Here’s What ‘Social Liberal but Fiscal Conservative’ Millennials Just Don’t Comprehend

Source: AlterNet

Author: Lorraine Berry/raw story

Emphasis Mine

In the past several days, the news media have been reporting from airports such as O’Hare or LAX where the lines to go through security are longer than the waiting list for Hamilton. Many of the folks standing in those lines have reported missing flights, which then creates flights that are overcrowded with the folks from the earlier connections that didn’t get made.

Watching people standing in line should remind the public about those budget standoffs that an obstructionist Republican Congress mounted against President Obama last fall. Instead,  the media clutches its pearls while loving the videos shot by fed-up travelers, and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerry suggests, with a straight face, that the government consult Disney about how to process such a large number of people at one time. Of course, Disney is a private corporation with seemingly endless funds, while the TSA is operating on the let-the-hostages-live budget that Congress called a “compromise.”

Welcome to the America where the impact of young people’s increasing political identification as “social liberal but fiscal conservative” (SLFC) is being played out in airports, job sites, universities, and emergency rooms across the country.

For every viewer whose streaming gets interrupted for buffering just when the good part is happening, for every enthusiastic AirBnB patron who can’t find cheap housing in the town where they work, for every worker whose boss provides “perks” like chair massages or an indoor basketball court but doesn’t pay a salary that matches the cost of living, fiscal conservatism is more than an abstract principle. Fiscal conservatism hobbles the very social progress that the SLFC supports.

The white, butthurt feelings that drove the 2010 mid-terms put hardcore Tea Party Republicans in power, and very few of the SLFC young people who voted for Obama turned out to vote. The Tea Party’s only purpose is to say “no” to President Obama. When the Tea Party Congress isn’t busy trying to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act or pass laws to criminalize abortion, it’s finding new ways to resist agreeing with the president on anything. One of the best ways that Congress has found to prevent the government from enforcing any of its responsibilities is to plug up the financial pipeline. That TSA line? A victim of the budget power play where Tea Party activists decided it would be better to threaten to default on the national debt rather than see any increase in the national budget.

Fiscally conservative means that we can’t have nice things, like the kinds of Internet speeds enjoyed by most of the countries in Europe and much of Asia. Swedes pay approximately $40 per month for the Internet. While the tech bros of San Francisco and environs may be creating cutting edge technology, it’s the equivalent of trying to drive a Maserati in a school zone. In nations such as Sweden, the internet is treated as a public utility, and there was public investment in building the infrastructure of the service so that it was available to everyone in the country. While many in the U.S. equate infrastructure with road construction, it’s important to remember that the Flint water crisis is a direct result of not wanting to pay for infrastructure improvements. Because we’re all subject to the competitive market of internet providers who have no motivation for extending service to sparsely populated areas, or investing in increased speeds if it requires huge capital investments, it’s unlikely that those speeds are going to catch up with countries where “big government” made the investment on behalf of their peoples.

Many of those tech bros who are celebrated for their creativity are vulture capitalists in hipster clothing. While the perks of working in those hip spaces that offer employees chair massage, or Uber rides home at night, or who bring in food when employees are asked to work late, are also spaces where company employees are on part-time hours and don’t qualify to have their health insurance paid for. Working conditions are not monitored because Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)–the government department responsible for making sure employees are safe at their jobs–has been gutted by budget cuts. Tech entrepreneurs who exploit the intellectual labor of their employees–even requiring them to sign non-compete agreements so they can’t work for a higher salary at a competitor–face few penalties for moving the company overseas to take advantage of lower labor costs.

SLFC workers who are paying as much in student loan payments each month as they do for rent also suffer from the “fiscal conservative” meme. Students who went to college prior to the early 1980s paid low tuition. In the fall of 1980, for example, my tuition at a state school was $206 per quarter, and comparable rates applied across state boundaries.  Big government investment in a “Great Society” where anyone who was smart enough to go to school could enroll and not accrue enormous debt. There were ways to have those loans cancelled if a student agreed to go into teaching for a period of time, or to practice their profession in underserved areas. The government also paid for job training for those who did not go to college, and it was possible to take a job right out of high school, with adequate training, where a person could support a family on the hourly wage. The “fiscal conservative” push by politicians such as Ronald Reagan undercut the funding for public education. Public universities had to rely more on tuition to meet overhead costs at the same time that there were far fewer dollars to distribute among those with financial aid needs.

Even the hip capitalism of AirBnB is not without its social costs. It’s not clear whether AirBnB landlords are required to comply with federal laws regarding discrimination; African Americans are reporting–and documenting–repeated instances of being denied a booking when their race became evident to the landlord. AirBnB is certainly economical compared to the cost of staying in a hotel with local and national hotel taxes. Of course, the decrease in tax revenues means that something will have to get cut to make up for the budget shortfall, but even if tax payments are not an immediate area of concern, consider that many of the young adults living in  “hot” areas for AirBnB properties are also the communities where the rental market is tight. Whether it’s an exciting urban area like San Francisco, or a cool small town that’s close to awesome scenery–like Bend, Oregon or Boulder, Colorado–landlords, taking advantage of the regulation-free advantages of AirBnB,  have decided that they can make more money renting out their properties for short periods of time to tourists looking to save a few bucks, rather than letting a group of students or young workers share a space, or renting out guest rooms in their big houses. Those workers who are making low wages are also getting squeezed out of the rental properties close to their places of employment.

The old adage says that “you get what you pay for.” Fiscal conservatism, which is often just another way of saying that someone doesn’t want to have to pay taxes, ends up having real-life impacts on Americans’ quality of life. The idea of small government may look attractive in a hipster world where everyone just wants to do their own thing, but it’s hard to do one’s own thing when one is working long, underpaid hours in order to service back-breaking student loans and pay for ticky-tacky housing with rents that resemble a king’s ransom. The people who benefit most from fiscal conservatism are the people for whom student loans, or access to housing–even having to rely on commercial airlines for travel–are not issues. For the rest of us, fiscal conservatism is a bad investment.

Lorraine Berry blogs at Culture Kitchen.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/heres-what-social-liberal-fiscal-conservative-millennials-just-dont-comprehend?akid=14283.123424.Q-TRlj&rd=1&src=newsletter1056948&t=18

 

Nominating Trump Would Be An Electoral ‘Bloodbath’: ‘Weekly Standard’

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Source: National Memo

Author: Matt Shuham

Emphasis Mine

We’ve written a lot recently about Donald Trump’s poor prospects in the general election, should he become the Republican nominee: he motivates Muslims and Latinos to register to vote (against him), he’s repulsive to Mormons and others who value religious liberty, and the international community would consider his success a complete disaster — something we’ll surely hear more about as this cycle rolls on.

