Long before the landmark June Supreme Court rulings upholding Affordable Care Act subsidies and making marriage equality available in all 50 states, I mused to friends that as progressives gained ground in law, those previously given supremacy would not take it well, and life would become more difficult, at least for a time. My prediction, sadly, is proving to be true.
The 2008 election of President Barack Obama was one of the first fairly recent red flags. The day after his elevation to the position of commander-in-chief, it was terrifying to see gun shops in right-wing Carroll County, Md., swamped by Republican and Tea Party voters who were outraged and/or terrified that the nation would dare to elect a president of the wrong hue.
From CNN, Nov. 11, 2008:
According to FBI figures for the week of November 3 to 9, the bureau received more than 374,000 requests for background checks on gun purchasers — a nearly 49 percent increase over the same period in 2007. [Manassas, Va., store] Virginia Arms Company, has run out of some models — such as the AR-15 rifle, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 — and is running low on others.
A similar run on gun shops came right after Obama’s 2012 re-election.
From McClatchy DC, Nov. 25, 2012:
“I personally think it’s very silly,” said Marsha McCartney, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “The president has not done anything in four years to make them think he’s coming to get their guns.
“It’s a sad commentary on what people are telling these people to keep them frightened.”
Moves like this could be seen as the regressives’ collective temper tantrum, but we ignore their squalling at our peril. On a number of fronts, the Right appears prepared to scorch the nation to impose its will onto the rest of us.
Let’s look at the arena of basic civil rights. A largely unimpeded right to vote was something many of us saw as sacrosanct thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which set out to stop the actions of largely southern states to prevent African-Americans from being able to exercise their right to vote. The Act was vitally important — as we are seeing too often in the US, black and brown lives still do not matter. In 2013, that was proven on a judicial level when the nation’s highest court, in a not-so-supreme move, invalidated a key provision of the Act. This directly launched a growing number of voter suppression states, those that impose Voter ID laws (Tennessee is one). A host of states severely cut back on or ended early voting opportunities. Redistricting issues now must be handled after an election ends, making it tougher for victims to fight back and have their vote counted.
In North Carolina, progressives are fighting the battle in court now.
From the Associated Press, July 12, 2015:
Provisions being argued in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom reduced the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminated same-day registration during the early-vote period and prohibited the counting of Election Day ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
Attorneys representing those who sued contend the restrictions violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by throwing up large electoral obstacles to minority voters historically subjected to racial bias and should be thrown out.
“We will show that the law is a calculated effort by politicians to manipulate the voting rules by targeting the very measures that African-Americans and Latino voters use at significantly higher rates than white voters,” said Donita Judge, an attorney with the Advancement Project, which represents the state NAACP in the lawsuits.
Across the country, especially below the Mason-Dixon line, expect many of these battles, and expect them to be long and bloody.
The same will be true for those who want to protect the planet and US wild spaces. The National Resources Defense Council charges that Republicans on Capitol Hill are prepared to hold the government hostage in order to force environmental rollbacks.
The House and Senate Republican leadership are using must-pass spending bills to launch a sweeping attack on environmental progress. They are trying to block every significant move to improve protection of our health and environment, and they are working to undermine laws responsible for more than 40 years of progress.
This Big Polluter Agenda underscores the lack of any Republican proposals to clean up our air and water, safeguard our lands and oceans, save species, or address climate disruption. Just saying “no” is all they have to offer.
And they are saying “no” in the most dangerous and least straightforward way when they use spending bills to further their agenda. That’s because they are setting up a confrontation with the White House that could easily lead to another destructive government shutdown — that’s what happens when spending bills don’t get signed into law by Sept. 30, the start of the new fiscal year.
Marriage equality was signed into law, and despite national polling that shows that more than half the nation solidly stands by the concept of equality for all, we’ve seen everyone from an East Tennessee hardware store owner, to stubborn state clerks, to GOP presidential candidates vowing they’ll do what it takes to obstruct the enforcement of the law. And they don’t care about hurting their neighbors: Even on ABC chat show “The View,” right-wing guest host Candace Cameron Bure had no problem telling human-cohost-who-loves-humans Raven Symoné to her face that her kind (lesbians) should be perfectly fine with having businesses refuse their patronage and not allowing that was a denial of her “religious liberty.”
Apparently, not permitting fundies to discriminate is tantamount to persecution for them. And frighteningly, a large number of the masses are falling for the right-wing pity party. A recent AP poll shows a growing number of USians believe “religious liberty” — allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT people — is A-OK. Considering that no federal law consistently protects LGBT individuals from job discrimination; that in 29 states, a gay couple can wed and then be fired for having done so; and that in 32 states, citizens can be fired or refused accommodations based on gender identity, it is clear that full equality is not yet a reality in these United States. With many in the mainstream, even some reputed allies, prepared to capitulate to religionists (in other words, ready to throw “the gays” to the wolves to mollify bigoted church folk), we may continue to see second-class citizenship in the nation for quite some time.
There are many more issues that require our attention and action as well as the GOP spreads out its attacks: reproductive rights (and the ACORN-ing of Planned Parenthood), economic inequality, educational equity, police brutality, and immigration reform, to name but a few. With assaults on so many fronts, the fight for justice and progressive values must continue and grow. People who want a better, more progressive future must stand firm, raise our voices, and take consistent action. The war is on. We’ve scored some big wins, but have taken major losses as well. It’s clear the Right is prepared to battle for its un-American claim to supremacy. We’re not done yet, friends — not by a long shot.