Note: The Preface and Chapters One through Twenty can be found here: The 15% Solution
This is the twenty-third installment of the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022. Herein you will find “Part 3” of Chapter 20. (This chapter is very long, and so it will be presented in five parts.) From the perspective of the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of U.S. Constitutional Democracy in 2048, this chapter discusses “what might have been done” to prevent the fall of the old United States into fascism. If present readers find that the warnings from that far-off time have relevance for today’s, that is precisely the intent. In 1990s, the Republicans told us precisely what they would do if they ever got full power (e.g., see “Gingrich” and “Armey” on Part 1, p. 3). With the complicity/acquiescence/meek “opposition” of the “center-right” Democratic Party of the time, the nation has come precisely to where it is now. This Part 3 discusses just how a successful opposition to the Republican Religious Right could have been developed from the mid-1990s onwards. Just an editorial note, the full set of references for this chapter of the book appears with each of the Parts of this chapter as published.
For readers coming into this serialization at this time, you should know that under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, the book is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually written in 1994-5, and published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.
A commentator had this to say about the book: “I am in the middle of reading ‘The 15% Solution.’ For some reason I assumed it was a recent publication. About 100 pages in I looked to see when it was published. It was published in 1996. That absolutely shocked me. What it was saying then is exactly what is happening now. The race-baiting, anti-homosexual crap that takes one’s attention away from what is actually happening, and it was written about 15 years ago. Even the 14th amendment controversy is discussed in this book, as well as so much more – ownership of the media, talk radio, etc. This is truly frightening, and if the Dems do not wake up and fight, I fear there is much worse to come.” Indeed!
And so, Chapter 20, “What Might Have Been Done,” Part 3
The Dual-Track Approach to Opposition Development
A political strategy that might have been effective in preventing the onslaught of fascism was following a dual track approach to developing the Opposition. The necessary measures of attempting to convert the Democratic Party to a liberal/progressive party and developing a single left-wing third party should not have been seen as mutually exclusive. Both goals should have been pursued, as long as the focus of attack was the common enemy, Right-wing Reaction, not each other. Unfortunately, as noted, the latter pattern was a trap liberals and progressives of various stripes often fell into.
For example, in the failed campaign in 1994 to enact national health insurance, the so-called “single-payer” forces to the left of President Clinton spent much more time attacking his proposal than they did attacking the real enemies of reform. Faced with the unswerving opposition of the Republican Party and the major economic forces inside in the health care industry, the middle-of-the-road Clinton Health Plan probably would not have been enacted in any case. But, the constant pounding from ideologically-oriented single payer forces did not help the situation, nor did their refusal to mobilize their ample grass-roots forces on behalf of the Plan.
Controlling the Agenda
Assuming that a political candidate is intelligent, well-qualified, personally attractive, a good speaker, has good name-recognition, and is comfortable in the rough and tumble of electoral politics, the most important element in winning the Presidency in the poltico-electronic age that marked the old U.S. in the second half of the 20th century was control of the political agenda. Some of the many real problems faced by the country during the Transition Era were the result of historical forces beyond anyone’s control. However, many of them were the result of disastrous Right-Wing Reactionary policies. For obvious reasons, the Right-Wing Reactionaries wanted to retain control of the political agenda.
What Republican Goals Really Were
Just imagine running for political office, even during the Right-Wing Reactionary-dominated Transition Era, on a platform that included such planks as:
· Providing more income to the rich.
· Increasing the burden of state and local taxation, especially regressive taxation.
· Priming the economic pump with increased military but not needed national domestic spending.
· Creating the highest real interest rates in history.
· Cutting aid to education at all levels.
· Punishing the poor for being poor by eliminating programs aimed at overcoming or compensating for poverty.
· Ravaging the environment for the benefit of developers’ profits.
· Breaking what was left of the American trade union movement for the benefit of corporate profits.
· Encouraging concentration of industrial ownership and the decline of competition: the contraction of the free market for goods and services.
· Encouraging the export of capital.
· Exacerbating racial antagonisms for political gain.
· Undermining the Bill of Rights, especially on freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and right to privacy issues.
Now, that would be a winner, wouldn’t it? Well, based upon twelve years of Reaganite/Bushism (1981-93) and the Grinchism of the “Contract on America” (1994-5), it’s what the Republican platform really was. But the Democrats were never able to cast a clear, bright focus on that agenda and keep it there. Nor were they able to paint a clear picture of what the real problems faced by the country were, how Republican policies did nothing but make them worse, and how a comprehensive liberal/progressive political and economic program could solve them.
