Ryan and Akin serve notice of imminent threat to democracy

The pick of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate and the outrageous remarks of Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin serve notice on the American people that the threat to our nation’s future is imminent and profound.

Every inch of social progress secured in the course of struggle over the past several decades is subject to reversal in the event of a government takeover by the Republican Party in November.

This danger takes center stage in the midst of a deep, protracted, and structural economic crisis that is roiling the entire country – the multiracial working class in the first place. It occurs on the cusp of long-term demographic changes that create new democratic possibilities as we scan forward in time. And it comes at the close of the first term of an African American president whose re-election is viscerally dreaded by right-wing extremism, due to the president’s skin color and politics.

Each of these factors give right-wing extremism – in its newest form (it goes back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and subsequent iterations up to the present) – a particularly venomous and reactionary character.

Indeed, in the worldview of the present-day right-wing extremists there is too much equality, too much democracy, too much “redistribution,” too much regulation, too much secularism, too much science, too much diplomacy, and too much government.

In their view, the rights revolution that began in the ’30s, took a leap forward in the ’60s, and continues to this day, needs to be reversed and unceremoniously crushed.

I’m not suggesting that fascism is around the corner. But the ascendancy of the Republican Party in November could well set the stage for an authoritarian government not bound by the democratic desires of the vast majority of Americans, or by constitutional limits.

It is fair to ask: How could a party that presents such extreme dangers to the democratic values and fabric of our country possess any chance of winning in November?

There is no simple answer to this question. But some explanations come to mind.

The extreme right cleverly conceals its overarching aim to do the bidding of the top layers of the capitalist class at the expense of everyone else. It appeals to racist, misogynist, xenophobic, and homophobic feelings and beliefs. It resorts to demagogy, lies, and twisting facts. It invokes the fairy tale of an unrelenting government intruding into every aspect of the economy and people’s lives. It conjures up a rampaging secularism that is supposedly at war with religious practices and values. It exploits legitimate (and illegitimate) discontent, economic and otherwise, with the Obama administration. It raises the specter of “freeloaders” (re: people of color, welfare recipients, and low-income people) living off the labor and taxes of hard working Americans. And, not least, it systemically tries to suppress the vote.

At the core of this political coalition of the Right are the most reactionary sections of monopoly capital on Wall Street and elsewhere, willing and able to spend billions of dollars in this campaign.

But gathered around them are disparate social groupings set adrift by larger socioeconomic changes in our society and convinced that the world as they knew it is collapsing before their eyes.

While this is a formidable coalition, it is neither of one mind nor invincible. Indeed, because of its diverse character, it contains contradictions – contradictions that the people’s movement, with an eye to peeling away some of its social base, should take advantage of.

The main task however is to mobilize every American who is worried about this gathering danger to register their opposition at the polls on election day.

From rural to urban America, from schoolyard to college campus, from neighborhood to workplace, from small town and to big city, from ghettos and barrios to suburbs and exurbs – no voter who is concerned about the democratic character of the country should stay home.

It is a big challenge for the labor and people’s movement, but there is no other road forward to a better future for the American people.

Photo: Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, along with Todd Akin (on right). The country is in danger if their party takes over in November.   Scott Applewhite/AP


Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.