On top of all that, Trump’s electoral strategy — essentially, it’s just “bring out angry, disengaged conservatives to the polls” — forgets the fact that the vast majority of voters are some combination of young people, minorities, and women, most of whom find him entirely unelectable.

It’s not just us lefties ranting about how bad Donald is for our politics, though. After all, the #NeverTrump movement started with conservatives on Twitter who swore they would never support Trump as their party’s standard-bearer, and has since become a slogan for anti-Trump activists of all stripes.

Take conservative outlet The Weekly Standard, whose Trump coverage is particularly bleak. In an episode of their wonderful near-daily podcast on Monday, staff writer and number cruncher Jay Cost laid out his forecast for Trump’s general election chances, and they’re not pretty. I’ll let Cost explain, in one of the best electoral math rants I’ve heard in a while:

Let me state flatly and unequivocally that if Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary Clinton’s floor in the electoral college is 400 votes. That’s the floor, number one. Number two, kiss the Senate goodbye. I mean, it’s not even going to be a close call. It will be a bloodbath. Number three, and this is a little more controversial at this point, but I would give the Republicans no better than 40 percent odds hold the House of Representatives.

This guy is an abject disaster for the Republican Party in November, there is no other way to put it. And the notion that he’s going to bring in some tranche of voters is just a complete fiction, for two reasons: number one, there aren’t enough of them, okay?

I live in Western Pennsylvania. I live right near places that, up until very recently, were voting Democratic. And yeah, can Trump bring some new voters in from Beaver County? Yeah, maybe he can. But I’m telling you what, I live in Butler County, which has been voting Republican since 1856, and he’s going to get killed in Butler County. He is going to get killed in the Cranberry Township suburbs in Butler County. Because people are going to look at him and they are going to think, “No Way.”  You watch, suburban women in Cranberry Township are going to bolt [from] him in droves. And the same thing’s going to happen… replicate that times 100 in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s going to be an absolute slaughter.

And I think that he can hold the line, maybe, in the South. I see him winning Mississippi and Alabama, and maybe Louisiana. I think he loses Georgia, I think he loses North Carolina. But I think… that’s only one area where the Republican Party is strong. You go to the Great Plains, right… So the Great Plains starts with Texas and then goes up to the Canadian border, and then it goes west up though Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah. He is going to punk out all through that region. These people want nothing to do with this guy. Maybe they’ll vote for him over Hillary Clinton, because they find Hillary Clinton so objectionable, but he is not going to win those states by anything approaching a solid margin. If you want a view of what Trump looks like on election day, I think the best map you can look at is probably the 1928 map between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover. And Herbert Hoover massacred Al Smith. It is going to be an absolute, total bloodbath for Republicans. It will give the Democrats not only control of the White House and the Senate, but very possibly the House of Representatives That 1928 electoral map is about as one-sided as Trump’s electoral predictions get. I can’t say I’d look forward to such a lopsided win, mainly because I don’t want to think about the type of politician who will be able to capitalize on disappointed Trump voters (just as Trump spoke to disaffected Tea Partiers). Still if it means dealing a serious blow to the darkest corners of Trump’s twisted rhetoric, I’m all for it:

1928
1928

See: http://www.nationalmemo.com/nominating-trump-would-be-an-electoral-bloodbath-weekly-standard/

Bringing Socialism Back: How Bernie Sanders is Reviving an American Tradition – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

The Sanders campaign is resurrecting socialist electoral politics and paving the way for a more radical public discourse. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of socialist political parties that can bring them all together could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power that would allow real movement on these individual issues. – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

Source: Portside

Author: Joseph M. Schwartz

Emphasis Mine

Socialism. For most of recent U.S. history, the word was only used in mainstream discourse as invective, hurled by the Right against anyone who advocated that the government do anything but shrink, as anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist once put it, “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
How is it, then, that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a democratic socialist, has repeatedly drawn crowds in the thousands or tens of thousands in cities and towns throughout the nation and is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire? In a country that’s supposed to be terrified of socialism, how did a socialist become a serious presidential contender?
Young people who came to political consciousness after the Cold War are less hostile to socialism than their elders, who associate the term with authoritarian Communist regimes. In a Pew poll from December 2011, 49 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in the United States held a favorable view of socialism; only 46 percent had a favorable view of capitalism. A New York Times/CBS News survey taken shortly before Sanders’ Nov. 19, 2015, Georgetown University speech on democratic socialism found that 56 percent of Democratic primary voters felt positively about socialism versus only 29 percent who felt negatively. Most of those polled probably do not envision socialism to be democratic ownership of the means of production, but they do associate capitalism with inequality, massive student debt and a stagnant labor market. They envision socialism to be a more egalitarian and just society.
 
More broadly, a bipartisan consensus has developed that the rich and corporations are too powerful. In a December 2011 Pew poll, 77 percent of respondents (including 53 percent of Republicans) agreed that “there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.” More than 40 years of ruling class attacks on working people has revived interest in a political tradition historically associated with the assertion of working class power-socialism.
But at this point in American politics, as right-wing, quasi-fascist populists like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others of their Tea Party ilk are on the rise, we also seem to be faced with an old political choice: socialism or barbarism. Whether progressive politicians can tap into the rising anti-corporate sentiment around the country is at the heart of a battle that may define the future of the United States: Will downwardly mobile, white, middle- and working-class people follow the nativist, racist politics of Trump and Tea Partiers (who espouse the myth that the game is rigged in favor of undeserving poor people of color), or lead a charge against the corporate elites responsible for the devastation of working- class communities?

This may be the very audience, however, for whom the term socialism still sticks in the craw. In a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of Latinos held a favorable view of socialism-versus only 24 percent of whites. One might ask, then: Should we really care that the term “socialism” is less radioactive than it used to be? With so much baggage attached to the word, shouldn’t activists and politicians just call themselves something else? Why worry about a label as long as you’re pursuing policies that benefit the many rather than the few? Is socialism still relevant in the 21st century?

