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‘The Common Good’, Dirty Words to Today’s GOP

December 9th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on ‘The Common Good’, Dirty Words to Today’s GOP | Filed in Education, GOP, rightwing, safety net, trade unions

Progressives Must Stand Up Against the Right Wing War on Public Employees

By Robert Creamer

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

Dec 9, 2013 – For many years the American Right — and many of the most powerful elements of corporate and Wall Street elite — have conducted a war on public employees.

Their campaign has taken many forms. They have tried to slash the number of public sector jobs, cut the pay and benefits of public sector workers, and do away with public employee rights to collective bargaining. They have discredited the value of the work performed by public employees — like teachers, police and firefighters — going so far as to argue that "real jobs" are created only by the private sector.

Last week a conservative court ruled that by going through bankruptcy the city of Detroit could rid itself of its obligation under the state constitution to make good on its pension commitments to its retirees.

It should surprise no one that the Republican Chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, is demanding that a budget deal with the Democrats include a 350 percent increase in pension contribution by all civilian federal employees. That would effectively mean a pay cut of about 2 percent for every federal worker. And that cut would come after a three-year pay freeze and multiple furloughs caused by the Republican "sequester."

Unbelievably, in Illinois the right wing Chicago Tribune and the state’s corporate elite snookered the Democratic-controlled legislature into passing changes in that state’s pension laws that slashed the pensions of its public employees. The changes affected all state employees and many of Illinois’ teachers. All of them had faithfully made their required contributions to the state’s pension funds for years, even though the legislature regularly failed to make its required payments so it could avoid raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest citizens.

Illinois cut teacher pensions, even though many do not participate in the Social Security system and the state pension is their only source of retirement income.

All of these attacks on public employees — and cuts in public sector expenditures in general — are premised on two myths that are simply untrue.

Myth number one. The Right claims we live in a period of scarcity that requires extreme public sector austerity. They claim "we just can’t afford" to pay people like teachers the pensions that we had agreed to in the past, because "America is broke."


Getting Inside the Heads of the GOP Base

October 9th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on Getting Inside the Heads of the GOP Base | Filed in 2014 Election, GOP, racism, rightwing, Tea Party

Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans

By Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert

Democracy Corps / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

If you want to understand the government shutdown and crisis in Washington, you need to get inside the base of the Republican Party.  That is what we are doing in the Republican Party Project and these focus groups with Evangelicals, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans. All the passion, nuances and divisions found expression when we conducted this work in the summer.

Over the last two months, we have been releasing initial findings from the first phase of research for Democracy Corps’ new Republican Party Project.  This report details findings from six focus groups among Republican partisans-divided into Evangelicals, Tea Party adherents, and moderates.  All participants indicated that they voted only or mostly for Republican candidates and were screened on a battery of ideological and political indicators.  The groups were conducted in Raleigh, North Carolina (moderate and Tea Party), Roanoke, Virginia (Tea Party and Evangelical), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (moderate and Evangelical.)

Understand that the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country – and their starting reaction is “worried,” “discouraged,” “scared,” and “concerned” about the direction of the country – and a little powerless to change course.  They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in DC let him get away with it.

We know that Evangelicals are the largest bloc in the base, with the Tea Party very strong as well.  For them, President Obama is a “liar” and “manipulator” who has fooled the country.  It is hard to miss the deep disdain-they say the president is a socialist, the “worst president in history,” and “anti-American.”

For all that, this is a deeply divided base.  Moderates are a quarter of those who identify Re-publican, and they are very conscious of their discomfort with other parts of the party base.  Their distance begins with social issues, like gay marriage and homosexuality, but it is also evident on immigration and climate change.  Fiscal conservatives feel isolated in the party.

Evangelicals who feel most threatened by trends embrace the Tea Party because they are the ones who are fighting back.  They are very in tune politically, but the Tea Party base is very libertarian and not very interested in fighting gay marriage.

Republicans shutdown the government to defund or delay Obamacare.  This goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle. They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support.  It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those de-pendent on government.  They believe this is an electoral strategy-not just a political ideology or economic philosophy.  If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.

And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities.  Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.

These are strong common currents in the Republican base, but the thinking and passions are very distinct and telling among the key blocs – and those have consequences for those who seek to lead. We selected these three groups (Evangelicals, non-Evangelical Tea Party adherents, and moderates) because combined they represent almost all of today’s Republican partisans. The focus group locations, demographic characteristics, and participants’ ideological characteristics were all selected based on statistical analysis of our first survey for this project.  While these are focus groups, and not statistically representative, this analysis gives a real, robust, and serious snapshot of who these Republicans are, how they think, and what matters to them.

–Evangelicals.  Social issues are central for Evangelicals and they feel a deep sense of cultural and political loss.  They believe their towns, communities, and schools are suffering from a deep “culture rot” that has invaded from the outside.  The central focus here is homosexuality, but also the decline of homogenous small towns.  They like the Tea Party because they stand up to the Democrats.

–Tea Party.  Big government, Obama, the loss of liberty, and decline of responsibility are central to the Tea Party worldview.  Obama’s America is an unmitigated evil based on big government, regulations, and dependency.  They are not focused on social issues at all.  They like the Tea Party because it is getting “back to basics” and believe it has the potential to reshape the GOP.

–Moderates.  Moderates are deeply concerned with the direction of the country and believe Obama has taken it down the wrong path economically.  They are centrally focused on market-based economics, small government, and eliminating waste and inefficiency.  They are largely open to progressive social policies, including on gay marriage and immigration.  They disdain the Tea Party and have a hard time taking Fox News seriously.

1. Focus groups as real life

When a Macomb County focus group participant shot back, “No wonder they killed him” after I read a statement by Robert Kennedy, that stopped me and led to a whole new analysis of Reagan Democrats – and what were the core blockages to working whites voting Democratic again.  These groups with core Republican voters had similar moments – but more important, these emerged as affinity groups where the participants worked through their alienation and isolation, not just from politically correct-liberal dominated media, but other Republicans, family members, and neighbors.  If you want to know why Republicans are at war internally, start with their voters who are in turmoil.

While we always reassure people of anonymity to allow open discussion, this was the first time ever in our groups when the participants asked at various points whether the NSA was listening in or whether their handouts were going to the IRS.  At the end of the group in Roanoke, one man left his handout and noted, “It’s probably digital, so you can check it on the NSA files.” He laughed, but it was raised multiple times throughout the groups with Evangelicals.  Some of the Tea Party men in Raleigh half-joked that the focus group was being monitored by the IRS.

Now you’re going to guarantee that what we put down here, we won’t be getting a call from the IRS about an audit or anything like that? (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

That did cross my mind when I did the first phone call and she was asking all the questions. I said, ‘I’m going to get a call from the IRS when this is done.’ (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

The Evangelicals-who seem the most on the defensive when discussing popular culture, demographic trends, changes in the family, and what is happening in their states-wrote post-cards at the conclusion of the groups and commented what a relief it was to be with people who think like they do.

I’m not alone in the way I view things for the most part. 

