November 2 Election: Any Democrat Over Any Republican!
Tea Party Threatens Economy, Civil Rights, Human Survival
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Zenger’s Newsmagazine usually uses the last issue before a major election to publish a long list of endorsements in every race San Diegans are likely to vote in. This year, the frightening surge in power and influence of the radical-Right “Tea Party” movement makes endorsing easy: any Democrat over any Republican!
The Tea Party has gained so much influence in such a short time that the euphoria in Left-of-center circles over Barack Obama’s history-making election as President in November 2008 seems already to belong to another historical era. Partly due to a genuine grass-roots mobilization, but mostly due to the immense media power of talk radio and Fox News and the multi-million dollar contributions by large corporations and wealthy individuals, the Tea Party is just two elections away from virtually total control over the U.S. government. If the Republicans win majorities in both the House and Senate this year, they will be poised to win the presidency in 2012 — and if all Sarah Palin’s endorsed candidates win their Senate races, she will quite likely be the next president, beating Obama in 2012 the way Ronald Reagan squeaked out a victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980. (Right-wing revisionism has turned Reagan’s first election into a “landslide” even though he barely got over 50 percent of the vote to Carter’s 43 percent and independent candidate John Anderson’s 7 percent.)
The Tea Party poses a threat of such scope it’s comparable to the threat the German Left faced in the early 1930’s as their country’s economic collapse increased the power, influence and political support of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Instead of coming together to defeat the Nazi threat, Germany’s two largest Left parties, the Social Democrats and the Communists, targeted each other. The winners were the Nazis and the losers were not only the German Left but the millions of people worldwide who lost their lives in World War II and the Holocaust. If the U.S. Left continues its pointless debates over whether to work in or support the Democratic Party, it is heading for the same fate as the German Left in the early 1930’s — and the powerful, mobilized corporate Right of which the Tea Party is the vanguard will win absolute control over American politics and destroy this country.
Let’s take a look at what the Tea Party and its candidates stand for. First, they call for drastic cutbacks in government spending at a time when the only force fueling the poor excuse for an economic “recovery” we have going is government spending. Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for governor of California, says that one of the three key points in her platform is job creation — yet she also says she’s going to fire 40,000 state workers, which will hurt not only them but also every business in the private sector from which they buy goods and services. The Tea Party’s relentless attacks on government programs, and especially on unemployment insurance and what’s left of America’s tattered “social safety net,” isn’t going to revitalize the economy. Quite the opposite: it will take more people out of the workforce and turn the double-dip recession into a full-fledged depression.
Though they’re politically savvy enough to leave Social Security and Medicare alone — for now — largely because they’re depending on the votes of senior citizens currently receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, their long-term plan is to get rid of them too. Missouri Senate candidate Roy Blunt, living up to his last name, has said Medicare “has never done anything to make people more healthy.” Other Tea Party Republicans running for U.S. Senate, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Mike Lee of Utah, have called for phasing out of Social Security and/or Medicare. Angle also says unemployment benefits “have really spoiled our citizenry.”
The Tea Party is also totally opposed to civil-rights protection. One major Tea Party Senate candidate, Ron Paul of Kentucky, has said private business owners should have a right to discriminate on the basis of race or any other criterion they choose. Tea Party candidates and supporters have called for repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which not only guarantees citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil but also contains the constitutional basis for virtually all federal civil rights legislation. Without the Fourteenth Amendment, racial segregation will once again be constitutional and the basis of the hard-fought legal battle for Queer rights in the courts will disappear overnight.
And the Fourteenth Amendment isn’t the only part of the current Constitution the Tea Party opposes. They’re also against the Sixteenth Amendment, which allows Congress to levy an income tax; and even the Seventeenth Amendment, which allows the U.S. people to elect Senators directly. That last is especially ironic because virtually all the Tea Party candidates who have become Senate nominees ran insurgent campaigns and defeated establishment candidates in party primaries. If the state legislators still elected Senators, as was the case in the first 120 years of America’s history as a republic, none of these Right-wing Tea Party radicals would be anywhere near a U.S. Senate seat.
Don’t be fooled by media claims that the Tea Party represents a new libertarian strain of Republican politics that’s de-emphasizing the “social” or “values” issues of the religious Right and instead is focusing on economics. On abortion, Queer rights, creationism and the other hot-button issues of the religious Right, the Tea Party is with them 100 percent. Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina of California (who’s really a Tea Party candidate even though she’s tried to make it look like she isn’t), Joe Miller of Alaska, Ken Buck of Colorado and Rand Paul of Kentucky all flatly oppose women’s reproductive choice. Christine O’Donnell of Delaware says “there’s just as much, if not more” evidence for creationism as for evolution. She also founded a group called Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, where she promoted sexual abstinence and attacked homosexuality and masturbation, and she blames school shootings on the constitutional ban against prayer in the public schools.