Fear of the `s’ word
To answer this question, first consider how the political establishment uses the word. The Right (and sometimes the Democrats) deploy anti-socialist sentiment against any reform that challenges corporate power. Take the debate over healthcare reform, for example. To avoid being labeled “socialist,” Obama opted for an Affordable Care Act that expanded the number of insured via massive government subsidies to the private healthcare industry-instead of fighting for Medicare for All and abolishing private health insurers. The Right, of course, screamed that the president and the Democratic Party as a whole were all socialists anyway and worked (and continues to work) to undermine efforts to expand healthcare coverage to anyone.
But what if the United States had had a real socialist Left, rather than one conjured up by Republicans, that was large, well-organized and politically relevant during the healthcare reform debate? What would have been different? For one thing, it would have been tougher for the Right to scream “socialist!” at Obama, since actual socialists would be important, visible forces in American politics, writing articles and knocking on doors and appearing on cable news. Republicans would have had to attack the real socialists-potentially opening up some breathing room for President Obama to carry out more progresssive reforms. But socialists wouldn’t have just done the Democrats a favor-they would also demand the party go much further than the overly complicated and insurance company friendly Obamacare towards a universal single-payer healthcare program. The Democrats needed a push from the Left on healthcare reform, and virtually no one was there to give it to them.
What is democratic socialism?
So what do we mean by “democratic socialism“? Democratic socialists want to deepen democracy by extending it from the political sphere into the economic and cultural realms. We believe in the idea that “what touches all should be governed by all.” The decisions by top-level corporate CEOs and managers, for example, have serious effects on their employees, consumers and the general public-why don’t those employees, consumers and the public have a say in how those decisions get made?

Democratic socialists believe that human beings should democratically control the wealth that we create in common. The Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world did not create Facebook and Microsoft; tens of thousands of programmers, technical workers and administrative employees did-and they should have a democratic voice in how those firms are run.

To be able to participate democratically, we all need equal access to those social, cultural and educational goods that enable us to develop our human potential. Thus, democratic socialists also believe that all human beings should be guaranteed access, as a basic social right, to high-quality education, healthcare, housing, income security, job training and more.
And to achieve people’s equal moral worth, democratic socialists also fight against oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, nationality and more. We do not reduce all forms of oppression to the economic; economic democracy is important, but we also need strong legal and cultural guarantees against other forms of undemocratic domination and exclusion.
What socialism can do for you
The United States has a rich-but hidden-socialist history. Socialists and Communists played a key role in organizing the industrial unions in the 1930s and in building the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s; Martin Luther King Jr. identified as a democratic socialist; Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, the two key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom were both members of the Socialist Party. Not only did Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs receive roughly 6 percent of the vote for president in 1912, but on the eve of U.S. entry into World War I, members of the Socialist Party held 1,200 public offices in 340 cities. They served as mayors of 79 cities in 24 states, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Reading, Penn., and Buffalo.
Brutally repressed by the federal government for opposing World War I and later by the Cold War hysteria of the McCarthy era, socialists never regained comparable influence. But as organizers and thinkers they have always played a significant role in social movements. The real legacy of the last significant socialist campaigns for president, those of Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas, is how the major parties, especially the Democrats, co-opted their calls for workers’ rights, the regulation of corporate excess and the establishment of social insurance programs.
As the erosion of the liberal and social democratic gains of the post-World War II era throughout the United States, Europe and elsewhere shows, absent greater democratic control over the economy, capital will always work to erode the gains made by working people. This inability to gain greater democratic control over capital may be a contributing factor to why the emerging social movements resisting oligarchic domination have a “flash”-like character. They erupt and raise crucial issues, but as the neoliberal state rarely grants concessions to these movements, they often fade in strength. Winning concrete reforms tends to empower social movements; the failure to improve the lives of their participants usually leads these movements to dissipate.

In the United States, nascent movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter and 350.org have won notable reforms. But few flash movements have succeeded in enacting systemic change. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of governing socialist political parties could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power thatwould allow real change on these issues.

For all their problems-and there are many-this is the promise of European parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. But the Syriza government retreated back to austerity policies, in part because Northern European socialist leaders failed to abandon their support for austerity. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party may represent the first step in rank-and-file socialists breaking with “third way” neo-liberal leadership.
Is Bernie really a socialist?
For Sanders, “democratic socialism” is a byword for what is needed to unseat the oligarchs who rule this new Gilded Age. In his much-anticipated Georgetown speech, Sanders defined democratic socialism as “a government which works for all of the American people, not just powerful special interests.” Aligning himself with the liberal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, Sanders called for restoring progressive income and strict corporate taxation to fund Medicare for All, paid parental leave, publicly financed child care and tuition-free public higher education.
Yet he backed away from some basic tenets of democratic socialism. He told the audience, “I don’t believe the government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” But democratic socialists want to democratize decisions over what we make, how we make it and who controls the social surplus.
In truth, Sanders is campaigning more as a social democrat than as a democratic socialist. While social democrats and democratic socialists share a number of political goals, they also differ on some key questions of what an ideal society would look like and how we can get there. Democratic socialists ultimately want to abolish capitalism; most traditional social democrats favor a government-regulated capitalist economy that includes strong labor rights, full employment policies and progressive taxation that funds a robust welfare state.
So why doesn’t Sanders simply call himself a New Deal or Great Society liberal or (in today’s terms) a “progressive”? In part, because he cannot run from the democratic socialist label that he has proudly worn throughout his political career. As recently as 1988, as mayor of Burlington, Vt., he stated that he desired a society “where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.

But today, Sanders is running to win, and invoking the welfare state accomplishments of FDR and LBJ plays better with the electorate and the mainstream media than referencing iconic American socialists like Eugene V. Debs. In his Georgetown speech, Sanders relied less on references to Denmark and Sweden; rather, he channeled FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address in which hecalled for an Economic Bill of Rights, saying, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.'”

Sanders’ campaign rhetoric does occasionally stray into more explicitly democratic socialist territory, though. He understands the nature of class conflict between workers and the corporate moguls. Unlike most liberals, Sanders recognizes that power relations between the rich and the rest of us determine policy outcomes. He believes progressive change will not occur absent a revival of the labor movement and other grassroots movements for social justice. And while Sanders’ platform calls primarily for government to heal the ravages of unrestrained capitalism, it also includes more radical reforms that shift control over capital from corporations to social ownership: a proposal for federal financial aid to workers’ cooperatives, a public infrastructure investment of $1 trillion over five years to create 13 million public jobs, and the creation of a postal banking system to provide low-cost financial services to people presently exploited by check-cashing services and payday lenders.
 
Harnessing the socialist energy
While Sanders is not running a full bore democratic socialist campaign, socialists must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Sanders campaign represents the most explicit anticorporate, radical campaign for the U.S. presidency in decades. Thus the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which I am a vice-chair, is running an “independent expenditure campaign” (uncoordinated with the official campaign) that aims to build the movement around Sanders-and its “political revolution”-over the long run.
For us, even if Sanders’ platform isn’t fully socialist, his campaign is a gift from the socialist gods. In just six months, Sanders has received campaign contributions from 800,000 individuals, signed up tens of thousands of campaign workers and introduced the term “democratic socialism” and a social democratic program to tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t know the difference between Trotsky and a tchotchke. Since the start of the Sanders campaign, the number of people joining DSA each month has more than doubled.
 

