What the 2010 Elections Say About America: Stories People For the American Way is Watching

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Drew Courtney or Josh Glasstetter
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Email: media@pfaw.org

What the 2010 Elections Say About America: Stories People For the American Way is Watching

Statement by Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way

WASHINGTON - The
national elections being held this week bring together a number of historic
story lines and analysts will no doubt be sorting through the results for
weeks. It will take some time to assess the full impact of the virtual merger
between Fox News and the GOP, and weigh the success of efforts by Religious
Right leaders, GOP strategists, and big business to co-opt the Tea Party
movement. But before election night is over, we'll get answers to some of the
most important questions about where our country is headed.

Here's
PFAW's guide to races to watch and to what the outcomes mean for America.

Will
Scapegoating Latinos Backfire?

The
Republicans could win this battle but lose the war. Sharron Angle, arguably the
most high-profile of the Tea Party's Senate candidates, built her pre-election
strategy on flooding Nevada airwaves with toxic, divisive, racially tinged
television ads that feature menacing dark-skinned people threatening
vulnerable white children and families. The national GOP's embrace of Angle
will make it hard for them to distance themselves from her destructive,
scapegoating ads targeting the fastest-growing demographic group in American
society. The outcome of her campaign may depend on whether she was right in
guessing that her ads would win her more votes in this election than they would
cost her. Louisiana Senator David Vitter has also run what some consider the
most offensive anti-immigrant ads of the campaign season.

America's
Voice has identified another dozen or so candidates who have used
distortions and stereotypes regarding immigrants and Latinos. Among races to
watch where candidates have made outrageous statements on immigration:

  • Sharron Angle - U.S. Senate candidate, Nevada, ran divisive
    anti-immigrant ads, then claimed she didn't know if the scary people
    sneaking through the border fence in the ad were Latinos.
  • David Vitter - U.S. Senator, Louisiana, also ran
    offensive ads.
  • Meg Whitman - Gubernatorial candidate, California, who had
    called her former housekeeper an "extended member of the
    family," later urged that she be deported.
  • Joe Miller - U.S. Senate candidate, Alaska, looked to Iron
    curtain for border control inspiration, saying, "If East Germany could do it, we could
    do it."
  • Kris Kobach - Secretary of State candidate, Kansas, claimed the illegal voter registration by aliens has
    become "pervasive," then later admitted he didn't know the
    extent of the alleged problem.
  • Allen West - U.S. House candidate, Florida, mixed
    anti-government and anti-immigrant rhetoric: "You must be
    well-informed and well-armed, because this government we have right now is
    a tyrannical government. And it starts with illegal immigration."

While
some GOP strategists and Religious Right leaders are worried about the
long-term impact of the Party alienating Latino voters, those concerns seem to
have been pushed aside in the hopes that demagoguery on the immigration issue
will win enough votes this year to help put the GOP in control of Congress. But
playing to the Tea Party base of the party, and its hostility to any
comprehensive approach to immigration reform, will put the GOP in a long-term
bind. Most Americans support reform that includes a path to citizenship for
people living, working, and raising their families here; GOP candidates
answering to right-wing ideologues denounce any such provisions as
"amnesty." Immigration is likely to be one of the issues on which the
newly expanded far-right congressional caucus will find governing more
complicated than campaigning.

Will
Voters Overlook Right-Wing Violence and Calls for Violence?

Tea Party
candidates and right-wing pundits have introduced a frightening amount of
violent rhetoric into this year's campaigns, suggesting that if right-wing
voters don't get their way they should consider resorting to violence or even
revolution against a "tyrannical" federal government. They have
portrayed the president and Democratic congressional leaders not only as
political opponents but as enemies of America bent on crushing individual
liberty and undermining the nation's interest. With that kind of example and
inflammatory rhetoric from right-wing leaders, it's hardly surprising that
members of Congress have faced death threats, or that violence and thuggish
behavior have broken out on the campaign trail:

Among the
races to watch:

