mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Five Reasons The Occupy Wall Street Movement Really Frightens The Right

The Occupy Wall Street movement really frightens the Right Wing. It is not frightening to the Right because of Congressman Eric Cantor’s feigned fear of “the mob” that is “occupying our cities.” It is not frightening because anyone is really worried that Glenn Beck is correct when he predicts that the protesters will “come for you, drag you into the street, and kill you.”

That’s not why they are really frightened — that’s the Right trying to frighten everyday Americans.

There are five reasons why the Right is in fact frightened by the Occupy Wall Street movement. None of them have to do with physical violence — they have to do with politics. They’re not really worried about ending up like Marie Antoinette. But they are very worried that their electoral heads may roll.

All elections are decided by two groups of people:

Persuadable voters who always vote, but are undecided switch hitters. This group includes lots of political independents.

Mobilizable voters who would vote for one Party or the other, but have to be motivated to vote.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is so frightening to the Right because it may directly affect the behavior of those two groups of voters in the upcoming election.

1). The narrative

People in America are very unhappy with their economic circumstances. As a result the outcome of the 2012 election will hinge heavily on who gets the blame for the horrible economy — and who the public believes, or hopes — can lead them into better economic times.

Political narratives are the stories people use to understand the political world. Like all stories, they define a protagonist and antagonist. And political narratives generally ascribe to those central characters moral qualities — right and wrong.

For several years, the Tea Party-driven narrative has been in the ascendance to explain America’s economic woes. Its vision of the elites in government versus hard-working freedom-loving people has heavily defined the national political debate.

Of course at first glance it’s an easy case for them to make. The President, who is the head of the over-powerful, “dysfunctional” government, is in charge. Things aren’t going well — so he, and the government he runs, must be at fault.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has helped force the alternative narrative into the media and public consciousness. The recklessness and greed of the big Wall Street banks, CEO’s and top one percent — those are the culprits who sunk the economy and who have siphoned off all of the economic growth from the middle class. They and their enablers in Congress — largely Republicans — are the problem. To address the underlying economic crisis facing everyday Americans we must rein in their power.

This narrative is very compelling and, of course, it is true. It’s not that many voices haven’t framed the debate in these terms for years. But by creating a must- cover story, the Occupy Wall Street movement has forced it onto the daily media agenda. That is great news for Progressives. The longer it continues, the better.

Right Wing pundits have disparaged the Occupy Wall Street movement for not having specific “policy proposals” — but the Right knows better. The Occupy Wall Street movement is advocating something much more fundamental. It is demanding a change in the relations of power — reining in the power of Wall Street, millionaires and billionaires – the CEO class as a whole. It is demanding that everyday Americans — the 99% — share in the increases in their productivity and have more real control of their futures — both individually and as a society. Now that’s something for the Right to worry about.

2). Inside-Outside

Especially in periods when people are unhappy, the political high ground is defined by who voters perceive to be elite insiders and who they perceive to be populist outsiders. Who among the political leaders and political forces are actually agents of change?

In 2008, Barak Obama won that battle hands down. The Tea Party Movement muddied the water. It portrayed themselves as “don’t tread on me” populist outsiders doing battle with President Obama the elite, liberal insider.

Of course this ignores that the Tea Party was in many ways bought and paid for by huge corporate interests — but in the public mind it was a very compelling image.

The Right Wing has always had its own version of “class conflict.” Its “ruling class” is defined as the elite, intellectuals, bureaucrats, entertainers and academics that are out to destroy traditional values and undermine the well-being of ordinary Americans.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, coupled with the movements in Wisconsin and Ohio earlier this year, present an entirely different — and accurate — picture of who is on the inside and who is not.

3). Momentum

Politics is very much about momentum. Human beings are herding creatures — they travel in packs. People like to go with the flow. Whether in election campaigns, or legislative proposals, or social movements, or football games — the team with the momentum is much more likely to win.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has put the progressive forces in society on the offense — it has begun to build progressive momentum.

4). Movement

The Occupy Wall Street movement has managed to turn itself into a real “movement.” Movements don’t involve your normal run-of-the-mill organizing. Normally organizers have to worry about turning out people — or voters — one person or one group at a time. Not so with movements.