Though elected to both the House and Senate as an independent, Sanders chose to run in the Democratic presidential primary because he understood he would reach a national audience in the widely viewed debates and garner far more votes in the Democratic primaries than he would as an independent in the general election. The people most vulnerable to wall-to-wall Republican rule (women, trade unionists, people of color) simply won’t “waste” their votes on third-party candidates in contested states in a presidential election.

The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential

debate, in front of 15 million viewers, implicitly tried to red-bait him by asking, “How can any kind of a socialist win a general election in the United States?” The question led to a lengthy discussion among the candidates as to whether democratic socialism or capitalism promised a more just society. When has the capitalist nature of our society last been challenged in a major presidential forum?

Yet without a major shift in sentiment among voters of color and women, Sanders is unlikely to win the nomination. Sanders enthusiasts, who are mostly white, have to focus their efforts on expanding the racial base of the campaign. But, regardless of who wins the nomination, Sanders will leave behind him a transformed political landscape. His tactical decision to run as a Democrat has the potential to further divide Democrats between elites who accommodate themselves to neoliberalism and the populist “democratic” wing of the party.
Today, Democrats are divided between affluent, suburban social liberals who are economically moderate-even pro-corporate-and an urban, youth, black, Latino, Asian American, Native American and trade union base that favors more social democratic policies. Over the past 30 years, the national Democratic leadership-Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz-has moved the party in a decidedly pro-corporate, free-trade direction to cultivate wealthy donors. Sanders’ rise represents the revolt of the party’s rank and file against this corporate-friendly establishment.
Successful Left independent or third-party candidates invariably have to garner support from the same constituencies that progressive Democrats depend on, and almost all third-party victories in the United States occur in local non-partisan races. There are only a few dozen third-party members out of the nearly 7,400 state legislators in the United States. Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, has won twice in Seattle’s non-partisan city council race, drawing strong backing from unions and left-leaning Democratic activists (and some Democratic elected officials). But given state government’s major role in funding public works, social democracy cannot be achieved in any one city.
The party that rules state government profoundly affects what is possible at the municipal level. My recollection is that in the 1970s and 1980s, DSA (and one of its predecessor organizations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee) had more than 30 members who were elected members of state legislatures or city councils. Almost all of those socialist officials first won Democratic primaries against conservative Democratic opponents. In the seven states (most notably in New York, Connecticut and Oregon) where third parties can combine their votes with major party lines, the Working Families Party has tried to develop an “inside-outside,” “fusion” strategy vis-a-vis the Democrats. But the Democratic corporate establishment will never fear progressive electoral activists unless they are willing to punish pro-corporate Democrats by either challenging them in primaries or withholding support in general elections.
The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential
The tragedy of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign was that despite winning 7 million votes from voters of color, trade unionists and white progressives, the campaign failed to turn its Rainbow Coalition into an electoral organization that could continue the campaign’s fight for racial and economic justice. This lesson is not lost on Sanders; he clearly understands that his campaign must survive his presidential bid.
As In These Times went to press, the Sanders campaign only has official staff in the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Consequently, the Sanders movement is extremely decentralized, and driven by volunteers and social media. Only if these local activists are able to create multi-racial progressive coalitions and organizations that outlast the campaign can Sanders’ call for political revolution be realized.
 
Campaign organizations themselves rarely build democratic, grassroots organizations that persist after the election (see Obama’s Organizing for America). Sanders activists must keep this in mind and ask themselves: “What can we do in our locality to build the political revolution?” The Right still dominates politics at the state and local level; thus, Sanders activists can play a particularly crucial role in the 24 states where Republicans control all three branches of the government.
Embracing the `s’ word
Sanders has captivated the attention of America’s youth. He has generated a national conversation about democratic socialist values and social democratic policies. Sanders understands that to win such programs will take the revival of mass movements for low wage justice, immigrant rights, environmental sustainability and racial equality. To build an independent left that operates electorally both inside and outside the Democratic Party, the Sanders campaign-and socialists-must bring together white progressives with activists of color and progressive trade unionists. The ultimate logic of such a politics is the socialist demand for workers’ rights and greater democratic control over investment.
If Sanders’ call for a political revolution is to be sustained, then his campaign must give rise to a stronger organization of long-distance runners for democracy-a vibrant U.S. democratic socialist movement. Electoral campaigns can mobilize people and alter political discourse, but engaged citizens can spark a revolution only if they build social movements and the political institutions and organizations that sustain political work over the long-term.

And because anti-socialism is the ideology that bipartisan political elites deploy to rule out any reforms that limit the prerogatives of capital, now is the time for socialists to come out of the closet. Sanders running in the Democratic primaries provides an opportunity for socialists to do just that, and for the broad Left to gain strength. If and when socialism becomes a legitimate part of mainstream U.S. politics, only then will the political revolution begin.

Joseph M. Schwartz
[Joseph M. Schwartz is a professor of political science at Temple University. He is a Vice-Chair of Democratic Socialists of America and the author, most recently, of The Future of Democratic Equality: Reconstructing Social Solidarity in a Fragmented U.S. (Routledge, 2009).]
Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.

– See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

See: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition

8 Reasons White People Get Suckered by Racial Demagogues Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump has written a virtual textbook about the worst aspects of right-wing American politics.

Source:AlterNet

Author:Chauncey DeVega

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump is not a riddle, a monster or a mystery. Trump has many antecedents in American history, and his ascendance was the wholly predictable result of a broken political culture.

For progressives and those others worried about America’s deep political rot, “Trumpmania” represents a supreme and rare teachable moment, one that exposes the racism, authoritarianism, and socio-political anxieties of white movement conservatives in the post civil rights era and the age of Obama.

In many ways, Donald Trump has written a virtual textbook about the worst aspects of present-day, right-wing American politics. This book, if ever published, would include the following important concepts.

1. White identity politics. Donald Trump has been endorsed by prominent white supremacists and white nationalists as their chosen candidate.

(Political socialization begins in the home. According to recently discovered news reports from 1927, Trump’s father was likely at least a sympathizer with, if not a member, of the Ku Klux Klan.) From the end of the Civil Rights Movement onward, the Republican Party has used a strategy of white grievance mongering known as the Southern Strategy to mobilize its voters.

