I read a terrifying article in this morning's Charlotte Observer...an article so terrifying that it inspired me to run, not walk, to good ol' Daily Kos to produce one of my very infrequent diaries.
Lo and behold, great minds think alike: upon my entering our bunker, I spotted not one but two related diaries: George Lakoff's excellent Where's the Movement, and teacherken's as-always-inspirational Is it time for a new populist-progressive alliance?
First, let's check out that Charlotte Observer article.
It's not new, at least not not to those of us who've been here for years, watching the lunatic right-wing fringe sink deeper and deeper into its insanity. But it's growing like a cancer in our collective body, and it's scary. And, so far, sanity doesn't have any seats at the table.
Here in metro Charlotte, a city so blue that former Rebuplican mayor Pat McCrory couldn't even carry it in his recent bid for governor, the teabaggers have begun to coalesce into numerous splinter offshoot groups whose goal seems to be a new coming of Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority.
Many of the groups are offshoots of last year's Tea Parties, inspired by TV pundits like Glenn Beck and fueled by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Some, like StrengthenCharlotte, promise a bipartisan focus on local issues. Still others want to steep N.C. students in American history.
"This stuff's been fomenting for a long time," [Michael] Kelly [of We the People] says. "But it was Barack Obama coming on stage that put all these policies on steroids."
The article goes on to briefly describe several of the groups and people in leadership. One of them is my current state senator, whose politics I know well:
State Sen. Eddie Goodall, a Weddington Republican, started a nonprofit called Stand Up. Its goal: Go into schools to teach the "fundamental principles that have guided the country." He has seen it grow to more than 17,000 Facebook fans from more than 15 countries.
"Kids seemed to have themselves in boxes already," Goodall says. "They would tell me they're a liberal or conservative or whatever. I would say 'Why?' and that's where the conversation stopped. Let's talk about capitalism and liberty. What is liberty?"
"Capitalism and liberty". Right. Those are synonyms in your warped ideology, right Senator?
His message: "If you're not 'conservative', you don't believe in liberty".
But the really, Tobe-Hooper-scary part?
Go into schools to teach the "fundamental principles"...
Whoa...what's that? "Go into schools"?
Who is letting these nutcases go into our schools and spew their right-wing propaganda to our children? Aren't these the same people who were horrified that the President of the United States might appear by video in their children's schools and destroy their precious and vulnerable minds forever by suggesting that they work hard and stay in school?
I know this guy. He is a walking, talking, special-interest panderer. In our district, developers rule...so they are his biggest special interest. He has another "client", too, so precious to him that he's not running for another senate term so he can instead take a job as a full-time lobbyist for them: Charter Schools.
Here in North Carolina, many of our charter schools have become nothing more than publicly-funded private schools, "teaching" as partisan a curriculum as they can get away with. They are the wingnuts' temporary stand-in for vouchers. They are constantly seeking to further defund our legitimate public school system and receive higher funding themselves. They are even suing local school districts, already hurting from crushing capital burdens as runaway population growth mandates breakneck school construction, for a bigger slice of the already-insufficient capital pie.
So I know some of these people personally, and they're dangerous. Very dangerous.
It gets worse:
One organization with a more direct agenda is We the People, headquartered in Concord with branches elsewhere. Organizer Kelly, 51, says the purpose is to "affect the elections for the cause of what we believe are the fundamentals of freedom."
Members of his group research legislation and study "economic literacy," or the fundamentals of capitalism. They also hold regular "Patriotic Rallies."
One this weekend featured a German businessman who once belonged to the Hitler Youth. According to the group's Web site, he was scheduled to talk about "the similarities between Hitler's rise to power and what is happening in America today."
And whether or not these numbers are accurate, they hit me like a cold finger of dread and sent a shiver down my spine:
Michael Kelly of Concord-based We The People claims his organization has more than 4,000 members. He says he has counted at least 50 groups like his around North Carolina.
Back to my initial thoughts, and those other two related diaries:
How do we respond in kind to these attacks?
As teacherken elaborates (specifically in terms of the recent SCOTUS corporate "free speech" disaster), do we attempt to re-establish the alliance between "progressive" and "populist"? It's funny...way back when, I always thought that "populism" and "progressivism" shared a pretty big overlap...what's happened?
Now "populism" means "Teabagging", and "populist" principles have become hate, racism, homophobia, plutocracy, jingoism, xenophobia, "drown government in a bathtub", and "hate the poor", while "progressivism" has become "Nazi".
And we're letting "them" frame this meme!
We had a method and a plan to win Congress in 2006, and it worked. We had a method and a plan to win the White House in 2008, and it worked.
"They've" co-opted our methodology - it was only a matter of time - and they're destroying our three or four years of hard-won progress. They're using blogs. They're using social networking sites. They already have the corporate media - something they've always had - so now their advantage is growing.
This isn't an "action diary", but it's something that I hope will lead to "action diaries". Because maybe I'm missing something, but right now it seems as if "they" are taking all the action. I'm not seeing small, local, real grassroots groups with names like "Patriotic Progressives" or "Opportunity for All" forming in my community. I'm not seeing announcements for meetings where participants discuss the tax advantages as well as the human-needs advantages of a functional healthcare system, or question spending $1 trillion to destroy, then rebuild infrastructure in Iraq while starving the infrastructure needs in our own neighborhoods.
This isn't an opportunity to open the argument over whether or not President Obama and the Democratic Congress are delivering on a sufficiently progressive agenda either; they're delivering what they're delivering, and many of us don't like it, but we need to work within the limitations of what's coming out of Washington right now. We need to return to our roots...our grassroots...and truly take our country back.
This is a call to examine our methodology, and try to determine - quickly - why "they're" winning the Battle of the Message. I think that our very survival as a nation depends on our winning that battle - soon.