The Republican Fear Factor

February 18, 2019

The Republicans, whether in the White House or in Congress, are really masters of fear-mongering, in fact they are brilliant pushing at a political strategy that works. The list of fears is long and diverse – fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of gun laws, fear of taxes, fear of strong women, fear of big government, and now fear of socialism. I may have left a few out but I think you get my drift.

The Democrats are novices at the fear game and have not been up to the challenge of tapping into the driving force of voter motivation. They have tried with global warming/climate change and now with taxing the rich but they just don’t know how to convince people that governing is about cowering in a corner – whatever happened to the land of the free and HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Thanks to the progressive side of the Democrats in Congress pushing for a Green Deal, Medicare for all and tax increases on the rich the Republicans are back at the fear gambit  characterizing the female leaders of the movement as radicals who are taking the United States down the road to Venezuela. Fear has been at the core of the Trump strategy, especially with immigrants, and so the long knives are out to convince Americans that they must fear big spending, big taxes and big programs.

Now what may help the Democrats deal with the fear factor is that the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, does not appear to wilt in the face of President Trump’s threats or the Republican leadership. Also the new women in the House like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show little concern over challenging cabinet officials, lobbyists and the Republican men. The fact that she and others might get their facts wrong or over play their policy recommendations has not stopped them from responding to the fear strategy with a healthy dose of class warfare.

So as the politics of governing plays out in the coming months what we will likely see is a tug of competing strategies as the Republicans continue to try and scare the livin’ daylights out of Americans with the fear strategy while the Democrats try and convince voters that they have been cheated out of their hard earned money by greedy millionaires and billionaires.

The fact that Trump Republicans continue to hold onto their base suggests that the fear strategy still works (at least while the economy remains strong), but preliminary polling shows that Americans like the concept of Medicare for all, believe that climate change must be addressed, and agree that the rich need to start paying their fair share of taxes. We could be at a turning point in American politics as fear is replaced with class, in fact the 2020 election is likely to be a contest between these two powerful motivations.

 

 

 

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Snow in Hawaii and Car Payments

February 13, 2019

It may seem odd to link two apparently unconnected subjects, the recent snow event in Hawaii (the first such event ever) and the rise in unpaid car payments, as the title of this blog, but let me explain.  Wild climate change events and income inequality indebtedness are the most important public policy concerns facing this nation. While Washington and the political class brawl over border security and tax cuts, it is the regular occurrence of bizarre weather and deepening debt that must rise to the top of the legislative and executive agenda.

It is not necessary now to quarrel over whether man made global warming is the cause of our weather. What really matters is that climate change is wreaking havoc on human life, critical infrastructure, private property, insurance premiums, long and short term displacement and fear of the unknown. Those public officials who aren’t bogged down in ideology are beginning to push for changes in building codes, protection of low lying areas, early warning detection systems, and sensible evacuation procedures.  Day by day our lives are changing as weather reports become more disturbing and dangerous. Action must be taken now.

Then there is debt, not the $ 22 trillion- that’s twelve zeroes- national debt but the fact that new data point to 7 million Americans who are behind in their car payment by up to 90 days. We are back in the pre-2008 era with credit card debt out of control, bankruptcies a regular occurrence and foreclosures a common announcement. Some will say that all this personal debt is the result of poor personal financial decisions, that may be true in part. But debt for millions and millions of Americans is mainly the result of an inability to live with security and confidence in our economic system which clearly is skewed toward the rich and well born.

Who in Congress, the White House and those running for high public office will take on climate change and income inequality? So far there are scattered proposals like the Green Deal and soak the rich tax promises. These may foster debate and controversy but on closer inspection are non-starters. Nothing gets done in our government these days when solutions are presented that immediately strike fear among policy makers and then political push back. Although moderate, middle of the road proposals that occupy the center of the political spectrum currently reside in a time far removed from reality, it is essential that the political class move as quickly as possible to deal with extreme weather climate change and income inequality induced debt.

Back in the old days of common sense politics piecemeal change and incremental policy making were heralded as the answer to pressing problems. There is nothing wrong with inching toward solutions to grave problems as long as there is inching forward, not being mired in partisan wrangling and gridlock. Let’s get started on inching forward on climate change and income inequality.