(Co-written with James Boyce)
Last Saturday, in the not new news event of the weekend, Senator Barack Obama made it official. He is running for President. He is a strong candidate and a welcome addition to the race. During his remarks, he said this:
“…I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.”
Senator Obama sincerely believes in his vision of a better country, a more hopeful and decent place. But as we checked through the reviews of his announcement, we were filled not with hope, but with concern.
In today’s political arena, hope and decency will get you slaughtered. The forces that will line up against the Democratic nominee in 2008 will not be playing a hopeful and decent game – it will be a battle to the death with a neo-conservative, corporatist, authoritarian movement that has spent billions of dollars seizing power over the last forty years. The $mear machine is already directing its guns at Senator Obama with nasty whisper campaigns, racial insinuations, etc.
So would a President Obama be able to work with them, and get them to compromise and put the interests of the country before those of the conservative movement? No. (This has been another episode of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.)
As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango,” and the right isn’t in a dancing mood. If we’re going to get anything done for the good of the country we, as Digby says, need to drive a stake through the heart of the authoritarian right. Destroy them and then you can rebuild with hope. But have no doubt, you must destroy them first. Here are a few highlights of the recent tactics of this authoritarian-right strategy in action. Hope doesn’t have a chance. As Digby wrote,
This is an issue with which every American, regardless of party, should be concerned. The founders knew that relying on the good will of men in power is stupid and we are seeing their predictions come true before our very eyes. The modern Republican leadership may currently have a monopoly on authoritarian impulses, but they are by no means the only people in this country who could be seduced by this Republican notion of executive authority. The constitution is what protects all Americans from the dark side of human nature when it has power over others, regardless of party or political philosophy. Those of us who worry about this usurpation of the constitution and degradation of the Bill of Rights know that this is not a passing fashion that will easily be tucked back into its former shape. Once you allow powerful men to seize power it’s awfully hard to persuade their successors to give it back.
John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Robocalls were used against John McCain by Bush operatives in which South Carolina voters were asked if they really wanted to vote for a man with a ‘nigger’ baby. (Senator McCain has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.) Whisper campaigns spread even worse things about him.
Max Cleland, severely wounded serving his country in Vietnam, was $meared as unpatriotic in Georgia in 2002. Saxby Chamblis, who deferred out of Vietnam with a bad knee, ran ads showing pictures of him with pictures of Osama Bin Laden while Max was being attacked for being soft on national security. If he had lost his one remaining limb, would that have been enough sacrifice? No, and they continue to $mear him.
Ambassador Joe Wilson in 2003. Perhaps Senator Obama should take a moment to understand the lessons of the current trial of “Scooter” Libby. The White House, in order to justify a war that will cost $500 billion and thousands of American lies, attacked Joe Wilson (who told the truth) by revealing that his wife was a CIA agent (whose job,by the way, was tracking down terrorists who were attempting to obtain weapons of mass destruction) and didn’t bat an eye doing it.
John Kerry in 2004. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were funded largely by three men who gave almost $10 million to pay veterans – veterans who never served with John Kerry – to lie and create doubt about his three Purple Hearts and medals for heroism. The key “Swiftboater” John O’Neill had first been used as a ‘counterfoil’ to John Kerry by Richard Nixon.
How about the Republican Party running an operation to jam Democratic Party phones during the 2002 election in New Hampshire?
Racist ads. Racist robocalls in Virginia.
Is Senate buddy John McCain ready to be fair and “decent,” Senator? A clue may be found from his hiring a campaign manager known for using racist tactics.
You can’t beat this with hope, Senator Obama. Hope and decency and belief on fundamental fairness doesn’t make you President – touch base with Al Gore about that. Strength beats strength. A degree of evil is required to overcome pure evil. Anything else is not hopeful, but naive – just as Neville Chamberlain discovered when he tried to negotiate peace with the devil.
You can have all the hope in the world, Senator Obama, but you better remember to at least bring a gun to a gun fight.