An Effective Agenda: Using the Crime Issue
An effective progressive agenda could have been assembled and implemented without requiring that all of the country’s socio-economic and political problems be solved before anything “meaningful” could have been accomplished. Further, an integral part of each program piece would have been an attack on what the Right-Wing Reactionaries had done/not done. The common theme in that regard would have been that it seems that whatever they do would have been irrelevant to solving the problem, or worse. As an example of this, consider how the crime issue might have been used.
Republicans of that time just loved to accuse Democrats of being “soft on crime.” There were two ways to respond to that charge. One was to say, “Oh, no we’re not; we’re actually tougher than you.” Then the politician had his or her picture taken with lots of cops and proposed that lots of money be spent building jails and prisons. Alternatively the focus could have been turned completely around. It could have been said:
” ‘Soft on crime?’ Who is soft on crime? Under the Republican Administrations we have imprisoned more of our citizens than ever before, just like they asked us to. Yet while the picture has improved slightly, crime has not declined in a proportion that could in any way be considered related to the vastly increased imprisonment rates and prison expenditures. That’s really a `soft on crime’ policy. “Republican policy doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work because it doesn’t deal with the causes of crime and it is ineffective in dealing crime on the street. It’s not hard on crime. It’s nothing more than a cop-out. The Republicans do nothing other than scream `death penalty’ and `lock ’em up,’ both failures as policy. Less than a quarter of crime perpetrators are ever caught and less than 5% of them end up doing prison time in any case. It’s time to forget the rhetoric and the easy solutions.
“Being tough is addressing the causes of crime, and using unglamorous but proven effective approaches to crime other than imprisonment. That is tough to do. Let’s get down to the hard, tough work of really solving the crime problem: vastly expanding community and other progressive methods of policing which are shown to work; using alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders which are also shown to work, so the prisons don’t continue to be educational institutions in crime for the previously uninitiated (and we can save money at the same time); effectively dealing with drugs, which means turning to the public health approach to the drug problem, and away from the present, racist, selectively enforced criminal approach; cracking down on white collar crime, so that professional and business criminals can be seen to be subject to the same justice that unemployed illiterates are; the institution of effective gun control; and since the overwhelming majority of violent criminals were abused physically and/or sexually as children, the institution of an effective national program to deal with that problem. That is being tough on the tough problems of crime, and we intend to be tough.”
This is just one example of getting and keeping control of the agenda.
Some Other Political Issues to be Dealt With
The Negatives of Reaganite Economic Policies. By the mid-90s, the Right-Wing Reactionaries were pretending the Reagan Era never happened, even though the Presidency had been in their hands for all but four years from 1969 to 1993 (and some observers felt, given the performance of President Jimmy Carter, 1977-81, all of those years). They consistently traced all of the country’s economic problems back to the so-called Great Society of Lyndon Johnson (never more than partially-implemented) and even more ludicrously to the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt, a set of policies that happened to have rescued American capitalism from itself. The Republicans never talked about, and why should they have, the facts of “Reaganomics:”
· The tax cuts for the rich did not produce the projected increases in national revenues predicted by the economic theories of the so-called “Supply-Siders,” properly-labeled “Voodoo Economics” by none other than the man who would later become Reagan’s most loyal acolyte, Vice-President under Reagan, then President, George Bush. Actually, those cuts produced quite the opposite effect.
· The so-called “Reagan boom” was the product of Federal deficit spending on a scale never even closely equaled in the past by either party, the deficit spending, however, being pumped into the non-productive (but highly profitable) military sector.
· This policy left the country with a huge national debt, the interest payments for which put an enormous burden on the Federal budget (probably the result of Republican intent), and an annual Federal deficit problem highly resistant to solution other than by the draconian methods eventually adopted.
· Partly because of Federal fiscal policy and partly because of the active encouragement of deindustrialization and the export of capital by Reaganite policies, within three years of accession to office the Reaganites had converted the U.S. from the world’s largest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation, putting an enormous private debt service burden on the economy to accompany the public debt service one.
· For these and other reasons such as its energy policy (that, as noted, encouraged increasing dependence on foreign oil, to benefit the large international oil companies), “Reaganomics” also lead to an explosion in the U.S. balance of payments deficit.
· Reaganomics also created the highest true interest rates seen in the U.S. for a very long time.
· Finally, Reaganomics and Reaganite deregulation were responsible for the most expensive scandal ever in the American economy: the Savings and Loan disaster.
And the Democrats let them get away with all this.
The Moral Evils of Right-Wing Republican Policies. The Right-Wing Reactionaries were forever screaming about the “immorality” of the Democrats on such issues as freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy and freedom of choice on school prayer. The Democrats should have turned the tables on them on such issues as the immorality of: abandoning the poor; the political use of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia; the glorification of greed and the creed of “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” that is the anti-Judeo-Christian value of selfishness; corporate policies that exported jobs and substituted machines for people without regard for the people’s future; the abandonment of the environment for private benefit; kow-towing to the murderous gun and tobacco lobbies; the ever-widening gap in wealth and income between the rich and everyone else.
