…and What it Means for America
Dick Polman, one of my favorite columnists, recently penned an article entitled “Making a case that maybe all isn't lost for the Democrats.” In that column, he argues that the poll numbers showing huge GOP gains may be premature and that the Democrats have a bigger war chest than their opponents. As much as I often agree with Mr. Polman (and I do agree with his assertion that no matter how bad the Democrats are, the GOP is worse), I’m afraid he is wrong in his assessment of the November elections. There are several factors in play that give the advantage to the Grand Old Tea Party:
They Control the Messaging
Republicans excel at Newspeak – simplification of complex issues, asserting things that are downright wrong as facts, and getting away with it. Advocating tax cuts sounds attractive, but history has shown that under Republican regimes, taxes have gone up, while under Democratic administrations, real income has increased. Nevertheless, the general public remains transfixed with the GOP mantra of tax cuts, while still coveting their government services. The Republicans are also adept at labeling their initiatives with a positive light (“pro-life”, “PATRIOT Act”, etc.), while Democrats pick nerdy and uninteresting labels like “stimulus package” instead of “jobs package.”
Since the Republicans message is entirely negative, they have cleverly cultivated their bogeywoman in Nancy Pelosi. They exploit the prevailing animosity against powerful women (as they did against Hillary Clinton in the 90s), and have successfully managed to make “liberal” a dirty word. This despite the fact that Speaker Pelosi, while a liberal in her job as a representative of California’s 8th District, has conducted her role as Speaker in a more centrist fashion. In the first months of her role as Speaker, she took both single-payer healthcare and investigation of the Bush Crime Family off the table. She was able to negotiate a coalition of liberals and blue dog conservatives in completing the first phase of health insurance reform.
They Control the Media
Notwithstanding the fact that “Fair and Balanced” Fox “News” is neither fair, balanced, nor news, its ceaseless propaganda for the Party of Tea is inundating the American public with Anti-Obama rhetoric bordering on condoning violence. Even legitimate “mainstream” media gets snookered by the righties as evidenced by their over-the-top coverage of the anti-Koran minister and their legitimization of extreme candidates throughout the 24/7 news cycle. I doubt if a far-left candidate like Dick Gregory was in the 60s would receive as much coverage in the “mainstream” media as does Christine O’Donnell, running on an anti-masturbation platform in Delaware.
The Economy Still Sucks
It took George Bush eight years to ruin the American economy through his ill-advised tax cuts and trade policies and treasury-emptying wars of choice (granted – some of this started under Bill Clinton, but under Bubba we had surpluses, under Dubya ,nothing but debt). It will take at least as long to rebuild the economy, especially given the obstructionist Republican and Blue Dog Democrats in the Congress. But voters have short memories and are impatient, and somehow expect a change in leadership, even believing that returning to those who got us into this mess, is better than steady, albeit slow, progress that we have seen in the last two years.
They Control the Voting Machines
Remember all of the cases of voting machine fraud in previous elections? Much has been traced back to companies run by big Republican donors. Yet, nothing has been done. No independent non-partisan verification of voting machine software. And don’t discount the recent arson at a voting machine warehouse in Houston – where the Democratic candidate for governor is counting on urban votes. I’m sure that whatever workaround the Houston election commission develops will result in long lines and primarily Democratic voters either being turned away or just not voting out of frustration.
The enthusiasm we saw among new and progressive voters in the 2008 election was a once-in-a-generation event. To some, this was a reincarnation of JFK’s Camelot. But quickly, a combination of the vitriol spewed by the right wing and the inability of Barack Obama to capitalize on his bully pulpit managed to turn off this excitement in record time. There’s a parallel here in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District. In 2008, a “liberal” state senator, John Alder, was elected to Congress and became the first Democrat to represent this region in over 100 years. Yet, his voting record has been that of a moderate Republican and despite the fact that his 2010 opponent is a Tea Party acolyte with absolutely no relevant experience, Harvard-educated Adler is in trouble and will probably lose. This is due to his inability to excite the same progressive base that got him elected in the first place. I’m afraid that a large number of Democratic voters are fed up with their party and will sit out these important mid-term elections.
So, I’m sorry Mr. Polman, but your rosy predictions for the Democrats are all wrong – but the last two paragraphs in your column are probably your admission of the perils that the Democrats face, also.
So look for hard times ahead under a Republican congress which will magnify their stated goal of obstructing every Obama initiative – even those that were copied from Republican ideas. Add to this shutdowns of vital government services and Congressman Issa’s promise for endless unproductive investigations – up to and including impeachment proceedings. We have seen this all before – this is just Newt 2.0. But what will be new this time, and infinitely more devastating, is the amplification of the Republican’s implicit sanctioning of discrimination and harassment of minorities like Muslims, African Americans, gays, and lesbians. There are tough times ahead for America.