The Video Fantasies of James O’Keefe.

Given motivation, a hidden camera, editing software and enough time, anyone could create videos showing targets saying almost anything. An edit here and an edit there and you could make it seem that a NASA official said the moon landing was a fraud. Or you could make it seem that the Pope said there is no God.

Such is the work of James O’Keefe and his Breitbart-sponsored pals.

In 2009, O’Keefe released videos purporting to show employees of the community organizing group ACORN giving advice regarding prostitution. Not surprisingly, the group’s political enemies went wild resulting in Congress denying any further funds to the group. Even though the videos were later proven to have been fraudulent and misleading, the news came too late – long after most of the organization’s offices were closed.

Then, in 2015, O’Keefe turned his sights and his hidden cameras on Planned Parenthood, creating another set of highly-edited and misleading videos that seemed to show Planned Parenthood officials offering to purchase and sell baby parts from aborted fetuses. The videos are still reverberating in the blogosphere and among right-wing political pundits causing the GOP-controlled Congress to sponsor legislation aimed at cutting funding for the organization even though O’Keefe’s work was again shown to be fraudulent.

One would think that two such efforts would have relegated O’Keefe to the trash heap of history alongside the likes of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and other disreputable right-wing operatives where he could no longer cause harm to well-meaning people and organizations. But he’s back with yet another unscrupulous hit job. This time he’s attempting to show that Democratic officials have engaged in unethical campaign tactics, the promotion of violence and vote rigging leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

In other words, O’Keefe is trying to prove the Democratic Party is guilty of doing the very same things the Republican Party and the Trump campaign are doing!

Yet the comparison is unconvincing. On the one hand, we have some highly-edited videos produced by a known fraudster. On the other hand, we have a long history of GOP efforts to gerrymander legislative and congressional district; of federal court cases surrounding voter suppression efforts by the GOP; of the beatings of protesters caught on video at campaign rallies; of GOP elected officials arbitrarily removing the names of minorities from voter registration lists.

United Corporations Of America.

Now that Congress has been bought by large corporate interests and billionaires, you can clearly see the GOP agenda intended to pay back campaign donors.

Some of the very first bills brought forward by the GOP include a bill demanding that President Obama and the State Department approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The stated goal is to “create jobs.” But given the fact that the pipeline would only create 35-50 permanent jobs (aside from the temporary jobs needed to build it and those who would be needed to try to clean up the toxic leaks), it’s really a blatant payback to the Koch brothers for supporting GOP candidates.

Of course, we’ve seen yet another Repeal Obamacare bill intended to throw red meat to the right wing base.

The GOP-led Congress has also passed bills intended to, once again, deregulate Wall Street and to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency. Of course, this is a nod to the GOP’s big Wall Street donors and right wing billionaires. If signed into law, the result would be to unshackle too-big-to-fail banks and investment funds to fleece ordinary investors of their IRAs, 401ks and pension funds.

We’ve seen attempts to withhold funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. This, of course, is another bill to pay back the Koch brothers and large corporations, freeing them to extract resources without regard to the environment. And once the resources have been harvested, the public will be left to clean up the corporate mess.

And let’s not forget the other kind of GOP payback to which we have become so accustomed. The GOP is blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in an attempt to force Democrats to sign a well-intentioned human trafficking bill that has been amended to further restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. This is the same kind of nonsense we’ve seen since President Obama took office in 2009…a period that has thus far seen the GOP block dozens of cabinet and judicial nominees along with 375 bills, including 7 jobs bills and 2 bills for veterans’ benefits. (Indeed, half of the filibusters in US history have come during the Obama administration.)

Yet, instead of replacing the bums with people who might actually represent their constituents, a low voter turnout resulted in the GOPstoppers picking up control of the Senate!

And lest you think that this generation of GOP politicians is particularly disgusting, remember that others in the GOP have done worse. For example, Richard Nixon resorted to treason by undermining President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese in order to win a close election with Hubert Humphrey. Ronald Reagan intentionally aligned himself with racist Southern Christians (the KKK has long been associated with Christian believers) to defeat Jimmy Carter. And George W. Bush relied on his brother to suppress thousands of votes in Florida in order to steal the presidency from Al Gore.

Although GOP cheating was less obvious in 2004, there is considerable evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio, the state that allowed Bush to defeat John Kerry.

More recently, Teapublicans have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win. They have passed restrictive voter ID laws to prevent minorities, the poor and the elderly from voting. They have cut early voting hours and the number of polls in Democratic-leaning areas to make voting more difficult. They have skirted, or outright ignored, campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between campaigns and PACs or so-called “education” groups. And their hand-picked conservative Supreme Court Justices have acted to strike down decades of precedent in order to open the floodgates of corporate and special interest money in support of GOP candidates. In doing so, two of those “justices” (Thomas and Scalia) refused to recuse themselves from the cases despite the fact that they personally stood to benefit from their own decision – a breach of ethics that would not be tolerated at any other level of the justice system.

As a result, things are only going to get worse.

Democracy Lost.

In recent years, much has been written about growing inequality. It is, indeed, one of the most important issues of our time. And the effects of big money on our democracy have been devastating.