As a complement to the Southern Strategy, since the election of Barack Obama, the right-wing Fox News hate media has obsessively channeled racist narratives such as “birtherism,” “black crime,” and most recently the lie that the Black Lives Matter movement is an anti-white hate group.

The Republican base is almost entirely white, increasingly alienated and upset about the perceived decline in white people’s political and social power, and feeling under siege in a country that is becoming more racially diverse. Donald Trump has combined the old fashioned racism of overt white supremacists with the modern white racist “dog whistle” politics of the Republican Party. He is the new face of American white identity politics in the 21st century.

2. Right-wing producerism. Donald Trump has presented himself as an “everyman” who can speak for the “regular” people who feel alienated and frustrated by the Washington D.C. “insiders” who do not look out for the “little guy.” This is the crudest form of populist politics. Trump then aims his supporters’ anger towards an enemy: immigrants from Mexico who are coming to American to supposedly steal jobs while they rape and murder white women; or the Chinese he presents as a stereotypical devious and sneaky “yellow peril” Asian foe that only Trump can outmaneuver and conquer.

In this script, Donald Trump then promises to protect benefits like Social Security and health care, while creating a more fair tax code for “hardworking” (white) Americans who are under siege by “parasites”, i.e. the poor on one extreme, and the corporate monied classes on the other. Trump’s “makers and takers” language is then mated with hostility to some type of Other in order to excite and mobilize conservatives via right-wing populist zeal.

3. Herrenvolk politics (a system in which minorities are disenfranchised while the ethnic majority holds sway). Donald Trump is using white identity politics to win supporters. Combining overt and subtle racism, part of Trump’s appeal is that he promises to protect the resources and democratic rights of white Americans against their supposed exploitation and theft by non-whites. This is one of the foundations of right-wing producerism.

In the right-wing conservative imagination, real Americans are “hard working,” “Christian” and “white.” Their rights and privileges are to be protected at all costs against lazy black and brown people who are welfare queens, thugs or “illegal” immigrants. The social safety net—while torn at by the 1 percent and right-wing plutocrats—exists to serve white people and “real Americans” before any other group.  As was seen in Nazi Germany, South Africa, Israel, and other racist apartheid societies, the State exists to provide support and service to the “ingroup” or “master race” while the “outgroup” is denied the same benefits and rights. This is the core of Donald Trump’s herrenvolk appeal.

4. Social dominance behavior. Donald Trump’s supporters are drawn from the same core of aggrieved and angry white voters who comprise the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Research on this group shows that they are racially resentful, fearful of social change, hostile to people who are not like them, believe in natural hierarchies and order, seek out strong leaders, are deferent to authority, and exhibit a type of “bullying politics.” In many ways, Trumpmania is a frightening reflection of the authoritarian values that have infected American conservatives.

5. Know-Nothings. Donald Trump’s nativist, xenophobic and racist politics are the latest version of the 19th century American political movement known as the Know-Nothings. The Know-Nothings 1856 party platform included demands that “Americans must rule America; and to this end native-born citizens should be selected for all state, federal and municipal offices of government employment, in preference to all others…”

This is not unlike Trump’s ginning up of white anxiety and violence towards non-white immigrants.

6. The strong father and “manliness.” Donald Trump repeatedly talks about “strength” while slurring Barack Obama and other political enemies as “weak” or as “pansies.”

Trump is also not limited by what the right-wing sees as “weak” “liberal” notions of “political correctness” as he insults women and throws verbal bombs at any person who disagrees with him.

Right-wing ideologues and authoritarians idolize the strong father figure, one who often uses punitive means of discipline to maintain high levels of control over his wife and children. (The right-wing’s latest slur, “cuckservative,” also reflects their anxieties about white masculinity, race, and sexual potency.)

Donald Trump uses gendered language because America’s political class often defaults to a framework where the Democrats are framed as being weak, feminine or too intellectual. By comparison, the Republicans are depicted as strong, manly and decisive.

Donald Trump is playing the role of strongman for the right-wing ideologues and movement conservatives who are aroused by such a figure because the latter fulfills a psychological need for security and protection in a world they view as dangerous and changing too rapidly. His name-calling, bullying swagger, and indifference to norms of comportment and reasonable behavior are central to Trump’s popularity.

7. Performance art and spectacular politics. Donald Trump’s political success is a product of reality television show culture.

Reality television shows are scripted. The genre is wildly popular among American viewers because it is part of an “empire of illusion” that distracts and confuses the public while allowing them to live out their fantasies and wish fulfillment.

In keeping with that dynamic, Trump’s obsessions with “ratings” and public opinion polls that supposedly show his “popularity” are the result of a broken civic and moral culture that equates “likes” on Facebook or “votes” on American Idol with substantive measures of virtue or human value.

Ultimately, Donald Trump is using his background as a reality TV show host, business celebrity, and fan of professional wrestling to engage in a type of ridiculous and exaggerated performance art that mocks the notion of normal politics. Because Trump is not interested in normal politics—Trump is reality TV mixed with professional wrestling—he is relatively immune from derailment or substantive engagement by the news media or his political rivals in the Republican Party.

8. Conspiracy theories and the paranoid style. Donald Trump was one of the most prominent advocates of “Birtherism”—a belief that Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, was somehow not eligible for the office because he is not a “real” citizen.

This is an absurdly racist claim; nevertheless it is one that is still believed by 66 percent of Trump supporters and 45 percent of Republicans. Birtherism was the first of many conspiracy theories that would be invented by the right-wing media in the age of Obama. Obsessions about Planned Parenthood, ACORN and Benghazi would follow. These delusions are part of a long pattern of right-wing paranoia that Richard Hofstadter detailed in his landmark 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

The right-wing media and the Republican Party’s embrace of conspiracy theories and paranoid delusions contribute to a broken political system because too much time is spent on the absurd instead of doing the work of real governance. The conspiracy fantasies of Donald Trump and the American right-wing constitute an alternative reality that is immune from facts. Consequently, these beliefs function as a type of religious cult where faith—what is a belief that cannot be proven by ordinary means—is substituted for empirical reality.

Donald Trump’s “birtherism” alternate reality is compelling and exciting for those who believe in it. Such conspiranoid delusions are dangerous because they create extreme political polarization, a political system that cannot fulfill its basic functions, encourage violence, and tear at the common beliefs and values that create a sense of political legitimacy and community in the United States.

Informed citizens can create positive political change. An ignorant public can be easily swayed, manipulated, and duped to act against their self-interest and the Common Good.

