Where Did the Abortion Reduction Agenda Come From? February 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion criminalization, abortion reduction, adopton, anti-abortion, clurt, contraception, democratic party, evangelicals, family planning, frederick clarkson, neoconservatives, pro choice, religious right, reproductive health, right to life, robert casey sr., roe v. wade, roger hollander, sex education, unplanned pregnancies, women's rights
Frederick Clarkson on February 16, 2009
You could say this is a story about the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The rise of the concept of “abortion reduction” as a worthy policy goal, currently being promoted by some in the Democratic Party, has generally tracked the rise of the Party’s fortunes of the over the past few years and the accompanying decline in the likelihood that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats’ ascent, and Roe‘s resilience, has been a tough reality for antiabortion leaders to face, but they are not out of strategic and tactical options. Politics is the art of the possible.
Abortion reduction, currently being sold as the “common ground” between the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps, has its roots in anti-abortion strategy developed over several months in 1996 by a coalition of 45 anti-abortion and religious right leaders. The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern was also signed by several Democratic-leaning activists, most significantly, former Governor Robert Casey Sr. of Pennsylvania (father of the current Senator Robert Casey Jr.). The manifesto was published the May 1996 issue of the flagship journal of Catholic neoconservatism, First Things (edited by the late John Richard Neuhaus); in The National Review; and on the web site of Priests for Life, headed by the militant Fr. Frank Pavone. The source of the opportunity to reduce abortions, they found, resided in the holdings of 1992 Supreme Court decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, named for the former governor.
Among the forty-five were also some of the leading proponents of abortion reduction ideas now ascendant in Democratic Party circles: Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Professor David Gushee, then of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action.
“Now, as pro-life leaders and scholars,” they declared, “we want to propose a program of action…” And the core of that program was abortion reduction by erecting barriers to access to abortion “in all 50 states” and creating incentives for women to carry unplanned pregnancies to term.
While the signers agreed that the regulations upheld in the Casey decision do “do not afford any direct legal protection to the unborn child,” they emphasized that “experience has shown that such regulations–genuine informed consent, waiting periods, parental notification--reduce abortions in a locality, especially when coupled with positive efforts to promote alternatives to abortion and service to women in crisis.” [Emphasis added]
Abortion Reduction and Criminalization
This was, however, cast in the context of wider goal of criminalization. Having declared abortion to be among other things, child killing, an act of “lethal violence,” and a usurpation of the rule of law, the signatories added: “Any criminal sanctions considered in such legislation [then being considered by Congress] should fall upon abortionists, not upon women in crisis.” They further urged Congress to “recognize the unborn child as a human person entitled to the protection of the Constitution.”
They believed that “a broad-based legal and political strategy is essential,” and therefore, found “no contradiction between a rigorous adherence to our ultimate goal and the pursuit of reforms that advance us toward that goal.”
“Legal reforms that fall short of our goal,” they concluded, “but which help move us toward it, save lives and aid in the process of moral and cultural renewal.”
Other prominent signatories, led by host George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (the official biographer of Pope John Paul II) included Catholic legal scholar Robert P. George of Princeton; Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, (whom George W. Bush would appoint as Ambassador to the Vatican), James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Ralph Reed of the then-powerful Christian Coalition, law professor Michael W. McConnell of the University of Chicago; Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America; William Kristol then of the Project for the Republican Future, now a contributor to Fox News, and Jean Bethke Elshtain, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago, and currently a co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
While this top drawer coalition of antiabortion leaders of the day did not mention sexuality education and contraception as legitimate means of preventing unwanted pregnancies (and thus “abortion reduction”), at least three of them went on to play prominent roles in the development of the “common ground” agenda on abortion reduction recently announced by the Democratic Party-aligned DC think tanks, Faith in Public Life and Third Way, in their document Come Let Us Reason Together: A Governing Agenda to End the Culture Wars (CLURT). This document highlighted sexuality education (with an emphasis on abstinence), access to contraception, and economic supports for adoption, as areas of “common ground” on abortion.
