Friday, February 24, 2017

The Republican's Golden Window, And A Challenge For The Democrats

The next two years will be the Golden Window for the Republicans to accomplish their thirty-five year goal of “drowning the Federal Government in a bathtub.” They’ve got the presidency, the House, the Senate, and probably very soon they’ll have a majority of five on the Supreme Court. Two years is a long time with a Murderers’ Row like that, for people who know how to push their weight around.

I don’t worry too much about Herr Professor Doktor President Drumpf. When the Republicans decide that they don’t need him anymore, or that he’s more of a drag than a boost, he’ll be lying in a ditch dead out on the Lost Highway without a name-tag. Hail! President Pence!

The Republicans can taste it. Just look at the triumphant grins on the faces of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel and the rest when they sign some bill that reduces even further some right or security of the working class in America. Man, y’all don’t need health care, you need FREEDOM! You don’t need Social Security, you need the FREEDOM to invest your own money! And of course you’ll need an even more massive military to protect your FREEDOM! It’s enough to make a reasonable man sick.

But where are the reasonable men and women these days? We know that they’re out there somewhere, because according to poll after national poll, strong majorities of American adults indicate a preference for very inclusive, cooperative policies, all peace and get-along. You might almost say that most people seem to favor very “Liberal” policies in almost every day-to-day matter. Homosexuals? Who cares? My nephew is gay and I love him and his husband. Abortion? It’s never the ideal solution but I wouldn’t want to interfere with my cousin’s choice, it’s her body after all. Marijuana? Not a big deal, many people used to smoke it themselves and then turned out fine. Social Security? My dad didn’t have to take care of my grandfather, so why should I have to take care of my dad? Taxes? Yeah, those billionaires should pay at least as much as I do. Universal health care? Why yes, thank you! Americans would love to have a modern, universal national health system. Most of the developed world has one already and they work just fine. So why can’t we have one, too? And why are these other things so contentious?

I’m just going to let those last questions hang.

Many of these reasonable Americans are voting for Republicans these days. That could change.

It might be too late to discuss the matter, though, since we’re standing on the precipice of a sudden diminution in our constitutional rights and a mass extinction of common sense policies that we already have or might have hoped to get in the near future. Poof! It’s Harry Potter time! Gone! Not magic exactly, more like a coup.

What will we get instead? MORE mass incarceration, MORE criminalization of every damn thing under the sun, MORE job, medical and income insecurity, MORE prosecutorial overreach in every single criminal case brought in every jurisdiction in the country, MORE brutal repression, MORE military spending, MORE cuts to the social safety net, MORE environmental degradation, MORE nuclear weapons, MORE enemies around the world, MORE wars and deaths, MORE fear and loathing, MORE income inequality, and . . .

MORE Republicans! They’ve got the system so rigged already through Gerrymandering and voter restriction laws at the state level that for the last several congressional elections they’ve gotten a rather distinct minority of the votes cast while coming out with rather more seats in congress. Democracy in action! With a couple of additional years to wreak even more chaos on the electoral process they could actually achieve their goal of permanent ascendency, whether they’re getting the votes or not. Why, who’s to say that voting against them couldn’t become a Federal Crime, charged as treason or some other grand sounding misdeed? Anti-government demonstrations are already being charged as crimes in themselves, including charges against journalists covering the demonstrations. If you’re not with us, you’re against us! We’re fighting terrorism! I think that I’ve actually heard that one recently. From, you know, the guy whose ticket is going to be punched so soon that we can start forgetting his name already.

And who will be working to save us from this fate worse than death (almost no hyperbole there, unfortunately)???

The Democrats? Um, probably not. Other than a very few die-hards, that dog won’t hunt. Recall that in 2009 the Democrats were faced with having won the White House and both houses of congress, and the best that they could do was to rush to the nearest corner and shiver in fear, wondering what would become of them now. They couldn’t even manage to give President Obama a little help once in a while. The Democrats spent the Obama years allowing the Republicans to: 1) take over most of our state governments; and 2) run the Federal Government by a combination of bullying and fear mongering. Right now the Democrats are far shorter of resources and ten times as fearful, so yeah, I have little confidence in the Democrats in general.