Republicans are not the same as they were 50 years ago and need to go back to their standards.

Not by myself in thought process.  … Thought it was a great conversation and very informative.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Good to be around like minded people. All of the people feel the country is in trouble due to the Democratic Party.  Hope and pray that this will turn around. 

While our methodology is for groups to be homogenous to encourage free discussion, we discovered here that the focus group became the opportunity to express opinions they feel on the defensive about in real life.

The moderates who are uncomfortable with their own party on social issues used the private post cards at the end of two hours to express surprise there are other Republicans who think like themselves.  While we did not use the word “moderate” in the focus group script, they used the word self-consciously in their postcards.

Surprised at other females with fiscal conservative values while also being social more moderate. …

I was surprised that the group was more moderate on social issues, like I am.  It seems that this group focused on the fiscal aspect of Republicanism as the main component.

Discussion on “hot button” issues and how people with varying backgrounds seems to have middleground…

Many people are moderate because of $ issues & social issues.

The common desire for a more moderate political party.

Again, we underscore the uniqueness of what is happening in the Republican Party.  We conduct homogenous groups to replicate real life homogeneity where people can feel free to talk about their feelings and emotions. We think this is what people say around the water cooler or a family dinner.  But for the first time for me, it felt like we were creating a safe space where Republican voters could express feelings freely–and they did.

We expected that in this comfortable setting or in their private written notes, some would make a racial reference or racist slur when talking about the African American President. None did.  They know that is deeply non-PC and are conscious about how they are perceived.  But focusing on that misses how central is race to the worldview of Republican voters.  They have an acute sense that they are white in a country that is becoming increasingly “minority,” and their party is getting whooped by a Democratic Party that uses big government programs that benefit mostly minorities, create dependency and a new electoral majority.  Barack Obama and Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many Evangelical and Tea Party voters.

2. Barack Obama

While many voters, even some Democrats, question whether Obama is succeeding and getting his agenda done, Republicans think he has won.  The country may think gridlock has won, particularly during a Republican-led government shut down, but Republicans see a president who has fooled and manipulated the public, lied, and gotten his secret socialist-Marxist agenda done.  Republicans and their kind of Americans are losing.

‘Liar’ is virtually the first association in all the groups – from Tea Party to moderates. That is a visceral separation and reason to not listen to him.  But in the context of a re-elected president getting his way, it is an expression of deep frustration with the country and people who believe him.

They think he is manipulating words, using props and teleprompters to communicate a false narrative to claim success for his governance.

The Tea Party participants described him as a “spin doctor,” “misleading,” “slick,” “slimy,” “untrustworthy,” “condescending,” and “an SOB.”

He’s even slicker than Clinton.  (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I just think he’s a little bit slimy. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

He reminds me of a used car salesman. He’s just trying to sell you something regardless of how good it is. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I had a concussion so they had to ask me a bunch of questions ’cause my mind wasn’t quite working and they said, ‘who’s the President?’ And I said, ‘an S.O.B.’ and he said, ‘good enough.’ (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

They talk about him as though he is a manufactured object, created by great political operatives.

I think he’s a marketing miracle because he was built. He was constructed by market-ing. The logo – what presidential campaign has had that kind of a logo and that kind of a visual – the posters, the colors, the way he was portrayed in the logo. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

He can tell every single person exactly how they want to hear what they want to hear. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

When the teleprompter’s not there, he really falls apart. So I don’t know how much of all of this is him or if it’s his staff or whoever the Democratic Party is – and he’s just the figurehead. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

The moderates are not very different on this score:

He’s trying to sell something. Like the old 1800s. Lay this bottle, cure all your ills, sells it to the people and he’s out of dodge. That’s basically what he’s trying to do. Trying to sell snake oil. (Moderate man, Colorado Springs)

He’s always campaigning. He’s never, it’s like you won. Now start leading. Quit cam-paigning to me. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

He’s really good at the art of spin and kind of saying what we want to hear but it’s all kind of empty. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

Gives a good speech. (Moderate man, Colorado Springs)

He has to lie because he is pursuing big-spending big-government programs and a secret socialist agenda that the American people would never buy into if they really knew.

When they watch a TV video of President speaking on the Affordable Care Act, the Evangelical women in Colorado Springs wrote down some pretty harsh and dismissive things: “Spin Dr” and “Chronic liar”; “fake”; “lies”; “just a speech”; “liar,” “bullshit.” But the moderate men there were almost indistinguishable: “He could grow some items with the B/S he is spewing”; “Lies, lies, Lies, Lies, Lies!!!!!!!”; “lies,” “disregards real facts”; “Socialism,” “Lies, Lies, Lies”; “Health care lies.”

Not surprisingly, all the groups think Obama is about big government and big wasteful spend-ing.  But in Evangelical and Tea Party groups participants think he is trying to fool the middle class with a more palatable patina while pursuing a darker, secret, socialist agenda.

Even when he’s trying his hardest to appease conservative capitalist-oriented people…he still is spouting pure Marxist philosophy. He can’t get away from it… I don’t know if he can…even find a speechwriter that can help him sound like he’s actually an American capitalist. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

Obama’s…just pure distilled Marxism.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

We’re not on his agenda. And he thinks these are things he should say to appease us, because we’re middle class. We want jobs. We care about energy. We care about whatever his talking points are. And yet…he can’t stop the ultra-liberal Marxist bleed-ing through what he’s trying to say.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

And when asked what is going right in the country, a Tea Party woman in Roanoke joked, “Well, we’re not a communist nation…yet.”

Running through these reactions to Obama is a sense of him being foreign, non-Christian, Muslim – and they wonder what really are his motives for the changes he is advancing.  They are not raised by everyone but they pretty common in the private doubts that they had written on pieces of paper before the discussion with the group.

Socialist, income redistribution (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

What is he really thinking? (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Background (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Lack of relationship with the American people. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Muslim; birth agenda; Fake; not true (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Not a US citizen.  Supports Terrorists. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I don’t believe he’s a Christian. He’s a tyrant. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

He wants to fundamentally change the country (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

He is going to try to turn this into a communist country. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

His motives behind his actions. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

He supports everything that is against Christianity. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Citizenship question (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Socialist background (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Origin of birth (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

The moderate men in Colorado Springs raise as many questions as the other Republicans about who Obama really is:

Only cares about self-promotion, not the AMERICAN people.

Hopefully, he doesn’t change the Constitution so he can try to get elected again.

Feels government can solve any problem.

