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Winter in America | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Winter in America

The sublime (and sublimely troubled) singer/songwriter Gil Scott-Heron wrote in 1981 at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution of waking up one day to find "Winter in America."

This morning in late 2004, at least in New York, a similar feeling is palpable. Yesterday's election did see record-turnout, yet, even without many of the expected polling irregularities, Bush won the popular vote. Young people did support Kerry in expected overwhelming fashion. The problem was that the youth demographic hit the polls in far fewer numbers than predicted despite the attention lavished on students by pollsters, the media, the Democratic Party and celebs like Michael Moore and Sheryl Crow.

Sure, the Bush campaign's unprecedented--at least in modern history--dishonesty helped win lots of votes. And the culture wars killed the Dems in numerous battleground states. But there must be something more. If not enough people saw through the Administration's hypocrisies--despite the remarkable, progressive organizing that went on to raise awareness of how the Bush agenda is crushing America--then there's more going on than just Karl Rove's brilliance coupled with a virtually bottomless war chest.

Regardless, as David Corn writes in his Nation weblog, now "there will be no good-bye to reckless preemptive war, an economic policy based on tax breaks tilted toward the wealthy, a war on environmental regulations, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, excessive secrecy in government, unilateral machismo, the neocon theology of hubris and arrogance, a ban on effective stem cell research, no-bid Halliburton contracts, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and much more."

In other words, being a progressive is now a much more important job than ever before. So, it's a good time to single out a few of the many public-interest groups who are now the only bulwark we have against an increasingly emboldened Bush team set out to impose its fundamentalist agenda on a divided nation. Please join, volunteer with, make donations to, praise often and otherwise support these organizations with all your might.

Bush's judicial appointments--Supreme Court and appellate--will likely be among the most damaging consequences of his second term. The Alliance for Justice has been on the front-lines of judicial fights since 1979 in an effort to promote a fair and independent judiciary.

The future of reproductive choice is also now in question. Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL-Pro Choice America will fight to the death to defend rollbacks on women's reproductive freedoms--whether they come in the form of the quiet de-funding of state-based health programs or the anticipated selection of anti-choice justices when vacancies on the Supreme Court open up.

Even if evangelical Christian John Ashcroft is pushed out of the Justice Department as some rumor-mongering has it, the wall between church and state will likely become much lower in the next four years. As Esther Kaplan writes in her invaluable new book on the relationship between Bush and the Christian right, in his first term, "Bush bucked up the movement...from his efforts to block abortions and gay marriage to his expenditure of significant political capital to support abstinence education, church-based social services and socially conservative judges." God only knows what he's planning for his second go-around.

People for the American Way has been sounding the alarm on the unprecedented influence of the Christian right on the Bush White House and is well-placed to expose the slow creep of the evangelical movement into the machinery of government.

In his first term, Bush's assault on the environment was so blatant and relentless that, as Mark Hertsgaard noted in a Nation story, "even American television now reports it as a simple fact, like gravity. " We can only imagine the plans of an Administration unencumbered by the burdens of a re-election. Fortunately, there are numerous good environmental groups operating currently, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club being among the most well-known and effective.

Further consolidation of the media was a major goal of Bush's first-term. A popular rebellion against Bush's FCC chairman Michael Powell was able to defeat Powell's clumsy efforts to rollback virtually all media regulation in June of 2003. The Free Press Media Network, founded by The Nation's John Nichols along with Robert McChesney to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system, was in the forefront of organizing public opposition to Powell last year.

Needless to say, this is a very incomplete list of both issues and organizations. There are thousands of groups bracing to redouble their commitment to economic justice, peace and the environment over the next four years. It may be "Winter in America" but, as Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote the day before the election, "a grand coalition of progressivism" has developed over the last two years and no matter how we feel today, it won't go away. It also won't grow without your help, so support these groups--and others like them--today.

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