Progressive hope amid fears of autocracy and fascism

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After the Senate Democrats recently passed the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, California Congress member Ro Khanna told Democracy Now! that it was “a historic piece of legislation that marks, frankly, the end of (Reagan/Thatcher) neoliberalism, that has governed America for the last four decades. It is a major investment in the American people. This will have child care being universal. It will have community college for everyone. It will expand Medicare to include dental, vision, hearing. It will mark the largest investment in tackling the climate crisis, with massive investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. “

This followed the passage of a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to repair bridges and roads, invest in public transit, expand broadband and more.

However, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed doubts about the price tag of the budget bill. The Democrats can only pass it if all 50 of them vote for it (with Vice President Harris providing the 51st vote). Nevertheless, Khanna said of Manchin and Sinema:

“My sense is that they will ultimately vote for it, because if one or two senators reject it, they are …  literally rejecting the president’s entire agenda. It’s important to note that the reconciliation bill is not Bernie Sanders’ or Elizabeth Warren’s agenda, it is Joe Biden’s agenda. Everything in that bill is something that President Biden ran on.”

The bill can be sabotaged in the House as well. Nine rightwing House Democrats are trying to do that now. This battle will likely go on for a while.

Meanwhile, right-wing media and Republican politicians are spreading lies and disinformation about the virus, vaccines, elections, the climate crisis and America’s legacy of racism.

Sometimes the rightwingers are a bit too honest for their own good. Take Jon Taffer, who has a “reality” TV show on the Paramount Network called Bar Rescue. On the show, Taffer visits and rehabilitates bars and restaurants that are failing. This involves a certain amount of yelling and humiliation.

He has become political recently. He interviewed Donald Trump about COVID-19 restrictions. He went on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News to bitch about unemployed workers. 

They agreed that the people who have chosen to leave lousy low-paying restaurant jobs should be forced back to work during the pandemic. Ingraham asked, “What if we just cut off the unemployment? Hunger is a pretty powerful thing.”

Taffer responded: “They only feed a military dog at night, because a hungry dog is an obedient dog. Well, if we are not causing people to be hungry to work, then we’re providing them with all the meals they need sitting at home.”

Not too surprisingly, this conversation sparked a lot of outrage. However, Republicans in states they controlled cut off federal unemployment benefits in a push to get people back to work. It is debatable how successful they have been. Business Insider cites three separate studies that indicate that cutting off unemployment benefits didn’t lead to substantial job growth.

Incidentally, Taffer accepted two PPP loans totaling $60,858 from the Small Business Association. His hypocrisy is pretty common for many right-wingers. They are anti-government except when they get goodies from taxpayers. The rest of us who aren’t obedient dogs have to deal with them using tactics such as voter suppression, gerrymandering and fascist street brawlers. 

Recently, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson showed us what kind of society he would like to see in the United States. For a week, he broadcast from Hungary where he spoke at a government-sponsored far-right conference. He effusively praised the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Carlson said, “If you care about Western civilization and democracy and families, and the ferocious assault on all three of those things by the leaders of our global institutions, you should know what is happening here right now.”

Carlson is America’s most popular cable news host. He is an influential figure in the dominant faction of American conservatism. When he tells his viewers that Hungary is a freer country than the United States, it is Orwellian B.S. But what he says matters.

In Salon, Heather Digby Parton notes that Orban “has successfully made it almost impossible for his party to lose elections, with tactics such as rewriting campaign finance laws to benefit his Fidesz party, packing the courts and election bureaucracy with his supporters, extreme gerrymandering, and completely taking over the media.” Fidesz was kicked out of the alliance of center-right European parties for its authoritarianism.

Orban has become notorious for his attacks on academic freedom, freedom of the press and right to dissent. According to Reporters Without Borders, Orban “has steadily and effectively undermined media pluralism and independence since being returned to power in 2010.”

That is our future if we don’t fight back.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.