What about the die-hards? Bernie Sanders has a lot of wind in his sails. He’s a lovely man, and we can count on him to make some noise. And Elizabeth Warren is a one-woman Banzai! Charge of a senator, I just love her to pieces! Cute, smart and tough, she’s my kind of woman. Good luck, you two! How’s the weather out there on the tip of the yardarm?

Nor do I expect much help from the electorate in general, although there are positive signs. Congress recessed recently and our brave Republican statesmen, mostly men, went back to their home districts to talk about the great work that they’re doing to get rid of the hated ACA, pesky regulations, Medicare, Social Security, and undocumented immigrants. They’ve been met by angry mobs who evidently believed until a few weeks ago that the ACA, which they dearly loved, was different from “Obamacare,” which they totally hated. Being disabused of this notion, they are justifiably afraid of going forth with preexisting conditions into whatever world the Republicans have planned for them. They’re still waiting for those mining and manufacturing jobs, too.

The Republican Senators and Representatives, for their part, blame the hostility on paid ringers planted by, I don’t know, the Democrats? George Soros? President Obama’s name is also mentioned as an organizer. The concept of truth is being followed closely into the sunset by the concept of reality itself. Marco Rubio cancelled his Town Halls saying that people were just being rude and stupid, and besides, he spoke to his “constituents” before the election and they voted for him, so he doesn’t need to speak with them again.

And therein lies a huge problem with the Republican style of governing: by “constituents” they mean, “the people who voted for us.” They don’t even understand that they represent all of the people in their state or district, not just Republican voters.

Several of the officials abused in their Town Hall meetings complained that the people at the meeting weren’t Republicans. This matters to them. Democrats, and others, are not meant to be represented, they exist to be demonized and ground into powder. Does anyone else see that this is a huge problem?

I would love to see these disabused Republicans finally abandon the party that has treated them like ignorant puppets for thirty years, and that has done nothing for them. I would love to see them finally wake up and vote for America’s interests and their own interests, instead of the interests of individual Republican politicians, large corporations and the extreme upper range of wealthy Americans. I suppose that there’s a chance that they will see the light and change their allegiances. That would be great.

What I would love to see most of all, though, would be for the Democrats to wake their own sleepy asses up and mount a real effort to oppose this Republican coup. This is the real challenge for the Democrats. Come on, boys and girls! You can do it! Put together a strong, clearly written platform of things that people really like. Like fair wages; health security (based maybe on extended Medicare); Social Security that retired people could actually live on; sensible tuition for higher education and a return to low-cost government universities for the children of working class parents; a reasonable tax policy that would enable the rich to lavishly enjoy the profits of their labor, or even of their investments, while contributing their fair share to the wellbeing of the country; opposing the privatization of prisons and national assets; criminal justice reform; reduced levels of government snooping into everyone’s private lives; and a cooperative foreign policy. And then the Democrats would need to work vigorously to sell themselves and their platform to the American people, ALL of the American people. All of that Gerrymandering has given the Republicans what looks to some people like a lock on at least the House of Representatives for decades to come.  But all that the Democrats really have to do is get Republican voters to change their minds, to see an alternative that they like better, to vote for the politicians who back the program that they like the best. (N.B. We’ll get none of the things on this list from the Republicans, none at all. They operate on a different wavelength.)

These are things that mainstream Americans strongly believe in; they are all in tune with traditional American values. All that it would take would be for the Democrats to get in gear and go, go, go.

Departing from tradition, I will forgo my usual gloomy predictions in this conclusion. I’ll just wish the Democrats luck. Bernie, Elizabeth, Al, maybe Barack, you can do this. Now Go! 

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