Resentment Is Energizing the Right

by Jane Devin on 08/30/2012

On HuffPost Live on Thursday, film maker Michael Moore put forward his belief that Romney will win the election in November. Unfortunately, I share some part of Michael Moore’s pessimism, although not for the same reasons. Moore believes that money plays a huge part in determining who wins. That’s very true, but I don’t think it has to be a fatal blow. There have been campaigns where the person who spent more lost. Moore also believes that Democrats have misjudged their opposition. I don’t believe that to be the case. I think most of us understand the level of intelligence at the top of the GOP’s well-fortified pyramid. It takes planning, it takes money, and it takes considerable smarts to run the sort of propagandistic campaign that Romney and company are running.

After all, how do you convince blue-collar workers, union members, the middle class, and women to vote against their own self-interests? How do you frame a future of lower wages, fewer benefits, less protections, and reduced personal rights in such a way that it all feels like part of the American Dream, or a point of pride? How do you turn silver-spoon billionaires into heroes of the middle-class? How do you make slick collusive efforts —- like new voter ID laws, Republican-friendly redistricting, Fox News, and the continuous propagation of lies — feel like something noble?

You do it by cleverly tapping into resentments. You do it by appealing to the often hidden (but no less powerful) part of the human psyche that fears that someone is getting a privilege or benefit that others are not. You do it by playing into the egotistical belief that many people hold that they have worked harder, been smarter, and suffered more, while lesser others are reaping undeserved rewards.

You do it by creating a class of freeloaders.

You do it by demonizing unemployed people and those on public assistance as lazy and self-indulgent.
You do it by diminishing the sick, elderly, and disabled as people who didn’t plan, didn’t take care of themselves & now expect everyone else to care for them.
You do it by painting all single mothers as welfare queens who are raising the next generation of criminals and bums.

You do it by deftly courting those with racist-homophobic-xenophobic tendencies.
You do it by enforcing the often unspoken belief that white skinned-heterosexual-All American citizens are superior and most deserving.

You do it with code words like “liberty” and “freedom” that, as made apparent by your policies, only applies to the class of people you find superior and deserving.

You do it by making union workers seem like overpaid, underworked ninnies who are destroying the economy with their wages, insurance benefits, and pension plans.

You do it by portraying multi-billion corporations as struggling entities who would rescue America if only they weren’t being broken by liberal do-nothing’s, an overly demanding labor pool, wage laws, unnecessary regulations, and over-taxation.

You do it by refashioning real silver spoons into mythical bootstraps. You inject a little “Joe the Plumber” into wealthy politicians, sprinkle in a dash of “hardworking, self-made man”, add a heaping spoonful of “God blesses those who deserve it” and then claim you’re being assailed for being smart and successful by those in the stupid, godless, lazy, freeloading class.

You do it by refusing to release tax forms under the guise of religious protection, claiming that you’ll somehow be persecuted for the generosity of your church donations rather than the amount of taxes you paid. You turn the desire for full disclosure into an evil left-wing conspiracy of which you are the put-upon but heroic victim, standing strong in the face of those who want to punish for your religion, your righteousness, your hard-earned success.

You do it by promoting the myth of “the liberal media”.

You do it by turning women who want equal pay and control over their own bodies into “feminazis” and whiners.
You do it by turning women who want birth control covered by their insurance into irresponsible sluts.
You do it by packaging every anti-rape, pro-choice, pro-reproductive rights argument as part of a nefarious “liberal agenda”.

You do it by stoking the fears of religious fundamentalists, who sincerely believe that women should be submissive, children are chattel, and that men should be the heads of their households and government. These same fundamentalists fear that their children will stray from their beliefs, so you promise them that under your leadership, history and the theory of evolution will be rewritten, critical thinking skills won’t be taught, and sex-ed will be abstinence only.

You do it by lying, cheating, and denying.

You do it by making equality, rationality, and fairness the enemy of millions, and then you ramp up the crazy until it’s at a fever pitch, and your base is just seething with resentments —— not against a Senate that would rather shut down government than compromise, not against those who have voted against jobs, not against corporations and grossly rich people who pay little or no taxes —— but against people in their own or lower classes.

No, for all their mind-numbing, logic-defying antics, those in charge of the GOP have not been dumb. They have understood very well all the varied elements that draws people to their base. From fiscal moderates to blatant racists — from social conservatives to wild-eyed fundamentalists — from middle-class families to the poorest of rednecks — from diehard Reaganites to backwoods militias — Republican engineers have played upon fears, resentments, prejudices, and animosities to energize their base. They have worked hard to create and spread the type of propaganda that would psychologically stir up their masses.

 

 

At the same time that moderate Republicans might shudder at these images, (and I do believe, perhaps optimistically, that there are still a few left), it can hardly be denied that the right-wing has offered a safe, comfortable harbor for the intolerant, hateful, and ignorant. This is the league that the remaining moderates now find themselves standing with, and if they are ashamed they should be. The leaders of their party have purposely fanned the flames.

If 2008 was the season of hope, this is the season of resentment.

This is the season that finds more and more people willing to undo progress and throw away unions, fair wage laws, opportunities for the lower class, religious freedom, the separation of church and state, women’s rights, voter’s rights, secular government and more —— in large part because they’ve been led to believe that undeserving others are getting a benefit, a privilege, or a consideration that they are not.

So will the party of resentment and animosity win in November? Or will Democrats rise to the challenge with even more energy than they did in 2008? Because it’s going to take more this time around — a lot more given that Bush’s transgressions are not as front and center, voting laws are changing around the country to benefit Republicans, and record-breaking donations to Super PACS are being given to the opponent — and if we can’t muscle up our courage, rally our base, and get back to a place of urgency and excitement, then it’s this simple: We are going to lose. We are going to find more right-wing extremists in positions of power, and there will be very real, longterm. and devastating consequences if that happens.

Maybe it’s because I live in Arizona, or Michael Moore’s pessimistic prediction, or maybe it’s just the bluster and fanfare of the Republican National Convention, but from where I sit right now, it feels like too many Democrats are asleep. I’m hoping I’m wrong, or that they’re just resting up for the battle ahead, because I really don’t want to live in an America ruled by those who think progress is something that needs to be undone, and that “for the people, by the people” should be changed to “for the rich, by the rich.”

UPDATE: I came across this stunning insider’s report from Karl Rove’s breakfast meeting with billionaire contributors to his Super PAC. I suggest that everyone read it so that they have a better understanding of who is driving this election. 

 

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