Bruce: “I appreciated your response to Cat. I hope that we all think ourselves ‘fair’ yet acknowledge the existence of bias. Nonetheless, it is a painful reminder to me of the success of Karl Rove’s ‘both sides lie’ strategy: Craft the most extreme, false, and self-enriching position possible. Shout it as loudly as possible. Use unofficial sources to turn it into ‘official’ reality. Spend time confusing people. Then simply say, ‘Oh, of course we might be extreme, but that is because both sides lie. We are just as correct as they are.’ As you allude, on most of these issues, the Republican argument is that the Earth is flat. The Democrat argument is that the Earth is round. Both sides lie. The Earth is not a perfect sphere, but rather somewhat ovoid. The Republican tactic is not to convince skeptics that the Earth is flat, it is just to convince the faithful that they are being lied to when told that it is round.”
It’s what the tobacco companies (long defended by Republicans) did for decades. It’s what the climate change deniers (almost all of them Republicans*) do. It’s what the wealthy-are-the-job-creators-so-cutting-their-taxes-helps-the-middle-class* proponents (Republicans!) do. It’s what George W. Bush did when he insisted that “by far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum.” It’s what Bush and Cheney did to launch the disastrous Iraq war. It’s what Mitt Romney did in his very first campaign ad. It’s what the Republicans are working so hard to do to discredit the virtues of Obamacare (it’s not perfect, but a big step forward). What they did to destroy ACORN, thus shifting the balance of power yet further from the already powerless.
But I digress.
Let’s say you wanted to ban nipples. You want to make it a crime for which a woman would serve 30 days in jail if anybody saw her nipple in public for any reason? Let’s say you wanted to do that. Let’s say also you wanted counties and cities in the United States of America to be able to establish an official state religion. Here, in this country. Let’s say you want to make teachers in your state teach seventh graders . . . that if you have an abortion, you’re not going to be able to have a baby ever again. Let’s say you want all those things, plus you want to throw 70,000 people off their unemployment benefits immediately, close down 15 of 16 abortion clinics in the state, take $90 million out of the public schools and give that money to the private schools and reorganize the fiscal structure of the state to give millionaires in the state a check for $10,000 each. Oh, oh, oh, oh! And also you want there to be loaded guns in playgrounds. What could possibly go wrong with loaded guns in playgrounds? So say that’s what you have to offer. If that is what you have to offer, congratulations: you are a North Carolina Republican state legislator in the year 2013, and you are in charge there now. You have a Republican governor there, a veto-proof Republican super majority in the house and the senate, should your Republican governor ever want to veto any of your ideas. But why would he? Your ideas are all so good! Especially the nipple one.
If this is the kind of agenda you are working on, then the single most important thing you’re working on is what the North Carolina legislature worked on today and into tonight. A version of this is already passed the house. Tonight, it started to get through the senate where Republicans are also in control. Democrats are fighting tooth and nail with everything they’ve got, trying to stall this bill as much as they can, but they are in the minority, and this thing is expected to pass the North Carolina senate by tomorrow and then it will soon be on its way to the governor’s office. Out of everything North Carolina Republicans have been doing this year, this is the most important thing. Because if your agenda is nipple banning and the establishment of state religion and giving millionaires $10,000 checks, then the one thing you are probably worried about with that agenda is what people are going to think of you once you start trying all this stuff, right? The bill that is moving through the North Carolina legislature right now, tonight, negates any reason for Republicans to worry about what people think of them. It is the insulation for everything else they want to do. When the Supreme Court last month gutted the Voting Rights Act, that meant for North Carolina the state no longer needed the go-ahead from the federal justice department if they wanted to change the state’s voting laws.
. . . At a time when we have had a lot of draconian voter suppression efforts by Republicans in a lot of states, this [one in North Carolina] is kind of the big kahuna. They are going after early voting. They are going after voter registration drives. For college students, not only will you not be able to use your college i.d. to allow you to vote, but if you vote where you go to college, the state wants to tax your parents as a penalty for you voting in your college town. The voter i.d. part specifically is called the most draconian voter i.d. law in the country. If your i.d. is from public assistance, you can’t use that to vote. If you’re i.d. is because you’re a public worker, because you work for a city or you work for a county in North Carolina, you cannot even use that i.d. to vote. If it’s from the college, you can’t use that. Essentially the idea is your i.d. has to say, ‘I’m a Republican’ and then you can use it to vote. Not really, but close.
Of everything North Carolina Republicans have rushed through since they took over in November, this is the keystone to all of it. . . . The only way to get away with aggressively unpopular measures that are radically out of step with everything that has happened in your state in modern times is to make sure that nobody can vote you out of office. That’s exactly what Republicans in the North Carolina senate are expected to finish doing tomorrow, and then send to that governor. Watch this space.
And all we have to fix this madness in North Carolina and elsewhere is inspire the kind of turn-out in 2014 not normally seen in a midterm election. Easier said than done; but possible.
UPDATE: The North Carolina legislature passed the anti-voting bill, to make it as hard as possible for students and the poor and working poor, many of them African American, to vote.
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It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.~Bill Clinton
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