do, and do it well. You need the success…So don’t tackle getting vouchers in your school system as the first order of business.”

Blue State Strategy

You don’t have to dig very deep to confirm how Pioneer pursues its conservative goals today.

Outsourcing is one of Pioneer’s prime tactics for saving money in impoverished “middle cities.” Outsourcing education to privately run charters is its solution for weak  schools and inequality. Pioneer leans right, not just because of the Republican Party affiliation of its core staff, or board member ties to the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It leans right because it believes the public good will emerge from market competition, including the privatization of government services. This is part of what it calls “modernization.”

Pioneer is right-leaning in other ways of course. It supports using government money to pay for private religious schools (even though the Massachusetts Constitution currently bans it). It opposes the state Pacheco Law, which safeguards privatization so that savings from outsourcing is not made on the back of those doing the actual work. (At Gov. Baker’s request, the legislature suspended the law for transit allowing the MBTA board to more easily outsource jobs.) And it has supported cutting government subsidies to transit and other services, arguing users should pay more of the actual cost in higher ticket prices. This strategy undercuts the power of government to support social goals like getting cars off the road to reduce pollution and congestion, or even economic welfare, by making travel to work more affordable.

Like some other blue-state think tanks in SPN, Pioneer just takes a different path to achieving conservative goals, mixing moderate proposals with rightwing ones, while staying relatively silent about unions and taxes. This builds up good vibes and means that its more conservative proposals get a hearing in blue Massachusetts.

The parallel with the way Pioneer’s former executive director Charlie Baker Jr. is running the state is notable. A socially liberal Republican, Baker invited prominent Democrats to serve in his administration. At the same time, there is no evidence that the governor has abandoned core Republican goals such as privatizing and deregulating government – or that he has abandoned his party. As the Boston Globe reported, in early March he rubbed shoulders with Republican strategist Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top GOP leaders on a secret junket to the American Enterprise Institute’s “World Forum” on a private resort island off the coast of Georgia. As mentioned, his MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board is aggressively pursuing privatization. He opposes having the wealthiest carry more of the tax burden through the proposed “millionaire’s tax,” which, if passed by a ballot initiative in 2018, would raise taxes on those making at least $1 million (adjusted regularly), generating over $1 billion more for public schools and transportation.

“They were outsiders shaping their views through the media,” said one Democratic state staffer who witnessed Pioneer’s launch in 1988. “They are moving from the outside to being policymakers now,” similar to their role during the administration of Gov. William Weld, when Charlie Baker, Jr. and Education Secretary James Peyser both had government roles. Mr. Peyser, like Charlie Baker, Jr., was once Pioneer’s executive director.

Good Government, Then and Now

Pioneer has built up its moderate image by embracing the call of “good government,” but that was not part of the original strategy, as founder “Pete” Peters revealed in his 2003 talk to the State Policy Network. In fact he says he had to  convince then-executive director Charlie Baker Jr. to go along with it. But he told SPN how pleased he was with how successful the appeal to “good government” has proven to be for the Pioneer brand. Who, after all, can be against “good government”? Let’s take a closer look.

Historically good government campaigns won civil service rules requiring that public employees meet basic standards and stopped party regulars from flowing in and out of government jobs as patronage when the party in charge changed power. When he was a Boston lawyer early in the 20th century, Louis D. Brandeis, along with other Progressives, promoted good government as a way to temper the antisocial consequences of unimpeded wealth concentration and undue business influence over public policy. As part of the good government movement in later decades, Republican and Democratic women in the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women embraced their ability to study and debate issues before embarking on bipartisan campaigns for government solutions.

These bipartisan good government initiatives created a new establishment across party lines. In those women’s groups after World War II (as my own research showed), that meant requiring southern chapters to desegregate – and in the League’s case, for southern states-rights chapters to accept the federal initiatives of the New Deal as legitimate. The League members were part of a new Republican establishment in accepting Social Security and the federal minimum wage. Those who disagreed (like the late Phyllis Schlafly) left while remaining active in their Republican Party women’s clubs, which kept a mix of liberal and conservative women.

Bipartisanship and good government campaigns are a powerful tool for shifting the center, whether to the Left or the Right. So is independent research.

But when Pioneer’s research wins a close look, it doesn’t always pass muster. This was the case when the Boston Globe engaged in a rare review of Pioneer’s work comparing Boston’s with other transit system. As Mares of the Conservation Law Foundation summarized the problem, “you often found that the comparisons were not apples-to-apples. For example, different modes tend to be subsidized differently, and the MBTA has more modes (bus, light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, ferry, paratransit, and trolley) than any other transit agency. A fair comparison often revealed that the MBTA was average or actually best in class.”

It took a recent University of Massachusetts, Amherst grad, Zac Bears, to point out that a May 2016 Pioneer report criticizing growing out-of-state enrollment in the state system used a budget projection not actual spending to make its argument. Plus, Bears wrote, Pioneer failed to discuss the drastic drop in state support for UMASS, leading it to seek higher paying nonresidents. So Pioneer’s “data”-filled reports deserve a closer look than they often get from an overworked media.

Pioneer deservedly wins praise for promoting important “modernizing” good government reforms that are now commonplace in other cities. These include 311 as a single number to call for city offices and services; updating and consolidating archaic information systems that make it hard to know what is going on (CitiStat); and instituting standard financial procedures, all implemented in New York City years ago under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Pioneer also showed independence in leading a range of people with various political orientations in a national campaign opposing Common Core education standards that emerged from the George W. Bush administration; these were less demanding than Massachusetts own, Pioneer argued.

Pioneer can respectably claim the banner of “good government” in all these rather technocratic areas. The controversy lies in its assumption that privatization produces good government. This through-line courses through its various proposals, whether for charter schools, transit, or municipal development. Pioneer can draw on census data to paint a portrait of struggling cities that even a blue blogger can recommend (as happened in February). But its solutions are ideological, and even counter to recent research.

Columbia University economist Elliot Sclar, author of You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For: The Economics of Privatization, explained what discussions free marketers try to push off the table. “We can’t make ethical decisions about distribution of wealth. All we can talk about is the efficient use of resources and that comes from the free market.” But even in its own terms, privatization is challenging to pull off, he says. When Gov. Weld privatized highway cleanup, Sclar remembered, the state wrote contracts that only big companies could afford to bid on. Then the state auditor found they did little more than move litter, following the letter but not the spirit of the contract. Oher states contracted paratransit services where competition won such low bids drivers were forced to live in a homeless shelter because the pay was so low. “But that’s ‘good’ because it’s efficient,” Sclar said.

“They set up this mythical inefficient government against this mythical efficient private sector as though they are very separate spheres,” he continued. Yet insider bids, corrupt campaign contributions and cronyism are rife, as seen in scandals nationwide, from New York, where the former head of the state Assembly is now in jail, to Virginia, where the former Governor lost his political career because he took gifts of luxury goods from a vendor

Pioneer Fellow Charlie Chieppo, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s policy director, told RadioBoston on April 1 that research shows “having competition (from charters) has produced better results for the kids left in those (public schools).” But that is simply not born out in the research, for instance by a University of Chicago research consortium, which found its city’s improving graduation rate came from regular neighborhood high schools for a range of reasons including tougher courses, keeping better track of students, and reweaving trust among staff and with students. But it sounds right – doesn’t competition force companies to shape up? This is what Pioneer means by bringing “free market principles” to government.  And so they support not only individual charters, but charter networks that provide an alternative governance structure to the public school district – supposedly competing with the public sector so it either shapes up or is supplanted.  The problem is charter networks are overseen by private boards filled with businesspeople, not by elected school boards, shortchanging public accountability. A Brown University study found 31 percent of the board members of Massachusett’s charters were from the financial or corporate sectors, and few were parents or students. It is a trend that diminishes democratic oversight. In Pioneer’s world, oversight is supposed to happen using market logic: parents-as-consumers will drop out of schools if they are bad or abusive.

But even Margaret Raymond, head of the charter-oriented Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, says competition and parents voting with their feet failed to make schools better. “I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career,” she told the City Club of Cleveland after her center found charter students in Ohio fell far behind public school students on math and reading tests. “And [education] is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state.”

There is an additional issue at play. Wealthy venture philanthropists leverage hundreds of thousands of dollars into charters over and above the budgets of public schools. Channeling their money as charity, they receive tax breaks, reducing the tax revenues that support all public schools.

Ensuring that any privatization does not extract savings by cutting the wages of the workers is a core part of the state’s Pacheco Law, passed in 1993 as “Taxpayer Protection” during the big wave of privatization during the Weld Administration (when Baker, Peyser, Littlehale, and other Pioneer staffers took on the gears of government).  Since the 1930s, Keynesians have documented that employers paying workers a living wage is important for the broad health of the economy since the better paid workers support businesses as consumers by spending the money. When governments can stabilize wage levels, communities prosper by not impoverishing their own workers. This is especially important during downturns in the economy. But Pioneer has consistently opposed this liberal approach since Pacheco passed. Even one of its Democrats, former state inspector general Gregory Sullivan, told WBUR last year, “Let’s put the truth to this: This is the most extreme union protectionist legislation in the United States.”

More recently, Chieppo told RadioBoston, “The law is insane” making it “harder to privatize anything than any other state.” Ironically, he said this after the state auditor approved the privatization of emergency mental health care in southeastern Massachusetts. It turns out 80 percent of privatization proposals reviewed under Pacheco end up being approved, not all that uncommon. And Massachusetts is a prime example of the tragic failure of the privatized mental health system, according to a recent Spotlight investigation by the Boston Globe.

In fact, when we look across the nation other states – red states – are discovering the dangers of uncontrolled privatization. Massachusetts lifted Pacheco’s protections in the case of MBTA contracts even as red states are realizing that handing the keys over to businesses to run essential government functions doesn’t always work out too well. The Republican dominated legislatures in both Texas and Louisiana passed contracting laws last year after scandals involving expensive sweetheart contracts with private vendors. Only Texas’s law was enacted; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed his state’s bill.

When we look at the states that have widely privatized services, they faced a wakeup call: The results are often good for private contractors but bad for the public. A few years before the state bills, a Bloomberg Businessweek headline read “Why Private Contractors are Lousy at Public Services,” noting “when it comes to education, good contracting and regulation in the private sector is as difficult as good public sector management. That’s why the results of outsourcing or privatization are often disappointing.” Not only does it make government vulnerable to corruption, citizens are discovering that they have to fight for government transparency to apply to outsourced services, since corporations holding the contracts claim their records on business practices are proprietary secrets. This is also true with charter networks, privately run overseers of publicly funded schools.

When evidence suggests being skeptical about privatization, Pioneer turns the other way, despite its good government branding.

Take its 2011 white paper,“A Practitioner’s Guide to Outsourcing: An Opportunity to Improve Cost and Service Quality.” Part of Pioneer’s “Middle Cities” initiative, the guide aims to help struggling municipalities “provide better services for less.” Its author is Stephen Lisauskas, who led the Springfield (MA) Financial Control Board from 2007 to 2010. He argues outsourcing not only saves a city money but that competition over contracts enhances accountability. Yet studies have suggested that many smaller municipalities have only a restricted number of businesses that can compete for local contracts, reducing real competition. Nor does competition necessarily produce better work, as Lisauskas must know from his Springfield experience. While he led the Springfield Financial Control Board, the city laid off 89 unionized workers to outsource their duties. Springfield’s public schools outsourced its custodial services (to a company using unionized workers), but brought its custodians back in-house in May 2011 after the 5-year-contract ended saying it would save money and improve cleanliness.

Lisaukas should know about the cronyism that can come from a city’s contracts because in 2010 he paid $3000 for violating the state’s conflict of interest law while at the Financial Control Board for promoting a friend to handle millions in city investments and lying about the relationship. Merrill Lynch repaid $13 million lost when the broker steered city money into high risk funds barred by law. Lisaukas’ championing of transparency was also tarnished when he signed a secret “side letter” while at the Financial Control Board giving a $30,000 bonus to an incoming schools superintendent, only revealed years later.  Political Research Associates tracked similar problems with cronyism in Pioneer’s earlier years. For instance, former Pioneer codirector Steven Wilson drafted the Weld-era law allowing for-profit charter schools before leading Advantage Schools, a for-profit charter company that could benefit from his handiwork.

Now Pioneer is advocating for the state to create a new infrastructure investment fund to serve as an incentive for Middle Cities mayors to embrace both the technocratic innovations we’ve seen in New York and the privatizing policy logic of Pioneer to “ensure high-quality, affordable essential services such as education and public safety.” The whole initiative would be overseen by the Governor’s own Executive Office for Administration and Finance, not MassDevelopment.

As Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios writes in the March 2016 proposal, “Such a strategic overlay would require establishment of a grant ‘czar’ for the Middle Cities, with strong ties to the governor.”

And those strong ties to the governor, as the MBTA fiscal control board shows, will almost certainly pursue privatization as the solution.

 

International Backlash: The Religious Right at the UN

Click here to download the article as a PDF.

This article appears in the Fall 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

In a single two-day period this summer, the United Nations Human Rights Council gave advocates for LGBTQ equality their most significant victory yet at the UN and simultaneously gave antiLGBTQ “traditional” family proponents a major win in their intensifying campaign against that progress.

With the first vote, the Council created an “independent expert” position charged with investigating and reporting on violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people, a milestone within the UN system that was won through years of hard work by advocacy organizations and persistent diplomacy by the U.S. and other proequality nations. But the very next day, social conservatives celebrated when the same Council, by an even wider margin, approved a resolution on the “protection” of the family while rejecting efforts to include language inclusive of diverse forms of family.

These seemingly contradictory results point to the complexity of the intense diplomatic and rhetorical struggles being waged every day within UN agencies and other international bodies over fundamental questions whose answers can affect millions of lives: Who does international law recognize as a family? Are human rights universal or are they subordinate to “traditional” religious and cultural beliefs about gender and sexuality?

Ban Ki-moon at LGBTQ rights event on September 29th, 2015. Photo: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken via Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Ban Ki-moon at LGBTQ rights event on September 29th, 2015. Photo: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken via Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Women and LGBTQ people have much at stake in these debates, and much at stake in upcoming changes in two crucial leadership positions. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has energetically promoted international recognition for the rights of LGBTQ people over stiff opposition from many countries, will step down at the end of the year (to be replaced by António Guterres). Shortly thereafter, U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration’s foreign policy has placed a high priority on advancing and protecting LGBTQ human rights, will complete his final term.

Under the best-case scenario, in which a new UN Secretary General and a new U.S. president are both committed to the principle of LGBTQ equality, the priority they place on its promotion and defense will make an important difference to the lives and rights of people around the world. And even with strong allies in these leadership positions, LGBTQ human rights will be threatened by a global movement that is committed to defending “traditional” ideologies regarding sexuality and gender and to resisting LGBTQ equality as a form of cultural imperialism.

American religious conservatives play an important role in this movement, which Political Research Associates LGBTQ & Gender Justice Researcher L. Cole Parke has written is “aimed at cementing a patriarchal and heteronormative family structure as the fundamental unit of society, and then using that as a tool to advance conservative, right-wing social policies through the UN and other international organizations.”1)Cole Parke, “Whose Family? Religious Right’s ‘Family Values’ Agenda Advances Internationally,” Political Research Associates, July 16, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/07/16/whose-family-religious-rights-family-values-agendaadvances-internationally. In this global human rights struggle, U.S. Religious Right leaders are making their stand against LGBTQ people and with the world’s most repressive regimes.

AT THE UNITED NATIONS, HISTORIC PROGRESS BRINGS RESENTMENT AND RESISTANCE

On Human Rights Day in December 2010, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a landmark speech calling for universal decriminalization of homosexuality, in which he declared, “Let there be no confusion: where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day.”2)“Universal decriminalization of homosexuality a human rights imperative – Ban,” UN News Centre, December 10, 2010, http://www.un.org/apps/ news/story.asp?NewsID=37026.

With help from Ban Ki-moon’s outspoken leadership and an active LGBT Core Group3)Raymond Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” Pass Blue, December 8, 2015, http://www. passblue.com/2015/12/08/keepinglgbt-rights-active-on-the-un-agenda/. whose member states provide most of the UN budget,4)Michael F.Haverluck, “’Sacred mission’ of UN: Forcing LGBT ‘rights,’ says Ki-moon,” OneNewsNow, October 4, 2015, http://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2015/10/04/sacred-missionof-un-forcing-lgbt-rights-says-kimoon advocates for LGBTQ equality have made remarkable strides at the UN in recent years.

Some milestones in LGBTQ Progress and Resistance at the United Nations (click here to expand)

1994: In the first official mention of LGBTQ issues in the UN system, an Australian activist argued to the Human Rights Committee that the criminalization of gay sex in his home state of Tasmania violated his rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ruling began the process of establishing the principle that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a violation of human rights and treaty obligations, a principle that continues to be resisted even though it has become much more widely embraced by UN agencies.5)Navi Pillay, “How Gay Rights Debate Began at the UN,” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 27, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd9dGN6dBwA.

1996: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees makes a policy “that persons facing attack, inhumane treatment, or serious discrimination because of their homosexuality, and whose governments are unable or unwilling to protect them, should be recognised as refugees.”6)Hannah Harris Green, “The Ongoing Legal Plight of LGBTQ Refugees,” JSTOR Daily, June 22, 2016 http://daily.jstor.org/very-real-plight-lgbtq-refugees/

2002: The Human Rights Committee rules that treaty obligations do not require nations to recognize marriages other than those between a man and a woman.7)Communication No. 902/1999, United Nations Human Rights Committee CCPR/C/75/D/902/1999, adopted July 17, 2002.

2007: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and civil society organizations introduce the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity,8)“Summary of Panel Discussion on the Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” Human Rights Watch, November 21, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/11/21/summary-panel-discussion-yogyakarta-principles. enunciated a year earlier by human rights experts as “a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply.”9)“The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” www.yogyakartaprinciples.org.

2008: The LGBT Core Group holds its first high-level meeting, at which Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay called for decriminalization of same-sex relationships.10)Raymond A. Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” PassBlue, December 8, 2015, http://www.passblue.com/2015/12/08/keeping-lgbt-rights-active-on-the-un-agenda/. Toward the end of the year, 66 nations signed onto a declaration in the General Assembly calling for an end to criminal penalties, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.11)Pedro Garcia, “The United Nations and the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality,” LGBTQ Policy Journal, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2015, http://www.hkslgbtq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ARTICLE_GARCIA1.pdf. An opposing statement arguing for the right of individual nations to “decide on morality, public order and the general welfare in society” was backed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference with support from the Holy See; it garnered 60 votes.12)Pedro Garcia, “The United Nations and the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality,” LGBTQ Policy Journal, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2015, http://www.hkslgbtq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ARTICLE_GARCIA1.pdf.

