Will conditions that kept Progressives home when many Independents shifted back to the GOP in 2010 still exist in 2012?
I was struck recently by a poll of Wisconsin voters that showed 53% supported the unions on the issue of collective bargaining. This is clearly at odds with Governor Scott Walker’s contentions that what he was doing in addressing the state’s budget crisis, including the removal of collective bargaining for union workers, was what the people of Wisconsin expected of him when they elected him. Other than proposing cutting state employee wages and benefits, there was never anything in his campaign platform about busting the balls of unions there by depriving them of their collective bargaining rights.
This fact then led me to my next thought which asks the question, “How did Tea Party-type candidates really get elected over their Republican primary foes and go on to beat the Democrat in some races?” For the Libertarian strain in American politics it is believed they have touched a nerve with the American people and I think that’s true but only to a point. The part that isn’t true and that the GOP is trying to hype is their narrative that promotes corporate wealthy interest in this country are “what the American public wants”.
But if the polls around the country on the issues raised by the GOP are any indication of “what the people want” then one has to ask, what are Republican’s smoking and where can I get it without driving to California.
Other “Tea Party” issues that are unpopular with the American public are those that want to cut or remove all social welfare programs, including Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Not one poll I have seen supports such notions. In fact, a recent Gallup poll shows most Americans support what true Libertarians and their adopted GOP Party oppose. Other than supporting cuts in foreign aid, those polled showed they supported Education, Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare by large margins. They even support by a 6% difference the funding for the arts and sciences; that liberal cause that funds among other things, NPR and PBS.
Other polls also conflict with the GOP view of American preferences.
- A Bloomberg national poll shows that only a third of Americans supported keeping the lower tax rates for the highest earners.
- 60% in a Gallup poll believe their representatives should agree to a compromise budget plan rather than shutting down the government
- 67% of those polled are dissatisfied about the size and influence of major corporations
So how did the values of ultra conservatives win in states where traditionally social conscience Democrats have had strong backing? My theory is that the time was ripe for a change in politics-as-usual following the Great Recession of 2008. The straw that broke the camels back for many was the bailing out of failed financial institutions while middle class workers were laid off in droves. The feeling of abandonment by their government while being viewed as propping up wealthy enterprises that normally disdain government interference was taken as a step too far for people on both sides of the political spectrum to tolerate.
This anger was quickly conveyed by Ron Paul supporters who represent the Libertarian view in this country but was quickly echoed by others. Seeing an opportunity to regroup from their miserable failures at the polls, Republican strategists made overtures to these supporters and were pressed to align with them by wealthy corporate interest that had heretofore supported many in the GOP. The Tea Party was an off-shoot of this initial reaction which fulminated after Obama became President and was seen giving more money to Big Business by propping up the auto industry and then spending billions to jump-start the economy with his stimulus package.
The forming of the Tea Party identity can be traced to early protest following Obama’s inauguration by Libertarians and conservative Republicans who coalesced as a unit to oppose government-funded programs of any kind. It was sustained by concerted efforts of billionaires David and Charles Koch who helped form the astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity. The ability to sustain this anger was fueled by high unemployment rates and watching Wall Street rebound while giving healthy bonuses to the very executives that created the economic fiasco which created high levels of unemployment.
Obama and the Democrats efforts to stimy the escalating unemployment went unnoticed by many voters as did the reimbursement of bailed out banks and auto manufacturers. Their successful efforts to fix health care reform in this country was falsely and deliberately painted as socialized medicine that would create “death panels” and take people’s health insurance away from them. An angry population that was literally misinformed and naive about the political realities reacted as corporate interests had hoped and kicked out many Democrats and perceived “moderate” Republicans who supported those social programs that the GOP now claims most Americans find adverse.
So one can only hope that as the lies and distortions are revealed, generated by many on the Right, those voters whose “misery level” affected their critical thinking skills in the 2010 election will come around in 2012 and correct the changes that installed agents for corporate interests Not that all Democrats are guiltless of this themselves but the public would be hard pressed to find any who support abolishing the institutions of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid or opposing health care reform and properly funding the nation’s educational system.
What the American people really wanted then and want now is a change in the status quo. In 2010 this need created choices that wrongly removed people who were more likely to promote the voters’ own interests. The short attention span of most Americans and the vulnerability to being swept up by emotional issues that demonize good and decent people is the factor that has enabled a small wealthy elite to control elections; elections that put people in positions of power who answer not to their constituents, but to the real owners of this country – large corporations and financial institutions.
The only worry I have at this point is how effective will this corporate influence be on putting enough lipstick on their anti-government pig; to continue to influence enough voters that voting against their own interests are still somehow the right thing to do? Trick me once, shame on you; trick me twice, I must be a dumb-ass.
- Public Dislikes Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s Union Busting (usnews.com)
- Scott Walker, John Boehner, and the Politics of ‘Broke’ (usnews.com)