Friday, August 13, 2010


No,  that does not stand for what you think it stands for. The Old Party--do you remember when they called it the party of Abraham Lincoln?-- is no longer Grand. It now stands for Greed, Obstruction, and Panic.
Nothing more needs to be said about greed. As for obstruction, Senate Republicans in the Congress have been acting as if they were two-year-olds whose only word is “No!”
As for panic, it is clear that a political decision has been made to appeal to everyone in the United States who is frigthened. What is more the decision includes telling lies or far-fetched stories in order to raise the level of general fear.
All this began after 9/11 when George Bush and Dick Cheney started talking about terrorism in a way that suggested that we’d better check under our bed for terrorists before going to sleep at night. That morphed into attacks on Obama as being soft on terrorism. Since the surge in Afghanistan we hear a bit less about that, although some people are still trying to use that line of attack. The central lesson drawn from 9/11 was that we need to be frightened. Is that really the most important lesson to learn from that event?
The health care reform bill -- long overdue and not adequate -- was presented as a complete abolition of traditional American liberties. Obama, the Socialist, was going to create an Orwellian 1984 where all of us would be oppressed by government bureaucrats -- Democrats all of them, of course. The government was going to institute “death panels” to decide who among the elderly, was going to live or die. The government was even going to interfere with our Medicare! The health care bill is enormously complex; there are many aspects about which one may well disagree. But the conservatives do not present arguments. They use scare tactics.
In Arizona, one of the reasons for supporting the racist anti-immigrant law was that the illegal immigrants in Arizona were mostly criminals and had raised the crime rate in the state. (A similar claim has surfaced more recently in Virginia.) It turns out that the opposite is true. The crime rate has been declining in Arizona. Once again the complex problem of immigration has been sidestepped and replaced by ‘crying wolf’ really loud.
Now comes the scare about building a Muslim community center, complete with gym, cafeteria, and meeting rooms and a place for worship, near the site of the World Trade Center. Many reasons have been given for the hysteria about this plan. But one of them is, predictably, that this plan for a Muslim community center threatens the personal safety of all people in New York. (Would such a center built in Harlem be less of a threat?) As a reason it is really goofy. But it does seem to be effective in continuing to frighten many American citizens.
An Arizona Republican Congressman is calling for an investigation of a group of pages in Congress whom he suspects of being placed in their jobs in the offices of Congressmen and women by what he calls ” a front group” for the pervasive Muslim conspiracy to subvert our nation and its institutions. We are beginning to see another McCarthyist panic not just about terrorism but about a much more profound overturning of what is best and dearest to us in America. Sen. McCarthy was the Republican Senator from Wisconsin.
Needless to say this whole strategy is a complete abdication of leadership on the part of conservatives. Leaders in a democracy should encourage reasoned debates, rational argument, careful examination of facts. The continuing efforts to raise the level of fear betrays a boundless contempt for ordinary voters. One can only hope that enough voters understand that. But they may very well not. Frightened people have many time before attacked the foreigner, the Other, the immigrant, people professing a different religion, speaking a different language, looking different. They are doing it again encouraged by conservative voices.