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The vast majority of American people base their concept of reality on what they hear, rather than logical examination. Conservative Republicans have long since recognized that fact, and have repeatedly managed to seize control of the national agenda through a concerted effort to control the political rhetoric. This tactic is used quite effectively against anyone who disagrees with their point of view. During the McCarthy era of the fifties, American citizens were labeled Communists for nothing more than advocating civil rights—and even during the sixties, J. Edgar Hoover suggested that Dr. Martin Luther King’s activities were subversive. One would think that the Democrats would have learned the importance of countering these tactics by educating the American people, yet, during the late sixties and early seventies they simply sat back and allowed the Republicans to demonize what it meant to be liberal, and the country is paying a severe price for that failure to this day.
The term “liberal” is defined as broad-minded, tolerant of others, and open to new ideas. Those are the perfect qualities necessary to heal this country and help us to move forward as a people. But the Democrats sat on their hands and allowed conservatives to take the term “liberal” and turn it into something evil in the eyes of the American people. As unconscionable as the Republican tactic was, one can’t help but admire its effectiveness. They took the strength of the Democratic Party and made it a liability. As the Democrats stood, looking on in that familiar silence that has become so synonymous with Democratic politics, conservative Republicans took the Democratic tradition of being forward-thinking, inclusive, and having compassion for the common man, and recast them as naive “bleeding heart liberals”, bent on undermining the country. They also allowed the Republican Party to disparage Black people and minorities—a large part of the Democratic base—as criminals, drug addicts, and predators that Democrats were trying to hoist on the backs of a struggling White middle class.
If the Democratic Party would have fought to defend their constituents and agenda by educating the public at that time, America would have been immune to the tactics being used today to sustain the crimes in Iraq and undermine our constitution. But the Democrats simply stood back in silence like obedient children, and as a result, the Republican message has now seeped into the American psyche. Now all Republicans have to do is spit out the word “liberal” and it serves to not only slander minorities and the Democratic Party, but also undermine the party’s message in the minds of many American voters.
Conservative Republicans have become experts at redefining concepts—they have to be, in order to make their agenda palatable. How many people would vote Republican if they told the truth and said, We want to make all the money we can make, share as little of it with you as we can get away with, and have you foot the bill? Not many, but that’s exactly what’s going on in this country. Now, any time anyone has the audacity to suggest that the rich throw the poor and middle class an extra crumb, you have some brainwashed idiot, who’s just as broke as the rest of us, running around saying, “We can’t do that, that’s socialism!” Such people have been so brainwashed that they’re willing to take food from the mouths of their own children because they’ve been convinced that it’s morally repugnant, in fact, un-American, for the wealth of this nation to be shared by the people of this nation.
Republicans have convinced their base that it is a sin to share the wealth with the poor in the same way that they convinced many Americans that the liberal penchant for being open- minded and fair was a subversive trait. First, they took the concept that they want to demonize and combined it with a known evil, then they repeatedly associate the two until the gullible begin to see one as representative of the other. The concept of socialism is a case in point.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines socialism as follows: “A social system in which the means of producing and distributing goods are owned collectively, and political power is exercised by the whole community.” There’s absolutely nothing inherently evil about that definition—in fact, it would seem to be the ultimate model of democratic fairness. It simply says that all of the people should share in both the nation’s wealth and the running of the nation as a whole. But conservatives seized upon the fact that socialism was one of the concepts that Marxists perverted in their system. Then—in spite of the fact that socialism has no more to do with the evils of Marxism than equality has to do with the evils of capitalism—they repeatedly combined the two concepts until socialism became synonymous with totalitarianism in the minds of many Americans. Thus, they successfully made the moral and economic equivalent of equality, a bad word in America’s political lexicon. Now, as a direct result of that rhetorical manipulation, one runs the risk of being labeled a Communist for the mere suggestion that poor and lower middle class children be provided with publicly subsidized health insurance.
But quite conveniently, the reverse is far from true. While it is considered un-American for the American tax payers to use their tax revenue to subsidize the healthcare of their children, it is perfectly alright for the tax payer to subsidize the business enterprises of the rich. Every time a business executive treats his girlfriend to a $200 “business-related” lunch, the American tax payer pays for it; if that same executive decides that he needs a brand new Cadillac Escalade to impress his business clients, we, the American tax payer, also pays for that. And in spite of the fact it is the heavy trucks that carry his goods that wear on our highways, bridges, infrastructure, we are the ones who pay to have them repaired. In addition, if his oil refinery catches on fire, even though he’s laid us off and has been gouging us on the price of gas, guess who’s resources are used to put out the fire? We also pay to protect his interests. If you report a drive-by on 1st Street and a bank robbery on 2nd Street, where do you think the police are going to go first? So as hard as it may be to believe, simple political rhetoric has convinced the American people that it is morally repugnant to help themselves.
There are many other examples where the Republican Party has misled the public through the use of political rhetoric. They claim to be for limited government. They say that in a nation that is truly free, a government shouldn’t interfere with a citizen’s life. But what they really want is a government just limited enough not to interfere with their inalienable right to steal, but they feel that a government should be unlimited when it comes to intruding on a woman’s right to determine whether or not she wants to bring a pregnancy to term. They also think the government shouldn’t be limited to the point that it’s precluded from making it illegal for an elderly person to go outside the country to avoid being gouged by American drug companies.
They also say they’re for state’s rights. But in reality, they’re only for a state’s right to discriminate against its citizens. They thought it was a gross intrusion on state’s rights when the federal government intervened to force the integration of the South, but when it comes to a state’s right to say that gays should be allowed to marry, they insist upon that being strictly regulated.
So I just can’t understand the reasoning of many Democratic politicians. They seem to be afraid that if they challenge the Republican’s distorted view of reality they’re going to anger the American voter. They don’t seem to understand that it is their failure to educate the public to the hypocrisy of Republican reality that have them constantly fighting an uphill battle. But this wouldn’t be an issue if Democratic politicians cared as much about the country as they do their own re-election. The Democratic base realizes that, and they’re disgusted by it. Most Democratic voters are idealists, and what they’re looking for are statesman who throw caution to wind in the interest of the nation. They’re looking for leaders with the courage of their convictions like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, and have very little patience for image molders who contrive to laugh on cue. They see these people as little more than clowns—and an insult to their intelligence.
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at