It's Time to Stop Fox News: "The Right Wing Wants to Destroy Everything Great About This Country”
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During the 2012 election, President Obama spoke hopefully that his reelection might break the fever in the GOP, so that something might be accomplished in his second term. By now, that hope is pretty much gone, which is why we belatedly have the EPA’s global warming regulations, and rumblings about executive action on immigration policy.
We also have the first inklings of talk about Obama’s legacy, and how to take all that fanatical opposition into account. Last Saturday, on “Up With Steve Kornacki,” Erica Payne of the Agenda Project made an argument you might have heard some time ago in the blogosphere, but on cable TV, not so such: that the right was never going to cooperate with Obama, from the very beginning, and that the best thing he can do now to secure his legacy “is to actually build out the intellectual and communications infrastructure of the left,” because that’s how you build the foundations of the politically possible for the future.
“We’ve got to go back and look at Rahm Emanuel becoming chief of staff at the White House when President Obama first went into office,” Payne said. “Rahm Emanuel had lived through the Clinton years. If anyone knew what the right wing of this country is capable of it’s Rahm Emanuel, and the Clintons. And I think he just fundamentally did not prepare President Obama for what he was going to face.”
And what was that, in her view? Payne explained:
You’re never going to break this fever. This fever has been going on since Bill Clinton went into office. And we had Vince foster and blah blah blah, all of the things that the right wing threw at him, you know, and I think that President Obama very naively thought — and it’s the best spirit of hopefulness — but thought he could come in and work with these people.
But that simply wasn’t possible, she continued:
The right wing of this country wants to destroy everything that we think is great about this country, they’re never going to end, the fever is never going to be broken, and the best thing President Obama could do to seal his legacy is to actually build out the intellectual and communications infrastructure of the left.
That infrastructure is vital, because of the real nature of politics, she went on to argue:
If you look at politics, it’s basically like that picture of the iceberg, where you can see the top little bit of it. and then the ocean level, and then everything underneath it. The conservatives after the Goldwater election, Goldwater defeat, they built out a network of think tanks, the Federalist Society, CATO, AEI, the Heritage Foundation, those in combination with the Chamber of Commerce, with the Koch brothers … this whole infrastructure is the problem. And the legacy needs to address that infrastructure problem.
This is not a new argument, really. It echoes Antonio Gramsci’s concept of counter-hegemonic warfare on the left, and the infamous “ Powell Memo” on the right. So what’s remarkable isn’t the novelty of Payne’s argument — it’s that it wasn’t embraced long ago.
Consider, for example, how conservative messaging has created a dramatically growing partisan divide over the social safety net, identified in one graph from a 2013 Pew Research/New America Foundation report. Pew tracked agreement with three statements from 1987 through 2012, finding a widening Democratic/Republican gap in each case: “It’s the government’s responsibility to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” (D+17 to D+35), “the government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt” (D+25 to D+45), and “the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep” (D+27 to D+42). These figures reflect a massive shift in partisan GOP views over the period of time when the FCC got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, right-wing talk radio exploded across the country, and Fox News was launched by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. Questions of this sort are particularly strong indicators of ideological outlook, and they demonstrate just how successful the conservative infrastructure has been in making Republicans far more hostile to government spending helping the poor — at least on a philosophical level. This has had an enormous impact on the political discourse in the Beltway-centric media and policy circles, and progressives have suffered significantly as a result.