I agree with Van Auken that such efforts – along with those attempting to paint Obama as a “socialist” – are nothing more than a “virulently right-wing appeal directed to the most politically backward layers in America.”
Although it doesn’t appear to be working in the Republicans’ favor, I still can’t believe how stupid some Americans can be. Okay, that's too harsh; let me put it this way: I have a hard time with how uninformed some Americans are when it comes to certain issues.
Case in point: the knee-jerk reaction of some to the term “socialist.” Honestly, it can border on the pathological, which is mind-boggling given that they, along with the vast majority of Americans, accept and want to protect a program like Social Security – a socialist program if ever there was one.
I recently heard one McCain supporter say, while being interviewed by the BBC, that an Obama win will make Europe very happy! What the #!%*. It’s as if this guy believes that a country like Sweden is America’s greatest enemy!
Come to think of it, Sweden has a Democratic Socialist government, and it’s because Obama was once endorsed by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America that some McCain supporters are in a frenzy, maintaining that this endorsement (which took place over ten years ago) proves that Obama is a “radical”! Seriously, I’m not making his stuff up. Yet one has to ask: What are these folks who are crying “Democratic Socialist” and “radical” scared of? That we’ll end up like Sweden? Hey, we could do a lot worse!
This same particular McCain supporter who was interviewed by the BBC also declared that, if elected, Obama would bring “more socialism to America,” yet failed to articulate what he understood socialism to actually mean, let alone to distinguish between the many expressions of socialism. He probably meant “big government,” i.e., the government’s spending of taxpayers money and its interference in people’s lives.
This, of course, is rather ironic given that John McCain recently supported the biggest government intervention ever in the financial sector – approving (along with Obama, it must be said) the spending of billions of tax payers’ dollars to bailout Wall Street. (It also needs to be said that this unprecedented transfer of public funds to the major banks and the American financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of the people is not a socialist solution. For instance, see here and here.) Of course, McCain’s support of the government’s intervention in the so-called free market, its “socializing” of Wall Street, as some pundits have called it, doesn’t seem to register with a lot of McCain-Palin supporters. Could it be they really are “the most politically backward layers in America”?
They also seem incredibly fearful, and that’s always scary. For as Van Auken points out: “The atmosphere in these Republican events resembles more and more that of a lynch mob. And the continuous attempts to paint Obama as a ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist’ have the potential of inciting real violence, including attempts on the Democratic candidate’s life.”
I just find all of this deeply disturbing, and although I commend McCain for finally taking a stand against some in his audiences who express inaccurate and rabid views, it’s all a bit too little and too late. Furthermore, his campaign’s attack ads on TV and the internet continue.
Which brings us back to Van Auken’s take on the McCain-Palin campaign’s fixation on linking Barack Obama to William Ayers. Following is how Van Auken addresses this issue. As you’ll see, it’s a very informative and well-reasoned examination of the facts. (Oh, and if you think Van Auken as a Socialist is all for Obama, think again – and read this! In short, Socialists don’t consider Obama one of their own.)
At the center of this extreme right-wing turn in the Republican campaign strategy is a McCarthyite smear campaign linking Obama to William Ayers [pictured at right], a former member of the 1960s-era Weather Underground group, who today holds the title of “distinguished professor” of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a liberal reformist.
The McCain campaign unveiled a 90-second Internet campaign ad that rehashes the fact that Ayers hosted an event in his home when Obama was running for state senator in 1995 and that the two subsequently served together on the board of a non-profit organization.
Cutting back and forth between photos of Obama and Ayers, it concludes with the narrator’s ominous sounding voice-over: “Obama’s friendship with terrorist Ayers isn’t the issue. The issue is Barack Obama’s judgment and candor. When Obama just says, ‘This is a guy who lives in the neighborhood,’ Americans says, ‘Where’s the truth, Barack?’ Barack Obama, too risky for America.”
McCain echoed the same witch-hunting theme virtually verbatim at a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Thursday: “Look, we don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist and his wife, who still, at least on Sept. 11, 2001, said he still wanted to bomb more. That’s not the point here. The point is Senator Obama said he was just a guy in the neighborhood. We know that’s just not true. We need to know the full extent of the relationship because of whether Senator Obama is telling the truth to the American people or not. That’s the question.” [The McCain-Palin campaign concerned with “the truth”! Now that’s rich. See, for instance, the previous Wild Reed post, Holding McCain Accountable to His Falseholds.]
This thoroughly reactionary campaign, based on half-truths and innuendo, has been dutifully echoed by the mass media, with the New York Times publishing a front-page article on the Obama-Ayers connection last week, MSNBC running an investigative report on the subject and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News making it the overriding political story each and every day. [See the previous Wild Reed post, As Obama Campaign Gains Momentum, Fox News Goes Into “Oh, Crap” Mode.]