CLURT did not mention erecting further barriers of the sort legitimized in the Casey decision. Nor did it address the need to provide for better access to abortion care, which unavailable in 87% of the counties in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Among the seven principal authors of CLURT, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action also signed the 1996 antiabortion manifesto; while David Gushee, now of Mercer University states in his curriculum vitae that he “participated in the drafting” of the document. Jim Wallis of Sojourners signed both.
“Public policy has its limits,” Gushee declared at the January 15th press conference announcing CLURT. “We call for abortion reduction. I support this because I believe that one of the things that must not be done to human beings is to abort them; and yet those facing crisis pregnancies need help to create the conditions in which they can sustain and protect the lives for which they are now responsible.”
Abortion Reduction Reductionism
What is remarkable is how one of the signature antiabortion tactics of the 1990s has now migrated into the Democratic Party under the guise of offering “common ground.” Abortion reduction was once a matter of preventing people from exercising their right to receive and to provide abortion care. Now a few politically savvy Protestant evangelicals and an apparently growing number of Democrats pols are willing to redefine historic ideas of the role of sexuality education and family planning in terms of abortion reduction.
Used in this way, along with economic supports for pregnancy and adoption, pro-choice politicians including President Obama use the term and its close variants to show pro-lifers that they can better reduce the number of abortions than anti-choice Republicans.
It is clever politics. But there is more to it. There are profound differences just underneath the surface of a seemingly minor tug of war over semantics. These differences are blurred by the invocation of common ground language. The difference was cast in sharp relief last year during negotiations over the wording of the Democratic Party Platform position on abortion. Prolife evangelicals led by Jim Wallis (and CLURT co-author Joel Hunter) disagreed with pro-choice leaders over language that sought to reduce the need for abortion as distinct from the number of abortions. In the end, the platform unambiguously supported Roe and recognized the need for abortion. In exchange, the platform also called for greater support for women who seek to carry their pregnancies to term and for the adoption option. But the platform avoided the term “abortion reduction.”
But have Gushee, Wallis and Sider changed their views? In 1996 they believed that there is never a “need” for abortion; rejected the idea that it is ever a moral choice; and unequivocally stated that criminalization was a goal of antiabortion legislation — even while they also pursued abortion reduction tactics under the rubric of Casey. Today, they face different political circumstances and the Democrats have made some accommodations in the platform that will likely be implemented in legislation.
The CLURT statement joins a few pro-choice think tankers with a few prominent moderate evangelicals in agreeing on broad principles related to sexuality education and family planning. But that’s it. Why then, is it important?
It is important because of the prominence of these groups in seeking to define what a faith-based, common ground “governing agenda” might look like. But it is significant also because of what it does and what it does not do.
First, in its summary language, CLURT seeks to have it both ways, papering over vital differences with the slight of hand of language.
“Reducing abortions (reducing abortion through reducing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women, and increasing support for adoption)” [Bolding in the original]
Second, the pro-choice agenda has always been about expanding access to abortion such that everyone who needs one can get one; and emphasizing that there should be comprehensive sex ed and access to contraception so that women and girls can control their own reproductive future and will not have to make the choice between termination and carrying a pregnancy to term. But unlike the Democratic Platform, there is nothing in the CLURT statement that acknowledges the right to or need for abortion — let alone that universal access is a dream that is far from realized.
Third, there is nothing in the CLURT document that suggests that Gushee, Wallis and Sider and their ant-iabortion allies will not pursue Casey-based policies that erect obstacles to abortion in the name of reduction, in those states where it is politically possible to do so.
That these leaders were able to agree in principle on sexuality education and family planning is no small thing. But it is not the same thing as finding common ground on abortion nor does it reflect a commitment to reducing barriers to abortion or in any way increasing access.
The concept of “abortion reduction” as a public policy has come a long way since 1996, and at the same time, no distance at all.
