Most of the mainstream Republican Party presidential candidates advocate extreme positions on immigration, including mass deportations. They deny the reality of climate change science and evolution. They think torture is fine, oppose gay marriage, and remain silent about the murder of abortionists. Amid this shift to the right, some “moderate” Republicans say they’re still a legitimate voice within the party. But does it matter?
Days after signing a “religious freedom” bill that allows businesses to be indemnified from lawsuits filed by LGBT people for discrimination, Indiana governor Mike Pence tried to backtrack for fear that his state would be vilified and face economic boycotts by the rest of the country. What compromise will he come up with to assuage his right-wing FoxNews-watching base, while appearing not to be that homophobic?
Now that the controversy over Mozilla’s firing of CEO Brendan Eich over his antigay politics has subsided (and before something similar happens again, which it surely will), it’s time for a brief tutorial on McCarthyism.
Because, if those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, Americans — who don’t notice history even as it’s happening, while it’s making headlines — are condemned to the endless purgatory of idiocracy.
McCarthyism, also known as the 20th century’s second Red Scare, took on several forms in the 1950s. Today, however, let’s focus on blackballing.
Blackballing, also often known as blacklisting (there are so many a.k.a.’s), is the act of denying employment to someone due to political opinions they express, and activities in which they participate, away from the workplace.
The qualifier “away from the workplace” is important. Denying you a paycheck because of your politics — politics you don’t express at work — is the essence of blackballing, and arguably the most powerful torture device in the censor’s toolbox. Examples of blackballing include the disgusting Hollywood blacklist of left-leaning actresses like Marsha Hunt and director Charlie Chaplin, and the 2004 firing of an Alabama woman because she had a John Kerry bumpersticker on her car. Also in 2004, Men’s Health magazine dropped my comic strip — which was about sex and relationships, 100% apolitical — because I opposed George W. Bush and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
As Timothy Noah wrote about the bumpersticker firing: “Firing a person because you don’t like his or her politics runs contrary to just about everything this country stands for, but it is not against the law.” The U.S. embraces the savage fiscal Darwinism of “at-will employment,” which allows employers to hire and fire workers as they please, unless a victim can prove — which is difficult — discrimination due to race, color, religion, gender, age or disability.
Incredibly, your boss can fire you simply for being a Democrat or Republican.
Blackballing squelches expression and debate. Yet the American public doesn’t seem to mind that the First Amendment doesn’t protect them where they spend more than half of their waking hours — at work. Which set the stage for what happened to Brendan Eich.
Star LGBT columnist-editor-author Dan Savage “shrugged off” suggestions that Mozilla blackballed Eich: “No gay rights organizations had called for him to step down. This wasn’t really an issue in the gay community, it was an issue at Mozilla. There were people at Mozilla who didn’t want this man representing them.”
(Disclosure: Savage has commissioned work from me, and I have said nice things about him, which I meant.)
Savage is right. No gay rights groups weighed in. They kept quiet. None spoke out in Eich’s defense.
Hey, if someone offs this turbulent priest, it’s no skin off my ass.
“He was perceived by his own employees as an unacceptable CEO,” Savage remarked, pointing to Eich’s record of right-wing politics, which included supporting Pat Buchanan and Rand Paul, in addition to the $1000 campaign contribution to California’s Proposition 8 in 2012, which attempted to ban gay marriage in the state.
Eich was perceived as “an unacceptable CEO” by Mozilla. But this was not because of his computer skills, which are widely seen as unimpeachable, or his management talent, which only came under fire after his politics came to light.
The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki showcased the rationale of McCarthyism. Allowing that Eich is “a brilliant software engineer who had been the company’s chief technology officer,” Surowiecki explained: “The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology.” To which one might ask: so what? If I only bought products made by companies whose CEOs I liked, my house would be empty.
And here, the “well, duh” logic that ignores the much bigger question of whether censorship is a good idea: “In interviews, [Eich] repeatedly spoke about the need to respect the diverse views of Mozilla community members…But there was something self-evidently odd about the pairing of Eich’s rhetorical support for diversity with his financial support for denying legal rights to gay people.”
Bear in mind: Eich pledged, in writing, not to discriminate against gay Mozilla employees. There’s no evidence that he ever mistreated any member of the LGBT community.
What is “self-evidently odd” about the argument that a company that values diversity ought to be able to make peace with a right-wing, anti-gay marriage CEO? Nothing. These “liberals” are blind to their own prejudice. In the same way that cable news channels believe that ideological diversity runs the gamut from center-right Clinton Democrat to right-wing Republican, Surowiecki and Mozilla’s top executives think acceptable political discourse allows for no disagreement on gay marriage.
This makes me nervous, and not just because I’m a political pundit or because gay marriage is an issue about which Americans have changed their minds at a breathtakingly rapid rate. If anything you say can be used against you in the court of the HR office, who is going to risk saying what they think? At Mozilla, Republicans would be wise to stay in the political closet. Isn’t that kind of…fascist?
I think Eich is wrong about gay marriage. I disagree with his right-wing views. He’s a rich (former) CEO, so I don’t care about him personally. Nevertheless, Eich has become a symbol of something dangerous and wrong.
If you can lose your job due to your politics — especially if those in charge find those politics repugnant — there are only two options available to those of us who need to earn a living: keep our opinions to ourselves, or lie about them. If politics leaves the public sphere, forced underground by watchful employers and politically correct coworkers and anonymous online crusaders, how does the United States differ from East Germany?