Movements go viral. They involve spontaneous chain reactions. One person engages another person, who engages another and so on. Like nuclear chain reactions, movements reach critical mass and explode.

That’s what makes them so potentially powerful — and so dangerous to their opposition.

Often movements are sparked by unexpected precipitating events — like the death of the fruit stand vendor in Tunisia that set off the Arab Spring. Sometimes they build around the determined effort of a few until that critical mass is reached.

In all cases movements explode because the tinder is dry and one unexpected spark can set off a wild fire.

Movements mobilize enormous resources — individual effort, money, person power – by motivating people to take spontaneous action.

The Occupy Wall Street movement in New York has spread to scores of cities — and the fire shows no sign of flaming out. It will fuel the engagement and remobilization of thousands of progressive activists and volunteers who had been demobilized and demoralized, but the sausage-making of the DC legislative process. That is a huge problem for the right that was counting on despondency and lethargy among progressives to allow them to consolidate their hold on political power in 2012.

5). Inspiration

More than anything else, in order to mount a counter-offensive against the Right wing next year, Progressives need to re-inspire our base. We need to re-inspire young people and all of the massive corps of volunteers who powered the victory in 2008.

Inspiration is critical to mobilization. It is also critical to persuasion. Swing voters want leaders who inspire them.

Inspiration is not about what people think — it’s about what they feel about themselves. When you’re inspired you feel empowered. You feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and that you — yourself — can play a significant role in achieving that larger goal.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has begun to inspire people all over America. That’s because people are inspired by example. They themselves are inspired if they see others standing up for themselves — speaking truth to power — standing up in the face of strong, entrenched opposition. People are inspired by heroic acts — by commitment — by people who say they are so committed that they will stay in a park next to Wall Street until they make change. That’s what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. That’s what happened in Wisconsin this spring.

The legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement could very well be the re-inspiration of tens of thousands of Progressives — and the engagement of young people that are so important to the future of the progressive movement in America.

Right-wingers will plant provocateurs in an attempt to stigmatize the Occupy Wall Street movement with violence — to make it look frightening. But if the Movement continues with the kind of single-minded purpose and commitment that we have seen so far, the Occupy Wall Street movement may very well make history. It has already become an enormous progressive asset as America approaches the critical crossroad election that could determine whether the next American generation experiences the American Dream or simply reads about it in their history books.

By: Robert Creamer, Published in Huff Post Politics, October 12, 2011

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Middle Class, Public Opinion, Teaparty, Voters, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Seach Of Human Liberty And Equality, The Constitution Is Inherently Progressive

Progressives disagree strongly with tea party views on government, taxation,  public spending, regulations and social welfare policies. But we credit the  movement for focusing public debate on our nation’s history, the Constitution  and the core beliefs that shape American life.

This conversation is long overdue — and too often dominated by narrow  interpretations of what makes America great.

Since our nation’s founding, progressives have drawn on the  Declaration of Independence’s inspirational values of human liberty and equality  in their own search for social justice and freedom. They take to heart the  constitutional promise that “We the People” are the ultimate source of political  power and legitimacy and that a strong national government is necessary to “establish justice, … provide for the common defense, promote the general  welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.”

Successive generations of progressives worked to turn these values into  practice and give meaning to the American dream, by creating full equality and  citizenship under law and expanding the right to vote. We sought to ensure that  our national government has the power and resources necessary to protect our  people, develop our economy and secure a better life for all Americans.

As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and  the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom  and opportunity. This framework of mutually reinforcing public, private and  individual actions has served us well for more than two centuries. It is the  essence of the constitutional promise of a never-ending search for “a more  perfect union.”

Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human  dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the  strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and  into the middle class. It is the basis for American peace and prosperity as well  as greater global cooperation in the postwar era.

So why do conservatives continue to insist that progressives are opposed to  constitutional values and American traditions? Primarily because progressives  since the late 19th century rejected the conservative interpretation of the  Constitution as an unchangeable document that endorses laissez-faire capitalism  and prohibits government efforts to provide a better existence for all  Americans.