  • U.S. Senate, Kentucky:
    Campaign supporters of Senate candidate Rand Paul's knocked a woman to the
    cement, and another stomped on her shoulder and pressed her head to the
    ground with his foot, landing her in the hospital with a concussion and
    multiple sprains. Paul called the attack a "crowd control
    problem."
  • U.S. Senate, Alaska:
    Candidate Joe Miller's paramilitary security team manhandled, handcuffed, and illegally detained a journalist who
    was trying to ask the candidate a question.
  • U.S. House, Florida 22nd Congressional District:
    Republican Congressional candidate Allen West has used violent rhetoric in his campaign, used members of a biker gang for protection, and defended the harassment and bullying of a Democratic
    staffer attempting to video a public event.
  • U.S. Senate, Nevada:
    GOP candidate Sharron Angle famously suggested that if the elections don't go the way Tea
    Party activists want, there may be need to resort to "Second
    Amendment remedies."

All
indications point to widespread Republican gains on Election Day, which should
mitigate against inflammatory charges that President Obama and his Democratic
allies had somehow stolen the election. But if a number of close and heated
races are won by Democrats, don't be surprised by violent reactions among those
who have been amped up by Glenn Beck and other purveyors of paranoia.


Will Right-Wing
'Grassroots' Campaigns Mean Big Win for Government by Big Business?

With a
big push from a Supreme Court granting corporations the same right as citizens
to influence American elections, big business interests are pouring huge
amounts of their record-breaking profits and cash-on-hand into buying a
government that is even more willing to sacrifice the interests of individual
Americans to the demands from corporate America. A coalition of right-wing
groups coordinating with each other to lead the GOP-supporting effort dumped an
additional $50 million into ads in competitive House races in the final weeks
of the campaign. Unless and until a constitutional amendment addresses the
extraordinary damage created by Citizens United and other Supreme Court
decisions that have undermined campaign finance laws, we can count on corporate
America to invest whatever it takes to elect politicians pledged to implement policies
that sacrifice the health of American consumers and workers, and the well-being
of American communities, on the altar of ever-greater profits and wealth for
those who already have the most.

Among the
biggest investments by corporate interests dropped in competitive races are:

  • U.S. Senate, Colorado
    - Ken Buck v. Sen. Michael Bennet.
    American Crossroads alone has spent more than $5 million attacking Bennet; reportedly this race featured a record3.9 million in
    outside funding on just one day in October.
  • U.S. Senate, Illinois
    - Mark Kirk v. Alexi Giannoulias.
    Crossroads GPS poured more than4.4 million into this race to attack
    Giannoulias.
  • U.S. Senate, Washington - Dino Rossi v. Sen. Patty Murray. On
    October 21, Rossi reportedly passed Illinois' Mark Kirk to take the top
    spot in secret money being spent on his behalf - more than 4.5 million at
    that point.
  • U.S. Senate, California
    - Carly Fiorina v. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent more than5 million to attack Sen. Boxer.

How Many Anti-Government Extremists
Will Take Seats in Congress?


Cheered on by right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck, Tea Party and GOP candidates
are portraying this election as a choice between "socialism" and
"constitutional conservativism." They are embracing a radically
right-wing view of the U.S. Constitution, one that ignores the Constitution's -
and the nation's - history, to promote a misguided nostalgia for a time when
huge numbers of elderly Americans lived in poverty and when the federal
government could not protect workers with safety regulations or minimum wage
requirements. Meanwhile, Beck and Religious Right figures are promoting the
idea that this radically restricted view of government is grounded in
Christianity and the Bible. In essence, they are trying to make the size and
scope of government the new culture war, and to convince Americans that relying
on government assistance in hard times is not only un-American but
un-Christian.

Many
Americans who end up voting for Tea Party-backed Republicans because they are
worried about the state of the economy or size of the deficit will be shocked
to find the kind of gridlock that will be caused if and when candidates get
elected to office who have pledged not to support anything they don't find in
their 19th Century view of the Constitution.