Donald Trump is a charismatic figure who embodies the fears, hopes, and anxieties of an aggrieved and frustrated white America. He is the hero they are desperate for. He is a product of a particular coincidence of broken politics, an irresponsible Fox News echo chamber media, and a scared and racially resentful public.

Chauncey DeVega’s essays on race, politics and popular culture can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com/. He is a regular guest on Ring of Fire Radio and TV, and hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Follow him on Twitter.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/8-reasons-white-people-get-suckered-racial-demagogues-donald-trump

 

Putting Lipstick on a Pig: 4 Messes that Sink the GOP’s Dreams of Regaining the Presidency

How does a party of insular, rigid true believers, thrusting warlike middle fingers towards modernity, talk itself into modernizing?

Source: Alternet

Author: Robert Becker

Emphasis Mine

Beyond rightwing foment and self-flagellation, epic dilemmas bedevil all Republican dreams of regaining a national majority:

1)    Fealty to manifestly discredited belief systems (cultural, economic, religious, and scientific);

2)    Fealty to disgraced, ideological leaders whose arteries are hardening, rhetorically-suicidal and/or slow to get demographic “death spirals;”

3)    Justified anxiety that “rebranding” different enough to engage newly-empowered centrists will alienate far more base zealots already feeling besieged from both sides.

4)    Reactionary robber barons will keep afloat any “anti-business Obama” gang, whatever the setbacks, with plenty more billions to secure favorable permits, subsidies, laws, and deregulation.

In a nutshell, how does a party of insular, rigid true believers, thrusting warlike middle fingers towards modernity, talk itself into modernizing just because it lost one election? Aside from putting lipstick on a pig, where’s the miraculous (earthbound) agency that modernizes angry, resentful Tea Partiers whose outrage targeted the very diverse, younger, secular crowds now crowning the future?

GOP loyalty to losers

On point, unlike liberal losers who politely leave the stage (nearly all but Carter and Gore since 1980), Republican flops and misfits endure for decades, poisoning hate media and Sunday talk shows, even wreaking havoc across GOP primaries. That Newt Gingrich, or shameless, still illiterate Sarah Palin types get to harangue anyone beyond pets, testifies to the unholy resilience of party-wounding blowhards. In fact, Mitt Romney looks to be the exception by getting the quick boot, but then his staggeringly dumb remarks justify exile to the W. gulag. Dick Cheney gets more respect.

What close observer thinks that rightwingers will adapt simply because minority status looms? In fact, authoritarian control freaks live off opposition, especially from upstarts with darker skins with less money (thus  moochers voting themselves ‘gift’ handouts). Face facts, as Mittens speaks for most Republicans (certainly hordes of over-compensated CEOs), his party is beyond “rebranding” but needing once-a-century reformation – or more devastating national defeats.

Further, since Tea Party fanatics would rather fight and lose than switch, they won’t abandon prime commandments. Certainly not 1) big government is bad government, except when killing enemies. Or 2) only low taxes guarantee growth and job creation (ditto, less regulations and red tape). That 3) states rights are still divinely-ordained (bring back the Civil War), or 4) Christianity is, let’s be honest, the world’s best, truest religion. And, finally, what reluctant reformers doubt 5) free-market capitalism isn’t authorized by whatever Biblical texts defend profits, exploiting the earth, and infinitely expandable markets. Hands, anyone?

Disasters only blessings in disguise

Why should hard-hearted, religious fundamentalists, in lock step with economic fundamentalists called robber barons, reconfigure such magical thinking simply because unwashed minorities screw up popular elections. That’d be surrendering under siege, and good Christian soldiers reflexively distort momentary defeats into blessings in disguise, spiritual tests airmailed by God. After all, the big, cosmic truths are self-evident and fixed, and quick, selective historical readings proving majorities are far less perfect than the Good Book. Plus, the GOP is still armed and dangerous, knowing how to organize, collect billions, forge unanimity of thought, marry old-time religion with employment and regressive values, even do what Mormons once celebrated, “lying for the Lord.” For more on the narcotic of lying, see Amanda Marcotte’s excellent piece, “Conservatives’ crisis of confidence.”

Of course willful ignorance extends beyond politics, and the enduringly dumb war against science goes beyond secession chatter after a loss. Blithering idiots indict both the competence and honor of the entire modern science complex, snubbing reproductive and evolutionary biology, geology, anthropology, archeology, ecology, climatology, astronomy plus incontrovertible carbon dating. Nor do like-minded Biblical literalists hesitate to impugn the world’s greatest experts on language, scriptural texts, even independent scholars proving the “inerrant Holy Bible” was a calculated amalgam edited by fallible humans, promoting consensus-building, with marketable chapters that favor church expansion. Will those who defy this sweep of intellectual and moral advancement reverse entrenched fantasies because a black hustler, born who knows where, finagled his way into a second term? Is that the incentive to abandon all that wishful thinking driving glorious conspiracy theories?

Doubt not conservatism

Thus, two weeks of soul-searching and behold, bold and mighty breakthroughs: “Never give up conservative principles, just make them sound less offensive.” Back to the PR drawing board: “better pandering to key demographics.” The “great ideas of conservatism” are untarnished, ruined only by wretched pitchman, like that tin-ear plutocrat, or Karl “over-the-hill” Rove, or FOX goons aghast at actual election results. Rock-ribbed conservatives don’t need change but changed decoys that cover up failed mindsets and disaster agendas.

Forget rebranding: what addicts to unreality need is psychological intervention. But, alas, that only works when the dope fiends (in both senses) admit vulnerability (too much like sin), then accept input from trained, outside experts (sounds like trusting elites). That leaves only a course in miracles, but that’s a longer shot still.

For ultimately the GOTP (Good Old Tea Party) doesn’t merely revere American Exceptionalism but Republican Exceptionalism. The right is doomed by the inviolate, mystical conviction of its own superiority. That’s what obstinate obstructionism is all about: truth is not open to discussion, especially framed by secular heathens. I’ll believe in rebranding when the GOP stops disenfranchising voters or backs off Congressional gerrymandering behind its dishonest majority, considering how many fewer overall House votes it received. I’ll accept rebranding when the right stops sabotaging majority rule with chronic filibustering. Since “rebranding” leaves unchanged all core assumptions, we’re finally talking shifts in public relations, not human orcommunity relations. More’s the pity.

The GOP Proctology Clinic?

