Nationwide Poll: Majority of Republicans Have Nakedly Racist Worldview—Trump Has Found the Way to Unleash It

GOPers are living in a dangerous right-wing fantasyland—and are just fine with that.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

A new national poll released Tuesday has found that a majority of the Republican Party is living in a strange and dangerous political fantasyland.

“Our new poll finds that [Donald] Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country,” Public Policy Polling’s analysis said. “Sixty-six percent of Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12 percent that grant he’s a Christian. Sixty-one percent think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21 percent who accept that he was.”

Not only did PPP’s analysis find that Trump’s lead was growing—it is now 29 percent—it also found that the second most popular Republican is one who has not criticized other candidates: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has 15 percent. The rest of the pack is all under 10 percent: Jeb Bush (9 percent), Carly Fiorina (8 percent), Marco Rubio (7 percent), Ted Cruz and John Kasich (6 percent), Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee (5 percent). Walker has fallen the most, compared to last winter when he was leading.

The biggest takeaway from the PPP pollis that a majority of the Republican Party’s base is living in a right-wing bubble where facts don’t matter—and it has become increasingly acceptable to publicly voice racist positions because the leading presidential candidate is modeling that behavior.

Not only did PPP find that a majority of Republicans believe the birther lie—that Obama was not actually born in Hawaii—but 51 percent of all Republicans polled want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, which is granted to any person born on U.S. soil. Of Trump’s supporters, 63 percent want to eliminate that right, and a majority said undocumented children should be deported.

“I’m not terribly surprised by the birther numbers or the numbers about Obama’s religion,” said Tom Jensen, PPP director. He said the numbers are consistent with what he’s seen in GOP polls in recent years, and matched another new poll from Iowa where about 35 percent of the state’s GOP electorate are “birthers.”

But what is surprising to Jensen is how Trump’s candidacy has made Republicans more willing to publicly admit their xenophobic or racist positions.

Trump has sent a message that it’s okay to be racist,” he said. “So maybe some racist attitudes you previously held, or were not allowed to say in public, now one of the leading presidential candidates is saying them and not apologizing at all.”

The PPP poll also found that Trump was winning his war of words with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the on-air host who challenged him in the GOP’s first presidential debate for his history of sexist remarks about women.

“Trump is winning his fight with Megyn Kelly,” the poll’s analysis said. “When we last polled her in December of 2013 her favorability with Republicans nationally was 44/9. Her favorability is in a similar place now at 42% but her negatives have shot up to 20 percent, largely because she’s at 20/43 with Trump’s supporters.”

The poll also found that Carly Fiorina and John Kasich have become more popular with GOP voters. Since their July survey, Fiorina, the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO, has “gone from 4 percent to 8 percent, and her 53/23 favorability rating makes her the most popular GOP candidate other than Carson and Trump,” their analysis said. “Kasich’s gone from 3 percent to 6 percent and is all the way up to double digits at 10 percent with moderate voters, putting him in third place overall with that group.”

The Republican who has fallen the furthest is Scott Walker, “who was in second place at 17 percent last month and is now down all the way to a tie for eighth place at 5 percent. There is a little bit of silver lining for Walker. He’s one of only three Republicans to hit double digits when it comes to voters’ second-place choice.”

Bush is struggling for a variety of reasons, Jensen said. He’s not passionate enough, compared to Trump. His past positions embracing federal education standards and immigration reform rankle right-wing Republicans. And in an anti-establishment year, being a Bush [or a Clinton] is as mainstream and establishment as it gets.

Bernie and Hillary

On the Democratic side, PPP found that Bernie Sanders has a very long way to go to catch up with Hillary Clinton in national polling.

“Last month Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders by 35 points and this month she leads him by 35 points again—she’s at 55 percent to 20 pecent for Bernie Sanders, 4 percent for Martin O’Malley, 3 percent for Jim Webb, and 1 percent each for Lincoln Chafee and Lawrence Lessig,” the poll’s analysis said.

This is a striking contrast with Sanders’ numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, where another PPP poll just last week found he was ahead of Clinton by 7 points. However, looking past those first two contests to the next states, Jensen said that Sanders hasn’t yet made inroads into communities of color.

“I think it’s quite possible he may do very well in Iowa and New Hampshire and not do well anywhere else,” Jensen said. “We found Hillary down in New Hampshire but not nationally.”

However, Jensen said he was “done making predictions” about what was likely to unfold on the GOP side. “There is nothing about this presidential race that anyone has seen before. Most experts expected things to become more normal by now.”