2010: On Human Rights Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for universal decriminalization of homosexuality, saying those laws permit discrimination and encourage violence. Ban stakes out a principle that is still being hotly contested six years later: “Let there be no confusion: where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day.”13)“Universal decriminalization of homosexuality a human rights imperative – Ban,” UN News Centre, December 10, 2010, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=37026.

The General Assembly adopts a resolution against extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions by a vote of 122 to 1 with 62 countries abstaining. An amendment offered by the U.S. to add sexual orientation to the list of reasons for which people face these crimes is adopted 93-55, with 27 abstaining.14)“General Assembly Adopts 52 Resolutions, 6 Decisions Recommended by Third Committee on Broad Range of Human Rights, Social, Cultural Issues,” United Nations General Assembly GA/11041, December 21, 2010, http://www.un.org/press/en/2010/ga11041.doc.htm.

2011: In June, the Human Rights Council adopts a resolution sponsored by the government of South Africa expressing “grave concern” over violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.15)“Human Rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/RES/17/19, June 17, 2011, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/148/76/PDF/G1114876.pdf. That leads to the High Commissioner for Human Rights report to the council, which was released later that year.16)“Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/RC/19/41, November 17, 2011. On Human Rights Day in December, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a speech promoting LGBTQ human rights, which is still being quoted today.17)Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day,” U.S. Department of State, December 6, 2011, http://www.state.gov/secretary/20092013clinton/rm/2011/12/178368.htm.

2012: The Holy See objects to the High Commissioner’s report,  expressing “serious concern with the insertion of terms such as ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ which do not enjoy mention in binding documents of the United Nations and which are ambiguous in nature since they lack specific definition in international Human Rights instruments.”18)Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, remarks before the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council, March 9, 2012, http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2012/03/holy-see-addresses-un-human-rights.html.

2013: The UN Free and Equal Campaign, a global public education campaign for LGBT equality, is launched as a project of the UN Human Rights Office.19)“UN Free & Equal Campaign Progress Report 2015,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2015, https://www.unfe.org/system/unfe-75-UNFE_2015_progress_report.pdf.

2014: In June, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon changes UN personnel policy to recognize and grant benefits to any same-sex couples who were legally wed in a country where marriages are legal; before that an employee was treated under the laws of the country whose passport he carried.20)“Proposal to rescind extension of UN benefits to all same-sex couples rejected,” UN News Centre, March 24, 2015, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsId=50427.

In September, the Human Rights Council adopts a resolution21)“Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/RES/27/32, September 26, 2014, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/177/32/PDF/G1417732.pdf. requesting another report on violence and discrimination from the High Commissioner for Human Rights. South Africa, once a champion, steps aside, and a group of Latin American nations stepped in to sponsor the resolution.22)“UN: Landmarks Resolution on Anti-Gay Bias,” Human Rights Watch, September 26, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/26/un-landmark-resolution-anti-gay-bias.

In November, the UN Committee Against Torture expresses concern over conversion therapy.23)Eric Ethington-Boden, “U.N. Condemns ‘Conversion Therapy,’ but U.S. Right Continues Promoting in Africa,” Political Research Associates, November 14, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/11/14/while-u-n-condemns-conversion-therapy-u-s-right-continues-promoting-debunked-practice-in-africa.

2015: Russia leads a campaign to overturn the SG’s 2014 decision on marriage benefits but it fails in a March vote of the budget committee.24)“Proposal to rescind extension of UN benefits to all same-sex couples rejected,” UN News Centre, March 24, 2015, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsId=50427. Reuters reports, “Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Petr Iliichev said before the vote that the United Nations should return to how the issue was previously regulated, citing it as ‘an example of how the United Nations respects cultural differences, the sovereign right of each and every state to determine its norms.’” But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power says, “We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the U.N. Secretary-General and export to the U.N. its domestic hostility to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights.”25)Michelle Nichols, “Russia fails in bid to stop U.S. staff benefits for all gay couples,” Reuters, March 24, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-gaymarriage-russia-idUSKBN0MK1UW20150324.

In June, the High Commissioner s another report on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. It calls for decriminalization, repeal of “propaganda” laws, legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families and other steps. 26)“Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/29/23, May 4, 2015, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/29/23&referer=/english/&Lang=E.

In August, the Security Council holds its first-ever meeting on LGBTQ people, focusing on the targeted anti-LGBTQ violence being carried out by ISIL. The U.S. State Department calls the event, on which the U.S. partnered with the government of Chile, an “historic step.”27)Caroline Weisser, “An Historic Step at the United Nations on LGBT Rights,” DipNote, U.S. Department of State, August 26, 2015, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/26/historic-step-united-nations-lgbt-rights.

After extensive jockeying, the Sustainable Development Goals are adopted without explicit language on either LGBTQ issues or the family. In September, the LGBTQ Core Group held a high-level meeting focused on the inclusion of LGBTQ people as a necessary step for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals; Ban Ki-moon spoke.28)Raymond Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” PassBlue, December 8, 2015, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/26/historic-step-united-nations-lgbt-rights.

Also in September, a dozen UN entities release an unprecedented joint statement calling for an end to violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people. (ILO, OHCHR, UNAIDS Secretariat, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UN Women, WFP and WHO).29)“Joint UN statement on Ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, September 29, 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/Pages/JointLGBTIstatement.aspx.

In November, the 54-country Africa Group protests efforts to make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected category under international human rights law.30)Stefano Gennarini, “UN Diplomats Fight Back Against LGBT Ideology,” Center for Family and Human Rights, November 19, 2015, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/un-diplomats-fight-back-against-lgbt-ideology/.

2016: In January, ADF International’s deputy director Paul Coleman slams what he calls “the major push at the UN for same sex marriage.” Writing in the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse, Coleman says, “In direct opposition to international law, both the central UN bureaucracy and individual Member States are aggressively promoting same-sex marriage worldwide.” He complains about Ban Ki-moon’s public praise for the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, saying, “Such advocacy from a Secretary General on an issue that enjoys little support among Member States is virtually unheard of…International law remains explicitly in support of traditional ideas about marriage.31)Paul Coleman, “The UN’s Psh for ‘Same-Sex Marriage,’” Public Discourse, The Witherspoon Institute, January 21, 2016, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/01/16281/.

UN Free and Equal campaign releases postage stamps, selling more than 100,000 in a few weeks.32)Charles Radcliffe, UN Free and Equal Campaign, email interview with author July 29, 2016. Conservatives protest what they call bureaucratic overreach.33)Stefano Gennarini, “Bureaucratic Overreach, also on LGBT Rights, Takes Front Seat at UN General Assembly,” Center for Family and Human Rights, March 19, 2016.

In May, the anti-LGBTQ Group of Friends of the Family and Civil Society for the Family convenes a “high-level event” at the UN.34)Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay ‘Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016.

In June, the Human Rights Council, in a landmark vote, approves the creation of an “independent expert” position to investigate human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.35)“UN Makes History on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity,” Human Rights Watch, June 30, 2016. C- FAM warns in advance that it would be a “major catastrophe” to have “sexual orientation and gender identity” included in international law.36)Tris Reid-Smith, “False religion with new gay God is taking over UN, Catholics warn,” Gay Star News, June 29, 2016, http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/false-religion-new-gay-god-taking-un-catholics-warn.

Also in June, the UN Security Council condemns the massacre at an Orlando nightclub.37)“Security Council Press Statement on Terrorist Attack in Orlando, Florida,” press release, June 13, 2016. The statement includes a reference to the victims having been targeted over their sexual orientation, the first time the Security Council has ever referenced sexual orientation;38)J. Lester Feder, “Security Council Condemns Orlando Attack in Unprecedented Statement,” BuzzFeed, June 13, 2016. OutRight International’s Jessica Stern calls it “a transformative development.”39)Jessica Stern, phone interview with author on July 21, 2016.

In September, the LGBT Core Group holds a high-level meeting at the UN, addressed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.40)Ashley Fowler, “High Level Meeting on LGBTQ Rights at United Nations,” Human Rights Campaign, http://www.hrc.org/blog/high-level-meeting-on-lgbtq-rights-at-united-nations. At the meeting, Bachelet announces her intention to send a marriage equality bill to the Chilean Congress in the first half of 2017.41)“Chile’s president says will send gay marriage bill to Congress in 2017,” Reuters, September 21, 2016, http://news.trust.org/item/20160921222058-vuhii.

Those efforts are supported by social media outreach from the UN Free & Equal campaign, which was launched in 2013.42)“UN unveils ‘Free & Equal’ campaign to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights,” UN News Centre, July 26, 2013, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45503. Free & Equal Director Charles Radcliffe says the campaign “complements the more traditional diplomatic methods” the UN uses to engage governments in promoting and protecting equal rights and fair treatment for LGBTQ people.43)Charles Radcliffe, interview with author via email, July 29, 2016. Its audience, he says, is neither enthusiastic supporters nor die-hard opponents of equality, but “people who might never have given these issues much thought, who never considered themselves LGBTQ allies, but who are willing to open their hearts and minds to change.”44)Ibid. The campaign has created a series of videos that have garnered worldwide attention; Radcliffe says that its Bollywood-style short, “The Welcome,” has become the UN’s most watched YouTube video.45)Ibid.

But that progress and visible advocacy have provoked resentment, resistance, and counter-organizing. Russia, members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and some African countries are leading the resistance among member states at the UN, with a key ally in the Holy See. They are being assisted by global networks of activist organizations of conservative evangelical Christians, Catholics, and Mormons that are fighting equality at the UN and in other international arenas such as the European Union and Organization of American States.

To the extent that the United Nations exists at all in the U.S. popular imagination, it may be seen as a large auditorium in which world leaders give weighty speeches, or, depending on your media source, a cesspool of anti-American rhetoric paid for with U.S. tax dollars. In reality, the UN is a complex ecosystem of agencies, commissions, and programs that carry out far-reaching work in many political and social arenas.

In the realm of human rights, the UN is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by its General Assembly in 1948,46)“Universal Declaration of Human
Rights,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
as well as by subsequent international agreements and the commissions and treaty bodies charged with interpreting and implementing them. It is within these bodies that pitched battles are fought over words and phrases that may seem innocuous by themselves, but which can shape the work of UN agencies and the lives of people around the world.

When a particular formulation, such as language recognizing the human rights of LGBTQ people, gets codified in an official document, that document can then be cited by other agencies and bodies to support their own work. Navi Pillay, who served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008- 2014,47). Navanethem Pillay, United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/NaviPillay.aspx.
noted several years ago that sometimes history is made with great fanfare, and sometimes it is made in ordinary meeting rooms.48)UN Human Rights, “How gay rights debate began at the UN,”
YouTube Video, posted: July 27, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd9dGN6dBwA.

For example, an Australian man argued to the Human Rights Committee in 1991 that the criminalization of consensual gay sex by the state of Tasmania violated his rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and in 1994 the committee agreed.49)Ibid. That ruling did not lead to a global repeal of laws that criminalize homosexual behavior, but it was an important step in establishing the still-contested principle that anti-gay discrimination is a violation of human rights and treaty obligations.

Battles over language are an important part of the continual debates in UN bodies over sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Advocates for LGBTQ equality look for opportunities to promote equal rights for LGBTQ people and generate official recognition that there are multiple kinds of families, while opponents fight for language that explicitly defines family as a married man and woman and their children, or at least includes more inclusive formulations. As PRA’s Kapya Kaoma said in remarks at a 2014 Human Rights Day event at the UN, “Defending the ‘traditional family’ has come to mean demonizing sexual minorities.”50)Political Research Associates, “Kapya Kaoma Speaks at United Nations About LGBTQ Africans’ Struggle,” December 15, 2014, video and excerpts, http://www.politicalresearch.
org/2014/12/15/pras-rev-dr-kapyakaoma-discusses-lgbtq-africans-struggle-at-the-united-nations/.

While votes in UN bodies are ultimately cast by representatives of nations, nongovernmental organizations, often referred to collectively as “civil society,” play a significant role in providing delegates with research, talking points, and public and political pressure. Simply collecting data can make a difference. Human rights consultant Sheherezade Kara says that one of the main reasons that the UN Human Rights Council has addressed these issues is because civil society groups have brought attention to human rights violations against LGBTQ people.51)Sheherezade Kara, interview with
author, July 29, 2016.
Civil society organizations also play an important role, says the UN Foundation’s Peter Yeo, in bringing member states together to think about common vision and strategies.52)Peter Yeo, interview with author, July 21, 2016.

One site of many language struggles has been the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This year, the conservative Family Watch International (FWI) reported that it fielded a team of 22 volunteers from six countries to attend the CSW’s March meeting to counter Western countries’ attempt “to force their sexual rights/abortion agenda on developing countries” by replacing the term “the family” with “various forms of the family” in the meeting’s “outcome document”—an official report of a gathering’s findings and/or agreements.53)“UN Victories: The Good the Bad and the Ugly at CSW!” Family Watch
International, October 2016, https://archive.mailigen.com/?u=e51aa8e98
06a70a036a77fec150d1407&id=5142ced6&e=%5BUNIQID%5D.
FWI celebrated the deletion of explicit references to SOGI and SRHR but complained that the document still included language on reproductive rights, contraception, and the phrase “the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality,” which FWI notes “is often interpreted to include controversial LGBT rights.”54)“UN Victories: The Good the Bad and the Ugly at CSW!” Family Watch International, October 2016, https://
archive.mailigen.com/?u=e51aa8e9806a70a036a77fec150d1407&id=5142ced6&e=%5BUNIQID%5D.

Sometimes these battles end in a sort of draw. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last year, are intended to guide UN policy from 2016 to 2030. After extensive lobbying reached an impasse, the SDGs, also known as Agenda 2030, ended up achieving consensus by including no explicit references to LGBTQ people or to the role of the family in achieving the goals.55)Kate Donald, “Strong Commitments to Human Rights Survive in Final SDG Text, Despite Sordid Final Compromises,” Center for Economic
and Social Rights, August 5, 2015, http://www.cesr.org/article.php?id=1758.
While “pro-family” groups had pushed hard to have the role of the family explicitly included in the goals, they celebrated the role of Nigeria’s Ambassador, “who vocally denounced any attempt to impose LGBTQ rights on his country, and demanded that the draft agreement be ‘cleaned’ during negotiations.”56)Stefano Gennarini, “Breaking News: No Abortion, No Gays in Massive New UN Development Goals,” Center for Family & Human Rights,
August 3, 2015, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/no-abortion-no-gays-inmassive-new-un-development-goals/.
He also “denounced ongoing attempts to read abortion and LGBTQ rights into the agreement through implementation efforts that are already underway.”57)Stefano Gennarini, “Breaking News: No Abortion, No Gays in Massive New UN Development Goals,” Center for Family & Human Rights, August 3, 2015, https://c-fam.org/ friday_fax/no-abortion-no-gays-inmassive-new-un-development-goals/.

CLASH OF WORLDVIEWS AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has been one of the arenas in which pro-LGBTQ organizing has borne fruit. In June 2011, the Council adopted a resolution, sponsored by the government of South Africa, which expressed “grave concern” over violence and discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and requested a report on the topic from the High Commissioner for Human Rights.58)“Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, http://www. ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/ Pages/LGBT.aspx.

Participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The Council adopted a similar resolution again in 2014; by this time South Africa had ceded its leadership on the issue under fire from other African countries, and a group of Latin American countries led by Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay stepped in.59)J. Lester Feder, “South Africa, Which Once Led on Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become a Roadblock,” BuzzFeed, September 18, 2014, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/south-africa-which-once-led-onpromoting-lgbt-rights-abroad?utm_term=.ue2LGB2Dk. The following June, when the High Commissioner’s office released its report on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, it called for decriminalization, repeal of “anti-propaganda” laws that restrict public advocacy for LGBTQ equality in the name of protecting youth, and legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families, among other steps.60)“Discrimination and violence
against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, May 4, 2015, http://
www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/29/23&referer=/english/&Lang=E.

The next move for LGBTQ human rights advocates was to push for a vote on the creation of an “independent expert” position that would be given the responsibility of investigating human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Because this would represent a significant victory, the effort was resisted even more fiercely by conservative groups like C-Fam (the Center for Family and Human Rights, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), which warned that it would be a “major catastrophe” to have sexual orientation and gender identity given this kind of standing in international law.61)Tris Reid-Smith, “False religion with new gay God is taking over UN, Catholics warn,” Gay Star News, June 29, 2016, http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/false-religion-new-gaygod-taking-un-catholics-warn. Pro-LGBTQ civil society organizations lobbied heavily for the resolution, which was supported by 628 non-governmental organizations from 151 countries, 70 percent of them from the Global South.62)Daniele Paletta, “United Nations makes history on sexual orientation and gender identity,” ILGA, June 30, 2016 http://ilga.org/united-nationsmakes-history-sexual-orientationgender-identity/.

On behalf of most members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, Pakistan fought “tooth and nail” against the resolution, says Peter Yeo at the UN Foundation.63)Yeo interview. Saying the resolution would override local values and sovereignty, Pakistan introduced a number of amendments that were intended to weaken it.64)J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog,” BuzzFeed, June 30, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/theun-has-voted-to-create-its-first-lgbtrights-watchdog?utm_term=.awaYYbkLv. Amendments to strip out references to sexual orientation and gender identity failed, but among the amendments that passed were those that encouraged respect for local values and “religious sensitivities” and condemned “coercive measures” taken to push countries to change their laws and policies.65)J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog,” BuzzFeed, June 30, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/theun-has-voted-to-create-its-first-lgbtrights-watchdog?utm_term=.awaYYbkLv.

On June 30, 2016, the amended resolution was approved 23-18 with six countries abstaining; it affirmed that all people are “entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” decried violence and discrimination committed against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and appointed, for a period of three years, an “Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”66)“Human Rights Council Establishes SOGI Expert, Renews Eight Others,” International Justice Resource Center, July 28, 2016, http://www.ijrcenter.org/2016/07/28/human-rights-council-establishes-sogi-expert-renewseight-others/.

