Years ago - and I'm talking the late sixties here - groups like the Klan, the John Birch Society, and the NRA couldn't get air time. The press knew all about them, but it wasn't acceptable journalism to mention them because they were not considered legitimate interest groups. Now they are rebranded as the tea party and everybody has to get their take on everything. WTF? I'll tell you WTF:
A majority of people in America stand on the "liberal" side of issues like abortion, social security, taxation, environmental regulation, welfare, and the role of government. The country is center-progressive. Fact. We just elected Obama. National referendum on conservative values: Palin lost. McCain chose to run as a conservative instead of a moderate and he failed.
Conservative activists realize that the 2 wars failed. They realize that the tax cuts failed. They realize that their attempts to privatize social security, privatize education and beat back universal health care failed. They know that they wrested control away from the moderate democrats in 2000 and 2004 only because of Ralph Nader, a conservative supreme court, and voter fraud in Florida and later in Ohio. Yes, they won, but even they know that they did not win legitimately. They know that the legacy of the Bush years will be huge deficits, military defeat, economic collapse, and the PATRIOT act.
These are pragmatic, ruthless people. They know that they can never command a legitimate majority of the electorate. They created Fox news as an extension of religious broadcasting to solidify the older white conservative base. They are now getting granny out in the streets on fear-based race and religious issues - spinning it all the while to try and convince mainstream media that the tea baggers are upset about taxes and deficits, which is nonsense. But brilliant PR. Fake enthusiasm for an unpopular corporatist agenda.
All this is only possible because the average American is apathetic about politics. The real enemy is apathy, not conservatives. People must be taught how great it will be once capitalism is put back in its cage. We made a lot of progress during the healthcare debate, and people now know how much better it is in Europe and Canada. Next they need to be reminded how cool it is for Germans, Swedes and Italians who get guaranteed paid leave, free college, and secure jobs. Once Americans start demanding better, politicians will find a way to cut the military budget, tax the wealthy, tax carbon, and get us to a comfortable social welfare state.
The next big fight is education. While Obama is busy compromising over halfway measures and testing, we need to come out strong against vouchers and charter schools and unequal funding per child. And we need to demand free college tuition for all bright kids who earned it with good grades in hard classes.
He disappointed us with EFCA, but again, in the process, apathy was beaten back. People were educated a little about union organizing. People saw that small union in Chicago fight sucessfully to keep their jobs. He will disappoint us on global warming, but we will educate on taxing carbon and factory farming. This is how we will wrest control of something far more powerful than the neocons: public opinion. The same public opinion that kept the John Birchers and the Klan hiding in the closet from 1960-1980.
We shall overcome. Keep talking and teaching.