But things have not become normal. As one respected legal blogger wrote Monday, there is a path to the GOP nomination for Trump if he maintains his current standing in the polls, because of the arcane ways Republicans will be allocating delegates in their 2016 primaries.

Meanwhile, the PPP poll confirms that the modern Republican Party has a majority of members who live in a racist political fantasyland: they believe Obama wasn’t born in America, and is a Muslim, not a Christian; and they would revoke the birthright citizenship of the children of undocumented immigrants, and deport them as well.

“Trump’s beliefs represent the consensus among the GOP electorate,” their analysis said. “Fifty-one percent overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. Fifty-four percent think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29 percent grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That’s less than the 40 percent who think Canadian-born Ted Cruz was born in the United States.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/nationwide-poll-majority-republicans-have-nakedly-racist-worldview-and-trump-has-found?utm_source=Steven+Rosenfeld%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=d25c3f7811-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2cfcfe7b54-d25c3f7811-107153921

GOP Presidential Candidates Go to Israel and Return With Fairy Tales

Israel is playing a greater role in the Republican presidential race than perhaps ever before.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Zaid Jilani

Emphasis Mine

The past year has seen an effective merger between the Republican Party and Israel’s right-wing Likud Party. This is particularly explicit with regards to the presidential race, where contenders are courting pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could instantly unleash tens of millions of dollars to bolster their candidacies.

As a part of this “Adelson primary,” as it has been dubbed by the media, these presidential candidates are taking trips to Israel, where they meet with far-right politicians and studiously avoid interacting with everyday Palestinians or the occupation. They then come back and tell fairy tales of a liberal democracy under existential threat.

Here’s who has gone and what they’ve come back to say.

Rick Santorum: Santorum has not yet announced, but is considered a likely contender. He visited Israel last year on a trip organized by the right-wing group “Patriot Voices.” While there, he called the right-wing outlet Newsmax to give an interview. Despite the tremendous political, economic and military support the United States provides Israel, Santorum said “the average Israeli knows whose side that John Kerry and Barack Obama are on, and it’s not to protect the security of Israel.” For Santorum, re-arming the Israelis as they were assaulting the Gaza Strip while vocally defending their actions simply wasn’t supportive enough.

Scott Walker: Walker visited Israel this month, and when he returned he wrote a post on Medium detailing his “reflections.” The Israel Walker says he saw is “one of the world’s most vibrant democracies,” and one of “America’s most important allies.” That’s an odd phrasing for a country that systematically disenfranchises 4.5 million Palestinians and gives millions of non-Jews citizenship without the same full legal rights as Jewish Israelis. Walker also seemed to endorse the Bush administration’s foreign policy, saying he would “take the fight to them before they take the fight to us,” which echoed similar remarks by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in support of the unprovoked war against Iraq.

Ben Carson: The former neurosurgeon’s strange comments about Israel actually began before he actually got there. GQ’s Jason Zengerle accompanied Carson on his trip to the country, and witnessed a bizarre conversation he had with his Israeli guide. He admitted he did not know what the Knesset (the Israeli legislature) actually did, and had his guide explain it. After she finished, he responded, “It sounds complex. Why don’t they just adopt the system we have?” When he actually got to Israel, he was quick to draw conclusions. When informed about foreign fighters ending the Syrian civil war, he concluded, “It’s just like the troublemakers in Ferguson.”

When he returned to the United States, Carson was suddenly an expert on world affairs, trying to lump in Iran with ISIS. “We need to recognize that the Shia in Iran are every bit as dangerous, perhaps more dangerous,” he said, a sectarian warning that could easily be found in the text of an extremist Saudi cleric.

Carly Fiorina: The former HP executive visited Israel in 2010, in a trip widely seen as oriented around courting pro-Israel political forces. This spring, she claimed that tensions with Israel are “in no small measure due to President Obama,” simply ignoring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s series of provocative words and actions. She also went further, pledging to repudiate an Iran deal on her first day in office—essentially rejecting Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

Coming Polarization

Israel is playing a greater role in the GOP presidential race than perhaps ever before. The Adelson primary is transforming the same political party that once harshly clashed with Israeli leadership over its failure to make peace into one that is indistinguishable from the Likud.

But something else is happening on the Democratic side. While candidates there are not openly calling for sanctions or cutting aid to Israel, they’re not leaping up to defend it, either. The topic is all but absent in the Democratic primary, despite the fact that the party is the traditional base of the pro-Israel lobby. Polling shows that the party’s rising base of young people and racial minorities is increasingly hostile to Israeli foreign policy, in ways that will surely at some point impact American policy.

