Is the mainstream moving left or just reacting to right-wingers behaving badly?

The mainstream seems to be taking a hard look at some of the more radical ideas of the right wing. Over the past week or so, we have seen a number of signs that the mainstream is beginning to push back against the constant bullying by the right-wing on such issues as women’s reproductive rights, tax policy, global warming and gun control:

  • The latest Economist reports that the Heartland Institute, a think tank that promotes skepticism about global warming, lost an estimated $825,000 in contributions after it posted a billboard in which Unabomber Ted Kaczynski says ”I still believe in global warming. Do you?,” which followed revelation that it had been planning on sending teaching materials denouncing global warming to American primary schools.  That sent PepsiCo, BB&T Bank, Eli Lily and other donors out the doors.
  • Today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that 15 Pennsylvania state legislators have cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), joining hundreds of legislators nationwide and such large corporations as The Coca Cola Company, PepsiCo, McDonald’s Corp. and software giant Intuit.
  • Over the weekend, Washington Post reported that an increasing number of Republicans running for Congress are declining to sign the Norquist pledge not to raise taxes. Of the 25 candidates this year promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as “Young Guns” and “Contenders” at least a third are saying they won’t sign the pledge.
  • A few weeks back, when one of the wealthiest men in the world, Joe Ricketts, agreed to finance a scurrilous series of ads against President Obama built on the fact that he went to a church whose pastor made a number of outrageous statements, the outrage in the mainstream was immediate and thunderous.

With the exception of the repudiation of the tax pledge, these repudiations of the right all come after particularly obnoxious events: Ricketts really did want to go beyond the pale. ALEC is still suffering from its support of “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Heartland Institute has crossed the truth line often enough to begin to embarrass the more mainstream of its corporate masters. Add to these, Rush Limbaugh’s awful remarks, which led to him losing massive numbers of national and local sponsors, and the dipping of the Komen Foundation into the waters of the extreme right by temporarily defunding Planned Parenthood. (I can see why Republican candidates are starting to inch away from the no-tax pledge.  No matter who wins the presidential election, it is likely that part of the legislative deals after the election will be tax hikes.)

Because most of these instances of mainstreamers coming to their senses come as a reaction to truly obnoxious events, there is no telling if these are signs of a sea change in American politics, a movement by the mainstream back towards the progressivism of 1930-1976.  We do see the limits of the right-wing finally, but those limits have less to do with what is being advocated as it does with how it is advocated.  Call someone a slut and you’re going to lose your sponsors. Tell outright lies to children, and even purveyors of consumer illusions will desert you.


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