Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Ironic Cherry Reads...

...The Invisible Bridge 

"If the people believe there's an imaginary river out there, you don't tell them there's no river out there.  You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river."

This is the quote that prefaces the book "The Invisible Bridge" by Rick Perlstein.  It is attributed as "Advice to Richard Nixon from Nikita Khrushchev."

The book is a doorstop, some 800+ pages.  If you have time to read only one book, this is the one you should read.  As the subtitle says, it chronicles the time -- bridges the time -- of "the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan."

If you have been sitting here in 2015 scratching your head and wondering how we got here from the amazing sixties, this is the book that will clear it up for you.  Yes, we had Roe v. Wade, and civil rights legislation, ended the war in Vietnam and began to end pollution and save the planet.  We had desegregation, a war on poverty and more kids went on to college than ever before.

But we liberals never saw the backlash coming.

The abortion wars began as soon as they ended, fires fueled by rage at the Supreme Court justices that made a woman's right to abortion the law of the land.

It was in the 70's that the textbook wars began, with a mild mannered Christian woman named Alice Moore speaking up at a Texas school board meeting, and refusing to back down until school boards in Texas and across the country removed books that offended with their words of sex and science, integration and art.  Evolution was banned from textbooks and classrooms, as well as "The Grapes of Wrath."

Lest we yanks feel smug, it was in Boston where fierce rioting went on over school busing.  "Two groups of people who are poor and doomed and who have been thrown in the ring with each other," was how columnist Jimmy Breslin described the battles between whites and blacks.

And in today's headlines we have a dozen odd republican candidates for president keeping those same wounds open.  They may be using Mexicans instead of African Americans, but their followers I assure you see them as pretty much the same problem.  You can't publicly pledge to send blacks back where they came from these days, but ending Obamacare and the Voting Rights Act is nearly as satisfying.

While Hillary is wasting her time apologizing for emails, we must know that this has nothing to do with what is going on with the upcoming election.

Remember that big brouhaha over Obama's 2008 comments on guns and religion?  We need to go back and listen to those comments again:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. 
And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Yes, they continue to cling to their guns and religion, and they are fueled by opportunistic politicians.  And what we see is craziness and rage.  We see nobodies like Kim Davis regaled as a hero for refusing to obey the law and used by fools like Mike Huckabee to promote his own small-minded religious agenda.  And those people who live in their own ignorance and isolation thrive on the narrative that the freedom of others to live differently will deny them their religious freedom.

And there you have that invisible bridge.  There won't be better jobs and the kids will either bail out or follow in the footsteps of fear and denial.  And the politicians will continue to pretend that they care about "religious freedom" while they deregulate and cut taxes for the rich.  And they will cut services to those same isolated small towns, health care and education, roads and schools, police and firefighters, blaming the government.  These pols have created and perpetuated this vicious cycle, wherein ignorance leads being frightened and vulnerable to lies and manipulation, which leads to more isolation and ignorance.

What is different now than it was in the 70's is that we have a Supreme Court that has been molded by the right-wing to reflect that bizarre religious paranoia.  Since Reagan the Supremes have formalized the union between corporate power and religion.  Small businesses haven't noticed that they have not been included in all the freedom of speech that is being bought, and politicians are giving them nothing but lip service.  But the pols have taken up the fight for the religious fanatics.  Because while they are wasting time and dollars with votes and court battles to end Obamacare, voting rights and Planned Parenthood, they are seeming to serve those small town old-timey values while their real constituents, the billionaire capitalists, are allowed to continue to freely run the country.


  1. All so true. I have been watching it for years, watching the way the right-wing pols keep low-information voters scared and angry, then herd them down to the polls on Election Day. But what happens then? We got a glimpse of it after the 2004 election. After all the rage over same-sex marriage and abortion, GWB used his first news conference after the election to call for tax cuts and privatizing Social Security. Not a word about abortion of same-sex marriage! One of the religious right leaders (I think it was Dobbs) said, "That was when I knew we had been used."

  2. It was also a backlash against Ralph Nader, and the rise of lobbying and special interest groups after the Justice Powell memo in the 1970's. Lobbying didn't exist on a national scale in the 1960's and much of the 70's. The Heritage Foundation was a little office called the Liberty Lobby on Capitol Hill, in 1980. I know, because I went there for an interview for an editorial job, and was totally creeped out by the pamphlets in the lobby, much less the two people I met. Richard Viguerie was the libertarian fundraising genius who masterminded right-wing fundraising using direct mail campaigns. The job I did get that year was as a marketing assistant to a financial news letter publisher that was marketed through direct mail, so I learned all about how that business worked. The publisher was a prominent libertarian named Robert Kephart. Although the newsletters were mainstream, we used mailing lists from big publications like Kiplinger, but also a lot of fringe organizations that were very right-wing and Bircheresque. The editor of the tax publication was Mark Skousen, who I later learned was ex-CIA, and is still very active in right-wing circles. He had a Mormon relative, Cleon Skousen, who was a founding member of the John Birchers. I also saw fundraising letters from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson at the time, which were not much different from much of the wackier Christian right stuff you see today. We were mainly a bunch of young liberal women in this office, and we laughed at that those letters, at Robertson calling feminists feminazis and lesbians witches. But that fundraising machine has been going on for 50 years now, and has a huge influence on our politics, now that they have Glenn Beck, who took over the Bircher ideas whole, Fox News, and Pat Robertson, who has a media empire now, one among many. This was the whole Christian Right fundraising machine, but then you have the whole business-oriented organizations and lobbying groups added to that, the Chamber of Commerce and the libertarian Koch brothers, whose father was also a founding member of the Birchers, forming ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity, and the left has nothing to match it. That's the main source of most of the political money in this country. We have non-profit associations for unions, teachers, things like that, but it has never matched and never will the power, money, and organization the right has had at its disposal for almost half a century. I would be curious as to whether or not this book mentions some of these people. They are behind the radar, pretty much, and stay that way. You can Google them, it's very interesting. I've only connected a lot of these dots in hindsight.