The Literary Divide/A Column by Dr. Paul Barrows
Progressives must remain defiant
Progressive forces must find a way to refocus and regroup as they continue to be under attack from the
right. Republicans, members of the Tea Party and the so-called “Birther” movement have united in their effort to
take back the White House and State Houses all over the nation. This unholy alliance has been bankrolled by
wealthy right wingers like the Koch brothers with unlimited propaganda support by Rupert Murdoch and the Fox
Television network. The strategy is predicated on their ability to promote ignorance, racism and the dumbing-
down of the American electorate.
They accomplish this nationally by deliberately bombarding the media with a combination of lies, distortions
and false issues. Recent polls have indicated that over 40% of the members of the Republican Party believe that
President Obama was not born in the U.S. A similar percentage also believes that the President is a Muslim.
These issues have no relevance to any public policy matters. They will not solve unemployment, the budget
deficits or the high costs of energy. They have provided a “two for one” value for the right by shifting focus from
legitimate issues while promoting fear and hatred towards the Commander and Chief. Speaker of the House John
Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have joined others from the right, Rush Limbaugh, Glen
Beck, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin in refusing to disavow and thus bring credibility to these divisionary issues.
The biggest issue during the first years of the Obama administration was health care. We are now just beyond the one-year anniversary
of the successful passage of this monumental legislation. In their efforts to defeat it and roll back the clock, the right has been tacit and
unscrupulous in the manner in which it has addressed the discussion, debate and implementation of national health care. The first part
of the strategy relates to that which was mentioned above. It involves making the President out to be a bogieman that everyone loves to
hate; and then, instead of discussing health care, call it “Obama-care.” The strategy further intimates that one must make sure not to
mention the highway robbery that is taking place with the rapid growth of insurance premiums, deliberately preferring instead to talk
about “the government take-over of your health insurance.” It goes on to promote the notion that “nobody should have a bureaucrat
between them and their doctor.” The playbook indicates that they must say nothing at all about the fact that the only entity between them
and their doctor is an insurance adjuster making all of the calls determining what procedures and reimbursements if any, the doctors
will deliver to their patients. The sad reality is that the only thing standing between them and their doctor (aside from the insurance
adjuster) is a Republican politician, financed by the big insurers, who is not representing their better self-interest.
The huge mid-term electoral gains that the Republicans made by taking over the House of Representatives in Congress and
gubernatorial positions across the nation have emboldened them such that they are moving further and further to the politics of the
extremist right. The most blatant manifestation of this occurred in Wisconsin when the newly elected governor used the budgetary
shortfall as a pretext for conducting a major assault on unions. This has put Wisconsin in the national spotlight. Based on the success
in Wisconsin, similar efforts are now underway in Michigan, Ohio and Alaska. Here the right wingers made two mistakes: first, they
overestimated the extent to which they thought they had a mandate for such radical change; and secondly, they underestimated the
extent of the reaction that they would get against their union-busting efforts. As the enormity of the fallout has underscored, they have
truly erred by awakening the sleeping giant — the masses of blue collar workers who vote in Wisconsin and across the nation. Most of
these individuals are White and male and many of them voted Republican or stayed home in the last mid-term election. Many of them
have heretofore been vulnerable to the some of the strategies outlined above. They have now been awakened. To gain and continue to
cultivate their support, Democrats and progressives must stand against efforts to undermine or destroy unions in focused and outwardly
visible ways — both at the state and national levels. In doing so they must, without wasting too much time, expose the false
diversionary issues for what they are while getting the electorate to refocus their attention on the myriad of progressive
accomplishments and real challenges facing the nation.