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Archive for the ‘rightwing’ Category

Can We Break the Pattern of Low Turnout?

October 2nd, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats, GOP, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

Becoming Two Countries in 2014

By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising via TomHayden.com

Sept 25, 2013 – The logic of voter turnout data all but guarantees right-wing Republican congressional victories in 2014 and a sealing of the divide of America into two countries for the foreseeable future. White House operatives privately acknowledge that GOP gerrymandering plus low turnout make 2014 a war to keep the Senate Democratic and show gains while losing the House. There are eight battleground Senate seats where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in 2012 and incumbent Democrats are either retiring or vulnerable to defeat.

Even if Hillary Clinton manages to win in 2016, the battle for the House will favor the GOP since the current gerrymandered seats will remain intact until 2020, or even 2022. Assuming continued Democratic control of the White House and Senate in 2014, the opportunity to take back the Roberts Supreme Court may not occur until the next presidential term, as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are both 77. 

President Barack Obama was not wrong when he promised a single "red, white and blue America" in 2008. That is what a majority of registered voters want, but he under-estimated the white sea of hate that would be generated from him among Republicans. His electoral advisors concentrated their brilliance on the national electoral map more than the states where Republicans took over in 2010.

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America’s Descent Into Madness

August 14th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Legitimacy, militarism, rightwing, safety net, Wall Street

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

    – John le Carré

By Henry A. Giroux
Progressive America Rising via Counterpunch

August 13, 2013 – The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem.  The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible —stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment.

Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism.

Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.   Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games.  Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation’s wealth, shape the reach of state resources, control of the global flows of goods and humans, and invest in institutions that educate an engaged and socially responsible citizens has become largely invisible.  And yet these are precisely these issues that offer up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. The stories told by corporate liars and crooks do serious harm to the body politic, and the damage they cause together with the idiocy they reinforce are becoming more apparent as America descends into authoritarianism, accompanied by the pervasive fear and paranoia that sustains it.

The American public needs more than a show of outrage or endless demonstrations. It needs to develop a formative culture for producing a language of critique, possibility, and broad-based political change. Such a project is indispensable for developing an organized politics that speaks to a future that can provide sustainable jobs, decent health care, quality education, and communities of solidarity and support for young people. At stake here is a politics and vision that informs ongoing educational and political struggles to awaken the inhabitants of neoliberal societies to their current reality and what it means to be educated not only to think outside of a savage market-driven commonsense but also to struggle for those values, hopes, modes of solidarity, power relations, and institutions that infuse democracy with a spirit of egalitarianism and economic and social justice. For this reason, any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of predatory capitalism. As I have argued elsewhere, too many progressives are stuck in the apocalyptic discourse of foreclosure and disaster and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a “sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things.” This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities that stretch from Chicago to Athens, and other dead zones of capitalism throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values, and infrastructures that make critical education and community the core of a robust, radical democracy.  This is a challenge for young people and all those invested in the promise of a democracy that extends not only the meaning of politics, but also a commitment to economic justice and democratic social change.

The stories we tell about ourselves as Americans no longer speak to the ideals of justice, equality, liberty, and democracy. There are no towering figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. whose stories interweave moral outrage with courage and vision and inspired us to imagine a society that was never just enough.  Stories that once inflamed our imagination now degrade it, overwhelming a populace with nonstop advertisements that reduce our sense of agency to the imperatives of shopping. But these are not the only narratives that diminish our capacity to imagine a better world. We are also inundated with stories of cruelty and fear that undermine communal bonds and tarnish any viable visions of the future. Different stories, ones that provided a sense of history, social responsibility, and respect for the public good, were once circulated by our parents, churches, synagogues, schools, and community leaders. Today, the stories that define who we are as individuals and as a nation are told by right-wing and liberal media that broadcast the conquests of celebrities, billionaires, and ethically frozen politicians who preach the mutually related virtues of the free market and a permanent war economy.

These neoliberal stories are all the more powerful because they seem to undermine the public’s desire for rigorous accountability, critical interrogation, and openness as they generate employment and revenue  for by right-wing think tanks and policy makers who rush to fill the content needs of corporate media and educational institutions. Concealing the conditions of their own making, these stories enshrine both greed and indifference encouraging massive disparities in wealth and income. In addition, they also sanctify the workings of the market, forging a new f political theology that inscribes a sense of our collective destiny to be governed ultimately and exclusively by market forces. Such ideas surely signal a tribute to Ayn Rand’s dystopian society, if not also a rebirth of Margaret Thatcher’s nonfiction version that preached the neoliberal gospel of wealth:  there is nothing beyond individual gain and the values of the corporate order.

