Tracking the Attack on Working People, Immigrants, the Impoverished, and Equality for All from Roosevelt to Obama
An Analytical Field Guide for Human Rights Organizers

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The Core of Right-Wing Ideology

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:

Survival of the Fittest. The Right believes that anyone who does not succeed or prosper in the system lacks the necessary self-discipline, or was born with the wrong genes. There are no flaws in the system or in institutions; the flaws are in the individual. Because the term "survival of the fittest" sounds too cruel, the Right has popularized the concept of "personal responsibility". That means individuals are on their own to deal with such needs as retirement security, health care, and coping with millions of jobs lost due to unfair international trade agreements and corporate mergers. Those who do achieve wealth and power are the most fit, the product of an economic natural selection known as social Darwinism. The income gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. grew precipitously from 1979 to 2007. The top 1 percent of earners (over $252,607 after-tax household income) saw their incomes spike by 275 percent. The middle range earners ($18,979 to $60,557) only rose slightly under 40% during the same period, just barely enough to cover an average household’s rising utility bills.1 This concentration of wealth at the top also concentrates political power at that level. For the Right, extreme income inequality is a perfectly acceptable consequence of the survival of the fittest ideology.

Capital Should Be Served by Government. The Right believes that the forces of free enterprise should run the economy. It is opposed to regulations in the interest of workers, the environment, consumers, the elderly and the powerless. However, any regulations that protect corporate and investor interests, such as ensuring that international trade agreements like NAFTA protect capital, patents and intellectual property, are fine. The Right hated the activism of government during the Great Depression of the 1930s, especially the creation of Social Security and passage of collective bargaining rights for workers. Public services, including public education, should be privatized. Social programs should be minimal with church-based charity aiding those in need. The role of government is basically to provide a military defense, to protect and promote business and investor interests, and to structure the economy so that income and wealth concentrate at the top.

Property Rights Supercede Human Rights. The Right is determined to protect the property rights of investors and corporate owners. Russell Kirk, a major conservative theorist who wrote The Conservative Mind, emphasized that property ownership is what separates humans from other animals so "the rights of property are more important than the right to life." For government to order business owners to behave a certain way – such as establishing labor standards (minimum wage, overtime rights, workplace health and safety laws) and environmental controls – erodes the right to own property. Kirk opposed the notion of worker "rights" and wrote that limiting working hours and requiring periodic holidays meant workers insisted on a "right to be idle".

Decisions Should Be Made By The Elite. It follows then that those who accumulate the most wealth deserve to make the decisions. Contrary to its populist rhetoric, the Right believes that the masses have a persistent and basic incompetence, and its theorists often refer to democracy as "mob rule." Consistent with this view, the Right will oppose any policy to expand citizen participation and create a more informed electorate – such as the Voting Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act, voter registration at the polls, and public funding for public radio, television and the arts. The nationwide campaign to suppress the vote (of those more likely to vote Democratic) by passing state laws requiring a photo ID for voting is an example of obstructing democratic participation. The movement to defund and privatize public education (taxpayer support for private school vouchers) reflects this ideology. The Right is especially opposed to unions which are the most powerful mass-based, democratic organizations that give the average person an organized voice in their workplace and society.

 

 

Read the Introduction to the Report

"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."Read More...

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,
and the ability to participate
in a free and open public debate,
reach constructive decisions
that benefit the whole of society, and
preserve liberty,
protect our freedoms,
extend equality, and
defend democracy.

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