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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/11/10

Democracy By Illusion

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Scarcely had the much super-hyped midterm elections ended when Republicans are now threatening to usher in a new era of vicious partisan politics that will retard any hope for growth in the American economy. But that is not the full story and all of those who fell victim to the most successful disinformation campaign in modern American history will, I predict, soon wake up an "oh my gosh what have I done?" moment. Without evoking personal cynicism, the mid-term selection results signaled for me a mass degeneration into political idiocy of the kind unequalled in modern times.

Consider this: eight years ago a Republican Administration and Congress squandered a budget surplus left by President Bill Clinton in under a year and dragged the country into two unwinnable wars that has cost a significant loss of life and a national debt of nearly three trillion dollars. Greedy bankers that embrace the Bush "Imperial Presidency" raked in super profits based on deliberately spurious financial instruments. Unregulated and free to plunder and pillage Bush and company looked the other way. "Greed was good" - until the artificial bubble burst. Then corporate America's private debt all of a sudden had to be rescued with public money.

Just two years ago Americans created history and voted into the White House its first Black president on a message of change. Now just over half-way in his term Americans have become so angry with the pace of change that they have returned to office the same people who screwed up the American economy and helped create the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Also consider these facts: Barack Obama inherited the most serious economic problems and difficult financial challenges of any United States president for three generations. Yet, politics is a strange activity. The electorate is fickle, impatient and emotionally erratic. When expectations are high, as in the election of Obama, and the pace of change is not as speedy as expected the electorate can be very spiteful and downright vengeful. These past midterm elections saw Republicans tap into this emotional and subjective behavior and ride them to political success.

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So what went wrong? How did we get to this point after voting for change in 2008?

Things started to go sour for President Obama and the Democratic Party as he took up office in the midst of two stalemated wars, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, a runaway job loss index, a massive housing crisis, and a national climate of hopelessness, fear and uncertainty about the future. And even before he was in office for 100 days Republicans were rooting for him to fail. Still, he forged on pushing his agenda for change in the midst of the most hateful and racist climate imaginable.

All of his attempts at bipartisanship were rebuffed as the Republican spin machine ratcheted up its criticisms, attacks and settled into a strategy of obstruction. The party and its enablers embarked on a massive disinformation campaign that ran into the billions of dollars aimed at painting an image of the young president as " radical and extreme," "embarking on socialism" and taking "America in a wrong direction." So as unemployment still very high and the president's accomplishments not understood by voters this wave of discontent was used by the Republicans to retake power.

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Yet facts are pesky things. For example, one of the first Republican acts was to obstruct and filibuster the president's efforts to arrest an out of control economy. As the auto and banking industries teetered on the edge of collapse Republicans accused President Obama of reckless spending. And when health premiums threatened to upend the entire federal budget they initially gloated on their favorite television shows that healthcare reform was going to be "Obama's Katrina or Waterloo." All this time they could care less about poor and working class Americans and all but ignored the middle class. Their mantra? "Extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich."

The Republican hypocrisy about "the American people having sent the president a message" in the just concluded midterm elections is exposed by the fact that when President Obama nominated a Nobel Prize winner to take on the issue of high unemployment they blocked the nomination. And they railed against the president for wanting to reign in Wall Street and the financial sector, especially the banking industry, putting up stiff opposition to financial regulation. Finally, as of last August 372 bills were passed in the House of Representatives but died in the Senate because of Republican filibuster threats and other obstructionist tactics.

Of course, the midterm elections were not noteworthy for public debate on substantive issues at the level of all the candidates from both parties Rather, both parties engaged in a war of sustained mudslinging, inanities, lying, name calling, manufactured scandals and diversions that only helped to further confuse the American voter already angry with President Obama and the Democrats.

So, as this campaign of misinformation and obstruction began to undercut the economic recovery, the GOP doubled down. Republicans repeatedly blocked job-creating and small business-promoting legislation , often killing essential measures or requiring ambitious plans to be pared down into nearly nothing. And this obstructionism, bordering on the criminal, helped keep in the economy in the doldrums, the obstructionists' standing in the polls steadily grew . In the end the utter obscenity of this situation that demonstrated the fact that BOTH parties exhibited a lack of caring for the poor and middle class is the fact that both parties spend a whopping record $4 billion in this massive smear campaign.

Even with this massive campaign spending the relative impotence of the Democratic Party and its operatives was most apparent with the president getting great difficulty in communicating his message. Republicans rose the political caterwauling to near deafening levels as they rolled out their disinformation campaign. Buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court's dumbfounding Citizens United decision the pro-Republican ultra-right wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $32 million to help Republicans win back the House of Representatives. Then there were the supporting roles of such groups like 60 Plus and the Conservatives For Patients' Rights that targeted President Obama's healthcare reform law.

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They consistently made the outlandish claims that the Affordable Care Act would slash Medicare benefits or outlaw private coverage or euthanize grandma . This disinformation campaign was not limited to health reform. Republicans blanketed the airwaves with attacks on President Obama's successful program to save the auto industry -- a program that saved more than one million jobs . The Recovery Act saved approximately 1.2 million jobs and even right-wing economists believe that it boosted the economy by 4 percent , but Republicans have done everything in their power to ensure that no one knows about these successes. Republicans have manufactured economists who deny the effectiveness of the stimulus. They falsely claim that it has not created a single job , and they repeatedly label it a " failed stimulus " -- even if they also have no compunctions about stealing credit for the law's success whenever it benefits them politically to do so.

The lion's share of this vast sum went for the purchase of television attack ads that reached a crescendo over the weekend before the midterm elections. It was impossible to watch a news program, drama, comedy or sporting event without being subjected to a torrent of filth, mind numbing in its viciousness, repetitiveness and obvious insincerity. [American Progress].

The end result of this advertising blitzkrieg was to deliberately confuse and stoke fear and anger in the voting populations. This tactic made coherent reflection about political and economic issues impossible since the Republicans put forward nothing new. Their "Pledge to America" touted as revolutionary was quickly dropped from their talking points when Democrats and political pundits pointed that it was nothing new just old wine in new bottles, a rehash of the failed Bush policies. The spin-doctors and admen sought to stun and numb audiences with emotionally loaded attacks on opposing candidates, while the actual agenda of the ad sponsors were concealed.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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