The definition of a political “dog whistle” is a communication (or series of communications) that convey to key members of an interest or constituency group gratifying but potentially controversial affirmations of their views without the mainstream media or the broader electorate catching on. By that standard, Rick Perry’s big “day of prayer and fasting” in Houston over the weekend was a very successful dog whistle.
Mainstream and secular-conservative media coverage of the event (dubbed “The Response,” itself a dog whistle reference to an ongoing series of dominionist events operating under the brand of “The Call” aimed at mobilizing conservative evangelicals to assume leadership of secular society) generally concluded that it was a largely “non-political” gathering–just some Christians upset about the bad economy and their own moral failings who got together to pray over it.
A few reporters who watched and listened more carefully, and had a Christian Right decoder ring on hand, had a very different take. Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner, who knows the ins and outs of dominionist thinking exceptionally well, and who attended the Houston event, explained its intent as an act of political mobilization:
“[C]ommand” and “obedience” were the day’s chief buzzwords for many speakers, as repentance was required on behalf of yourself, your church, and your country for having failed to commit yourself to Jesus, for having permitted abortion and “sexual immorality,” for failing to cleanse yourself of “filthiness,” and to repent for having “touched what is unclean….”
The people who gathered at Reliant Stadium are not just Rick Perry’s spiritual army, raised up, as Perry and others imagine it, in the spirit of Joel 2, to sound an alarm and prepare the people for Judgment Day. They are the ground troops the religious right set out four decades ago to create, and duplicate over generations, for the ongoing culture wars. One part of that army is people like Perry himself, supported by religious right political elites who aimed to cultivate candidates, advocates, and political strategists committed to putting God before government.
That a sitting governor would laugh off charges that his “instigation” of an exclusively Christian–and, more specifically, a certain kind of Christian–event is proof of the success of the cultural and spiritual warriors, who believe they are commanded to “take dominion” over government and other spheres of influence. Perry is their man in a high place, in this case an especially courageous one, willing to rebuff charges from the “radical secularists” that he’s crossed the line between church and state. That makes him something much more than just a political or spiritual hero; he is an exemplar.
Slate’s Dave Weigel was also in Houston, and his report debunks the talk of the event being “nonpolitical” by understanding, like Posner, the political freight of the particular strain of evangelical Christianity mostly represented there:
[According to] Pete Ortega, one of dozens of people who’s come up from San Antonio on buses from John Hagee’s church…there is nothing political about the event, he says. He just wants to praise Perry.
“If this is successful here,” he says, “I think other governors, or other politicians, will come out of the closet. Christianity is under attack, and we don’t speak out about it.”
That’s the brilliance of what Perry has done here: These ideas don’t contradict each other at all. He doesn’t need to talk about politics, or do anything besides be here and understand this event. The religion is the politics. These worshippers understand that if they can bring “the kingdom of God” to Earth, economic problems, even macroeconomic problems, will sort themselves out….
The soon-to-be Republican presidential frontrunner, who is best known among liberal voters for raising the prospect of secession and for presiding over hundreds of executions, has just presented himself as a humble messenger of obvious biblical truth. “Our heart breaks for America,” he says. “We see discord at home.
We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government.” It’s one day since S&P downgraded America’s bond rating, in part because the agency worried that conservative Republicans had proved that they would never agree to a debt-reducing bargain that included tax increases. Perry was pulling off an impressive act of transference.
Observers who don’t get any of what Posner and Weigel are talking about are in effect assisting him in the effort to execute his dog whistle appeal to activists whose world-view is entirely alien to nearly all secular Americans and most mainstream Christians. But just because much of the country can’t hear it doesn’t mean it cannot serve as a powerful inducement to political activity in a presidential nominating process where small determined groups of people can have a big impact.
By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, August 8, 2011
It sure is funny that, at basically the same time, state legislatures across the country began passing a slew of similar measures attacking collective bargaining, undocumented immigration and abortion, right? Just a weird coincidence, I’m sure, this sudden nationwide war on public employee unions and immigrants and women.
