Saturday, April 9, 2011
The Second Bill of Rights
Every now and then I mention that the "left's" approach to the situation we face is out of whack when the primary objective seems to be preserving what can be preserved of the status quo in the face of the Rightist Republican onslaught.
Rather than even think of New and Improved policies of their own, the tendency on the "left"* is to argue the demerits of the Rightist proposals, and then lose the argument in Congress and the media, then repeat the process over and over again, and then complain that the debate is always being moved rightward, and it's just not fair.
Well, no. No it isn't. Fair, that is. But I would suggest that the reason why the debate keeps moving rightward is because so many times the "left" never even tries to move it in the other direction. They always fall into an Argument Trap which requires a dutiful reflection and consideration on the Rightist's proposals which always uses the Rightist's premises as the starting point. There may be a routine denunciation or two thrown in, but nine times out of ten, the Argument Trap the "left" finds itself in is inescapable: the Rightists have proposed something which the "left" is then obliged to argue. The "left" rarely proposes anything but is constantly arguing against the Rightist's proposal and in favor of the status quo.
There is no possibility of progress under the circumstances. Reversion is inevitable.
The Rightists seem to know that -- which is one reason they tend to chortle as much as they do at the antics of the "left."
Democratic leaders and online "leftists" never seem to get it, or if they do, they do so on Rightist terms. Which means going along with the Rightists.
It reminds me a little bit of the Civil Liberties struggles that crop up from time to time. The course of events is moving many primary civil liberties backwards at a furious pace. The Bill of Rights is essentially a dead letter, for example. The Constitution itself is under fierce legislative, executive and judicial assault. No matter; the Civil Liberties crowd sees incremental improvements here and there, particularly in gay rights these days, and that's enough to demonstrate "progress." The overall picture of course shows plenty of progress, just in the wrong direction. While valiantly hanging on to what they can of the tattered shreds and remnants of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Civil Liberties crowd is losing the overall and long-term battle for rights and liberties for the masses -- which are being canceled wholesale at home and abroad in the name of "Security" -- aka "Freedom and Democracy." One should be stunned...
That's why The Second Bill of Rights is a necessary way of looking at things; otherwise we will constantly be moving backwards on important economic and political matters without even recognizing there is another way to go.
There are two versions of FDR's Second Bill of Rights speech posted here -- the first is his Fireside Chat from January 11, 1944, in which he details the economic issues the world and the nation will face as the Second World War is brought to a conclusion; in the second film version of the speech, he is focused more on the elements of social/economic justice than the larger picture. It's also pretty plain on film that Roosevelt is showing signs of extraordinary strain and stress.
In his radio speech, FDR mentions the "rightist reaction." Indeed, it is always trying to drive us backwards, and he says that going back to the way things were in the 1920's is a sure recipe for the triumph of Fascism.
Sure enough, here we are.
But unless you are prepared and able to think outside the Reactionary Rightist parameters you are doomed to going backwards -- where they want to take you.
It's not so much the elements of FDR's Second Bill of Rights that I'm focusing on (though they are important basics); it is the way of thinking and looking at problems and issues that's important in these times.
Social and economic justice are not side issues to be dealt with on the margins. They are the primary issues for most people. It's fundamental for opinion leaders in media -- new media included -- and in the ruling class to get that.
But nearly all of them have forgotten -- if they ever knew anything about such icky things in the first place.
Note: Republicans and Libertarians tend to go into fits of incoherent rage whenever the topic of The Second Bill of Rights is raised, or for that matter whenever economic and social justice threaten to rise from the dead and become paramount concerns once again.
One might want to contemplate why Republicans and Libertarians are so threatened by economic and social justice issues, and who they actually represent.