Shhh… Don’t Speak of Abortion: Roe v. Wade at Thirty-Six January 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion access, abortion reduction, anti-abortion, conservative evangelicals, contraception, evangelicals, family planning, frederick clarkson, guttmacher institute, health care, healthcare, morals, planned parenthood, poverty, pro choice, pro-life, reproductive choice, reproductive rights, roe vs. wade, roger hollander, sex education, third way, women and poverty, women's rights
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Recent efforts to reach a compromise between evangelicals and liberals have managed to avoid the discussion of abortion altogether. The fact remains: according to many clergy representing millions of Americans of all faiths and denominations, the moral reality of women’s lives is that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice.
The moral of Rev. Fowler’s story cuts to the core of the politics of abortion in America. Though nominally a right under Roe vs. Wade, decided thirty-six years ago today, the reality is that there are many obstacles—some insurmountable—to both receiving and providing abortion care in the United States. And yet, strange as it may seem, there remains a steady silence about abortion which, according to pro-choice leaders, is party due to the stigmatization of abortion. The result is that much of what passes for discussion is really just an elaborate avoidance of the subject.
The latest high profile exhibition of this avoidance is the “Governing Agenda” recently published by two Democratic Party-aligned Washington, DC-based think tanks, Third Way and Faith in Public Life. This document—two years in the making, and endorsed by a variety of prominent evangelicals—and the process by which it came into being have been met with both accolades and tough criticism. Intriguingly, the document does not actually discuss abortion, that most controversial of subjects on which it claims to have found common ground.
Is the Agenda Broader or Narrower?
In a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders, the principal authors of the “Governing Agenda” summarized their goal as “Reducing abortions through common ground policies.” They explained, “We agree on a goal of reducing abortions in America through policies that address the circumstances that lead to abortion: preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.” The method, most agree, is a good one. It advocates the use of comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate sexuality education with an emphasis on abstinence as a way of reducing unintended pregnancies.
But pro-choice leaders contacted by Religion Dispatches feel not only left out of the conversation, but see in the “Governing Agenda” a product that continues to stigmatize abortion and does nothing to further the conversations that are most needed.
The notion of “abortion reduction,” has been a cornerstone of the so-called “broader agenda” of the conservative evangelicals promoted by Third Way and Faith in Public Life. But Rev. Fowler sees a certain “political expediency” at work:
Abortion reduction is not a position that recognizes the reality of many women’s lives. I mean we talk about the incarnation. And the incarnate reality, the moral reality of women’s lives is that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice.
Fowler, who has been a longtime leader in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and has served on the board of Planned Parenthood adds that, “what is missing from this document is any acknowledgment of women’s moral agency and their capacity to make honorable sacred decisions for the welfare of their families and for themselves.”
”What is missing from this document,” she continued, “is recognition of the sacredness of all life, and a moral tradition that allows us to weigh relative values, of potential life versus a lived life in its full spiritual complexity.”
”What is missing from this document is any invitation for faith leaders, both pro-choice and pro-life with whom we disagree, to talk about abortion—and other choices involving women’s reproductive health and to model that dialogue to the country.”
The idea that abortion is sometimes the best moral choice is the view of many major religious institutions representing tens of millions of American Christians, Jews, Unitarians, and others. Many of these institutions are represented in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), including major mainline Protestant denominations (such as the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ), the major bodies of American Judaism, and such organizations as the YWCA.
Rev. Carlton Veazey, President of RCRC and a member of RD’s advisory council, wrote recently in commemoration of the 36th anniversary of Roe: “I call on the faithful to protect the lives of women and children by fighting to ensure that reproductive health care is accessible and that abortion services are safe, legal, and available.”
“The reality,” he continued, “is that the cycle of poverty often revolves around unintended and unwanted pregnancy. A woman living in poverty is four times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy and five times as likely to have an unintended birth as her higher-income counterpart. The link between family planning and overcoming poverty is well established.”
Melanie Zurek, executive director of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Abortion Access Project also hears the silence that surrounds abortion. While she also welcomes the possibility of expanding access to excellent sexuality education, she says that “abortion needs to be part of the conversation.” But she avers that it is also necessary to “remove the stigma against abortion that prevents that conversation from taking place.”
