Metro Weekly

Right's Populist Fakery

Campaign season demands pulling back the curtain on spurious talking points

For all the talk of “what the American people want,” Republican candidates are pushing a lot of things that polls show most people do not want. The candidates reveal their awareness of this by the lies they have to tell in the process.

The repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for example, was supported by an overwhelming majority of voters and preceded by extensive studies and preparation. Yet GOP candidates keep talking as if allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly is an entirely novel idea, and as if the gayness of the thousands already serving would cease to exist as long as we agreed not to talk about it.

This massive denial of reality can only prevail if the rest of us remain asleep for the next 13 months. Even Rick Santorum, the day after the debate in Orlando, Fla., had to repudiate audience members for booing gay soldier Stephen Hill, who asked a taped question from the war zone in Iraq. Santorum ultimately could not ignore the repugnance of catcalls against a defender of our country despite having himself equated open service with sexual misconduct.

We are told that voters have repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage, as if that were a steady-state condition. In fact, the margin of victory in anti-gay initiatives has narrowed with every election cycle, to the point where polls now show a slight majority in support of marriage equality.

False claims by right-wing candidates are like the bits of irrelevant business created by a magician to distract his audience. Thwarting such a person requires exposing his trickery. (Speaking of distractions, did you catch Rick Perry last week saying he’d like to “mate up” Newt Gingrich with Herman Cain to produce a running mate? Oh, those horny frat boys.)

Congressional Republicans show their humor by slamming what they call Obama’s “my way or the highway” approach to his jobs bill while they threaten to shut down the government if disaster relief is not offset by spending cuts. They act as if a century of reforms protecting public safety, health, and security stems from foreign tyranny instead of the American political process. They seek to erase those reforms not to help “the people” but solely to help those who can pour unlimited money into the election thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.

Political operatives seek to shape and steer public opinion, not to be its conduits. The GOP is pushing aggressive voter suppression tactics, including new ID requirements designed to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning populations under the pretext of combating a nonexistent voting fraud epidemic. Stealing elections is a populist enterprise only for a populace of imaginary friends.

President Obama last Saturday gave the Congressional Black Caucus a rallying cry: “Put on your marchin’ shoes. Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are gonna press on. We’ve got work to do.” Some observers frowned on his dropped G’s, as if using dialect were inauthentic, while a fat cat like Mitt Romney poses as a tribune of the masses.

The Frontrunner of the Month Club, aka the mainstream media, shows little interest in enlightening anyone. TV journos declare the coming election a referendum on Obama’s performance — as if his record of accomplishment were purely a matter of opinion with no facts that could be checked, and as if the other available choices were not shape-shifters and loons.

The Republicans use government to help themselves while demonizing unions and talking rugged individualism to working folks. Perhaps if you buy the old marketing myth that gay people are all rich, you may be gulled by a frontier fantasy into helping dismantle hard-won worker protections. As Obama once said, “They think you’re stupid. Prove them wrong.”

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at