In Order To Form a Less Perfect Union:
The Politics Of Fear, Outrage and Distraction
by John Atcheson
Once again, the Republicans are managing to distract the country from their extremely unpopular economic positions – positions that help the uber rich and corporations at the expense of low and middle income wage earners.
While Ryan’s stance on rape is getting scrutinized with a micrometer, his nation raping budget is flying under the radar.
Look, Akin is an immoral idiot and rape is a terrible thing, and Ryan’s position isn’t any different. And yes, abortion should be an issue between a woman and her doctor – and perhaps her partner if she’s in a relationship.
And certainly, Romney should show his tax returns.
But these are symptoms of a much larger disease, and like any effective therapeutic intervention, you have to strike at the root of the problem if you want to solve it.
However, Republicans have been adept at preventing that kind of systemic approach, and Democrats have been complicit in letting them.
There is a fundamental question before us: What ought the role of government be in our lives?
We have two choices.
One – championed by Republicans and conservatives – is designed to protect the economic interests and welfare of the uber rich and corporations.
The other – the one subscribed to by most of the people -- favors a government which stands on the side of low and middle income wage earners, which protects the environment, and works to achieve a just society which provides an equal opportunity for all Americans.
The Democrats seem to feel strongly about both – which is to say neither. Theirs is a position of expedience, governed by the desire to maximize campaign funds while offending no one.
The media is even more weak-kneed than the Democrats. The inside the beltway commentariat, driven by cowardice and an addiction to access journalism, has been reduced to little more than a deaf, dumb and blind stenographer, repeating mindlessly and uncritically anything anyone says. Their chief function seems to be to amplify ignorance, and participate fully in attempts to distract us from the core of the debate this country should be having. Not surprising since they are, essentially, a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate state.
In this context, progressives are like local mom and pop shops trying to compete with nationally franchised box stores.
The various wedge issues – abortion, immigration, gay marriage, birther nonsense, deficit reduction, the list is nearly endless – are designed to keep the fundamental debate from happening.
Quick, if you were Romney/Ryan, which would you rather be talking about right now: the fact that his budget would increase the deficit in order to cut corporate taxes and cut taxes for the ultra rich by an average of more than $155,000 each, while increasing taxes for the bottom 20% of wage earners, or a wedge issue? Especially since these tax cuts for the rich are accompanied by drastic benefit cuts to education, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment and ultimately Social Security.
Take deficit reduction, for example. At a time when we can borrow money at no cost, and our economy is stalled and jobs are scarce, should deficits really be the number one economic issue? With no-cost money, we could be making much needed investments in our crumbling infrastructure, kicking our fossil fuel habit, and creating millions of jobs in the bargain.
But they’re more than content to throw up some divide and conquer flack. Some more issues designed to use hate, fear and divisiveness to keep the focus off what they’re really up to. To form a less perfect Union. To empower a plutocracy that steals our economic and social freedoms under the shadow of fear.
Instead of taking on the fundamental issues before us, we engage in the politics of distraction; the politics of outrage.
If we could focus on the fundamental debate before us, we would solve the wedge issues. If we agreed that government’s purpose was to secure the rights of individuals, not the wealth of corporations and the select few, then the sheer incoherence of the conservative’s tyrannical position’s on social issues versus their laissez-faire positions on economic issues affecting the uber wealthy would become obvious.
We would see that the real tyranny facing us is that of a corporate plutocracy, not an abuse of government power. And the tired, scared old white people who are trying to drag us back to 1952 would lose their power to persuade.
As long as we, the people, allow this bait and switch debate to continue, the politics of 1952 is what we will get.
At the end of the day, votes decide elections. Votes, in the form of purchases, decide which companies will prosper, and which won’t. If we have sufficient wit, courage, and passion, we can -- one-by-one -- begin to seize our country back.
There are solutions. Buy blue; don’t vote for candidates who take most of their money from fat cats and corporations; tell your Congressional representatives you back Bernie Sanders’ Constitutional Amendment overturning Citizen’s United and that you’ll vote them out if they don’t; punish PACs in the marketplace if they don’t disclose their contributions; restore the Fairness Doctrine so that the media is ultimately answerable to elected officials, instead of under permanent control by the Plutocracy.
Or we can continue to practice the national political equivalent of The Lord of the Flies, chasing individual issues one at a time while the Koch brothers and their ilk stand back and laugh.
The choice is ours.
John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.