The closer we get to the November mid-term elections, the less I’m believin’ this hype about a Republican takeover. The more we read between the lines, the more we see the same soup warmed over with the Republicans.
This “Pledge to America” is a watered down version of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract for America” that they advanced before the House takeover of 1994. I mean, really … the Republicans haven’t had a new idea since Lincoln. How many different times and different ways can you push anti-tax, anti-race, anti-immigrant, family values (anti-gay, anti-welfare), personal responsibility (anti-crime, pro-prison, pro-death) agenda? It worked twice; once during Reagan years (where it was developed) and once in the mid-1990s (where it was refined).
Now the Republicans are trying to redefine it, and bring it back, like bell-bottoms and platforms, or much like the Hustle came back as the Electric Slide and the Cupid Shuffle.
Reagan’s “Era of Optimism” put us in a deeper debt. Gingrich’s “Contract for America” put us in a deeper recession. This Pledge to America is going to put us in a depression. It will make the Republicans the biggest losers this election season. They could lose even more than the seats Democrats are projected to lose (if you believe the partisan media). There’s a reason why.
There has been much talk about an “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans meaning who will vote (or sit out) this election. Some report as high as a 20 point difference. Yet, the current polling doesn’t support that. At most, Republicans see themselves coming more to the center, as the president campaigns and as Republican candidacies become more transparent to the public. Their promises to bring gridlock to Washington is not an appealing proposition, at a time when people are hurting and want more out of their government. The threat to overturn “Obama-Care” is one people are taking seriously.
Now that health care is on the way to being fixed, a group of “radicals” are going to come to Washington and put us back at square one? I don’t think so. The Republicans are promising to be “transparent” in the most transparent administration we’ve ever had, after having the least transparent administration we’d ever had. This is where you get the idea that Republicans will say anything. I guess that’s their “new” idea because they are a “closed-door” party. Their idea of transparency is to tell on President Obama, which is what they’re already doing.
There is another reason why I believe the “loser” in this election will not be what or who is predicted. This is the most negative election cycle we’ve seen in some time. That contributes to the enthusiasm gap as voters see their choices as flawed or limited. The only thing you hear are the most negative attributes of any candidate. The only positive things you hear is what the candidate has to say about themselves. If you don’t read and research the facts yourself, you’re left to believe whatever madness opposing candidates and independent expenditure campaigns flag in front of you.
This is where voter sophistication comes in. Negative campaigning might affect partisan voters, but independent voters are unlikely to be swayed (as much) and will tip the elections in most states. The repeated prediction that “the Democrats will lose seats” has gotten softer and softer as “Tea Party” endorsements have faded and candidate depth comes under more scrutiny. I think the public realizes the loony fringe that most identifies with Republicans cannot be trusted just yet to advise them on “ideas.” With no real “new ideas” to combat a recovering economy, all Republicans have to bash is President Obama, who is really more popular than polls indicate because they don’t really survey his base.
They bash him when he’s working at the White House and can’t respond, but when he gets out amongst the people-you can’t find his bashers.
Finally, the interjection of the Republican ideologue leadership (Gingrich, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin) have worn on the public. Yeah, they appeal to some segments of the ignorant, the racially inclined, the poor, the struggling (unemployed, laid off) and the “phobes” (xenophobes, homophobes, Negrophobes, Islamaphobes), but in the end, their lack of criticism of the banks, the investors and the profiteers who have raped the wealth out of our economy is noticeable and revealing as these campaigns play out.
The politics of the rich and poor are more salient than ever before. You can speak of America as more than a country (as idea such as the Pledge to America), but one fundamental foundation of this country is work that allows for the “American Dream” to be pursued (homeownership, small business ownership, comfortable retirement).
People are not hearing that in the Republican rhetoric. Instead, it’s still “We must live within our means” and other “catch phrases” that haven’t caused the economy to change, but the consequences of which we can no longer pay for (overcrowded schools, overcrowded prisons and the absence of work). Saying no to the Democrats isn’t a solution for the Republicans. The public is beginning to see that. At this point, I couldn’t tell you who the biggest loser is going to be. I can just say that it won’t play out the way it’s being called.
People may want change to come faster than it has, but they don’t want to go backwards to get it. They can “promise,” “pledge,” and “contract” all they want, but the party that takes us backward instead of forward will no doubt be “the biggest loser.”
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, “Real Eyez: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. “He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com.