He is masonic Devil Illuminati, Lier can’t stand Him


Lies and scandals


They think President Obama is on the verge of using his powers to pursue his agenda without limits.  That is evident in the frequent discussions about executive orders and action:

“When Congress is gone…he just does an Executive Order. He’s going to get anything he wants. And there’s nobody there that will have the guts enough to stand up to him”; “There’s so many secret things that go on – that are – bills are passed and regulations are passed – we never know about.” (Evangelical men, Roanoke)

Much more troubling was the fear of NSA and IRS being turned against the Republican op-ponents of the government,

That’s a big thing right now is when they were spying on us and looking at all the stuff and you know I mean years ago my parents were talking about it. They’re not like crazy and nuts or anything but I mean they always talked about it and I kind of tried to, no they’re not but now we’re finding out more and more information that everything we do you know, every Google search you make they know about. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

He’s [Obama] turned the government into a spy agency on us. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I think what we fail to realize-that it has…to do with setting up an organization and a machinery that can control and spy on every asset of our lives, and control it. And once it’s infiltrated with all of the little webs…you won’t be able to undo it. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

When you find out that they’re keeping all the records of your telephone conversations, every email, everything that you’re doing – the government is spying on you. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

And they fear is that he is getting away with it – unchecked.

3. Big government and dependency Democrats: Obamacare

Unifying all Republicans is their revulsion toward big government.  That revulsion involves three distinct strands of thinking – two of which take the Republican Party into realms of pre-occupation that threaten to marginalize the party.

The first strand is big programs, spending, and regulations that undermine business.  That is pretty straightforward and is hardly surprising.  That is probably the dominant strand among the moderates who long for a fiscally conservative and focused Republican Party.  Their first associations with government are: “big”; “waste”; “Regulations. Inefficient”; “Red tape, that’s all.” [Raleigh] They think big programs go hand-in-hand with special interest groups and lobbyists who buy off politicians and push up spending. [Colorado Springs] Their objections pointedly do not put increased dependency center-stage.

The moderates are very opposed to Obamacare because it is big spending;

It won’t work; it will hurt business and employment.  Their first associations are: “Stupidity”; “Job killer”; “And I say debt, D-E-B-T”; “Job killer.” [Raleigh]

The second strand is a concern with intrusive government that invades their privacy, diminishes their rights and freedoms, and threatens the Constitution.  Those worries are dominant among the Tea Party, though not exclusively.  In both Tea Party groups, they immediately associate the word government with the phrase “too big.” This is followed by “out of control,” “wasteful,” “corrupt,” “Obama,” and “Democrats.”

And the third is the most important and elicits the most passions among Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans – that big government is meant to create rights and dependency and electoral support from mostly minorities who will reward the Democratic Party with their votes.  The Democratic Party exists to create programs and dependency – the food stamp hammock, entitlements, the 47 percent.  And on the horizon-comprehensive immigration reform and Obamacare.  Citizenship for 12 million illegals and tens of million getting free health care is the end of the road.

These participants are very conscious of being white and valuing communities that are more likeminded; they freely describe these programs as meant to benefit minorities.  This is about a Democratic Party expanding dependency among African Americans and Latinos, with electoral intent.  That is why Obama and the Democrats are prevailing nationally and why the future of the Republic is so at risk.

They associate the Democrats with government dependence and talk pointedly about welfare recipients who demand too much and take advantage of the system.

And the entitlement. Everybody seems to feel – And I volunteer at a food pantry…And the thought of entitlement – I didn’t get my food stamps, and I need my TANF and I have to get my disability and I have to get my housing. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Abused…It’s too easy to get on it. People who can work won’t work, because they’re receiving too many government benefits, and it’s easier to stay home and cash in on the unemployment and the food stamps.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They eat better than I do.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

That’s the whole problem with the whole unemployment and the food stamps: people have taken advantage of it…. Now… It’s a way of living. And that’s the problem. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I work at Sam’s Club…lady comes in all the time. All of them: first, fourth, seventh, ninth. “I’m tired of ribeye steaks. Where’s your lobster tails? Where’s your seafood?” And they’re putting it in an Escalade…It’s disgusting…it’s full of graft. It’s full of fraud. It’s full of abuse. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

In this way, the Democratic Party looks to inject the government in places where Evangelical and Tea Party Republicans believe matters are better left to family, community, individuals, and churches.

They worry that minorities, immigrants, and welfare recipients now believe it is their “right” to claim these benefits.  Tea Party participants, in particular, were very focused on those who claim “rights” in the form of government services, without taking responsibility for them-selves.

Well, on the news, everything is — every minority group wants to say they have the right to something, and they don’t. It’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t say happiness. You get to be alive and you get to be free. The rest of it’s just a pursuit. You don’t even – you’re not guaranteed happiness. You have to work for it. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I think that America doesn’t give us enough responsibility. I don’t think that they let us be responsible for ourselves because we know we have – or people think that there’s someone to catch them. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I see a lot of lack of personal responsibility…People are constantly looking toward the government to get what they need. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Welfare and making your own money. I think people don’t take responsibility for themselves because they know – the government will take care of me and my five children while they can’t.  (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Health care reform is just that. They believe Democrats not only create institutional depend-ency, but also feeds it for their own political gain. 

The government’s giving in to a minority, to push an agenda, as far as getting the votes for the next time. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They’ve got their hands in everything. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

They want us to be dependent upon the government, more so than self-sufficient. And that’s what makes them powerful. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

That’s the sort of subculture that the Democrats are creating, is that sense of entitle-ment, because they want us dependent on them. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Obama got elected because he kept saying, ‘I’ll keep giving you unemployment forev-er.’ That’s why he got elected. Now you can live in this country without a green card. Come on, we’ll give you insurance, we’ll give you money. That’s why he got elected. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

There’s so much of the electorate in those groups that Democrats are going to take every time because they’ve been on the rolls of the government their entire lives. They don’t know better. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

They’ve got a very effective process apparently. They’ve figured out how to convince the largest number of people to step in line. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

It’s going to be viewed as a means for everyone to get the same amount of healthcare, whether they work for it or get it just because they’re here. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

And worry that it’s the uneducated who are most inclined to vote for Democrats:

“They vote on emotion instead of voting on what are they going to do. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

This strategy extends beyond food stamps and unemployment to helping illegal immigrants.  And they fear this is just about creating a base for the Democratic Party.

One of the things the Democrats have done is created a dependency class of loyal voters. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

That’s why they want all the illegal aliens legalized. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

Obamacare is the final blow. When Evangelicals talk about what is wrong in the country, Obamacare is first on their list and they see it as the embodiment of what is wrong in both the economy and American politics.  In fact, when asked what she talks about most, one woman in Colorado replied, “Obamacare, hands down, around our house.” In Roanoke, it was the first thing mentioned when asked “what’s the hot topic in your world?”

To participants in these groups, Obamacare:

“Just looks like a wave’s coming, that we’re all going to get screwed very soon.” (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Obamacare’s just another intrusion on the Constitution. … And I just – I’m appalled. I’m appalled by what’s going on in our country.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

It’s putting us at the mercy of the government again. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

[Our rights] are slowly being taken away…like health care. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke),

4. Evangelicals: “A very politically incorrect minority”

Evangelicals are a third of the Republican base; they are the biggest and most intense group: four-in-five are “strong” Republicans and straight ticket voters.  Over three quarters are married and well over 90 percent are white.  Their demographics – white, married, religious, and older – sets up a feeling that they are losing.  They talk about how the dominant politics and cultures have encroached on their small towns, schools, and churches.  What troubles them when they talk with friends, family, and fellow believers is Obamacare, guns, government encroachment, gay marriage, and “culture rot.”

