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The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America

Author and public intellectual Colin Greer tells us how we got where we are today. It's not a pretty picture, but hope is on the way.

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I think the health care debate is an interesting case to consider in all this. Obviously, the social benefit is intrinsic to a progressive perspective. The kind of health care reform we’ve received is, for a variety of reasons, insufficient and insecure. Foundation funding for advancing public education and lobbying ran to the millions of dollars but it was all silo policy oriented and for the most part, top down. If that kind of money could have been used to help build a comprehensive foundational commitment to social welfare and organizational capacity, a partial achievement might well have helped produce a powerful movement advance. 

DH: Does that loss of the moral compass, along with the fear, have to translate into passivity? How do we combat that?

CG: Well, I don't know that were not doing some of what is necessary. We have to reinvest in the ideology… lots of organizations have gotten lost in the idea that you have to invest in resurrecting belief in government. This is about messages. Elections may be fought on messages. Social movements are about consciousness. We have still to invest psychically, financially and organizationally in rebuilding a shared consciousness for a threshold number of Americans that is characterized in the idea that we want a compassionate society and that government is the best vehicle to deliver that.

One thing I didn't mention about the '80s that the assault on government that Reagan led, the left created earlier. We talked about problems of welfare system, about the ineffectiveness of the education system -- that was us. Cloward and Piven, me, everybody. We undermined that system. We didn't have a sense, probably because we were young, that you win a victory and then you evolve the maturity of that victory. We wanted it to be correct, and the right will suffer the same hubris -- they're moving way beyond their ideological reach, beyond the ability to deliver it. 

DH: So, what happens in the interim? What about political repression?

CG: As Eric Cantor said, "People could starve." He said, "If you haven't saved for a rainy day yourself, that's your responsibility."  

That's the opposite of compassion; that generates fear. And if you have violence on the street, they will have their own excuse for political repression. If there is an excess of even the right-wing on the street you could have the excuse of police intervention that looks like it's in public interest. But we have work to do, not least is to protect the moment. By that I mean, we should give serious thought about the impact of colluding in the electoral defeat of this president by undermining him publicly and reducing his viability as a candidate. The alternative is truly dangerous.

At the same time, we must think of ourselves in a political era that calls for breaking from the conventions of recent political discourse that has narrowed our social and political vision. It’s time to name what is happening in our country without hysteria, but to be clear that the next elections are part of a struggle for a social and cultural threshold that will determine the quality of life and democracy in this country.

And we need to keep in mind what's always been true in the politics of social movements -- they are the province of the young. Just look for example at how the brave young people in the Dream Act campaigns have actually won victories against inhumane ICE practices. They took and they take risks. Now, as other young people are stepping up to make powerful statements, take risks, try new tactics, they need our support and understanding. 

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