Tuesday night, November 8, 2011, was a hopeful night for those opposed to some of the most draconian Republican policies, as those policies or their human embodiments lost by large majorities in elections in four very different states. Heartland Midwestern Ohio with its decimated industrial base roundly rejected harsh anti-union laws that would have essentially destroyed collective bargaining for public employees. Rugged, independent Maine that just elected a gaggle of Republicans tossed out a ban on early voting aimed mainly at traditional Democratic constituencies. Bible belt, Confederate and traditional-family (euphemisms alert) Mississippi solidly defeated a proposed "personhood" amendment that would have given zygotes full constitutional rights and effectively outlawed abortion and most forms of contraceptive medicine. Arch-Republican and allegedly strongly anti-immigrant Arizona threw out their former Senate President, the public face of the regressive anti-immigrant SB 1070 and other culturally and racially oppressive legislation.
These election results are definitely hopeful. How many times have progressives sat stunned as Republican politicians asserted that policies advancing their most fevered dreams of plutocratic and theocratic oppressions represent the true beliefs of all "real" Americans? Beliefs held silent for fear that the working white Christians who dare to express them would be persecuted by the unemployed impoverished gay minority Islamic atheist socialist dominatrices that everyone knows secretly hold all the power.
Tuesday's elections are powerful because they rejected a near scientifically representative sample of Republicans' most cherished social and economic programming. Laws against unions, immigrants, women's reproductive and health care rights and fair and broad access to voting were all rejected. These pet policies also failed in states representing a broad cross section of the United States population. Republicans cannot denigrate large majorities of voters from Maine, Ohio, Arizona and Mississippi as radical unpatriotic hippies bent on destroying America.
So, Tuesday offered proof that progressives are correct in knowing most voters do not share the hard right views Republicans ascribe to them. We can build on this success and hope for sure.
We also need to prepare for a backlash that may be shocking in content and scope. No post-election period in my political lifetime was more filled with hope and fertile ground than November 2008. (I am 50.) Even if partly based in denial about Barack Obama's actual progressivism, Democrats and progressives looked forward to implementing positive social change and cementing power for years to come. Our favorite journalists, including Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, were daily practically mocking the dismal state of the Republican Party. Mainstream media questioned the paths opened for it in the future and some even debated whether the party would survive.
Less than a year later, an even more extreme and aggressive version of the hard right had ascended to dominate the political, social, economic and media conversation. The new Tea Party brand of extreme right-wing Republicans had derailed even the slim extant chances of achieving meaningful health care reform and were stampeding toward their 2010 electoral stomping of dazed and disillusioned Democrats, who had so recently basked in the glow of victory and hope.
Recent history however is not the main reason we need to fear the Republican backlash to Tuesday's progressive victories. Republican lawmakers and judges, and the corporate and religious overlords who control them, will not view the popular rejection of their ideologies as evidence they need to reconsider what the people really want. They will not even view their losses in the whole as showing they need to change their methods of propaganda and manipulation, though they will assuredly do that.
This new group of callous and extreme right wing Republicans harbors neither interest in nor desire to discover and implement the will of the people. It seeks to bend the will of the people to its will. It seeks to impose its ideologies on our society whether we want them or not, whether they are in the best interest of the people or not.
The lesson they will take from
Tuesday is that they need to make sure the people have as little opportunity as
possible to vote on laws implementing the right's ideologies. From extreme
religious restrictions on private behavior to further unleashing corporations
and the wealthy to convert the public's natural resources, money, bodies and
lives into private treasure chests, Republicans will seek to impose their will
without allowing the people to choose.
Republicans once believed, with evidence, that they could use citizen ballot measures to implement their right wing policies over the heads of moderate or progressive lawmakers and judges. Lately, the public has begun to catch on and Tuesday may have been the most convincing evidence that the public will no longer be so easily swayed by right wing disinformation.
With a candidate election system
just opened to unlimited corporate spending, with judges, including high court
judges, elected in many states, with many Federal Judges now being doctrinaire
Republican operatives, our corporate overlords and the religious opportunists
riding their power are likely to turn to harsher and harsher voter and popular
repression techniques to win elections. They will then use their purchased
officials to ram through their self-seeking policies and rely on their
purchased judges to uphold them.
I do not know, nor do I think anyone can be sure what form right wing voter and popular repression will take, but I do know we need to be prepared to meet it. Recognizing they cannot fool enough of the people enough of the time to get what they want, we would be wise to assume Republicans believe the next step is to take the people out of the process altogether.