For all the talk about reformers and mavericks, the Republican convention this week struck me as a return to the GOP's decades-old culture-war handbook, with speaker after speaker launching attacks on the "elites" in the media and Washington who supposedly look down on small-town America. At the GOP convention, there was a dispiriting number of distortions and ugly charges hurled from the podium, but nothing exemplified the spirit of the event to me more than the repeated outright mockery of community organizers.
As someone who has worked as a tenant organizer, I was offended by the smug sneering directed toward people who work hard for little pay on behalf of those who are struggling. How does attacking people who sacrifice for the common good mesh with the Republicans' stated desire to divert social service funds to community groups? How does it fit with speakers' claims to be standing with "real people" against "elites?" And I'm sorry, but how can anyone not laugh out loud at the ludicrous image of Wall Street millionaire and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney complaining about Eastern elites?
Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin made it clear that she's an able attack dog — proudly describing herself as a pitbull — and should not be underestimated. But she also made it clear that she's willing to stretch the truth when following the GOP's win-at-all-costs playbook. I think James Fallows had it right when he said that the decision to pick Sarah Palin was a signal that the McCain camp was embracing Karl Rove's base-motivating strategy and Religious Right leaders have reacted with a fervor that is hard to overstate. Clearly the pick of an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science extremist wrapped in a folksy hockey-mom package has fired up the base in ways that even McCain's pledge to pack the Courts with right-wing judges has failed to do.
After the derisive and divisive comments from so many speakers, John McCain's decrying of partisan rancor last night rang hollow to me. His use of right-wing buzz words such as "culture of life" and "judges who won't legislate from the bench" was a reminder that McCain would continue in the partisan tradition of the Bush administration.
In addition, the ridiculousness of the attacks on the "liberal media" — which has more often than not been fawning in its treatment of McCain — is so transparent that I hope the press will not cave in to the campaign's bullying demands that reporters stop asking legitimate questions about Palin's record, or about the impact of McCain's promised policies on the lives and liberties of millions of Americans.
But we can't count on the media to do the necessary truth-telling about John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Religious Right culture warriors who are now mobilizing to put them in the White House. That's our job — and yours!
John McCain and Sarah Palin have lit a fire under the GOP's far-right base. I have to say they've done the same for me, and I hope the same is true for other Americans who share my deep concern for the ways they would use their power to undermine our nation's highest values and reverse so much progress that we've made toward those ideals.