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Politics In America: the American Right

Joanne Ricca has studied the U.S. political right for over 30 years, with a special emphasis on what union members need to know about right-wing ideology. Her summary provides a useful overview:

By Joanne Ricca, Wisconsin AFL-CIO

Special Today: Includes Introduction and Summary

From the Summary:

The strength of the Right should be kept in perspective. Often Right Wing candidates win by a tiny margin in close votes due to their tactics. Voters are unaware of the true agenda and often would not support the candidate if they understood. A good example of this at the state level is the election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He never indicated during the election campaign that he would take the undemocratic action of essentially stripping away the freedom to collectively bargain for public employees. Instead, his campaign stoked public concern about taxes.

Introduction

"There is a broad assault on all the gains that have been made to achieve economic and social justice for the middle class and working class. These gains were won over many decades through the New Deal, the Great Society and various popular movements. Workers are fighting unprecedented attacks on collective
bargaining rights, workplace labor standards and the fundamental freedom of unions to exist.

"This is the result of a determined, coordinated strategy by a corporate-funded ideological movement that seeks to eventually destroy labor unions and erode the gains made by all progressive movements.

"This report traces the evolution of the American Right over the past few decades. It covers Right Wing ideology, the development of the New Right beginning in the 1960s, its extensive infrastructure and bold strategy.

"This report also explains how the Right came to successfully exploit single issues and manipulate religious faith to distract and direct middle class and working class voters to support candidates who are a threat to their economic interests. Hopefully, this summary will encourage a broad discussion on how to effectively challenge and defeat the American Right.

 

Summary


  • The American Right, as it has evolved over the past four decades, is determined to undo all the progress made on behalf of the working class and middle class since the 1930s. This is when President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the misery of the Great Depression, and a vocal movement on the Left, to vastly expand the role of government to serve the people. He created a legal framework for union organizing and collective bargaining through the National Labor Relations Act, formed reliable economic support programs such as Social Security, and regulated business to protect the common good. Ever since, the Right has been on a campaign to demonize government and erode public confidence in its ability to have a meaningful impact in their lives. This is because the people are defenseless in the face of corporate power without government as an ally to protect their interests.
  • Over the last 40 years the Right has been transformed from small fringe groups of John Birch Society zealots and ineffective Goldwater-type politicians, into a powerful anti-worker, anti-progressive movement to enhance corporate power. The American Right of today has an extensive political infrastructure that is immensely more sophisticated and well-funded than at any period in our country’s history.
  • The modern Right developed independently of the Republican Party, though it is very compatible with that party and views it as the best vehicle to achieve its goals. The development of the Tea Party is a more recent example of a group that functions both in and outside of the Republican Party.
  • Corporate America could care less about gun control, traditional family values or abortion (or the latest useful single issue-of-the-day), nor does it feel totally comfortable with the extremism of the religious front for the Right, but the overall movement serves corporate economic interests perfectly.
  • The Right has developed an extensive infrastructure of national and state-level think tanks, legal advocacy groups, magazines, columnists, social media, its own Fox TV network and conservative commentators. They are magnified by the numerous conservative radio talk shows which create an "echo chamber" and give a false impression there is a public mandate for Right Wing policies.
  • The Religious Right defends its actions as the right of Christians to be involved in politics. This makes it easier to intimidate anyone who challenges its activism on behalf of the secular Right. It did not develop spontaneously out of concern for traditional values, but rather is the result of a calculated electoral strategy by the secular, corporate-backed Right.
  • The opinion of any individual on a given issue should be respected. However, unions have a duty to represent workers’ economic interests and inform members of any threats to those interests. Members must be alerted to the Right’s "bait and switch" tactics -- the use of certain single issues and religious faith to distract voters from the Right’s anti-worker, anti-union, anti-democratic political agenda. All voters must understand that it is dangerous to make a decision about a candidate based on a single issue, given that a movement hostile to middle class and working class economic interests is cynically manipulating emotional issues.
  • The strength of the Right should be kept in perspective. Often Right Wing candidates win by a tiny margin in close votes due to their tactics. Voters are unaware of the true agenda and often would not support the candidate if they understood. A good example of this at the state level is the election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He never indicated during the election campaign that he would take the undemocratic action of essentially stripping away the freedom to collectively bargain for public employees. Instead, his campaign stoked public concern about taxes.
  • Ideas have consequences. The Right aims to repeal decades of progress in improving labor standards, civil rights, environmental and consumer protection, women’s status, gay rights, public education and economic support programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.). The very existence of unions as effective organizations to represent the economic interests of working families is threatened. This is a sophisticated, determined, corporate-funded Right Wing movement that will not automatically be swept back by some hoped-for political pendulum. It will not dissipate on its own. It needs to be challenged and defeated.

 

 

 

What is the Core of Right-Wing Ideology?

Read the Entire Report

Politics In America: the American Right, by Joanne Ricca, of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, who with a handful of other labor and progressive journalists began tracking the right-wing juggernaut 30 years ago. In PDF format at the union's website.

Democracy is a process,
not a specific set of institutions

Democracy is a process that assumes
the majority of people, over time,
given enough accurate information,
the ability to participate
in a free and open public debate,
and can vote without intimidation, reach constructive decisions
that benefit the whole of society, and
preserve liberty,
protect our freedoms,
extend equality, and
defend democracy.

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