Human rights groups praised its passage as a “historic victory for the human rights of all persons who are at risk of discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”67)Daniele Paletta, “United Nations makes history on sexual orientation and gender identity.” But C-Fam’s Austin Ruse described the independent expert position as an “LGBT Enforcer” who “will travel the world making sure that traditional people may no longer practice their sincerely held religious belief,” adding that it was created “via threats and intimidation by UN, EU, and US bureaucrats.”68)Austin Ruse, “UN Creates LGBT Enforcer,” Friday Fax, Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f0c84b37a344706b0e41a57cc&id=386a7c064b&e=d94a7a9e03.

Ruse’s organization praised countries that spoke against the independent expert, including Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.69)Stefano Gennarini, “LGBT Agenda Advances, Drives Wedge in UN System,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/lgbt-agenda-advancesdrives-wedge-un-system/. C-Fam quoted Nigeria’s representative complaining that the United Nations agenda had been “hijacked to promote attitudes offensive to other states” and promising that such attempts will meet with a “stone wall.”70)Stefano Gennarini, “LGBT Agenda Advances, Drives Wedge in UN System,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, https://c-fam. org/friday_fax/lgbt-agenda-advancesdrives-wedge-un-system/.

Indonesia, where some political and religious leaders have been waging a campaign of homophobia this year, was among the countries that said they will not cooperate with the expert’s investigations.71)“Indonesian CSO Regrets the Government’s Position on SOGI Resolution,” Human Rights Working Group Indonesia and Arus Pelangi, July 1, 2016, http://aruspelangi.org/publication/press-release/joinstatement-indonesian-cso-regretsthe-governments-position-on-sogiresolution/?lang=en. Given the leadership role previously played by South Africa, its abstention was especially disappointing to LGBTQ advocates.72)J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog.” South Africa’s ambassador criticized the sponsors’ “arrogant and confrontational approach” and suggested that his country’s collaborative path out of apartheid should be a model for the Council’s deliberations.73)J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog.” The comparison drew a rebuke from South African LGBTQ advocate Graeme Reid, who heads the LGBTQ program at Human Rights Watch. “The ambassador’s statement is a betrayal of the essence of South Africa’s constitution,” he said. “To invoke the struggle against apartheid as justification for not supporting a resolution on violence and discrimination is both inaccurate and cynical.”74)J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. VotesTo Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog.”

The day after passage of the independent expert resolution, the Human Rights Council approved by a larger margin a resolution calling for the protection of the family,75)“Protection of the family: role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities,” Human Rights Council, June 27, 2016,
http://www.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/L.35-1.pdf
rejecting amendments that would have recognized that various forms of the family exist.76)“Human Rights Council adopts text on civil society space and suspends thirty-second regular session,” Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, July 1, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews. aspx?newsID=20225&LangID=E. This resolution built on a previous family “protection” resolution passed in 2014.77)Rebecca Oas, Ph.D, “Big Win for Traditional Family at UN Human Rights Council,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 9, 2015, https://cfam.org/friday_fax/big-win-for-traditional-family-at-un-human-rightscouncil/. Writer Jay Michaelson warned, after the passage of the 2014 resolution, that “the entire international framework of human rights” was endangered by the attempt to expand the notion of human rights for individuals to “the family” or to give traditional beliefs equal weight as human rights in setting policy.78)Jay Michaelson, “At the United Nations, It’s Human Rights, PutinStyle,” The Daily Beast, June 26, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/26/at-the-united-nations-it-s-human-rights-putin-style.html.

The next year, the Human Rights Council approved “protection of the family” language in a resolution about the role of the family in alleviating poverty and achieving sustainable development. Sharon Slater, president of the conservative Family Watch International, called the 2015 resolution “by far the strongest and most comprehensive pro-family UN document ever” and said “pro-family UN delegations worked hard to achieve this in the face of great opposition.”79)Sharon Slater, “UN Adopts Landmark Family Protection Resolution!” UN Family Rights Caucus, July 8, 2015. Slater declared:

This is a tremendous victory for the family and represents the first major fruits of the work of a new, growing and vigorous coalition of governments at the UN, which are deeply concerned about the worldwide disintegration of the family. It is essential that all of us around the world, especially those of us living in the developed countries that push anti-family policies, show our support for the courageous and vital work of these pro-family countries.80)Sharon Slater, “UN Adopts Landmark Family Protection Resolution!” UN Family Rights Caucus, July 8, 2015.

The 2016 family protection language was part of a resolution on the rights of people with disabilities. It reaffirms “that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State”—language contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Efforts by pro-equality nations to insert language recognizing “various forms of the family” were rejected.81)“Human Rights Council adopts
text on civil society space and suspends thirty-second regular session,” Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, July 1, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20225&LangID=E.

Many countries that would have preferred more inclusive family language nonetheless felt that politically they could not vote against “protecting families.” Kara, who previously worked for Arc International, a pro-LGBTQ organization, and now consults on human rights issues, says conservative civil society groups have helped mobilize the opposition, gathering diplomats together for meetings and doing trainings around language on the protection of the family.82)Kara interview Jessica Stern, executive director of the pro-LGBTQ group OutRight Action International (formerly known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) says the inability to get inclusive language in the family “protection” resolution suggests that progressive advocates are losing ground in the discourse around “family.”83)Jessica Stern, interview with author, July 21, 2016.

THAT VIGOROUS ‘PRO-FAMILY’ COALITION

In something analogous to the plethora of new right-wing coalitions created in the U.S. after the election of Barack Obama,84)Kyle Mantyla, “Another Day, Another Right Wing Coalition Formed,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, January 15, 2010,
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/another-day-another-right-wingcoalition-formed.
the past decade has seen a flowering of collaboration between antiLGBTQ organizations around the world in response to the push for LGBTQ human rights at the UN and at the national level. Newer groups join an extensive network of existing organizations and alliances, often with overlapping leadership structures, that have worked together for years to resist progress on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to abortion.

While it would be wrong to view this global culture war as simply an American export, it is nonetheless true that American Religious Right groups and leaders play a significant role in organizing these networks and using them to share information, resources, and strategies. For example, C-Fam’s Austin Ruse, whose group has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council,85)“Could Austin Ruse’s Violent Rhetoric Endanger C-FAM’s Status With the UN?” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 19, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/03/19/ could-austin-ruses-violent-rhetoricendanger-c-fams-status-un has his fingers in many pots: he organized the new Civil Society for the Family coalition,86)Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-gay-activismtrumps-religious-freedom-un-familyevent. helped organize an event with anti-LGBTQ countries at the UN,87)Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-gay-activismtrumps-religious-freedom-un-familyevent. and helped launch the Political Network for Values,88)See December 5, 2014 press conference hosted by Austin Ruse: http://webtv.un.org/watch/political-network-for-valuesstrengthening-the-family-forsustainable-development-pressconference/3926309670001#fulltext. an effort to bring activists together with legislators who have the means to influence national policy directly. His group also runs a fellowship program for graduate students designed to train a new generation of “pro-family” activists. Similarly, Brian Brown not only serves as president of both the National Organization for Marriage and the World Congress of Families,89)Miranda Blue, “NOM’s Brian Brown To Lead Global Anti-LGBT Efforts At World Congress of Families,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 31, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/noms-brian-brown-lead-global-antilgbt-efforts-world-congress-families. he also serves on the boards of CitizenGo,90)CitizenGo, http://www.citizengo.org/en/about-us. a conservative platform for mobilizing online activism, and the Political Network for Values.91)Political Network for Values, http://www.politicalnetworkforvalues.org/aims.html.

The U.S.-based World Congress of Families has for two decades convened international summit meetings of “profamily” groups—read anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and in some cases anti-sexeducation and anti-contraception—for movement-strengthening cross-fertilization.92)“Everything You Need to Know about the Anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families,” Political Research Associates, October 21, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/10/21/everything-you-need-to-know-aboutthe-anti-lgbtq-world-congress-offamilies-wcf/. In recent years, resistance to the advance of LGBTQ equality has become a top priority. At the 2016 WCF summit in Tbilisi, Georgia, German sociologist Gabriele Kuby attacked “the cultural revolutionists of our time” whose goals, she said, are now the agenda of the UN and the EU.93)Gabriele Kuby, Remarks at World Congress of Families summit, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk According to Kuby, what had been a necessary struggle for women’s rights was “seized by radical mostly lesbian feminists and turned into a war against men, against marriage, against motherhood, and against the unborn child.”94)Gabriele Kuby, Remarks at World Congress of Families summit, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk Kuby echoed the Catholic Church’s rhetorical war on transgender identity. “Because gender-theory is grounded in lies it must become totalitarian and it is becoming totalitarian,” she said, warning that this new “crazy, delusional” theory is entering international law through the door of human rights and antidiscrimination law.95)Gabriele Kuby, Remarks at World Congress of Families summit, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk

The “Tbilisi Declaration” adopted in the gathering’s closing session asserted that “Governments and transnational entities should end efforts that redefine marriage, returning to the conventional and natural understanding of one man in a voluntary union with one woman for life” and “Governments and transnational entities should cease all propaganda in favor of ‘gender theory’ and ‘sexual orientation’ which has no basis in biological reality.”96)World Congress of Families News, Vol. 9 No. 4, June 2016, page 7, http://www.touchstonemag.com/newimages/webads/WCF-News-June-2016.pdf

As Christopher Stroop noted in the Winter 2016 issue of The Public Eye, Russian conservatives played a key role in the founding of the World Congress of Families, and the WCF maintains close ties with Russian Orthodox officials and financiers.97)Christopher Stroop, “Russian Social Conservatism, the U.S.-Based WCF, & The Global Culture Wars
in Historical Context,” The Public Eye, Winter 2016, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/02/16/russian-social-conservatism-the-u-sbased-wcf-the-global-culture-wars-inhistorical-context
Vladimir Putin has made strategic partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church a centerpiece of his “hard right turn” since 2012 and has used it to position Russia as the champion of Christian civilization and religious values against a secular and hedonistic West. This characterization has been embraced by American Religious Right leaders; WCF’s Larry Jacobs has said Russians “might be the Christian saviors of the world.”98)Miranda Blue, “Globalizing Homophobia,
Part 4: The World Congress of Families and Russia’s ‘Christian Saviors,’ Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, October 4, 2013, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/globalizing-homophobia-part-4-world-congress-families-and-russias-christian-saviors.

After the U.S. imposed sanctions in the wake of Russia’s seizure of Crimea, the World Congress of Families withdrew formal sponsorship for its 2014 summit in Moscow, but the event went forward essentially as planned, in cooperation with the Orthodox church, and with the participation of WCF leaders.99)“Statement Regarding ‘Large Families—The Future of Humanity’ International Forum in Moscow, September 20-11,” World Congress of Families, September 8, 2014, http://www.standardnewswire.com/news/668879572.html.

Russia plays a leading role in the resistance to LGBTQ recognition in the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, both by itself and as part of what one LGBTQ activist calls an “unholy trinity” of Russia, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Holy See. As a result, Religious Right leaders seem willing to overlook Putin’s increasing hostility to political dissent, freedom of the press, and religious freedom for non-Orthodox churches.100)Brian Tashman, “Religious Right Hero Vladimir Putin Cracks Down on Religious Liberty in Russia,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, July 13, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/religious-righthero-vladimir-putin-cracks-down-onreligious-liberty-in-russia/.

Russia is also a founding member of the Group of Friends of the Family, a network of 25 countries that was created in 2015 to push the United Nations to adhere to a traditional understanding of “the family” and to respect “national laws, traditions and religious and cultural background of the States Members of the United Nations related to the family and its role in society.”101)Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom
at UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-gay-activismtrumps-religious-freedom-un-familyevent.
GoFF strenuously objected to the February 2016 issuance of LGBTQ-themed UN postage stamps, a project of the Free & Equal campaign. The group’s letter declared that the stamps promoted an agenda and priorities that “are vehemently and as a matter of strongly held principle opposed” by a majority of UN member states.102)Sharon Slater, “UN LGBT Stamps Generate Major Pushback from ProFamily Member Countries,” Anglican Mainstream, February 8, 2016 http://anglicanmainstream.org/un-lgbtstamps-generate-major-pushbackfrom-pro-family-member-countries/.

Six new stamps to promote the UN Free & Equal campaign for LGBTQ equality were unveiled at UN headquarters in February. Photo: United Nations. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Six new stamps to promote the UN Free & Equal campaign for LGBTQ equality were unveiled at UN headquarters in February. Photo: United Nations. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

At a Group of Friends of the Family “high-level event” at the UN in May 2016, the Russian representative bragged about Putin’s promotion of “traditional family values” and noted that the Commonwealth of Independent States, a confederation of former Soviet republics, has named 2017 the Year of the Family. He urged supporters of “traditional” families to be more vocal in opposing UN agencies that stray from their mandates and to be more active at the Human Rights Council.103)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.”

At the May event, the group kicked off a campaign promoting the importance of “pro-family” policies to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, a long-time antiLGBTQ activist, decried attempts to create a new definition of marriage that he said would distance marriage from its roots in the “order of nature itself.” He declared that “it is not the place of government to redefine or interfere with the natural family.”104)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.” Sprigg spoke at the 2015 World Congress of Families summit and at an anti-LGBTQ pre-WCF event at which he challenged the “gay identity paradigm” and said that compromise with the LGBTQ movement is “unwise” and “unsustainable.”105)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Warm-Up Act To World Congress Of Families:
‘This Is War’,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, October 27, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/anti-gay-warm-up-act-toworld-congress-of-families-this-iswar/.

Among the other non-governmental speakers at the Group of Friends of the Family event were Americans Jim Garlow, who made a national name for himself organizing church support for California’s anti-equality Prop 8; Gregory Mertz with CitizenGo and HazteOir; Helen Alvaré, a law professor and activist who served as a spokesperson for a 2014 Vatican conference on the complementarity of men and women; and profamily activists Susan Yoshihara with C-Fam and Shenan Boquet with Human Life International. Also speaking were Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Catholic Bishop John O’Hara of the Archdiocese of New York, who assured the group that they have the “enthusiastic” support of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.106)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.”

In addition to plenty of speeches, the GoFF event included some political theater as well: half-a-dozen children took turns reading “A Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families: A Call from the Children of the World,” a document promoted by the UN Family Rights Caucus.107)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.” The Caucus, which claims members in more than 160 countries, was founded in 2008 “in response to the growing attacks on the family at the UN.”108)UN Family Rights Caucus, http://www.unfamilyrightscaucus.org/about/. Its first event at the UN was a 2008 panel “promoting a family-based approach rather than a sexual rightsbased approach to HIV/AIDS prevention.”109)UN Family Rights Caucus, http://www.unfamilyrightscaucus.org/ about/. It complains that pro-equality advocacy at the UN is “contributing to the family’s widespread disintegration.”110)UN Family Rights Caucus, http://www.unfamilyrightscaucus.org/ about/. Its Declaration asserts that every child has a right to a married mother and father and the “right to innocence and childhood” and it calls on countries and the UN system to “fully respect” the right of parents to guide the moral, religious, and sex education of their children.111)“A Declaration on the Rights of
Children and Their Families,” UN Family Rights Caucus, http://childrensdeclaration.org/.

As I pointed out in Right Wing Watch, there is significant overlap between members of the Group of Friends of the Family and the countries identified by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as the worst in the world for religious freedom, including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Egypt, and Iraq.112)“2016 Annual Report Overview,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, April 2016, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Overview%20USICRF%202016%20 Annual%20Report.pdf C-Fam’s Austin Ruse praised Saudi Arabia and Sudan by name for having “saved” UN documents from unwanted language on the family; the USCIRF calls Saudi Arabia “uniquely repressive” and says Sudan’s government “represses and marginalizes the country’s minority Christian community.” Also among the “Friends of the Family” are countries where political and religious leaders have taken actions that threaten the lives and freedom of LGBTQ people, including Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan.113)Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’
Event.”

The Group of Friends of the Family gathering at the UN was also a coming out party for a new network of nongovernmental organizations called “Civil Society for the Family.” The UN has already had a Family Rights Caucus, but apparently its focus was not specific enough for anti-LGBTQ activists; when C-Fam announced the formation of Civil Society for the Family in April, it called the new network “the first-pro-family coalition to explicitly push back against UN entities attempting to redefine the family to include same-sex relations.”114)Stefano Gennarini, “New Civil Society Coalition Formed to Protect the
Family,” Center for Family and Human Rights, April 28, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/new-civil-society-coalition-formed-protect-family/.

The organizing committee for Civil Society for the Family has a strong American presence. Its members include C-Fam, the National Organization for Marriage, Institute for Family Policy, Human Life International (which gave birth to C-Fam), Family Research Council, Transatlantic Christian Council, Novae Terrae Foundation, HazteOir, CitizenGo, Derecho a Vivir, the European Center for Law and Justice, and the Institute for Legal Culture.115)Civil Society for the Family, https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/.

Civil Society for the Family says that UN agencies and staff “may not expand their mandate unilaterally” or read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a way that includes “relations between individuals of the same sex and other social and legal arrangements that are not equivalent or analogous to the family.”116)“The Family Articles: Official Civil Society Platform,” Civil Society for the Family, https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/wp-content/uploads/ THEFAMILY-ARTICLES.pdf. In its platform, which it calls “The Family Articles,” CSF declares that same-sex relationships “are not entitled to the protections singularly reserved for the family in international law and policy.”117)“The Family Articles: Official Civil Society Platform,” Civil Society for the Family, https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/wp-content/uploads/ THEFAMILY-ARTICLES.pdf. Many of the American civil society organizations that participate in the World Congress of Families and these other global ventures share funding sources as well as leadership. The Center Against Religious Extremism has documented that the National Christian Foundation, “the leading domestic U.S. funding source for organizations and institutions involved in anti-LGBT rights activism,”118)Bruce Wilson, “The National Christian Foundation Anti-LGBT Funding Encyclopedia,” TWOCARE, June 14, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/the-national-christian-foundation-anti-lgbt-funding-encyclopedia/. plays a key role in funding “the global evangelical war on LGBT rights.”119)Bruce Wilson, “The Secret Anti-gay U.S. Money Behind the WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights,” TWOCARE, September 18, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/thesecret-american-money-behind-theworld-congress-of-families/. Nearly half of the speakers at the first six WCF summits represented groups funded by the National Christian Foundation, which is structured to allow funders to maintain anonymity while directing funds through the foundation to specific groups.120)Bruce Wilson, “The Secret Anti-gay U.S. Money Behind the WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights,” TWOCARE, September 18, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/thesecret-american-money-behind-theworld-congress-of-families/.

