The demise of the left and the new (un)reality: a center-right America

Let’s face it, these are dark days for the left. As we barrel toward the November elections and an almost certain triumph for the GOP, we are losing the national debate and making giant strides backward on key issues.

It’s the new (un)reality:

  • George W. Bush is steadily and surely being rehabilitated and now the question is how much gratitude we owe him.
  • Sarah Palin can move the public discourse with a single tweet, promoting a worldview consisting of unreflective, nationalistic soundbites.
  • Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox are dominating the national conversation, feeding a steady stream of propaganda packaged as moral platitudes to tens of millions of true believers.
  • In the face of overwhelming evidence, climate deniers are choking the life out of the environmental movement and willfully condemning humanity to a calamitous future.
  • From ACORN to Van Jones, liberal scalps are being taken with impunity.
  • Feminism is being redefined and repossessed by anti-feminists.
  • Women are facing an all-out assault on choice.
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is being co-opted by a radio jock.
  • Schoolbooks are being rewritten to reflect the radical right’s anti-science views.
  • The rich-poor divide grows by the minute and teachers and nurses struggle to get by while bankers get massive bonuses.
  • We mark the end of a war based on lies with congratulations to all, and we escalate another war with scarce resources that could save countless lives.
  • An oil spill that should have been a historic inflection point gets excised from public awareness by our own government and disappears down the memory hole (until the next disaster).
  • Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate.
  • Bigotry and discrimination against immigrants, against Muslims, against gays and lesbians is mainstream and rampant.
  • The frightening unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration have been enshrined and reinforced by a Democratic White House, ensuring that they will become precedent and practice.
  • Girls and women across the planet continue to get beaten, raped, ravaged, mutilated, and murdered while sports games induce a more passionate response.

All this a meager eighteen months after a wave of hope swept the nation and gave heart to progressives who had battled for sanity and rationality during the dark days of Bush. Well, these days are much darker. Already the national discourse is conducted on the right’s terms.  The marginalization of liberal thought under Bush-Cheney has only accelerated under Obama, and we must accept that indeed, America is — or is becoming — a center-right nation.

Why is this? My thoughts:

There is a simple formula for rightwing dominance of our national debate, even when Democrats are in charge: move the conversation as extreme right as possible, then compromise toward the far right.

This is something Republicans are willing to do while Democrats are not. The media plays along, so the net effect is for rightwing framing to prevail. And prevail it has. The consequence is that public opinion is shifting to the right.

The only question is how far right it can go before there’s a correction. I’m not optimistic.

UPDATE: Let me just add that by no means is this about quitting, but about being realistic. I’d never advocate giving up the progressive fight and I relish taking on those who want to take America “back” instead of taking it forward. With all the setbacks — and we’re facing a major one now — I have faith in the inexorable march of progress. Ultimately, humans will civilize themselves. Let’s hope we don’t bake our species out of existence before that happens.

Hard to envision a more noble set of objectives than the Millennium Development Goals

Imagine a world where we achieve these goals:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Dozens killed in Iraq; Afghan girls poisoned; Marine general accuses Obama of “giving sustenance” to Taliban

Here are the latest developments in the dual disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan:

Yesterday I wrote No justice on earth until girls are free from these horrors. Today the horrors continue unabated with a cowardly attack against schoolgirls:

About 40 schoolgirls became ill and were taken to hospital after a suspected gas poisoning in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, another apparent attack by hardline Islamists opposed to female education. The Taliban banned education for girls during their Afghan rule from 1996-2001, but have condemned similar attacks in the past. They have, however, set fire to dozens of schools, threatened teachers and even attacked schoolgirls in rural areas.

In Iraq, where “success” is now conventional wisdom, dozens of souls were snuffed out:

Suicide bombers killed more than 50 people in apparently coordinated attacks on Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and elsewhere on Wednesday, less than a week before U.S. troops formally end combat operations.

And incredibly, a top Marine general said the 2011 draw-down date is giving sustenance to the Taliban (note the ongoing campaign, spearheaded by Petraeus, to abolish that July deadline):

The top U.S. Marine general made a sharp departure from the White House’s talking points on Afghanistan, saying President Barack Obama’s promised July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing troops from the country had given “sustenance” to the Taliban.

We know the president was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011,” Gen. James Conway told reporters on Tuesday. “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance….In fact, we’ve intercepted communications that say, ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’”

Even a leading conservative blogger realizes how outrageous this is:

I’d be angrier about this than about what Team McChrystal pulled a few months ago. Not that what Conway’s saying is surprising — this has always been the chief hawkish criticism of the July 2011 timetable — but to have one of your own top brass question the strategy publicly, especially in terms this explosive, is mind-boggling.

Horrific mistake in a Sydney hospital

I’ve always been awed by it, but didn’t fully comprehend what a woman experiences during pregnancy and childbirth until my wife and I had our first baby. Now when I read the disturbing stats about maternal deaths around the world, the reality of the pain and anguish is more vivid to me. Which brings me to this awful story of a woman in Sydney mistakenly injected with cleaning fluid during an epidural:

Grace Wang’s spinal canal was injected with powerful antiseptic instead of anaesthetic, in what should have been a routine epidural to ease the pain of her first child’s birth.

The Herald understand the two substances had been transferred to separate metal dishes on the sterile table, contravening the standard practice of drawing them directly from their packaging into a syringe to avoid confusion.

The devastating medical mistake – inconceivable in its magnitude – has poisoned her nervous system, leaving the 32-year-old distressed, confused, in shocking pain and unable to walk or even sit.

She has lost the strength to hold Alex and rarely asks about her baby, as she did constantly after his birth.

And the future may not bring relief, as Ms Wang’s physical and psychological condition has deteriorated since the accident on June 26, and new symptoms continue to emerge.

Just terrible.

Violence against women and the law


[O]nly about one third of countries around the world have laws in place to combat violence against women, and in most of these countries those laws are not enforced, well resourced or taken seriously.

Violence against women and girls, in the form of human trafficking, harmful cultural practices, rape as a tactic of war and domestic violence, is one of the single greatest barriers holding women back. A staggering statistic: one out of every three women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime. And the problem is getting worse every year.

I stick by this New Year’s prediction:

Another decade closes, another decade dawns, another thing you can bet on in the years to come: women across this planet will be disrespected, beaten, abused, violated, oppressed. Simply for being born female.

I have one child, a daughter. Not yet 2. But I know full well that her gender automatically brings with it the likelihood that at some point (perhaps at many points), she’ll be treated like a second-class citizen.