Dec. 4, 2021, I found a Facebook post that articulated the relationship of the
right-wing Republican political operations to the religious right’s dominion
theocracy movement. As Ruth Larson Case posted, “They have been working
steadily behind the scenes for years & years. It’s no secret that the
Republican Party/conservative Christianity is actively trying to turn this
nation into some form of theocracy.”
As a retired reporter and editor, I usually don’t put much stock in or react to Facebook posts like this and am more than wary of conspiracy theories. But for years I had heard about dominionism and that Ted Cruz was part of the movement. The other thing I’ve heard about for some time is a book by renowned Duke University historian Nancy MacLean, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.” But I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until diving into researching dominionism. That sparked a nagging recollection about MacLean’s book, so after reading Heather Boushey’s book review in The New York Times Aug. 20, 2017 Sunday Book Review I decided to read it. On Dec. 15, I got it through interlibrary loan and can confidently assert that MacLean's case is meticulouslydocumented. It's clear that in connectingthe dots this nation is at a tipping point.
don’t need to read beyond the book’s Introduction (attached PDF) to see how she
outlines how sinister is economist James McGill Buchanan’s so-called public
choice theory; and his stealthy plan being fully the progenitor of the Republican-right’s
agenda and concomitant behavior. This started in the late 1950s and certainly
since the 1970s with the Koch Brothers involvement. That plan, which MacLean
convincingly asserts is really a long-term movement, has unfolded before our
very eyes. Even media at the highest level has written about the plan’s tactics
as increased bitter partisanship while missing the big picture.
review is a great summary of MacLean’s thesis, with some examples, MacLean’s
introduction gives us the overview and context. So does The New York Times’ obituary for Buchanan noting, “[he] was a
leading proponent of public choice theory, which assumes that politicians and
government officials, like everyone else, are motivated by self-interest —
getting re-elected or gaining more power — and do not necessarily act in the
Buchanan feared the expansion of government and government programs would
result in taxing the rich to provide what the Republicans have called
“entitlements” for the populace, a behavior he argued, designed to keep the
political/government class in power and take money from the billionaire
capitalist class. Meanwhile, one of the “stealth” parts of Buchanan’s scheme
was based on his notion that the political-government-populace couldn’t be
“constrained” — at least as long as the voters were allowed to vote their will.
said, I only recently realized that Buchanan’s approach melded with the
dominionist movement when MacLean and the obit pointed out that Buchanan
“amplified on” this so-called “public choice theory” from the 1950s onward and “argued
for smaller government, lower deficits and fewer regulations — a spectrum of
policy objectives that were ascendant in the 1980s conservative agenda of
President Ronald Reagan.”
part of that strategy was the Koch Brothers’ founding of the Cato Institute
(and many other “think tanks” to promote public choice theory. How stealthy
this was and some indication of its links to the dominionist movement is
another PRA essay by Peter Montgomery in April 2015 in “The Public Eye.” In this article, “Biblical Economics:
The Divine Laissez-Faire Mandate,” Montgomery outlines how melded these parts
of the movement are; and, how subtle they are.
Case’s Facebook post fell short was labelling these Christian zealots as agents
of “7 Mountains Dominionism” thereby missing the Buchanan/MacLean connection.
However, in short, those politicians openly or assumedly associated with the
dominionist movement AND the radical right are both sides of the same coin. As
allies of Buchanan’s plan, they are, as MacLean reluctantly calls them, a fifth
column allied with others to end our democracy. And how convenient the
Christian overlay on the movement is.
As for my research on dominionism, I found work by Frederick Clarkson; Ph.D., senior fellow at the non-profit think tank Political Research Associates helpful. In several articles in the PRA’s “The Public Eye” he and others make clear the movement is more complex than the 7 Mountains or 7M branch of the movement.
continues to describe how the movement predated the label by several decades.
In a later essay, he offers a more complete understanding of the movement in
“Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight,” in the Summer 2016 The Public Eye. His article shows the dominionist
movement is far more complex and broader than simply saying the permutations of
the movement have the common goal of domination of governments with a
fundamentalist Biblically based legal system — some going so far as an Old
Testament underpinning. Think the “Christian” version of Sharia law.
important understanding of the movement impacting United States politics
threatens the Constitution by rejecting of Thomas Jefferson’s separation of
church and state. A dominionist U.S. Constitution would hold the U.S. was
founded as a Christian nation — a belief that flies in the face of historical
facts. One of the many goals of Buchanan’s plan.
of this is to discount the 7 Mountains part of the dominionist movement. As
David Brockman, Ph.D. reports, in a June 2, 2016, Texas Observer story, “The Radical Theology that Could Make Religious Freedom a Thing of
The Past” one of the movement’s most prominent politicians is Texas junior
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
reports in “Dominionism Rising …” that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and current
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are part of the movement. In “Christian Americanism and
Texas Politics Since 2008,” published in March 2020 by the Baker Institute, at Rice University, Brockman adds Rep. Louie Gohmert, Gov.