The stories that dominate the American landscape embody what stands for commonsense among market and religious fundamentalists in both mainstream political parties:  shock-and-awe austerity measures; tax cuts that serve the rich and powerful and destroy government programs that help the poor, elderly, and sick; attacks on women’s reproductive rights; attempts to suppress voter ID laws and rig electoral college votes;  full-fledged assaults on the environment; the militarization of everyday life; the destruction of public education, if not critical thought itself;  an ongoing attack on unions, on social provisions, and on the expansion of Medicaid and meaningful health care reform. These stories are endless, repeated by the neoliberal and neoconservative walking dead who roam the planet sucking the blood and life out of everyone they touch—from the millions killed in foreign wars to the millions incarcerated in our nation’s prisons.

All of these stories embody what Ernst Bloch has called “the swindle of fulfillment.” That is, instead of fostering a democracy rooted in the public interest, they encourage a political and economic system controlled by the rich, but carefully packaged in consumerist and militarist fantasy. Instead of promoting a society that embraces a robust and inclusive social contract, they legitimate a social order that shreds social protections, privileges the wealthy and powerful and inflicts a maddening and devastating set of injuries upon workers, women, poor minorities, immigrants, and low- and middle-class young people.  Instead of striving for economic and political stability, they inflict on Americans marginalized by class and race uncertainty and precarity, a world turned upside-down in which ignorance becomes a virtue and power and wealth are utilized for ruthlessness and privilege rather than a resource for the public good.

Every once in a while we catch a brutal glimpse of what America has become in the narratives spun by politicians whose arrogance and quests for authority exceed their interest to conceal the narrow-mindedness, power-hungry blunders, cruelty, and hardship embedded in the policies they advocate.  The echoes of a culture of cruelty can be heard in politicians such as Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, who believes that even assistance to those unemployed, homeless, and working poor suffering the most in his home state should be cut in the name of austerity measures.  We hear it in the words of Mike Reynolds, another politician from Oklahoma who insists that government has no responsibility to provide students with access to a college education through a state program “that provides post-secondary education scholarship to qualified low-income students.” We find evidence of a culture of cruelty in numerous policies that make clear that those who occupy the bottom rungs of American society—whether low-income families, poor minorities of color and class, or young, unemployed, and failed consumers—are considered disposable, utterly excluded in terms of ethical considerations and the grammar of human suffering.

In the name of austerity, budget cuts are enacted that fall primarily on those individuals and groups who are already disenfranchised, and will thus seriously worsen the lives of those people now suffering the most.  For instance, Texas has enacted legislation that refuses to expand its Medicaid program, which provides healthcare for low-income people.  As a result, healthcare coverage will be denied to over 1.5 low-income residents as a result of Governor Perry’s refusal to be part of the Obama administration’s Medicaid expansion. This is not merely partisan politics; it is an expression of a new form of cruelty and barbarism now aimed at those considered disposable in a neo-Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest society.  Not surprisingly, the right-wing appeal to job-killing and provision-slashing austerity now functions as an updated form of medieval torture, gutting myriad of programs that add up to massive human suffering for the many and benefits for only a predatory class of neo-feudal bankers, hedge fund managers, and financiers that feed off the lives of the disadvantaged.

The general response from progressives and liberals does not take seriously the ways in which the extreme right-wing articulates its increasingly pervasive and destructive view of American society. For instance, the views of new extremists in Congress are often treated, especially by liberals, as a cruel hoax that is out of touch with reality or a foolhardy attempt to roll back the Obama agenda. On the left, such views are often criticized as a domestic version of the tactics employed by the Taliban—keeping people stupid, oppressing women, living in a circle of certainty, and turning all channels of education into a mass propaganda machine of fundamentalist Americanism. All of these positions touch on elements of a deeply authoritarian agenda. But such commentaries do not go far enough. Tea Party politics is about more than bad policy, policies that favor the rich over the poor, or for that matter about modes of governance and ideology that represent a blend of civic and moral turpitude. The hidden order of neoliberal politics in this instance represents the poison of neoliberalism and its ongoing attempt to destroy those very institutions whose purpose is to enrich public memory, prevent needless human suffering, protect the environment, distribute social provisions, and safeguard the public good. Within this rationality, markets are not merely freed from progressive government regulation, they are removed from any considerations of social costs. And where government regulation does exits, it functions primarily to bail out the rich and shore up collapsing financial institutions and for what Noam Chomsky has termed America’s only political party, “the business party.”  The stories that attempt to cover over America’s embrace of historical and social amnesia at the same time justify authoritarianism with a soft-edge and weakens democracy through a thousand cuts to the body politic.  How else to explain the Obama administration’s willingness to assassinate American citizens allegedly allied with terrorists, secretly monitor the email messages and text messages of its citizens, use the NDAA to arrest and detain indefinitely American citizens without charge or trial, subject alleged spies to an unjust military tribunal system, use drones as part of a global assassination campaign to arbitrarily kill innocent people, and then dismiss such acts as collateral damage. As Jonathan Turley points out, “An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.”