For example, between 2001 and 2012, the National Christian Foundation gave more than $36 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the U.S. based legal group that is expanding its reach around the globe.121)Bruce Wilson, “The Secret Anti-gay U.S. Money Behind the WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights,” TWOCARE, September 18, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/thesecret-american-money-behind-theworld-congress-of-families/. ADF’s logo could be seen prominently displayed behind some speakers at the Tbilisi World Congress of Families.122)See, for example, Fr. Josiah Trenham, “Gay Iconoclasm: Holding the Line Against the Radical LGBT Agenda,” YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNXe4P_6dhw. In 2013 ADF cosponsored a seminar on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which featured sociologist Mark Regnerus, author of an infamous—and widely condemned—study that suggested samesex parenting is harmful to children;123)“Back to the Basics: The Main Message on Life and Family at the United Nations,” Alliance Defending Freedom press release, September 20, 2013, http://www.prnewswire.com/newsreleases/back-to-the-basics-the-mainmessage-on-life-and-family-at-theunited-nations-224554251.html. the following year ADF sent an alert charging that abortion rights advocates were using LGBTQ rights as a bargaining chip—in other words, trying to get governments to capitulate on “reproductive rights” language in return for keeping LGBTQ issues out of the SDGs.124)“UN continues to push for abortion as a ‘right’,” Alliance Alert, Alliance Defending Freedom, June 5, 2014, https://www.adflegal.org/media/archive/alliance-alerts/un-continues-topush-for-abortion-as-a–right-. ADF, C-Fam and others co-sponsored a GoFF “side event” in February 2016 at which the Russian ambassador “expressed great disappointment that the family was not included in Agenda 2030.”125)“UN Event on strengthening Family as Part of the Sustainable Development Process,” Universal Peace Federation,” February 10, 2016, https://www.upf.org/marriage-and-familyreports/6867-un-event-on-strengthening-family-as-part-of-the-sustainable-development-process.

THE BATTLEGROUND AHEAD

In the fall, C-Fam was predicting that the 54-state African Group might try to challenge in the General Assembly the Human Right’s Council’s appointment of Thai diplomat Vitit Muntarbhorn to the newly created independent expert position. According to C-Fam, the OIC said none of its members would interact with the expert, a position a Russian delegate reportedly declared “does not exist as far as we are concerned.”126)Stefano Gennarini, “UN Appoints Global LGBT Ombudsman, Nations Push Back,” C-Fam, October 6, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/un-appoints-global-lgbt-ombudsman-nations-push-back/.

Pro-equality advocates are organizing as well. In July, at the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, the U.S. welcomed and joined a new Equal Rights Coalition,127)“U.S. Welcomes Formation of Equal Rights Coalition,” Press Statement, U.S. Department of State, July 19, 2016, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/07/260265.htm. a group of 30 nations founded by Uruguay and the Netherlands to “share, as appropriate, information between States on how best to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons, and to consider measures needed to protect and advance these rights, working in close engagement with all relevant stakeholders, including regional and multilateral organisations, civil society organisations, and the private sector.”128)“Founding Principles,” Equal Rights Coalition, http://www.lgbtimontevideo2016.org/admin/files/lgbtimontevideo2016/upload/files/Equal%20Rights%20Coalition%20-%20Founding%20Principles%20ENG.pdf. The new collaboration may also be a forum for pro-equality nations to consider whether their public strategies have sometimes been harmful to activists in countries whose goal is basic protection of human rights, and where issues like marriage equality are not on the agenda.

Bruce Knott, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer who heads the Unitarian Universalist’s UN office and co-chairs the NGO Committee on Human Rights, says the leadership role that Latin American countries have played in recent years is vital. Given the accusations of “neocolonialism” and charges that the U.S. and Western Europe are forcing LGBTQ equality on the rest of the world, he says, it’s crucial to have leadership from the Global South.129)Bruce Knott, interview with author, July 29, 2016.

With the term of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon coming to a close at the end of the year it’s an open question whether his replacement, former prime minister of Portugal and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres,130)Edith M. Lederer, “Peace is top priority for next UN chief Antonio Guterres,” Associated Press, October 14, 2016, http://www.chron.com/news/world/article/UN-expected-toapprove-Guterres-for-9968152.php. will devote personal energy and institutional resources to advancing LGBTQ human rights. The same question holds true for the next U.S. president; Barack Obama’s administration has made LGBTQ human rights a centerpiece of its foreign policy, and advocates say U.S. leadership has played a crucial role in recent years’ successes. At the 2015 World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City, some African delegates urged Americans to elect a president who would abandon the Obama administration’s efforts.131)Peter Montgomery, “Religious Right Activist At World Congress Of Families: Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Africans Will ‘Save The World’,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, November 2, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/religious-right-activist-world-congressfamilies-anti-gay-anti-choice-africanswill-save-wor. “If the U.S. political commitment to advancing LGBTQ human rights wanes,” says OutRight’s Jessica Stern, “it will have repercussions that will reverberate around the world.”132)Stern interview

Free & Equal’s Charles Radcliffe says he believes the institutional commitment to LGBTQ human rights at the UN is more than skin-deep. More than 100 countries have implemented legal changes in response to UN human rights recommendations regarding LGBTQ people, he said, noting that last year a dozen UN agencies “endorsed an unprecedented statement committing themselves to work with countries to address discrimination and violence against LGBTQ and intersex people and to protect, help and listen to LGBTI civil society.”133)Radcliffe interview

“We’re now way past the point of no return,” said Radcliffe. But his opponents are committed to turning back the tide.134)Radcliffe interview

After this summer’s vote in the Human Rights Council on the independent expert resolution, Arvind Narrain at Arc International, a pro-LGBTQ organization, said that the concerted efforts to amend and weaken the independent expert resolution reflect that “the world we live in is one where homophobia and transphobia is a deeply significant system of power” and should be taken as “a warning of the nature of the struggle ahead.”135)Arvid Narrain, statement by email. Indeed, across the world, anti-LGBTQ governments are not only restricting the rights of LGBTQ people, but are also clamping down on civil society organizations that advocate for equality.

In his remarkably bitter opening remarks to the World Congress of Families event in Georgia this year, host Levan Vasadze, a businessman and conservative activist, attacked the West for funding nongovernmental organizations that he said attack the church and family. “No Christian family,” he said, had been “left unhumiliated” by a system that is “poisoning” the minds of the younger generation and breeding a “spirit of anti-traditional cynicism” through the “totalitarian dictatorship of liberals” in media and educational organizations.136)WCF X, “Levan Vasadze – Tbilisi Philharmonic. 16 May, 2016.
WCF X,” May 16, 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AqFK8zXTno.

At the same World Congress of Families meeting, Brian Brown said there is rising discontent with tolerance for abortion and “cultural imperialism” on LGBTQ and “family” issues. “Our task,” he said, “is to take that discontent and direct it toward the fashioning of a thriving, growing, and vibrant global movement.” Brown complained that the profamily movement is outspent and called for supporters from around the world who “understand what is at stake and have the courage and charity to sacrifice their wealth to change history.”137)WCF X, “Brian Brown,” May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=SFfH5kYYcAo.
German sociologist Gabriele Kuby, author of The Global Sexual Revolution: The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom, had similar words for the gathering: “Let us rise. Let us resist.”138)WCF X, Gabriele Kuby, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Montgomery, a Washington, D.C.- based writer, is an associate editor for Religion Dispatches and a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. His work focuses on religion, politics, and LGBTQ issues. Follow him on twitter @petemont.

References   [ + ]

1. Cole Parke, “Whose Family? Religious Right’s ‘Family Values’ Agenda Advances Internationally,” Political Research Associates, July 16, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/07/16/whose-family-religious-rights-family-values-agendaadvances-internationally.
2. “Universal decriminalization of homosexuality a human rights imperative – Ban,” UN News Centre, December 10, 2010, http://www.un.org/apps/ news/story.asp?NewsID=37026.
3. Raymond Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” Pass Blue, December 8, 2015, http://www. passblue.com/2015/12/08/keepinglgbt-rights-active-on-the-un-agenda/.
4. Michael F.Haverluck, “’Sacred mission’ of UN: Forcing LGBT ‘rights,’ says Ki-moon,” OneNewsNow, October 4, 2015, http://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2015/10/04/sacred-missionof-un-forcing-lgbt-rights-says-kimoon
5. Navi Pillay, “How Gay Rights Debate Began at the UN,” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 27, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd9dGN6dBwA.
6. Hannah Harris Green, “The Ongoing Legal Plight of LGBTQ Refugees,” JSTOR Daily, June 22, 2016 http://daily.jstor.org/very-real-plight-lgbtq-refugees/
7. Communication No. 902/1999, United Nations Human Rights Committee CCPR/C/75/D/902/1999, adopted July 17, 2002.
8. “Summary of Panel Discussion on the Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” Human Rights Watch, November 21, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/11/21/summary-panel-discussion-yogyakarta-principles.
9. “The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” www.yogyakartaprinciples.org.
10. Raymond A. Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” PassBlue, December 8, 2015, http://www.passblue.com/2015/12/08/keeping-lgbt-rights-active-on-the-un-agenda/.
11, 12. Pedro Garcia, “The United Nations and the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality,” LGBTQ Policy Journal, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2015, http://www.hkslgbtq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ARTICLE_GARCIA1.pdf.
13. “Universal decriminalization of homosexuality a human rights imperative – Ban,” UN News Centre, December 10, 2010, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=37026.
14. “General Assembly Adopts 52 Resolutions, 6 Decisions Recommended by Third Committee on Broad Range of Human Rights, Social, Cultural Issues,” United Nations General Assembly GA/11041, December 21, 2010, http://www.un.org/press/en/2010/ga11041.doc.htm.
15. “Human Rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/RES/17/19, June 17, 2011, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/148/76/PDF/G1114876.pdf.
16. “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/RC/19/41, November 17, 2011.
17. Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day,” U.S. Department of State, December 6, 2011, http://www.state.gov/secretary/20092013clinton/rm/2011/12/178368.htm.
18. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, remarks before the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council, March 9, 2012, http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2012/03/holy-see-addresses-un-human-rights.html.
19. “UN Free & Equal Campaign Progress Report 2015,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2015, https://www.unfe.org/system/unfe-75-UNFE_2015_progress_report.pdf.
20, 24. “Proposal to rescind extension of UN benefits to all same-sex couples rejected,” UN News Centre, March 24, 2015, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsId=50427.
21. “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/RES/27/32, September 26, 2014, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/177/32/PDF/G1417732.pdf.
22. “UN: Landmarks Resolution on Anti-Gay Bias,” Human Rights Watch, September 26, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/26/un-landmark-resolution-anti-gay-bias.
23. Eric Ethington-Boden, “U.N. Condemns ‘Conversion Therapy,’ but U.S. Right Continues Promoting in Africa,” Political Research Associates, November 14, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/11/14/while-u-n-condemns-conversion-therapy-u-s-right-continues-promoting-debunked-practice-in-africa.
25. Michelle Nichols, “Russia fails in bid to stop U.S. staff benefits for all gay couples,” Reuters, March 24, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-gaymarriage-russia-idUSKBN0MK1UW20150324.
26. “Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/29/23, May 4, 2015, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/29/23&referer=/english/&Lang=E.
27. Caroline Weisser, “An Historic Step at the United Nations on LGBT Rights,” DipNote, U.S. Department of State, August 26, 2015, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/26/historic-step-united-nations-lgbt-rights.
28. Raymond Smith, “Keeping LGBT Rights Active on the UN Agenda,” PassBlue, December 8, 2015, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/26/historic-step-united-nations-lgbt-rights.
29. “Joint UN statement on Ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, September 29, 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/Pages/JointLGBTIstatement.aspx.
30. Stefano Gennarini, “UN Diplomats Fight Back Against LGBT Ideology,” Center for Family and Human Rights, November 19, 2015, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/un-diplomats-fight-back-against-lgbt-ideology/.
31. Paul Coleman, “The UN’s Psh for ‘Same-Sex Marriage,’” Public Discourse, The Witherspoon Institute, January 21, 2016, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/01/16281/.
32. Charles Radcliffe, UN Free and Equal Campaign, email interview with author July 29, 2016.
33. Stefano Gennarini, “Bureaucratic Overreach, also on LGBT Rights, Takes Front Seat at UN General Assembly,” Center for Family and Human Rights, March 19, 2016.
34. Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay ‘Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016.
35. “UN Makes History on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity,” Human Rights Watch, June 30, 2016.
36. Tris Reid-Smith, “False religion with new gay God is taking over UN, Catholics warn,” Gay Star News, June 29, 2016, http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/false-religion-new-gay-god-taking-un-catholics-warn.
37. “Security Council Press Statement on Terrorist Attack in Orlando, Florida,” press release, June 13, 2016.
38. J. Lester Feder, “Security Council Condemns Orlando Attack in Unprecedented Statement,” BuzzFeed, June 13, 2016.
39. Jessica Stern, phone interview with author on July 21, 2016.
40. Ashley Fowler, “High Level Meeting on LGBTQ Rights at United Nations,” Human Rights Campaign, http://www.hrc.org/blog/high-level-meeting-on-lgbtq-rights-at-united-nations.
41. “Chile’s president says will send gay marriage bill to Congress in 2017,” Reuters, September 21, 2016, http://news.trust.org/item/20160921222058-vuhii.
42. “UN unveils ‘Free & Equal’ campaign to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights,” UN News Centre, July 26, 2013, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45503.
43. Charles Radcliffe, interview with author via email, July 29, 2016.
44, 45, 49. Ibid.
46. “Universal Declaration of Human
Rights,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
47. . Navanethem Pillay, United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/NaviPillay.aspx.
48. UN Human Rights, “How gay rights debate began at the UN,”
YouTube Video, posted: July 27, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd9dGN6dBwA.
50. Political Research Associates, “Kapya Kaoma Speaks at United Nations About LGBTQ Africans’ Struggle,” December 15, 2014, video and excerpts, http://www.politicalresearch.
org/2014/12/15/pras-rev-dr-kapyakaoma-discusses-lgbtq-africans-struggle-at-the-united-nations/.
51. Sheherezade Kara, interview with
author, July 29, 2016.
52. Peter Yeo, interview with author, July 21, 2016.
53. “UN Victories: The Good the Bad and the Ugly at CSW!” Family Watch
International, October 2016, https://archive.mailigen.com/?u=e51aa8e98
06a70a036a77fec150d1407&id=5142ced6&e=%5BUNIQID%5D.
54. “UN Victories: The Good the Bad and the Ugly at CSW!” Family Watch International, October 2016, https://
archive.mailigen.com/?u=e51aa8e9806a70a036a77fec150d1407&id=5142ced6&e=%5BUNIQID%5D.
55. Kate Donald, “Strong Commitments to Human Rights Survive in Final SDG Text, Despite Sordid Final Compromises,” Center for Economic
and Social Rights, August 5, 2015, http://www.cesr.org/article.php?id=1758.
56. Stefano Gennarini, “Breaking News: No Abortion, No Gays in Massive New UN Development Goals,” Center for Family & Human Rights,
August 3, 2015, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/no-abortion-no-gays-inmassive-new-un-development-goals/.
57. Stefano Gennarini, “Breaking News: No Abortion, No Gays in Massive New UN Development Goals,” Center for Family & Human Rights, August 3, 2015, https://c-fam.org/ friday_fax/no-abortion-no-gays-inmassive-new-un-development-goals/.
58. “Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, http://www. ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/ Pages/LGBT.aspx.
59. J. Lester Feder, “South Africa, Which Once Led on Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become a Roadblock,” BuzzFeed, September 18, 2014, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/south-africa-which-once-led-onpromoting-lgbt-rights-abroad?utm_term=.ue2LGB2Dk.
60. “Discrimination and violence
against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, May 4, 2015, http://
www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/29/23&referer=/english/&Lang=E.
61. Tris Reid-Smith, “False religion with new gay God is taking over UN, Catholics warn,” Gay Star News, June 29, 2016, http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/false-religion-new-gaygod-taking-un-catholics-warn.
62. Daniele Paletta, “United Nations makes history on sexual orientation and gender identity,” ILGA, June 30, 2016 http://ilga.org/united-nationsmakes-history-sexual-orientationgender-identity/.
63. Yeo interview.
64, 65. J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog,” BuzzFeed, June 30, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/theun-has-voted-to-create-its-first-lgbtrights-watchdog?utm_term=.awaYYbkLv.
66. “Human Rights Council Establishes SOGI Expert, Renews Eight Others,” International Justice Resource Center, July 28, 2016, http://www.ijrcenter.org/2016/07/28/human-rights-council-establishes-sogi-expert-renewseight-others/.
67. Daniele Paletta, “United Nations makes history on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
68. Austin Ruse, “UN Creates LGBT Enforcer,” Friday Fax, Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f0c84b37a344706b0e41a57cc&id=386a7c064b&e=d94a7a9e03.
69. Stefano Gennarini, “LGBT Agenda Advances, Drives Wedge in UN System,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/lgbt-agenda-advancesdrives-wedge-un-system/.
70. Stefano Gennarini, “LGBT Agenda Advances, Drives Wedge in UN System,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 7, 2016, https://c-fam. org/friday_fax/lgbt-agenda-advancesdrives-wedge-un-system/.
71. “Indonesian CSO Regrets the Government’s Position on SOGI Resolution,” Human Rights Working Group Indonesia and Arus Pelangi, July 1, 2016, http://aruspelangi.org/publication/press-release/joinstatement-indonesian-cso-regretsthe-governments-position-on-sogiresolution/?lang=en.
72, 73. J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. Votes To Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog.”
74. J. Lester Feder, “The U.N. VotesTo Create Its First LGBT Rights Watchdog.”
75. “Protection of the family: role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities,” Human Rights Council, June 27, 2016,
http://www.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/L.35-1.pdf
76. “Human Rights Council adopts text on civil society space and suspends thirty-second regular session,” Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, July 1, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews. aspx?newsID=20225&LangID=E.
77. Rebecca Oas, Ph.D, “Big Win for Traditional Family at UN Human Rights Council,” Center for Family and Human Rights, July 9, 2015, https://cfam.org/friday_fax/big-win-for-traditional-family-at-un-human-rightscouncil/.
78. Jay Michaelson, “At the United Nations, It’s Human Rights, PutinStyle,” The Daily Beast, June 26, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/26/at-the-united-nations-it-s-human-rights-putin-style.html.
79, 80. Sharon Slater, “UN Adopts Landmark Family Protection Resolution!” UN Family Rights Caucus, July 8, 2015.
81. “Human Rights Council adopts
text on civil society space and suspends thirty-second regular session,” Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, July 1, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20225&LangID=E.
82. Kara interview
83. Jessica Stern, interview with author, July 21, 2016.
84. Kyle Mantyla, “Another Day, Another Right Wing Coalition Formed,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, January 15, 2010,
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/another-day-another-right-wingcoalition-formed.
85. “Could Austin Ruse’s Violent Rhetoric Endanger C-FAM’s Status With the UN?” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 19, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/03/19/ could-austin-ruses-violent-rhetoricendanger-c-fams-status-un
86, 87. Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-gay-activismtrumps-religious-freedom-un-familyevent.
88. See December 5, 2014 press conference hosted by Austin Ruse: http://webtv.un.org/watch/political-network-for-valuesstrengthening-the-family-forsustainable-development-pressconference/3926309670001#fulltext.
89. Miranda Blue, “NOM’s Brian Brown To Lead Global Anti-LGBT Efforts At World Congress of Families,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 31, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/noms-brian-brown-lead-global-antilgbt-efforts-world-congress-families.
90. CitizenGo, http://www.citizengo.org/en/about-us.
91. Political Network for Values, http://www.politicalnetworkforvalues.org/aims.html.
92. “Everything You Need to Know about the Anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families,” Political Research Associates, October 21, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/10/21/everything-you-need-to-know-aboutthe-anti-lgbtq-world-congress-offamilies-wcf/.
93, 94, 95. Gabriele Kuby, Remarks at World Congress of Families summit, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk
96. World Congress of Families News, Vol. 9 No. 4, June 2016, page 7, http://www.touchstonemag.com/newimages/webads/WCF-News-June-2016.pdf
97. Christopher Stroop, “Russian Social Conservatism, the U.S.-Based WCF, & The Global Culture Wars
in Historical Context,” The Public Eye, Winter 2016, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/02/16/russian-social-conservatism-the-u-sbased-wcf-the-global-culture-wars-inhistorical-context
98. Miranda Blue, “Globalizing Homophobia,
Part 4: The World Congress of Families and Russia’s ‘Christian Saviors,’ Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, October 4, 2013, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/globalizing-homophobia-part-4-world-congress-families-and-russias-christian-saviors.
99. “Statement Regarding ‘Large Families—The Future of Humanity’ International Forum in Moscow, September 20-11,” World Congress of Families, September 8, 2014, http://www.standardnewswire.com/news/668879572.html.
100. Brian Tashman, “Religious Right Hero Vladimir Putin Cracks Down on Religious Liberty in Russia,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, July 13, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/religious-righthero-vladimir-putin-cracks-down-onreligious-liberty-in-russia/.
101. Peter Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom
at UN ‘Family’ Event,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, May 18, 2016, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-gay-activismtrumps-religious-freedom-un-familyevent.
102. Sharon Slater, “UN LGBT Stamps Generate Major Pushback from ProFamily Member Countries,” Anglican Mainstream, February 8, 2016 http://anglicanmainstream.org/un-lgbtstamps-generate-major-pushbackfrom-pro-family-member-countries/.
103, 104, 106. Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.”
105. Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Warm-Up Act To World Congress Of Families:
‘This Is War’,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, October 27, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/anti-gay-warm-up-act-toworld-congress-of-families-this-iswar/.
107. Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’ Event.”
108. UN Family Rights Caucus, http://www.unfamilyrightscaucus.org/about/.
109, 110. UN Family Rights Caucus, http://www.unfamilyrightscaucus.org/ about/.
111. “A Declaration on the Rights of
Children and Their Families,” UN Family Rights Caucus, http://childrensdeclaration.org/.
112. “2016 Annual Report Overview,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, April 2016, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Overview%20USICRF%202016%20 Annual%20Report.pdf
113. Montgomery, “Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom at UN ‘Family’
Event.”
114. Stefano Gennarini, “New Civil Society Coalition Formed to Protect the
Family,” Center for Family and Human Rights, April 28, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/new-civil-society-coalition-formed-protect-family/.
115. Civil Society for the Family, https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/.
116, 117. “The Family Articles: Official Civil Society Platform,” Civil Society for the Family, https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/wp-content/uploads/ THEFAMILY-ARTICLES.pdf.
118. Bruce Wilson, “The National Christian Foundation Anti-LGBT Funding Encyclopedia,” TWOCARE, June 14, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/the-national-christian-foundation-anti-lgbt-funding-encyclopedia/.
119, 120, 121. Bruce Wilson, “The Secret Anti-gay U.S. Money Behind the WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights,” TWOCARE, September 18, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/thesecret-american-money-behind-theworld-congress-of-families/.
122. See, for example, Fr. Josiah Trenham, “Gay Iconoclasm: Holding the Line Against the Radical LGBT Agenda,” YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNXe4P_6dhw.
123. “Back to the Basics: The Main Message on Life and Family at the United Nations,” Alliance Defending Freedom press release, September 20, 2013, http://www.prnewswire.com/newsreleases/back-to-the-basics-the-mainmessage-on-life-and-family-at-theunited-nations-224554251.html.
124. “UN continues to push for abortion as a ‘right’,” Alliance Alert, Alliance Defending Freedom, June 5, 2014, https://www.adflegal.org/media/archive/alliance-alerts/un-continues-topush-for-abortion-as-a–right-.
125. “UN Event on strengthening Family as Part of the Sustainable Development Process,” Universal Peace Federation,” February 10, 2016, https://www.upf.org/marriage-and-familyreports/6867-un-event-on-strengthening-family-as-part-of-the-sustainable-development-process.
126. Stefano Gennarini, “UN Appoints Global LGBT Ombudsman, Nations Push Back,” C-Fam, October 6, 2016, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/un-appoints-global-lgbt-ombudsman-nations-push-back/.
127. “U.S. Welcomes Formation of Equal Rights Coalition,” Press Statement, U.S. Department of State, July 19, 2016, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/07/260265.htm.
128. “Founding Principles,” Equal Rights Coalition, http://www.lgbtimontevideo2016.org/admin/files/lgbtimontevideo2016/upload/files/Equal%20Rights%20Coalition%20-%20Founding%20Principles%20ENG.pdf.
129. Bruce Knott, interview with author, July 29, 2016.
130. Edith M. Lederer, “Peace is top priority for next UN chief Antonio Guterres,” Associated Press, October 14, 2016, http://www.chron.com/news/world/article/UN-expected-toapprove-Guterres-for-9968152.php.
131. Peter Montgomery, “Religious Right Activist At World Congress Of Families: Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Africans Will ‘Save The World’,” Right Wing Watch, People For the American Way, November 2, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/religious-right-activist-world-congressfamilies-anti-gay-anti-choice-africanswill-save-wor.
132. Stern interview
133, 134. Radcliffe interview
135. Arvid Narrain, statement by email.
136. WCF X, “Levan Vasadze – Tbilisi Philharmonic. 16 May, 2016.
WCF X,” May 16, 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AqFK8zXTno.
137. WCF X, “Brian Brown,” May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=SFfH5kYYcAo.
138. WCF X, Gabriele Kuby, May 2016, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEhsRkpbSk.