The Need to Frontally Attack Racism and its Political Usage. Beyond the moral attack on the political use of racism, the Democrats should have exposed the Republicans for using the issue politically, and developing ways to show white people how they were being used by it. President Bill Clinton began this line of attack during his first campaign. In the speech with which he declared for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency on October 3, 1991, he said (1991):
“For 12 years, Republicans have tried to divide us — race against race — so we get mad at each other and not at them. They want us to look at each other across a racial divide so we don’t turn and look to the White House and ask, why are all of our incomes going down, why are all of losing jobs? Why are we losing our future?”
Clinton unfortunately did not continue with this line of attack during his Presidency. But these words are an example of what could have been done. The argument “racism hurts everyone, first in the pocketbook (excess costs in the criminal justice system), and here’s how,” could have been exploited by the Democrats as well.
Aggressive Tax Policies. It was essential to develop an effective counter to the “tax and spend” charge the Republicans leveled ad nauseam. Some candidates were: “The something for nothing/tax-cut Republicans;” “The if you’re rich, you’ve got it made/tax-cut Republicans;” “The slice of pizza, slice of your life/tax-cut Republicans;” “The cuts that hurt/tax-cut Republicans.” None of this was ever done. It was even more essential to develop an effective tax policy to counter the ever-widening gap between the rich and everyone else that had been aided and abetted by the original Reaganite tax policies and their subsequent iterations.
The Benefits of Government Regulation. They were many and they needed to be spelled out (see Appendix V). This would have been done most effectively by development of “The Local Problems Bank.” As a Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. once said, “all politics are local.” To be effective over the long run, national policy must be made with that reality in mind. Thus the attack on Right-Wing Reactionary national policies could have been made by using local examples. The principle of historical interconnectedness between seemingly simple national policy, “let’s deregulate everything we can,” and the local results of that policy, could have been brought home most effectively by the extensive and creative use of the “The Local Problems Bank” concept.
This new device, used in as many American communities as possible, would have uncovered local difficulties in areas that could have been traced directly to Republican policies on regulation and the economy: with rising local taxes or pollution or water supply or loss of jobs or failing schools or rundown health facilities or dying/exported industry or crumbling infrastructure or crime or homelessness or consumer fraud and ineffective/unsafe products and pharmaceuticals. Data abounded (Finder).
For example, in communities around the country it could have been said:
· “Republican income tax cuts for the rich and the large corporations and the cuts in national domestic spending that paid for those tax-cuts specifically did such-and-such to your schools, or your parks, or your roads, bridges and tunnels, or your railroads/mass transit system, your public housing, your water supply/sewage disposal system, your air traffic control system, your Coast Guard search and rescue system, and lead to such-and-such a rise in your property and sales taxes, and so on and so forth.”
· “You don’t like regulation? Well, Republican lax environmental standards and enforcement, adopted under the `get government off your back’ rule, has led to this toxic waste disaster in your back yard, this lapse of local air service, this consumer product disaster that occurred to one of your neighbors, this workplace health or safety disaster that occurred to another one of your neighbors, this bank fraud, this securities scandal, this unsafe road condition, this house that caught on fire too easily because of defective materials, this plane that crashed because a defective bolt was used, this hospital death because there was no enforcement of health department regulations, this building collapse because of lax inspection, and so on and so forth.”
The Right-Wing Reactionaries taught people to hate “government regulation” in the abstract. But the people always loved it in the concrete. The Democrats failed to exploit that contradiction to their advantage. Each local campaign appearance by, let us say, a Democratic Presidential candidate, then would not be a replication of each other one. These appearances would not be aimed at a few seconds’ exposure on the national nightly news (watched by fewer and fewer people as it turned out in the late Transition Era). Rather, each campaign appearance would have become custom-tailored for each community the candidate visited, designed, among others things, to get extensive local media coverage. People remember when a national candidate talks with them about their problems. And of course, over time in the campaign, the “Local Problems Bank” approach itself could have become a national story.
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The original edition of “The 15% Solution” is available on Amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com. The 2004 print-on-demand re-issue from Xlibris is also available on Amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com. You will find a “Sub-Home Page” for the serialization at the lower right-hand corner of the Home Page for www.TPJmagazine.us. It contains such items as the Disclaimer, cast of characters, author’s bio., cover copy, and several (favorable) reviews, and will have a full archive of all the chapters as they are published over time. The serialization is also appearing on www.BuzzFlash.com, Dandelion Salad; The Greanville POST; and TheHarderStuff newsletter.
Jonathan Westminster and biography are based on a pseudonym.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.