President Barack Obama listens to Jeffrey Brower and Dwayne Moore explain the machining for Caterpillar's large mining trucks during a tour of the Linamar Corporation auto-parts plant in Arden, North Carolina, on Feb. 13, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
You might have thought that Election 2012, in which Barack Obama thumped Mitt Romney and Democrats bested Republicans in total votes for Congress, provided a popular mandate for more government investments in national infrastructure, cutting-edge research and public education -- paid for with slightly higher taxes on the rich -- and less interest in austerity that will cost jobs. But, if you thought so, you were wrong.
From the point of view of the Right -- or what some like to call the Real Americans -- there is no reason to respect last November's electoral judgment because it was delivered by the Other Americans, who are seen as essentially an enemy country that just happens to be located inside the territorial United States. And that enemy country must not only be defeated, but must be made into an example of what happens to those who challenge Real America.
Similar struggles were waged when European whites rested the land from Native Americans in colonial and post-colonial times and when Southern whites reclaimed control of the former Confederacy from freed African-American slaves after Reconstruction. Now, with Republicans losing the demographic competition -- having alienated blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites -- the Right must resort to anti-democratic and other under-handed tactics to win.
In doing so, the Right also is drawing on the history of the Cold War when it was common U.S. government practice to wreck the economies of Third World governments that were viewed as flirting with "socialism." There were two goals: to oust their wayward leaders (replacing them with more compliant figures) and to make the devastated countries examples for others.
Thus, you had CIA covert operations staging coups in Iran in 1953 (because Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was nationalizing foreign-owned oil wells); in Guatemala in 1954 (because President Jacobo Arbenz was pushing land reform); and in Chile in 1973 (because President Salvador Allende was trying to reduce income inequality).
In Nicaragua in the 1980s, a leftist Sandinista government opened health clinics and launched literacy programs, making it the ideological enemy of President Ronald Reagan who waged a ruthless campaign to reduce Nicaragua's economy to rubble, to terrorize the population, and to set the stage for the election of a pro-U.S. politician.
While getting rid of troublemakers in these and other cases was part of Washington's agenda, perhaps more important was the demonstration to nearby countries about what would befall them if they deviated from the model of unregulated or lightly regulated capitalism, i.e., if they challenged the economic status quo in which privileged elites collaborated with multinational corporations.
Thus, you had National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger's famous quip about the strategic insignificance of Chile as "a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica." In other words, the U.S. government knew that Chile itself was unimportant to the Cold War chessboard but still was determined to stop Chile from becoming a successful model for other Latin American countries. President Richard Nixon's stated goal regarding Chile was "to make the economy scream."
Coming Home to Roost
This history is relevant today because the United States is seeing something comparable occurring not in some faraway land but at home. Well-funded elements of the American Right are determined to do to the country that elected Obama twice what the CIA did to places like Iran, Guatemala, Chile and Nicaragua, i.e., whatever is necessary to wreck the economy and to create angry political divisions.
These right-wingers also don't see what they're doing as treasonous, which could be defined as willfully acting to damage or destroy your own country. The reason is that they no longer consider the America that elected Obama to be their country. They see it as a foreign entity -- increasingly controlled politically by brown-skinned minorities, feminists, gays, and young whites who are comfortable in a multicultural world.
In the Right's opinion, America should be ruled by whites, albeit with the help of a few token blacks and Hispanics; that's the proper order of things. It's what Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other right-wingers have called the "Real America"; it's what they mean when they talk about "taking our country back."
The "Other America" is not just seen as a political rival with different some ideas but as an alien being that has come to inhabit the body of the United States. It is a rampaging virus, a metastasizing cancer. It must be eradicated or at least brought under control and managed.
So, if you must suppress the votes of "those people" by imposing new "ballot security" measures or by rigging control of Congress through extreme gerrymandering of districts (and thus devaluing the votes of blacks, Hispanics and young city dwellers), then that's okay.
Some Republican-controlled states that tend to vote Democratic in national elections are now trying to apportion presidential electors from those deformed congressional districts, rather than from the state as a whole, in order to make the votes of rural whites more powerful than the votes of minorities and urban residents. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Return of Three-Fifths of a Person."]