In the wake of the heinous decision by the SCOTUS to declare part of the Voter’s Rights Act of 1965 as invalid, as well as voting to limit Affirmative Action, and then to grant federal recognition of gay marriage but not a corresponding recognition by states that outlaw it, Progressives have once again been drawn in by a conservative Republican-affiliated Court to believe that gains are being made. YES, there is some hope in the fact that federal rights to marriage equality are Court approved. This is a recognition that one type of marriage -- heterosexual marriage -- cannot remain the only norm in a free society, just as past bans against interracial marriages in certain states could not survive forever.
However, according to Wikipedia, “In 1967, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Loving vs. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. With this ruling, these laws were no longer in effect in the remaining 16 states that at the time still enforced them. However the active repeal of the laws was not complete until Alabama did so in 2001 after failing to do so in several earlier plebiscites on the matter.”
It took about 34 years for all the states to undo those outrageous laws on interracial marriage. This should give great pause to those who say the Court has taken a huge step in declaring DOMA unconstitutional and setting the requirement for the federal government to abide by their ruling. What this Court has really done is to recognize a right to marriage for all persons as to federal protections and judgments, but has delayed justice once again by not ruling that states have to comply. The Conservative Court has spoken with forked tongue and granted rights at one level while denying them at another level in order to protect “states’ rights.” And why? Because they know from past experience that, in spite of public opinion moving toward acceptance of gay marriage and gay rights, the full implementation of all those rights will be a matter of future history because they chose not to invalidate the ability of state legislatures to determine marriage laws in their (shall we say it?) sovereign states!
I’m going to venture to say that the cadre of conservatives on the SCOTUS knew what they were doing. First they attacked civil rights, and to blunt that attack, they put out a decision that looked like a great victory for the gay community. It had the desired effect -- the attack on voting rights received little press, even though small-minded legislators in several states went right to work crafting legislation that will limit voting rights of minorities in their states. Secondly, as if by plan, the Justices did that which has worked so many times in the past: they declared a law unconstitutional, but delayed justice so that full implementation could be denied for as long as possible. As with the abolition of slavery, as with the declaration that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional, thus with segregation and school integration, thus with Roe v. Wade and the constant delay of full rights to choose, exemplified by the latest Texas attempt at restricting abortion and the restrictive Ohio abortion law that just passed there. In all these cases, and many more, the result is that justice delayed is justice denied! They knew what they were doing!
This is just one more reason to be a discouraged Progressive. There are many others, of course. And, although I hate to do it, let us take some time to remind ourselves that Conservatives have a very different view of the world around them than do Progressives, which results in what the radical Right is doing to undermine progressive and common sense values.
- Conservatives are tied to a view of rugged individualism.
- They believe in a social Darwinism that implies that only the strong should survive; that individuals must take personal responsibility for their own development and their own prosperity
- They believe that central government should be at the least restrained and at the most weak and unable to intervene or interfere in the day-to-day lives of individuals.
- They therefore hold to a view of the states as being sovereign, or at least being “laboratories” where one should determine to what extent and by what method government should assist and support its citizens
- They believe that all government is potentially evil; that it can turn upon the people at any moment, and take away our god-given (or constitutionally provided) rights and privileges. Thus, they advocate the unalienable and unrestricted right of citizens to bear arms so they can be prepared to defend themselves against rogue government action.
- Conservatives believe in a system that should be as tax-free as possible, but they know that neither state nor federal government can exist without taxation of some kind. And so, they advocate as few taxes, and the lowest tax rates, that one can make possible. Not only do they want to lower current income tax rates, they want to abolish our current tax system and replace it with a consumer tax, a flat tax, or a two-tier tax system.
- Then, they believe that all other taxes must be abolished (or drastically reduced), including: corporate income taxes, the estate tax, the capital gains tax, tax on interest earnings, etc.
- Although they believe in the individual, they happen to believe that there are certain individuals who are more worthy than others of government support and largess. While touting the importance of government incentives for small businesses and huge tax breaks for large corporations, they are more than willing to limit government programs that support the disabled, the homeless, the unemployed, the college student, the returning veteran, the poor and the sick. In other words, the richest 2% get special treatment because they have proven themselves to be the kind of individuals one would want running things (the fact that they have money to spend on members of the Congress, doesn’t hurt their standing!)