At the heart of neoliberal narratives are ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness. In the end, these are stories about disposability in which growing numbers of groups are considered dispensable and a drain on the body politic, the economy, and the sensibilities of the rich and powerful. Rather than work for a more dignified life, most Americans now work simply to survive in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which getting ahead and accumulating capital, especially for the ruling elite, is the only game in town. In the past, public values have been challenged and certain groups have been targeted as superfluous or redundant. But what is new about the politics of disposability that has become a central feature of contemporary American politics is the way in which such anti-democratic practices have become normalized in the existing neoliberal order. A politics of inequality and ruthless power disparities is now matched by a culture of cruelty soaked in blood, humiliation, and misery. Private injuries not only are separated from public considerations such narratives, but narratives of poverty and exclusion have become objects of scorn. Similarly, all noncommercial public spheres where such stories might get heard are viewed with contempt, a perfect supplement to the chilling indifference to the plight of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

Any viable struggle against the authoritarian forces that dominate the United States must make visible the indignity and injustice of these narratives and the historical, political, economic, and cultural conditions that produce them.  This suggests a critical analysis of how various educational forces in American society are distracting and miseducating the public.

Dominant political and cultural responses to current events—such as the ongoing economic crisis, income inequality, health care reform, Hurricane Sandy, the war on terror, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the  crisis of public schools in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities—represent flashpoints that reveal a growing disregard for people’s democratic rights, public accountability, and civic values.

As politics is disconnected from its ethical and material moorings, it becomes easier to punish and imprison young people than to educate them. From the inflated rhetoric of the political right to market-driven media peddling spectacles of violence, the influence of these criminogenc and death-saturated forces in everyday life is undermining our collective security by justifying cutbacks to social supports and restricting opportunities for democratic resistance. Saturating mainstream discourses with anti-public narratives, the neoliberal machinery of social death effectively weakens public supports and prevents the emergence of much-needed new ways of thinking and speaking about politics in the twenty-first century. But even more than neutralizing collective opposition to the growing control and wealth of predatory financial elites—which now wield power across all spheres of U.S. society—responses to social issues are increasingly dominated by a malignant characterization of marginalized groups as disposable populations. All the while zones of abandonment accelerate the technologies and mechanisms of disposability. One consequence is the spread of a culture of cruelty in which human suffering is not only tolerated, but viewed as part of the natural order of things.

Before this dangerously authoritarian mindset has a chance to take hold of our collective imagination and animate our social institutions, it is crucial that all Americans think critically and ethically about the coercive forces shaping U.S. culture—and focus our energy on what can be done to change them. It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the stories we are told. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.  Why are millions not protesting in the streets over these barbaric policies that deprive them of life, liberty, justice, equality, and dignity? What are the pedagogical technologies and practices at work that create the conditions for people to act against their own sense of dignity, agency, and collective possibilities?  Progressives and others need to make education central to any viable sense of politics so as to make matters of remembrance and consciousness central elements of what it means to be critical and engaged citizens.

There is also a need for social movements that invoke stories as a form of public memory, stories that have the potential to move people to invest in their own sense of individual and collective agency, stories that make knowledge meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative. If democracy is to once again inspire a populist politics, it is crucial to develop a number of social movements in which the stories told are never completed, but are always open to self- and social reflection, capable of pushing ever further the boundaries of our collective imagination and struggles against injustice wherever they might be.  Only then will the stories that now cripple our imaginations, politics, and democracy be challenged and hopefully overcome.
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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/culture/americas-descent-madness

Links:
[1] http://www.counterpunch.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/henry-giroux
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/madness
[4] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Battlelines are Drawn: Rightwing Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction

August 1st, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, Democrats, elections, GOP, Obama, Organizing, racism, rightwing, Voting Rights

By Bob Wing*

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*Bob Wing has been a social justice organizer and writer since 1968. He was the founding editor of ColorLines magazine and War Times newspaper. Bob lives in Durham, NC and can be contacted through Facebook. Special thanks to my lifelong colleagues Max Elbaum and Linda Burnham and to Jon Liss, Lynn Koh, Carl Davidson, Ajamu Dillahunt, Raymond Eurquhart and Bill Fletcher, Jr. for their comments, critiques and suggestions.

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August 1, 2013 – The heartless combination of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the House Republicans flatly shunning the immigration bill and the Trayvon Martin outrage should be a wake up call about the grave dangers posed by the far right and may give rise to a renewed motion among African Americans that could give much needed new impetus and political focus to the progressive movement.