Statement from PRA on the 2016 Election

9 November 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This is a difficult moment for justice-minded people and anyone who believes in democracy.

Taken at the 2015 Donald Trump rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Jamelle Bouie via Flickr.

A man who ran an insurgent campaign as a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and anti-establishment demagogue is now president-elect of the United States. In the coming days and weeks there will be extensive soul-searching and detailed analysis of the electorate and the dynamics that produced this result. There will be angry finger pointing. Both major parties, the news media, the polling industry, the Supreme Court (this was the first election since they gutted the Voting Rights Act) and large segments of civil society will have much to answer for. But let’s be clear: Trump built his campaign around a culturally exclusionary vision of America and mobilized White racial solidarity across class and gender—with unprecedented success. Whatever else was in play, the White vote handed Trump the presidency.

There is a good deal more reflection needed, but, there’s also no time to lose in preparing for what are sure to be difficult times ahead. We cannot be certain how a President Trump will govern, but if the coming administration bears any relation to the campaign that brought it into being, our human and Constitutional rights are in serious jeopardy.

Here are just a few possible battles we’ll have to fight together in the coming days:

  • Trump cannot possibly produce on all his election promises (more on that below), but to satisfy his base, Trump will need to be seen to make good on some of his bigoted—and eliminationist—policy proposals with respect to deporting unauthorized immigrants, punishing Muslims and refugees, and that southern border wall. (We can all anticipate who Trump will blame for his failures—the same liberal elites and undeserving dark-skinned/foreign/dangerous masses against whom he campaigned.)
  • We will likely face the elimination of the Affordable Care Act and collective bargaining for unions (“Right-to-Work” legislation).
  • We can expect a more regressive tax structure and curtailed/privatized social safety net & services.
  • We should anticipate heightened threats to abortion and funding for the largest nationwide provider of comprehensive women’s healthcare is in jeopardy.
  • Trump could define the Supreme Court for a generation.
  • Trump’s outspoken denial of climate change may be disastrous for the planet, the economy, and for the most vulnerable communities in the Global South.
  • White nationalists, buoyed by Trump’s campaign, are primed to seize the moment for a show of force, the Alt-Right will be trolling cyberspace, and everyday incidents of discrimination—already surging during the election season—may spike even higher.
  • There is a danger that police units across the country may view a Trump victory as a green light to unleash “blue rage” beyond even the rampant racial profiling and violence we’ve already seen.
  • Trump could continue his campaign practice of encouraging vigilante violence by naming and demonizing his detractors. Might he also amplify use of federal and local law enforcement as political police charged with repressing dissenters?
  • His administration may accelerate the erosion of democratic and civic institutions – including the press.
  • Trump’s election positions the Christian Right as king-makers, with pre-election polls placing Christian evangelicals as his most loyal backers. Trump has promised to repeal IRS rules barring church involvement in candidate races and to champion the cause of religious exemptions from (LGBTQ and other) antidiscrimination and labor laws, as his running mate Mike Pence has done as Governor of Indiana.

Any administration that would advance even a fraction of the above agenda would be unacceptable. Given that the president-elect’s party controls of both chambers of Congress and, at the state level, now hold trifectas (Governorship, House, Senate)  in 25 state governments, this agenda isn’t just possible, it’s likely.

What Then Must We Do?

We offer these takeaways as important lessons as we move forward into action:

  • The country is more racially divided that it has been in decades.
  • For most white people racism has been and continues to be economic suicide. For the past 40+ years, the Right Wing (and even centrist Democrats) has successfully used racist wedge issues to attack public services, the social safety net, and unions. In the months ahead we can expect to witness the further betrayal of working people—White and people of color—as Trump’s empty economic populism gives way to regressive taxation and private sector profiteering.
  • To adapt journalist Salena Zito’s formulation, many progressives have made the mistake of taking Trump literally but not seriously, while many of his supporters have taken him seriously, but not literally—voting for him in spite of rather than because of his full-throated bigotry. We must compete for those hearts and minds. Even those who voted for Trump don’t deserve what’s coming. None of us do.
  • Now more than ever, we need to invest in multi-racial organizing around a shared, integrated vision of, especially, racial and economic justice, and a shift in the culture of White anti-racist education and organizing away from notions of privilege and allyship and towards shared struggle in which White people take leadership in organizing other White people.
  • We must learn how to better present our social justice vision of racial, gender, and economic justice as a common, majoritarian, vision and not a partisan or set of special interest planks. We must boldly claim and compete for all of the country – including rural communities often abandoned to become zones of Far Right experimentation.

While reflection is critical, we can afford little time for mourning in the United States. Nature abhors a vacuum and the Right Wing abhors it even more. We must prepare to defend the targets of the coming administration and its supporters, including immigrants and refugees; Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities; and frontline organizers—including in rural communities. But we need more than defense. We must stop the momentum of the Right by pivoting now, and in a sustained way, to compete for the hearts and souls of white people drawn to regressive populism even as we remain firm in our commitment to advance racial, gender, and economic justice.  Trump promised jobs, manufacturing, and economic revival for working people in America. Perhaps we should demand it of him from the start, forcing and exposing his inevitable betrayal of working people as quickly as we can.

Current political and economic order is corrupt and some significant portion of Trump’s margin of victory came from the victims of neoliberalism—the bipartisan program of economic austerity and converting public services into profit centers. Especially in this populist moment we cannot win by burying our vision for justice and defending modest adjustments to the status quo. The electorate just repudiated that approach.

You can count on PRA to be here for you, monitoring the threats and revealing what each of us can do to advance justice and democracy in these turbulent times. Here are our early suggestions:

What Else Must We Do?

  • Rethink/reorganize progressives’ path to power, including a much more robust inside/outside posture to electoral politics.
  • Develop a robust strategy for organizing white people around a shared, synthetic program of, especially, racial and economic justice, aligned with existing racial justice movements & strategies. The Right successfully linked race and the economy in this election; progressives generally either confuse one for the other or treat them as fundamentally separate goals, when they are not.
  • We must lead with courage, humility, and compassion. This is a time for truth telling and rethinking failed strategies—out own, as well as others’.
  • We must build on important local victories—from the defeat of Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona to the defeat of charter school expansion in Massachusetts, without becoming parochial; progressives must identify a path to state and ultimately national power.

We take courage and inspiration from our dialog with many social justice visionaries about how we move forward from this nadir. We are not fleeing to Canada or retreating to a safe space. There is no safe space aside from the ones we build together, that protect us all.

Ever forward.
Tarso Luís Ramos,
for Political Research Associates

Find more PRA resources for organizers, here.

Declaración de PRA sobre la Elección de 2016

Estimados amigos y colegas,

Éste es un momento difícil para quienes creemos en la justicia y la democracia.

"the silent majority stands with trump"

Sacada en el mitin de Donald Trump en el Centro de American Airlines en Dallas, Texas, 2015. Foto: Jamelle Bouie a través de Flickr.

Un hombre que llevó a cabo una campaña insurgente como un demagogo racista, xenófobo, misógino y anti-establecimiento es ahora el presidente electo de los Estados Unidos. En los días y las semanas próximas habrá un extenso examen de conciencia y un análisis detallado del electorado, y de las dinámicas que produjeron este resultado. Se acusará con enojo. Ambos partidos, los medios periodísticos, la industria encuestadora, la Corte Suprema (esta fue la primera elección desde que destruyeron la Ley de Derechos Electorales) y grandes segmentos de la sociedad civil tendrán mucho por lo cual responder. Pero seamos claros: Trump creó su campaña en torno a una visión culturalmente excluyente de los Estados Unidos, y movilizó, con un éxito sin precedentes, la solidaridad racial entre la gente blanca cruzando fronteras de clase y género.  Dejando de lado cualquier otra cosa que haya influido en el resultado, el voto de los blancos le entregó la presidencia a Trump.

Hace falta mucha más reflexión, pero tampoco hay tiempo que perder al prepararnos para lo que seguramente serán tiempos difíciles por venir. No podemos estar seguros de cómo gobernará un Presidente Trump, pero si su administración presidencial tiene semejanza alguna con la campaña que lo llevó a la victoria, nuestros derechos humanos y constitucionales están en grave peligro.

Éstas son sólo algunas de las posibles batallas que tendremos que luchar juntos en los próximos días:

  • No hay manera de que Trump no pueda cumplir con todas sus promesas electorales (más respecto a esto a continuación), pero para satisfacer a su base tendrá que ser visto llevando a cabo algunas de sus propuestas políticas intolerantes – y eliminacioncitas – relacionadas con deportar inmigrantes indocumentados, sancionar a los musulmanes y a los refugiados, y construir ese muro en la frontera del sur. (Podemos anticipar a quién Trump culpará por sus fracasos: a las élites liberales y las masas de gente de piel oscura/de extranjeros/peligrosas que nada merecen, los mismos grupos contra quienes organizó su campaña). 
  • Probablemente enfrentaremos la eliminación de la Ley de Cuidado de la Salud Asequible y la negociación colectiva para los sindicatos (legislación de “Derecho al Trabajo”).
  • Podemos esperar una estructura impositiva más regresiva y una red de seguridad social reducida y/o privatizada, y lo mismo con los servicios sociales.
  • Debemos anticipar más amenazas al derecho al aborto, y el financiamiento para el mayor proveedor nacional de cuidado médico integral para las mujeres está en peligro. 
  • Trump podría definir la Corte Suprema para una generación. 
  • La rotunda negación del cambio climático por parte de Trump puede ser desastrosa para el planeta, la economía y las comunidades más vulnerables del Sur Global. 
  • Los nacionalistas blancos, animados por la campaña de Trump, están listos para aprovechar el momento y alardear su fuerza, la “Derecha Alternativa” estará cazando en el ciberespacio y los incidentes cotidianos de discriminación, ya agudizados durante la temporada electoral, podrían aumentar aún más. 
  • Existe el peligro de que puedan haber unidades policiales por todo el país que vean  la victoria de Trump como una luz verde para desenfrenar la “rabia azul” más allá todavía del perfilamiento racial agresivo y de la violencia que ya hemos visto.
  • Trump podría continuar con su práctica de campaña de incitar a la violencia, nombrando y demonizando a sus detractores. ¿Acaso no podría también amplificar el uso de la policía federal y local como policía política encargada de reprimir a los disidentes? 
  • Su administración podría acelerar la erosión de las instituciones cívicas y democráticas, incluyendo la prensa. 
  • La elección de Trump posiciona a la Derecha Cristiana como creadores de reyes; las encuestas pre-electorales colocan a los evangélicos como sus partidarios más leales. Trump prometió eliminar las reglas de la IRS que prohíben la participación de la iglesia en las carreras de candidatos, y también defender la causa de exenciones religiosas a la antidiscriminación (LGBTQ y otros tipos) y las leyes laborales, como lo hizo su compañero Mike Pence como Gobernador de Indiana.

Cualquier administración que avance incluso una fracción de tal agenda es inaceptable. Dado que el partido del presidente electo controla ambas cámaras del Congreso y, a nivel estatal, ahora también tiene una trifecta (la gubernatura, Casa de Representantes y Senado) en 25 gobiernos estatales, esta agenda no es sólo posible, es probable.

