“Why Do We Re-Elect Them?”: Voters Should Consider Exactly What Republicans Believe, And What They’ve Promised To Do
When you buy a new car, you dodge the sketchy salesman, read up on consumer ratings, get a feel for the ride. When you get married, you think about growing old with a person, love beyond lust, do a life gut check. And when you elect a federal lawmaker next month, you go against everything you believe in to reward the worst Congress ever.
How else to explain the confit of conventional wisdom showing that voters are poised to give Republicans control of the Senate, and increase their hold on the House, even though a majority of Americans oppose nearly everything the G.O.P. stands for?
The message is: We hate you for your inaction, your partisanship, your nut-job conspiracy theories; now do more of the same. Democracy — nobody ever said it made sense. Of course, November’s election will be a protest vote against the man who isn’t on the ballot, a way to make a lame duck president even lamer in his final two years.
But before buyer’s remorse sets in, voters should consider exactly what Republicans believe, and what they’ve promised to do. It ranges from howl-at-the-moon crazy talk and half-truths to policies that will keep wages down and kill job growth.
Let’s start with the Republican Ryan Zinke, a square-jawed former member of the Navy SEALs who is likely to be the next congressman from Montana. Earlier this year, he said, “We need to focus on the real enemy” — that is, the anti-Christ. And who should that be? Why, Hillary Clinton. O.K., he’s just one talk-radio spawn from the Big Sky state. Lock the man up in a room with Ayn Rand novels and the tomes of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and he’ll be right in the head.
But Mr. Zinke is not a lone loon. More than one in five Republicans last year told a pollster they believed that President Obama was the anti-Christ.
It’s harmless hyperbole, you say. The 114th Congress will not take up the matter of what to do with the Beast at the end times. But they will hold crucial votes on whether one of the world’s largest users of energy — us — can curb carbon emissions enough to mitigate climate change. Here Mr. Zinke is practically a lefty in his party. He says climate change is not a hoax, which puts him at odds with 58 percent of Republicans who believe that it is.
But then, he says that the matter is not “settled science.” Oy vey. One more time: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that warming over the last century is very likely because of human activity. It is settled, except in the science-denial party. Only 3 percent of Republicans in Congress have been willing to go on record to accept that consensus. Good thing gravity is not under discussion.
You say you favor raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, as did 73 percent of those polled by Pew. Yay, let’s do something about income inequality! But the Republican leadership will not let this come up for a vote. Nope. Never. It’s locked in the closet, with compromise. And in Iowa, just to pick one race that could make a huge difference in the lives of millions, the Republican who is close to taking the Senate seat of the retiring Tom Harkin is against raising the federal minimum wage. That would be Joni Ernst, a Koch brothers tool, who has also pledged fealty to the anti-tax absolutism of Grover Norquist.
Americans want their politicians to meet in the middle. Well, most. If you wonder why Republicans will not budge on common-sense issues supported by a majority, it’s because the other party supports those ideas. This year, another Pew survey found that 36 percent of Republicans believe the Democratic Party is a threat to the nation’s well-being. You don’t compromise with a threat.
The biggest issue is the economy. But here, it seems many voters don’t know what to believe, and what they do believe is wrong. What’s the unemployment rate? A poll this month found that 27 percent of people pegged the jobless rate at 9 percent, and nearly one in five said it was closer to 12 percent. The rate is 5.9 percent.
On Obama’s watch, the stock market went on a record run and 10 million new jobs have been created — more new jobs than in Europe and Japan combined. The president gets no credit for this, because people don’t feel it. Wages are flat. Economic anxiety rides the October air.
The Republicans have no jobs plan, as Speaker John Boehner indirectly acknowledged this week with a five-point tweet that listed … nothing. But they talk about austerity and cutting spending, exactly what Europe did to catastrophic effect.
There is one more deep-held red state belief that could explain our national cognitive dissonance. Two-thirds of Republicans think people can be possessed by demons. We don’t need a new Congress. We need an exorcist.
By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, October 8, 2014
Two years ago this week, the nation’s unemployment dipped below 8% for the first time since the start of the Great Recession. Almost immediately, Republicans were outraged – the good news couldn’t be real, they said, but rather must be the result of an elaborate conspiracy.
Friday we learned that the nation’s jobless rate has dipped even lower, dropping below 6% for the first time in over six years. Rush Limbaugh told his audience that the 2012 data was “entirely made up” and “artificially manufactured,” and the 2014 data is worse.
“[T]his today is just as illegitimate. This 5.9% number is even more illegitimate than the 7.9% number. There’s no way that this country has an economy producing jobs with an unemployment rate of 5.9%. It just isn’t happening…. [I]t isn’t real.”
Over the course of two years, from Jack Welch to Rush Limbaugh, we just haven’t seen much in the way of progress on the scourge of denialism among President Obama’s critics.
Indeed, this has come up quite a few times. Whenever the economy improves, a few too many on the right don’t celebrate; they reflexively deny the evidence and point to a conspiracy that exists only in their imaginations.
I’m reminded of this piece from Alex Seitz-Wald, now an msnbc colleague, written when Fox News first began pushing these conspiracy theories in earnest: “If it weren’t improper to psychologically analyze strangers, one might think the Fox hosts are displaying a textbook example of cogitative dissonance here, a psychological phenomena in which people who hold a strong belief about something, invent (sometimes farfetched) explanations for new evidence that conflicts with their existing views. Obama is bad for the economy, the jobs numbers show the economy is doing better, so there must be something wrong with the jobs numbers.”
If nothing else, Limbaugh’s assessment was helpful in its candor: in his mind, there’s just “no way” that reality is real. It can’t be real, therefore, it’s not real, evidence be damned.