Hah, I am just kidding. We all know it’s because of lobbyists and the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is sort of a Match.com for state lawmakers and the nation’s worst industry lobbies. The Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed project has a handy list of the hundreds of bills ALEC pushes in every state in the union, on subjects ranging from school vouchers to gutting environmental regulations to opposition to the National Popular Vote Compact. (Yeah, that one I don’t even get.)
Here’s how the ALEC process works: GOP state legislators go to fancy conferences where they sit down with lobbyists and right-wing activists and draft right-wing legislation together. They return home and introduce it without mentioning the source. The lobbies then throw some cash at the legislators working to advance their agenda. Then, these days, the bill passes, and everyone else gets around to getting outraged about it, long after their outrage would do much good. Repeat.
This is how incredibly similar anti-immigration bills end up passing, independently, in Arizona and Tennessee. This is how bills against public employee collective bargaining end up passing in Wisconsin and Indiana. This is the process behind state resolutions banning the establishment of “Obamacare.” Our biggest national wars are being fought, and largely won, in the statehouses, with liberal activists not even joining the fight until after they’ve lost it.
Liberals aren’t this good at local politics. Unions and low-income organizations like ACORN used to take care of lobbying and politicking at the state and community level, but, oh, look what’s happened to them. Defunded!
It took a while for Democrats to figure out that they should have their own Heritage Foundation, and so far, they seem to be taking just as long to decide to create their own ALEC. (Of course the Democratic ALEC will probably also push “school reform” and pro-telecom bills and whatever else rich Democratic donors want.)
As a result of that late adoption, the famous laboratories of democracy are now often the places where massive, monied interests — along with their odd allies in the religious right — can implement their political agendas piece by piece, instead of trying to get their dream bills through the U.S. Congress, where all the cameras and journalists are. The sudden death of the small- and midmarket newspaper certainly helps. Your average local TV news doesn’t really do sophisticated policy analysis.
The closest thing liberals even have to a state to experiment with is … California, with its property-tax cap and public rejections of gay marriage and marijuana legalization. (Right-wingers know better than to trust legislating to the popular ballot, even though they’re quite good at organizing and spending huge sums of money to win ballot measures.)
Oh, the record number of bills restricting access to abortion services nationwide? That one might just be the natural Republican enthusiasm for controlling women’s bodies. I mean, the right-to-life groups obviously jumped into action when the GOP came into power and lobbied for all of the 162 new restrictions on reproductive rights enacted since the start of the year, but I’m not sure any specific business lobby benefits from it.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 14, 2011
After the huge wave of protests throughout February and March, the focus of activists in Wisconsin moved to the impending recall elections this summer. The winter actions erupted as a result of an anti-union bill which threatened to remove essentially all collective bargaining rights for public employees as well as hamstring unions by requiring the almost impossible tasks of annual recertification and individual opt-in dues collecting. In response, besides assembling in numbers reaching nearly one-hundred thousand, Wisconsin citizens amassed signatures on petitions to facilitate the recall of numerous state senators who had voted for Governor Walker’s duplicitous legislation.
In the past two months, though a presence of protesters has remained – with their t-shirts, buttons, signs, banners, vuvzelas – around the vicinity of the capitol building, it appeared the united front of thousands had waned. Groups still came to meet for solidarity sing-a-longs and to attend governmental committee hearings on the many new regressive, pro-corporate, anti-human bills being forwarded by the Wisconsin legislature. But with the recall elections on the horizon and with the recent small victory of the Dane County circuit court dismissing the anti-collecting bargaining law (as it had been passed so hastily as to not adhere to common legislative requirements), it appeared that Wisconsinites might be done with the fight, resting on their own laurels and those of the Democrats they hoped to elect via the recall.
Of course, the corporate media, who operate under the same anti-human system that fosters plutocracy and redistribution of wealth from the many to the few, would like nothing better than to make it appear that all is “back to normal” in the cheese state. So, perhaps few people outside of Wisconsin and even outside of Madison realize that we were serious when we said that this was not a protest but a movement. There is much yet to be accomplished.
