One of the main shortcomings of liberals, progressives, and many others on the “left” (broadly defined) is their strange unwillingness – as Andy Schmookler has pointed out repeatedly – to see the right wing for what it actually is. Instead, I’ve heard many Democrats fall easily into false equivalency, “both sides-ism,” “Washington (generically) is broken,” “hyperpartisanship (generically) is bad,” blah blah blah bull**** rhetoric, instead of stating specifically and clearly where the craziness is coming from – the right wing, the Republican Party, and the panoply of religious extremists, white nationalists, anti-government extremists, etc. that make up the GOP “tent” these days.
Case in point: Del. Nick Freitas and his wife, Tina Freitas, who yesterday announced for Virginia State Senate against incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-SD24). We’ll get to Tina Freitas’ speech in a second, but first, let’s look at the man she’s primarying (because he’s supposedly not conservative enough), Emmett Hanger. Per Project Vote Smart, Hanger has received:
- ZERO grades for years from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, with 100% ratings from anti-abortion groups like the “Virginia Society for Human Life”
- 95%-98% scores from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce
- Low, low scores from Equality Virginia (e.g., ZERO in 2012, 25% in 2013)
- A 94% score from the hard-right Family Foundation of Virginia
- Lots of scores in the 90s and 100% from the Virginia Citizens Defense League and National Rifle Association
So what’s “wrong” with Hanger from a right-wing perspective? Simple: Hanger’s major “heresy” is that he voted to help people in his district by expanding Medicaid, something that such notorious liberals as Speaker Kirk Cox (right-wing Republican), Del. Terry Kilgore (ditto), etc. also voted for. Yet despite this bringing our own money back to Virginia, helping hospitals and hundreds of thousands of poor/working-class Virginians, the Nick Freitases of the world think it’s evil. As do the Tina Freitases of the world. But these folks don’t just think that expanding health care coverage is evil, they think that basically anything the government does – except, of course, for telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, telling people what they can/can’t do in their bedrooms, etc. – is evil.
Don’t believe me? Check out Freitas’ website issues page, where she demonstrates an extremely limited view of government’s role, along with an intense hostility to government interfering in what she apparently believes is an all-knowing, infallible “free market” (Freitas – “The more the Government interferes in the process, the more opportunity for corruption”). Oh, and of course – good right winger that she is – Freitas hates progressive taxation, claiming (falsely) that “our current tax system punishes people for productivity and treats tax payers with arrogance and disrespect.” Again, though, Freitas is totally cool with government interfering with what women can and can not do with their bodies (“Life is the first right that any of us have and therefore the government does have a responsibility to ensure that a child’s right to life is not denied them”).
Now, check out Freitas’ announcement speech yesterday. I chatted with a Democratic friend of mine about it this morning, and their response was that the speech is “terrifying,” that “if that doesn’t motivate Dems to get their shit together and fight, I can’t imagine what would,” that “that mentality…that’s what we’re up against… they literally think the government is out to steal from them because it ‘has an appetite’ and that the ‘left’ is some super-powerful, complicit, evil empire.” For instance, in her speech, Freitas spews out damaging, false nonsense like the following (my notes in bold following Freitas’ lunacy):
- “As a child growing up in a small business home, I remember the hardship of tax season every single year on my parents who worked so hard to provide for us. We were not a wealthy family at all, not by a long stretch, but it seemed like every time we turned around, there was the government to take a large portion of what my parents had worked so hard to earn” (Note: in fact, the government in this country takes a relatively small percentage in taxes – by both historical and international standards – and mostly redistributes that money back to people in the forms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Add in spending on defense and homeland security, plus important things like transportation and education, and you’ve got the vast majority of what government spends money on. Is there anything in there you want to see cut or eliminated? If not, we have to pay for it, which is what taxes are for. I mean, this is Civics 101 and shouldn’t even have to be explained, but apparently people like Nick and Tina Freitas skipped that class…or attended and didn’t understand a word of what was being taught. Sad.)
- Every time they got ahead, every time they were successful, there was the government again to punish them for success and to take more of what they’d earned. Then when my parents decided they were going to sell the carpet cleaning business…that they had built up with their own two hands, there was the government yet again to take a huge portion of what they had risked everything to build and that they had built with their own hands. They did build that.” (Note: Again, the government does NOT take a “huge portion” of what people earn in this country. To the contrary, many wealthy people and large corporations barely pay any taxes at all, because they have armies of accountants to game the system. Also note that many of those same people are big-time Republicans. Think there’s a correlation there?)
- “Even as a child I knew it was wrong for the government to plunder hard-working people in order to maintain its massive appetite for spending.” (Note: This language is so over-the-top, extreme and absurd, it barely deserves a response, except that it’s standard rhetoric today from the John Birch Society…er, Republican Party of Trump.)
- “There doesn’t seem to be a single aspect of our lives which is safe from meddling politicians who think they know better than we do how to live our lives.” (Note: False again, of course. I’d also point out again that Freitas is fine with the politicians “meddling” in what women can/can’t do with their bodies, with what consenting adults can do in their bedrooms, etc.)
- “I cannot stand by and watch [my children] grow up in a country that no longer values the things that we fought for as a family.” (Note: More far-right hysteria, reminiscent of the “red scare” of the 1950s)
- “We need someone with conviction, resolve and energy to uphold it against the onslaught of bills from the extreme left designed to control us, deprive us of our rights and the fruits of our labor. This fight is much larger than a primary. As Virginians and as Americans, we are currently embroiled in the fight of our lives and against an aggressive new left enamored with the socialist agenda and absolutely determined to carry it out.” (Same comment as the previous one, except I’d add that this supposed “socialist agenda” is stuff like saving the planet from catastrophic global warming, providing affordable/high-quality health care to all Americans – like every other industrialized nation on earth does – and other such “horrors.”)
Anyway, that’s what we’re dealing with in this state and this country: a resurgent John Birch Society-style, paranoid, loony-tunes hard-right fringe that, frighteningly, is no longer a fringe, as we’ve got one the biggest racists and nutjobs out there sitting in the White House (when he isn’t playing golf at Mar-a-Lago or one of his other properties). That’s why the rest of us need to focus, stay engaged, and make sure we win elections this November, next November, and every other Election Day until we put this country back on a responsible, sane, sustainable path. Because with the Nick and Tina Freitases of the world in charge (god forbid), we’re going to keep getting the exact opposite.