For generations, conservatives have appealed to fear to protect the privileged and preserve the status quo — fear of immigrants, fear of diversity, fear of big government. For conservatives in 2010, it’s easy:
Meanwhile, for more than a century — in churches and temples, in union halls and neighborhood centers, in the streets and at the ballot box — progressives have moved the country forward. Progressives brought us minimum wage and Social Security in the 1930s, civil rights and Medicare in the 1960s, and health care and Wall Street reform in 2010
Opponents of these accomplishments — some of society’s most privileged and well-entrenched interest groups — have not changed much. The John Birch Society of 1965 has bequeathed its fervor and extremism to the Tea Party of 2010.
History tells us that rage on the right should not be confused with populism. The far right attacks government regulation as it feeds Wall Street and the insurance companies. It rails against government spending for the least privileged as it lavishes tax cuts favoring the most privileged.
No one should be surprised over what has happened in the last 18 months:
- We passed health care reform, so the insurance companies are coming after us at election time.
- We enacted consumer protections for homeowners and credit card users, so Wall Street is spending millions to defeat us.
- We worked to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, and now large multinational corporations are doing everything possible to beat us.
- We already know the damage that comes from the right’s rage. During President Clinton‘s eight years, our country added more than 22 million private sector jobs, incomes went up, and we enjoyed the largest budget surplus in U.S. history.
In the following eight years of the Bush administration, only 1 million jobs were added, incomes stagnated or plummeted for most Americans, and we were left with record budget deficits.
Yet Republican candidates in 2010 are offering the same faux populism and “solutions” of the Bush years: more tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of special interests, and trade agreements that cost us millions of manufacturing jobs. And in places like my state of Ohio, they are even offering up as candidates the same people who got us into this mess.
To fight back, progressives must talk about the historic accomplishments of the last 18 months in specific, understandable terms:
- We saved the U.S. auto industry in the face of naysayers’ exhortation to “let the market work,” and our efforts preserved hundreds of thousands of jobs.
- We passed health care reform that improves drug benefits for senior citizens, provides coverage to those with a pre-existing condition, allows a 22-year-old daughter home from college to stay on her parents’ insurance, and promises health care for millions of Americans.
- We made college more affordable for students and passed historic legislation for our nation’s veterans and for equal pay for women.
If you have a 401(k), take a look at it today and compare it with the day before President Obama was inaugurated. Back then, 750,000 jobs were being lost each month, with 22 consecutive months of job loss costing 8 million jobs. We’ve got a long ways to go, but this year we’ve seen eight straight months of private sector job growth.
Is this enough? No, which is why progressives must rally and persevere. Continue reading…