Greg Abbott and Texas Rep. Dan Flynn.
continues, “Several other state legislators may well belong in this list of
Christian Americanism in Texas. …., [backing] legislation that arguably
privileges Christians and/or overlaps with the Christian Americanist agenda has
been authored by state Representatives Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), Matt Krause
(R-Fort Worth), Phil Stephenson (R-Rosenberg), and Bill Zedler (R-Arlington),
along with state Senators Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Brian Birdwell
(R-Granbury), and Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). Whether these and other
conservative officeholders are full Christian Americanists or simply proponents
of Christian right policies would be a fruitful question for future research.”
course, dominionist or dominionist-allied politicians aren’t confined to Texas.
As Clarkson reports in “Dominionism Rising …” Alabama Justices Roy Moore Tom
Parker; failed vice president candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin;
former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann; former Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee; and current political operative and former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich
are part of the movement. So are Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Sen. James
Lankford, R-Okla.; and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. A USA Today opinion piece adds Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. Surely there
that the 7M branch calls for discrediting institutions — also part of
Buchanan’s agenda. And as MacLean points out, “He therefore helped lead a push
to undermine their trust in public institutions. The idea was to get voters to
direct their ire at these institutions and divert their attention away from
increasing income and wealth inequality.”
course, this discussion only skims the surface of the dominionist movement.
It’s clear the Donald Trump’s victory, as unexpected as it was, jumped started the
dominionist agenda. The scary part of this is that Trump’s outrageous breaking
of norms and corruption — while very much in line with dominionist techniques —
distracted political analysts and media from the higher altitude insights.
Evidence of this can be seen in how far below the radar and public
consciousness this agenda flew. But PRA’s Dominionism expert Clarkson, didn’t
miss the movement’s massive agenda in April 27, 2018 when he linked the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the dominionist movement’s “Project
than this and The Guardian’s Dec. 11, 2021 article “Radicalized Christian nationalism
is a growing threat to American democracy” by Arwa Mahdawi, I am unaware of
other coverage since Trump’s election and during his administration. Mahdawi deconstructs
the right-wing radical activity, including the Jan. 6 coup rehearsal, in the
context I’ve suggested here.
clearly concerned that our democracy shaped by Reconstruction on through the
New Deal and up to the “Reagan Revolution” is on the cusp of losing to the
Buchanan-dominionist alliance with the table for that already laid for the
upcoming mid-terms and the 2024 presidential elections. That little of the
Buchanan movement and how it links to dominionist theocracy are seen since the
run-up to the 2016 election is a result of the mainstream media — also under
fire as part of the strategy — being purposefully distracted by Trump-like
antics from the right wing and the Republican Party.
The Guardian’s Dec. 11, 2021, article
opened the door to covering this issue focusing on two points tied to the
movement’s hegemony of the right-wing and the GOP. One prong clamps down on
women’s rights with the Draconian anti-abortion legislation. Second, and far
more dangerous, is the movement’s well-organized Project Blitz. From a
journalistic perspective, one could approach this movement, which is heavily
populated by Texans, from either the dominionist or Buchanan/MacLean
perspective. Both are important to understanding what’s happening.
J. David Goodman’s Dec. 12 New York Times story on Greg Abbott’s hard right
turn, misses this overarching Buchananist connection and the dominionist
movement. The peg for an investigative reporting effort would be to show that Abbott,
other Texans in politics and others such as his wealthy contributors are the
movement — unwittingly or not. My thesis is that Abbott has been part of this
movement for years — a credit to his skill at retail politics. However, he also
is aware that being open about how it would alienate what little remains of the
thoughtful moderate Republican Party and the rationally conservative
independents. His alliance with Trump and doing Trump’s bidding on the election
audits are only a few indicators of his embrace of this fifth column treason.
Simply look at his agenda.
I have to wonder as a journalist what a spate of public records requests for his emails and other materials would show. And what digging into the others would also show. Would threat like this justify bringing IRE and others into the effort not unlike the work done after Don Bowles was assassinated? It would be a massive undertaking fraught with obstacles. But wouldn’t it be a hellava story?