Friday, November 1, 2013

Crossing a Red Line

I think Republicans are crossing a red line: they are waging a war, not just on the social safety net policies that help the poor, but on the poor themselves. Paul Krugman made this case very well this morning in his New York Times column titled "A War on the Poor". Here's Krugman:

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, has done some surprising things lately. First, he did an end run around his state’s Legislature — controlled by his own party — to proceed with the federally funded expansion of Medicaid that is an important piece of Obamacare. Then, defending his action, he let loose on his political allies, declaring, “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That, if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”

Obviously Mr. Kasich isn’t the first to make this observation. But the fact that it’s coming from a Republican in good standing (although maybe not anymore), indeed someone who used to be known as a conservative firebrand, is telling. Republican hostility toward the poor and unfortunate has now reached such a fever pitch that the party doesn’t really stand for anything else — and only willfully blind observers can fail to see that reality.

"...the party doesn't really stand for anything else..." Think about that statement for just a minute. If you're reading this blog, you are probably a progressive. Try to notice those progressive lenses and suspend them for a moment. Is the statement an accurate reflection of the GOP today? Could we gather evidence that would convince an international body of impartial observers? (By the way, I know we cannot be sure of finding such a panel, but the exercise as metaphor is useful, nonetheless.)

I think we can gather such evidence. I think Krugman is right. And if so, the GOP is definitely crossing an important - I could even say, sacred -red line: No political party can long survive in America if it truly despises a significant portion of the electorate.

I think the GOP, driven as it is now by the Tea Party, aggressively, passionately dislikes the poor. Why? Krugman again:

In a much-cited recent memo, Democracy Corps, a Democratic-leaning public opinion research organization, reported on the results of focus groups held with members of various Republican factions. They found the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority” — and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.

So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics.

This has nothing to do with deficits or debt. This is resentment and fear. Those People are taking over. Pretty soon they will outnumber us. We cannot say this straight out, so we complain that these government programs are developing a nation of takers, reducing the liberty and energy of the makers, rendering the United States a country soft, and in full decline.

That's the taker vs. maker language, which simply attempts to mask the deep fear that "the browns and blacks are taking over." Even if we leave the racial element out, this is a fear of displacement by new and different people, who are not self-reliant, hard-workers like "real Americans", and who are always coddled by the Democratic Party, and like the ocean tides, this force is both inevitable and unstoppable.

Listen tio Krauthammer this morning on "Obamacare Laid Bare":

Obamacare is the largest transfer of wealth in recent American history. But you can’t say that openly lest you lose elections. So you do it by subterfuge: hidden taxes, penalties, mandates and coverage requirements that yield a surplus of overpayments.

So that your president can promise to cover 30 million uninsured without costing the government a dime. Which from the beginning was the biggest falsehood of them all. And yet the free lunch is the essence of modern liberalism. Free mammograms, free preventative care, free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke. Come and get it.

And then when you find your policy canceled, your premium raised and your deductible outrageously increased, you’ve learned the real meaning of “free” in the liberal lexicon: something paid for by your neighbor — best, by subterfuge.

"...something paid for by your that your president can promise to cover 30 million uninsured..." You and your neighbor suffer - the wealth is transferred from you to the uninsured, and presumably, the undeserving.

This is the energy behind the Tea Party. I think for many on the Right, deficit hysteria is based not on true fear of economic collapse; rather it is sourced in this fear of Big Government spending continuing to improve the lot of the poor and thereby weakening "my relative position".

This is a dangerous game Republicans are playing. The American people can be volatile and fearful; but over the longer haul, they are fair-minded and hopeful. They understand that our motto - E Pluribus, Unum - is true; that diversity gives us rare power and energy; that this special energy is the true source of American Exceptionalism. They will not long support a party whose vision is dark and regressive; one that assumes if another wins, I must lose. Over time, this view will be rejected.

I think the blanket and total rejection of Obamacare will be interpreted as a dark and angry vision, from which the Party cannot seem to move; and when Obamacare is clearly seen to be working - i.e., next summer - the meanness in this GOP position will, in Krauthammer's own words, be "laid bare."

By next Fall, with Obamacare succeeding, and every single attack of the GOP proven wrong, the fundamental meanness in the Party will be fully revealed, and they will take a huge beating in the Mid-Terms.

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