Progressives Push Back Against the New McCarthyism; It’s the New Progressive Infrastructure at Work

McCarthyism is a term describing the intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States in a period that lasted roughly from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents.

Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, “McCarthyism” later took on a more general meaning, not necessarily referring to the conduct of Joseph McCarthy alone.

During this time many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies.

A 1947 comic book published by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society warning of the supposed dangers of a Communist takeover.

There’s a saying from the Greeks that, whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

Well, it seems like the Republicans are pretty mad right now.

And when Republicans get mad, they turn to one of their old stand-bys: characterizing Democrats and liberals as anti-American, unpatriotic, socialist, communist scum.

The poster child for this shameless post-McCarthyism has become Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota. This is from an interview of Bachmann with Chris Matthews on the MSNBC show Hardball:

MATTHEWS: You believe Barack Obama may – because of this relationship (to Bill Ayers) – have anti-American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he [Obama] may have anti-American views.

MATTHEWS: How many in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti-American? You already suspect Barack Obama — is he alone or do you think there are others?

BACHMANN: The news media should do a penetrating expose … on the views of the people in Congress and find out if they’re pro-America or anti-America.

Although Bachmann has gotten the most notoriety for her comments, she’s certainly not alone in playing the McCarthy card. At a fund raiser in North Carolina, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation”… a comment that, by logical extension, means city and suburban folks-the types who vote for Democrats-are “fake” and “unpatriotic” Americans.

At a campaign rally in North Carolina, Republican congressman Robin Hayes said that “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.” At a meeting of Florida Republican in Orlando, Republican Senator Mel Martinez compared Barack Obama’s tax plans to those in Castro’s Cuba, saying “That’s socialism, that’s communism, that’s not what Americanism is about.”

Keep in mind, this is coming from high level elected Republican officials. It’s not hard to imagine that even worse is being said by state and local Republican officials. (And we won’t even talk about what’s happening on talk radio.)

Now, there was a time when Democrats and liberals would cower in fear at these kinds of attacks. These are the same tactics that, after all, helped to spark the Reagan Revolution and get George W Bush elected and re-elected. But that was then.

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The Hate That Hate Produced: The Demonization of Barack Obama by the Republican Party

Conservative political pundit Charles Krauthammer is in what I call a state of disingenuous denial. Writing in the Washington Post, he said

Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association — with total strangers, mind you — but worse: guilty according to the New York Times of “race-baiting and xenophobia.”

…McCain has never said that, nor anything like that. When asked at the time to produce one instance of McCain deploying race, the Obama campaign could not. Yet here was Obama firing a preemptive charge of racism against a man who had not indulged in it. An extraordinary rhetorical feat, and a dishonorable one.

What makes this all the more dismaying is that it comes from Barack Obama, who has consistently presented himself as a healer, a man of a new generation above and beyond race, the man who would turn the page on the guilt-tripping grievance politics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

It’s quite true that McCain has kept his own hands clean of the scurrilous attacks that have been made on Obama. But Palin and other Republican surrogates have had no problems with doing the dirty work, a fact that Krauthammer conveniently ignores.

And their dirty work is plain to see. The Republicans have engaged, and are engaging, in a massive effort to demonize Obama.

As described here,

Demonization is the characterization of individuals, groups, or political bodies as evil or subhuman for purposes of justifying and making plausible an attack, whether in the form of character assassination, legal action, circumscribing of political liberties, or warfare.

That’s the theory. Here’s how the Republicans have put theory into practice.





McCain Tries To Put the Genie Back In the Bottle… But the Haters Keep Hating

God don’t like ugly.

And he’s not the only one.

On Friday, John McCain had to come to grips with the hate that hate produced. After several days of full frontal negative assaults on Barack Obama’s character, and the resulting bitterness and belligerence they instilled in his supporters, McCain said at a townhall meeting that Barack Obama was, after all, a decent man. What did that get for McCain? Boos.

This was a great piece of political theater for news junkies. But it leaves a big, unanswered question: where does McCain go from here?

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Giving Thanks to Community Organizers

In her speech to the Republican National Convention, Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin ridiculed Barack Obama’s service as a community organizer.

I can’t understand how partisan politics could lead someone to make such a low-minded an attack.

