Friday, March 13, 2009

Defining the Opposition

A significant Part of the Democratic Party’s success in the past two elections has been the incredible ineptitude of the Republican Party, both politically and in terms of policy. The Bush administration’s incompetent handling of the War in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the economic collapse, and their utterly tone-deaf, "nails on a chalkboard" spin to defend their actions, dealt brutal damage to the reputation of the Republican Party and ideological conservatism. This reputation has been further diminished by the childishness of their resorts to "lipstick on a pig" type gimmicks and distractions during the 2008 campaign and since President Obama was inaugurated. For at least the past year, the Republican Party has barely proved to be a worthy opponent, so Democrats' push to pass legislation hasn’t exactly encountered A-team opposition. (side note, if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this video...

When you’re going against a diminishing a Congressional minority that wants to impose a spending freeze during the recession, a party chairman whose foot-in-mouth disease could be fatal, and a political party led by a fat, arrogant radio blowhard who admits that he wants his President to fail, it’s easy to make your policies seem responsible and forward-thinking.

However, as we enter into far more fundamental and sweeping efforts to set the nation in a new direction - such as the Employee Free Choice Act, the public option in health care reform, ending tax cuts for the rich, cutting corporate subsidies and no-bid contracts, and imposing cap-and-trade to save the environment, we are beginning to encounter a much more formidable opponent. This opponent not only has billions of dollars in resources, but has friends in high places on Capital Hill - in both parties. In fact many members of Congress owe their elections to contributions from this opponent. The face of this opponent is not some drive-time entertainer ideologue, but rather well-kept, articulate suits. They have daily access to almost every media outlet, where they send their best and brightest to make well-reasoned arguments to the general public. The opponent, of course, is big business. For a generation, they have gotten pretty much everything they’ve wanted from Washington. They’ve gotten their desired gutting of regulatory policy, they’ve convinced political leaders that they’re interests are always the interests of the American people, and they’ve succeeded in marginalizing organized labor.

In order to get crucial progressive priorities enacted into law, the White House, Congress and liberal-labor interest groups will have to make a coordinated effort to marginalize the business community. The key is to make the reasonable corporate CEO we see on cable TV associated with the most objectionable figures in America, like Bernie Madoff, Rush Limbaugh, AIG, and the Bush Administration. This is all part of the push for positive polarization, as The Big Picture has noted. In order to make Obama successful politically, we need to eliminate all reasonable, formidable opposition, creating a dynamic where all opposition to Obama is seen inextricably linked to the failures, greed, and stupidity of the Bush-Limbaugh-Madoff crowd.

Luckily, the connections are not hard to draw. The Republican Party, the party in power for most of the last thirty years, the party of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, has produced reckless policies that have turned Wall Street into a madhouse. Because the Republican party became obsessed with deregulating the financial industry, Wall Street executives and the Madoff-types were free to play around with your pensions, 401(k)s to accumulate massive wealth. None of this wealth got to any of us, because the Republicans and Wall Street fat cats didn’t want it to. They changed tax policy so that they would be paying less and we would be paying more. They decimated unions so that we could not collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. As a result, our real wages have decreased over the last decade. While we were all suffering, blowhard radio hosts, like Hannity and Limbaugh, were distracting us with talk about Bill Ayers, school prayer and the morning-after pill just so we wouldn’t notice what they were doing to us. They even tricked some of us into voting for them in most elections.

But now their jig is up. The economy has collapsed, and it’s pretty clear to the American people who are to blame. Incredibly outrageous stories about bank executives abusing taxpayer money for their own selfish needs are shown on TV almost every night. What we need to make clear, and what the President has tried to articulate, is that these executives and Bernie Madoff-types are all part of the larger culture of greed and corruption that has resulted in the downfall of our economy. The interest of big business to obtain massive sums of wealth at the expense of the rest of us is part of the same culture. Anyone who tries to defend big business, therefore, is defending this culture. Anyone taking the side of big business is defending the very culture that produced Bernie Madoff and golden parachutes.

So far, the American people have seen what seems like reasonable opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. We have to define who this opposition is. The opposition is Bernie Madoff. The opposition is Jim Cramer of CNBC. The opposition is the very same people who are responsible for our great recession. We have to make it clear that either you are with us, or you are with them. We want to make your lives better, they’ve spent a generation making them worse. If we don’t properly define the opposition, people will listen to the moderate-sounding voices from Wall Street and the mainstream media. They’ll convince people that Obama’s policies need to be tempered, or watered-down. They’ll tell us that we can’t tackle health care right now because it’s too expensive. They'll convince us that increased unionization will increase unemployment and destroy the economy. They'll tell us that we shouldn't raise taxes on the rich because it will soak the rest of the economy. They'll admonish our efforts to promote cap and trade legislation because it will "destroy innovation."

We’ll then ask them if they still want Bernie Madoff making economic policy.

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