The negative policies and missteps of the Obama administration are often the target of progressive fire, and rightly so. But these take place in the context of (and are sometimes caused by) an extremely perilous development in U.S. politics: an alliance of energized rightwing populists with the most reactionary sector of Big Business has captured the Republican Party with “the unabashed ambition to reverse decades of economic and social policy by any means necessary.” (1)

The GOP is in all-out nullificationist mode, rejecting any federal laws with which they disagree. They are using their power in the judiciary and Congress to block passage or implementation of anything they find distasteful at the federal level. And under the radar the Republicans are rapidly implementing a far flung rightwing program in the 28 states they currently control. They have embarked on an unprecedented overhaul of government on behalf of the one percent and against all sectors of the poor and much of the working and middle classes, undermining the rights of all.

The main precedent in U.S. history for this kind of unbridled reactionary behavior was the states rights, pro-slavery position of the white South leading up to the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called out the attempts at nullification in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” and the movement of the sixties defeated it. As shown in the ultra-conservative playground that is the North Carolina legislature, the new laws and structures of today’s rightwing program are so extreme and in such stark contrast to the rest of the country that I believe both their strategy and their program should be called “Neo-Secession.”

This nullification and neo-secession must be met by a renewed motion for freedom and social justice. The great scholar-activist Manning Marable, the leader of the powerful fightback in North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber II, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and others have called for a Third Reconstruction that builds on the post-Civil War first Reconstruction and the Civil Rights/Second Reconstruction. (2)

We are now at a pivotal point in this fight. The battlelines are drawn: Reactionary Nullification and Neo-Secession or Third Reconstruction?

Like the first secession, this second neo-secession is centered in the South even though it is a national movement with unusual strength in the upper Rocky Mountain and plains states in addition to the South. (3) Similarly racism, especially anti-Black racism, lies at its foundation even as the rightwing assaults all democratic, women’s, immigrant and labor rights, social and environmental programs. Progressives in the South are rising to the challenge. But, deplorably, most Democrats, unions, progressives and social justice forces barely have the South on their radar and rarely invest in it. This must change, and change rapidly.

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White Supremacist Nihilism: Racist Roots of GOP War on Obama and the Rest of Us

July 26th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Budget Debates, GOP, pushing obama, racism, rightwing, Unemployment, Voting Rights, youth and students

By Robert Parry

Progressive America Rising via Consortium News, 25 July 2013

Exclusive: Right-wing Republicans in Congress are plotting to cripple the U.S. government if Barack Obama, the first African-American president, doesn’t submit to their demands. The battle pretends to be over the size of government but it echoes the whips, chains and epithets of America’s racist past, writes Robert Parry.

he United States finds itself at a crossroad, with a choice of moving toward a multicultural future behind a more activist federal government or veering down a well-worn path that has marked various tragic moments of American history when white racists have teamed up with "small government" extremists.

Despite losing Election 2012 – both in the presidential vote (by five million) and the overall tally for Congress (by one million) – the Republicans are determined to use their gerrymandered House "majority" and their filibuster-happy Senate minority to slash programs that are viewed as giving "stuff" (in Mitt Romney’s word) to poorer Americans and especially minorities.

Republicans are gearing up to force a series of fiscal crises this fall, threatening to shut down the federal government and even default on the national debt, if they don’t get their way. Besides sabotaging President Barack Obama’s health reform law, the Republicans want to devastate funding for food stamps, environmental advancements, transportation, education assistance and other domestic programs.

"These are tough bills," Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, told the New York Times. "His priorities are going nowhere."

A key point is to slash help to what the Right sees as "undeserving" Americans, especially people of color. The ugly side of this crypto-racist behavior also surfaced in the gloating by right-wing pundits over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Fox News pundits, in particular, have mocked the outrage over the verdict from America’s black community and Obama’s personal expression of sympathy.

It is now clear that Obama’s election in 2008 was not the harbinger of a "post-racial" America, but rather the signal for white right-wingers to rally their forces to "take back America." The fact that the modern Republican Party has become almost exclusively white and the nation’s minorities have turned more and more to the Democratic Party has untethered the GOP from any sense of racial tolerance.

There is now a white-supremacist nihilism emerging in the Republican strategy, a visceral contempt for even the idea of a multi-racial democracy that favors a more vigorous federal government. Some of these extremists seem to prefer sinking the world’s economy via a U.S. debt default than compromising with President Obama on his economic and social agenda.

Though the mainstream media avoids the white supremacist framing for the political story – preferring to discuss the upcoming clash as a philosophical dispute over big versus small government, – the reality is that the United States is lurching into a nasty struggle over the preservation of white political dominance. The size-of-government narrative is just a euphemistic way of avoiding the underlying issue of race, a dodge that is as old as the Republic.

The Jeffersonian Myth

Even many liberals have fallen for the myth of the dashing Thomas Jefferson as the great defender of America’s Founding Principles – when he was really a great hypocrite who served mostly as the pleasing political front man for the South’s chief industry, human slavery.