Many in the United States have lamented the increasing polarization of the Israel issue, but it is that polarization that may finally give Americans a choice about policy, rather than bipartisan support for Israel, right or wrong.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

see: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-presidential-candidates-go-israel-and-return-fairy-tales?akid=13149.123424.PcpnCs&rd=1&src=newsletter1037039&t=5

The Wisconsin Blues

From: RSN

By: George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling, Common Dreams

“The Wisconsin recall vote should be put in a larger context. What happened in Wisconsin started well before Scott Walker became governor and will continue as long as progressives let it continue. The general issues transcend unions, teachers, pensions, deficits, and even wealthy conservatives and Citizens United.

Where progressives argued policy – the right to collective bargaining and the importance of public education – conservatives argued morality from their perspective, and many working people who shared their moral views voted with them and against their own interests. Why? Because morality is central to identity, and hence trumps policy.

Progressive morality fits a nurturant family: parents are equal, the values are empathy, responsibility for oneself and others, and cooperation. That is taught to children. Parents protect and empower their children, and listen to them. Authority comes through an ethic of excellence and living by what you say, rather than by enforcing rules.

Correspondingly in politics, democracy begins with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly both for oneself and others. The mechanism by which this is achieved is The Public, through which the government provides resources that make private life and private enterprise possible: roads, bridges and sewers, public education, a justice system, clean water and air, pure food, systems for information, energy and transportation, and protection both for and from the corporate world. No one makes it on his or her own. Private life and private enterprise are not possible without The Public. Freedom does not exist without The Public.

Conservative morality fits the family of the strict father, who is the ultimate authority, defines right and wrong, and rules through punishment. Self-discipline to follow rules and avoid punishment makes one moral, which makes it a matter of individual responsibility alone. You are responsible for yourself and not anyone else, and no one else is responsible for you.

In conservative politics, democracy is seen as providing the maximal liberty to seek one’s self-interest without being responsible for the interests of others. The best people are those who are disciplined enough to be successful. Lack of success implies lack of discipline and character, which means you deserve your poverty. From this perspective, The Public is immoral, taking away incentives for greater discipline and personal success, and even standing in the way of maximizing private success. The truth that The Private depends upon The Public is hidden from this perspective. The Public is to be minimized or eliminated. To conservatives, it’s a moral issue.

These conservative ideas at the moral level have been pushed since Ronald Reagan via an extensive communication system of think tanks, framing specialists, training institutes, booking agencies and media, funded by wealthy conservatives. Wealthy progressives have not funded progressive communication in the same way to bring progressive moral values into everyday public discourse. The result is that conservatives have managed to get their moral frames to dominate public discourse on virtually every issue.

In Wisconsin, much if not most progressive messaging fed conservative morality centered around individual, not social, responsibility. Unions were presented as serving self-interest – the self-interests of working people. Pensions were not presented as delayed earnings for work already done, but as “benefits” given for free as a result of union bargaining power. “Bargaining” means trying to get the best deal for your own self-interest. “Collective” denies individual responsibility. The right wing use of “union thugs” suggests gangs and the underworld – an immoral use of force. Strikes, to conservatives, are a form of blackmail. Strikebreaking, like the strict father’s requirement to punish rebellious children, is seen as a moral necessity. The successful corporate managers, being successful, are seen as moral. And since many working men have a strict father morality both at home an in their working life, they can be led to support conservative moral positions, even against their own financial interests.

What about K-12 teachers? They are mostly women, and nurturers. They accepted delayed earnings as pensions, taking less pay as salary – provided their positions were secure, that is, they had tenure. In both their nurturance and their centrality to The Public, they constitute a threat to the dominance of conservative morality. Conservatives don’t want nurturers teaching their children to be loyal to the “nanny state.”

The truth that The Public is necessary for the Private was not repeated over and over, but it needed to be at the center of the Wisconsin debate. Unions needed to be seen as serving The Public, because they promote better wages, working conditions, and pensions generally, not just for their members. The central role of teachers as working hard to maintain The Public, and hence The Private, also needed to be at the center of the debate. These can only be possible if the general basis of the need for The Public is focused on every day.

Scott Walker was just carrying out general conservative moral policies, taking the next step along a well-worn path.

What progressives need to do is clear. To people who have mixed values – partly progressive, partly conservative – talk progressive values in progressive language, thus strengthening progressive moral views in their brains. Never move to the right thinking you’ll get more cooperation that way.

