Every day, my email in-box and Facebook notifications reveal the grotesque polarization of our country. Friends forward “jokes” and cartoons painting President Obama as an anti-business socialist determined to crush the United States under mountains of debt. They laud Mitt Romney’s business experience as the only answer to the stalled economy, for which they blame Obama. The hysteria is not to be believed. But it’s out there.
I’m told, in one Facebook posting, “I'm angry, I'm sad. My beloved country is being destroyed. The Constitution that was so beautifully written, the perfect balance of power, a country to give liberty and justice. It's all being destroyed. Nick, please tell me one country that has been successful with a Socialist or Communist form of government.”
Where does this come from? Partly, of course, from Rupert Murdoch’s and Roger Ailes’s right-wing talk machine that has so coarsened political discourse in this country. Partly from wealthy conservatives like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers who are spending tens of millions to promote their personal agendas at the country’s expense. Partly from the failure of the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on the “social welfare organizations” such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads America that have nothing to do with social welfare and everything to do with buying the election from behind a curtain that keeps their donors secret. And partly because George W. Bush’s sole accomplishment during eight years in office was creating a deficit so large it could no longer be ignored. It’s enough to make you believe in a vast right-wing conspiracy.
It’s more than buying the election. This 2012 campaign is the one in which moneyed interests are determined to steal America back from its own people. Unleashed by the Supreme Court’s damaging decision in Citizens United and riding on a wave of lies and cash, they have convinced otherwise sensible people that Obama is what he is not and that our way of life is toppling. This is ridiculous, but post a link on Tweet or Facebook to a positive story about Elizabeth Warren, for example, and see what happens. Some of the responses will feel like hot spit.
Obama and the Democratic Party share part of the blame. They have failed to make the strongest case for progressive government. They apparently believed, as I have, that our system since the New Deal has demonstrated the value of public-private partnership and that it is self-apparent. It’s not, to many, not when the truth is bought by the highest bidder.