NEVADA CITY, Calif. June 21, 2017 – Since the election of Obama in 2008 the country has undergone a remarkable right-ward turn. Anger over the election of a black president surfaced, exploding beyond all expectations. The Tea-Party was born and soon a strong majority of Republican politicians signed the pledge to work to flush the federal government down the toilet. Over the election cycles of 2010, 2012 and 2014 about a 1000 state legislatures seats were lost by Democrats, 69 house seats, 13 senate seats, and 12 governor-ships.
In 2010 the right-wing Supreme Court established Citizens United, steering the US squarely toward what Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University, an expert in the study of oligarchies around the world, called a “civil oligarchy in which a tiny and extremely wealthy slice of the population is able to use its vastly superior economic brand of politics that serves first and foremost itself”.
Think tanks, front groups, legal organizations and armies of lobbyists concocted reasons why the US never should have become a democracy, and why the last 150 years have been long periods of massive federal and judicial unconstitutional overreach. Coordinating with and aiding politicians in Republican states, thousands and thousands of laws were launched attacking health care, civil rights, environmental protections, and voting rights just to mention a few. The Koch led groups of super-wealthy “investors” (they did not call themselves donors but investors) had a bigger payroll than the Republican Party in 2016. 1600 full time staffers in 35 states, covering 80% of the US population.
In 2013 the radicalized Supreme Court eliminated a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, enabling 24 Republican controlled states to institute voter prevention measures to varying degrees leading to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This was another stunning decision made by the court and very much against the recent precedents of the Voting Rights Acts of 1970 and 1975. It prevented millions of Democratic voters in a number of Republican states from casting their votes, and resulted directly in the stolen election by Donald Trump. One study by the Nation estimated in an article May 8th that as many 200,000 Wisconsin voters were prevented from voting(Trump won by 22,000), and I expect there will be quite a few more articles surfacing over the next years, detailing the systematic Republican voter suppression in different states that almost certainly would have gone to Hillary Clinton, giving her the clear victory election experts had predicted.
Just a few days after the election Greg Palast published how the Crosscheck program in all likelihood led to the Trump victories in Michigan, Arizona, and North Carolina. The Crosscheck system alone blocked 1.4 million voters in heavily democratic districts. Trump won those 3 states by less than 280,000 votes combined. Greg Palast has estimated that 7.2 million voters were tagged due to the Crosscheck program instituted in Republican states. North Carolina and Ohio still refuse to divulge the names on their Crosscheck lists claiming that these individuals could be subjects of criminal investigations. In addition to the Crosscheck program there are more than half a dozen other ways Republican state officials can legally prevent Democratic voters from voting.
Exit polls are considered the gold standard for fair and accurate elections by the US Stare Department and other Western democracies as well. When elections in Peru, the Ukraine, and Serbia showed discrepancies between exit polls and the final vote counts the US and other nations cried foul, and claimed massive voter fraud. Exit polls in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin only to have the final tallies go the way of Donald Trump. Hardly a whimper nor a whisper was heard about this extraordinary fact, not even from Democrats, with their fresh wounds from the 2000 election in Florida and the 2004 election in Ohio. Nor from the so-called mainstream media.
The campaign to turn the once honorable GOP into a right-wing party had begun much earlier, during the Reagan years. It led to huge tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy along with greatly expanded corporate welfare during Republican administrations, attacks on labor unions, environmental protection laws, and infra-structure investments generally. As a direct consequence US international trade deals were written to benefit corporations and the very wealthy, and not average Americans. The “Reagan Democrats” had asked for trickle-down-economics and they got what they asked for. Compare this to European countries with their very strong labor unions in which all parties benefited from the EU trade agreements, corporations and the general population both, with incomes and opportunities expanding generally in the EU. These are the reasons why we have seen many European countries surpass the US in wages, opportunities, and general standard of living during the last decades.
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Many people most impacted by the economic stagnation faithfully vote Republican election after election. These are the people most dependent on affordable health-care, social security, medicare, all programs likely to be eliminated/privatized with sufficient Republican political strength. A lot of people on the Democratic side have bought into one of many right-wing media false narratives/lies that if somehow Democrats had not abandoned the “poor, disillusioned, and disgruntled voters of the upper Midwest and the Rural South” things would have been different today. The fact is that election after election huge groups of Americans vote against their own interests because they believe the myths/lies provided by right-wing media. The wide-spread latent racism and sexism within these groups, fed and carefully cultivated by the right-wing media has been leading them to vote for the party that is actively working to deny them affordable health care, eliminate/privatize social security and medicare, along with a host of other programs for their general welfare. Trump energized these people with his openly xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric with violent undertones, and thus received 2.4 million voters more than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
To believe that these groups might be reachable by Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist and certainly a strong anti-racist and anti-sexist is highly wishful thinking. Had Bernie Sanders been chosen by Democrats to run against Trump he would have been bombarded by the usual political attacks, including whole strings of blatant untruths. He would have been viciously attacked as “the communist pornographer, that never had a job until he was 40 years old, with a wife who was involved in shady financial dealings, including bank fraud, as a college head in Burlington, and still received a golden parachute” to appeal to Conservatives and independents. The Rush Limbaugh Show with 60 million daily listeners, Fox News, and other right-wing media would be fuming about the imminent demise of America itself.
To soften Bernie Sanders support among democratic and independent voters he would have been battered with attack ads about his vote for the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act that bore partial and early responsibility for the 2008 financial melt-down as well as his many votes against gun owner background checks and protecting gun manufacturers against law suits painting him as yet another lying, deceitful, liberal politician like they had characterized Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Obama and Hillary Clinton.
This is not to denigrate his great importance in mobilizing large groups of especially young people, and he deserves great credit for working tirelessly for Hillary Clinton once defeated. Another considerable accomplishment is that he has nudged the Democratic Party to the left. The 2016 DNC Platform has been called the most progressive ever calling for tuition-free higher education to individuals making less than $125,000/ year, the commitment to expand social security as opposed to just protecting the program, and raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hr. Mobilizing young voters, notoriously fickle and generally unengaged politically, is appropriate and necessary in view of the stunning developments over the last decades, and particularly the last half decade.
On the other hand, Democrats can only go so far to the left before they are punished as the debacle of 1972 with McGovern should remind us. A similar occurrence at this time where Tea-Party/Trump Republicans are only two states short of being able to call a Constitutional Convention would likely end our democracy with civil rights and government programs protecting and servicing ordinary Americans annihilated. For the first time in history the 2016 Republican Platform has openly alluded to this possibility.
We need everybody, leftist and moderate Democrats, independents and those millions of Eisenhower Republicans that should be absolutely outraged over the present radicalized Republican Party to be united against what is looking more and more like a bloodless coup taking place in this country.
Richardt Stormsgaard lives in Nevada City.