There are many good reasons for Americans to feel apathetic if not downright politically hostile going into next week's election. Nearly ten percent of us are (officially) unemployed and those who aren't are often stuck in nowhere jobs with no raises or promotions and no hope in the near future for anything better. Many of us have homes that are worth less than we paid for them and everybody's hearing horrible stories every day about con men and fraud merchants stealing houses right out from under homeowners. And nothing ever seems to happen to any of the banksters and Masters of the Universe who caused all the problems in the first place. It's hard to blame people for just wanting to withdraw into their personal lives and forget about politics.
But they should vote anyway, and here's why. Voting isn't just about making good things happen for yourself and your family. It's about voting against things that will make your lives worse. And if this Republican party -- at this point in history --- wins big over the next two years, the lives of average Americans will definitely be worse.
Right now all that should matter to any of us is defeating the most radical, authoritarian, anti-intellectual Republican class in modern memory (and that's saying something.) They were thoroughly repudiated at the polls in the last two elections and they haven't learned a thing from those losses. Indeed, the lesson they took was that they hadn't been aggressively wrong enough. Instead of seeing where they went wrong and making adjustments, they've doubled down on their worst policies and are prepared to go even further.
In normal times they wouldn't stand a chance of doing any better than a normal midterm and would probably do worse. But these aren't normal times. The average American is frightened and confused while the rightwing is excited and overstimulated. The toxic combination of Bircherism, big money, xenophobia and social conservatism that defines the Tea Party is happening at a moment of maximum danger.
Those of you who are following the day to day see the danger signs:
* Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller hires a group tied to a paramilitary militia to do security for him, and his paratroopers assault and handcuff a citizen journalist just trying to get a question answered.
* a bullet is shot through Rep. Grijalva's campaign office window, and obscene threats and dangerous chemicals are delivered to his ofc as well.
* Rep. Perriello's gas line to his house was cut.
* Republican congressional candidate Allen West using a motorcycle gang known for violent criminal activity for security, and then gang members actually harassed and bullied a Democratic staffer trying to videotape a public event.
* Vandalism and assassination threats occur at offices of Congressional members during the health care fight.
* a doctor who performs abortions in KS is brutally murdered while coming out of his church on a Sunday morning.
* a guard at the Holocaust Museum is murdered by an anti-Semitic racist stoked by listening to Limbaugh and Beck.
* a lunatic also stirred up by Glenn Beck shows about the Tides Foundation is stopped on his way to murder people at the Tides office in San Francisco.
And as you undoubtedly know, last night a Move-On protester was wrestled to the ground and curb stomped at a Rand Paul Rally.
For the first time in my memory, right wing activists made ostentatious shows of their right to bear arms at political townhall meetings over the past two years, which serves as a very effective form of intimidation. (Would you bring your children to a meeting that included screaming, hostile Tea Partiers carrying guns? If you went alone, would you be inclined to think twice about confronting them or challenging their ideas?)
The Tea Party candidates themselves are using violent rhetoric about "second amendment remedies" and violent overthrow as casually as most politicians talk about tax policy. Many of them are endorsing a far right social conservative agenda that even the most die-hard Republicans of a decade ago wouldn't have dreamed of and their view of government is nothing short of incoherent.
Most ominously, these same candidates are backed by billions of astroturfed dollars which are channeled through the tea party front groups. This fantastic article by Adele Stan called Tea Party Inc pulls the whole thing together in one place. It's a devastating portrait of a so-called grassroots political movement being guided and manipulated by plutocrats and oligarchs.
And that means that even aside from their radical views on government, their xenophobia and their hardcore social conservatism, their economic prescriptions will make this sick system much worse for average people (and naturally much better for the extremely wealthy people who are bankrolling it). Paul Krugman said it well in his column yesterday:
The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.
The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.
And if they take one or both houses of Congress, complete policy paralysis — which will mean, among other things, a cutoff of desperately needed aid to the unemployed and a freeze on further help for state and local governments — is a given. The only question is whether we’ll have political chaos as well, with Republicans’ shutting down the government at some point over the next two years. And the odds are that we will.
Is there any hope for a better outcome? Maybe, just maybe, voters will have second thoughts about handing power back to the people who got us into this mess, and a weaker-than-expected Republican showing at the polls will give Mr. Obama a second chance to turn the economy around.
There's nothing wrong with voting defensively. Republicans do it almost all the time --- they're always saving the country from ruin from their imaginary Terrible Commiesocialistliberalprogressives. Indeed, it's their primary organizing principle. It's harder for progressives to do the same because we tend to think in terms of using government to better the lives of the people rather than using it to stop something bad. But in this election, saving the country from ruin by the Terrible Tea Party Republicans should be the Democrats' organizing principle as well.
They are the last people in the country who should come into power at this moment in history. We have the president, who will certainly mitigate the worst of their abuses. But they have a plan. Here's an excerpt from Stan's Tea Party Inc:
In DeMint, the Kochs found a politician who will make no compromises on their far-right agenda, favoring tax cuts and opposing health-care reform, green energy, labor unions and regulation of any kind. Last year, DeMint received the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's George Washington Award, bestowed upon the senator by Koch himself. Speaking at the organization's summit in August, Koch said DeMint "has consistently stood for freedom against this big-government agenda." In backing DeMint's power play against leaders of the Republican establishment, particularly his challenge to the power of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kochs stand poised to push those establishment leaders into the same uncompromising positions.
Echoing DeMint's agenda are Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican who, in July, founded a Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, and Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, who is House GOP conference chairman and a charter member of the new caucus. Both are Tea Party favorites, and Bachmann is a regular speaker at Americans for Prosperity events. At the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference, held in Las Vegas in July, Pence used a luncheon address to make the case for melding the free-market Tea Party agenda with the values of the religious right, while Bachmann entertained a banquet crowd with herplan to phase out Social Security.
FreedomWorks has its eye on a political transformation in the Senate, and is closely allied with DeMint, whose PAC is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of many of the same Tea Party-backed Senate candidates endorsed by the FreedomWorks PAC, including Sharron Angle (currently in a tight race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida, and Utah's Mike Lee. (Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus was announced the day after Paul, addressing FreedomWorks activists on a July 13 conference call, suggested a Tea Party caucus for the Senate.) Each of these candidacies began as primary challenges to establishment Republicans endorsed by McConnell.
What that means in practice is anybody's guess. But these aren't normal times. And history shows that in times of great upheaval, change and transformation bad things can happen to good countries. You can look it up.
If you'd like to help GOTV, the PCCC has put together a great program and teamed up with DFA and Blue America to Call out the Vote for our favorite progressive candidates who need our help. Aside from voting, we can also help the good guys down the stretch. (And if we could pull off a surprise and help keep some of our endangered progressives in their seats while the Blue Dogs are sent to that lovely farm in the country (if you know what I mean) we might just be able to start changing the way this whole thing works.)