Two Americas

By Dennis Loo

On Saturday, March 20th, two starkly different visions of American today and in the future could be seen in the streets.
On the one side: in the streets of DC and cities around the country, a resurgence of the anti-war movement. Ten thousand at least in DC, and in LA, where I was, between four to five thousand. These protests demanded an end to the immoral wars of Empire and its policies, including torture and indefinite detention.
Obama since taking office has declared that even if you've been tried and found not guilty he reserves the right to hold you indefinitely. This means that he has gone even further than Bush dared. This is from the man who portrayed himself as an anti-war candidate and who promised to restore habeas corpus. As one of the signs in the LA downtown demonstration put it: “Same Shit, Different Shoveler.”
In multiple cities tens of thousands were standing up for the rights of the oppressed against the lying, manipulation, plutocratic, trillion dollar theft, assassination, mass murder, torture, rape, and plunder. Evident in these demonstrations was both the fierce anger and the passion for a dramatically different world in which women, children, poor, non-American and Americans alike, different races and ethnicities, are treated equally, where greed isn’t a virtue, where soldiers aren’t ordered to and expected to commit atrocities, and where the planet is treated with respect as our one, true, precious home.
Young and old, especially young faces, as broad a diversity of colors and classes as you can find anywhere, a polyglot, all in harmony and united in our demands for real, dramatic, change.
On the other side, a different America, this one with two faces to it. We had one from those in the streets and the other from two leading US Senators, John McCain and Joe Lieberman. The first yelling obscenities and slurs, the others speaking in obscene legalese.
First, as to those in the streets, the Tea Partiers:
A racist all-white mob, opposed to the health care bill, in a chorus, called Rep. John Lewis a "nigger” as he was walking between buildings on Capitol Hill. Back in the 1960s, Lewis was beaten nearly to death by segregationists. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, another black Congressman, accompanying Lewis, was spat upon by one of these fine exemplars of America. And openly gay Rep. Barney Frank was called a "homo" and "faggot" by another crowd of about two hundred Tea Partiers at a different location in the Capitol.
Said Frank, according to the McClatchy News story:
"’I'm disappointed with the unwillingness to be civil,’ Frank told the [Boston] Globe. ‘I was, I guess, surprised by the rancor. What it means is obviously the health care bill is proxy for a lot of other sentiments, some of which are perfectly reasonable, but some of which are not.’
"’People out there today, on the whole, were really hateful,’ Frank said. ‘The leaders of this movement have a responsibility to speak out more.’”
Frank and other Democrats said similar things after the Town Hall Fracases in which the first concerted expressions of mob rule, one step short of violence, was in evidence: “I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I wish they would be civil, Why aren’t they civil? The leaders should speak out against this behavior.” Salon’s Joan Walsh pointed out today the absence of condemnation by the GOP leaders so far of this undisguised racist and homophobic behavior.
To ask the question of why the GOP hasn’t condemned it, however, is to miss the point: the GOP leaders don’t condemn this behavior precisely because they support it, they fuel it, they desire it, and they need it. Any tut tutting in public they may be forced to engage in they mean as much as Rep. Joseph Wilson (R) did when he “apologized” for loudly interrupting Obama’s State of the Union Address, “You lie!”
The GOP’s strategy isn’t to win over a majority. Their strategy is to bully and intimidate the majority through legal and extra-legal violence and intimidation and through stirring up the most reactionary sentiments that they can. Here is a short list of some of the expressions of this. This comes from a McClatchy News article on September 18, 2009:
“Last October, John McCain's campaign ousted a Buchanan County, Va., McCain campaign official, Bobby May, for writing a newspaper column that said that if Obama were elected he'd hire rapper Ludacris to paint the White House black and change the national anthem to the ‘Negro National Anthem’ by James Weldon Johnson.
“Diane Fedele, who was then the president of a Republican women's club in San Bernardino County, Calif., resigned last October after she sent out a newsletter with a drawing of Obama on a bogus food-stamp coupon surrounded by ribs, watermelon and fried chicken.
“In May, Sherri Goforth, an aide to Republican state Sen. Diane Black of Tennessee, sent an e-mail to Republican staffers showing the first 43 U.S. presidents in stately poses, but Obama's image, as the 44th president, was a pair of bright white cartoonish eyes on a black background.
“In June, Diann Jones, the vice chairman of the Collin County Republican Party in Texas sent an e-mail to local Republican clubs calling a proposal for a $50 gun tax ‘another terrific idea from the black house and its minions.’
“Also in June, South Carolina Republican activist Rusty DePass compared an escaped gorilla from a Columbia zoo to first lady Michelle Obama's ancestors.
“At an August political forum, Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas denied any racial intent when she said that the party was looking for a ‘great white hope’ to lead the party into the future.”
As bad as this list appears, the number of instances of incidents such as this has been growing, not abating.
On March 3, 2010 Politico reported that a hard copy of a RNC fundraising PowerPoint presentation was left behind at the Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, 2010. A Democrat at the hotel found it and turned it over to Politico.
The presentation by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart and RNC Finance Chairman Peter Terpeluk was prepared by the party’s finance staff, and delivered before a group of top donors and fundraisers. The PowerPoint runs 72 pages long and lifts the veil over the internal workings and thinking of the GOP.
The presentation divides up GOP donors into two groups, the major donors and the small donors. It explains their overall strategy this way: 
“What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate…?”
“Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”
In the section they call “RNC Marketing 101” are the following gems:
For the rich donors, dubbed “Calculated Giving,” the RNC campaign chairs advocate playing upon the wealthy’s “ego-driven” natures and offering them “access” and “tchochkes.”
For the small donors, listed under the category of “Visceral Giving,” the RNC spells out its appeal as playing on “fear,” “Extreme negative feelings towards existing Administration,” and “Reactionary.”
There you have it, the GOP sees itself as appealing to reactionary sentiments and fear among the non-Plutocratic Crowd. For the Plutocrats, they offer access, ego-strokes, and tchochkes.
Let no one complain then when I or anyone else describes the GOP as reactionary and fear-mongerers. They said so themselves.
When Politico’s story broke RNC Chair Michael Steele rushed to distance himself from the presentation by his own Finance staff, Finance Director and Finance Chair. Caught red-handed, with the smoking gun PowerPoint.
Lest anyone think this is an aberration, the GOP’s appealing to the basest sentiments among the people has a long history. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign strategy, for example, was described accurately by his special counsel, later Watergate felon, John Ehrlichman, this way in 1970: “We’ll go after the racists. That subliminal appeal to the anti-African American voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.”[1]
The GOP cannot assemble a majority based on their platform. They aren’t trying to win a majority electorally. What they are doing is designed to whip up the most reactionary sentiment they can in order to intimidate and bully their way to power. It’s a fascist strategy, pure and simple. Which brings me to my last point.
Here is the other side of this ugly coin of the realm, the other side of the ranting racists and homophobes:
As reported by Donny Shaw at OpenCongres.org on March 13, 2010:
“One of Congress’s most notoriously hawkish duos, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT], recently introduced legislation [on March 4, 2010] in response to President Obama’s decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day airplane bomber, in a criminal court. Their proposal, which they are calling the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act, would empower the U.S. military to arrest anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise, who is suspected of terrorist associations and detain them indefinitely, without right to a trial.” 
Let’s absorb this for a moment. McCain and Lieberman have introduced a bill that would allow the president to order the military to arrest anyone, US citizen or non, to hold them in military custody, without trial, indefinitely. In their bill they specifically say that the detainee will not be afforded his or her Miranda Rights.
“(3) INAPPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN STATEMENT AND RIGHTS- A individual who is suspected of being an unprivileged enemy belligerent shall not, during interrogation under this subsection, be provided the statement required by Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436 (1966)) or otherwise be informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent consistent with Miranda v. Arizona.”
From the Act: 
“[A]n individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
More from this act:
“(2) CRITERIA FOR DESIGNATION OF INDIVIDUALS AS HIGH-VALUE DETAINEES- The regulations required by this subsection shall include criteria for designating an individual as a high-value detainee based on the following:
(A) The potential threat the individual poses for an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the United States or upon United States citizens or United States civilian facilities abroad at the time of capture or when coming under the custody or control of the United States.
(B) The potential threat the individual poses to United States military personnel or United States military facilities at the time of capture or when coming under the custody or control of the United States.
(C ) The potential intelligence value of the individual.
(D) Membership in al Qaeda or in a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda.
(E) Such other matters as the President considers appropriate.”
In other words, the president decides what is appropriate. This is known as a King’s law as it was before habeas corpus was won against the monarchy nearly 900 years ago. This is why habeas corpus is such a big deal and why it is so consequential that Obama has reneged on his campaign pledge to restore habeas corpus. 
After McCain and Lieberman introduced their bill in the Senate, Rep. Howard McKeon (D-Ca.) introduced its analogue in the House, H.R. 4892, on March 19, 2010. Note that - McKeon's a Democrat. 
This horrendous bill is not, unfortunately, an anomaly. It is the logical outcome of the trajectory that was aggressively carried forward under Bush and Cheney, and that represented the further progression of what Reagan began. As long as the devil’s spawn “War on Terror” is permitted to be the overall framework, and the underlying premise of it governs, that Americans’ lives are more important than non-Americans’ lives, then sooner or later Americans will be labeled enemy combatants, subject, as Obama recently indicated, to assassination, and now, to no trials and indefinite detention. Jose Padilla was the first American citizen so treated, and driven to madness by the Bush regime.
The McCain/Lieberman bill is “bipartisanship” at its zenith, or nadir. It is the other, “legitimate” side of the fascist norms and behaviors that are being aggressively cultivated in the U.S.A. and that finds its more openly seemly side in the Tea Partiers yelling “Nigger” and “Faggot.”
They are two sides of the same coin. They represent one possible future. The other possible future was also to be found in the streets yesterday with those demonstrating against the wars and all of the reactionary views and actions that many within the Tea Partiers and the august three-piece suited fascists in the GOP and Congress engage in, from both parties.
Which one will we choose? 
Which one will you choose?
All of us have to choose. Not to choose is also a choice. There is no middle ground. That middle ground is called “bipartisanship.” It spells common ground with fascists.
 
[1] Ehrlichman, J. (1970) Witness to Power: The Nixon Years, New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 233.