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The Right’s War on Democratic Rights

June 26th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, GOP, racism, rightwing, Tea Party, Voting Rights

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising

With the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approaching, is the time at hand for mass protest and civil disobedience against the Republican/Tea Party’s war against voting rights and immigrant rights?

That’s among the immediate questions as the Roberts Court has dropped its hammer on the 1965 Voting Rights Act while a dubious "immigration reform" bill passed the Senate on its likely way to an even worse fate in the Tea Party-controlled House. Together with the Court’s Citizens United decisions protecting secret money in campaigns, Republicans are doing everything possible to cement a grip on power as a numerical white minority bloc. Successful Republican efforts to gerrymander House seats to gain ground in the Electoral College, combined with the rising tide of anti-abortion restrictions in southern states, reinforce the drift towards a new civil war – one fought by political means with recurring episodes of mass violence. The Court’s narrowing of affirmative action also guarantees a widening of the racial divide in education and economic opportunity.

The Court’s composition reveals its underlying partisan character, with the decisive tilt occurring after the 2000 election between Al Gore, Ralph Nader and George Bush, in which the Court usurped the verdict of a majority of voters, thus becoming a de facto branch of the Republican apparatus. The Republican bloc now includes: Roberts [Bush, 2005], Alito [Bush, 2006], Scalia [Reagan, 1986], Kennedy [Reagan, 1988], and Thomas [Bush, sr., 1991]. The Democratic bloc includes Ginsberg [Clinton, 1993], Stephen Breyer [Clinton, 1994], Sonia Sotomayer [Obama, 2009], and Elena Kagan [Obama, 2010]. The Republican tilt is likely to continue indefinitely, with Obama only able to appointment replacements to retiring liberals. The tilt will become a lock if a Republican president is elected in 2016.

Lost in both the partisan spin and rhetorical legalisms is that the scale of political power is being tipped far to the right in spite of progressive majorities which elected and re-elected President Obama.

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Tea Party Origins: ‘We’re Shocked!’

February 20th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, rightwing, Tea Party

Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers

By Brendan DeMelle

Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

Feb 11, 2013 – A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

"Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda."

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now "supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws." Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

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Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue To Be the Party of White People

February 16th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, racism, rightwing

 

BY SAM TANENHAUS
Progressive America Rising via The New Republic

Feb 10, 2013 – With Barack Obama sworn in for a second term—the first president in either party since Ronald Reagan to be elected twice with popular majorities—the GOP is in jeopardy, the gravest since 1964, of ceasing to be a national party. The civil rights pageantry of the inauguration—Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and Martin Luther King’s, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s swearing in of Joe Biden, Beyoncé’s slinky glamor, the verses read by the gay Cuban poet Richard Blanco—seemed not just an assertion of Democratic solidarity, but also a reminder of the GOP’s ever-narrowing identity and of how long it has been in the making.

"Who needs Manhattan when we can get the electoral votes of eleven Southern states?" Kevin Phillips, the prophet of "the emerging Republican majority," asked in 1968, when he was piecing together Richard Nixon’s electoral map. The eleven states, he meant, of the Old Confederacy. "Put those together with the Farm Belt and the Rocky Mountains, and we don’t need the big cities. We don’t even want them. Sure, Hubert [Humphrey] will carry Riverside Drive in November. La-de-dah. What will he do in Oklahoma?"

Forty-five years later, the GOP safely has Oklahoma, and Dixie, too. But Phillips’s Sunbelt strategy was built for a different time, and a different America. Many have noted Mitt Romney’s failure to collect a single vote in 91 precincts in New York City and 59 precincts in Philadelphia. More telling is his defeat in eleven more of the nation’s 15 largest cities. Not just Chicago and Columbus, but also Indianapolis, San Diego, Houston, even Dallas—this last a reason the GOP fears that, within a generation Texas will become a swing state. Remove Texas from the vast, lightly populated Republican expanse west of the Mississippi, and the remaining 13 states yield fewer electoral votes than the West Coast triad of California, Oregon, and Washington. If those trends continue, the GOP could find itself unable to count on a single state that has as many as 20 electoral votes.

It won’t do to blame it all on Romney. No doubt he was a weak candidate, but he was the best the party could muster, as the GOP’s leaders insisted till the end, many of them convinced he would win, possibly in a landslide. Neither can Romney be blamed for the party’s whiter-shade-of-pale legislative Rotary Club: the four Republicans among the record 20 women in the Senate, the absence of Republicans among the 42 African Americans in the House (and the GOP’s absence as well among the six new members who are openly gay or lesbian). These are remarkable totals in a two-party system, and they reflect not only a failure of strategy or "outreach," but also a history of long-standing indifference, at times outright hostility, to the nation’s diverse constituencies—blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, gays.

