Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Left, Doc?

by Al Falafel

Not that I would ever try to claim it as an original idea but I have ranted here before on the lopsided political mind-scape in this country and the lamentable lack of a true Left Wing perspective in our political discourse. Unlike us, other democracies in the Western World respectfully embrace a wide spectrum of viewpoints including those on the far Left which balance ideologues on the Right and far Right.

In America, however, "conventional wisdom" promulgated by the mainstream media has long held that there shall be zero tolerance for voices coming from any further than just a tad left of the political center.

In fact, the fourth estate has been at least complicit - if not even more culpable for this than either major political party. Vilifying the Left has been de rigueur for the press even before the Republican Party propaganda machine known as Fox News became the standard-bearer for all news organizations with a nation-wide audience.

Media Matters takes note of this in a current article concerning the various health care proposals under consideration in Congress.

In the United States, slavish adherence to "moderate" positions is often construed as exhibited "pragmatism" that's in distinction to the more "ideological" views of people with less centrist views. In fact, moderation can reflect ideology every bit as much as extremism can.
If political "moderation" assumes a point of equilibrium between Left and Right, ideology is still reflected in a "Centrist" position because the American "Center" is in truth only "Center-right."

These parameters are set by the media in the interest of ratings and audience share. Unpopular points of view are given short shrift, though they may represent the most practical solutions, because unpopularity does not produce advertising revenues. Under the guise of "pragmatism" then, the media declines to give serious consideration to any Leftist point of view even when it is objectively more appropriate, workable, or potentially more effective to a situation than a centrist or right-wing proposal.

"Ideology" is a negative word when used in conjunction with the Left. It is seldom used to identify Right-wing points of view that are in fact equally ideological. The Media Matters article makes the point that the best proposal now on the table is the one that is decidedly from the Left-most end of the spectrum. As such it stands little chance for passage simply because it is considered "extremist" by the media that sets the parameters. Scary allusions to Socialism will be raised loudly by Right-wing ideological critics, giving the best proposal a stigma that will be difficult to overcome. It will be the irrational ideological reaction that will be considered newsworthy because those who are predisposed to buy into it uncritically will eat it up.

Notice too how Obama's announcement of his intention to create a new position of Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change has also rankled ideologues on the far Right who have been screaming that his appointee for the position is - gasp! - a Socialist!

Carol Browner, who will serve in that high-level position is the longest-serving administrator in the EPA. The UNITED STATES EPA. She ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton and then served on the board of directors for the National Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters, the Center for American Progress and former Vice President Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection.

She earned her alleged single Socialist credential as a member of the Commission for a Sustainable World Society, an international action group on climate change convened by Socialist International: an umbrella group for many of the world's social democratic political parties such as Britain's respected Labor Party of which Bush's former lap dog, Tony Blair was the leader.

The Commission has issued statements that urge the entire developed world to reduce consumption and commit to binding and punitive limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama transition team said Mrs. Browner's membership in the organization is not a problem and that it brings experience in U.S. policymaking to her new role. With predictable moronic virulence Right-wingers have seized on Browner's involvement with the international commission in order to regurgitate their baseless and thoroughly discredited attempts to brand Obama himself as a radical Socialist. And news organizations such as the Washington Times have dutifully reported their claims with little criticism of the source and with no sense of irony at all.

"The Commission for a Sustainable World Society includes world leaders from a variety of political parties, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair in serving as vice president of the convening organization," Obama transition spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Washington Times in an article headlined "Obama climate czar has socialist ties."

Of course, this is the same ultra conservative newspaper owned by Korean Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church ("Moonies") that angered its conservative readership last year when it announced its editorial decision to cease enclosing the term "gay marriage" in quotation marks in their news articles.

"Carol Browner was chosen to help the president-elect coordinate energy and climate policy because she understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector," Mr. Shapiro said according to the Times (Obama climate czar has socialist ties, 01/12/09).

The appointment does not require Senate approval which is fortunate on the one hand, since it averts any attempt to derail it or to waste time by Republican ideologues who would love to obstruct the new Administration as it starts working on their recovery and reclamation of the catastrophes wrought by eight years of Right-wing extremism under Bush. On the other hand it is potent fodder for the idiotic pundits who still peddle the laughable lies their devotees still buy into about Obama's secret plan to install a Soviet-style oligarchy in Washington.

Obama is no Socialist ("not that there is anything wrong with it"). And socialist ideology is, in fact, no more inherently un-American than is capitalist ideology. In fact, the basic socialist idea of deriving authority from the will of the people is transparently more conducive to democracy than the brand of capitalism we are familiar with in this country. We the people do ourselves a great disservice by allowing the Right-wing to engender fear of socialism in general: it is only to the advantage of the moneyed class to keep us ignorant of how socialism may serve our own best interest.

The image of socialism dredged up by the Right wing invariably hearkens to that scary ear of the corrupt and detestable Third Reich Nazi Party. What Americans are not allowed to understand is that the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi) was not socialist: it was merely a vehicle for the egomaniacal Hitler regime to exploit for ends totally at odds with the true tenets of socialism. The Bush Administration's commandeering of the Republican Party and its devastating effects on our democracy can be more reasonably equated to Hitler's regime than any imaginary brand of socialism that may be said to pertain to Obama.

Bush's rise to the presidency and the Republican Party's resurgence in the 1990s came about on the strength of a concerted exploitation of fundamentalist Christian ideology in a manner similar to Hitler's appeal to the base feelings of superiority and entitlement packaged as German patriotism. We must not forget that Hitler was democratically elected although the ballots that put him in office were no less suspect than the two elections that stole the Presidency for Bush.

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