¿ENTONCES QUÉ TENEMOS QUE HACER?

Ofrecemos los siguientes puntos claves como aprendizajes importantes para tener en cuenta al tomar acción:

  • El país está más racialmente dividido de lo que ha estado en décadas.
  • Para la mayoría de la gente blanca el racismo ha sido y sigue siendo suicidio económico. Durante los últimos 40 años y más, la derecha (e incluso los demócratas centristas) ha utilizado con éxito asuntos políticamente divisivos, fomentados por el racismo, para atacar los servicios públicos, la red de seguridad social y los sindicatos. En los meses venideros seremos nuevamente testigos de la traición a los trabajadores, blancos y no blancos, a medida que el populismo económico vacío de Trump cede paso a los impuestos regresivos y las ganancias abusivas del sector privado.
  • Adaptando la formulación de la periodista Salena Zito, muchos progresistas han cometido el error de tomar a Trump literalmente pero no seriamente, mientras que muchos de sus seguidores lo han tomado en serio, pero no literalmente (votando por él a pesar de, y no por, su fanatismo intolerante). Debemos competir por esos corazones y esas mentes. Hasta los que votaron por Trump no merecen lo que viene. Nadie lo merece.
  • Ahora más que nunca debemos invertir en la organización multirracial centrada en una visión compartida e integrada de justicia racial y económica, y en un cambio en la cultura de la educación y el trabajo organizativo antirracista de la gente blanca, alejándonos de nociones de privilegio e identidad de “aliado”, orientándonos en vez hacia una lucha compartida en la que los blancos asumen el liderazgo de organizar a otra gente blanca.
  • Debemos aprender cómo presentar mejor nuestra visión de justicia social, racial, de género y económica como una visión común, mayoritaria y no partidaria o de intereses especiales. Debemos valientemente competir por todo el país, incluyendo las comunidades rurales que a menudo son abandonadas para convertirse en zonas de experimentación para la derecha extrema.

Si bien la reflexión es crítica, sólo podemos permitirnos un poquito de tiempo de luto en los Estados Unidos. La naturaleza aborrece un vacío, y la derecha lo aborrece aún más. Debemos prepararnos para defender a las posibles víctimas de la próxima administración y a sus partidarios, incluyendo: los inmigrantes y los refugiados; los musulmanes, judíos y otras minorías religiosas; y a los organizadores de primera línea; esto incluyendo a las comunidades rurales. Pero necesitamos más que defensa. Debemos detener el ímpetu de la derecha al dar un giro ahora, y de forma sostenida, para competir por los corazones y almas de esa gente blanca que es atraída por el populismo regresivo, permaneciendo a la vez firmes en nuestro compromiso con promover la justicia racial, de género y económica. Trump prometió empleos, producción y revitalización económica para los trabajadores de los Estados Unidos. Tal vez deberíamos exigírselo desde el principio, forzando y exponiendo su inevitable traición a la clase trabajadora lo más rápido posible.

El orden político y económico actual es corrupto y una parte significativa del margen de victoria de Trump provino de las víctimas del neoliberalismo, como el programa bipartidista de austeridad económica y la conversión de servicios públicos a centros de lucro. Especialmente en un momento populista como éste, no podemos ganar enterrando nuestra visión de justicia y defendiendo ajustes modestos al status quo. El electorado acaba de repudiar ese enfoque.

¿QUÉ MAS DEBEMOS HACER?

Cuenten con que PRA estará aquí para ustedes, monitoreando las amenazas y revelando lo que cada uno de nosotros puede hacer para avanzar la justicia y la democracia en estos tiempos turbulentos. Éstas son algunas de nuestras primeras sugerencias:

  • Repensar / reorganizar el camino de los progresistas hacia el poder, incluyendo una postura adentro/afuera frente a la política electoral mucho más robusta.
  • Desarrollar una estrategia robusta para organizar a la gente blanca en torno a un programa sintético compartido de, especialmente, justicia racial y económica, alineado con los movimientos y las estrategias de justicia racial existentes. La derecha vinculó exitosamente a la raza con la economía en estas elecciones; los progresistas generalmente confunden una con la otra o las tratan como objetivos fundamentalmente separados, cuando no lo son.
  • Debemos liderar con coraje, humildad y compasión. Este es un tiempo para contar la verdad y repensar las estrategias fallidas, las nuestras tanto como las de otros. 
  • Debemos basarnos en importantes victorias locales, como la derrota del alguacil Arpaio en Arizona y el freno a la expansión de escuelas privadas financiadas con fondos públicos en Massachusetts, sin quedarnos en lo pequeño. Como progresistas debemos identificar un camino hacia el poder a nivel estatal y, finalmente, nacional.

Tomamos coraje e inspiración de nuestro diálogo con muchos visionarios de la justicia social sobre cómo avanzar desde este nadir. No huiremos a Canadá ni nos retraeremos a un espacio seguro. No hay espacios seguros fuera de los que construimos juntos, de los que nos protegen a todos.

Hacia delante, siempre.

Tarso Luís Ramos,

En Nombre de Political Research Associates

Tarso Luís Ramos es el Director Ejecutivo de Political Research Associates. Ha estado investigando la derecha política de los EE.UU. por más de dos décadas, contribuyendo muchos artículos e informes sobre la derecha cristiana, y los movimientos y las campañas anti-inmigrantes, anti-laborales y anti-ecológicos. Ramos anteriormente sirvió como director fundador del programa de justicia racial del Centro de Estados Occidentales. A lo largo de los ’90, Tarso trabajó en varios estados occidentales para contrarrestar las campañas contra los homosexuales, las milicias de la derecha y otras amenazas organizadas contra la justicia social. Como director del Proyecto del Wise Use Public Exposure a mediados de los ’90, supervisó las campañas anti-sindicales y anti-ecológicas de la derecha.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Case in Defense of LGBTQI Human Rights Moves Forward with Critical Support from Political Research Associates’ Ground Breaking Research

MEDIA ADVISORY

CONTACT: Cole Parke, c.parke@politicalresearch.org
617-666-5300

WHAT: Oral argument on motions for summary judgment in Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, a federal lawsuit in which Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), is suing Scott Lively, a U.S.-based anti-LGBTQI activist and conservative evangelical pastor, for his role in the persecution of LGBTQI people in Uganda. The lawsuit alleges Lively’s active participation in a conspiracy to deprive Ugandan sexual minorities of their fundamental human rights. This is the first known case using Alien Tort Statute (ATS) to seek accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and sets a critical legal precedent that persecution on that basis is a “crime against humanity”—a serious crime under international law.

WHERE: U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, 300 State Street, Suite 120, Springfield, MA 01105

WHEN: Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 11:00am

WHO: Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, Senior Religion & Sexuality Researcher at Political Research Associates, will be available for interviews before and after the hearing. Kaoma created video documentation of Lively’s 2009 presentations in Kampala, Uganda at a series of now-notorious anti-homosexuality conferences, and was the first to break the story of Lively’s instrumental role in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law. Owing to his role as witness to Mr. Lively’s part in fomenting politicized homophobia in Uganda, Kaoma was deposed for these proceedings by defense counsel.  Kaoma is the author of several reports and a book about the role of U.S. religious conservatives in Africa. A sought-after media commentator, Kaoma is a leading expert on the role of American conservatives in global evangelicalism, and especially in expanding attacks on LGBTQI people, reproductive health and rights, and human rights. Kaoma, who is Zambian, is an ordained Anglican priest, and is currently the Rector of Christ Church in Hyde Park, MA and a Visiting Researcher at Boston University’s Center for Global Christianity and Mission. He received his doctorate in Ethics from Boston University in 2010.

BACKGROUND: In 2009, Rev. Dr. Kaoma documented Scott Lively’s role as a key instigator of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda (commonly referred to as the “Kill the Gays” Bill). Later that year, he published a ground breaking report entitled Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, which revealed the role of the U.S. Christian Right in growing attacks on LGBTQI people in Africa. In 2012, Kaoma followed up this research into the U.S. Christian Right’s exportation of American culture wars with another report, Colonizing African Values, and he appears as an expert voice in the 2013 documentary “God Loves Uganda.” Kaoma is also the author of American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism, published in 2014. His commentaries have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Global Post, Religion Dispatches and other media outlets. He is most recently the co-editor of a special human sexuality issue of the prestigious Journal of Theology in Southern Africa.

###

Ground Rules and Tips for Challenging the Right

Do Your Homework

Recognize that the Right is a complex movement.
No one organization “controls” the Right. No single funder is “behind” the Right. Some large organizations are important, but many others appear to be more influential than they really are. Recognize that there are multiple networks of organizations and funders with differing and sometimes competing agendas. Find out as much as you can about the groups you see. Incorporate this information in your educational work. It is helpful in organizing to know a great deal about your opponents. Be alert to evidence of the Right’s “new racism.” The Right has replaced simple racist rhetoric with a more complex, “colorblind” political agenda which actually attacks the rights of people of color.

Decode the Right’s agenda on your issue.
The Right often attempts to pass laws that take rights away from groups or individuals. Under the guise of addressing some compelling societal need, they often frame the issue by appealing to prejudice, myth, irrational belief, inaccurate information, pseudoscience, or sometimes even by using outright lies. Further, right-wing organizers often appropriate the rhetoric of the Civil Rights and civil liberties movements to portray themselves as victims of discrimination. Actually, they most often are seeking to undermine the existing protection of individual rights, increase their freedom to accumulate profit, and undermine the wall of separation between church and state.

Be careful to respect people’s right to hold opinions and religious beliefs that you may find offensive.
Everyone has an absolute right to seek redress of their grievances. This is equally true when those grievances are based on religious beliefs. In an open and democratic society, it is important to listen to the grievances of all members of society and take them seriously, even when we might be vehemently opposed to them. They do not, however, have a right to impose those beliefs on others.

Distinguish between leaders and followers in right-wing organizations.
Leaders are often “professional” right-wingers. They’ve made a career of promoting a rightist agenda and attacking progressives and progressive issues. Followers, on the other hand, may not be well-informed. They are often mobilized by fears about family and future based on information that, if true, would indeed be frightening. This so-called “education” is often skillful, deceitful, and convincing. These followers may take positions that are more extreme than those of the leaders, but on the other hand, they may not know exactly what they are supporting by attending a certain organization’s rally or conference. To critique and expose the leaders of right-wing organizations is the work of a good progressive organizers, writers, and activists. In the case of the followers, however, it is important to reserve judgment and listen to their grievances. Do not assume that they are all sophisticated political agents or have access to a variety of information sources.

Rebut, Rebuke, Reaffirm.
It’s important to remember that while the tactics of the Right may be obvious to you, they are not necessarily obvious to others, even though they might be part of the political process. The ways in which the Right distorts and misleads the public must be carefully explained. Use a three-step process. 1) Rebut false and inaccurate claims. 2) Rebuke those who use scapegoating or demagoguery. 3) Reaffirm what a progressive goal or agenda would accomplish for the betterment of society.

Stay Cool in Public

Use the opportunity of public forums to present your position.
Approach any public event as a chance to state your case. Come fully prepared to explain why you are right. Although your audience may be unfriendly, remember that you are often an invited guest at such events. Audience members are expecting you to represent your group, even though they may not expect to agree with you. Your task is to convince these listeners, not the representatives of the Right who may be your debating opponents or fellow panelists. Do so using short, clear sentences, not long, abstract paragraphs. Many audience members are your potential supporters, available to join your ranks. Provide them with reasons and ways to do so.

Demand documentation.
Common tactics of the Right include distorting the truth and manipulating facts and figures in order to deceive the public. You can often expose false charges and baseless claims by demanding that their sources be cited. The leadership of an organization can and must be held fully responsible for every spoken or written word that comes from him or her or the organization they represent. If you are thoroughly prepared, you will know the weaknesses of these sources and be able to refute them publicly. At the same time be prepared to document your sources in order to maintain your credibility.

Address the issues, not just the actors.
Try to avoid personalizing the debate or focusing entirely on the presentation by the Right’s representative. Take time to clarify what the real issues are, what tactics are being used, why these issues are important to the Right and what the implications of the debate might be.

Criticize the outcomes, not the intent, of the Right’s agenda.
If you focus only on exposing the purpose of a particular campaign, you may find yourself locked in a circular argument about who knows better what the Right seeks to accomplish. It may be more productive to look at the implications of the issues at hand and to explain that the logical outcome of adopting your opponent’s position will be a serious threat to the goals of your group.

Avoid slogans, name calling, and demonizing members of the Right.
Slogans and sound bites have their place, but they are not sufficient as an organizing strategy. Simple anti-Right slogans do not help people understand why the Right sounds convincing but is wrong. And responding in kind to being called names weakens your position with some of the listeners you are trying to convince. Phrases like “religious political extremists” are labels, not arguments, and often will backfire on the neighborhood and community level.

Expose who benefits from right-wing campaigns.
One of the most common ways the Right advances its policies is to argue that they will benefit the “average” person, though that most often is not the case. It helps in exposing this deception to point out who actually stands to benefit and who stands to lose from the policy being proposed. Exploring whose self-interest is served can help organizers as they seek a clearer picture of the forces behind a particular campaign. Sometimes, the greatest beneficiaries of a right-wing campaign are the organizations conducting it. Campaigns are recruitment tools. So if potential new members can be reached by a certain position, that is sometimes in and of itself the reason the campaign is mounted.

Keep Organizing

Keep your supporters informed.
Signing up supporters is a good start, but your job includes keeping your supporters well informed. Often the Right will switch tactics or redirect its energy. If you are in the middle of an attack, these changes may be puzzling. Keep in mind that the deep agenda of the Right remains unchanged despite these apparent shifts. Persist in explaining this to your colleagues.

Involve clergy and other respected community members in your organizing.
Since so much of the Right’s rhetoric has been influenced by the Religious Right, progressive, faith-based organizations and their representatives have great potential for increasing your chances for successful organizing. Sympathetic religious leaders can present an alternative interpretation of scripture and often have access to large congregations who may be interested in your work.

Be patient.
Change takes time. Your organizing today is laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s successes. Patience, optimism, and a sense of humor are key ingredients in opposing the Right.

Trump’s “Second Amendment People”?: The U.S. Patriot Movement Today

Click here to download the article as a PDF.

This article appears in the Fall 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

Judging from his recent statements, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seems to be making plans for post-election violence if he’s defeated. At the beginning of August he warned, “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged.”1). Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged’,” CNN, August 2, 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/08/01/politics/donaldtrump-election-2016-rigged. He went on to issue a seeming call for supporters to intimidate Democrats at the polls, telling his supporters to go with their friends and family to “watch.” (“And when I say watch, you know what I’m talking about, right?”2)Rebecca Savransky, “Trump to supporters: ‘Go out and watch’ on Election Day,” The Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/ presidential-races/donald-trumprigged-system-hillary-clinton-go-outand-watch-you-know-what-im-talkingabout.) Ultimately he declared that if Hillary Clinton “gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.”3)Eli Watkins and Rachel Chason,
“Trump campaign doubles down on election fraud claims,” CNN, August 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/12/politics/donaldtrump-pennsylvania-cheating; Jack
Holmes, “Donald Trump: ‘The 2nd Amendment People’ Can Do Something
to Stop Hillary Clinton,” Esquire, August 9, 2016, www.esquire.com/newspolitics/videos/a47491/donald-trumphints-at-hillary-clinton-assassination.

While Trump claimed he was merely suggesting an electoral remedy, where gun rights advocates become a pivotal voting block, the more obvious interpretation—the one understood by many listeners—was that Trump was seeding the idea in followers’ minds of an armed revolutionary struggle, or an assassination, to overthrow a democratically elected president. It’s likely that at least one constituency is already thinking the same way. When it comes to Trump’s so-called “Second Amendment people,” the prime candidates for the role are the members of the heavily armed, Hard Right “Patriot movement.”

For example, the next month, NPR talked to one Georgia man who was already making plans to join a militia. His reason? “Should martial law, civil war—whatever—break out in this country, they will uphold the Constitution and rebuild our loss…The war that’s going to break out if Hillary Clinton’s elected, if that happens. Your patriots are going to overthrow the government.”4)Travis Gettys, “Georgia voter predicts civil war if Clinton wins: ‘Patriots are going to overthrow the government’,” Raw Story, September 26, 2016, www. rawstory.com/2016/09/georgia-voter-predicts-civil-war-if-clinton-winspatriots-are-going-to-overthrow-thegovernment.

A Patriot movement member stands guard during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation in Oregon in January. Photo: Shawn Records.

A Patriot movement member stands guard during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon in January. Photo: Shawn Records.

The Patriot movement is a political tradition that dates back many decades. In the 1990s, when its “armed wing” expanded rapidly, it became well known as the militia movement.5)Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 287. It gained infamy in 1995 when two of its participants bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 (including 19 children in a daycare center on site).6)FBI, “The Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years Later,” accessed October 15, 2016, https://stories.fbi.gov/oklahoma-bombing. In more recent years, Patriot movement activists have repeatedly made headlines for anti-government actions. In 2014, members converged on rancher Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch to hold off federal employees at gunpoint and stop them from seizing his cattle for non-payment of grazing fees. In January 2016, Bundy’s sons were among the group of paramilitaries who took over the headquarters of the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, for 41 days. Originally demanding freedom for two local ranchers who had been imprisoned for arson, their main demand soon became that the federally owned refuge be transferred to county authorities that would allow it to be used for ranching with few or no environmental restrictions.

The Patriot movement is rooted in an idiosyncratic reading of the U.S. Constitution, which they claim prohibits almost the entire structure of the current U.S. federal government. They desire a completely unrestrained capitalist system on domestic matters, and denounce even the mildest state interventions in markets as “Marxism.” Federal ownership of most public land and any regulation of private firearms are also considered to be a violation of the Constitution.

The same holds for federal agencies that engage in almost any kind of regulation, including in economics, environmentalism, workers’ rights, health and safety, or civil rights for oppressed groups. The Patriot movement is saturated with anti-immigrant xenophobia and Islamophobia, and is driven by conspiracy theories concerning federal overreach, sleeper ISIS cells, and plans for a New World Order. (One popular claim is that the federal government is using Agenda 21—a non-binding United Nations white paper that promotes environmental sustainability—and environmental politics to drive rural people off the land and into the cities, where they will be disarmed and put in detention camps, so that the United Nations or China can invade.)