But the notion of “abortion reduction” as presented by Third Way, Faith in Public Life, and their evangelical allies, presumes that abortion is analogous to a dread disease, the incidence of which must be “reduced.” This recasting of the language of anti-abortion moralism into something akin to epidemiology stands in sharp contrast to the mainstream religious traditions of tens of millions of American Christians, Jews, Unitarians, and others. Within these traditions, abortion is often a moral choice, and in any case, women are fully capable of deciding when and under what circumstances to make that choice, without direction from the state or other uninvited agencies. In short, abortion reduction is a term that is imbued with the very stigma that Fowler and Zurek say is a principal obstacle to engaging in a coherent conversation, even in disagreement.
Zurek notes that the prevention strategies involving education and access to contraception would take time to work; and that fully half of all pregnancies are unintended and take place disproportionately among poor women. “There are both economic and health consequences to delays in abortion care,” she warns. “One of the consequences of barriers and delays is that the longer they wait, the more complicated and expensive a procedure it becomes.”
Regarding the “Governing Agenda” of Third Way and Faith in Public Life, however, she notes that “it is not only a matter of having the prevention work and catching up to the reality of unintended pregnancies. We know from the experience of other countries with terrific sexuality education and available contraception that there will always be a need for abortion care.”
In addition to the silence in the political arena, Zurek points to the silence in the health care system, where abortion is not integrated into the training of health care professionals “because it is so stigmatized,” she says. This same culture of stigmatization causes many patients to avoid even talking with their regular physicians about it, preferring instead “specialized settings” like Planned Parenthood.
As a result, access to abortion care is a significant problem of health care delivery in the United States. A major study by the Guttmacher Institute found that some 87% of US counties lack a single abortion provider. The study notes a long-term decline in the rate of abortion in the United States, but could not determine whether this was because of increased access to and use of contraception, or due to the lack of access to abortion providers. And yet, even of the competing plans to reform the health care system currently being debated, and of the many ideas being discussed, Zurek says: “I don’t know of any agenda that proposes to better integrate abortion into the health care system.”
And of course, since the abortion-reduction agenda is an explicitly anti-abortion tactic, albeit not one embraced by all sectors of the anti-abortion movement, it stands to reason that an increased focus on prevention and adoption would likely eclipse the need for improved access to abortion as part of a society-wide program of age-appropriate, medically-accurate sex education and access to family planning services.
Zurek is also concerned that the abortion-reduction agenda overlooks the many barriers to abortion faced, particularly, by low-income women and those from rural areas. An additional set of barriers are what she describes as politically-motivated regulations. She offers, by way of example, the laws in some states that require a physician to mention a link between breast cancer and abortion; a link, she notes, “that has been disproved on numerous occasions by science.”
The Abortion Access Project has several initiatives targeting issues of access due to the long, sometimes vast, distances between abortion providers faced by women in rural areas, as well as those issues faced by low-income women.
“Women in places such as Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arkansas share a troubling commonality,” AAP reports on its Web site. “Because of where they live, these women face daunting barriers to get safe abortion care if and when they need it. These least-access states have the most restrictive laws and the fewest number of abortion providers. These states also share other traits: low levels of contraceptive care, high rates of poverty, and strong anti-abortion cultures. With little help to prevent pregnancy, few financial resources to help pay for abortion care, and the threat of isolation or even harassment within her community, the health and autonomy of a woman living in one of these states is at risk.”
Pro-choice Religious Leaders find their Voice
While the abortion-reduction agenda has gained considerable currency in political circles in both parties, pro-choice religious leaders are increasingly finding their voice and are seeking to be heard.
Rev. Debra Haffner, Director of the Westport, Connecticut-based Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, declared in a recent blog post that “[it is] false advertising to promote this report as evangelical and progressive religious leaders coming together.”