Start telling deep truths out loud all day every day: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other. The Public is necessary for The Private. Pensions are delayed earnings for work already done; eliminating them is theft. Unions protect workers from corporate exploitation – low salaries, no job security, managerial threats, and inhumane working conditions. Public schools are essential to opportunity, and not just financially: they provide the opportunity to make the most of students’ skills and interests. They are also essential to democracy, since democracy requires an educated citizenry at large, as well as trained professionals in every community. Without education of the public, there can be no freedom.

At issue is the future of progressive morality, democracy, freedom, and every aspect of the Public – and hence the viability of private life and private enterprise in America on a mass scale. The conservative goal is to impose rule by conservative morality on the entire country, and beyond. Eliminating unions and public education are just steps along the way. Only progressive moral force can stop them.

The Little Blue Book is a guide to how to express your moral views and how to reveal hidden truths that undermine conservative claims. And it explains why this has to be done constantly, not just during election campaigns. It is the cumulative effect that matters, as conservatives well know.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/11880-focus-the-wisconsin-blues

8 Ways Delusional Right-Wingers Are Blowing Wisconsin Out of Proportion

The triumphalism is more a manifestation of conservatives’ wishful thinking than a reflection of any objective reality.

From: AlterNet

By: Joshua Holland

“On Tuesday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker held onto his job with a typical Republican campaign built on trickery, wildly dishonest messaging and a massive budget courtesy of a handful of ideologically like-minded sugar daddies from out-of-state (according to Mother Jones, about two-thirds of Walker’s donations came from outside the Badger State, compared with just around a quarter of his opponent’s).

In the aftermath of the vote, conservatives, proving typically magnanimous in victory, spun the results like a top. They claimed the outcome spelled doom for Obama this fall, marked the death of the labor movement and was a pure reflection of voters’ love for Scott Walker’s economy-crushing austerity policies.

“This is what democracy looks like,” Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch crowed after hanging on to her job. “Public sector unions are over,” rejoiced libertarian blogger Radley Balko on Twitter. The Breitbart kids, furthering a standard-issue conservative lie about unions, happily reported that, “Walker won 36% of Wisconsin’s union households, which isn’t surprising, considering how workers reacted when emancipated from forced dues.” (By law,nobody can be forced to pay union dues – workers in union shops can only be compelled to pay the direct costs of representing them.)

We shouldn’t kid ourselves; it was obviously a serious defeat for the progressive movement. Yet the triumphalism is more a manifestation of conservatives’ wishful thinking than a reflection of objective reality. Here are eight reasons why.

1. Wisconsinites Just Didn’t Like the Idea of Recalling a Sitting Governor

An honest reading of the published exit poll leads to an important conclusion about Walker’s victory that has little to do with unions, Walker’s policies, the economy or any of the other factors that have pundits’ tongues wagging.

Fully 70 percent of those voters polled believed that recall elections are either never appropriate (10 percent) or are only appropriate in the case of official misconduct (60 percent).

The governor won 72 percent of this group. And it’s worth noting that a third of those voters who said “official misconduct” is a good reason to recall a governor voted to oust Walker, who has seen six of his staffers charged with 15 felonies in the “John Doe” probe.

While Walker himself has not yet been charged, reports suggest that the investigation is circling closer to him. Over the past seven weeks, he transferred $160,000 from his campaign funds to a legal defense fund, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In a recentinterview with AlterNet, John Nichols, associate editor of the Madison Capitol Times, noted that the governor “is now represented by four separate law firms, including two of the top criminal defense law firms. These aren’t firms that deal with election law; these are firms that deal with major crimes.” He survived the recall, but his problems are by no means over.

2. Wealthy Wisconsinites Voted Their Self-Interest

Also belying the spin that this was a referendum on public sector unions is the fact that the wealthiest fifth of the population – the people who have benefitted directly from Scott Walker’s tax cuts (passed during a supposed “fiscal crisis”) and probably worry too much about the social safety net he has ripped apart – made all the difference in the race.

Scott Walker and Tom Barrett were tied among the 80 percent of Wisconsin voters who make less than $100,000 (Walker got 50.2% of the vote, but the poll has a 4-point margin of error). Among the 20 percent who make $100 grand or more, Walker trounced Barrett, 63-37.

3. About Those Union Households

Did unions fail to turn out the vote? No, a third of the electorate belonged to a “union household” – the biggest share in any gubernatorial or presidential race since 2004.