They sense they are “pretty white” and “didn’t go to Harvard” – and “we’re just not [Obama]” – which means they are becoming a pretty “politically incorrect minority.” The so-called “tolerant” liberals just aren’t very tolerant when it comes to them.

It used to be different, as illustrated by several men in Roanoke when describing their own towns.

It’s a little bubble. So everybody – it’s like a Lake Wobegon. Everybody is above average. Everybody is happy. Everybody is white. Everybody is middle class, whether or not they really are. Everybody looks that way. Everybody goes to the same pool. Everybody goes – there’s one library, one post office. Very homogenous. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

It is from that perspective that they view President Obama.

I think that his picture of the people in this room would be that we’re all a bunch of racist, gun-clinging, flyover state, cowboy-hat wearing yokels. Because we didn’t go to Harvard, and we’re not from New York, and we’re pretty white, we’re pretty middle class. We like to go to church, we like our Bibles. And so we’re just not him. We’re not on his agenda. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

In Roanoke, participants remarked that it was refreshing and unusual to be in a room where everyone shared their beliefs-and gave them an opportunity to speak openly about guns, gay marriage, church, and their values. In Colorado Springs, participants remarked that Colorado used to be a conservative state and they could expect that their values and rights and would be protected.  This seems to be slipping away.

We’re having to realize that we’re going to be in a very politically incorrect minority pretty soon. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

And the point of departure for being a politically incorrect minority is what’s happening with the acceptance of homosexuality and the gay agenda.

Giving gay and lesbian citizens of the right to marry the person they love can seriously harm them, and seriously harm the children that they were raising. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They’ve taken what I consider a religious union between a man and a woman-pardon my French – and bastardized it. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They believe the dominant national culture promotes homosexuality and makes this “minority” culturally “normal.” There is a conspiracy to push “the gay agenda.”

The fact that it is so prominent, that’s day to day. Like…that stupid song on 96.1… It’s on every five minutes. The “I can’t change” song. It’s on constantly. It’s song promoting gay and lesbian rights and all that stuff. But it’s so prominent. It’s every 10 minutes. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Like it’s a normal way of life. There’s a minority of people out there are homosexual, but by watching TV, you’d think everybody’s that way. And that’s the way they portray it. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

Somebody’s got to say “the gay agenda.” That gets thrown around, a lot-that there’s this vast conspiracy of gays that are trying to push this. But-you know, to some ex-tent, it almost seems like that, because these things are just moving so quickly along a certain trajectory. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

Their kids are under threat from popular culture and in the schools – and the gay agenda seems to have displaced school prayer as the intrusive secularism that is undermining their ability to raise their children right. 

It’s really tough when my 13 year old comes home, and saying, the girls are holding onto to hands in school, and the guys, there’s nothing that can be done. Which comes back to, Christ is taking – being taken out of schools. They’re trying to take anything that mentions the word God out of schools. They could get in trouble, if they bring a Christian book. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

The schools aren’t going to teach your kids the stuff that you want to. We don’t need the schools raising our kids. We need to raise our kids, teach them what our beliefs are, what our standards are, our morality is, and let them get an education there, but not raise them there. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

It’s hard when the school is directly opposing what you’re trying to teach your kids. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

As a result, some have taken their kids out of the public schools and instead placed them in church schools or are homeschooling:

“My daughter’s only one, and I already am making plans for her not to go to school and have that [homosexuals] in her life, because it’s not – Not only that it’s not just something that I agree with, but it’s not something that should have to be forced down her throat.” (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Another had a hard time describing homosexual boys:

The Scouts just started accepting boys that are – that – that identify as homosexual.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They believe there is a dominant culture that has marginalized them ideologically, linguistically, and culturally.  They believe that their views are unacceptable outside of their small circles of like-minded friends and family.  They are also very conscious that they are viewed as rednecks by the liberal elite. Take, for example, this exchange between Evangelical women in Colorado Springs:

It becomes hard, because [if you’re conservative] you’re not allowed to have your opinion, but everybody else is.

You have to agree with another opinion. That’s very annoying.

[Does anyone else feel that way? That you’re allowed to have certain opinions, but not others?]

Yes. (All around)

[Where does that pressure come from?]

It’s from the people who say that we’re supposed to be tolerant.

[Who are they?]

The people who are intolerant. It’s the left, for the most part…I just recently had a debate on Facebook with a nephew of mine. And he accused me of so much stuff out of one comment…And it was just – He was just clueless on where I stood.

So, we should not be surprised that the Evangelicals are not politically correct on immigration.  In this case their feeling of being invaded is literal, as when they discuss immigration in graphic terms, and point to language as what bothers them most:

“Don’t come here and make me speak your language. Don’t fly your flag. You’re on American soil. You’re American.”; “You come to our country, you need to learn our language.” (Evangelical men, Roanoke). Why should I put-press 1 if I want to speak in English? You know, everything-every politically correct machine out there says, “Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish.” (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

The only ones standing up for them against these forces are the Republican Party, Fox News, and the Tea Party – and the Grand Old Party is doing none too well.

Feeling most besieged by what is happening in the country, these strong Republicans need an effective and principled party, but they think many Republican politicians have lost their way.  There are too many “RINOs” who cannot stop what is happening.

The problem is there’s not a party that thinks like us. We don’t have a voice in Washington. Or where else? The Republican Party? They might as well just have a D be-side their name, as far as I’m concerned.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I don’t have a party anymore. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

And the Republicans – a lot of Republicans are just RINOs – Republican in name only. But we’ve really got to turn this ship around, or we’re in deep doo. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

Above all, they think the Republican Party has proved too willing to “cave” to the Obama agenda, which is winning.

They cave all the time. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

They’re rollovers. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

They worry that the party is too internally divided to be effective.

It sounds like they’re fighting. And they’re not happy with each other. And it’s like little kids sometimes. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Fortunately, there is Fox News, which they describe as the only network “in the middle.”

FOX is about the middle.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

[Fox News is] about the only one that gives you both sides. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I don’t think they’re trying to make the news. I think they’re trying to report the news. It seems like everybody else is trying to make the news. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

The greatest source of hope is the Tea Party because they are standing up and pushing back. They may not agree with the Tea Party on some issues, but they share a special solidarity given how isolated they are.

When asked about out country’s greatest strengths and what gives them hope, the Tea Party is universally mentioned.  They say that people are finally “standing up” and “fighting back.”