Progressives rightly charge that conservatives often mask social Darwinism  and a dog-eat-dog mentality in a cloak of liberty, ignoring the needs of the  least well-off and the nation as a whole.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1944 address to Congress, “We  have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot  exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free  men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which  dictatorships are made.”

Yet according to modern conservative constitutional theory, the entire  Progressive, New Deal and Great Society eras were aberrations from American  norms. Conservatives label the strong measures taken in the 20th century to  protect all Americans and expand opportunity — workplace regulations, safe food  and drug laws, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, limits on work hours,  the progressive income tax, civil rights legislation, environmental laws,  increased public education and other social welfare provisions — as  illegitimate.

Leading conservatives, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, claim that Social Security  and Medicare are unconstitutional. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) even argues that  national child labor laws violate the Constitution.

They lash out at democratically enacted laws like the  Affordable Care Act and claim prudent regulations, including oversight of  polluters and Wall Street banks, violate the rights of business.

This is a profound misreading of U.S. history and a bizarre interpretation of  what makes America exceptional.

There are few Americans today who believe America was at its best before the  nation reined in the robber barons; created the weekend; banned child labor;  established national parks; expanded voting rights; provided assistance to the  sick, elderly and poor; and asked the wealthy to pay a small share of their  income for national purposes.

A nation committed to human freedom does not stand by idly while its citizens  suffer from economic deprivation or lack of opportunity. A great nation like  ours puts forth a helping hand to those in need. It offers assistance to those  seeking to turn their talents, dreams and ambitions into a meaningful and secure  life.

America’s greatest export is our democratic vision of government. Two  centuries ago, when our Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia to craft the  Constitution, government of the people, by the people and for the people was a  radical experiment.

Our original Constitution was not perfect. It wrote women and minorities out  and condoned an abhorrent system of slavery. But the story of America has also  been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually  welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms  and expanding their economic opportunities.

Today, entire continents follow America’s example. Americans are justifiably  proud for giving the world the gift of modern democracy and demonstrating how to  turn an abstract vision of democracy into reality.

The advancements we made collectively over the years to fulfill these  founding promises are essential to a progressive vision of the American idea.  The continued search for genuine freedom, equality and opportunity for all  people is a foundational goal that everyone — progressives and conservatives  alike — should cherish and protect.

By: John Podesta and John Halpin, Center For American Progress, Published in Politico, October 10, 2011

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Congress, Democrats, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Occupy Protests: A Timely Call For Justice

Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.

I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins. I love that they are spontaneous, leaderless and open-ended. I love that the protesters refuse to issue specific demands beyond a forceful call for economic justice. I also love that in Chicago — uniquely, thus far — demonstrators have ignored the rule about vagueness and are being ultra-specific about their goals. I love that there are no rules, just tendencies.

I love that when Occupy Wall Street was denied permission to use bullhorns, demonstrators came up with an alternative straight out of Monty Python, or maybe “The Flintstones”: Have everyone within earshot repeat a speaker’s words, verbatim and in unison, so the whole crowd can hear. It works — and sounds tremendously silly. Protest movements that grow into something important tend to have a sense of humor.

I can’t help but love that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the protests “growing mobs” and complained about fellow travelers who “have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.” This would be the same Eric Cantor who praised the Tea Party movement in its raucous, confrontational, foaming-at-the-mouth infancy as “an organic movement” that was “about the people.” The man’s hypocrisy belongs in the Smithsonian.

Most of all, I love that the Occupy protests arise at just the right moment and are aimed at just the right target. This could be the start of something big and important.

“Economic justice” may mean different things to different people, but it’s not an empty phrase. It captures the sense that somehow, when we weren’t looking, the concept of fairness was deleted from our economic system — and our political lexicon. Economic injustice became the norm.

Revolutionary advances in technology and globalization are the forces most responsible for the hollowing-out of the American economy. But our policymakers responded in ways that tended to accentuate, rather than ameliorate, the most damaging effects of these worldwide trends.

The result is clear: a nation where the rich have become the mega-rich while the middle class has steadily lost ground, where unemployment is stuck at levels once considered unbearable, and where our political system is too dysfunctional to take the kind of bold action that would make a real difference. Eventually, the economy will limp out of this slump, and things will seem better. Fundamentally, however, nothing will have changed.

