Party of No: How Republicans and the Right Have Tried to Thwart All Social Progress
Continued from previous page
The Tea Party movement – which the Republicans have helped create and exploit to oppose the entirety of the Obama administration – is the latest political variant of the right’s themes. Much of the right’s anger is directed at immigrants, African Americans and social welfare and equality in general. Among Tea Partiers, 73 percent think “Blacks would be as well off as whites if they just tried harder”; 73 percent believe “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor”; 60 percent believe “We have gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country”; 56 percent think “Immigrants take jobs from Americans”; 92 percent want a smaller government with “fewer services”; 92 percent think Obama’s policies are moving the country toward socialism; only 7 percent approve of Obama’s performance as president; and a combined 5 percent identify themselves as black, Asian or of Hispanic origin.
One survey found that identifying as a conservative or a Tea Party supporter was an accurate predictor of racial resentment. Additionally, only one-third were opposed to the government tapping people’s telephones and racial or religious profiling, and barely half opposed indefinite detention without trial. This is a movement that thrives on opposing the distribution of power and wealth more equitably in society and for imposing a repressive social order.
With nearly 60 percent of Tea Partiers believing Obama is foreign born or saying they are not sure, it becomes clear why so many on the right have adopted violent and revolutionary rhetoric. The thinking is he’s a foreigner or a Muslim or stole the election, so he is alien and illegitimate. As such, it makes sense he is pushing an alien idea like socialism that may be part of some grand conspiracy like the New World Order, the North American Union, the Bilderberg Group or Satan. (In a poll last September of New Jersey residents, not known for being prone to right-wing radicalism, 29 percent of Republicans thought Obama was the Anti-Christ or were unsure.)
However irrational this position may be, the logical consequences are not: anything Obama and the Democrats do must be opposed because it is a life-and-death struggle. In opposing the health care plan, the right is not just trying to deny services to the undeserving, it is affirming and protecting free choice, family, the sanctity of life, the market, God, country, the Constitution – all arguments trotted out in the last year.
Like the Clinton years, no matter how much Obama tries to appease Republicans, he will remain under attack and be held responsible for bizarre crimes and conspiracies because the right has nothing to gain from compromise. In fact, Republican opposition has devolved from the philosophical to the tactical. The right-wing noise machine frames Obama and the Democrats as the source of all evil, making compromise virtually impossible. Republicans now assail Obama policies they used to champion from the market-friendly health care law and huge tax cuts in the stimulus bill to the bipartisan deficit commission and pay-as you-go budget rules.
At the same time, the Obama administration has stoked support for the Tea Party by providing aid and comfort to Wall Street rather than Main Street. The Republicans have exploited legitimate anxieties over high unemployment, a shrinking economy and onerous taxes by scapegoating the weak and marginal for policies that are structural and historical in nature.
The lesson for Obama and Democrats is not that they went too far to the “left,” it’s that they went too far to the right. Obama had the political capital and the leverage over the banking and auto industries to push for a “Green New Deal” that could have restructured the transportation and energy sectors and created millions of new jobs. Slashing the bloated military budget while fighting for some type of single-payer health care – instead of a plan that uses public money to subsidize the for-profit healthcare industry – budget deficits could have been constrained while reducing the financial burden of medical bills for most American households. Implementing such an agenda could have created a mass constituency that would fight for a progressive vision and against the right’s repressive politics.