Well, I would say, the rise of the Tea Party, that people are getting involved, and they’re standing up… People are saying hey, this isn’t what’s in our Constitution, and it’s not what’s in our schools. And I think people are taking a stand now, and we need to, before it’s too late. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

America is rising back up and getting a backbone again, and making our voices heard one way or another, whether it’s Tea Party, or whatever else. People are being emboldened.  (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

They are a group to be reckoned with, because if we’re going to turn things around, The Tea Party’s going to need to be part of it. And less government and less spending, and throw the rascals out – to quote Ross Perot – is what they’re all about. I’m there.  (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I thank God there’s enough people getting angry now and it will have to stop. I think people realize that we’re going to have to rise up and take control. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I’m very proud of them for standing up. It was about time…it’s given me courage to be able to say what I believe. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

And in a room full of like-minded others, they become energized and feel ready to fight back, and reclaim what they believe has been taken from them.  At the conclusion of the group in Roanoke, the men had formed a serious bond and parted vowing to remain in touch, “These are the kind of people the Tea Party’s made of.”

5. Tea Party: “Back to basics”

Tea Party enthusiasts form just over a fifth of the base Republican voters – and are cheered on for the moment by the Evangelicals who are depending on their conservative backbone.  These are straight ticket, anti-government, pro-business voters who are more confident that they can get America back to basics if they fight back.  They are libertarian and not very con-cerned with homosexual encroachment, but the hot topics for their friends and family are Obama, gun control, Obamacare, taxes, and government spending.  They have hope because they are trying to get America back to the Constitution, to American entrepreneurship, freedom, and personal responsibility.

In both Tea Party groups, the phrase “back to basics” was repeated multiple times.  What this means is they want to return to a time when they believe government was small, people lived largely free of the government, and Americans took responsibility for themselves.

This is not those times. Government is catering to those who have not earned their benefits or the freedoms of this country.  They freely talk about food stamps, “welfare recipients,” and illegal immigrants. These groups are the most anti-immigrant, anti-food stamps, and anti-Obamacare and its potential beneficiaries of the Republican groups.  They are also the most anti-Obama, anti-Obama agenda and anti-Obama politics-because these threaten the basics.

Like other Republicans, they hate big government and dependency that are central to the Obama Marxist project, but they are also acutely alarmed at government invasion of their privacy, rights, and freedoms.  Freedom is on the line.

I think the government needs to stay out of our private lives. That’s my right to privacy and the issues that affect – that run this country like a business, that’s where they be-long. But telling people on a personal level what they can or cannot do I do have a problem with that. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Our freedoms are getting taking away all the time with more regulations and rules and things we can’t do. And we let it happen, and then all of a sudden we’re not going to have any left. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Gun control, business taxes… regulations. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Gun control is the most immediate battle to stop big government encroachment.

I think that our freedom is slowly being taken away from us, like with the gun control and I don’t know, just everything. I just fear for our freedom. I don’t want to be like the other countries and have to be told what to do and when to do it. (Tea Party wom-an, Roanoke)

I think we’re slowly losing our freedom. You know just by – you can’t choose any-thing, you know when it comes to gun control or anything…I don’t’ think they should take the guns away.  (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

There’s talk of the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws and things like that. That’s a diminishing right. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

And some used a combination of revisionist history and Constitutionalism to articulate this right.

For me you know our founders…we had to rise up and we had to defend ourselves and take over this country and who knows if that has to happen again sometime so I don’t want the government – the government already has enough knowledge and stuff about what’s going on in my life so if they want to take away all of our rights, I mean I just feel like we’re Nazi Germany or something. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

The Tea Party Republicans are staunchly pro-business-to the point of celebrating trickle-down economics.  While there was some skepticism about Wall Street in the women’s group, for the most part, these participants expressed pro-business, anti-tax, anti-regulation attitudes.  Even if they were not currently reaping the rewards of the economy, they did not blame business greed, but rather government regulation.

The whole middle-class-up economy format is completely ridiculous. Because who’s going to give the middle class their money? The upper class. The middle class isn’t going to make money coming out of nowhere. They’ve got to get a job. And who gives the jobs? The rich people. So if you take all the rich people’s money, they’re not going to be able to give anybody a job. Just it’s so backwards. He keeps talking about a strong middle class. I don’t want a strong middle class. I want to make all the middle class rich people, because then you’ve got even more rich people who can give more jobs. It’s like a – it’s just ridiculous. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I think [Wall Street] provides a lot of jobs. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Our economy feeds off of people who make more money than others. That’s just the way capitalism works and I think that it is punishing people who go out and make a great job and have a lot of money. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

The Evangelicals admire the Tea Party activists right now, but at some point, their relaxed, almost libertarian views on social issues may create new fractures.  They are in a very different place, and they think the focus on homosexuality and gay marriage may be unhelpful politically.

On gay marriage, Tea Party Republicans are apt to say, “who cares?” or it’s not the government’s business.

Who cares? (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I don’t want the government telling me who I’m sleeping with or whatever in my bedroom, so I just don’t think it’s the government’s business. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

It’s fine with me. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I think it’s not important. I mean either way we have so many bigger issues to worry about. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

It doesn’t hurt anybody. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I don’t think the government as any say in it…I personally don’t agree with gay mar-riage, but I don’t think the government should say who can get married and who can’t. It’s not their business. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

They’ve got a lot more to deal with than that. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

And the Tea Party women in Roanoke even edged toward being pro-choice on abortion and positive about Planned Parenthood. 

I think it’s all right to choose. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Even though I’m not for abortion myself … I don’t think it’s right to tell a women whether she can or not because you don’t know her situation. Do I think that it’s OK for women to use abortions as their birth control? No I think that’s completely wrong but if a woman was raped and conceived a child and she knows she can’t look at that child every day, she can’t carry it in her body, why stop her from – I don’t know. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

They do other good things. They do yearly exams. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And birth control. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And they teach what’s realistic you know, they teach that kids are gonna have sex these days. It’s just the way things are. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Not only are they are more open to gay marriage and choice, but many see social issues as a potential distraction, or a force to divide the Republican Party.

The government, the media, the news media, you know. Of course – it’s gay rights, it’s abortion, it’s stuff that’s been going on for years. What we need to be focused on is the financial situation. All the rest of it, I think they’re throwing stuff out, they’re feeding it to the media. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

The government is feeding stuff to the media to get us talking and arguing about gay rights, about abortions and stuff like that when we need to be focusing on jobs you know. If we have no jobs, we have no money, we are gonna be at the mercy of the government. They take our jobs. We’re done. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

For many of these Tea Party voters, gay rights and abortion are getting in the way of their bat-tle against big government.  The women in Roanoke criticized the Republican Party for being too socially conservative. 

I think the Republicans have lost so many people to the Democratic Party because of social issues, because of pro-life and more open ideas where if we could eliminate that from the conversation I think we’d have an entirely different electorate. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And another pointedly critiqued the GOP’s conservative social agenda because it distracts and fractures the party.

They feel like… if they scream loud enough about you know, gays you know and lesbians you know, ruining our country that that’s gonna make some Christian fired up and say yeah I’m gonna vote for him even if maybe I don’t agree with these other things and gain that vote when really I think in general we’re all sick and tired of hearing about all that and I just wanna hear how you’re gonna help the country in general. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

For the Tea Party Republicans the solution to this internal discord lies in the Tea Party.  Many believe the whole party should rally around the Tea Party faction. 

