Banana Republicans (research notes)

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These research notes were used by authors Sheldon Rampton to invite public participation through SourceWatch while they wrote their 1995 book, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State.

As they did with their previous bestselling book, Weapons of Mass Deception, Rampton and Stauber aim to show how propaganda and public relations are undermining democracy and the public interest. Banana Republicans investigates how the "right-wing conspiracy," as represented by the GOP and its mouthpieces in media, lobbying groups, and the legal system, is undermining dissent and squelching pluralistic politics in America.

Although the book has now been written, SourceWatch users can continue to develop its research and analysis through SourceWatch's outline and chapter summaries. The notes below reflect analysis and research conducted by SourceWatchns while the book was being written:

The Problem

The U.S. budget surplus has turned into a massive deficit, billions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into the coffers of Halliburton, millions of jobs have been lost, fears grip the nation, and we are embroiled in two overseas military entanglements with no end in sight. Outside our borders, anti-American sentiment has reached unprecedented levels.

For the first time in living memory, a single party - the Republicans - controls every major institution of the federal government: the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate and House of Representatives - not to mention the "fourth branch of government," the mass media. How did this come to pass? Is it a good thing for the country?

Banana Republicans will investigate how the national GOP maintains its hold on power through the systematic manipulation of the electoral system, the courts, the media, and the lobbying establishment.

Topics to be explored

  • The rise of the far right: From Birchers and Goldwater youth to think tanks, Roger Ailes, Pat Robertson and today's neoconservatives.
  • The plumbers of public opinion: How pollsters, pundits and PR strategists have honed and shaped political messages that build the right and divide the country.
  • Undermining elections: The legacy of the Florida ballot scandal, and how it has played out in the recall movement in California - and other states, where recall efforts are underway - and in the redistricting controversy in Texas.
  • The echo chamber: How a GOP echo chamber systematically spreads its views through conservative media giants - e.g., Clear Channel, Fox News - and highly placed columnists, journalists, and opinion makers.
  • Subverting the courts: How the Bush administration is loading the federal courts with a generation of demagogues, and smearing the names of legislators who attempt to stand in its way.
  • The one-party state: How House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has strong-armed traditional lobbying firms into exclusively hiring Republicans, so that even K Street is political, rather than merely opportunistic.
  • Treating dissent as treason: How the G.O.P. has equated dissent with treason - e.g., Attorney General John Ashcroft accusing critics of the Patriot_Act_I of abetting terrorism.
  • War on activism: The ability and willingness of citizens from all walks of life to express themselves vigorously in the political process is one of the most important attributes of any real democracy. Increasingly, however, activism is seen as a problem and obstacle to be overcome by corporate consultants that spy on and harass nongovernmental organizations and independent citizen activists.
  • The loyal opposition: How the Democratic Party has tread the same special interest path, becoming "Republican lites" estranged from the citizenry and open to charges of being tweedle-dum to tweedle-dee.

How you can help

Authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber will appreciate any information that you add to the SourceWatch related to the topics above, but will of course do their own fact-checking and synthesis, using their own research and analysis to determine which information is appropriate for inclusion in the book. While they will not be able to acknowledge (except in the aggregate) individuals who contribute information via the SourceWatch which is incorporated into the book, we hope that you will consider participating in what we see as an important experiment in developing democratic information systems. As with past books written by Rampton and Stauber, all author's royalties and other proceeds from the sale of Banana Republicans will go to their employer, the Center for Media & Democracy.