- Conservatives have a world view in which patriotism is at the top of their list of values. Individuals must come together to support their country, especially in conflicts with other nations. But individual citizens must also be willing to sacrifice on behalf of their country (unless it involves them). The Republicans have a great deal of difficulty with the concept of peace or peaceful negotiation as the way to co-exist with other nations on this planet.
- This leads inevitably to a view of our nation as “exceptional.” And that is the view of this Republican party. However, once one accepts that view, it leads to all kinds of delusions: that our nation should be regarded as the best in all things; that our nation is the leader of the free world; that our nation must be supported even when it holds views, practices or policies that are detrimental to other nations (“our country right or wrong”); that we should be at War, rather than making peace because we are exceptional, they are not. Pro-active war with rogue or out-of-line nations (or terrorist groups) is a result of an “America first above all” approach to foreign relations. Constant talk of “war” in this country is a trap and a killing machine. We sacrifice more of our “best and brightest” than I care to recall: in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and places like Bosnia and Serbia, Korea; but we also sacrifice their lives in places like Somalia, Grenada, and Lebanon.
It’s when Conservatives act on their world view that I get nervous. When they act out, or when they act like they’re crazy, it’s best that Progressives understand that they really don’t care what anyone thinks! They have gone off the edge of reason and sanity, and are verging on a coup d'état. They are no longer the “Party of Lincoln”, nor the Party of Barry Goldwater, nor even- God help us - the Party of Ronald Reagan. This party has moved so far to the Right that one has to expect that they will stop at nothing to gain control of state and federal governments so that they can twist and shape them to support their view of what the nation, and the world, should look like. Let us list the ways:
- Control certain districts. Their strategy is to gerrymander not only congressional districts, but state legislature districts, so that some will be perpetual winners for the Republicans.
- Control enough state legislatures and governorships to keep radical conservatism alive and well within the states
- Use decisions by the Supreme Court that favor states’ rights, to delay, overturn, ignore federal mandates in many areas: social welfare, housing, public education, etc.
- Control how social issues (abortion, contraception, gay marriage, women’s issues, minorities, etc.) are dealt with by controlling the make-up of the state governments
- Use big money as the key to winning elections at all levels; above all, do not give in to election reform advocates
- Oppose and undo all legislation that protects the vulnerable and the “lower” and middle classes (health care, women’s rights, gay rights, Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, voting rights, student loans, social welfare such as food stamps, consumer advocacy) and force people to be responsible individuals who must achieve success by their own actions
- Where possible, devolve to the states all responsibility for programs that touch people’s lives where they live such as those mentioned just above
- Make “religion” a major concern in order to control the world-view of the masses; in other words, these radicals are not concerned with the rituals of religion being foisted on society; they want to control what gets spoken, what gets taught, what gets valued. Take the ritual of prayer, for instance. They use the ritual of prayer to teach their values. They are not in favor of just putting “religion” or Christianity” or “prayer” back into the classroom or the school or as part of national celebrations; they are concerned with controlling, as much as they can, how people think, and what they believe.
- They want a “protestant ethic” to underlie our government which will spread it’s concepts of rugged individualism, personal responsibility, survival of the fittest, heterosexual families and lifestyle, and private relief efforts (good Samaritan approach) throughout the land. Their concept of religion and their worldview are synonymous.
- Use the Supreme Court to take away “rights” won during the Civil Rights era. The Court has done their bidding by saying that certain things like ‘affirmative action’ and voting protections are obsolete. They have opened the way to voting discrimination laws in the states; to lack of minority participation in higher education, and to a view that civil rights advocacy is passé.
- Use well-worn phraseology to confuse the public (“death panels”; “Obamacare”, “welfare queens;”) and to turn the citizenry that can be so cajoled, away from support for the President’s policy agenda. It was pollster Frank Luntz who helped Republicans figure out the power of words like: “activist judges” “big government” “class warfare” “climate change” (instead of “global warming”) “death tax” “Defense of Marriage Act” “energy exploration” (in place of “oil drilling”) “enhanced interrogation” “family values” “government-run health care” or “government takeover of health care” “illegal” (describing illegal immigrant) “job creators” “judicial activism” “partial birth abortion” “pro-life” “reform” (euphemism for “cut”) “teachers’ unions” “right to life” “right to work” “tax and spend liberal” “War on Terror” “War on Drugs”
There is right now a central question for all Progressives to answer: what can we do to stop this juggernaut?
