The actions of the Republican Party over the past year in opposition to health care reform and every other program of the Obama administration are unprecedented in character and strongly suggest that this party does not simply oppose Obama’s policies; it refuses to recognize Obama’s presidency and may well be determined to destabilize the U.S. government.
This is the thrust of a remarkable speech to the U.S. Senate Dec. 21 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
The Republicans, he charged, are driven by “malignant and vindictive passions” aimed at creating “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would be impossible.”
Such passions have historically had horrifying results, he warned, referring to the Nazi Kristallnacht pogrom, the lynchings of African Americans in the South and the McCarthy witch hunts.
In opposing health care reform, Whitehouse said, Republicans “embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.”
As they had similarly done to block programs to create jobs in Obama’s stimulus package, the Republicans never presented any counter-proposals to solve the national health care crisis, but were simply determined to stop any progress.
In the Senate this meant “over 100 filibusters and acts of procedural delay in less than one year. Never since the founding of the republic, not even in the bitter sentiments preceding the Civil War, was such a thing ever seen, Whitehouse said. “It is unprecedented.”
Further, he charged, the Senate Republicans conducted a cynical campaign of big lies that health care reform meant “death panels,” cuts to Medicare, benefits to “illegal aliens,” bureaucrats being put between patients and doctors, “socialized medicine” and “careening deficits.”
They also engaged in unprecedented abuse and public attacks on the clerks, employees and professional staff of the Senate, he said.
Abandoning their usual ultra-militarism, the Republicans even went so far as to vote in lock step to stop funding U.S. troops in the middle of a war so as to obstruct the process of passing the Senate health care bill.
“Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action?” Whitehouse asked. “They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in rightwing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist.”
The arrogant rejection of Obama’s presidency and the virulent hatred and racism of the Republicans was exposed in the infamous “You Lie!” outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson during Obama’s address to Congress in September. Far from having Wilson censured or even admonished, the Republicans passed a resolution hailing his unprecedented act.
The mobilization of extremist groups is serious cause for alarm, especially considering that they have vast corporate funds, are incessantly agitated by rightwing demagogues on Fox News and AM radio and prominent Republican leaders like former Vice President Dick Cheney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who are working overtime to instigate and legitimize this “teabag” movement.
Palin will keynote the teabaggers’ first national convention in Nashville, Tenn., in February. The other top billed speaker is the extremist Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.
At a Nov. 5 rally in front of the U.S. Capitol sponsored by the House Republican leadership and billed as a press conference on the health care reform, the “teabaggers” were out in force with signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau and the caption “National Socialist Healthcare.”
The event reflected “the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right,” Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote. “Something unprecedented is happening here – and it’s very bad for America.”
Pointing to the danger of a rightwing resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections, Krugman continued, “if the Tea Party Republicans do win big ….the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.”
The defeat of the right wing in 2006 and especially 2008 has been rightly hailed as historic by progressive forces throughout the world. But as we know from bitter experiences in Iran and Chile, historic election victories can be reversed. Reversals are preceded by periods in which the reactionaries conduct intense destabilization efforts aimed at creating public acceptance for a restoration of rightwing corporate power.
The ultra right is down, but by no means out. Their defeat has not been consolidated. They retain important positions of power in Congress, the courts, the media, in religious groups, in many state and local governments, in police, security and intelligence forces, in the military and the corporate board rooms. They are cynical and fanatically determined to return to power. It is foolish to seek “bipartisanship” with this gang.
The top priority must be to unite labor, its progressive allies and all democratic forces and mobilize in the streets and at the ballot box to beat back this threat.