There is a vicious, agonizing irony in the fact that the founders of the United States announced an ideal of human equality and inherent human rights while at the same time denying that equality and those rights to the vast majority of the country’s residents. Granting full rights only to white male landowners, the founders saddled future generations with the onerous burden of struggling to allow the true meaning of the founding ideal to reach its fruition. American soil has absorbed the blood of thousands of its occupants in the course of that struggle. The genocide of native Americans, the slaughter of Americans by Americans in the Civil War, the beatings and lynchings and rape and violence against women and minorities of every stripe — all these stand as gruesome evidence of the nightmarish birth pangs of true human equality.
That struggle has, seemingly by necessity, always followed the pattern of taking two steps forward and one step back. Lincoln declared the abolition of slavery, and steps were taken to assure the freedom of those formerly enslaved. Yet within a short time, those steps were taken back and generations of oppression ensued before another forward step was taken, beginning in the late fifties, and culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Women suffered endless indignities in their effort to achieve full citizenship, yet after it was granted they would have still to suffer generations of financial and political discrimination, so that it is only now that women are approaching parity in wages and political power with males.
We have, recently, been in a backward stage with respect to human rights. Those who would refuse full rights to certain groups, particularly minoriites, have eaten away at the accomplishments of the past with laws restricting voting, denying marital rights, refusing affirmative action to the disadvantaged and even imposing religious beliefs on the entire body politic. What was, just a few years previously, considered extreme right wing fanaticism has recently been promoted as mainstream orthodoxy.
The hope, however, lies in the fact that, if we are taking one step back, it means that eventually we will begin the two steps forward. Those steps were evidenced most recently by the United States Supreme Court in refusing to approve discrimination against gays and also in suspending the actions of the radical right in Wisconsin to restrict the right to vote. Most heartening of all were the comments of the brilliant and much respected Justice Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. It was Justic Posner who had previously approved the voter restriction laws passed in Indiana. In his most recent opinion, Justice Posner announced that he had come to realize that such laws were no more than thinly veiled attempts by those in power to suppress the votes of those who opposed them. Justice Posner went so far as to say that the allegations of fraud used to justify such legislation was so bad as to be “goofy.”
As Chief Justice Roberts asserted in the othewise unfortunate Citizens United decision, the single most fundamental right of the people in a democracy is the right to vote. The reassertion of that right, and the recognition of the full political rights of those with gender preferences different than those of the radical right, presage the end of our drift backward in the struggle to recognize the American ideal. We can only hope that the American people will elect representatives of both parties who will end the politics of “no” and work together to provide the basic rights and services that we need to bring us closer to making the American ideal a reality.


Riddle me this. Big money has been pouring cash into the campaigns of various right wing candidates who are hooting about issues like abortion, school choice, prayer in school, gay and lesbian marriage. Why? Are the Koch brothers really dropping a few hundred million dollars because they are upset about gay marriage? Is Carl Icahn really in a rage about school choice? I don’t think so.
But, if not that, what? Why are the super wealthy spending these many hundreds of millions of dollars? Well, what else is out there for them? Tax breaks of course. Specifically, the tax breaks they got during the Bush years. For lo these many years, the super rich have, by virtue of drastically reduced taxes, been able to gain vastly more of a chunk of the national wealth than they have had for generations (as, for instance, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the times of Vanderbilt and Carnegie and JP Morgan and the other robber barons). They want to keep those tax breaks as long as they can. What they can’t do is campaign on the theme of preserving their wealth.
So what to do? Well, in football, they call it a misdirection play. To preserve their tax breaks, they spend a few hundred million to support clients who meet two qualifications. First, they must be firmly committed to maintaining and even adding to the said tax breaks. Second, they must agree to do everything in their power to raise any and all issues except those tax breaks. They are to press all the buttons of all the right wing causes that excite all the prejudices of as many people as possible without once mentioning the one single cause that matters to those who are funding them: those lovely tax breaks.
The super wealthy will, of course, tell you that it’s not about the money. And, as usual, if they tell you it’s not about the money, there is one thing of which you can be absolutely certain: it’s about the money.