These conspiracy theories, which serve as the theoretical basis of the movement’s politics, provide easy explanations for complex problems. The basic narrative framework is based on centuries-old ideas and appeals to people across cultures; it casts participants as the heroes in a story in which good and evil are pitted against each other, sometimes in an apocalyptic battle.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movement is that, despite the fact that many of its tactics and talking points come from the White supremacist movement, it presents itself in a way that seems to avoid its racist background. One of the early Patriot movement groups, Posse Comitatus, was founded in 1971 on the West Coast as a vehicle for White supremacism and antisemitism. And yet, explains Daniel Levitas, author of the most comprehensive account of the group, Terrorist Next Door The Militia Movement & the Radical Right, the Posse (as it was called) didn’t look or sound like other White supremacist organizations. “Unlike most other right-wing groups that shared similar beliefs,” Levitas wrote, “the Posse succeeded at joining its conspiracy theories, bigotry, and zest for violence to more mainstream issues, such as banking, land-use planning, environmental regulations, property rights, gun ownership, and race.”7)Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10.

Writing about the Patriot movement of the late 1990s, which had inherited many aspects of the Posse’s organizational model, researcher David Neiwert wrote in his book, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, that the movement “disguises the racial and anti-democratic implications of its agenda and emphasizes, instead, its populist appeal across a broad range of issues, all wrapped in the bright colors of American nationalism.”8)David A. Neiwert, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1999), 5.

One of the other curious elements of the Patriot movement is that it waxes and wanes in phases; in particular it has flourished under Democratic presidencies.

One of the other curious elements of the Patriot movement is that it waxes and wanes in phases; in particular it has flourished under Democratic presidencies. The militia movement coincided with Bill Clinton’s tenure, but soon after George W. Bush came into office, it faded. The current generation emerged with Barack Obama’s election. Apparently Democrats better fit the movement’s Manchurian Candidate-style narratives about the president being a secret Communist agent who is about to betray the nation and is more likely to push for gun control—a core issue for the movement.

Trump isn’t exactly the movement’s ideal candidate; Ted Cruz did more to court Patriots, many of whom supported him in the primary. But quite a number of Trump’s views—his toxic combination of bellicose patriotism, xenophobia and Islamophobia; implicit White nationalism; protectionist but pro-capitalist politics; as well as his thinly veiled threats of violence and penchant for wild conspiracy theories—all hit the same notes as the Patriot movement. And if Trump loses, and Hillary Clinton takes office, the movement could adopt a revolutionary stance. The Patriot milieu is flush with heavily armed followers who are already trained in military tactics. It would only take a small number of them to go underground and start an armed struggle, with the hope of igniting a larger uprising.

THE PATRIOT MOVEMENT’S THREE WAVES

In Right Wing Populism in America Too Close for Comfort, author Matthew Lyons and former PRA senior analyst Chip Berlet write that, “The Patriot movement was bracketed on the reformist side by the [John] Birch Society and the conspiracist segment of the Christian Right, and on the insurgent side by the Liberty Lobby and groups promoting themes historically associated with White supremacy and antisemitism.”9)Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 288–89. However, groups that are the backbone of the movement today are armed, or advocate actions that are beyond the bounds of the existing law—or both. This movement has had three identifiable waves.

The group that set the organizing template for both the 1990s militia movement and the most active elements of the current Patriot movement was the Posse Comitatus (Latin for “power of the county”). The proposed outline for the group was first published in 1971 by William Potter Gale, a self-proclaimed minister in the racist and antisemitic Christian Identity religion, which holds that Jews are children of Satan and people of color are “mud people.”10)Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 108. When the head of Gale’s church, Wesley Swift, died, the position was taken by Richard Butler. He moved the church to Idaho and renamed it Aryan Nations, and the church became a major player the 1980s and 1990s neo-Nazi scene. Gale, a veteran of several Hard Right groups, developed a new politics of White supremacy and antisemitism that took a different direction than post-war U.S. neo-Nazism, which at the time was still a newcomer to the political scene. Instead of seeking an authoritarian, centralized state government with references to mid-nineteenth century European political imagery and promises of active government intervention, Gale promoted a vision of radical decentralization that relied on the founding symbols and texts of the U.S. liberal system. Gale’s vision of White supremacy was dressed up in the Constitution and cowboy imagery—not Mein Kampf and swastika armbands.

Gale’s vision of White supremacy was dressed up in the Constitution and cowboy imagery—not Mein Kampf and swastika armbands.

Gale’s Posse Comitatus was based on his own beliefs about the law, which combined an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution, the Bible, and Anglo-Saxon common law. The most important claim of Posse Comitatus was that county sheriffs could decide which laws were constitutional—something that would allow them to ignore federal laws at a time when civil rights and environmental protection legislation were being passed. (This fixation on fighting the federal government is what helped it gain such wide appeal.) Gale’s primary concept on sheriffs’ authority eventually included the notion that sheriffs could reject Constitutional Amendments as well—especially the 14th, which would strip citizenship from many people of color.

Posse Comitatus also advocated setting up fake courts as part of the prefigurative legal system it envisioned. These “common law courts,” composed of movement adherents, claimed they had the legal right to try and sentence standing officials, typically for treason. In effect, they were kangaroo courts, which hold their trials in absentia (who would show up to one?), and have only been known to pass out guilty verdicts. The threatened punishments have ranged from issuing fines to execution.11)For threats of execution, see Neiwert, In God’s Country, 102, 175, 198, 223; for threats of kidnapping, see Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 305. This idiosyncratic reading of constitutional law later became the Sovereign Citizen movement.

A significant, more intellectual, part of the movement was the Hard Right anti-Communist John Birch Society, founded in 1958. The group promoted conspiracy theories that were based on old antisemitic tropes but which no longer named Jews as the agents of conspiracy. For example, they claimed the United States was controlled by a secret cabal of Communists who planned to implement an authoritarian New World Order. Still in existence today, the John Birch Society continues to promote Patriot movement staples such as the authority of the county sheriff to judge the constitutionality of laws and advocate the transfer of federally owned lands.

The Posse Comitatus experienced a revival during the 1980s farm crisis. An increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve—from single digits to an average of 15.3 percent, and often higher—as well as changes in the international agricultural industry, led to widespread foreclosures of small farms, especially in the Midwest.12)Brian Lamm, “Banking and the Agricultural Problems of the 1980s,” FDIC, accessed October 10, 2016, www.fdic. gov/bank/historical/history/259_290. pdf. This is chapter 8 of the first volume of FDIC, History of the Eighties – Lessons for the Future, originally published in 1997; www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/ history/index.html. A protest movement, led by the American Agriculture Movement, arose in response. Their tactics included “tractorcades,” where thousands of farmers would drive tractors into urban areas as demonstrations, and “penny auctions,” where they tried to sabotage auctions of foreclosed farms. While the farm crisis affected thousands of farmers, a portion of the protesters were drawn to the Posse Comitatus politics, which claimed that an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers (who supposedly controlled the Federal Reserve) had dispossessed farmers of their land. By then the name “Christian Patriots”—a label which “said who they were without exposing them to quite as much criticism or surveillance” as Posse Comitatus, Levitas writes—had come into common use for the movement.13)Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 257

The 1990s militia movement, which formed the second wave of the Patriot movement, called for the formation of locally based militias to fend off looming tyranny—usually conceived of as a coming invasion by the United Nations, or domination by a secret cabal of elites. Although still present, those who openly espoused racist and antisemitic ideas were now a minority in the movement. The tactics and political goals remained the same, although the ideas of the John Birch Society had now become more prominent than the Christian Identity beliefs that animated the earlier movement. This second wave brought a mixture of different groups together, including White separatists, gun rights activists, right-wing tax protestors, anti-abortion activists, and Sovereign Citizens.

Then, as today, veterans were targets of recruitment by the movement—treated as objects of special veneration who could provide military training to other participants.

Starting in 1994, the militia movement expanded rapidly. Opposition to the Brady Bill, a 1993 gun control law, helped catalyze the movement. But many adherents were inspired by two incidents widely seen as evidence of federal government overreach or even tyranny. Then, as today, veterans were targets of recruitment by the movement—treated as objects of special veneration who could provide military training to other participants. The first was Ruby Ridge, a 1992 standoff between the FBI and the Weaver family, White separatists and Christian Identity followers in Idaho. During the 11-day standoff, two members of the family and one FBI agent were killed. The second was the 1993 siege of the compound of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, where a total of 84 people died in a botched raid by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which was followed by a standoff that lasted almost two months. Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was retaliation for these incidents, as he made clear in a letter just before his execution.14)Tracy McVeigh, “The McVeigh letters: Why I bombed Oklahoma,” Guardian, May 6, 2001, www.theguardian.com/world/2001/may/06/mcveigh. usa. One side effect was that, even as the federal government amped up its infiltration of militia groups, it also apparently adopted a very hands-off policy in dealing with majority-White, Hard Right groups in order to avoid a repeat of these two tragedies, and the reaction that resulted. This practice has affected standoffs in recent years.

At its height, the militia movement had 20,000–60,000 active members, and perhaps five million people who agreed with its basic worldview. It was able to attract supporters in Washington, D.C., including U.S. Representatives Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID). There were also state and local legislators like Colorado State Representative and Senator Charlie Duke.15)Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 212–17. Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, even had a disturbing meeting with the militias in 1995 when he was New Mexico’s governor. Occurring about a week after the Oklahoma City bombing, Johnson emerged to call them “very patriotic” and say he shared their views about federal government overreach.16)Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 215. But after George W. Bush’s 2000 election win—and then, even more so after 9/11—the movement, which has always been strongest in opposition to a Democratic administration, declined.

In late 2008, with the election of Barack Obama, the movement sprang back to life with a third wave. New organizations emerged, but they still promoted the doctrines that the county sheriff should interpret the Constitution; that most of the federal government was unconstitutional; and that it was essential to form paramilitaries and a parallel legal apparatus, such as movement-controlled court systems, in order to replace the current structure of government. After 2008 it became rare to find open, ideological White supremacist (or separatist) views among those in leadership positions. Islamophobia also largely supplanted antisemitism, with Muslims replacing Jews in recycled demonizing narratives.

THE NEW WAVE

While organized militias, which were popular in the 1990s, are still around, they are no longer the central organizing force of the movement. Since 2008, Patriot movement activists who engage in armed organizing, or other actions that overstep the law, usually fall into five main groups. The Oath Keepers are a membership-based organization of current and former police, military, and first responders who swear to “defend the Constitution.” (Others can join as associate members.) Oath Keepers swear not to enforce 10 hypothetical orders—mostly derived from staple right-wing conspiracy theories about how the U.S. government will disarm civilians and herd them into concentration camps to facilitate a foreign invasion. The organization attempts to operate within the law while also being armed, and to portray themselves as a cross between a veterans’ group and a community service organization. They were present at the Bundy Ranch standoff; sent members to Ferguson, Missouri, during protests against police killings; tried to recruit at Occupy Wall Street events; and offered to guard Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis when she refused to register same-sex marriages.17)Spencer Sunshine with Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2016), www.po – liticalresearch.org/up-in-arms, 7, 20.

5groupsFounded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, who had been an aide to former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), the Oath Keepers are estimated to have just over 2,000 members (they claim a membership of 40,000). Rhodes, a graduate of Yale Law School, illustrates how cross-class this movement is, despite the stereotype of it being mostly poor, rural, and uneducated White people.

An affiliated group, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), is led by former Arizona county sheriff Richard Mack, who is also on the board of directors of the Oath Keepers. Mack became a hero of the Hard Right in the 1990s when he won a Supreme Court ruling that backed his argument that local law enforcement does not need to enforce the provision of the Brady Act, which required them to perform gun sale background checks.18)Ryan Lenz, “Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack Seeks ‘Army’ of Sheriffs to Resist Federal Authority,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 11, 2012, www.splcenter.org/fightinghate/intelligence-report/2012/formerarizona-sheriff-richard-mack-seeks- ‘army’-sheriffs-resist-federal-authority. Like Posse Comitatus, Mack believes sheriffs can refuse to enforce federal laws, and decide whether amendments are constitutional. He has worked with Randy Weaver, the White separatist whose family was killed at Ruby Ridge, and previously worked for the radical group Gun Owners of America. The CSPOA refuses to make its membership list public, but it may include dozens of county sheriffs (they claim 400), in addition to other members.

One of those in the CSPOA’s orbit is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, whom the group named their “Sheriff of the Year” in 2013. A speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention and a frequent commentator on Fox News, he has called Black Lives Matter “purveyors of hate” and “black slime,” and tweeted, “Before long, Black Lies Matter will join forces with ISIS to being down our legal constituted republic” (sic). He has also made comments that imply he would welcome an armed revolutionary movement against gun seizures.19)“Sheriff David Clarke: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 18 (updated August 15), 2016, http://heav y.com/news/2016/07/sheriff-david-clarke-milwaukee-blacklives-matter-republican-nationalconvention-you-tube-cnn-quotesdon-lemon-guns-baton-rouge-trump; Katherine Krueger, “Frequent Fox News Guest: ‘Black Lives Matter Will Join Forces With ISIS,” Talking Points Memo, October 28, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sheriff-davidclarke-black-lives-matter-isis; David
Neiwert, “Sheriff David Clarke Plays a Straight-Talking Cop on Cable TV, But His Agenda Springs From Far-Right Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 30, 2015, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/10/30/sheriff-david-clarke-plays-straight-talking-copcable-tv-his-agenda-springs-far-right.

The Three Percenters were co-founded in 2008 by Mike Vanderboegh, a 1990s militia activist, as a more decentralized version of the militias, which many believe are heavily infiltrated by law enforcement. Anyone can independently declare themself a Three Percenter, although there are organized local and national groups as well. This model of “leaderless resistance” creates a more difficult political milieu to infiltrate than standing, membership-based organizations, and illegal actions can then be taken with a greater level of anonymity. The name refers to the mythical portion of American colonialists who were said to have taken up arms against the British during the American Revolution. Three Percenters swear that they will forcefully resist new gun regulations—a promise that brings to mind Trump’s unnamed “Second Amendment people.” In general they have a similar ideology to the Oath Keepers, although with a greater focus on Islamophobia, and they tend to attract the more violent members of the movement. (Some Three Percenters are reported to have also joined the Soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant vigilante patrol group founded by Finnish neo-Nazis and recently active in the United States as well.)

Another grouping, the Sovereign Citizens, also follow the crank legal theories first developed by Posse Comitatus. They believe most federal laws do not apply to them. The growth of a new wave of Sovereigns, as they are called, may have been spurred by the economic crisis starting in 2008; some have attempted to declare ownership of houses that underwent foreclosures. There are an estimated 100,000 “hardcore” Sovereigns, and 200,000 additional sympathizers. While there is clearly a large audience for these ideas, organized groups only play a minor role.20)The organizations include the Republic for the united States of America, the National Liberty Alliance, and the new Continental Court System of the United States. Many websites and videos promote these fake legal theories, while individuals—known as “gurus”—who spread their own versions of Sovereign Citizen ideas go on speaking tours to cultivate followers.

Their tactics vary. Some file false liens against political opponents, engage in tax scams and fraud. Some set up their own courts and declare themselves judges. (At least two fake courts, overseen by self-proclaimed judges and targeting federal employees, were initiated by those connected to the Malheur occupation.) Some, like Scott Roeder, who assassinated abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, refuse to put valid license plates on their cars. Others have killed law enforcement officers, including Joseph and Jerry Kane, who in 2010 killed two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas, before dying in a shootout.21)J.J. MacNab, “‘Sovereign’ Citizen Kane,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/sovereign-citizen-kane.

Despite the movement’s origins in the racist Right, today there are also a number of Black sovereigns. Veteran Gavin Long, the sniper who killed three police officers and wounded three others during a July 2016 Black Lives Matter march in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was part of a group influenced by Sovereign Citizen ideology.22)Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www. motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/ gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-possecomitatus-patriot-militias.

The size of these various wings of the movement is difficult to estimate. If based on the self-reporting of the CSPOA and the Oath Keepers, and online social media membership of Three Percenter group, it would appear that they represent a combined total of 130,000 activists—but this number is doubtlessly wildly inflated. It’s likely that their real numbers are between a quarter and a tenth of this.23)This upward figure is based on Richard Mack claiming the CSPOA has 5,000 members, the Oath Keepers claim of 40,000, and an analysis of closed online Three Percenter groups, showing a total membership of 85,000. (This is in separate from the estimate that there are 100,000 active Sovereign Citizens, and 200,000 sympathizers.) Even at these high numbers, there is a significant crossover of membership as well, lowering the total. See Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, http://www. politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/ profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Mark Potok and Ryan Lenz, “Line in the Sand,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 13, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/line-sand; Devin Burghart, “Oregon Standoff Fuels Growth of the Three Percenters (IREHR),” February 3, 2016, IREHR, http://www.irehr. org/2016/02/03/2415; “Sovereign Citizens Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splcenter.org/ fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/ sovereign-citizens-movement. The movement is spread across the United States; in certain Western states, it has the character of a mass movement with some level of popular support, including in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. (For a detailed analysis of the Oregon movement, see the Political Research Associates and Rural Organizing Project report Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement.24)Sunshine, et al., Up in Arms)

THE MOVEMENT TODAY

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this third wave peaked in 2011, before declining over the next several years. But when rancher Cliven Bundy staged his Nevada standoff in April 2014, over his longstanding financial dispute over grazing fees with the Bureau of Land Management, the movement swelled to his defense. When federal authorities came to seize Bundy’s cattle, Bundy called in his Patriot movement allies, which included armed Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. After a brief armed standoff, federal agents retreated—apparently following the government’s playbook instituted after Waco and Ruby Ridge.

For almost two years, there were no arrests and Bundy continued to not pay his grazing fees. Perhaps for the first time in the movement’s history, it appeared that the armed Patriot movement strategy—of deploying paramilitaries to stop the federal government from enforcing laws they opposed—had succeeded. This victory, achieved without casualties, inspired a sudden upsurge in movement activity and made the Bundys into movement icons.

For years, Republicans have attempted to transfer federally owned lands—which account for almost 50 percent of the land in 11 Western states—to state or county governments, effectively privatizing them in order to circumvent regulations on logging, mining, ranching, and development.25)The federal government controls 46.9 percent of the land in 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. See Carol Hardy Vincent, Laura A. Hanson, and Jerome P. Bjelopera, “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,” Federation of American Scientists, December 29, 2014, 20, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346. pdf, 20. Between the Bundy Ranch and Malheur wildlife refuge incidents, Patriot movement activists formed armed camps to support miners who were in conflict with federal agencies on at least two occasions. The first was in April 2015—the anniversary of the Bundy ranch standoff—at the Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County, Oregon, and the second was at the White Hope Mine in Lincoln, Montana, in August 2015. Neither of these events garnered much national attention.

