For some time now, various "reporters" and on-air personalities on the Fox News Network have failed to report the full story or relevant facts, instead indulging in race baiting in order to exploit people's fears and crank up the fringe of their audience. This was exemplified by Glenn Beck's nightly assault on Van Jones earlier this year. Recently, Fox has cranked up stories about the Department of Justice's decision not to prosecute a voter intimidation case against a Black Panther group and even worse, calls for Atty. General Holder's resignation. And now, the Sherrod Debacle.
Turns out Van Jones' name was added to a website without his permission, a fact the group finally admitted some time after he resigned. And maybe he said some things about the Republican Party that he shouldn't have -- but that has nothing to do with the fact that he is a brilliant environmental organizer. It also turns out that it was the Bush Administration who decided not to prosecute the case against the black panthers because as Bush's Assistant Attorney General Perez testified, "the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statues, and under the Obama Administration Justice Department a judgment was won in a civil case.
And by now we all know how the Sherrod story went down. Despite his claims to the contrary on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace didn't have his facts quite right. As a media matters study showed, Fox News did in fact spend a lot of air-time on July 19th and 20th cranking up the false story. Not to mention that foxnews.com bragged that shortly after they posted a "report" about the video Mrs. Sherrod resigned.
None of this is new. I don't believe all or even most of the Republican party voters are racist, but going at least as far back as Lee Atwater, the Willie Horton ads, and the attacks on John McCain in the South Carolina primaries in both 2000 and 2008, the immigration debate in 2006, there is a persistent willingness in the Republican party to use race baiting for electoral advantage. The fact is, this is racist behavior.
Now if the Tea Party, which is not a professional group of politicians have the decency to repudiate the racist fringe in their group, why can't the Republicans? Obviously they think this approach works on the margins, but even if this stuff works, it sure doesn't produce good leaders or a civil society, and it certainly doesn't produce a stronger America, it produces an even more polarized and angry America. It's that willingness to put party ahead of country that has the Republicans in such low regard.
There are lessons to be learned here. Tom Vilsack stated the first one best: don't make decisions without all the facts. To that I would add: consider the source. If it is a group of individuals or a corporation that has chronically ignored the facts and engaged in race baiting in the past, they are likely to do it again. A report by Fox News, Breitbart or Matt Drudge, ought to have -- as it does in most people's minds -- little credibility.
The second lesson is harder. Stand up for what you believe in. I admire Nancy Pelosi because she is tough, gets things done, and doesn't take crap from the right wing or any one else. After the year and a half this country has just been through, it is pretty obvious that the right-wing has no intention of cooperating with anyone, and that they will do anything to regain power, just as they were willing to do anything to hold on to it. The only reasonable approach is to stand up to them as you would any group of bullies. Call them out for what they do- or don't do as the case may be. If the Tea Party can call out some of their own members, surely we can call out a group of people who have put their party ahead of their country.
I have often said the biggest problem with the Democrats is that we are not tough enough. Now is the time to be tough. The fact is that the stimulus package has reduced unemployment from where it would have otherwise been in this Bush-induced recession (based on policies most of the Republicans now in Congress voted for). The fact is, as 60 members of the House and the CBO showed last week, the Public Option, or Medicare Buy-in, as it should more correctly be called, would have reduced the deficit over ten years by an additional $68 million dollars. The fact is that President Obama -- despite Republicans killing the climate change bill -- has done more in 18 months to change America's approach to the environment and green jobs than any president in memory.
The fact is that if we are going to tackle the deficit, it makes no sense to cut taxes for people with plenty of money while we tell people who depend on Social Security and Medicare that they have to do with less, or to play games with unemployment insurance for those who need it most.
The fact is that the Democrats won the election in 2008. The Republicans refuse to do anything for the country except say "no". That means we have to work hard and do what we believe is right. And we have to stop apologizing for it. We have to stand up for what we believe in and stop trying to make deals with people who cannot be trusted to make deals for the good of our country. It's not too late to win in 2010. Conviction politics works. Just ask the right wing!