VOTE To Foil The Right Ringers: Jesse Jackson FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 3 Nov 1998 04:00:24 -0400

         Campaign for America's Future
         Jesse Jackson


The conservative revolution has gone underground. The self-proclaimed
revolutionaries have turned to a stealth agenda, made over candidates and
refined the politics of distraction. They choose to hide their real program
from the American people.

The strategy of the Republican congressional leaders this year has been one
of mush, mud and money. They have systematically sought to obscure any
differences on issues, avoiding a debate about direction or priorities.
They've used scandal and the unending investigation of the president to
turn on their own rabid support base and most other voters off. Now they
are using money to flood the airwaves with ads -- most negative ads by
ersatz independent committees -- to keep voters away from the polls while
seeking to muddy the reputation of their opponents.

The reason for this strategy is clear: conservatives understand that most
Americans would oppose their agenda if given a fair choice.

For example, conservatives in Congress want to use public taxpayers' money
to subsidize private schools through vouchers. Democrats say we can't
afford to starve our public schools when they face the largest influx of
students in history. The president called for a new federal commitment to
help reduce class size by funding 100,000 new teachers, while rebuilding
schools in disrepair. When push came to shove, conservatives ducked. They
abandoned vouchers, and passed $1.1 billion as a downpayment for new
teachers (with no commitment to go forward), while blocking any funds for
new classrooms.

The right wants to privatize Social Security, using cuts in guaranteed
benefits to fund private accounts. Democrats say we should preserve Social
Security, not dismantle it. Republicans were happy to put the issue off
until after the election. Nick Little, a Republican congressional candidate
in Michigan, took his name off his own privatization bill when his opponent
tried to make it an issue in their campaign.

Conservatives want to privatize Medicare and Medicaid, opening them to the
``rigors of the marketplace.'' Democrats say that patients need protection,
guarantees that medical treatment is decided between a patient and doctor,
not by an insurance company bureaucrat. Conservatives cobbled together a
fake ``patient protection act'' to mush the difference, even as they
blocked any progress in service to the insurance industry.

Conservatives want to dismantle environmental regulations. But the public
is overwhelmingly in favor of protecting the environment. So conservatives
duck any public debate, while trying to carve out loopholes in ``riders''
inserted into legislation at the last moment.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced that Republicans stood first and
foremost for tax cuts and smaller government. When the president warned
against spending the Social Security surplus on tax cuts, Gingrich ducked.
He refused to detail the program cuts that would be required to pay for tax
cuts straight up. Tax cuts are something promised, but not delivered.

This unwillingness to reveal their real agenda has been on exhibit all
year. The Republican majority could not agree to pass a budget framework,
the first time that has happened since 1974 when the new budget rules were
passed. They couldn't agree to pass eight of 13 appropriations bills for
Clinton to sign or veto. They ended up rolling about one-third of the
budget -- $500 billion -- into a grotesque, last minute grab bag that no
member read or understood.

What would they fight for? Not tax cuts. Not spending cuts. No, only that
the largest, most wasteful bureaucracy of all -- the Pentagon -- get $1 for
every $1 added to domestic spending -- $9 billion in all.

The result was obscene. Conservatives insisted that we spend an addition $1
billion on missile defense -- above the $4 billion already in next year's
budget and the $90 billion spent on the program over the last 20 years.
This is money that the Pentagon didn't ask for, for a weapons system that
doesn't work against a threat that doesn't exist. At the same time, they
blocked a $1 billion downpayment on rebuilding schools, when the GAO
estimates that $100 billion is needed just to bring the schools up to code.

When I was growing up in the segregated South, African Americans had no
voting rights. Now the modern right employs the strategy of mush, mud and
money to drive voters away from exercising that right. The tactics are
different, but the goal is the same: Keep poor and working people from
voting in large numbers, while using money to help get out the vote of the
conservative and upscale minority.

Will the strategy work? Pundits predict a record low turnout. The radical
right is energized to vote against President Clinton. Many independents and
Democrats are dismayed with the scandal and could stay home. Republicans,
it is predicted, may gain seats in the House and Senate. But they will have
forged no mandate, no agenda, and no unity. And the citizenry will be
deprived of a choice in direction and in priorities.

The only way to stop this stealth revolution is to foil its strategy.
Working and poor people must vote and vote in large numbers. The choices
aren't about the mud or the mush, and elections shouldn't be bought. The
choice is between a common sense government of the moral center and a
reaction that dare not state its name.

[Jesse Jackson's column appears weekly in NewsBite. (c) 1998, Los Angeles
Times Syndicate]

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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