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COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Top NFL draft pick Michael Sam came out as gay, prompting a welcome from the league but also old-fashioned concerns by football players and fans about the possibility that the totally-not-homoerotic locker rooms of the totally-not-gay profession of football might become an uncomfortable place…a hostile work environment for straight men. One asked: how should I react if a gay dude looks at me? Here’s how.
Demographics are changing. Angry old white men are dying. Since they were the base of the Republican Party and younger voters tend to be more liberal on social and other issues, how should the Republican Party adapt? Party stalwarts worry that the GOP might sell out its long-held cherished principles just in order to win elections. On the other hand, the Democrats did that years ago.
Six Weeks After Reelection, Obama Sells Out Liberal Democrats
After the election Kerry Eleveld wrote a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Barack Obama Will Be a More Effective Liberal in His Second Term.”
“In response to their initial disappointment with the president’s early performance, many progressives speculated that Obama was just waiting for a second term to be more liberal,” he said. That was true. They were.
Eleveld continued: “A more likely explanation is that Obama was still finding his groove, figuring out which levers worked best for him in the context of governing the nation. And in some ways, he was still developing the courage of his convictions.”
That, it turns out, was false. He wasn’t.
You can’t develop convictions that you don’t have in the first place.
It’s hard to remember now, more than six weeks later, but there was once a time (six long weeks ago) when liberal Democrats who naïvely chose to ignore Obama’s consistently conservative first term, his consistently conservative career in the Senate, and his consistently conservative pre-politics career as a University of Chicago law professor, seriously believed that his reelection would lead to a progressive second term.
“It’s time for President Obama to assume the Roosevelt-inspired mantle of muscular liberalism,” Anthony Woods wrote in The Daily Beast. “This is his moment. He only has to take it.”
It’s his moment, all right. And he’s taking it. But when it comes to Obama, liberals are once again guilty of some major wishful thinking. Obama’s economic policies are closer to Herbert Hoover than Franklin Roosevelt.
“With re-election safely behind him, we hope Obama will be bolder in his second term,” Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen wrote in The Nation.
Again with the Hope!
Change, not so much.
Race doesn’t matter. Looks don’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Style doesn’t matter. Only one thing matters when you’re electing a politician: policy. And the willingness and ability to carry it out. Everything you needed to know about Barack Obama boils down to the fact that he voted nine times out of ten to fund the Iraq war, at the same time that he was giving speech after speech pretending to oppose it. And that was before he won in 2008.
It didn’t take long for Obama to sell out the liberal base of his party the first time. Everything became clear in December 2008, when his cabinet picks didn’t include a single liberal. Well, here it is, December 2012, and can’t get fooled again but we did, as George W. Bush would sorta say.
Wait a minute: I thought Obama was a Democrat. So why is he appointing a Republican as secretary of defense? Not just a Republican, but a homophobe? In 1998 Republican Senator Chuck Hagel criticized President Clinton’s nominee for ambassador to the sensitive strategic hotbed of Luxembourg not only for being gay, but for being “openly, aggressively gay.” Gay rights groups demanded that Hagel “repudiate” his bigoted comments, and he dutifully did so, but the point is that a truly progressive Democratic president would never have appointed a gay-bashing right-wing Republican in the first place. Yeah, America has changed, but it wouldn’t be that hard to find a liberal Democrat who thought gays and lesbians were real human beings back in 1998.
The “fiscal cliff” negotiations have led to another replay of Obama’s 2008 sellout, this one on economic fairness. Throughout the 2012 campaign the president promised to raise taxes on the top 2% of American households, those earning over $250,000 a year. As of November 9th he was still “sticking to his guns,” calling his stance nonnegotiable. On December 17th, however, without the defeated Republicans even having to propose a counteroffer, Obama pulled a classic Democratic negotiating-against-himself maneuver. Not only did he offer House Speaker John Boehner to protect the spectacularly wealthy taxpayers who earn up to $400,000 from a tax hike, he quietly sold out senior citizens by gutting the current system that calculates cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other federal entitlement programs.
At first, few people would notice Obama’s switch to a so-called “chained consumer price index.” (Under the new system, if the price of steak goes up, the government assumes you’ll switch to hamburger—so it doesn’t count as inflation.) This year, for example, the inflation rate under the chained CPI is 0.3% less. But inflation is exponential and the effect is cumulative. By the time you hit age 92, you’d lose an entire month of Social Security benefits each year.
This, remember, was the president who was supposed to bust out as an FDR-style crusading liberal ready, willing and able to fight the right-wing Republicans and stand up for ordinary Americans.
The good news is, the anticipation is over. Liberals who worried that Obama would sell them out need worry no more. Not so deep down, they knew this would happen. Now they can settle down for four more years of depressing Republican-lite kowtowing to corporations and the one percent.
I know what they’re thinking. Things would be even worse if Mitt Romney had won.
I wouldn’t be so sure.
Policy-wise, a Romney administration would have been pretty much the same as Obama’s second term. Who knows, he might have picked Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.
In terms of building the political Left, a President Romney would have galvanized liberals and progressives to fight for a fairer society that treats everyone equally and with dignity. Obama, his sellouts, and his faux liberal apologists represent two steps backwards for progressivism.
COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL