Saturday, September 26, 2009

Overcoming the graduates of Political Bullying 101

Now that my busy week is winding down (to be followed by another busy week) I have a few moments to look at part 3 of Sara Robinson's series on avoiding fascism (links to part 1 and 2). This new part was written a month ago -- the day I flew to Denver.

Don't think for a moment that the August graduates of Political Bullying 101 are going to crawl back into their holes now that Congress is back in Washington. Nope, they're looking for another target. Harass a school board over evolution? Beat up some immigrants? Elect a sheriff so they can be a duly deputized posse? Fun times ahead. At least August came with a t-shirt: "Proud Member of the Right-Wing Mob." And that appears to be the only political identity the GOP has now.

How did we get here? Democracies are self-correcting to a point -- they depend on a working political contract. Until recently, our political contract had something for everyone, which kept everyone invested in it. The contract includes:
* For the rich: predictable, reliable wealth in return for investment.
* For middle class: mobility, comfort, security.
* For working class: fair reward for fair work, chance to move ahead.
* For poor: a safety net.

But conservatives have now spent 40 years destroying this contract, even chipping away at the Constitution. The losers, as always, are the working class, whose power only comes from their sweat and numbers. Their losses are in the form of union-busting, farm foreclosures, factory closures, mortgage scams, cuts to college grants, and all manner of betrayals and abuse. They're furious at the way democracy works in this country and willing to pay attention to anyone who offers an alternative. They're so furious they will shoot at anything they're told to aim at if the speaker offers a hint he's on their side. Yes, I find it ironic (I wish I had a stronger word) that the GOP has done the dismantling, yet the GOP has the ear of these people, telling them what to shoot at.

How do we get out of this mess? On paper, it's easy: repair the political contract. Get the working class back into it by acting on the promises made. But it will be difficult because right-wing populism is so strong nothing progressives say will be believed. We have to do. Here are some actions to take.

Pass meaningful health care reform. Yeah, the right-wing troops are against it because the GOP knows that its passage will end their hold on the masses. And, yeah, the reforms are for the very people who are most loudly against it now.

Restore rule of law. Nobody currently believes the rich and powerful are ever held accountable for anything. That must end. The way to restore it most forcefully is to prosecute Bush. Then go on to end the "war on drugs" and reform sentencing which puts large numbers of lower-class people in prison.

Restore our investment in education, that chance to move ahead. "Low info voters" destroy democracy. Education has been ground under "tax revolts" -- laws and constitution amendments that tear at the political contract. Failures in understanding history ("We're really a Christian nation."), biology ("Evolution is wrong."), even science and French allows the Fundies to pull the wool over our eyes. And the worst loss is civics. It isn't on any standard tests and not knowing it means people don't understand how our government is supposed to work and what should limit it. These people are left with Rush's version of civics.

Restore equality. The working class sees the economy rigged to suck dollars out of their pockets and into tax-free offshore accounts used to buy Congress. Every governmental function -- health care, defense, law enforcement, prisons, infrastructure, research, media, education -- currently makes decisions not for the common good, but on behalf of a rich dude or a corporation.

Restoring equality requires meaningful immigration reform so that there is no two-tiered wage system and there is no trap-door under the feet of American workers.

Restore liberal institutions: universities and schools, unions, media, and liberal religious organizations. All of these have been blunted from perpetuating the progressive worldview. It is good to know the efforts of bloggers are forcing corporate media to be less one-sided.

And, yes, including religion is intentional. Because so many Americans draw their morals from religion the progressive religions must be a part. Fascism gains its power through emotion, populism, purity, redemption, and enduring values. The progressive voice that can speak to these things, and the one with the best moral force, is the liberal religious voice.

A progressive wish list? Yup. That's the point. It is a progressive democracy that is self-reinforcing, that can withstand revolutions, that can ensure prosperity, freedom, security, stability, and peace. For all.

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