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"President Romney" – How to Prevent Those Two Words From Ever Being Spoken ...a letter from Michael Moore
Thursday, September 6th, 2012
In two months we Americans will go to the polls once again to decide who the president will be for the next four years. We will not be allowed to vote on those who wield the true power in this country. On November 6th we will not vote for the chairman of ExxonMobil or JPMorgan Chase or Citibank or the Premier of China. That day will come, but not this year.
Now, I know there are a goodly number of you out there who believe there's not a snowball's chance in Kenya that Barack Obama will not be re-elected to the White House. And why would you believe otherwise? After the incredible Democratic convention this week, with the best rock-em-sock-em speeches I've heard from a Democrat's mouth since … since, I don't know when. You can't help but not have a contact high after this past week if you are of the sort who believes in economic justice, peace, and a five-dollar latte. Right now, with the buzz on, you are sitting there thinking that your fellow Americans will turn out in massive numbers, either because they want to continue the Obama era or because they're scared shitless of the barbarians at the gate – or both. You're convinced that the Republicans have blown it with all their talk of the lady parts they want to control even though we now know that they have no idea where those parts are, what they are, or how they work.
Yes, it certainly looks like the voters will reject this obscenely wealthy man called Romney — Romney of Michigan/Massachusetts/New Hampshire/Utah/Zurich/Grand Cayman — this man who will not explain exactly how all his wealth was obtained, where he keeps it, or how much taxes he pays on it. He wants to turn the clock back to the '50s – the 1850s – and he refuses to offer any specific plan about what he'll do about anything. He wants to run the country like a corporation but he can't even control one 82-year-old actor on his own convention stage, a Hollywood legend who, in the matter of ten and a half minutes went from Good (walking onto the stage) to Bad (talking to a chair) and then to Ugly (the chair started … swearing?). It was better than the best cat-flushing-the-toilet video on YouTube and it was a gift to all of us who know that Romney is doomed come November.
Or is he?
Last week, I said on the HuffPost Live webcast that we had all better start practicing how to say "President Romney" because, living in Michigan, I can tell you that there's trouble here on the two peninsulas and it's not just because Romney is a native son or that we like to watch kids from Cranbrook chase down gay kids and chop their hair off. One recent poll here showed Romney leading Obama by four points! How can that be? Didn't Obama save Detroit?
No, he didn't. He saved General Motors and Chrysler. "Detroit" (and Flint and Pontiac and Saginaw) are not defined by the global corporations who suck our towns dry and then split town to make more money elsewhere (except, of course, they continued to design and built crap cars, so eventually they didn't make the money at all). These cities in Michigan are about the people who live here, and in the process of "saving Detroit," Mr. Obama had to fire thousands of these people, and reduce the benefits and pensions of those who were left. There's a lot of pissed off people in Michigan (and Wisconsin and Ohio), people who weren't saved even though the corporation was. I'm just stating a fact, and those of you who don't live here should know this.
The other problem facing us this election (spoiler alert – angry white guys may want to stop reading right now) … is race. We all fear there's probably a good 40% of the country who simply do not want a black man in the Oval Office. In fact, in 2008, Obama lost the white vote. He lost every white age group except young people (18-29). And yet he still won by 10 million votes! The optimistic secret the Obama people know is that only about 70% of the voters in November will be white. So if he can win just 35-40% of them, and then get a massive majority of people of color, he can win re-election. There is no question in my mind that Obama is more popular than Romney and if everyone could vote from their couch like they do for American Idol, Obama would win hands down. As I have said before, we live in a liberal country. The majority of Americans (who do not call themselves "liberal") now support most of the liberal agenda – they're for gay marriage, they're pro-choice, they're anti-war, they believe there's global warming, and they hate Wall Street for what it has done to them and their neighbors. The Republicans know this: that we, the majority, will have sex when we want and with whom we want, will read and watch whatever we want when we want, will use marijuana if we want and if we don't want to then we certainly don't want our friends who do to be throw into prison. We are sick and tired of being poisoned, by chemicals or propaganda, we think the Palestinians have been given a raw deal and we want our friggin' jobs back! The Christian Right (and their Wall Street funders) know this all too well – America has turned, and there's no going back to not loving someone because of the color of their skin or expecting women to cede control of their bodies to a bunch of Neanderthals. So, what's a Rightie to do now that we've turned the joint into Sodom and G? They have to suppress the vote! They have to stop as many liberals from voting as possible. So they've passed many voter suppression laws to make it hard for the poor, the minorities, the disabled and students to vote. They honestly believe they call pull this off – and they just may. The only "positive" thing about this is that their need to have such laws in order to win the election is an admission on the part of the Republicans that they know the U.S. Is a liberal country and that the only way they can now win now is to cheat. Trust me, if they believed that America was a right-wing country they'd be passing laws making it so easy to vote you could do it in the checkout line at Walmart.
But the voting on November 6th will not take place at Walmart or on any potato's couch. It can only happen by going to a polling place – and, not to state the obvious, the side that gets the most people physically out to the polls that day, wins. We know the Republicans are spending tens of millions of dollars to make sure this very thing happens. They have built a colossal get-out-the-vote machine for election day, and the sheer force of their tsunami of hate stands ready to overwhelm us like nothing we've ever seen before. Those of us in the Midwest got a taste of it in 2008. Traditionally Democratic states – all of which voted for Obama – saw our state legislatures and governor seats hijacked by this well-oiled machine. We didn't know what hit us, but these new Republicans wasted no time in dismantling some of the very basic thing we hold dear. Wisconsin fought back – but even that huge grassroots uprising was not enough to stop the governor bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. It was a wake up call, for sure – but have we really woken up?
