by James Boyce and Dave Johnson.
We told you so.
Well before the 2008 election we were writing about the need to take down the right's $mear and Fear machine. It is the defining and most important issue in progressive politics. It took the public option --option! -- out of our healthcare bill. It destroyed any chance for progress on climate change legislation, as the planet falls apart before our eyes. And yet, collectively, there has not been a Democratic and Progressive focus on destroying this machine, and until we have it we will keep losing our leaders, and our country.
It is a legitimate and important question to ask how we might summon the forces to counter the $250 million the US Chamber of Commerce has spent in the last twelve months stonewalling, obstructing, distorting and doing the dirty work of the Republican party. But if you don't even see the problem, if you ignore it and think the facts, hah, the facts are going to help you win the day, well, you're going to keep losing, and lose we have.
Before the 2008 election we wrote about this, and imagine if then, we had predicted that Barack Obama in just twenty-four months, would be on the shelf with other Democratic leaders who raised their profile high enough to be attacked.
In our December, 2006 post, How Long Will The Right Let Us Love Obama? we wrote about the right's fear and smear machine. We wrote about how Americans should have a positive view of good, honest civil servants with great accomplishments.
This is what the machine does to Democratic and Progressive leaders. It smears, and attacks and destroys them. It leaves millions of Americans with an uneasy feeling about John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, a bad taste in the mouth, "I don't know. I just don't like him." It's emotional. It's not rational. But it is very, very real.About Obama, who still had a very positive public image we asked,
And it's not just these our most recent leaders. As we wrote last week, President Jimmy Carter left office virtually in disgrace. What about Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis? Are they perceived as what they really are - respected leaders who are both true American success stories? Hardly. They are perceived in the "conventional wisdom" as jokes and afterthoughts.
Those powerful negative stereotypes were carefully created by the use of brilliant marketing, coordinated messaging, virtually unlimited budgets and a complete lack of morals.
"What will happen when he faces the wrath of the Right's machine? Will we still love him then?"
The answer is no. As the US Chamber of Commerce has leveled hundreds of millions of dollars against the man and his message of Hope, now jut 39% of the country believes Obama can be re-elected. Because he did what exactly? Tried to steer the country through the worst economic downturn in its history? Because he tried to give all Americans healthcare? But through the prism of the Right, a prism funded by corporations, we now see the wreckage.
The smears against Bill and Hillary Clinton seem tame now. Foreign-born Obama is Marxist Terrorist who is turning the country communist, taking over business after business, persecuting white people, confiscating our retirement accounts, and the rest of the list.
Why do they say these things? Because
They Destroy Our Leaders
In the post, Hillary's Primary Challenge: Shattering The Prism Of The Right we wrote,
For the past three decades, the right wing has employed a powerful strategy of "$ell and Smear." They insist on being the gatekeepers to public opinion and have developed a powerful machine that tells us who to like - and who to hate.
They $ell their heroes, turning a B-movie actor into the Marlboro Man and President.
They $mear Democratic and Progressive heroes, reducing American success stories such as George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis into humiliated historical footnotes. They destroy our leaders. They destroy those that might become our leaders. There is no Democratic or Progressive leader of any note of the last twenty years that has not been attacked.
We created "Smoking Politics" to reflect that Marlboro Man method pioneered by the tobacco companies, making Republicans into cowboys and smearing the opposition. We tried to explain the need to confront the right as a movement, not through weak election-time short-term responses.
In How Long ... we concluded, "
The Right's $mear machine is one of the most powerful, destructive and pervasive forces of our time. It has to be understood for what it is, fought back against, exposed and destroyed.This is still true. More than ever. And until we do, our leaders will, always, be joined together by a haunting feeling of,
"I'm not sure, I just don't like him."
Environmental, social justice, labor, civil liberties and all the rest of the progressive-aligned groups right now are pondering what to do next. They believed that if they elected Democrats, the Democrats would support their legislation and the needed, important, critical steps we need to take to save our jobs, communities, economy and our planet's future for our children and our grandchildren. But what they didn't count on was the Right turning their full guns on them. And now, every single Republican Senator in Washington is an anti-labor, filibustering, "Tea Party" climate change denier.
As we ponder our way forward, we can't afford anymore to ignore the 800 pound elephant, armed to the gills with hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate ammo, a total and complete disregard for the truth and a willingness to stomp first and ask questions later. This is the issue. This is the core problem. All the election-cycle work, the get out the vote efforts, all of the 'facts and truth on our side' none of that matters until this issue is dealt with.
We have to move outside of electoral politics, year-round and 24/7, and fight them on their own battlefield of public opinion. We have to take down the $mear and fear machine.