I have a friend named Ira Helfand, who is a family physician in Springfield, MA and also happens to have won two Nobel Prizes – not one, but two.
When Ira was in medical school at Harvard, he and a bunch of other students decided that since this was the 1960’s, they needed to do something political, if only to keep aligned with everyone who had time to protest the Viet Nam war.
So, a bunch of these youngsters got together in someone’s Cambridge apartment and out of that meeting came Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), an advocacy organization which still exists.
Their first big issue was to agitate against above-ground nuclear testing, and they got noticed after the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979. PSR’s work led to the first Nobel, the second was awarded when PSR led the fight for the non-proliferation treaty in 2017.
I once asked Ira to compare building and running an advocacy organization both before and after the internet, because he had done it both before and after the digital world came to be.
His answer: “The difference is that now you have no idea how many people are really committed to your organization because looking at a website is a lot easier than mailing in a letter or getting on the phone.”
I thought of Ira’s answer yesterday when I happened to see something about a new advocacy organization, the Association of Republican Presidential Appointees (ARPA), which just held a meeting in D.C.
And who was the keynote speaker at the group’s inaugural event in 2021 which has been described as the first attempt to create a national contingent of MAGA ‘shock troops?’ None other than Steve Bannon, who if it weren’t for a pardon from his former employer, Donald Trump, he would be sitting in jail for having stolen more than one million dollars from a bunch of innocent people who thought they were paying to help Trump and Bannon finish building the Mexican wall.
You should know that Bannon has somewhere around a half million bucks in unpaid legal fees, and I suspect he’ll try to use some of the money donated to this ARPA outfit to cover those costs.
Once a crook, always a crook -that’s just the way it is.
Allegedly, what ARPA is going to do is train the next covey of MAGA-leaning men and women who will come to D.C. after Trump is re-elected later this year to fill the more than 4,000 political appointments which exist on the payrolls of the Deep State.
All of a sudden, the state ain’t so deep when men and women who support the GOP come looking for work in D.C. But being someone who considers himself or herself a Republic(an) isn’t enough to get a job with the 2025 version of the Donald Trump show.
This time, you not only need to show some degree of connections or experience within the GOP, but you also have to follow Steve Bannon’s mandate and hold what he referred to in an ARPA event as a ‘MAGA perspective’ on things.
What does that mean? Who the Hell knows what it means, but it raises an interesting perspective.
Let’s say that with all his bluster and bullshit, Trump finally flames out. Let’s say he ends up sitting on his bunk at Butner or Otisville rather than behind the real Resolute desk. And let’s say that the GOP ticket this year is headed by Nikki Haley or someone else who decides to convince the voters that the MAGA approach to governing just doesn’t work.
Now what do all these people do who have joined ARPA because they want to sharpen and then deploy their ‘MAGA perspective’ while sitting behind some General Services Agency desk.
The good news for all these true believers who want to come to D.C. and clean out the swamp, is that at least they’ll know where the money they donated to ARPA is sitting. All they have to do is get access to Steve Bannon’s bank account.
You would think that a not-for-profit educational organization, which is what this phony ARPA deals seems to be, would at least list the names of its Board members on the website so we cloud get some sense of who is really in charge. Or maybe it’s whom is in charge, right?
Either way, this ARPA group appears to fulfill exactly Ira Helfand’s prescription of what an advocacy organization in the digital age is all about. It’s all about nothing except the link between the ‘donate’ button and some offshore bank.