But that history, with its repeated instances of racialist political strategy dating back many decades, only partially accounts for the party’s electoral woes.

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How Obama Can Break the House Republicans:

January 17th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Budget Debates, GOP, Obama, rightwing

 

Looking at the Numbers to Isolate and Divide Their Three Groupings

By Noam Scheiber
Progressive America Rising via The New Republic

Jan 16, 2013 – Earlier this week Politico ran a piece about the mood of the House GOP that was highly revealing, if not quite the way the authors intended. The supposed take-away was that conservatives are so amped up and ornery they won’t think twice about leaving the debt ceiling where it is, consequences be damned. “GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes,” the piece warned. Which is to say, pretty much the standard meshugas we’ve come to expect from John Boehner’s nuthouse.

But when you read between the lines of the Politico piece, the thinking of House Republicans looked a lot more rational. The upshot seemed to be that Boehner won’t let the government default on its liabilities, and that his members will settle for something much less damaging – a government shutdown – if they don’t get the cuts they want. (They will have the opportunity to engineer this a few weeks after the likely debt ceiling vote, when Congress has to pass a bill funding the government for the rest of the year.) “[Boehner] may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” a GOP leadership adviser told Politico, “so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.” The quote was meant to be ominous but was actually quite reassuring.

Ever since November, Washington has marveled at the “fever” the president hoped his re-election would break. House Republicans announced it was emphatically not broken when they resisted tax hikes until the grisly end of the fiscal cliff negotiations. But the fact that the deal got done at all suggests “fever” isn’t quite the right metaphor, at least not for most of the party. Yes, there are lunatics in the House of Representatives. And, yes, their lunacy isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to in order for the government to function.

The biggest problem with Obama’s fever metaphor is that it treats Republicans as monolithic. This wasn’t such a stretch during his first term, when the GOP calculated that relentless obstruction was the best way to undermine him, a goal they were united around. Back then, his gain was the GOP’s loss, and vice versa. But with Obama having run his last campaign, the game is no longer zero-sum. Up to a point, Republicans need not fear his rising popularity, so long as they become more popular too. And this has created divisions within the Republican Party.

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The Secret of How the GOP Has a Lock on the House for the Foreseeable Future.

December 31st, 2012 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in elections, GOP, rightwing, Voting Rights

By Bill Berkowitz

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

Dec 29, 2012  – If somewhere in the recesses of your mind you were wondering how, despite President Barack Obama’s re-election victory and the Democratic Party’s gains in the Senate, Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives, think redistricting.

Redistricting is the process that adjusts the lines of a state’s electoral districts, theoretically based on population shifts, following the decennial census. Gerrymandering is often part and parcel of redistricting. According to the Rose Institute of State and Local Governments at Claremont McKenna College, Gerrymandering is done “to influence elections to favor a particular party, candidate, ethnic group.”

Over the past few years, as the Republican Party has gained control over more state legislatures than Democrats. And, it has turned redistricting into a finely-honed, well-financed project. That has virtually insured their control over the House. “While the Voting Rights Act strongly protects against racial gerrymanders, manipulating the lines to favor a political party is common,” the Rose Institute’s Redistricting in America website points out.

ProPublica’s Olga Pierce, Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer recently reported, in a piece titled “How Dark Money Helped Republicans Hold the House and Hurt Voters [3],” that “Republicans had a years-long strategy of winning state houses in order to control each state’s once-a-decade redistricting process,” That strategy helped the GOP put a hammerlock on its goal of creating safe Republican districts that would allow it to control of the House.

“The Republican effort to influence redistricting overall was spearheaded by a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee [RSLC], which has existed since 2002,” ProPublica reported. “For most of that time, it was primarily a vehicle for donors like health care and tobacco companies to influence state legislatures, key battlegrounds for regulations that affect corporate America. Its focus changed in 2010 when Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, was named chairman. His main project: redistricting.”

Under Gillespie’s leadership, the RSLC launched a project called the Redistricting Majority Project [4], or REDMAP, “to influence state races throughout the country.” In 2010, the RSLC had raised $30 million to pursue what Karl Rove had discussed earlier that year in a Wall Street Journal article headlined, “The GOP Targets State Legislatures,” and subtitled, "He who controls redistricting can control Congress."

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The One and Only Cause of "Fiscal Cliff" Economic Crisis: Republicans Fear Tea Party Primaries

December 29th, 2012 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, rightwing, Tea Party

By Robert Creamer
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

Dec 29, 2012 – Often, economic crises are caused by real physical problems – like draught, war, demography, or technological innovation that robs one economy of a competitive advantage over another.

Other times, economic crises result when asset bubbles burst, or financial markets collapse. That was the case of the Great Depression – and more recently the Great Recession.