Does that sound broad and unfocused? Yes, but it’s true.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters saw this broad, unfocused truth — and also understood that the place to begin this movement was at the epicenter of the financial system.

For most of our history, it was understood that the financial sector was supposed to perform a vital service for the economy: channeling capital to the companies where it could be most effectively used. But the rapid technological, economic and political change the world has witnessed in recent decades created myriad opportunities for Wall Street to channel capital to itself, often by inventing exotic new securities whose underpinnings may not exist. The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated the urgent need for reform.

It’s not that investment bankers should be held responsible for all the ills of the world. It’s that Wall Street is emblematic of an entire economic and political system that no longer seems to have the best interests of most Americans at heart.

So a ragtag group — not huge, but idealistic and determined — camps out in Lower Manhattan. A similar thing happens in two dozen other cities. And maybe a movement is born.

Already, after less than a month, commentators are asking whether the Occupy protests can be transformed into a coherent political force. For now, at least, I hope not.

We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait.

At some point, these protest encampments will disappear — and, since the nation and the world will not have changed, they’ll be judged a failure. But I’ve got a hunch that this likely judgment will be wrong. I think the seed of progressive activism in the Occupy protests may grow into something very big indeed.

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 10, 2011

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Congress, Consumers, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideology, Income Gap, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Economic Royalists”: The Panic Of The Plutocrats

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.

Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.

And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.

Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 9, 2011

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Capitalism, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Democracy, Equal Rights, Financial Reform, GOP, Ideologues, Journalists, Media, Middle Class, Politics, Press, Pundits, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Truth About Voter Suppression

The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country’s archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.

The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: “The same cracks in the system have persisted.”

But most politicians in both parties paid lip service to the idea that every American citizen had a right to vote, and that higher voting levels of the sort taken for granted in most democracies would be a good thing. “Convenience voting” via mail and early on-site balloting, or simply liberalized “absentee” voting, spread rapidly throughout the last decade, often as a way to minimize Election Day confusion or chicanery. In Florida itself, Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist relaxed and then abolished the state’s practice of disenfranchising nonviolent felons for a period of time after their release.

No more. In the wake of the 2010 elections, Republican governors and legislatures are engaging in a wave of restrictive voting legislation unlike anything this country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which signaled the defeat of the South’s long effort to prevent universal suffrage. This wave of activism is too universal to be a coincidence, and too broad to reflect anything other than a general determination to restrict the franchise.

Millions of voters are affected. In Florida new Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation reversing Crist’s order automatically restoring the voting rights of nonviolent ex-felons. In one fell swoop, Scott extinguished the right to vote for 97,000 Florida citizens and placed more than a million others in danger of disenfranchisement. In a close contest for the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes, such measures could be as crucial to the outcome as the various vote suppression efforts of 2000.

As Ari Berman explained in an excellent recent summary of these developments for Rolling Stone, restrictive legislation, which has been introduced in 38 states and enacted (so far) in at least 12, can be divided into four main categories: restrictions on voter registration drives by nonpartisan, nonprofit civic and advocacy groups; cutbacks in early voting opportunities; new, burdensome identification requirements for voting; and reinstitution of bans on voting by ex-felons.

While new voter ID laws have clearly been coordinated by the powerful conservative state legislative lobbying network ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), other initiatives have spread almost virally. Virtually all of these restrictions demonstrably target segments of the electorate — the very poor, African-Americans and Hispanics, college students, and organizations trying to register all of the above — that tend to vote for Democrats.

Virtually all have been justified by their sponsors as measures to prevent “voter fraud,” a phenomenon for which there is remarkably little evidence anywhere in the country. As Tovah Andrea Wang, an election law expert at Demos, has concluded: “[L]aw enforcement statistics, reports from elections officials and widespread research have proved that voter fraud at the polling place is virtually nonexistent.” The Bush administration’s Justice Department tried to a scandalous degree to find cases of voter fraud to prosecute, and failed.