I can appreciate where the denial comes from. Republicans just know that last year’s tax increases on the wealthy are slowing the economy; they just know that “Obamacare” is destroying the job market; they just know federal regulations are strangling economic vitality.
And when reality presents proof that they’re mistaken, well, reality must be wrong, too. “Those Chicago guys” must be at it again.
The right was so certain the Affordable Care Act would fail that it literally couldn’t believe the enrollment numbers. The right was equally certain that Mitt Romney was cruising towards a landslide victory, so it seemed obvious to them that pollsters conspired to ensure that survey results were “skewed.”
Climate data is politically inconvenient, so it must be rejected. The job numbers are politically inconvenient, so they must be ignored, too.
Such systemic hostility towards empiricism just isn’t healthy.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 6, 2014
It is long overdue for someone, anyone, to back up President Barack Obama.
Yes, it is easy to kvetch about the shortcomings he’s faced on both domestic and international fronts, and who can argue with the most recent Gallup poll that equated his approval rating to that of President George W. Bush, but as an early supporter of the president, I must admit, I am prouder than ever to call Barack Obama my president.
He’s smart, he’s pragmatic, and he’s black. Yeah, I said it. I’m a white Jew from the San Fernando Valley who grew up in an all-white and Asian neighborhood. Never in my life did I have an opportunity to demonstrate my unflagging support for a black man who clearly deserved the nation’s top spot, not because he is black, but because voting for President Obama demonstrated to the world that America values competence over race.
I am grateful that I have an opportunity to tell my son that I am responsible for helping elect the country’s first black president. And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal who thinks he’s saving the world by backing up a black president. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who brought the country’s most maligned terrorist to justice. It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who inherited a suck-wind economy that is a lot healthier now than it’s been in years. And it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who had the courage to fix a health care system that no other recent president dared to fix because they didn’t have the guts to do so.
And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal whose naiveté about how the world works is what gets the country into trouble in the first place. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who is dealing with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia, fallout from Ferguson, and every other red-hot world crisis that is happening at the same time. It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who believes gay people should be treated like everyone else. And it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who cares about the environment.
And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal who is making excuses for the president and lacks any sort of moral fortitude. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who improved the image of Americans when traveling in foreign countries, it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who decided to tackle the inequities of student lending programs, and it’s foolhardy to forsake the man whose family values serve as an important role model.
Measuring the president’s approval rating is riddled with pitfalls. The Gallup poll feels more like a barometer for people’s take on how messed up the world is at the moment, and boy, does the world feel messed up at the moment.
And I know what the pundits will say: It’s the president’s fault. And all I have to say to you is this: The scale of what Barack Obama has accomplished as president has done more for this country in the long run than any pollster can measure, and if you realize this, hardly a fool that you can be called.
By: Evan Pondel, The Huffington Post Blog, September 24, 2014
After the 2012 elections, it was tempting to think Republicans would be a little more cautious about economic elitism and callous indifference towards those struggling to get by. But in 2014, many GOP officials have thrown caution to the wind and embraced elitism with both arms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, recently defended cuts to student aid by saying, “Not everybody needs to go to Yale.” As McConnell sees it, the nation’s elite institutions of higher ed should be within reach for students from rich families – and no one else. Soon after, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading U.S. Senate candidate, called those who rely on the safety net as “addicts.”
And then there’s House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who appeared at the American Enterprise Institute last week to discuss the economy. Asked about Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) anti-poverty plans, Boehner was quite candid about his thoughts on the unemployed.
“I think this idea that’s been born out the last – maybe out of the economy last couple of years that, ‘You know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this, I think I’d just rather sit around.’ This is a very sick idea for our country.”
The Speaker’s perspective is bizarre as a matter of public policy, but I’m glad he made these comments because his candor sheds light on an ugly ideology.
When GOP lawmakers cut off extended jobless aid, on a substantive level, it seems bewildering. In recent decades, neither party even considered such radicalism with high unemployment, if for no other reason because cutting jobless aid hurts economic growth. But Boehner has offered a peek behind the curtain – the Republican argument isn’t about economics, so much as it’s about personal animosity. The Speaker and his allies seem to think there’s something wrong, and perhaps even offensive, about families struggling to get by.
It’s part of the same phenomenon that leads GOP officials to demand drug tests for those relying on the safety net. If you need a hand keeping your head above water, it may very well be the result of a drug addiction. If you want a job and can’t find one, the argument goes, the problem is almost certainly your fault – it’s because you’d “rather sit around” than work.
It stems from a school of thought that says many social-insurance programs shouldn’t exist because struggling Americans are lazy and simply don’t deserve public assistance.
I realize that evidence and substance has very little effect in this debate, but Igor Volsky explained that laziness isn’t the real problem.
Currently, there are more than two job seekers for every job opening in the country and the severity of the recession has created a long-term unemployment problem that has made many job seekers almost unemployable. Research shows that being unemployed for nine months has the same impact on your odds of getting hired as losing four full years of experience from a résumé. As a result, many people who lost their jobs have gone back to school, retired early, or continue to look for work without success.
In fact, millions of unemployed people are having a harder time finding a job since Congressional Republicans allowed the long-term unemployment benefits program to lapse. Research – and real world experience – has found that the program’s job search requirements encourage people to spend more time job hunting and helps cover essentials like internet service for job applications or gas money for interviews.
In theory, Boehner and his allies would be taking a huge risk by making comments like these in an election year. After all, if every unemployed and underemployed American turned out in the fall, furious by the implication that they’re lazy, Republicans would be in pretty big trouble.
But the Speaker and his party are confident that those struggling most probably won’t participate in the elections – and those assumptions are probably correct – so remarks like these won’t come with any consequences.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 22, 2014