The economic crisis of the moment – the "fiscal cliff" – does not result from any of these factors. In fact it is not a real "economic crisis" at all, except that it could inflict serious economic hardship on many Americans and could drive the economy back into recession.

The "fiscal cliff" is a politically manufactured crisis. It was original concocted by the Republican Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell as a way to get past the last crisis manufactured by the Republicans – the 2011 standoff over increasing the Federal Debt Ceiling.

Theoretically, "the cliff" – composed of increased taxes and huge, indiscriminant cuts in Federal programs – would be so frightening to policy makers that no one would ever consider allowing the nation to jump.

Now, America is on the brink of diving off the cliff for one and only one reason: many House Republicans are terrified of primary challenges from the Tea Party right.

That’s right, if your tax bill goes up $2,200 a year, or you’re one of the millions who would stop receiving unemployment benefits, the cause of your economic pain is not some a natural disaster, or a major structural flaw in the economy. The cause is Republican fear of being beaten in a primary by people like Sarah Palin, Sharon Angel or Richard Mourdock – funded by far Right Wing oligarchs like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers. It’s that simple.

Most normal Americans will have very little patience with Republicans as they begin to realize that GOP Members of Congress are willing to risk throwing the country back into a recession because they are worried about being beaten in low turn out primaries by people who do a better job than they do appealing to the extreme right fringe of the American electorate – and to the far Right plutocrats that are all too willing to stoke right wing passion and anger.

Nate Silver, of the New York Time’s 538.com, argues in a recent column that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is the increasing polarization of the American electorate. That polarization translates in to fewer truly "swing" Congressional seats and an increasing number where Members are more concerned with primary challenges than they are with losing in a general election. He concludes that at this moment the number of solidly Republican seats is larger the number of solidly Democratic seats.

This, he argues is partially a result of redistricting by Republican legislatures that packed Democrats into a limited number of districts in many states. But he also contends it results from increasing polarization of the electorate in general. And it is due to the fact that solidly Democratic urban areas have very high concentrations of Democrats, where Republican performing areas tend to have relatively lower concentrations of Republicans. These reasons help explain why, even though Democrats got more votes in House races this cycle than Republicans, Republicans still have more seats in the House.

Increased political polarization in the United States is not a result of some accident or act of God. In 2006, political scientists Nolan McCarty, Kevin T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal published a study of political polarization called Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Their study found that there is a direct relationship between economic inequality and polarization in American politics.

They measured political polarization in congressional votes over the last century, and found a direct correlation with the percentage of income received by the top 1% of the electorate. It is no accident that the years following the second World War, a period of low political polarization, was also a period that economist Paul Krugman refers to as the "great compression" — with robust economic growth for most Americans and reducing levels of economic inequality. In other words, it turns out that if you want less political polarization, the best medicine is reducing income inequality.

Of course, one of the other major factors feeding the GOP fear of primaries is that, because of the Citizens United decision, far right plutocrats can now inject virtually unlimited amounts of money into primary races. Unlimited independent expenditures have so far been much more successful in unseating incumbent Republican Members of Congress than it has been winning General Elections.

In the end, of course the relatively more diluted presence of Republicans in Republican districts – and the country’s changing demographics — may allow Democrats to win many currently Republican seats. What’s more, Republican near term concern about primary challenges – and the stridency it breeds — may alienate increasing numbers of moderate Republican leading independents. We’ve already seen this effect in the Presidential and Senate races and it would not be surprising that by 2014 many of the primary obsessed Republican incumbents are hoisted on their own petard in the General Election. Just ask Tea Party Members of Congress who were defeated in 2012, like Alan West and Joe Walsh. But in the near term, at least, there is also no question that many occupants of Republican seats appear far more concerned with primary challenges than they are with general elections.

If House Speaker Boehner is to be successful passing any form of compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff" – either before the end of the year or after – he will need to convince Republican Members of the House that he is doing them a favor by bringing a bill the floor that can pass even with many Republicans voting no. That, of course requires that the deal is good enough to allow many Democrats to vote yes.

Boehner will get political cover for that kind of maneuver if a bill passes out of the Senate with bi-partisan support. But even then, he will certainly weigh whether he risks his otherwise certain re-election as Speaker on January 3rd if he acts before the country goes over the cliff at midnight, December 31.

Of course the many Republicans that will never support any form of tax compromise don’t justify their position by explaining they are more concerned with primaries than they are of general elections. In fact they generally fall back on one of three myths that are themselves utter nonsense.

Myth #1 – You shouldn’t tax the wealthy because they are "job creators". The plain fact is that no one invests money in any business if they do not think there are customers with money in their pockets to buy the products or services they produce.

Customers with money in their pockets are "job creators" – and the root of our current economic problems can be traced directly to the fact that everyday consumers are receiving a smaller and smaller percentage of the national economic pie and as a result have less ability to to buy the increasing number of products and services our economy can create. In fact, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government started keeping records in 1947. And corporate profits have climbed to their highest levels since the 1960′s.

