Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Senate Hangs in the Balance

The New York Times election handicapper just reported today that Republicans now have a 60 percent chance of taking the Senate. While that is better news than 70 or 80 percent chance, it certainly gives the sane among us pause. Essentially, a party that has done little but obstruct a sitting oppositional President for six years may actually be awarded with more power. So what are the ramifications for Obama, Democrats and the country in general, if they do win.

1.    Obama could be impeached, even without cause – as appears to be the case, given the arguments provided so far.
2.    The Obama administration might be months away from passing their last initiative. It is extremely plausible to believe that the only bills Obama will sign in his last two years, if the GOP win a majority, are those he capitulates to a conservative Congress or those less controversial bipartisan bills that benefit few.
3.    Comprehensive Immigration reform is all but certainly dead – though that already appears to be the case. One can assume any attempt to regulate Wall Street, address environmental concerns or otherwise seek to reform the country for the better are over.
4.    A push for more cutting of entitlements and more tax cuts for the wealthy (with a very small break for the middle class to hide the bonanza). I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in taxes on the poor.
5.    More blocking of liberal judges at all levels (and maybe an inability of any liberal Supreme Court Justice to leave).

Essentially, nothing good for the vast majority of Americans. So how does this happen? I think a few themes stand out at the forefront of how a do-nothing, corporate-sponsored, one percent supporting, hate mongering party can continue to win as they send the country further and further down the tubes: 1. Citizens United and two subsequent decisions that have essentially opened the floodgates of corporate money into elections. Elections can be bought, as we have seen for at least three decades now, and the candidate with more money almost always wins. 2. Creating narratives around victims and others is a powerful way to build a base, as the GOP continues to show (anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action, anti-feminist, etc.). When I ask my students how many consider themselves feminist, the proportion continues to shrink, showing how effective the right has gotten at framing an issue as uncontroversial as equality between genders. 3. The Dumbing Down of America: far too many Americans believe that Obama is the problem, when the majority of his attempts to address our most pressing problems have been blockaded by the Republican House. While Obama has been a major disappointment, his inability to even pass bills the Republicans once supported shows that Gingrich’s tactics still poison the hallowed halls of power in DC. 4. Conservative Media Bias: the greatest lie the devil told was making us believe he was an angel. And conservatives have been equally effective at convincing far too many Americans that our media has a liberal-bias, when that is as far from the truth as Sarah Palin being educated enough to serve in public office. With the exception of MSNBC, the media is dominated by moderate and right-wing voices who might be more liberal when it comes to wedge issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, but to the right of the public on economic and foreign policy issues (particularly given the reality that over 90 percent of what you hear comes from five companies, that are soon to be four, whereas 35 years ago it was over 300 media companies). 5. Those wedge issues, which continue to rear their ugly heads. Abortion has waned as an election wedge, but immigration, gay marriage, religion inside and outside schools, government-funded contraception (which is really a misnomer) and the like continue to sway far too many Americans. 6. I think there is a hearkening to the past that still resonates with many Americans, where we should split power between the two parties to ensure that no radical agenda is pursued by either. But given the radical nature of the GOP in general these days, that strategy is more ill-advised today than at any time in the past. 7. Finally, is the continued belief among far too many Americans that the government is always bad and can do little to solve our economic or social problems. The reality, looking empirically to the past, is quite the opposite – as I have outlined over and over again in this blog. But as long as cynicism reigns, the conservatives have an easy target to aim at.

And so we stand a few months away from potentially giving two out of the three branches of government fully to the Republicans, with the Presidency potentially to follow. Even with my seven explanations above, I am still baffled at how easily the average American has been hoodwinked into supporting a party that will do nothing but continue to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich. They are little more than shysters in sheets selling one lie after another, encased within a bespectacled veneer of fear and hate, but apparently the public is still hungry to buy. Here’s hoping a GOP diet is the next craze just around the corner!

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