Ayers — referred to by the McCain campaign as “terrorist Ayers,” as if it were some military title — is, it deserves pointing out, a private citizen with no connection to Obama’s presidential campaign. He was never convicted of any crime nor charged with anyone’s death.
Yet, the clear aim of the Republican campaign is to link him — and by association, Obama — to the terrorist attacks of September 11, thereby painting the Democratic candidate as a traitor and unfit for office.
The Weather Underground, the group in which Ayers was a leading figure, emerged out of the mass opposition to the Vietnam War that saw millions of Americans take to the streets to demand an end to US military slaughter.
The group expressed the frustration and disorientation of a section of the protesters who, despairing of the possibility of winning the American working class to the struggle against war and capitalism and influenced by the retrograde theories of Maoism, turned to what they saw as a more radical form of protest, involving isolated bombings.
During a period in which the US war machine was responsible for killing over 3 million Vietnamese, the Weather Underground’s activities cost a total of three lives, all of them members of the group itself, who were killed in an accidental explosion.
Part of the McCain campaign’s focus on this issue is aimed at demonizing the mass opposition that helped to force an end to the Vietnam War and rehabilitating the war itself. Only in this context can one understand the incongruous accusation by McCain — the former fighter pilot shot down while bombing heavily populated areas of Hanoi — that Obama is guilty of associating with someone involved in the “bombing of innocent civilians.”
The inability of the Obama campaign to mount a direct and forceful response to this diatribe is bound up with its essential acceptance of this version of the Vietnam War, expressed in the Democratic candidate’s continuous “honoring” of McCain’s military service. The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are determined to put behind them the so-called “Vietnam syndrome,” a euphemism for the enduring hostility of the American people to sacrificing the lives of its youth in wars of aggression.
While essentially cowing in the face of the Republican smear campaign over Ayers, the Democrats have done nothing to expose the real dangers represented by the political forces to which their Republican rivals are now making such a direct appeal.
The nature of these political layers emerges clearly in the associations of their vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who was picked for her ability to “energize the base,” i.e., whip up the Republican right.
Her husband was a member, and she at least a political sympathizer, of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), an outfit that called for the secession of Alaska from the union and formed the Alaskan chapter of the Constitution Party, an extreme right-wing organization advocating Christian theocratic rule in America. Its founder, Joe Vogler [pictured at left], was killed in 1993 in what was described by the media as a “plastic-explosives sale gone bad.”
The politics of the AIP paralleled that of the right-wing militia movement that gave rise to such elements as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the authors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that claimed the lives of 168 people.
Moreover, Palin’s central appeal is based on her hard-line anti-abortion position, embraced by the Christian right and an anti-abortion movement that has given rise to the largest share of terrorist attacks carried out on American soil over the past two decades, including murders of health care practitioners, bombings, arsons, assaults and threats of violence.
Yet neither the Democratic Party nor the media has shown an inclination to cast any light on these relations, much less subject them to the kind of front-page treatment given to the four-decades-old exploits of William Ayers and his tenuous connections to Obama.
The role of the Christian right and of semi-fascistic elements within the Republican Party remains the great unmentionable in American politics. They are accorded political protection and legitimacy precisely for the role they play in diverting the anger and frustration of sections of the population into reactionary channels that serve to prop up the ruling establishment.
The right-wing campaign presently being waged by the Republican Party has ominous implications. While it is highly questionable whether it will shift votes from Obama to McCain, it is serving to mobilize the most reactionary political forces and whip them to a fever pitch.
To read Bill Van Auken’s article in its entirety, click here.
Recommended Off-site Links:
Obama’s “Problem” with William Ayers - Steve Clemens (Mennonista, October 11, 2008).
Congressman Says McCain “Sowing Seeds of Hatred” - Associated Press (October 11, 2008).
McCain: Lewis’ Remarks on Campaign Tone are Unfair - Ann Sanner (Associated Press, October 13, 2008).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Curtailing “Red Meat Rhetoric,” McCain is Booed By Supporters
As Obama Campaign Gains Momentum, Fox News Goes Into “Oh, Crap!” Mode
“Clichés and Tired Attack Lines”
Sarah Palin and the Rove-Cheney Cabal
Holding McCain Accountable to His Falsehoods
The Shadow is Real
It Won’t Last
All Those Community Organizers? Who Needs Them!
Sarah Palin’s “Theocratic Fascist” Affiliations
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
Progressives and Obama (Part 3)
Historic (and Wild!)
An American Prayer
Image 1: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., campaign headquarters is seen in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
Image 2: US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smiles as he speaks during a rally in La Crosse, Wisconsin October 10, 2008. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
Image 3:US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama arrives during a rally at Progress Plaza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Obama opened a double-digit lead over rival John McCain in a key opinion poll on Saturday while investigators found Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had abused her powers as Alaska governor. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)
Image 4: William Ayers. (Photographer unknown)
Image 5: Joe Vogler (Photographer unknown)