As Cole Lystra of Progressives United said recently: “We know our work will never be complete if we don't empower all Americans -- or those striving to become Americans -- to be full participants in our democratic process. So we're setting Progressives United on an expanded new path, not just to continue our push for campaign and government reforms, but also to defend progressive policies and values wherever they are threatened by the influence of big money -- on issues like immigration reform, voter suppression, and the dominance of the gun lobby in Congress.
But as we look to broaden the promise of democracy, the barriers to full participation are startling:
- The far right wing of the Republican Party continues to fund and beat the drum of voter suppression in states across the country.
- The corporate gun lobby stalls even the most basic background-check reforms that 90% of Americans support.
- Extremists looking to block much-needed immigration reform at all costs frustrate our immigrant brothers' and sisters' struggle to weave into the American tapestry.
We can take on all of these worthy fights, and expand our progressive reach. “
Well, that’s all fine and good, but there are certain internal barriers to expanding Progressive efforts, based upon my experience with more than one national Progressive group of which I have been a member, or local leader.
- Progressives don’t work well in coalitions because their narrowly-defined issues are sacred to them in the groups they choose.
- Progressives have a hard time believing that there are genuine organized conspiracies on the Right and they often ignore remedies until its too late
- Progressives have been lax in formulating a plan of attack, although now President Obama’s grassroots campaign organization has been morphed into a non-profit, called Organizing For Action (OFA), one of whose aims is to bring community groups together into coalitions to attempt a concerted effort at combating right-wing views and activities.
- Progressives believe that intellectual honesty and persuasion are what matters. They shy away from using “loaded terms” unlike the conservative Republicans.
- Progressives take a short view and don’t attempt longer-term strategies very often; like taking control of certain districts, or getting local boards and councils to pass resolutions supporting various progressive causes, such as overturning Citizens United and amending the Constitution.
- Progressives don’t seem to be able to carry on for very long without getting discouraged. The same people in local organizations show up for all the rallies, speeches, vigils, and demonstrations; while recruitment for new members and activists falls apart because people respond with “I’m too busy right now” “Got something else to do”, “I belong to so many organizations, I haven’t got time to give”
- Progressives seem to be somewhat “at sea” in using media to their advantage.
My conclusion is not completely formulated, for it is built around un-doing the negatives I have just mentioned. Of course we must lessen or eliminate those negatives. But as to the Positive: what can we do? I confess I do not know the answer. I can only list some thoughts here:
- We must think long-term by amending our Constitution to reflect Progressive values and principles
- We must protect civil and social rights
- We have to elect progressive Democrats in 2014, or else a legislature - both houses of Congress controlled by a radical Right Republican majority - will begin the dismantling, not only of central government, but of programs and policies that now serve the vast array of our people. It has already begun, as Sequestration was probably the greatest gift ever given to the radical Republicans!
- We have to push for more involvement of ordinary citizens in our governmental processes (example: all commissions that re-draw districts after a census must be made up of non-office holders and seekers, with a bi-partisan spirit, who will draw lines fairly under the possible guidance of a judicial panel).
- We will ultimately have to come together in some entity that gives us permanent status, such as the Tea Party has obtained. There has to be a broad-based Coalition of Progressive groups in order to obtain what must be done. There has to be a party platform; there have to be candidates who will support that platform; there will have to be a strong grass-roots party organization to have a say in which candidates are nominated to run.
- We cannot continue to operate in a vacuum, as though the realities I have outlined today do not exist. Paul Begala reports: “The Koch brothers’ notorious political arm is ramping up its vast right-wing money machine at breakneck speed. Just in the last 5 months, they’ve given a whopping $559,000 to dozens of national Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. That’s a new Koch record for this point in the campaign.”
We know that justice delayed, can often mean justice denied. In this volatile atmosphere, where the Koch brothers can fund a conspiracy of the Right unknown in its depth to the Progressive Left, indecisive and uncoordinated action on our part is tantamount to victory denied.