We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Address Announcing the Second New Deal
Why are we at this pass again, where once more those with wealth want to create a nation in which they stride like manorial lords of feudal days?
The "old enemies of peace" knew they had no chance of influencing Democratic politics, for the most part. The New Deal brought in formerly marginalized sectors of the voting public into the Democratic Party. Minorities and women found voices for the first time because of the party's inclusiveness, of its belief—both visionary and realistic—that having as broad a party as possible would lead to future electoral success.
So, they gravitated towards a party that was more obviously for sale. We can bemoan the takeover of the GOP by the Christian Right, and now the Tea Party. But neither of those events would have been possible without the infusion of money from rich corporations and rich individuals who saw the New Deal consensus as anathema to their interests.
The policies ushered in by the New Deal brought a level of prosperity never before seen in this country. A broad middle class was finally a reality, secure in its position and looking on the future of its children with optimism.
This security brought with it a demand for a more just society. Blacks rebelled against Jim Crow; those of Mexican descent cast off the shackles of the US conquest of the Southwest; gays and women demanded rights never accorded them before. With economic security came a demand for political parity from groups long left out of what it meant to be "American". They contributed to the prosperity; they wanted a share of the power, a say in what happened in their country, to their communities.
The "old enemies of peace" don't merely want to return to a country in which they are given free rein to pursue their economic self-interest unhindered. Culturally, they also view the explosion of rights to those formerly marginalized communities as a stain on the national honor. The mix of a conservative economic ideology with a conservative cultural view lead to them funding the social conservatives to take over local GOP committees, until the national party was ripe for the picking. Today, Mitt Romney's father would be a Blue Dog Democrat—or even a moderate Democrat in the party's Big Tent. Big Tent Republicans have long been pushed out of the circus, as the clowns have taken over.
To those against whom FDR inveighed, that was the best possible outcome. They thrive when the middle class is divided against itself along lines of race, religion, cultural affinity. The New Deal coalition could never hold together because a large chunk of it viewed the demands of neglected communities with alarm. President Johnson foretold that the Civil Rights Act would lose his party the votes it had enjoyed since the 1930s. And it has, and continues to do so.
Which is why they are so frightened of President Obama. What he's trying to do—sometimes seemingly single handedly—is to build a new Democratic coalition, one that will lead it to political dominance for the foreseeable future. He's on the verge of doing it. It's painful, it's hard work; but, in normal political calculus, no sitting President with unemployment over 8% should be in the position that Obama is in. The polling numbers, despite the occasional push-poll, are mostly in his favor. The party will have tough work to retake the House, but that is within its grasp. And the Senate seems like it's more and more likely to stay in Democratic hands.
Thus the news, in Politico's words, that "GOP groups plan record $1 billion blitz." This is nothing but the attempt of the Right to buy an election, a President, and a country. There is no other way to state it. The future of the country as a liberal democracy is at stake. If President Obama and the Democrats win, the hard work will continue. If the GOP and its backers win, we will see a devolution of the state, where the middle class practically disappears as corporations and the rich are favored in economic policy, and the Christian Right is favored in social policy. The Right incessantly complains of "America's decline"; a victory for it in November will do more to hasten that decline than 100 terrorist attacks.
The Right has the money. We have ourselves. It's all we've ever had. The only way to fight a foe with more resources is by guerilla warfare—making calls, talking to people, donating whatever you can. Many an overbloated army has fallen to a seemingly weaker opponent. It will take everyone's effort to secure victory in November. It won't be easy. There will be setbacks. But the stakes are too dire, too existential. Literally, failure is not an option.