Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Radical Right: The Great Dismantlers

Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It passed the Tennessee legislature by one vote, its approval ushering in the era of equality between the sexes in the voting booth. The amendment's journey was slow and painful and was thwarted for decades by reactionary, anti-social elements in America. These have not disappeared entirely as we know from the behavior of Palin, Gingrich, Kyl, et al. And they are as dangerous to the ture American way of life as ever.

Everywhere, in every way, the radical Republicans are intent on tearing things down. No wonder they are so fanatical about their handguns and assault rifles. They seek to dismantle so many things important to our social fabric that we will surely descend into anarchy if they get their way even on just one of them.

Let's start with the brouhaha du jour, the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. Is there something actually wrong with the First Amendment? And is there something inherently unpatriotic about defending it? It's been around since 1791 and was written and shepherded by one our greatest Presidents and political philosophers, James Madison. Of all the amendments it is the most fundamental to our national identity.

Yet, like termites at the foundation of our 220 year-old spiritual and political house, the radical right gnaws and gnaws at. Their message? If you're white, Protestant and conservative, fear nothing. If you're anything else, be very afraid.

Next there's the attack on the Fourteenth Amendment, the one that confers automatic citizenship upon individuals born on American soil, with a few technical restrictions such as children of foreign ambassadors. The fourteenth is a mere stripling at 142 years old. And what is really awful about the reactionaries' attack is that it is just an attack - there's no new text for us to sit down and discuss, just raw and ugly emotion aimed at foreigners. The only thing we're left with is a contemplation of xenophobia.

But the Fourteenth Amendment is also known as the "equal protection" amendment because it states unequivocally that "no state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Such as the right to marry whomever you want? Such as the right to go your way unhindered without fear of random stops by local police looking for undocumented people from south of the border? (The amendment's history is deeper and broader than today's controversies, so a full discussion would actually take a book to cover it all.)

Switching gears a bit, how about the propsed dismantling of Social Security? Sane, civilized people can surely understand the need to gradually raise the retirement age for benefits collection since people are now, and will be, living longer than when the program was first instituted.

To completely privatize the system, however, is the hope only of madmen and women. If the system had been private in 2008 when the crashing began, 40% of all value would have been wiped out and would still be wiped out. So, a person who was expecting $1400 per month would be receiving only $840 per month, IF there was still a decent yield on his or her principle to be had. Consider the chaos that might have ensued.

Let's talk about the Presidency. No one can make an argument that George W. Bush was attacked in a vociferous and occasionally virulent way. He was not, though, held to be any of the following: non-American, un-American, a member of a Muslim terrorist sect, a Socialist, a Communist, a monkey, the Joker, Mao, Che or Satan. George Bush was compared to Hitler quite a number of times, although not as many times as Obama. Bush was never depicted as either eating or growing watermelons on the White House lawns.

If a more centrist President had been elected - such as a Bill Clinton - the hue and cry would have hit different notes, but it would have been as ugly, because at bottom, the radical right, (which pretty much now runs the Republican Party), despises the Presidency most of all among government institutions. It's hated it since Abe Lincoln, whom the reactionaries murdered. They stepped it up when Theodore Roosevelt began forcing through sorely-needed reforms. FDR? Well, talk about the Great Satan! They killed Kennedy, whipsawed LBJ, laughed at Carter, and tried to depose Clinton. We shouldn't be surprised at how our first African-American progressive President has been treated.

What else has the radical right wing (and I include Republicans, Dixiecrats and Blue Dog Democrats under that banner) dismantled? The Glass-Steagall Act which kept banks and investment banks from speculating with deposits, mixing their functions. They've been hammering at Medicare and Medicaid since Richard Nixon's administration, an era that now seems moderate compared to the extremism his party now deploys. The right to a speedy trial guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment. And don't even get started with the Sixteenth Amendment, which allowed for the levy of an income tax.

They don't believe in government, which means they don't believe in society. They believe in an Ayn Rand steroidal nightmare of a viciously individualistic social order.

Out with all of this civilization stuff and nonsense says the right wing.

Shall we go on to campaign finance and the Citizens United case? Or how about removing environmental safeguards that might well have prevented the Gulf oil catastrophe?

What the radicals want is for all people without a huge income or super strong assets to begin a war against each other day in and day out. (Think of the dismantled unions which directly put workers to struggling against globalization and low wage illegal aliens.)

They welcome the disarray, the anarchy, the divisions among Americans because it will further drive down wages and distract us from the real inequalities running uncontrolled in our society. They seek nothing more than law and order and a complete dismantling of the middle class.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

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