So folks like Governor Jindal can wish away “the politics of stupid” but what about the politics of ignorance, the willful blindness that denies legitimacy to a re-elected president and unarguable electoral outcomes? Now wouldn’t that neat principle attract awakened minorities and women, profoundly offended by racist, anti-immigrant, anti-women and anti-science ideologues? If true believers are open to adaptation, let’s begin not only with immigration but climate change, fussing less about who caused what than what emergency measures are necessary to stem the tide.

We all search for evidence that real change is in the offing, on the right or the left, for that matter. To this end, I fervently second the cumbersome solution put forth by that stalwart Republican, Haley Barbour – his party demands nothing less than a “very serious proctology exam” that needs “to look everywhere.”  Right, bring on those bloated, obstructed fat cats, kicking and screaming in high dudgeon. Karl Rove, first up, then Romney, Ryan and Rush Limbaugh. No videos, please, for even rationalists can only take so much reality.

Robert S. Becker writes on politics and culture.

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/putting-lipstick-pig-4-messes-sink-gops-dreams-regaining-presidency?akid=9704.123424.O5Vcj3&rd=1&src=newsletter748106&t=3

Paul Krugman Reveals the Outrageous Con Job Behind the Savage GOP Budget

“The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Paul Krugman, Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

It can be tough, Paul Krugman allows in Friday’s column, to keep up the level of outrage at Republican lawmakers who do not seem to be in any way bound to the rules of honor or honesty in their budget proposal. Like, not at all.

“Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits,” Krugman opens, “but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar ‘magic asterisk’ — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

“But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spendingone on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.”

How bad is it? It is beyond horrendous. It may be tempting to ignore these budget proposals, or convince one’s self that such budgets never become law, but the fact is, as Krugman points out, the “modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.” Some of the proposals are well known: drastic cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and a disastrous end to Obamacare health insurance subsidies, both of which amount to a deliberate plan to roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. Other cuts would have to come from Social Security and Medicare, though the Republican authors do not come right out and admit that. It almost goes without saying that the budgets call for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which includes the taxes that pay for it, or, Krugman estimates, $1 trillion in revenue, with absolutely no hint on how to make up for that. “It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior,” Krugman writes. “The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.”

What’s really going on? The charitable explanation is that the Republicans honestly believe the demonstrably false horseshit that tax cuts for the rich help anybody but the rich, and somehow magically create revenue for the government. (Yeah, makes no sense.) Krugman, of course, does not buy it. And it makes him very, very angry, as it should make all of us.

I’m partial to a more cynical explanation. Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.

Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere? Yes, it does.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/paul-krugman-reveals-outrageous-con-job-behind-savage-gop-budget?akid=12915.123424.Qf-t4O&hrd=1&src=newsletter1033571&t=3

When You Hear Conservatives Talking About Religious Liberty, Watch Out

Source: Alternet

Author: Bob Shryock

“At the dawn of the Tea Party revolution, many conservatives were optimistic. The prevailing attitude among reporters and insiders alike was that the Republican Party had shed its misguided moralism and embraced hard-nosed economic realism as its core platform. Political author Dick Morris wrote, “No longer do evangelical or social issues dominate the Republican ground troops….There is still a litmus test for admission to the Republican Party. But no longer is it dominated by abortion, guns and gays. Now, keeping the economy free of government regulation, reducing taxation, and curbing spending are the chemicals that turn the paper pink.”

New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, author of Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, agreed. “For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion.”

Yet despite its focus on libertarianism, this new Republican bloc has spent the last three years fighting with unprecedented aggressiveness on the very social issues it was supposedly unconcerned with. Between 2011 and 2013, Republicans enacted 205 anti-abortion laws, more than they had in the prior 10 years combined (189). The Kansas house passed a bill that would give any individual, even essential government employees and hospital workers, the right to deny service to gay people. Though the bill did not pass the senate, similar bills are being introduced in at least nine other states, according to Mother Jones.

So what had changed? More than anything, it was the way that opposition to abortion and gay rights was justified: in the words of BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, “in terms of protecting religious freedom instead of enforcing ‘family values.’” This change made Republicans appear more moderate, but actually signaled a rightward shift. Conservative ideas of religious liberty posited that the government’s eventual goal was the oppression of conservative Christians, and compromise on any religious liberty issues—which encompassed abortion, gay rights, and the Affordable Care Act—would be a violation of Christian faith. The notion of religious liberty thus gave small-government politics a cosmic imperative.

The Rhetoric of Religious Liberty

In the last few years, Republicans have become more and more focused on not “paying for abortions.” In February, Jeff Jimerson, one of the chief petitioners for a ballot measure in Oregon that would outlaw using state funds to pay for an abortion, summarized this view in the New York Times. Jimerson said, “We don’t want to make this a pro-life thing. This is a pro-taxpayer thing. There are a lot of libertarians in Oregon, people who don’t really care what you do, just don’t make me pay for it.”

Jimerson’s views happen to be in line with the official 2012 GOP platform, which opposed “using public revenues to promote or perform abortions or fund organizations which perform or advocate it” and said the party would not “fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”

On the surface, this position may seem a softer stance, perhaps one that could offer a place for abortion rights with a conscience exemption. This makes it all the more strange that the last three years have seen renewed anti-abortion efforts at the state level. Stranger still, the laws passed during the last three years have done very little to block the government from funding abortions: the four most popular restrictions in 2013 were laws that limited insurance coverage, banned abortion pills, instituted 20-week bans, and restricted the function of abortion providers.

How did opposing paying for abortions lead to the largest anti-abortion rights push in memory? According to New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, “by framing the abortion debate in terms of fiscal conservatism, [Republicans] can make a connection to the issue they believe will ultimately decide who controls Congress next year — the Affordable Care Act.”

Eric C. Miller, professor of communication ctudies at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, noted in an analysis of a recent Bobby Jindal speech that, “When he takes up the claim that ‘the freedom to exercise your religion in the way you run your business’ is ‘under assault,’ for instance, you can bet that he’s talking about abortion. You can also bet that a Hobby Lobby anecdote is about to drop. Here the freedom to run a business according to conscience routinely stands in for the less marketable freedom-to-not-provide-comprehensive-health-insurance-for-female-employees.”

Besides worrying that the ACA’s contraception mandate would force religious employers to fund birth control, conservatives also expressed concerns that the ACA would create a “ financial windfall” for Planned Parenthood, and that it would “ entangle taxpayer funds in abortion coverage.”

All of these concerns can be encompassed by objections to the state funding abortion. Because of this, legislation that attempts to prevent government funding of abortion is often also anti-Obamacare legislation. As Jimerson’s petition website claims, “This initiative would prohibit public funds in Oregon from being used to pay for…government-subsidized health insurance plans created by ObamaCare.”

