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The Reagan Revolution Redux

By       Message Don Smith     Permalink
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So Republicans won by their malevolent intransigence. And now Obama is likely to compromise even more.

Obama should have investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted Bush officials for their many crimes, including torture, outing a CIA agent, corrupting the Justice Department, criminal negligence about Hurricane Katrina, cover-ups, and, mostly, misleading the nation into an unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq. Instead, Obama decided to be bipartisan.

The problem with Obama's decision to "look forwards" isn't so much that justice wasn't served -" though that's important. The real issue is that by protecting Republicans, Obama hid from the American people the truth about the recent past and about who's to blame for the mess we're in.

In short, Obama got nothing in return for his bipartisanship except a revitalized GOP and a huge loss in the midterm elections.

What's worse is that Obama appointed fiscal conservatives to the Deficit Commission. Nationally, the Deficit Commission may do to the national government what I-1098 and I-1053 will do to Washington State. And now Obama says he's willing to compromise (again) with conservatives on the issue of extending Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich.

The Role of the Media and Marketing

Setting aside these problems of Republican malevolence and Obama and the Democrats' fecklessness, a central problem is that the Right has had better better success at framing the issues.

Partly, this is due to the influence of Fox News and AM talk radio, as well as ample conservative funding from corporations and from donors like the Koch brothers. When Tea Party activists hold a rally, you can be sure that Fox News will cover it (and promote it!). When anti-war protesters hold a rally, coverage is minimal. The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United to treat corporations as people has opened the floodgates for even more propaganda.

Locally, the downsizing of the Seattle P-I dealt a severe blow to the Left's ability to market its message. The Seattle Times adamantly opposed I-1098, though, to their credit, they endorsed Patty Murray and Suzan DelBene. Suburban newspapers are even more conservative. Commercial TV stations are useless; their "Action News"-style news programs emphasize crime stories, sound bites, sports, and weather; there's little or no coverage of local politics and little editorializing. Left-leaning media outlets -- such as Real Change News, The Stranger, and SCAN TV -" don't reach enough suburban and rural voters to flip elections.

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Democratic legislators have given up on promoting progressive taxation, knowing that it's a losing issue for them. Even some of the most progressive Democratic candidates refused to back I-1098.

So, things are grim. But there are rays of hope. The huge Democratic losses in the House of Representatives were mostly due to the defeat of conservative, Blue Dog Democrats. 79 of the 81 co-sponsors of the Medicare for All bill were re-elected to Congress by large margins. In contrast, 28 of 54 Blue Dogs were defeated. See this article.

Though a majority of Americans voted for Republicans, most elections were still close. The Left needs to educate the people about the truth of how we got into the mess. And to do that, the Left needs to build an effective media presence that can market a progressive view of the issues.

Ideally, America would have well-funded public journalism that might contribute some facts and sanity to the national dialog. Compared to other industrialized nations, America spends a small fraction per capita on public media (like the BBC in Britain). Public-funded media in those countries does not suffer from government interference. See this article.

But conservatives have made sure that NPR and PBS are both underfunded and lacking in editorial independence.

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The Left needs to document all the suffering and crime that will result from the loss of funding for police and social services. It also needs to educate the public about progressive ideas on government and taxation, especially in the online realm, where high quality progressive content is readily available.

The task of marketing progressive ideas and educating Americans about the facts is fundamental to the success of other Democratic and progressive initiatives.

Can Progressives Revitalize the Democratic Party?

In the conservative movement, when there are disaffected groups -- religious conservatives, Tea Party members, etc. -- the disaffected people mobilize their anger and take over the GOP establishment (with a lot of help from wealthy friends like the Koch brothers). So, the GOP moves further and further to the right.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)

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