It's been a little more than two months since the election, and one thing is clear: You've got to hand it to the rightie-tighties. The pursed-lipped, pseudo-moralist right-wing commentators and pundits have the debate right where they want it. Their arguments are so easy and simple, they have mass appeal. They have the Democrats cornered, and unless the frame of the debate is changed, the Democrats have little chance of reversing the political fortunes of the nation for some time.
The following observations are aimed at the right-wing pundits - not at the numerous Republicans who just want the same things we all do: safety, security, a good educational system, a high standard of living, an ability to offer hope for the rest of the world. Most mainstream Republicans by definition aren't radicals, and most don't even listen to the cable news and right-wing radio commentators. Thus, many of them are by chance not aware, or are deliberately unaware, of the right's poisonous commentary that passes for political debate in America. What that means is - most Republicans don't know about the radical voices that speak for them. For the pundits who dominate the airwaves - the rightie-tighties - are painting their opponents as enemies not just of America, but of normalcy, decency, and common sense. In other words, the right-wing commentators are creating an atmosphere that
threatens the fabric of our democracy by casting liberal foes as enemies and as corrupt spiritual and moral cowards. To
stop this insanity, and the division, Republicans of good conscience need to stand up and be counted among the reasonable.
Think about it for a second. Here's the way the extreme right-wingers - i.e., people you hear every day, all day, on TV and radio - have termed the debate:
If you fight for civil liberties, you're pro-criminal.
If you fight for justice in U.S. foreign policies, you're anti-American.
If you think people should have a right to determine their life partners and give them health benefits, you're pro-queer.
If you question the justice of a war based on false intelligence, you don't support the troops.
If you think the U.S. government should not be spying on its own citizens, you're pro-terrorist.
If you think the United States should not be torturing those it holds captive, you're coddling murderers.
If you think people should not be held indefinitely without trial or lawyers, you support terrorism.
If you think society should help the poor, you're soft on the shiftless.
If you want equal education for all, you're pro-black at the expense of whites.
If you want health care for all, you're a socialist.
If you think everyone has a right to a fair trial, you're soft on crime.
If you hope for a fairer tax system, you're for higher taxes.
If you want a government that helps people, you're for big government.
The list of lies could go on. But in short, it is clear that the righteous right has done a great job of framing the debate as one that pits "normal" and "good" Americans against all the "others" - the poor, the minorities, the gays, the disenfranchised, and the liberals who sometimes champion their causes. Consequently, many of these "normal" Americans are convinced that the Democrats and the liberals are their enemies. Of course, the right-wing's ability to fight ideological wars in the homeland is remarkably more efficient than their ability to manage real fighting overseas; perhaps that's to be expected, since many of the neocons and their mendacious pundit friends are notorious draft-dodgers.
Their rhetorical trick is no secret. The right-wing blowhards make no distinctions between Democrats, liberals, and extreme left-wingers who do indeed sometimes espouse values that are out of touch with most people. Thus, Democrats or liberals are called anti-American, and are painted as against common-sense values that ordinarily would unite us all.
But here is the rub: The opposite is what is actually true: The real anti-Americans are the rabid right-wingers who are polluting our airwaves with endless lies and paranoia that are poisoning the nation and its future.
The real anti-Americans are those who, if you will just take a moment to listen to the pundits and observe the policies of this administration, are against the greatest principles upon which this country was founded:
They are against personal liberty, having endorsed government suspension of habeus corpus and having backed the government's power to monitor what books you check out of the library.
They are for big government, wanting a government so invasive that it can monitor your bedroom activities or stop a grandmother from smoking pot to alleviate her cancer pain.
They are against civil liberties, having supported the government's power to spy on our bookstore, credit card and hotel receipts.
They have fought for a weaker military, having compromised the country's military might and harmed our readiness to wage necessary wars, all the while fighting against better benefits for veterans and those in harm's way.
They favor a weaker America, supporting fiscal policies that are emasculating the nation through ruinous deficits and reckless fiscal acts that threaten the dollar and our standard of living, thus compromising our position as the world's greatest power.
They support a secretive government, founded on cronyism and ideological loyalties rather than upon democracy and openness.
They are undermining the United States' leadership as a moral beacon for the world, having ignored many of our allies and sponsored an arrogant foreign policy that encourages terrorism.
They are against basic morals, such as help for the poor, education for all, social security, and universal health care for children, the poor and the unemployed.
They are on the side of the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of the underdog, having redirected tax and regulatory policies that favor the richest among us.
They are against the young and unborn, having enacted policies that increase the number of abortions and the infant mortality rate.
They are against states' rights, having backed judges who favor greater federal power in energy, health care, and electoral policies.
They are for environmental policies that are not conservationist - i.e., are not conservative - but instead reward polluters and promote consumption of resources.
They are anti-capitalist, favoring not a free marketplace but a big government that determines winners and losers through payouts to the biggest contributors to their coffers - i.e., the wealthiest drug, energy, business and military contractors.
They are hypocrites, immoral in their personal conduct - as are we all - but they loudly and happily condemn those on the other side as hypocrites and examples of moral failings.
They are against the greatest of American values - common sense - by offering arguments even the most casual listening reveals are blatantly illogical and prone to fallacy.
They look upon the ordinary people, even those who support them, with contempt, as they speak as demagogues yet condemn those who speak out against them as demagogues.
None of this sounds like the Americans I know.
That's especially true of the Republicans I know. Yet, the Republicans are allowing these dangerous demagogues to speak as conservatives, which they are not; they are allowing them to speak out as as pro-American, which they are not; and they are letting them pose as Republicans, which they certainly are not. These right-wing pundits are dangerous not just for the Democrats, but will almost certainly prove to be, ultimately, the undoing of the Republicans. That's because once a few of their lies collapse, their entire system of propaganda will collapse in a matter of weeks. Republicans with sense and with morals must speak out to be heard above them, and they must do it now - for their own survival as well as for our well being as a nation.
America has always stood for justice, freedom, and hope for the downtrodden. If you don't believe it, read the enscription on the Statue of Liberty. America is a conservative nation, given to conservative values of freedom, caution, happiness, and hope. Yet none of these values are embodied by the people who speak for the far right today. They are not conservative, and they believe in few of our American ideals. Listen to them. They have lied so succesfully they have convinced those who do believe them that it is the "other side," not them, who are the anti-Americans. It is a common tool of propaganda - do what the enemy does, while blaming the enemy for it - and it must be stopped.
Many, many Republicans are not on the side of these pundits. Yet party affilitation and the "blue-state/red-state" dichotomy has colored our thinking. We are being divided by the lies of the right-wing pundits.
It must be said now, and it must be said again and again: These pundits claim the Democrats and the liberals are anti-American. But of course it is the other way around. The extreme right-wing commentators are anti-American in every way - in their values, morals, conduct, hypocrisy, and propagandist denegration of the values they claim to espouse.
That is the way to reframe the debate. The liberals aren't the anti-Americans. The anti-Americans are the ultra right-wing hysterics who are warning you against the nefarious liberals. The anti-Americans are the ones who are actually warning you against basic American values, yet they are the same people pretending to be wrapped up in the cloth of the American flag.
If that seems harsh, it must be said because, after all, they say it every single day about anyone who disagrees with them.
Guy Reel is an assistant professor of mass communication at Winthrop University. He can be reached at email@example.com.