Ammon Bundy (left) at the Malheur occupation. Photo: Shawn Records.

Ammon Bundy (left) at the Malheur occupation. Photo: Shawn Records.

Then on January 2, 2016, Patriot movement activists held a march in a remote Oregon town to protest an unusual prison sentence for two local ranchers who had been convicted under the 1996 Terrorism Act for starting fires on federal land where they had grazing rights. At the end of the march, a small group of armed activists from other states—including Cliven Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, as well as well-known Islamophobic organizer Jon Ritzheimer—occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where one of the fires had burned. They demanded the ranchers be freed, and the refuge be transferred to county control. They occupied the refuge for 41 days and engaged in an intense, unsuccessful struggle to win local community support for their efforts. One militant was killed when he refused to surrender at a police checkpoint. Those involved in the earlier Nevada standoff, including Cliven Bundy, were then also arrested. Twenty-six people were originally arrested for the Malheur Refuge occupation, and seven went to trial in September 2016; as of October 17, the trials are ongoing. The Bundy Ranch standoff trials are slated to begin in February 2017.

THE PATRIOT MOVEMENT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

In the past, the Patriot movement’s politics were considered extreme even by fellow conservatives. Today—coming on the tail of the armed takeover of federal property—it’s an increasingly popular grassroots movement in rural areas of several Western states where there are high levels of federal land ownership. The Republican Party mainstream is moving into alignment with the politics, if not the tactics, of the Patriot movement. Some elected officials are open sympathizers, such as Nevada State Representative Michele Fiore, who helped negotiate the surrender of the last of the Malheur Refuge occupiers. When hardline Patriot movement activists ran in the May 2016 Republican primary in Oregon—the state where the Malheur takeover occurred—almost none advanced to the November election. However, members of the movement did move into the state’s Republican Party apparatus itself. Many Patriots had run for positions as Precinct Committee People, the lowest level officials in the party. At the state’s June 2016 party convention, a number of them took seats in the party infrastructure. One of them, Joseph Rice, then the state’s most prominent Oath Keeper, became a delegate to the July 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. On the convention floor he unveiled a small banner emblazed with “Free the Bundys.”26)“Oregon Republican Party Delegate Selection Convention OFFICIAL RESULTS of the elections for National Convention Delegate-Elector-Con – gressional District Officer Elections as of June 20th, 2016,” Oregon GOP, accessed October 10, 2016, https:// oregon.gop/2016-official-resultsnational-convention-delegate-electorcd-officer; @transform6789, Twitter, August 6, 2016, 10:03 AM, https:// twitter.com/transform6789/status/761970990289223682.

Sign during the January 2, 2016 march in Burns, OR, claims that the Hammond family are allegedly victims of the Agenda 21 conspiracy. Photo: Jason Wilson.

Sign during the January 2, 2016 march in Burns, OR, claims that the Hammond family are allegedly victims of the Agenda 21 conspiracy. Photo: Jason Wilson.

While the tactics of the Patriot movement are not yet mainstream, the Republican Party platform has embraced the guiding conspiracy theories of the movement, noting that, “We emphatically reject U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of U.S. sovereignty, and we oppose any form of Global Tax.” A new plank now also calls for the immediate transfer of federal land to state governments.27)“Republican Platform 2016,” Republican National Committee, https:// prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws. com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_ FINAL%5B1%5D-ben_1468872234. pdf, 51. The Patriot movement’s xenophobic scapegoating and Islamophobia, taboo in mainstream circles even a year ago, have become part of mainstream political discourse.

If Trump is elected, it’s possible that the Patriot movement’s most militant tendencies might subside as supporters see their politics represented on a national level—along the lines of what happened with George W. Bush’s win in 2000. (Alternately, it could expand if he provides a warm ideological home for them, possibly turning a blind eye to, or even encouraging, illegal actions—although politicians often became more moderate once they are actually in power.)

If Trump fails to become president, some Patriot movement activists may turn to an armed struggle approach: the “second American Revolution” they’ve long threatened to carry out. For years, the movement’s tactics have largely been in support of what they call “defensive” positions, such as defending Cliven Bundy’s ranch from perceived federal intrusion. By contrast, the Malheur refuge occupation seemed to be a shift towards occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was an assassination by law enforcement, giving the movement a modern martyr. As Trump has sown the rhetorical seeds to legitimize revolutionary action, there is the possibility that escalated tactics could follow. If Hillary Clinton is elected, and her victory is portrayed by right-wing media as a stolen election, and she does promote further gun control measures—especially by executive orders or nominating a Supreme Court justice who supports them—armed revolt, by at least some members of this movement, would certainly be among the plausible outcomes.

About the Author

Spencer Sunshine is an Associate Fellow at PRA and is the lead author of the joint PRA/Rural Organizing Project report Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement. An earlier version of this article appeared in German in Der Rechte Rand #161.

References   [ + ]

1. . Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged’,” CNN, August 2, 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/08/01/politics/donaldtrump-election-2016-rigged.
2. Rebecca Savransky, “Trump to supporters: ‘Go out and watch’ on Election Day,” The Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/ presidential-races/donald-trumprigged-system-hillary-clinton-go-outand-watch-you-know-what-im-talkingabout.
3. Eli Watkins and Rachel Chason,
“Trump campaign doubles down on election fraud claims,” CNN, August 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/12/politics/donaldtrump-pennsylvania-cheating; Jack
Holmes, “Donald Trump: ‘The 2nd Amendment People’ Can Do Something
to Stop Hillary Clinton,” Esquire, August 9, 2016, www.esquire.com/newspolitics/videos/a47491/donald-trumphints-at-hillary-clinton-assassination.
4. Travis Gettys, “Georgia voter predicts civil war if Clinton wins: ‘Patriots are going to overthrow the government’,” Raw Story, September 26, 2016, www. rawstory.com/2016/09/georgia-voter-predicts-civil-war-if-clinton-winspatriots-are-going-to-overthrow-thegovernment.
5. Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 287.
6. FBI, “The Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years Later,” accessed October 15, 2016, https://stories.fbi.gov/oklahoma-bombing.
7. Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10.
8. David A. Neiwert, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1999), 5.
9. Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 288–89.
10. Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 108. When the head of Gale’s church, Wesley Swift, died, the position was taken by Richard Butler. He moved the church to Idaho and renamed it Aryan Nations, and the church became a major player the 1980s and 1990s neo-Nazi scene.
11. For threats of execution, see Neiwert, In God’s Country, 102, 175, 198, 223; for threats of kidnapping, see Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 305.
12. Brian Lamm, “Banking and the Agricultural Problems of the 1980s,” FDIC, accessed October 10, 2016, www.fdic. gov/bank/historical/history/259_290. pdf. This is chapter 8 of the first volume of FDIC, History of the Eighties – Lessons for the Future, originally published in 1997; www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/ history/index.html.
13. Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 257
14. Tracy McVeigh, “The McVeigh letters: Why I bombed Oklahoma,” Guardian, May 6, 2001, www.theguardian.com/world/2001/may/06/mcveigh. usa.
15. Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 212–17.
16. Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 215.
17. Spencer Sunshine with Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2016), www.po – liticalresearch.org/up-in-arms, 7, 20.
18. Ryan Lenz, “Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack Seeks ‘Army’ of Sheriffs to Resist Federal Authority,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 11, 2012, www.splcenter.org/fightinghate/intelligence-report/2012/formerarizona-sheriff-richard-mack-seeks- ‘army’-sheriffs-resist-federal-authority.
19. “Sheriff David Clarke: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 18 (updated August 15), 2016, http://heav y.com/news/2016/07/sheriff-david-clarke-milwaukee-blacklives-matter-republican-nationalconvention-you-tube-cnn-quotesdon-lemon-guns-baton-rouge-trump; Katherine Krueger, “Frequent Fox News Guest: ‘Black Lives Matter Will Join Forces With ISIS,” Talking Points Memo, October 28, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sheriff-davidclarke-black-lives-matter-isis; David
Neiwert, “Sheriff David Clarke Plays a Straight-Talking Cop on Cable TV, But His Agenda Springs From Far-Right Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 30, 2015, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/10/30/sheriff-david-clarke-plays-straight-talking-copcable-tv-his-agenda-springs-far-right.
20. The organizations include the Republic for the united States of America, the National Liberty Alliance, and the new Continental Court System of the United States.
21. J.J. MacNab, “‘Sovereign’ Citizen Kane,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/sovereign-citizen-kane.
22. Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www. motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/ gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-possecomitatus-patriot-militias.
23. This upward figure is based on Richard Mack claiming the CSPOA has 5,000 members, the Oath Keepers claim of 40,000, and an analysis of closed online Three Percenter groups, showing a total membership of 85,000. (This is in separate from the estimate that there are 100,000 active Sovereign Citizens, and 200,000 sympathizers.) Even at these high numbers, there is a significant crossover of membership as well, lowering the total. See Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, http://www. politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/ profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Mark Potok and Ryan Lenz, “Line in the Sand,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 13, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/line-sand; Devin Burghart, “Oregon Standoff Fuels Growth of the Three Percenters (IREHR),” February 3, 2016, IREHR, http://www.irehr. org/2016/02/03/2415; “Sovereign Citizens Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splcenter.org/ fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/ sovereign-citizens-movement.
24. Sunshine, et al., Up in Arms
25. The federal government controls 46.9 percent of the land in 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. See Carol Hardy Vincent, Laura A. Hanson, and Jerome P. Bjelopera, “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,” Federation of American Scientists, December 29, 2014, 20, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346. pdf, 20.
26. “Oregon Republican Party Delegate Selection Convention OFFICIAL RESULTS of the elections for National Convention Delegate-Elector-Con – gressional District Officer Elections as of June 20th, 2016,” Oregon GOP, accessed October 10, 2016, https:// oregon.gop/2016-official-resultsnational-convention-delegate-electorcd-officer; @transform6789, Twitter, August 6, 2016, 10:03 AM, https:// twitter.com/transform6789/status/761970990289223682.
27. “Republican Platform 2016,” Republican National Committee, https:// prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws. com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_ FINAL%5B1%5D-ben_1468872234. pdf, 51.

Right Woos Left: When Patriot Movement Groups Try to Recruit Progressive Activists

Click here to read the full report.

This an excerpt from Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement co-published with Rural Organizing Project.

Sometimes Patriot movement groups reach out to progressive activists in an attempt to recruit them to their cause. As you would expect, they typically downplay their reactionary social views and stress the more libertarian parts of their ideology. This is what Political Research Associates calls the “sucker punch.”1)“The Sucker Punch of Right/Left Coalitions,” Political Research Associates, www.publiceye.org/sucker_punch. See also Chip Berlet, Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected, Political Research Associates, originally February 27, 1999, www.politicalresearch.org/1999/02/27/right-woos-left.Various right-wing populists reach out to progressives with rhetoric that seems to match their beliefs. But once they are drawn in, the real agenda of the Patriot movement comes into play: dismantling progressive social gains and reestablishing conservative racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies—as well creating unrestrained capitalism and greenlighting the destruction of the environment.

The Oath Keepers have been particularly keen on reaching out to progressives. They went to several Occupy Wall Street events, including in Oregon.2)Spencer Sunshine, “20 on the Right in Occupy,” Political Research Associates, February 13, 2014, www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/13/20-on-the-right-in-occupy; witness testimony, as told to author, July 13, 2016. In the state, the Oath Keepers worked hand-in-glove with the group PANDA (People Against the National Defense Authorization Act)—who were able in turn to work with Occupy Wall Street, and other progressive groups. Many progressives were disturbed by the National Defense Authorization Act, originally passed in 2011; according to the American Civil Liberties Union, it “contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision.”3)“President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law” (press release), American Civil Liberties Union, December 31, 2011, www.aclu.org/news/president-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-bill-law.

PANDA received support from some progressives during their successful campaign to get several Oregon counties to pass resolutions against National Defense Authorization Act; according to the Oath Keepers, these included Lane, Klamath, Josephine, Douglas, and Coos counties.4)Elias Alias, “Oregon Oath Keepers Slam NDAA In Five Counties!,” Oath Keepers, August 14, 2014, www.oathkeepers.org/oregon-oath-keepers-slam-ndaa-in-five-counties. Yet in the familiar bait-and-switch, after Patriot activists established armed encampments at the Sugar Pine Mine at the invitation of its owners, one PANDA leader denounced the Rural Organizing Project and defended both the Patriot movement in general and militia organizing specifically.

The Patriot movement’s interests overlap with a few other issues usually associated with progressives.

  • They oppose intrusive government surveillance; the Oath Keepers have even praised Edward Snowden.5)Mike Riggs, “Oath Keepers Group Places Massive Pro-Snowden Ad Inside Pentagon Metro Station,” Reason, July 24, 2013, http://reason.com/blog/2013/07/24/oath-keepers-place-massive-pro-snowden-a.
  • The Patriot movement often supports alternative energy sources and energy independence—positions which are consistent with its xenophobic nationalism.
  • It is also opposed to eminent domain, used by the energy companies while building the fracking pipelines, as a violation of private property rights.
  • Other popular sites of crossover include opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
 There are a number of issues which interest both progressives and Hard Right activists, including opposition to Monsanto.

There are a number of issues which interest both progressives and Hard Right activists, including opposition to Monsanto.

Aaron Auer, gubernatorial candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party of Oregon, opposes GMOs.

Aaron Auer, gubernatorial candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party of Oregon, opposes GMOs.

 

There is widespread anti-vaccine sentiment in the Patriot movement. There is also a strong emphasis on the home canning, rainwater collection, and other subsistence activities. On the Right, this is part of the survivalist/prepper movement, and on the Left, crosses over with the interests in D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) culture and radical environmentalism.

The Patriot movement has spoken out of both sides of its mouth about Ferguson and Black Lives Matter. (See box on p. 41.) You hear some argue the conspiracy that Obama is stirring up racial tensions so martial law can be declared, or ludicrously claim that Black Lives Matter protestors are treated with leniency compared to the Malheur occupiers.

Malheur occupier Brandon Dowd encouraged Black Lives Matter activists to come to Malheur and learn the crank legal theories being taught there. (Photograph courtesy of Spencer Sunshine)

Malheur occupier Brandon Dowd encouraged Black Lives Matter activists to come to Malheur and learn the crank legal theories being taught there. (Photograph courtesy of Spencer Sunshine)

On the other hand, a Black member of the Malheur occupation, Brandon Dowd, hoped to recruit Black Lives Matter activists. “I would encourage more Black people to come here to get educated,” he said. “They could learn a lot being here and talking to these constitutional lawyers.”6)Sam Levin, “Black Oregon militiaman: Black Lives Matter can learn from occupiers,” Guardian, January 17, 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/17/oregon-militia-black-lives-matters-activist-us-constitution. One speaker at a Portland rally for the Malheur arrestees called on Black Lives Matters protestors to join them.7)Amelia Templeton, “Occupation Supporters Try To Sway Broader Audience In Portland,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 5, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/portland-oregon-standoff-protest-rally-lavoy-finicum. And at the Cave Junction community watch meeting Sovereign Citizen-style fake courts were promoted as, “A people’s answer to Ferguson.”8)“Community Meeting,” Facebook event for December 15, 2014, www.facebook.com/events/332140650303625. (See Josephine County section.) The person heading up the fake courts seems to be quite socially liberal in his views—as are a number of Sovereign Citizens.

And despite its origins in open White supremacy, today the Sovereign Citizen movement has a large number of Black members, as well as an increasing number of Latinos and even Native Americans. Gavin Long, the veteran who shot six Baton Rouge police officers in July 2016, killing three of them, embraced membership in the group Empire Washita de Dugdahmoundyah, which is influenced by Sovereign Citizen ideas. According to JJ MacNab, an expert on Sovereign Citizens, this ideology is most common among African-Americans in east coast cities such as Philadelphia and Washington, DC, and in the South—particularly Florida, Tennessee, and around New Orleans.

Lastly, one Marxist group rallied to the Malheur occupiers’ side during the Malheur occupation. The Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist sect, has called to: “Free Dwight and Steven Hammond! No to another Waco! Drop the charges against Ammon Bundy and others who occupied the Malheur reserve!”9)Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-posse-comitatus-patriot-militias; “Oppose FBI raid, killing in Oregon!,” Militant 80, no. 5 (February 8, 2016), http://themilitant.com/2016/8005/800520.html.

References   [ + ]

1. “The Sucker Punch of Right/Left Coalitions,” Political Research Associates, www.publiceye.org/sucker_punch. See also Chip Berlet, Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected, Political Research Associates, originally February 27, 1999, www.politicalresearch.org/1999/02/27/right-woos-left.
2. Spencer Sunshine, “20 on the Right in Occupy,” Political Research Associates, February 13, 2014, www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/13/20-on-the-right-in-occupy; witness testimony, as told to author, July 13, 2016.
3. “President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law” (press release), American Civil Liberties Union, December 31, 2011, www.aclu.org/news/president-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-bill-law.
4. Elias Alias, “Oregon Oath Keepers Slam NDAA In Five Counties!,” Oath Keepers, August 14, 2014, www.oathkeepers.org/oregon-oath-keepers-slam-ndaa-in-five-counties.
5. Mike Riggs, “Oath Keepers Group Places Massive Pro-Snowden Ad Inside Pentagon Metro Station,” Reason, July 24, 2013, http://reason.com/blog/2013/07/24/oath-keepers-place-massive-pro-snowden-a.
6. Sam Levin, “Black Oregon militiaman: Black Lives Matter can learn from occupiers,” Guardian, January 17, 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/17/oregon-militia-black-lives-matters-activist-us-constitution.
7. Amelia Templeton, “Occupation Supporters Try To Sway Broader Audience In Portland,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 5, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/portland-oregon-standoff-protest-rally-lavoy-finicum.
8. “Community Meeting,” Facebook event for December 15, 2014, www.facebook.com/events/332140650303625.
9. Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-posse-comitatus-patriot-militias; “Oppose FBI raid, killing in Oregon!,” Militant 80, no. 5 (February 8, 2016), http://themilitant.com/2016/8005/800520.html.