As of 7pm on Saturday, June 4th, a diverse group of citizens, representing unionists, non-union workers, students, teachers, immigrants, farmers, families and people with no formal affiliation (save for being a part of the empathetic class who truly seeks liberty and justice for all) laid down their tents and founded “Walkerville” around the perimeter of the Wisconsin capitol building. With a nod to the Hooverville tent cities of the Great Depression, these activists are demonstrating that we are not only opposed to the aforementioned anti-union bill, but that we are opposed to the entire regressive budget of this state, which wholly removes the rights and social safeties for the most vulnerable members of our society and shifts all of the state’s bounty to the wealthiest and most anti-social corporate oligarchs. The police state enacted by the Walker administration has severely hampered the lawful and peaceful assembly of citizens in our own statehouse, so Walkerville exists to re-establish the constant presence and occupation by the people of the state, whose voice is being muted within the capitol.
Most importantly, Walkerville demonstrates that we in Wisconsin are not going to let up. Just as we are being attacked on all fronts as citizens, we will be fighting back on all fronts. Though the Democrats in our state legislature have stepped up to the plate and helped to support the will of the people, it is unlikely that they would have done so had their feet not been held to the fire. If we had not gathered in the capitol clearly proclaiming our will, our presence, and our solidarity, it is not clear the state Democrats would have had the impetus to help us fight. Thus we know that simply electing new officials will never be enough to ensure justice for the people from the government.
States like New York and California serve as prime examples of how the Democratic agenda is just as corporate as the Republican. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the son of a man once considered one of the strongest liberals in NY State history, is promoting many of the same brutal and unnecessary cuts to education and poverty programs. The underserved of California are faring no better under Jerry Brown. If we citizens fail to realize that we must pressure ALL politicians of all politician affiliations, and we must be prepared to fight indefinitely against the bipartisan corporate takeover of our local, state, and federal our government, we are sure to lose.
Walkerville signifies the fortitude of the Wisconsin people, and the recognition that our struggles as citizens are not soon to end. Our actions may take new forms or may morph as they are reassessed for utility, but they are far from over.
For those of us in Wisconsin who cannot camp out day and night around the capitol but still want to volunteer with the movement, there are numerous opportunities to be present for more protests and actions against the state budget, which will be negatively affecting all of us. (See Defend Wisconsin for full details.) For those in other states who will likely see similar developments, please know that we are still fighting, as you will surely have to fight too. The more we acknowledge that this struggle against the ruling class will be ongoing, that it affects us all, and that we may not ever be able to “return to normal,” the more likely we may have a fighting chance for our future.
Protest fatigue? Not in Wisconsin.
Three months after Governor Scott Walker proposed to strip state, county and municipal employees and public-school teachers of their collective bargaining rights, the governor’s agenda remains stymied. Legal challenges,moves to recall Republican legislators who have sided with the governor and the fear on the part of legislative leaders of mass protests have prevented implementation.
That fear is well-founded.
The Wisconsin protests have inspired similar demonstrations in states across the country, including state Capitol confrontations in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and, most recently, California and New York.
Yet, the energy in Wisconsin remains unmistakable, and unrelenting.
Three months to the day after the first large demonstration against Walker’s proposal, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites returned to the great square around the state Capitol and to town and village squares across the state to declare: “This Fight is NOT Over!”
“We’ve stopped Governor Walker’s plan to take away workers rights for three months — but he is not done. He has expanded his attack to seniors, college students, local schools and more. And he is still intent on ending collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin,” went the message from the Wisconsin unions and their allies — along with the “This Fight is NOT Over!” battlecry.
Saturday’s mass rally in Madison and other demonstrations came at a time when the Republican-controlled state legislature is weighing Walker’s budget proposal, which seeks to cut more than $1.5 billion from education and local services, while restructuring state government to take power away from elected school boards and local governments.