But much has been made about the fact that Walker won 38 percent among that group. It’s a sad reality, but a little too much is being made of it, when you dig into the numbers. As theWashington Post noted, union members voted overwhelmingly for Barrett – by a 71-29 margin. But members of “union households” who don’t belong to a union only supported Barret by a 51-48 margin – not enough to make a difference.

That means that people who have a family member who belongs to a union didn’t feel their loved ones were under attack. Which brings us to…

4. How Could it Be a Referendum on Union Rights When Nobody Ran on Union Rights?

A slim majority of voters approved of Walker stripping the rights of public sector unions. But a final nail in the coffin for the narrative that Walker won on that issue is the simple fact that Barrett chose not to campaign on it. In fact, Barrett touted the fact that he wasn’t labor’s first choice (unions had backed Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, whom Barrett defeated in a primary) and bragged on the campaign trail about how he had been a tough negotiator with public employee unions as mayor of Milwaukee. He presented himself as the centrist who can “make tough choices” – basically parroting the case that Walker made in 2010.

That may have been a huge tactical error – hindsight is 50/50 – but it is the case, and suggesting that this election was all about Walker’s union-busting is simply divorced from the reality of the campaign.

5. This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like

It’s not accurate to say that money made all the difference in this race. The two candidates, facing off for the second time in two years, were both well-known by the electorate and the overwhelming majority of voters had made up their minds before the battle commenced.

But it’s also a mistake to dismiss the Walker camp’s ability to outspend their opponents by a 10 to 1 margin. According to the National Journal, the result was that “Walker and his Republican allies have outspent Democrat Tom Barrett and supportive groups more than 3-1 on TV ad buys during the three months leading up to the June 5 recall election.” This is likely the new normal in the age of Citizens United.

6. Very Little Changed From 2010, Except the Number of Voters

Pundits have to blather about what a big contest means, but the reality is that there wasn’t much difference between this contest and the last one between the two men in 2010.

Barrett’s financial disadvantage made it harder for him to get his arguments out, and again, he chose not to run on the very issue that led to the recall in the first place. As a result, the election was a mirror image of 2010, only with more voters going to the polls. Both Walker and Barrett won virtually the same share of the demographics they each held in 2010.

7. A Wisconsin Race That Tells Us Virtually Nothing About November

Immediately after the vote, CNN’s John King wondered whether Wisconsin, a pretty solidly “blue” state, should be moved from the “lean Obama” category to “up for grabs.” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said Walker’s win “helps to put Wisconsin in play.”

Nobody can know whether Barack Obama would have had an impact on the race had he chosen to campaign for Barrett. He didn’t. If he had, one might have some reason to suggest that this race was a harbinger of things to come in Wisconsin in November.

As it stands, 51 percent of those voters polled said they’d vote for Obama if the election were held today, compared with 44 percent who’d cast their ballot for Romney. Walker won 18 percent of likely Obama voters.

8. Don’t Forget 2011

None of this is to suggest that Tuesday wasn’t a painful defeat for the forces of progress in Wisconsin. It was. But much of the coverage has focused on Tuesday’s races in isolation, and that’s a mistake.

The picture looks a lot rosier when one considers the entire 16 months Scott Walker has been in office. Since Walker’s draconian union-busting measure passed, Democrats have collected the scalps of four sitting state senators, flipping the upper chamber to their control.

Three Democrats defended themselves against Republican recall efforts in 2011, while defeating two of their opponents. Then, back in March, another Republican targeted for recall, Pam Galloway, abruptly resigned, leaving the senate evenly split between the two parties. At the time, she said she was stepping down to deal with “family issues,” but it was widely believed that she didn’t have the desire to face a tough recall fight. All nine races in 2011 had been carried by Walker in 2010, but Democrats won five of them.

Then, on Tuesday, Democrat John Lehman appears to have picked up a senate seat in Racine County, swinging the chamber to Democratic control (there may be a recount, but he has a fairly solid lead of around 800 votes). Some have painted this as merely a symbolic victory, as it only means that Dems are guaranteed control of one chamber for the next five months, until the November elections. But it is unprecedented for a grassroots movement to unseat three sitting state senators in little over a year, and the movement has had an impact on the state’s governance. As John Nichols told AlterNet, “The significant thing is the recalls of last summer actually prevented some really atrocious things from happening.”

The recalls sent an incredibly powerful signal that a majority in Republican-leaning districts had opted against the policies of the government. What that did when a new Senate was constituted after the recalls was that it convinced a moderate Republican to begin to side with the Democrats on some fundamental environmental issues as well as voting rights issues.