Still, why all the anti-abortion laws that seem to have no connection to the ACA? In fact, the fight against the ACA has simply caused conservatives to connect liberty with anti-abortion laws more generally, not just ones that directly deal with “paying for abortions.”

The evangelical Christian minister David Barton said that people who are “pro-abortion” are really “pro-socialism.” This is, “they’re pro bigger government, less individual rights and responsibilities.” In Barton’s mind, pro-choice ideas are always connected to big government liberalism, and libertarianism is thus pro-life. In this environment, fighting government, fighting the ACA, and fighting abortion have been so connected that a blow against abortion rights is a blow against the ACA, and also the (imagined) repressive state, even when the specifics of the law have everything to do with restricting individual freedom and nothing to do with the ACA at all.

Religious Liberty Justifies New Anti-Gay Movement

In 2013, a new brand of “religious liberty” stories circulated around right-wing news outlets. Townhall.com told readers about an “ Air Force Officer Forced to Remove Bible From Desk,” a Fox News article titled “Soldier Who Read Conservative Books Now Faces Charges” gained 12,000 likes, and “Investigation: Bakery Forced to Make Lesbian Wedding Cake” made headlines at WorldNetDaily. “ Judge Orders Wedding Cake Baker to Serve Gay Couples,” wrote the Drudge Report in December. According to Todd Starnes, a Fox News journalist who popularized many of these stories, “Christians are trading places with homosexuals,” that is, events like the repeal of don’t ask/don’t tell had flipped the narrative of oppression and oppressor.

Accoroding to Starnes, the government was now in the process of staging a war on Christianity. Ken Klukowski, a professor at Liberty University, at the time the director of the Family Research Council’s (FRC) Center for Religious Liberty, accused President Obama of “Chicago-style thuggery” toward Christians in an interview with the Christian Post last October. Retired Lt. General and Family Research Council vice-president William Boykin accused Obama of, in the words of a Christian Post reporter, supporting a “large and secretive Marxist movement seeking to remove all dependence on God and references to the deity from civil society.”

The FRC, an organization focused narrowly on abortion and same-sex marriage, could thus say without irony, “Our message is simple but enormously important: Everything we care about hinges on religious liberty.” Republican advocacy groups weren’t the only ones obsessed with the idea: every major Republican presidential candidate in 2012 claimed religious freedom was under attack.

The rhetorical transformation did not go unnoticed. Jay Michaelson of Political Research Associates wrote in a report titled “Redefining Religious Liberty” that “Religious conservatives have succeeded in reframing the debate, inverting the victim-oppressor dynamic, and broadening support for their agenda” and that the religious liberty argument represented a “key front in the broader culture war designed to fight the same social battles on new-sounding terms.”

It may have sounded nicer, but the practical implication of religious freedom rhetoric was a more virulent homophobic agenda. Michaelson wrote that this new discourse should not be understood “as an attempt to create not religious exemptions” but rather “ the evisceration of civil right protections themselves. If any individual or business can refuse to recognize a person’s civil rights on the pretext of religious belief, those rights are functionally meaningless.”

Religious Liberty Rhetoric Leads to Government Shutdown

On the eve of the government shutdown, Representative Michelle Bachmann told a reporter from the Washington Examiner, “This is historic, and it’s a historic shift that’s about to happen, and if we’re going to fight, we need to fight now.”

Less than a month prior, Bachmann stated, on the radio show of Olive Tree Ministries’ Jan Markell that Obama’s actions as President signaled the rapture: “Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand…. When we see up is down and right is called wrong…these days would be as the days of Noah.”

Bachmann wasn’t the only one to view herself as what the Daily Beast’s Joe McLean called a “ modern prophet of the apocalypse.” Four days later, Ted Cruz said at the FRC’s Values Voters Summit that America was “a couple of years” away from the “cliff of oblivion.”

Apocalyptic ideas have been part of America since its founding, and among conservative Christians, they’re experiencing something of a renaissance. According to author Chip Berlet, “Since the early 1990s, a sector of the political right in the United States has embraced a specific set of conspiracy theories revolving around government plans to impose tyranny.”

In the ’90s, this synthesis of evangelical Christianity and anti-government paranoia was restricted to the margins: militias, homeschoolers and scattered megachurch pastors. But they gained a wider audience through media: radio shows, websites and books, most notably, the apocalyptic thriller series Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye. In Left Behind, satanic forces and government forces literally mix—the antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, ascends to power by becoming president of the United Nations, and uses that role to bring the world under his control, all with the aid of the (mostly liberal) folks who hadn’t been raptured. Left Behind sold 63 million copies. Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell said Left Behind had a greater “impact on Christianity” than “any book in modern times, outside the Bible.”

Today’s conservatives may not have quite so dramatic a vision of the apocalypse, but Tea Partiers like Bachmann and Cruz seem to have internalized the idea that, to borrow a phrase from progressive Christian blogger Fred Clark, “the abolition of all religion…is exactly what [liberals] are hoping for.” They’ve also made use of the conservative infrastructure LaHaye helped to construct: a group he founded, the Council for National Policy, called the “most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of” by ABC, designed and built the government shutdown.

According to the Nation’s Lee Fang, the CNP’s ad-hoc coalition, the Conservative Action Project, “initially floated the idea of attaching funding for Obamacare to the continuing resolution, and followed up with grassroots organizing, paid advertisements and a series of events designed to boost the message of senators like Ted Cruz.” The justification for these actions was, in the words of the Conservative Action Project, the Affordable Care Act’s “ unprecedented  attack on life and religious liberty.”

For conservatives, religious liberty was built on an anti-government, apocalyptic attitude, which posited what Eric C. Miller calls an “overarching conspiracy.” Conservative religious liberty claims rely on the idea that people in power really do desire the end of, or at least dramatic restrictions on, conservative Christianity.

Jay Michaelson wrote, “One recurring theme in the right-wing literature is the sense of a ‘coming storm’…Like the red menace, the secularist danger is imminently looming. The metaphors are appropriately biblical: soon there will be a flood of litigation, a firestorm of controversy. Indeed, these apocalyptic pronouncements resonate closely with…Christian Reconstructionism/pre-millennialism specifically. The ‘coming storm’ and the End Times are not distant from one another.”

Rob Shryock is a freelance journalist covering topics such as evangelical Christian culture, religion in the military and Islamophobia. He frequently writes for Religion Dispatches.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/when-you-hear-conservatives-talking-about-religious-liberty-watch-out?akid=11561.123424.lwfyaK&rd=1&src=newsletter965135&t=5