Marco Rubio, Republican front-runner in the Senate race in Florida, opposes the separation of church and state and supports the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents Queers from serving openly in the military. (His “independent” opponent, Charlie Crist, is no better; he was the architect of Florida’s ban on adoptions by same-sex couples — recently thrown out by a court as unconstitutional.) Sharron Angle of Nevada believes both public education and government aid to the poor are anti-Biblical and therefore immoral. (Apparently her edition of the Bible doesn’t include the part in which Jesus says, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”) Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has pledged to support the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DoMA), passed by Congress in 1996, and wants to ban same-sex couples from adopting children. Richard Burr of North Carolina goes even further: not only does he support DoMA and “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he favors amending the Constitution to abolish same-sex marriage nationwide and opposes laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Rob Portman of Ohio also supports the Federal (anti-)Marriage Amendment.
Some may read my comparison between the Tea Party and the Nazis and think I’m being hysterical and hyperbolic, but there’s one issue — climate change — on which the Tea Party actually poses more of a long-term threat to humanity than the Nazis did. It’s an article of faith among Tea Party supporters that so-called “global warming” is not only not happening but is a hoax deliberately created by sinister Leftists anxious to reduce the standard of living of virtually everyone and leave us living in caves again. Joe Miller of Alaska insists there’s no proof that climate change is the result of human activity. Carly Fiorina of California mocked her opponent, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, for calling climate change a national security issue; according to Fiorina, Boxer is just “worried about the weather.” Ken Buck doesn’t want to be called a global-warming “denier,” but he too insists there’s no proof that humans are causing climate change. Marco Rubio of Florida says there isn’t enough scientific evidence to justify legislation to address climate change, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — currently favored to defeat incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, the most consistently progressive Senator in the current Congress — says, “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change.”
If the Tea Party takes over the U.S. government, the immediate result will be an economic depression. The medium-term result will be a corporate dictatorship, as the anemic regulations passed by the Obama administration and the current Congress to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown are dismantled and ordinary workers and consumers are at the mercy of corporations who can hire, fire, slash wages, market unsafe products, charge ripoff prices, swindle people with so-called “investment opportunities,” and pollute the environment with impunity. The long-term result, in about 100 to 200 years, will be the end of the human race — and perhaps all life on earth — as unchecked global warming floods much of the earth’s surface and makes the remaining land too hot to support our species.
So this is not a time to stay home on election day — or to cast protest votes for alternative-party candidates — just because we’re upset with Obama and the Democrats for not having brought us the progressive millennium. It’s true that the Democrats made us a lot of fine campaign promises in 2006 and 2008 and then reneged on them — the U.S. still has a military presence in Iraq, is escalating the war in Afghanistan (something Obama did promise to do in his campaign), still runs detention camps at Guantánamo, Bagram and elsewhere in the world and still asserts the right to hold so-called “enemy combatants” in custody forever, due process be damned. It’s true that the consumer regulations passed by Congress are far weaker than they should have been, and the so-called “health care” bill is actually a giant giveaway to the for-profit insurance industry (which, true to form, is reneging on all the promises it made and is demanding the carrot — a federal requirement that everyone in the country be forced to buy health insurance — without the stick of being forced to offer genuine coverage to sick people). It’s also true that the Employee Free Choice Act (which aimed to reverse decades of successful employer intimidation against workers’ attempts to organize and join or form unions), the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” are dead issues for now.
But the threat of the Tea Party is so overarching that this is not the time to nit-pick over whether the Democrats should have done more. If they didn’t do more, one reason is that we weren’t in the streets demanding it. We didn’t crash the Congressional town-hall meetings on health care to yell at the Wimpocrats and demand single-payer; the Tea Party Right did and attacked the whole notion of health care as a human right. We didn’t confront Obama and demand that he turn his words into action; instead the Right seized the opportunity and grabbed the political momentum. Obama and the Democrats are in deep trouble mainly because the economy hasn’t really recovered; there’s nothing wrong with the Democrats’ prospects that a million new private-sector jobs per month wouldn’t cure. Since that isn’t happening, the American people — especially the non-partisan “independent” voters — are swinging Republican because they’re voting “retrospectively and negatively,” as the late political scientist V. O. Key said in 1966. They’re not voting for the entire repressive, Right-wing revolutionary Tea Party agenda — polls reveal surprisingly even splits on the question of whether government should be doing less or more to get the economy going again — but if they elect a Republican Congress this year, and especially if they also elect a Republican President in 2012, the full Tea Party agenda is what they’re likely to get.
So it’s time for those of us who consider ourselves progressives, liberals or Leftists (which are three very different things, though they all get lumped together as “un-American” in Tea Party propaganda) to abandon our internal battles and pull together for the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012. This does not mean we shouldn’t challenge them in the streets; we should. One reason we’re in this horrible dilemma is that somehow between the 1960’s and today the U.S. Left forgot the balance between electoral activism and direct action, and the U.S. Right learned it. If you want to achieve social change, you have to be involved in the electoral process to vote in candidates more sympathetic to your goals than their opponents — and you have to be out in the streets protesting to push them to answer the better angels of their natures. We need to help keep existing Democrats in office, and elect new ones, in 2010 and 2012 — and in 2011 we need to be on their doorsteps shouting at them, “We put you where you are. You owe us.”