In response, this great tribute to community organizers was placed on YouTube. I hope you find it uplifting and inspiring.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– attributed to Margaret Mead

Ambulance Chasing Politics: McCain Heads to the Gulf Coast

Leave it to the Republicans to turn human tragedy into a photo op.

The Huffington Post is reporting that portions of the Republican National Convention are being cut short so McCain can go to the Gulf Coast:

John McCain tore up the script for his Republican National Convention on Sunday, ordering the cancellation of all but essential opening-day activities as Hurricane Gustav churned toward New Orleans.

“This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans,” he said as fellow Republicans converged on their convention city to nominate him for the White House.

On the eve of his convention, McCain positioned himself as an above-politics, concerned potential president determined to avoid the errors made by President Bush three years ago. “I have every expectation that we will not see the mistakes of Katrina repeated,” he said.

Bush and Vice President Cheney scrapped plans to address the convention on Monday, and McCain’s aides chartered a jet to fly delegates back to their hurricane-threatened states along the Gulf Coast. Campaign manager Rick Davis said the first-night program was being cut from seven hours to two and one half.

As Klingon Commander Worf would say, the Republicans have no honor. This trip, in fact, is ALL about politics.

There’s not a thing that John McCain, as a US Senator, can do to help; all he can do is watch… and be watched by the media.

If I was Obama, I would have this conversation with the press:

Press: What do you think of McCain’s trip to the Gulf Coast?

Obama: If he wants to go, that’s his prerogative. I spoke about that with my folks. We believe that if we were to go there, it might be perceived as ambulance chasing. We don’t want people to have that perception of us.

Press: So you’re saying McCain is ambulance chasing?

Obama: No, I’m saying I wouldn’t do it, for the reason I stated… Look, McCain and George Bush have a credibility problem. While Katrina was devastating the Gulf Coast, Bush and McCain were celebrating with a huge birthday cake. So I understand that they want to counter that image.

But I don’t see what he offers tactically to the relief effort. I believe that the politicians should get out of the way and let the public safety people do their jobs. But then again, perhaps he feels he needs to help George Bush in some way.

Press: Do you think you would visit the Gulf Coast?

Obama: That’s certainly possible. But I don’t want to visit, and have people think I’m there to do a photo op. After our courageous men and women have done their job, we’ll see. I will add this: when bills supporting the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast came to the floor of the Senate, I voted for them, and John McCain did not. I have a record of supporting those hurt by Katrina. Maybe, after seeing what a hurricane can do, McCain will become a champion of the area’s recovery too.

Of course, all of this serves to hide the real reason for McCain’s trip down South: the Republican Party knows that their Convention has the look of a ratings nightmare. Given that Convention Day 1 was about Bush/Cheney, whose negative ratings are through the roof, they were no doubt happy for ANY reason to cancel.

By going to the Gulf Coast, McCain feels he can win the news cycle by yapping it up with the press, and intermixing McCain/Palin pix with rescue images… images that McCain will have had nothing to do with. As an added benefit, it gives the McCain staff more time to prep Palin for the campaign, while “hiding” her from the press in plain sight (“We’re sorry, it would be inappropriate for the media to talk to Mrs Palin during this time of emergency… but feel free to take a picture of her looking out the window and showing her concern”).

When Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family was praying for rain, I think this is what they were hoping for. It’s too bad the people of the Gulf Coast must suffer for their sins.

James Fallows: Palin “is exactly like… Clarence Thomas”

James Fallows, who writes for Atlantic magazine, made the following comment about McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP:

The Palin pick is not like the choice of Dan Quayle. But it is exactly like the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. That is, an unbelievably obvious but potentially effective attempt to jiu-jitsu the standard identity politics of the moment in a way that flummoxes the Democrats. I would spell out the logic but I think it’s obvious and am at a computer for only sixty seconds.

…the comparison should be with Clarence Thomas — with this one interesting difference. Thomas was a shrewd choice not simply because his race made it more complicated for Democrats to oppose him but also because, once confirmed, all evidence suggested to conservatives that he’d be the kind of Justice they were looking for. In Palin’s case, this seems to be a choice that looks forward to Election Day, and not one day beyond that.

I couldn’t have said it better. I would add the following comments.

The Palin pick strikes me as a moderate reward, high risk decision by McCain.

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