The Great Regression: Conservative Lies Terrorize 50 Years Of Progress
“No more baby parts,” Robert Lewis Dear told police after he shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three and wounding nine. This motive for his act of terrorism was provided to him by a series of heavily edited hoax videos. The videos were produced by conservative David Daleiden’s The Center for Medical Progress, and its crew of anti-choice extremists and media fraudsters. The lying videos were designed to smear Planned Parenthood activists and medical professionals who provide a vital health service as murderers. The videos were trumpeted by the GOP in grandstanding Congressional hearings and a quixotic attempt to legislate based on them. Finally, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and other prominent Republican candidates made political hay out of them with false, demagogic rhetoric at the second presidential debate.
Many commentators have pointed out the indirect yet unmistakable incitement of right wing rhetoric that aggressively demonizes safe and legal abortion to Dear’s act of terrorism. Pro-choice activists have been frantically calling on the Justice Department to take a nationwide spate of harassment, intimidation and violence against women’s healthcare providers more seriously.
In the aftermath of the shooting, conservative demagogues like Fiorina recommitted to their slander against Planned Parenthood and continued the hunt for scapegoats. The problem isn’t that politicians like Cruz or conservative groups pulled the trigger, or even told anyone that they should. The problem is that, in a nation awash in weapons and lacking proper mental health care, these propagandists of hate refuse to say that they don’t support it when someone does gun down a police officer, a mother of two and an Iraq veteran because he’d been brainwashed.
We are witnessing a great regression
But Dear is only the sharp end of a much longer spear, and only for the moment. If we zoom out, we can see that, across the political landscape, the same trend applies. The Republican party used to blow a dog whistle, scapegoating women, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, gays, and other vulnerable groups, with whispers and innuendo. Today, particularly in the guise of presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Republicans have switched out the dog whistle for an air raid siren, blaring loud enough to drown out all other discourse. The results have been shockingly unsurprising. Two men attack a Hispanic homeless man, saying Trump is “right.” Four men shoot at a Black Lives Matter protest. A man rants about Islamic terrorism before shooting a Muslim taxi driver in the back of the head.
We are in the midst of a Great Regression. We are witnessing a full spectrum assault on decades of social progress. The conservative storm troopers leading this fight can’t win an honest debate with the American people. They have shown that what they can do, though, is virtually break the government by refusing to engage with the White House for eight long years after America’s first black president landslides into the Oval Office. They can create a feedback loop of cynicism that keeps liberals from voting. They can use their power to gerrymander Congress, making most state-level elections nearly irrelevant. They can insist that insane political platforms deserve the same access to mainstream media as sensible views. They can use their perches to lie consistently, sow division and animosity among the people, generate scapegoats and thrash them with increasingly inflammatory rhetoric. They can destroy all gun regulation and, finally, encourage random violence to terrorize minorities and progressive activists.
Virtually all of the social progress of the last 50 years is being marched to the gallows by the current crop of conservative leaders. President Obama rose to power on a wave of anti-Bush sentiment, and his anti-war, pro-people message of change shook the nation. The far right, anti-Obama sentiment is the opposite extreme. A much darker force is rocking the nation today. You’ll hear many commentators fret that fascism is coming to America. No, this is worse. America is reverting to form. Our nation was founded on one of history’s cruelest hypocrisies: the formulation that all men are created equal, but slaves were 3/5ths of a man. The two philosophies, celebrating and attacking the human being, are always present in the American zeitgeist. But Civil Rights, women’s bodily autonomy, gay marriage, multiculturalism, labor rights, and other social achievements, all held regressive forces at bay for decades. Now the right is building an angry white male nationalist army. The army is prepared to march all over half a century of progress and encourage occasional terrorism. If liberals don’t vote with extreme urgency in 2016, they will find that they live under the boot of the same supremacy that insisted on major exceptions to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for certain people.
Featured image via creative commons.