”The fact is,” she continued, “that this is a report by, in the words of U.S. News and World Report, a ‘coalition of prominent evangelical leaders.’ In that it expands their previous call for abortion reduction to include for the first time a call for comprehensive sexuality education and family planning services, it’s an important step forward.” She observes, however, in questioning the inclusiveness of the project, that four out of the five speakers on the press conference call announcing the Governing Agenda, “identified themselves as pro-life.”
Haffner maintains “that one cannot label oneself progressive without a commitment to sexual justice” and that she “would be delighted to help these two organizations bring truly progressive religious leaders to the table to discuss these issues. But until we’re invited, expect us to continue to speak out.”
Tags: arthur blessitt, bay of pigs, billy graham, bob woodward, bush dynasty, bush family, bush illegal abortion, champagne unit, cia, conspiracy theory, conversion, covert operations, dallas, doug wead, evangelicals, frederick clarkson, george h.w. bush, George W. Bush, jack kemp, jfk assassination, John Dean, nixon, pat roberston, poppy bush, reagan, religious right, roger hollander, russ baker, texas national guard, watergate
The Bush family (photo: www.stillman.org)
January 4, 2009
Below is an addendum to today’s feature “New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation for the Bush Family”. The book discussed is Russ Baker’s: Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and what Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008)
Baker has unearthed many startling facts about the careers of Bush 41 and Bush 43. He also draws some head turning conclusions about some of the key figures in both the Watergate scandal and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the relationship of Poppy Bush to both events. But before we summarize some of the book’s major disclosures, it is worth discussing the elephant in the room (For a full analysis of the revelations regarding the religious life of the Bushes, see today’s feature: ).
Investigative works are often labeled “conspiracy theories.” This term is generally used to suggest that whatever an author has learned, he or she may be a bit unhinged, and we may therefore not take the material seriously. And we are safe to go about our business as usual. While there are people and work, no matter how well intentioned to which the label might fairly apply, the label is also used by many of us to dismiss information and analyses that make us uncomfortable even when they legitimately push the boundaries of our understanding of modern politics, business and government. But as we address our own discomfort in the face of such material, we need to remind ourselves that investigative journalism discomfits the author as well. Journalists like Baker are constantly checking and cross checking, making sure that disturbing information is in fact so. Even more awkward are the disturbing questions that the journalist cannot answer, but are themselves so well founded that they must be raised. Conspiracy theorists tend to take the opposite tack. Information is shaped or interpreted to conform to predetermined and often fevered conclusions, while countervailing information is downplayed or ignored.
Baker is a well-respected journalist who has written for major newspapers and magazines and has served as a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. His effort to understand the lives of the presidents Bush unexpectedly led him to reexamine Watergate and the Kennedy assassination and other murky episodes of recent American history, “documenting the secrets that the House of Bush has long sought to obscure.”
“I’ll admit it,” Baker writes in his conclusion. “Fear of being so labeled has haunted me throughout this work. It’s been an internal censor that I’ve had to resist again and again. And also an external one, as friends within the journalistic establishment reviewed my findings, found them both credible and highly disturbing, and yet urged me to stay away from them for my own good. I began to realize that I was experiencing the very thing the process is designed to induce. The boundaries of permissible thought are staked out and enforced. We accept the conventional narratives because they are repeated and approved, while conflicting ones are scorned. Isn’t this how authoritarian regimes work? They get inside your mind so that overt repression becomes less necessary.”
“Whose interests does this serve?” he continues. “As this book demonstrates, the deck has long been and continues to be, stacked on behalf of big money players, especially those in commodities and natural resources *from gold to oil *and those who finance the extraction of these materials. The defense industry, and the aligned growth of business of “intelligence,” provide muscle. On a lower level is an army of enablers*the campaign functionaries, the PR people, the lawyers. This was the Bush enterprise. The Bushes embodied it as a dynasty, but it is larger than them, and will prove more enduring.”
Here are some of the major revelations of the book:
*George H. W. (“Poppy”) Bush, and many of his closest associates throughout his adult life were deeply and secretly enmeshed in covert intelligence activities. He has gone to great lengths to conceal many of his activities, no matter how mundane, and engaged in overt acts of misdirection. Bush’s extensive intelligence ties prior to his becoming CIA Director in the Ford administration, and going back to World War II, have not been previously reported. Baker calls this Bush’s “double life.”