The Tea Party is trying to get back to the basics. Then you’ve got – even within the Republican Party trying to fight the Tea Party. It’s like, “Don’t fight each other. Let’s join together and be one party.” (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I think [the Tea Party] is good [for the Republican Party.] I think that the rest of the GOP needs to get on board. We need to all agree on some of the basic stuff. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I think it’s a good thing, because [the Tea Party represents] core Conservatives…So you’ve got the Republicans against the Conservatives, and they said, “You need to be more Conservative if you’re going to win the elections and get more people.” (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

And thank God they have Fox News – and as a consequence they do not feel as embattled as they take on the fight to restore the basics. 

In Roanoke, the women responded to Fox News with near universal approbation.

I like it. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I enjoy it. If I’m on the treadmill, I’m plugging into Fox.  I just agree with a lot of their approach. I’m a conservative. I’m a social liberal but I’m a fiscal conservative and I agree with a lot of what they have to say. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I like Bill O’Reilly. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I absolutely love Bill O’Reilly. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I wish there was more Fox News. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And men in Raleigh confessed that Fox is the only news station they watch.

It’s great. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

It’s the only news channel I watch. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

It’s the only one I watch. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

I like it. I’m missing two hours of it. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

6. Moderates: “I can’t sell my kids on this party.”

Moderate Republicans make up a quarter of the Republican Party – and pale in size and influence to the Evangelicals and Tea Party supporters – and they know it.  While they are firm Republicans, some have started splitting their tickets.

They are acutely conscious that their biggest difference is on social issues. While the Tea Party Republicans asked, “who cares?” and questioned government’s role in regulating personal choices, the moderates could not understand why gay couples did not have comparable rights.  They were comfortable with a legal basis for gay marriage.

Their modern views on gay marriage mark a sharp distinction from Evangelicals.  In fact, many moderates don’t understand why it is a debate at all.

My idea is if they’re going to do it, let them do it. (Moderate man, Colorado)

From a legal standpoint I don’t understand why it’s a debate because I think that gay people should actually be allowed to get married because they should have, well first of all every argument I’ve heard against it has been based on religion and if our gov-ernment is truly separate from religion in our government should be able to make laws based on religious beliefs. Secondly I think if gay people want to get married and then they want to get divorced they should have to pay for divorce just like I did. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

It just doesn’t really make any sense why they shouldn’t be allowed to…have that kind of special bond. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I mean they’re [together anyway. You know? The world is going to change anyway. And it is changing anyway every way. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

That’s what I don’t understand, is like a have houses together and they do everything that a married couple would do together and I just don’t understand. (Moderate wom-an, Raleigh)

The first gay divorce was filed in Massachusetts?Good, that’s what I like. I’d like them to have the same opportunity we have. (Moderate man, Colorado)

Doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t affect my life. (Moderate man, Colorado)

I don’t understand why you can regulate what the hell I think and do. This is a free fricken country. There’s been homosexuals since the Roman times and before. What the hell are you scared of them? Are you scared they’re going to get you? Are you? Are you scared they’re going to get your kids? (Moderate man, Colorado)

And they diverge sharply from Evangelicals when it comes to Planned Parenthood.

I think it’s necessary for a lot of different reasons and not saying just abortion, people associated with abortion but I think it does so much more than that they don’t get credit for.  (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I think Planned Parenthood is great and I think it always has been, just I mean it just offers people options it offers a lot of education. (Moderate woman, Raleigh) While illegal immigration was a defining issue for Tea Party and Evangelical Republicans, the moderates do not focus on the illegals as undeserving and seem mostly pragmatic, particularly on the feasibility of mass deportation:

“I mean I don’t think it’s feasible to say, send everybody home;” (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I mean it’s a huge struggle to get here illegally so I think if they are here illegally…they are not leaving. And that means they are going to be putting a toll on our roads…taking up space in classrooms…so it would be nice if they were legal and they actually could be contributing to that tax circle…I just think getting them a path to that would be great. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

Others even articulate that immigrants are good for the country and the economy. They speak of them having good work values, not as people looking to become dependent.

I feel like if we’re not going to embrace some sort of path to citizenship we’re going to see a cost of a lot of services go up. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

And they work hard and they actually realize the American dream. And a lot of us Americans complain, we won’t do what we think we’ll do. (Moderate man, Colorado)

Many immigrants come into our country do better than we do… they don’t complain. (Moderate man, Colorado)

I need more customers. I need more people to sell things to. I need more people to do business with. And I can see that these people are potential customers. And the jobs they did… we won’t do… We just flat won’t do it…We don’t have some of the worth ethic they have…I want it to all be legal… I don’t mind that they’re customers. They can pay taxes. (Moderate man, Colorado)

The moderate Republicans were surely concerned about big government.  Their first associations with government are negative-it is too big and does not operate well.  They associate it with “waste,” “inefficient,” “regulations,” and “red tape.” They believe their taxes are too high and believe government spends too much money on bureaucrats’ salaries and high end offices.

But those views of big government combine with more positive associations-how rights have progressed and how the country has become more free.  They honor freedom without the same sense of threat as Tea Party and Evangelical Republicans.

How they’ve progressed through the years. Women, people of color. We have a lot to be thankful for. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I just think of our whole Bill of Rights, a lot of places where people still immigrate here. I mean everything from voting to I mean property, just all of them come to mind. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I think we feel more free than we probably ever have before. I just look at, as much as we have all these debates and whatever and yet we’re able to have all these debates because we are really more free than we’re ever been. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

But they stand out for being equally concerned with government dysfunction – and the Re-publican Party role in national polarization and gridlock. As one woman in Raleigh said, “I think for me it’s a highlight of a lot of division. Everything seems very divided and angry.” Another said,

They’ve been holding every thing up in Congress lately. Like, the Democrats proposed this but Republicans just say no. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

In stark contrast to the conversations among Evangelical and Tea Party adherents, these folks are desperate for “middle ground.”

It’s like you have to be on one side or the other about race. And you have to be on one side or the other about healthcare. And you, like all these other things and I mean it really, it seems like maybe there’s some middle ground that it never seems to be that we get to that, as a country it doesn’t ever seem like we really get to that kind of mid-dle ground. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I feel like everybody, especially in politics, like a magnet. There’s both sides and we can’t get to that middle ground…which accomplishes anything. I feel like there’s a whole lot of talk and not a whole lot of action that just keeps tying everybody up and just this constant circle of just kind of anger and you can’t get through it. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

As a result, they see that necessary government functions no longer function.

It goes back to also the government’s fighting, it’s like we have a…Democratic legislature and they all get voted out and replaced by Republicans who will undo everything the Democrats did but then the next time then it will be Democrat again and they’ll undo everything and put in new stuff and then it will go back and the undo everything and things that used to be so simple like a transportation bill can’t get past anymore because they say I’m not voting for it because it’s Republican or vice versa. So that’s my concern, the leaders can’t get together. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

Like other Republicans, the moderates worry about Obamacare: companies not hiring full time; more part-time jobs and stress on small businesses.  But in the group of moderate Re-publican women, these conversations about Obamacare had a different tone than in the other groups.  While strongly opposed to big government, inefficiency, and higher taxes, the discus-sion in the moderate women’s group was very pragmatic-with women weighing the potential trade-offs between the benefits of the ACA and its potential costs.  It was not focused on newly dependent populations.