Sure, you may still be able to vote to elect those who are supposed to represent you. But that, alone, does not constitute democracy. Not only are the choices of candidates limited to two individuals – the only two who were able to climb their way up the political ladder in order to receive their parties’ blessings and, more important, their campaign funds. All too often, those who are elected are promised large campaign donations by corporations and industries in exchange for political favors. It is not necessarily quid pro quo, but the expectation for a return on the investment is there. So, too is the pressure.

In reality, such high stakes lobbying has long been a part of politics. But, over the past 35 years, things have gotten even worse.

In the late seventies, large US corporations began to see their hold on the world economy slip. New, lower-priced, high-quality imports – many of them made with robotics – from Japan and Germany began to push aside American-made products. US corporations responded by relocating manufacturing – first to the South, then off-shore – in search of lower-priced labor.

Perhaps, the most destructive response was the move to tie CEO compensation to the value of the companies’ share prices. This ushered in an era of ever-increasing CEO salaries and even more lucrative stock options for CEOs – a legalized form of insider trading. The result was for US corporations to seek ever lower-priced labor in countries where there is no regulation and no employee benefits. At the same time corporate profits have soared, employee salaries and corporate investments in the future have diminished – almost guaranteeing that the future will belong to foreign-based corporations. But why would our CEOs care? They and their money will be long gone before it matters.

Our corporations have used the threat of off-shoring jobs to extort our state and city governments. In exchange for their extortion, those governments have assumed many of the risks of corporate relocation or expansion by paying for needed infrastructure, cutting regulations, and delaying or eliminating corporate taxes.

Now these corporations are attempting to extort the federal government.

Unwilling to pay US income taxes on profits made off-shore, these corporations are stashing cash in foreign banks until the federal government agrees to “repatriate” the money at a greatly reduced tax rate. Of course, they’re justifying the extortion by saying that “repatriation” will lead to greater investments and more jobs in the US – the great “trickle down” fraud.

In reality, the money is more likely to be doled out to CEOs and other executives in the form of bonuses (as a reward for robbing ordinary taxpayers) and stock options.

In the meantime, corporations and billionaires have been working to rig the system. Realizing that buying Congress and our state legislatures is cheaper than paying lobbyists, people like the Koch brothers have stuffed the pockets of candidates willing to do their bidding. To pave the way, they pushed conservatives to stack the Supreme Court with ideologues such as Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That inevitably led to favorable court rulings giving corporations the rights of people and all but eliminating limitations on political donations. They got the IRS to change its rules allowing “non-profits” to fund political campaigns. When they won control of legislatures, they gerrymandered congressional districts making it all but impossible for anyone but “their people” to win office. And they introduced Voter ID laws to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.

In 2014, their efforts finally came to fruition. Having already bought the House in 2010, they now own the Senate. It’s no coincidence that the first bills to reach the House and Senate floors were to repeal “Obamacare” and to build the Koch…er…Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made it clear that issues such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance and student loan costs will be pushed aside in favor of gutting regulations on health care and financial services and eviscerating the EPA.

If you’re still worried about the effects of so-called “dark money” on our democracy, don’t. Last year, our democracy officially became an oligarchy.

An Ugly GOP Strategy Gets Even Uglier.

As long ago as the late sixties and early eighties, Republican leaders developed a unique election strategy. They intentionally made politics so messy; so reprehensibly ugly; so divisive that many moderate voters became disgusted with the whole political process and tuned out. The idea was that by diminishing the votes of moderates, the primaries and elections would be decided by the most rabid conservative base.

At the same time, they attacked the mainstream news outlets in order to create distrust of the media and objective reporting. This allowed partisan talk show hosts and conservative pundits to confuse voters and control the political message.

It worked.

This strategy was at the heart of many GOP victories over the past 40 years. It was never more obvious than in the events leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections. And it would have worked again in 2012 if not for an energized  Democratic majority and a bartender who captured Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent.

Not content with demoralizing and repulsing a large number of moderates, the GOP and its Tea Party parasites have set about passing voter ID laws designed to diminish the participation of other segments of the electorate…including the poor, the elderly and minorities. The fewer of these Democratic-leaning voters who participate, the easier it will be for conservatives to win elections.

Combine these strategies with the financial backing of large corporations and wealthy contributors such as the Koch brothers, and we might see a conservative landslide in 2014.

Given the changing demographics of our nation and the coming minority majority, these cynical GOP strategies can’t work for long and Teapublicans know it. But they can create a lot of mischief in the meantime. You need only look at the ultra-conservative bills that have been pushed through states with a Teapublican majority in the legislature and a Teapublican governor.

Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas and others have acted like States Gone Wild with their anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-union, anti-minority and pro-gun legislation. Many of their measures are unpopular with a majority of their citizens. But the majority is helpless to do anything to stop the bills or overturn them until there’s a change in state governments. And change is unlikely anytime in the near future because of Teapublican gerrymandering designed to keep them in power for years.

The only chance for change is for moderates to become re-engaged; to tune out the relentless negative campaign ads; to look beyond the headlines; to ignore the sound bites; to approach elections by studying the candidates and their policies with the same attitude as studying for a college final; then vote!