*Poppy Bush was deeply involved with an array of CIA covert operators, Bay of Pigs veterans and rightwing Texas oil industry characters linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Baker shows that Bush was actually in Dallas on November 21, 1963 and was probably there on the day of the assassination as well. Baker draws no particular conclusions from the fact, except to document, describe and underscore the great lengths he went to conceal the fact.
*Baker asserts that, much to his own surprise, Richard Nixon while no innocent, was not the instigator of the Watergate crimes and the cover-up, but appears to have been set-up. What’s more, some of the seeming good guys, were not, and much of what seemed to be, was not as it seemed. Among those he implicates in the set-up are Poppy Bush and perhaps most remarkably, John Dean, the former White House counsel who became best known as the key whistleblower.
*In a related point, Baker notes that Nixon suspected the CIA of infiltrating his White House staff. Nixon recognized the Watergate burglars from his own days supervising covert operations as Vice President in the Eisenhower administration, and knew that their bosses were seasoned CIA hardliners with ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion and events linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nixon battled the CIA for files on what he called the “Bay of Pigs thing,” but never could get access to them. (To borrow from Woody Allen, just because Nixon was paranoid, doesn’t mean they were not out to get him.)
*Baker questions the integrity and independence of famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post who he reports had been recommended for his job by senior Nixon White House officials who had known him when he worked in Naval intelligence prior to his becoming a reporter. In that capacity, which Woodward denies he held, he was a frequent visitor to the White House.
*Baker details the Bush family’s personal, political and business connections to the Saudi royal family; and to apparent international slush funds and money laundering schemes. Much of this is told in such a matter of fact fashion that it is easy to lose sight of the significance of many of the individual facts.
Regarding George W. Bush, in addition to the manufacture of the legend his conversion story (see main story) the book covers familiar turf regarding how strings were pulled to get George W. Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid military service that might send him to Vietnam; how he failed to fulfill that service; and how his failure was systematically covered-up and politically defused. Also covered are the allegations of how W. was an abuser of illegal drugs in addition to his apparently drinking problems as a young man.
One important story from W.’s past that has long been rumored is confirmed in this book. It is a story that perhaps as much as his going AWOL from the National Guard and orchestrating a cover-up could have derailed his political career.
And that story is the illegal abortion he obtained for a girlfriend in Texas before Roe v. Wade. This is substantiated in part by four reporters whose stories were not published, but who shared their “experiences and detailed source notes” and even tapes with him. Two Bush pals took charge of arranging the abortion go to the hospital and who went to the hospital to inform her that he would not see her again. All of the names are named. Certainly as an candidate who was seeking to appeal to conservative evangelical, anti-abortion constituencies, this would have been a high hurdle to overcome.
“As president,” Baker concludes, “Bush promulgated tough new policies that withheld U.S. funds not only to programs and countries that permitted abortions, but even to those that advocated contraception as opposed to abstinence. Moreover, his appointments to the Supreme Court put the panel on the verge of reversing Roe v. Wade. Like his insistence on long prison sentences for first time drug offenders and his support for military action, his own behavior in regard to sexual responsibility and abortion could be considered relevant *and revealing.” Such journalistic understatement is typical of Baker’s narrative, even while reporting potentially politically explosive material.
Perhaps the revelation that would be most difficult for readers will not be anything about the Bush family, or Watergate or the Kennedy assassination, or any of the figures in this nearly 500 page book and 1000-plus footnotes. “These revelations about the Bushes,” Baker writes, “lead in turn to an even more disturbing truth about the country itself. It’s not just that such a clan could occupy the presidency or vice presidency for twenty of the past twenty-eight years and remain essentially unknown. It’s that the methods of stealth and manipulation that powered their rise reflect a deeper ill: the American public’s increasingly tenuous hold upon the levers of its own democracy.”