I think just in general the pre-existing condition, getting rid of that I think is great but at the same time you have to look at what that’s affecting. And it means that healthy young people are going to be paying more. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

And in striking contrast, the moderate women launched into a discussion that was more characterized by uncertainty than by anger.  The dominant thrust of the conversation revolved around questions about Obamacare-and what it would mean for them, their healthcare plans, and their healthcare choices.  In that, they sounded like normal voters.

When I think about just what I’m concerned about healthcare is one of the things. I’m just uncertain about what the changes would mean for me… So that scares me for my own future. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

My mom’s all worried about like if she got Alzheimer’s…Like what are the real ramifi-cations of the bill? (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

The moderates view the Tea Party and Fox News as part of the problem – “extreme” and “a bunch of crap” respectively. They are turned off by Fox and at best amused by the Tea Party.

Some say they like the small government ideas the Tea Party was putting forward several years ago, but say they have been turned off by the Tea Party’s leaders, who are “unelectable,” “idiots,” “extreme,” and:

A little wacky. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

Extreme. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

It’s kind of, the Tea Party is being just as closed minded as the other group. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

Idiots. (Moderate man, Colorado)

Just something doesn’t smell right. (Moderate man, Colorado)

As one man in Colorado said, he liked the Tea Party’s initial “rallying point” of “small government,” but wonders what it has turned into.

The people they bring out or they put forward, you sometimes have a sense of how they actually got there. You know, maybe…their fundamentals good but…have them promote fundamentals. (Moderate man, Colorado)

And on Fox News, many moderates outright reject it as a news channel: “It tells about as much truth as like Jerry Springer does now.” (Moderate man, Colorado)

Moderates are not so sure about their place in the current Republican Party.  They worry about the ability of Republicans in Congress to make government work. They believe the party is stuck, not forward-looking, and representative of old ideas.  They worry about the Re-publican Party’s right turn on social and environmental issues-which makes it difficult, especially for young moderates-to view the Republican Party as a modern party.3 3 In the group of moderate women in Raleigh, participants were very supportive, surprisingly so, of a Hillary Clinton presidency.  Weighing the option of voting for Hillary Clinton versus a Republican male, the moderate Republican women in Raleigh chose Clinton, on balance. One woman said, “I don’t consider myself a Democrat but… if she was the nominee…I would seriously consider…voting for her more than a Democratic male candidate.”

While they continue to appreciate the GOP’s fiscal conservatism, these fractures make it difficult for educated young people to identify with Republicans.  As one man in Colorado said, “I can’t sell my kids on this party.”

I can’t sell my kids on this party.  I agree with…some of their positions. But the stupid things… for instance, the rape crap they were saying… I can’t sell them on my party. These kids are smart, they know these stupid politicians are saying crap. And these guys are representing us and they show their ignorance often. And just shut their mouth and do – again, get out of our bedrooms, get out of our lives and do what they’re supposed to do. (Moderate man, Colorado Springs)

I think of a white 54-year-old man in a business suit. And my mom. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I feel hopeful [about the Republican Party] on an economy level. I feel doubtful on a personal rights level, a women’s rights level, an environment level. So those two is-sues. But the rest, economy-wise, budget-wise I feel hopeful. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

I just tend to be a little bit more moderate on social issues. However I’m a pretty staunch fiscal conservative so it’s kind of like at least among my peers there’s a change in kind of the conservative group. But it doesn’t necessarily seem like the Re-publican Party is changing with it. (Moderate woman, Raleigh)

7. Climate change

Climate change is poised to replace health care reform among Republicans, with the very same dynamics already in evidence.  But that also could further isolate and divide Republicans too.

Moderates are more apt to accept the science-and respond more positively to science in general.  When we asked them about “scientists,” they responded, “respected” and “smart.” Although some are doubtful about climate change, they do not reject science offhand, but rather say they simply do not know enough to know who to believe.

We’ve gone through drought cycles in the ’80s. And we’re in a little bit of a drought cycle now, but it balances out left and right. And it’s not because we’re driving more Prius’s, you know. It’s just the way that mother earth runs itself. (Moderate man, Colorado)

I’m not smart enough to say [climate scientist are] full of shit… But I am smart enough to know I need to get more information before I say anyone’s full of shit. I do know that. (Moderate man, Colorado)

There’s been climate change all through history. But I just don’t know enough to know what we’re doing. I can’t say for sure we’re not a problem. (Moderate man, Colorado)

And while moderates reject high taxes and over-regulation, many do accept that climate is one area where government ought to do more.

I’m glad we’re starting to do [more on] energy standards, I wish it was higher…I’m glad that we’re seeing more efficient cars. I’m glad they passed that to where in 2015, we have to have cars that run more efficiently. (Moderate man, Colorado)

Watching landfill and watching vehicle emissions, watching what we’re pumping into our rivers, that’s very, very smart, period. Regardless of climate change. (Moderate man, Colorado)

I mean, that’s just part of good stewardship of the earth that we’ve been given. And I think that you find a lot of Republicans will feel that way too because a lot of Republicans hunt. They’re very sensitive to what the environment does to the hunting, you know, the changes that they see and anything like that. (Moderate man, Colorado)

Moderates are not even in the same conversation as Evangelicals who deeply doubt scientists writ large and Tea Party Republicans who are consumed by the big government and regulations that inevitably result from climate science.

Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans share and are consumed by skepticism about climate science-to the point where they mistrust scientists before they begin to speak.

Well, the scientific community in general is minimizing or marginalizing people that are bringing up doubts… You can look in biology, you can look in geology, you can look in chemistry, and you can see that the theory doesn’t hold up. And yet the scientific world won’t acknowledge that. And if you do say it, and you’re a PhD candidate, you can be denied your PhD. You can be denied your Master’s degree. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

I think that we’re being fed a lot of misinformation. (Evangelical woman, Colorado Springs)

Just like the whole evolution-creation thing…I think we waste a lot of time arguing with the science. I think we would all agree that it’s the policy that we don’t agree with… So that seems to be where we’re – we’re losing the fight because we’re fighting the science. And you can’t fight the science. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)

I wonder if they don’t put that out there to distract you. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

Back in the 70s, there were articles out there that another ice age was coming, and that’s just 30 years ago. So now all the articles say, “Hey, it’s getting warmer.” Well they’ve already proven the past 12 years it hasn’t gotten warmer. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

You could have 12 scientists on this side talking all about global warming, and you can get 12 scientists that will have the complete opposite. So you’re listening and you just don’t know. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

If you look, there was an ice age. So it used to be really, really, really cold, and inevitably it’s got to warm up eventually. It can’t stay that cold all over forever. And eventually – I think that nature is in cycles. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

Tea Party Republicans, in particular, are concerned that climate science is another way to force regulations on individuals and businesses. 

