Lately, we’ve been getting a series of comments, from an anonymous reader writing under the pseudonym Overreactioncat, promoting a book entitled Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. The book, written by John Avlon, purports to critique political partisans, “the people who always try to divide us instead of unite us”.
There’s a special irony in the fact that Overreactioncat has been complaining that we take our Fourth Amendment right to privacy too seriously, that we don’t need to worry so much about the extensive, unconstitutional spying against the American people by the National Security Agency. You see, not only does Overreactioncat refuse to divulge her or his real name, but also uses a “throw-away” email address from Tempinbox.com in an attempt to avoid being tracked. One wonders – if Overreactioncat really believes that online privacy isn’t under threat, why does he or she go to such lengths to avoid being traceable by corporations or government agencies conducting online surveillance?
None of us at Irregular Times works with the NSA, so we can’t tell who Overreactioncat is – though it is rather interesting that this particular commenter keeps promoting John Avlon. Unlike Overreactioncat, John Avlon has a rather conspicuous public profile. Let’s turn our attention to him?
The evidence suggests that John Avlon is not really the advocate for political unity that he pretends to be. Avlon, it turns out, is a well-connected political insider who advocates for the benefit of a small number of Americans at the expense of a few.
Avlon is among the social elites whose marriages rate a special article in the New York Times society pages. Avlon is himself the son of a wealthy real estate broker in South Carolina who has a penchant for making financial donations – exclusively to right wing Republican candidates. The social status of John Avlon Jr. ticked up significantly, though, when he got married a few years ago to Margaret Claire Hoover. Hoover is from The Hoovers – a powerful political clan that includes President Herbert Hoover, a friend of financial insiders who helped trigger the Great Depression by protecting Wall Street’s biggest investors while sticking it to the little guy. John Avlon’s wife is the great granddaughter of Herbert Hoover.
Margaret Claire Hoover has worked a political commentator on the right wing political TV network, Fox News, as an aide to a Republican member of Congress, and within the White House of George W. Bush – not known for its political centrism. It was while Hoover was working for Rudolph Giuliani, another Republican politician, that she met John Avlon. John Avlon was working for Giuliani too, writing the Republican’s rather non-centrist speeches.
John Avlon is a co-founder of No Labels, an organization that, like Avlon, claims to be a voice of centrist political unity against dangerous activists from the political fringes. Like Avlon, No Labels isn’t really what it seems to be. Though No Labels claims to be a “National Grassroots Movement”, it actually has very few active members from the ranks of typical American voters. No Labels is in fact powered almost exclusively by financial elites and political insiders, and is run from the top down.
No Labels has stood against efforts at transparency, refusing to share its complete list of donors. We know as a result of corporate disclosure that No Labels taken money directly from corporations such as Qualcomm. Still, most of the money that keeps No Labels running comes from the shadows, completely out of public view, unaccountable to the American people.
At the beginning of this year, when U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman joined the leadership of No Labels, they promised that the group would finally fully disclose the source of its money. They lied. No Labels still declares, “We do not publicly identify the names of our donors because it is not legally required and because it doesn’t advance our core mission.” Perhaps what “No Labels” means is merely that those people and organizations who fund the political operations of No Labels will not be named.
At present, No Labels claims the endorsement of 83 members of Congress – only one of whom is a political independent. As a whole, those members of Congress who have endorsed No Labels tend to skew to the right wing of American politics. Very few of the congressional endorsers of No Labels can be counted as centrists. As measured by the That’s My Congress legislative scorecard for the Senate and http://thatsmycongress.com/house/”>House, only 22 percent of members of Congress who associate with No Labels have a legislative record that lies within the zone of plus or minus 20 points from the political center. The rest are political idealogues and partisans of the sort that John Avlon says are to blame for America’s problems.
For some reason, John Avlon and No Labels are quite happy to work with these non-centrist politicians.
One possible explanation: John Avlon, No Labels and these members of Congress share something that transcends the labels of Democrat and Republican. They share a loyalty to the system of inside dealing set up by financial elites to make sure that, as under Herbert Hoover, the U.S. federal government works for the benefit of huge corporations and the most wealthy power brokers on Wall Street, regardless of the needs of the rest of America.
No Labels is thickly interconnected with Americans Elect, a corrupt political organization that attempted to use money funneled from wealthy individuals, corporations and Wall Street elites to elect a presidential candidate beholden to the 1 percent most financially elite Americans.
No Labels doesn’t seem to care whether politicians carry the label of Democrat or Republican – just so long as they are willing to go to bat for the fat cats.
It’s true that No Labels and John Avlon are opposed to the political fringe – but they don’t care to talk explicitly about who is in the political fringe that they detest. What they call the “political fringe” is none other than the 99 percent of Americans who have to work for their money, rather than resting in the comfort of plush inheritances and immense investment portfolios. We’re on the fringe because, unlike the leaders of No Labels, we cannot afford to buy political access for ourselves.
Meanwhile, John Avlon and his fat cat friends sit comfortably in the center of political power in the United States. They don’t need labels – they prefer to work their sweet deals behind the scenes.
Postscript: It’s a good thing John Avlon has wealthy connections to prop up his political adventures. Avlon’s book was lauded by political insiders and social elites in Manhattan, but it wasn’t received very well by the 99 Percent. Avlon was able to pay for a big printing, but the brand new copies that no one ever bought are now available for sale for just a penny per copy.
Perhaps the problem Avlon had with his book stemmed from the broad brush he used to equate the passion of people who protested against the invasion of Iraq with the paranoia of 9/11 truthers who claim that the attacks of September 11 was an “inside job”. Maybe it was the way that Avlon cites right wing extremist Charles Krauthammer as if he is a voice of reason in American politics. It could have been the way that Avlon accuses anti-Bush activists of being “destructive”, without ever showing anything that they destroyed.
On the other hand, it could simply be that John Avlon’s book bombed because it was just another astroturf PR operation, claiming to speak for the interests of most Americans while actually representing only the interests of an out-of-touch, powerful few.