It hasn’t been an easy two years. In 2008, Americans flatly rejected a party that had created a devastating recession, sent our troops off to two seemingly unending wars, and refused to find solutions to crises in our immigration and health care systems. Two years later, we’ve seen some progress. Our troops are out of Iraq, Wall Street has been forced to end some of its most dangerous practices, and millions more Americans have health insurance. Other important reforms have been stalled by obstructionists in the U.S. Senate. The economic hard times, and the frustration, still linger.
In this atmosphere of frustration and anger, a new breed of congressional candidate has emerged. Far-right candidates from Alaska to New Hampshire are promising change—but don’t mistake the change they have in mind for real solutions. These far-right candidates aren’t interested in solving problems. They’re interested in taking advantage of troubled times to push a radical agenda that takes rights away from ordinary Americans and puts even more power in the hands of wealthy CEOs.
First on the chopping block for most of these far-right candidates are government programs that many Americans rely on. Candidates like Joe Miller in Alaska, Ken Buck in Colorado, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Mike Lee in Utah say they want to eliminate the Department of Education, which ensures the quality of public schools but leaves most major curriculum decisions up to state and local school boards. Others want to get rid of the Department of Energy, which, among other important tasks, ensures the safe handling of nuclear material in the United States.
Even our safety net for the elderly isn’t safe from these candidates’ radical agenda. Miller, Buck, Angle, and Lee want to eliminate Social Security, a program that many elderly Americans rely on for their basic needs. Some of these candidates even want to eliminate Medicare, leaving millions of ailing seniors to fend for themselves.
And forget finding workable solutions to unemployment, the broken immigration system, or the climate crisis. Right-wing candidates across the country, like Carly Fiorina in California and Marco Rubio in Florida, have come out in favor of the anti-immigrant law in Arizona that even local law enforcement officials said did more harm good. And nearly all of these candidates refuse to consider job-creation bills that would loosen our dependence on foreign oil and ease our impact on the environment—all because they deny the science of climate change.
Most of these far-right candidates take an extreme view on reproductive choice, even opposing abortion rights for victims of rape or incest. Sharron Angle in Nevada infamously told a teenage rape victim to make “lemonade” out of her “lemon situation”—her callous attitude toward victims of rape is shared by fellow candidates including Miller, Buck, Paul, and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell, all of whom want to deny these victims the right to make the most fundamental decisions concerning their own bodies.
So, who would be the winners in a Congress controlled by the emerging far-right wing of the Republican Party? Well, they would be the people who are already winning. The far right wants to spend the money they save by eliminating jobs-creation programs and medical coverage for seniors by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. And they want to make sure that Wall Street and the oil industry can keep lining their pockets with risky practices that hurt everyday Americans, without having to face up to any government regulation.
The populist rhetoric of the new far right sounds good, but it hides their real agenda. These candidates don’t have plans for creating jobs or solving the nation’s problems—they have plans for helping the rich get richer while leaving average Americans out to dry.
Marge Baker is executive vice president of People For the American Way. www.pfaw.org