The fight inside the Capitol over the budget, and the rest of Walker’s economic, social and political agenda will be intense in coming weeks. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt warns that Walker and allies are rushing “to ram through their right wing priorities on corporate deregulation, school privatization and voter suppression before recall elections.”
The union leader was referring to special elections, which are expected as soon as July, that will determine the control of the state Senate.
Six Republican state senators face the threat of recall elections that could remove them, while three Democratic senators are similarly threatened.
The political intensity of the moment has kept the state on high alert, as Saturday’s demonstrations illustrated.
Organizers of the Madison demonstration — the We Are Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wave coalitions — estimated that Saturday’s rally drew between 15,000 and 20,000 Wisconsinites. Smaller rallies and events were held over the weekend across the state.
The crowd in Madison extended far beyond the base of public employees and teachers to include farmers, small business owners and students.
The demonstration in Madison took place on the same day as University of Wisconsin graduation ceremonies. A number of new graduates, wearing their caps and gowns, made their way to the Capitol after collecting their degrees.
One young woman stood outside the Capitol with a large sign that read: “UW Graduate — Thanks to Wisconsin Public School Teachers!”
By: John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation: Editor, Capital Times, Madison, WI.
This afternoon, the People’s Rights Campaign, a coalition of labor and community organizations, organized a community action on Madison’s Capitol Square. Activists scrounged for their last pennies and taped them to “deposit slips” so that they could be deposited directly into the accounts of the CEOs of M&I Bank, Bank of America and JPMorgan ChaseBank.
“Why should they have to pay any taxes at all when grubby peasants and working stiffs still have a few pennies left in their pockets?” asked the group’s press release.
Kim Grveles of Wisconsin Resists”What we’re trying to do here is call a spade a spade,” National Nurses United organizer Pilar Schiavo said. “Walker’s budget takes from the poor, seniors, students and workers at a time when people most need help. Walker is taking our last pennies and giving them to the rich and to corporations.”
Kim Grveles of Wisconsin Resists added, “We’re demonstrating Walker’s agenda to transfer money from people to corporate sponsors of the governor and other GOP members of the legislature. Every bill is making us poorer and making the big corporate campaign contributors wealthier just like a reverse Robin Hood– stealing from the working class poor and giving to the rich.
“The corporations aren’t paying their fair share in taxes, they’re getting bailout money and they’re making millions in profits every year.”
Organizers referenced a May 1st article in the Wisconsin State Journal that pointed out that “changes to a corporate tax law proposed in Walker’s budget may mean businesses would pay the state about $46 million less in taxes over the next two years– and $40 million less each year after that.”
Reverse Robin Hook Mike Amato speaks in front of M&IGroups of protestors spread out and took their pennies and deposit slips to the branches of M&I Bank, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase Bank closest to the Capitol.
At M&I, security guards locked the front door as soon as the group of a dozen or so approached. Mike Amato of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, who was dressed as a Reverse Robin Hood, tried giving his deposit slip to a guard, saying, “They want to create a peasant system, so we’re helping them out by being reverse Robin Hoods, stealing pennies from the poor to give to the rich.”
The security guard seemed unimpressed, later blocking off the entrance to the drive-thru teller window as well, saying that it was “private property” and making deposits to the CEO’s account would not be allowed, but he was later seen with a bank manager, discussing the text of one of the deposit slips the group had left behind.
Reverse Robin Hood’s BandAccording to Schiavo, a group of protestors succeeded in getting into the local Bank of America investment branch, where they deposited their pennies into CEO Brian Moynihan‘s account. Protesters were locked out of JPMorgan Chase Bank’s branch but were able to deposit their slips through the slit between the glass doors and leave them in a pile in the entryway.
Schiavo noted that the People’s Rights Campaign seeks, through this action, to call attention to their platform, which calls for “restored rights to living wage jobs, access to healthcare and retirement security rather than giving back to corporations that have already received money from the government and continue to give huge bonuses to their CEOs.”
By: Rebecca Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, May 11, 2011