A few of
the many races to watch:

  • Mike Lee, U.S. Senate Candidate from Utah:
    Lee, virtually guaranteed a win in this heavily Republican state, will
    bring to the Senate a remarkably reactionary view of the Constitution and
    the U.S.
    government's role in society. He has denounced as "domestic enemies" those who
    disagree with his radically limited view of the (divinely inspired)
    Constitution. He would abolish the federal departments of Energy and
    Education, dismantle the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and phase out Social Security. He says earmarks are
    unconstitutional. Lee could be one of a number of new senators who take
    the GOP's already unprecedented campaign of partisan obstruction to a
    damaging new level.
  • Joe Miller, U.S. Senate candidate from Alaska: Miller says the
    Department of Education should be eliminated because it's not in the
    Constitution. Also violating the Constitution, in Millers mind, was health care reform
    and legislation to extend jobless benefits to out-of-work Americans. He says he
    would phase out social security and Medicare.
  • Ken Buck, U.S. Senate candidate from Colorado: Buck calls
    for the elimination of the federal Department of Energy and Department of
    Education, the privatization of the Centers for Disease Control and
    Prevention, and the elimination of student loans. He says he "doesnt
    know" whether Social Security is constitutional, but calls it a "horrible policy" and says the
    federal government should not be running health care or retirement
    programs.
  • Marco Rubio, U.S. Senate candidate from Florida:
    Rubio calls "statism" the "fastest-growing
    religion in America."
  • Rand Paul, U.S. Senate candidate from Kentucky: Paul has suggested that Congress should not be making mine
    safety rules. He says Medicare is socialized medicine. He wants to eliminate the Departments of Education and Agriculture,
    do away with the Federal Reserve, and abolish the Americans with
    Disabilities Act.
  • David Hamer, U.S. House candidate from California's 11th
    Congressional Distric
    t: Hamer, who calls public schools
    "socialism in education," wants to abolish public schools entirely and return education
    to "the way things worked through the first century of American
    nationhood," when an awful lot of people had no access to educational
    opportunities.


Will Voter
Suppression and False Charges of Voter Fraud Help GOP Candidates Win
?

Right-wing
strategists have a multi-faceted strategy on voting issues. One tactic is to
depress possible turnout among groups more likely to support Democratic and
progressive candidates, particularly people of color, with disinformation and
intimidation. News outlets have reported on a variety of voter suppression
efforts aimed at lowering turnout among African Americans, including Pennsylvania
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett telling the Delaware County GOP to keep the Philadelphia
Democratic vote below 50 percent; billboards in Milwaukee showing people behind
bars warning against "voter fraud," and the planned deployment by Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk of
"voter integrity squads" in Black neighborhoods in. In Wisconsin, the
Republican Attorney General reportedly colluded with
the state GOP, local Tea Party, and Americans for Prosperity in a voter
"caging" operation designed to purge people from voting rolls. In
Harris County, Texas, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has asked the DOJ to investigate
voter intimidation efforts during early voting

Watch for
stories on and after Election Day involving registered voters who are turned
away because they had been purged from voter lists, stories of intimidation by
"voter integrity" operations. Meanwhile, while there is no credible
evidence that voter fraud - the way right-wing strategists use the term,
meaning individuals casting ballots they aren't eligible to cast - has played
any significant role in any recent election, GOP strategists and right-wing
pundits have made it an article of faith among many Tea Party and right-wing
activists that ACORN somehow stole the 2008 election for President Obama and
that Democrats and people of color are conspiring once again to try to steal
elections. Sharron Angle and right-wing groups have already suggested that
Democrats are making plans to steal the close election. The extent of voter
suppression activities, and the extent to which right-wing pundits and
politicians make irresponsible charges of voter fraud, could tell us a lot
about the extent to which inflammatory and racially divisive politics will
continue to drive right-wing political strategy.

Among the
races to watch:

  • U.S. Senate race in Illinois,
    where GOP candidate Kirk has said he will deploy the largest "voter
    integrity" program in almost two decades
  • Gubernatorial race in Texas,
    where Democratic officials have asked the DOJ to investigate reports of
    voter intimidation
  • Numerous races in Wisconsin,
    including the U.S. Senate race, where GOP officials have engaged in
    "voter caging" to purge voting lists
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People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry.

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