But as Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way, observes:

So-called anti-fraud laws are almost always thinly veiled attempts to prevent large segments of the population from making it to the ballot box … low-income voters, college students, people of color, the elderly. The people behind these laws know that there is no “voter fraud” epidemic. They just want to make it as difficult as possible for certain types of people to vote.

If so, is the motivation simply and purely partisanship? That’s the conclusion reached by former President Bill Clinton, who told a Campus Progress audience in July: “They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”

The prevalence of restrictive measures in key 2012 swing states certainly reinforces this impression. With Scott’s order Florida rolled back the early voting that played a key role in Obama’s 2008 victory. New voter ID laws were pioneered in Indiana, the red state most famously carried by Obama in 2008. A voter ID bill passed in the Legislature in North Carolina, but was vetoed by the governor, a Democrat.

Cynical as such actions may seem, they do reflect an ideology. For some conservatives, however, there is a deeper motive than partisanship that helps explain the rapid proliferation of restrictive legislation. It hearkens back to much older debates over the franchise that raged from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries: the belief that voting is a “privilege” rather than a right, and one best exercised by “responsible” or “productive” members of the community. And it’s not really surprising that old-school doubts about the very concept of “voting rights” have accompanied the dramatic rise to power of “constitutional conservatives” who strongly believe that no popular majority should have the power to modify fixed concepts of property rights and limited government as handed down by the Founders, who themselves acted (according to many Tea Partyers) according to a divine mandate.

You hear echoes of this ancient anti-democratic conviction scattered all across the Tea Party Movement and among many state legislators active in voting for restriction legislation. Tea Party Nation president Judson Phillips created a furor in November of 2010 by suggesting that voting should be restricted to property owners, as it often was prior to enactment of the 15th Amendment.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers flatly claimed voting was “not a right” during debate over a photo ID bill (a statement he later partially walked back). So, too, did Florida state Sen. Mike Bennett in a similar debate. Republican legislators and party leaders in Wisconsin, Maine and New Hampshire said all sorts of disparaging things about the civic qualifications of college students in the process of seeking to keep them from voting on campus.

Suffusing much of this sentiment is the pervasive Tea Party fear that voters without “skin in the game,” that is, “property ownership or significant tax liability,” will be prone to voting for big government and “welfare” at the expense of “productive” citizens. Few would publicly go so far as right-wing author Matthew Vadim, who briefly became a Fox celebrity for his argument that registering poor people to vote is “like handing out burglary tools to criminals,” since they “can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians.”

But throughout the conservative and Tea Party subculture you find countless people who subscribe to the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” (popularized by Glenn Beck) that liberals have been engaged in a deliberate effort for decades to buy votes with expanded welfare benefits. And from practically the moment the financial crisis exploded, a preferred conservative-activist interpretation (advanced most aggressively by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann) has involved an elaborate variation on the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

The story is that the obscure community organizing group ACORN utilized the provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act to destroy the housing and banking industries with mortgages for shiftless poor and minority borrowers who were then encouraged to elect “socialist” politicians like Barack Obama to bail them out. This particular conspiracy theory has been especially potent since ACORN’s often-clumsy voter registration efforts also happen to be at the very center of Republican claims of widespread voter fraud.

Conservative suspicions that letting poor people vote leads to “socialism” have been most evident in the strange furor among tax-hating Republicans about the number of Americans who do not have net federal income tax liability. These “lucky duckies” (as the Wall Street Journal famously called them in a 2002 Op-Ed deploring the low taxes paid by the poor) have no “skin in the game.” Thus, as the Journal put it, “can hardly be expected to care about tax relief for everybody else … [and] are also that much more detached from recognizing the costs of government.”

While it’s unlikely Republican politicians will come right out and advocate higher taxes on the poor (although some “fair tax” schemes calling for a shift to consumption taxes would have the same effect), the resentment of them as freeloaders who get to “vote themselves welfare” probably does operate as a fine rationalization for placing landmines on their path to the voting booth.

All in all, the conservative commitment to full voting rights, which used to be a bipartisan totem that Republican operatives undermined in the dark and out of sight, is probably dead for the foreseeable future. And the war on voting will continue.

By: Ed Kilgore, Salon, September 30, 2011

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Right Wing, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: