Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be

Have Republicans Lost Touch with the American Public?

More than 14 million people are unemployed. Las Vegas capped ten GOP presidential debates. Republican candidates have served up hard Right fan faves, from banning abortion to tax and regulation cuts. For the rest of us? Die if you don’t buy, and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and you’ll make millions.  It’s sweet cherry Kool Aid for a thirsty minority. Is it in step with the general American public? If not, why are they pouring it?

The anger over the limping economy and the often childish gridlock in the Congress that was only made worse by the 2010 mid-term elections, where we threw the bums in, have kept President Obama’s approval ratings at 41% according to Gallup. Yet, on the priorities which Americans want addressed, even Republicans who don’t hold elected office overwhelmingly agree with Mr. Obama.

In a National Journal poll conducted in September, 2011:

  • 75% of Americans favored Mr. Obama’s plan to give tax cuts to employers who make new hires or give current non-white collar workers a raise.
  • 70% approve of putting money in to the system to hire more teachers, police, firefighters, and other first-responders.
  • 67% approve of helping homeowners refinance mortgages at lower rates available now that banks are not offering despite multi-billion quarterly profits.
  • 63% favor infrastructure improvements in mass transit.

Republicans have been adamant that there be no tax increases on the wealthy few.Yet another Gallup poll finds that 70% of the public favors eliminating generous deductions for some corporations, primarily oil and natural gas producers.  68% believe that restoring the 3% tax increase on the richest Americans making more than $250,o00 is fair.

In the debates and on the Republican campaign trail, no one seems to be paying much attention to Gallup and other polling organizations. Their laser focus seems to be, at this point, pandering to most active 3-4% of total American populace. As I pointed out in “Is the Tiny GOP Prolonging Economic Woes to Political Gain?” registered Republicans are 13% of the total population. The partisans who vote in caucuses and early primaries are less than 1%.  Of them, there are a vast number who are former Libertarians. The current GOP platform sounds a lot like the Libertarian party’s platform of the 1980s that billionaire David Koch ran on as a Libertarian vice-presidential candidate.

That handful of the rabid Right has been spoon fed more than three decades of trickle-down economic, Horatio Alger ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, to-hell-with-my-fellow-man theology.

They are taught to believe that the same largely unregulated free market that just spun out of control and nearly destroyed the wealth of the world needs even more of the same government and regulation stripping to bring us back to prosperity.

Republicans at debates cheer for the out-of-work guy without health care dying because he couldn’t afford insurance (See: “”No Cure for the Chronic Malady of the American Political Spirit“).

They whoop it up for current GOP front-runner Herman Cain’s so-called  “9-9-9” plan, which load-shifts the tax burden to the poor and middle class, and which the independent Tax Policy Center says would bring in $300B less than the current tax system.

“”For the bottom end it’s certain to be a tax rise of substantial proportion,” Roberton Williams, senior fellow for the Tax Policy Center told CNN.

The Cain campaign counters that lower taxes for corporations would offset tax increases for the poor when they pass through reduced costs of goods.  As we’ve seen, though, especially over the last three years, when big corporations are given a break, they hold on to the money. It does not trickle down. In addition a market manipulation called contango strategy, which I explained to you in “Have a Little Oil and Global Commoditization with that $7.00 Big Mac Meal?” can keep commodity prices just where guys like the Koch Brothers want them.

Mr. Cain’s remarks over the last week further accelerate the idea that the GOP is out of sync with the American public. His comments on the Occupy Wall Street movement were particularly telling:

“”Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someone’s fault if they failed,” the ex-Godfather’s Pizza CEO declared.” [1]

What Mr. Cain does not explain, though, is why millions of Americans whose careers “failed” because they lost jobs that were not a result of incompetence on their part, but instead a result of the incompetence and risky business practices of their upper management, should not blame corporate America or Wall Street.  Mr. Cain doubled down on the remark at the Las Vegas debate:

“They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place,” he added. “Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.” [2]

Apparently we should forgive the Bush Adminstration and the Republican-led Congress that ushered in two wars and a tax cut for the rich at the same time, which has never happened in any nation above the level of a banana republic before.

Even Texas congressman Dr. Ron Paul, who did his own “let them eat cake” moment a few weeks ago when he suggested that the guy who lost his health insurance should rely solely on the lottery of charity to survive said: “”I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims.”

Cain also endeared himself to xenophobic Lou Dobbs fans with this remark about a radical Right fave, immigration, and our border fencing:

““It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning.’”

His “joke” alienated his campaign with millions of hispanic voters.

“Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions. Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain’s words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity,” Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) said in a statement. “Surely, Mr. Cain understands the duty that candidates have to offer responsible policy proposals.” [4]

Cain is not the only GOP candidate to seem out of step with a large section of American voters.  Mitt Romney’s  unswerving commitment to end all abortion has consequences which the former Massachusetts governor and his staff seemed to have missed, but one lone woman at his town hall meeting caught. Beth Schopis, a participant in a Sioux City, Iowa town hall, asked Romney:

SCHOPIS: “You were on Governor Huckabee’s show a few weeks ago, and one of the things you folks talked about is that you would support a ‘Life begins at conception’ amendment. Now, that would mean essentially banning most forms of birth control. 98% of American women, including me, use birth control. So can you help me understand why you oppose the use of birth control?”

ROMNEY: “I don’t… I’m sorry. Life begins at conception. Birth control prevents conception.”

On Huckabee’s Fox News show, though, Romney’s reply to Huckabee about a proposed amendment to the Constitution says otherwise.

HUCKABEE: “Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”

ROMNEY: “Absoultely”

So-called “personhood” amendments like i26 in Mississippi don’t just ban abortion. Since the purpose of contraception is to kill off a fertilized egg, these amendments also seek a ban on most forms of contraception that the overwhelming majority of American women use regularly.  It could also ban emergency sterilization for rape victims, any stem cell research, and even make a miscarriage a criminal offense. [3]

All of this has caused many people to wonder how, whomever becomes the Republican nominee, can hope to win the general election after all of this tone-deafness to the general electorate.

There are two things, though, that a candidate needs more than votes: Money and boots on the ground.

Extreme positions keep the wallets of the Club for Growth billionaires open. Stirring up the fear of wealthy Wall Streeters that the Occupy Wall Street mob is coming for them gets checks flowing.

A huge concern for the GOP, though has to be its presidential front-runners.

Racism is a huge issue for Republicans.  McCain and Palin stirred that pot in the 2008 race. Sarah Palin carried the theme into the 2010 race. Donald Trump and Michelle Bachmann kept it alive into 2011 with the birther myth. It has generated a white fear to which the legions of racist Tea Party sign-waivers will attest. Mr. Cain may wow the Libertarians who have co-opted the party with his “9-9-9” gift to the rich, but his skin color is going to be a decided turn-off to all of the people whom McCain, Palin, Bachmann and Trump have whipped into a white power frenzy for years.

Likewise, they need boots on the ground to knock on doors. Traditionally that has been a lot of evangelicals. You have to toss a whole lot of zeal into anti-abortion to keep the hard core evangelical Right interested in sticking around and working for the Republican ticket in the general election if the candidate is a Mormon like Mitt Romney. The Washington Post reports:

“[O]ne in five Republicans say it’s a negative factor in their choice, and research from the 2008 campaign shows that when Romney’s Mormon faith is brought to the front of voters’ minds, it has a clear negative impact.”

Texas governor Rick Perry, the George W. Bush-lite candidate, has sunk to a dismal 6th in the polls in Iowa after the Las Vegas debate, which can hardly cheer up any in the GOP with a “great white hope” jones. [5]

The old political adage that you start at the extremes and move into the center does not work in the Internet Age, where everything that you say and do will be brought back to haunt you.  Old, even ancient views of the world are being challenged head-on.  The Internet provides too many ways around the big corporate media machines that have controlled American politics for more than a century.

The Republicans are projecting a level of deafness to the will of the American people that, when there finally is a nominee, will backlash on them. America is becoming ever-more diverse.  Playing to the narrow and out-of-step interests of the party faithful much longer may be like the orchestra playing on the Titanic as it went down.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

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