The battle with Scott Walker, a recently elected sitting governor with almost unlimited resources, was always a David vs. Goliath affair. Progressives didn’t pull out a shocking victory, but they have still accomplished something pretty amazing in Wisconsin.

More importantly, the fight isn’t over yet.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/155778/8_delusional_ways_right-wingers_are_blowing_wisconsin_out_of_proportion__?page=entire

The Right’s New Tactic to Pit the Middle Class Against Itself

A new kind of class warfare is emerging in the Heartland.

From:  AlterNet

(N.B.: the author uses the term ‘midwest’.  I don’t like the use of this word for many reasons, among them  because it attempts to join together a large, diverse area under one label.)

N.B.: also exit polls demonstrated that the majority of those who voted against recall did so because they opposed recall itself.)

By: Dean Bakopolous

“The failed recall attempt of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker comes as no surprise to most of us liberals in the Midwest, though it still stings. It hurts not only because we failed to boot a corrupt and ruthless governor from the state capitol, but also because it underscores a more troubling phenomenon: A new kind of class warfare is emerging in the Heartland, and it is one the Republicans have been so good at orchestrating in order to win elections.

In the Bible Belt, Republicans have long been able to divide working people (by that I mean anyone who depends on an earned paycheck to stay afloat) on social issues — gay rights and abortion. In the Rust Belt and Grain Belt, that’s been a bit harder, as there is a strong “live and let live” ethic in the Midwest. We like our neighbors and tend to accept, if not value, our differences. We also like our pulpits free of politics; we prefer preachers to be soft-spoken and potlucks are often more important than politics. The overwhelming support for President Obama in Wisconsin in 2008 (he won some very conservative rural counties) proved all that.

What the deep pockets and political might of Scott Walker — and other Midwestern Republican governors — signal is a troubling new trend: There is now a new way for the rich, ruling class to use fear and envy to divide the American middle class, a strategy that doesn’t even need to use the traditional wedge issue of religion.

As Wisconsin’s new political landscape so clearly indicates, conservatives have now managed to vilify plain old working people as elitist fat cats. Librarians, teachers, public employees, and union laborers: Basically, people who earn health insurance and decent wages have suddenly become the things that stagnate an economy and raise taxes, when in truth they, and those wages they enjoy, have been the lifeblood of a struggling post-industrial economy.

But by declaring war on teachers, union laborers, and public sector employees, the well-heeled spinners behind the rise of Scott Walker have managed to make struggling Americans vote against their own best interests out of a sense of fear and envy. Struggling workers — and most comfortable middle-class workers — often to need an identifiable villain, someone who is holding them back from success, in order to vote Republican. If Republicans can present themselves as an enemy of that villain, they win. That’s what happened happened last night in Wisconsin.

America is a great nation, but also a jealous one. In an economic era of struggle, ease is resented. Those struggling to save for retirement and health insurance, those struggling to keep up with property taxes and utility bills, are easily going to be led to a passionate resentment of those who have such things “easy,” as Walker and his spin doctors have been claiming. It’s a lie that these middle class workers have it easy, and it’s a lie that they are the reason behind stagnant wages and dwindling job prospects in Wisconsin. Ironically, it’s the end of a union workforce and the collapse of public oversight of corporate interests that is most to blame for the woes of the working class.

If Barack Obama plans to win in November, he needs to unite two factions of the Rust Belt population: The middle-class of public workers and union members and teachers, and the other middle-class, which ranges from self-made entrepreneurs to struggling service industry workers. How does he do it? With an honest message that points to the real villain: An increasingly greedy corporate culture that stops at nothing in its quest to consolidate power and wealth.

There is, in fact, a 99 percent in this country. But right now, a big chunk of it votes in the interest of the 1 percent. Now is not the time for the corporate-friendly moderate Democrat along the lines of Bill Clinton, one who backpedals on health care and fair wages. Now is the time for a leader who speaks compassionately about the struggles of American families, and speaks honestly about the reasons behind them.

The president seems to have come out of the gate with this message; here’s hoping he’ll take it to the finish line, no matter how the political winds blow. It’s the only path to victory in an increasingly divided and scared nation.

The former director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Dean Bakopoulos is the author of “My American Unhappiness” — a political tragi-comedy set in Wisconsin — coming in paperback next month. He now teaches at Grinnell College in Iowa.

Emphasis Mine.

See: http://www.alternet.org/story/155806/the_right%27s_new_tactic_to_pit_the_middle_class_against_itself?page=entire