For the guidance of voters in San Diego’s “nonpartisan” races who want to know who the Democrats are, Zenger’s recommends the following candidates:
San Diego City Council, District 6: HOWARD WAYNE
San Diego City Council, District 8: DAVID ALVAREZ
San Diego County Board of Supervisors, District 4: STEPHEN WHITBURN
San Diego County Board of Supervisors, District 5: STEVE GRONKE
San Diego Unified School District Board, District B; KEVIN BEISER
San Diego Unified School District Board, District D: JOHN DeBECK
San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk: DAVID BUTLER
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: TOM TORKLASON
Guide to State and Local Propositions
Proposition 19 (Legalization of Marijuana): HELL YES! Marijuana isn’t a totally benign drug, but it’s no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco. It’s fundamentally irrational that it remains illegal.
Proposition 20 gives authority over Congressional redistricting to the same independent commission, currently still being formed, authorized by voters in 2008 to redraw state legislative districts. It’s wrong and immoral to allow politicians to draw their own districts and use that power to protect themselves. YES.
Proposition 21 increases the vehicle license fee (the so-called “car tax”) by to fund state parks and wildlife programs. This is a form of “ballot-box budgeting” we’re generally opposed to, but the issue is important enough — and the chances parks will get their fair share of the state budget if it doesn’t pass remote enough — it’s a close call, but we say YES.
Proposition 22 prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment or local government projects or services even during times of financial emergency. Local governments and school districts shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of the state’s financial problems, but the solution isn’t to pass a measure like this. It’s to amend the state constitution to give cities, counties and schools the independent tax bases they had before Proposition 13 passed in 1978 and made them all mendicants of the state. NO.
Proposition 23 “suspends” AB 32, California’s landmark global-warming law, until the state’s unemployment rate dips below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters — i.e., one year — which has happened exactly three times in the last 30 years. (The rate is currently 10.5 percent.) A vote for this is a vote for the two Texas oil companies who are sponsoring it, greater dependency on fossil fuels and the ultimate annihilation of the human race from global warming. HELL NO!
Proposition 24 is an attack on unwarranted, unnecessary corporate tax ripoffs that were written into the 2009 state budget to win enough Republican votes to pass it under the state’s monstrous two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget. HELL YES!
Proposition 25 reduces the vote requirement to pass a budget in the state legislature from two-thirds to a simple majority. If it passes, the minority party will lose its power to hold the budget hostage to win special favors for corporations and other special interests. It does not affect the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes, though we wish it did. Still, it’s a long-overdue reform. HELL YES!
Proposition 26 would add more two-thirds vote requirements to the state constitution, requiring the same two-thirds vote for new “fees” as for new taxes. The provision that gives away the proponents’ real agenda is that “fees … that address adverse impacts on society or the environment caused by the fee-payer’s business” would be subject to two-thirds vote requirements. It’s yet another attempt by corporations to evade responsibility for cleaning up their own messes and set themselves up as above the law. HELL NO!
Proposition 27 attempts to eliminate the independent redistricting commission altogether and return California to the inherently evil practice of allowing legislators to draw their own districts. The old saying is that no man should be the judge of his own cause; likewise, no politicians should be able to pick and choose their own constituents. HELL NO!
Proposition A is an attempt by the current all-Republican San Diego County Board of Supervisors to freeze into the county charter their ban on so-called Project-Labor Agreements (PLA’s), which require that government contractors hire local workers and guarantee them union-level wages and health benefits. It’s yet another Republican program to make fat cats richer and workers poorer. HELL NO!
Proposition B would prevent a new San Diego city attorney from firing the previous city attorney’s appointees except for “cause.” That means if we ever elect a progressive city attorney again, he or she wouldn’t be able to get rid of the current Right-wing Republican’s appointees. We’ve seen at the federal level how a progressive attorney general can be sabotaged by a Right-wing predecessor’s holdover appointees with civil service protection. NO.
Proposition C is a measure to keep the state from being able to hold the Pacific Highlands Ranch development hostage by failing to build the freeway extension that was one of the original conditions for the project. We’re usually skeptical of initiatives to make development easier, but with Democratic City Councilmember Sherri Lightner and the San Diego director of the Endangered Habitats League on board, we’ll say YES.
Proposition D is the controversial measure to add one-half cent to the sales tax in San Diego to keep the city from having to make even more drastic cuts to police, fire and other city services. The tax is contingent on the city making 10 “reforms,” seven of which address the ongoing pension crisis and three are designed to make it easier to privatize city services. The anti-tax “starve the beast” crazies are against this — and so are some misguided progressives who don’t like sales taxes because they hit working people harder than the rich (they do) but ignore that California cities don’t have either the constitutional power or the political will to tax more fairly. HELL YES!
Proposition J is an attempt by the San Diego Unified School District to levy a “parcel tax” of on every single-family home in the district, and larger fees on commercial and rental housing properties, to save the district from massive layoffs of teachers and other cutbacks. Once again, the choice isn’t between an ideal financing system and this measure; it’s a choice between a (barely) politically possible tax and the total decimation of public education in San Diego. HELL YES!