- confused and hurting because of the economy (e.g., out of work, in debt, and/or threatened with the loss of their home),
- upset about social issues and individual liberties (including guns, gay rights, and abortion), and/or
- addicted to hate radio and radical TV (e.g., Rush Limbaugh and Fox News).
In days to come, we’ll discuss the disaffected Americans in Categories 2 and 3—as well as what responsible, progressive thinkers in this country ought to do about the situation. Today we’ll begin by discussing members of the electorate who fall into Category 1: those embittered because they are directly and adversely impacted by the struggling economy.
Like all human beings who are frightened and hurting, people who are out of work, out of money, and out of options will generally vent their anger on someone. As leader of the country, the president is bound to be a lightning rod for some of that anger. It goes with the territory.
There’s not much point in trying to reason with desperate people; understandably, they want to see success, not listen to economic theories. (Nevertheless, many liberals are upset with the president for not doing a better job of explaining things to the public—as though the man doesn’t have another job to do, other than politicking.)
Republicans, well aware of this natural tendency of people to blame the party in power, has spent the past two years trying to ensure that things don’t get any better—not under Obama’s watch.
That’s why, under the shrewd but morally indefensible leadership of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Republicans have steadfastly refused to say “yes” to anything that might help the economy, including public projects to improve infrastructure, extension of unemployment benefits, and tax relief for those who really need it.
That’s also why they’ve routinely lied about the positive effects of Democratic accomplishments, including
- the stimulus (which, by the most conservative estimates, created over 2 million jobs),
- credit reform (which ended unfair and dishonest practices, such as arbitrarily raising interest rates on money already spent), and
- the Affordable Health Care Act (which, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “would produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion over the 2010–2019 period”).
To increase their political capital, Republicans in the minority have wanted the economy to stay as bad as possible for as long as possible so people would blame the Democrats.
Now that they represent the majority in the House of Representatives, however, the people will expect members of the GOP to say something other than “No.”
As demonstrated by the Great Recession of 2008, the Republican Party has long been bankrupt when it comes to ideas for how to build a strong economy. And by usurping the energy of the Tea Party, they have aligned themselves with many individuals—including some newly elected members of the House, like Rand Paul—whose main concerns are other than ensuring the economic privileges of big business and the very, very rich.
Will these right-wing groups—the fiscal and the social-libertarian conservatives—be able to work together to piece together any kind of coherent national policy? Will they be successful in continuing to discredit the president and blame everything on the Democrats?
It should be fun to find out.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss more about Obama and the social-libertarians.