I think I saw somewhere we have like 100-plus regulations added every day.  (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

The politicians and those people – celebrities. Most of them may or may not believe it, but it’s an opportunity for them to gain power, make money, push their agenda.  They want to regulate everything…they want to control it, so this is a great excuse for them to gain that control. And if the world were covered in ice right now, they’d find another reason to gain control. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)

And they fear the subsequent costs-both to consumers and taxpayers.

The government will spend you know hundreds of thousands of dollars to check out some bird you know, that’s fading away or something. Don’t worry about that bird. Worry about the people you know. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

I mean I think we have to…you know and try to make sure that we’re recycling and taking care of our resources…but not at the cost of the jobs and our economy. I mean if we regulate down …to zero emissions…but then a car costs…200,000 dollars, well then we can’t afford it all right. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And all those regulations are putting companies out of business and like you’re say-ing, making products too expensive. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)

And we probably need to remind you that Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans dominate the party.  This looks like the future battle ahead, driven by dynamics of the Republican Party.

The Main Target: Obamacare Is Right-Wing Proxy For Social Security and Medicare

October 8th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on The Main Target: Obamacare Is Right-Wing Proxy For Social Security and Medicare | Filed in GOP, health care, rightwing, safety net, Tea Party


By Karoli

Progressive America Rising via Crooks and Liars

Oct 7, 2013 – Despite all the sound and fury about Obamacare, here’s the truth: It’s not the prime target of the right. The real targets are Medicare and Social Security, as Rep. Barton admits in the video above when he says he wants "real reforms in entitlements".

Over the past couple of weeks, it’s become apparent to me and many others that this entire showdown is not over Obamacare. The ACA is a convenient patsy because it is new, untested, and they’ve managed to poison public opinion around it over the past three years.

The real target is Social Security and Medicare. From a political standpoint, waging a war using those programs as hostage would be so wildly unpopular no sane or insane politician would dare choose that route. And so Obamacare has become the convenient stand-in, a cardboard stand-in for their real goals.

As Diane noted in her post here, the New York Times published an exposé showing how this strategy formed over the months since Barack Obama’s re-election. As usual, it was financed and formed by the Kochs and their right-wing partners. But the Kochs are hardly the only players in this particular round of attacks.

Attacking the safety net from the ‘left’

Billionaire Pete Peterson has been instrumental in creating a campaign to kill Social Security and Medicare that gives the appearance of coming from the left. His "FixTheDebt" campaign launched in 2011 was crafted to fool centrists and even those calling themselves liberals into believing there was a crisis afoot that must be fixed.

In many ways, Peterson’s astroturf campaign has been far more insidious than the Koch effort, if for no other reason than the way they try to disguise themselves as "independent" and "centrist" with left-leaning roots.


Creating a crisis is key. "America is more than $16 trillion in debt," Fix the Debt’s website warns, calling it "a catastrophic threat to our security and economy." The CEOs echo this warning, writing to Congress of the "serious threat to the economic well-being and security of the United States."

But as Dean Baker shows, this talking point just isn’t true — and the inventors of Fix the Debt know it. Indeed, they have admitted it: former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who is on the steering committee, has said publicly that the goal is to create an "artificial crisis" to get Congress to act.

To foster the illusion of a grassroots uprising, Peterson has nursed what the National Journal calls a "loose network of deficithawk organizations that seem independent but that all spout the Peterson-sanctioned message of the need for a ‘grand bargain.’"

Peterson has crafted an insidious PR campaign aimed at young people whose concerns range from climate change to jobs. He hires firms that at least appear to have progressive roots, such as Purpose Campaigns, LLC. According to their most recent tax filing, Peterson’s foundation paid Purpose Campaigns nearly $400,000 to craft a campaign targeting young people specifically to fearmonger over the debt.

But if you look at Purpose Campaigns’ website, what you see is a pleasantly progressive outlook. They value diversity, and one of their campaigns is specifically geared to fighting for LGBT rights, a distinctly progressive goal. They have a campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and their principals also co-founded Avaaz, a social network online community dedicated to advancing progressive values worldwide.

Why is a company like that receiving the big bucks from the likes of Pete Peterson?

In addition to throwing money at groups for national tours and town hall meetings, the 86-year-old Peterson is obsessed with creating. This time around we have The Can Kicks Back, complete with the fantasy that young people care more about the national debt than their own. A mascot — "AmeriCAN," a staffer dressed as a giant can — who, in December, taught former Senator Alan Simpson to dance "Gangnam style." This goofy press stunt went viral — Peggy Noonan labeled it "merry and shrewd" — and the group enjoyed puff pieces in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

How better to reach young people than to pay a progressive campaign outfit to develop a campaign aimed at young people? This is exactly how Peterson operates. His foundation donated $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative in order to facilitate fearmongering discussions on fixing the national debt. Another $100,000 was donated to the Bipartisan Policy Center to help along the work of Simpson-Bowles.

Their policy toolkit is remarkably similar to the policy toolkit developed for Young Americans for Liberty, the Ron Paul group aimed at young people, and the "grassroots toolkit" promoted by the Tea Party Patriots to defund Obamacare, but this one is more refined, and more…millenial.

As we inch closer to default, watch for the crisis talk to escalate. The cable shows will have Peterson proxies on to tell us all how scary it is that no Grand Bargain is in sight, and to explain with serious faces why chained CPI isn’t really such a big terrible thing to give away in order to keep from defaulting on the debt ceiling. We’ll keep seeing Tea Party idiots parading across the screen with claims that default isn’t really a default because we can still pay some bills. And we’ll hear more and more about how defunding Obamacare is a priority.

They’ll wax eloquent about how they really want to save Medicare and Social Security for future generations in an elegant sleight-of-hand crafted by public relations organizations who are trained to channel Orwell.

They don’t give a whit about defunding Obamacare. They want the biggest fish: Medicare and Social Security. Obamacare is just the proxy to save them from the inevitable backlash they’ll get — even from their whitest and most conservative constituents — if they dare to speak those words aloud.

Can We Break the Pattern of Low Turnout?

October 2nd, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on Can We Break the Pattern of Low Turnout? | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats, GOP, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

Becoming Two Countries in 2014

By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising via

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.


America’s Descent Into Madness

August 14th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on America’s Descent Into Madness | 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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The Battlelines are Drawn: Rightwing Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction

August 1st, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on The Battlelines are Drawn: Rightwing Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction | Filed in Civil Rights, Democrats, elections, GOP, Obama, Organizing, racism, rightwing, Voting Rights

By Bob Wing*


*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.


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.


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

July 26th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on White Supremacist Nihilism: Racist Roots of GOP War on Obama and the Rest of Us | 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.


The Right’s War on Democratic Rights

June 26th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on The Right’s War on Democratic Rights | 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.


Tea Party Origins: ‘We’re Shocked!’

February 20th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on Tea Party Origins: ‘We’re Shocked!’ | 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.


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

February 16th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off on Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue To Be the Party of White People | Filed in GOP, racism, rightwing


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.