Surprise, Surprise!

As someone who frequents political forums online (perhaps obsessively so), I come across a lot of conservatives who are sure that their worldview lines up perfectly with the majority of Americans. They pontificate on why tax cuts for millionaires are what the country wants, how Obama is obviously a secret Muslim radical, or just what a boon a government shutdown would be following a Republican takeover in November. They rail against the Department of Education, against the IRS and the Federal Reserve, against Medicare and Social Security. All of these positions, they argue, are how America feels and polls showing a likely Republican upset in the midterms are proof of that fact.

Up until now, there was only the informed liberal commentariat to rebut the argument. Unfortunately, despite a constant barrage of facts from my like-minded brethren, there was no change in tone from conservatives. Liberals on political boards had to resign themselves to the notion that they represented a small sliver of the electorate that paid close attention and the general public were mindlessly lapping up the sour milk of the Right Wing. We begrudgingly accepted that November will be a drubbing for Democrats because people, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe the GOP’s plans make sense.

As it turns out, that’s simply not the case. A new poll from National Journal and Congressional Connections find that Republican proposals for the country are wildly unpopular, virtually across the board. You can check the link and look at the numbers for yourself, but suffice to say, the people are certainly not buying what the wingnuts are selling. So why in the world do all indicators point to a Republican victory in the fall?

I think most of the reason is the economy; Democrats are in charge and the economy still sucks. Never mind that the hole Republicans dug over 8 years (12 if you count congressional control) is simply too deep to be remedied after only two. In a two-party system such as ours, the primary way to register discontent with the party in power is to vote for the other one. It doesn’t matter that Republican policy put us in this position. People are angry and “the other guy” is, for many, the only option.

Another part of the problem is that Republican policy is big on sound-byte quality and short on substance. “Lower taxes” sounds great until you explain just how ludicrously low our tax rates are and how the wealthy hardly pay a sliver. “Lower deficit” sound sensible until you explain just how complex the subject is, factor in the cost of tax cuts for the über-rich and military spending, and remind people of just which party spent like drunken sailors during their reign (indeed, every time they get control).

Add in a couple of nebulous buzzwords like freedom and honor and small business and people start to respond to the message, even at the expense of their own common sense. Much like Jimmy Carter’s much derided “malaise speech” spelled the death knell for his presidency (the veracity of his words notwithstanding) so too do Americans today bristle at the cold, hard truth. In order to make this country great again, it’s going to involve sacrifice. Americans love the idea of sacrifice, just not so much the practice. And the GOP, for their part, have updated the feel-good message of Morning in America with a new twist: fear. If we don’t elect them, morning in America is gone for good, most likely in a giant blaze of Muslim  socialist fascism (whatever the hell that is).

It’s a potent mix and helps explain why polls show Republican gains even though people don’t like the policies they propose to enact. Personally, I’m not sold on the idea that America as a whole isn’t smarter than all that, the polls are skewed by lazy reporting and shoddy methodology,  and the GOP victory celebrations are a bit premature. It certainly would be a breath of fresh air to see the country fully reject (again) the giant lie that has been the Republican platform for the past two thirty years. It also doesn’t help that a sizable swath of the Democratic party is cowering in the face of all this fear when they are actually in a prime position to capitalize on Republican over-reach.

However, what all this actually means for the midterms is yet to be determined. It’s up to progressives to keep fighting, to make our voices heard louder than ever before, to tout facts and accomplishments as if they were Molotov cocktails and beat back the prevarication wave. As the primary season winds down in advance of the general election, there are quite a few crazies representing the Right in November. If we can keep our heads, then outright insanity coupled with broad dislike for Republican policy might help ensure negligible losses in the midterm. If the people do go on to pull the lever for R (as mind-boggling as it may be), then we regroup and look forward to 2012. If anything, the poll assures us that even if the GOP regains control, the country won’t be too pleased with where they plan to take the country.

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3 Responses to “Surprise, Surprise!”

  1. This is why the GOP/Tea Party folks keep resorting to scary, vague buzzwords like calling their opponents “socialists” and “fascists” rather than outlining actual policy proposals and detailing how they intend to govern. It’s completely disingenuous, but it’s unfortunately also likely to work with a lot of voters, at least for a while. That’s why they’ve been so confident of late.

    • It’s true, but the unhinged nature of their rhetoric is fast becoming toxic. Even tonight, as Teabaggers celebrate in Delaware and New York, their ascendancy makes Democrats’ jobs easier. It’s not hard to sound reasonable, even as a centrist milquetoast, if your opponent is talking about housing welfare recipients in abandoned prisons and abstaining from masturbation. I think their confidence stems mostly from ignorance. The American people aren’t receptive to their whack job ideas and they don’t seem to realize it. Hubris can be a powerful weapon… for your opponent. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. […] Rottenart Geoff rants about art and politics at anyone who will listen. « Surprise, Surprise! […]

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