It's been a great week in Charlotte, and I'm getting ready now to watch Barack Obama give his speech. It's OK for us to take a couple days to high-five each other, but I cannot stress enough to you that unless you and I are doing something every day for the next 60 days to get people out to vote, then there is a chance we will all be saying "President Romney" come January. Don't think it can't happen. Hate, sad to say, at least in America these days, is a far greater motivator than love and feelin' groovy.
For those of us who believe that the history of the Democrats and the Republicans is to do the bidding of the 1% (Obama's #1 private contributor in '08 were the people at Goldman Sachs), and that while the Dems are a kinder/gentler bunch, they are also just as quick to want to take us to war and sell us out to the corporate interests (and, yes, Obamacare is a $$ gift to the insurance companies; only a single-payer system will stop that), this election is a bit of a bitter pill. We were hugely disappointed when President Obama didn't charge out of the gate after his inauguration and undo the damage that had been done (as FDR did in his first hundred days) – and only when Wall Street stopped writing him the big campaign checks this past year did he get his mojo back and start fighting the fight that needs to be fought. He's a good and decent person (when he's not sending in drones to kill Pakistani civilians or prosecuting government whistleblowers), and his election four years ago was a high point of such emotional intensity I just couldn't get over how hopeful I was that this country had changed and we had found our moral footing. Reality set in a few weeks later when he put Tim Geithner and Larry Summers in charge of economic policy and then he changed his mind about closing Gitmo.
OK, so people like me, just once in our lifetime, would like to get our way all the time! Is that too much to ask? Of course, there is a different question that is in the air now — shall we give the country back to the crowd who gave the country to the 1%? I think not. So let's join in with our liberal majority and be fierce and relentless in these next two months. Let's spend this time educating people what we mean when we say things like "single-payer" and "Blackwater." Politics and the fate of the nation (and the world – sorry, world) are on the front burner and those of us who want to wrestle control of our society out of the hands of the few can take healthy advantage of these coming weeks. Don't sit it out. Don't try to convince anyone Obama has magically transformed us – just tell them four years is simply not enough time to undo all the hurt caused by biggest economic crash since the Great Depression and the biggest military blunder/lie in our history.
I'm going to go with my optimistic side here (sorry, cynics, you know I love you) and imagine a Second Term Obama (and a Democratically-controlled Congress) who will go after all the good that our people deserve and put the power of our democracy back in our hands. There's good reason why the Right is terrified of a Second Term Obama because that is exactly what they think he'll do: the real Obama will appear and take us down the road to social justice and tolerance and a leveling of the economic playing field. For once, I'd like to say I agree with the Right – and I sincerely hope their worst nightmare does come true.
The Fairness Doctrine
An FCC license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.
U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.
When the Sinclair Broadcast Group retreated from pre-election plans to force its 62 television stations to preempt prime-time programming in favor of airing the blatantly anti John Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the reversal wasn't triggered by a concern for fairness: Sinclair back-pedaled because its stock was tanking. The staunchly conservative broadcasters plan had provoked calls for sponsor boycotts, and Wall Street saw a company that was putting politics ahead of profits. Sinclairs stock declined by nearly 17 percent before the company announced it would air a somewhat more balanced news program in place of the documentary (Baltimore Sun, 10/24/04).
But if fairness mattered little to Sinclair, the news that a corporation that controlled more TV licenses than any other could put the publicly owned airwaves to partisan use sparked discussion of fairness across the board, from media democracy activists to television industry executives.
Variety (10/25/04) underlined industry concerns in a report suggesting that Sinclairs partisanship was making other broadcasters nervous by fueling anti-consolidation forces and efforts to bring back the FCCs defunct Fairness Doctrine:Sinclair could even put the Fairness Doctrine back in play, a rule established in 1949 to require that the networksall three of themair all sides of issues. The doctrine was abandoned in the 1980s with the proliferation of cable, leaving citizens with little recourse over broadcasters that misuse the public airwaves, except to oppose the renewal of licenses.
The Sinclair controversy brought discussion of the Fairness Doctrine back to news columns (Baltimore Sun, 10/24/04; L.A. Times, 10/24/04) and opinion pages (Portland Press Herald, 10/24/04; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/22/04) across the country. Legal Times (11/15/04) weighed in with an in-depth essay headlined: A Question of Fair Air Play: Can Current Remedies for Media Bias Handle Threats Like Sinclair Aborted Anti-Kerry Program?
Sinclairs history of one-sided editorializing and right-wing water-carrying, which long preceded its Stolen Honor ploy (Extra!, 1112/04), puts it in the company of political talk radio, where right-wing opinion is the rule, locally and nationally. Together, they are part of a growing trend that sees movement conservatives and Republican partisans using the publicly owned airwaves as a political megaphoneone that goes largely unanswered by any regular opposing perspective. Its an imbalance that begs for a remedy. A short history of fairness
The necessity for the Fairness Doctrine, according to proponents, arises from the fact that there are many fewer broadcast licenses than people who would like to have them. Unlike publishing, where the tools of the trade are in more or less endless supply, broadcasting licenses are limited by the finite number of available frequencies. Thus, as trustees of a scarce public resource, licensees accept certain public interest obligations in exchange for the exclusive use of limited public airwaves. One such obligation was the Fairness Doctrine, which was meant to ensure that a variety of views, beyond those of the licensees and those they favored, were heard on the airwaves. (Since cables infrastructure is privately owned and cable channels can, in theory, be endlessly multiplied, the FCC does not put public interest requirements on that medium.)
The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.
by Steve Rendall
Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst and co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show.
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