Over the last two decades, per capita Gross Domestic Product has gone up; productivity per hour of work has gone up; but the median income of ordinary Americans has remained stagnant. That is only possible because all of the growth in our economy has been siphoned off by the top 2% of the population.

And it has meant that everyday people haven’t had the money in their pockets to buy the increased numbers of goods and services that are the consequence of that increased productivity. Stagnation and slow economic growth has been the result.

Henry Ford had this right. For the economy to grow over time, workers need to be paid enough to buy the products they produce.

If you want the economy to grow, the fruits of economic growth must be spread equally throughout the economy – if not consumers won’t have the money to buy and, as a consequence, investors won’t invest.

Higher taxes on the wealthy – including higher estate taxes on fortunes left to the sons and daughters of multi-millionaires – are not "bad" for the economy – just the opposite. They help address the economic inequality that is the core problem in our economy.

Myth #2 – Our biggest problem is the federal deficit. This is just flat wrong. It is the economic equivalent of the medieval view that you should "bleed" patients when they are sick.

We have learned from centuries of economic history, that when an economy is recovering from a recession, the right medicine for sluggish economic demand is more fiscal stimulus – and in the short run that does not mean lower deficits.

More economic stimulus, of the type that the President proposed in the American Jobs Act over a year ago, puts money in people’s pockets who can then spend it on more products and stimulate more investment. Austerity and reducing national debt will yield the same outcome we have recently seen in Europe – another recession. And that is exactly what the deficit hawks are likely to get if America slides of the fiscal cliff and stays there.

Right Wing deficit hawks are fond of warning that if we don’t cut the deficit, the country could turn into Greece – or some other European country that can’t pay it’s bills. They ignore the fact that right now U.S. Treasury Bonds are considered the safest investments in the world, and interest rates are at a record low. They also ignore the fact that, unlike the Europeans, the American Federal Reserve can monetize the federal debt and assure that U.S. bond holders are always paid — unless, of course, the Republicans refuse to pay the debts that we owe, which would be like committing economic Hara-Kiri.

In fact, the quickest way for America to become like Europe is a precipitous reduction of the federal spending. Ask the Brits how that worked out.

Finally, of course, let’s remember that the way to reduce the deficit is not an inscrutable mystery. When Democrat Bill Clinton was President he did it, just a few short years ago. The recipe for success involved two factors: increasing revenue, especially from the wealthy, and growing the economy.

Today we would have to add, the need to control the spiraling increase in health care costs. While ObamaCare will make big steps in that direction, much more will be needed. Shifting costs to seniors and other consumers by cutting Medicare or Medicaid benefits is not controlling health care costs – it is simply shifting them from government to individuals. And what is needed is not more de-regulation of for-profit health care companies. In fact we ultimately need to follow the model of the Canadians – and most of the other industrial nations in the world – and provide a universal Medicare coverage to all Americans. Our system of private health insurance is simply too expensive. Americans, after all, pay 40% more than any other country per capita for health care and have outcomes that rank only 37th in the world.

Myth #3 – Government is always bad and- as Grover Norquist argues – must be shrunk so it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that while Republicans talk about small government, they inevitably expand it when they control the White House – mostly in the form of larger military budgets.

Government, as Congressman Barney Frank says, is the name we give to the things we choose to do together–and that includes many of the most important things we do in our economy. From fire and police protection to providing free public education and health care for all, to building public infrastructure, to creating the Internet – government does a better, more efficient, more equitable job in many economic arenas than the private sector.

To hear the Republicans talk you wouldn’t know it, but right now taxes are at their lowest levels since 1958.

Right now in America we need more government – more education, more roads and bridges, more mass transportation, more cancer research, more health care, more nutrition programs, more drug education and treatment – not less. More government shouldn’t mean more regulation of our freedom – it should mean that when we co-operate together we have the ability to achieve more than if everyone is left to sink or swim. Government action is necessary to provide the foundation from which each person can individually excel.

The question of the type of society we want in America was squarely on the ballot in the election last November, and voters overwhelming voted for a society where we have each other’s back – where we’re all in this together, not all in this alone.

Progressives need to make all of these arguments to win the battle for the future. But let’s remember that the unwillingness of most Republicans to compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff" – or anything else – has less to do with their commitment to their ultra right principles than to the protection of their own political hides.

That being the case, there are only two ways to convince Republicans to compromise. One is to demonstrate that their obsession with primary challenges from the right will ultimately lead them to defeat in General Elections. The second is to defeat them so badly in the next General Election that they no longer have the power to impose the will of an extremist minority on the people of the United States.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

Follow Robert Creamer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rbcreamer