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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Soaking the Rich

January 25, 2019

It was inevitable that once the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and smelled blood in the Republican waters over their affinity for the Mexican wall there would  be an attack on taxes and  the wealth of the super rich. And sure enough that pesky congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had the temerity to float the policy prescription of raising the marginal tax rate on income above $ 10 million to 70%. This stab to the heart to millionaires and billionaires was followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren announcing that she will push for a wealth tax of 2% on $ 50 million in assets and a 3% tax on assets of $ 1 billion.

Not surprisingly, these tax proposals have caused the rich to roll into fits of rage with predictions of an economic collapse, a push toward socialism, and the not so subtle charge that these female legislators just don’t know what they are talking about. The fact that for years these plutocrats have been juicing the political system to fill their pockets at the expense of the dying middle class somehow is not of value in the public policy debate.

But what is not part of the angst of the wealthy as the Democrats dare to offer new tax proposals is an unwillingness to find a solution to the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country in large part caused by skewed tax benefits, corporate welfare, and an outright refusal to support legislation that slides the wealth meter even slightly in favor of those at lower ends of the income ladder.

Nowhere in the outrage of the super rich is there even the remotest interest in the following:

78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, a figure visibly supported by the plight of the 800,000 federal workers caught up in the shutdown.

47% of Americans did not have enough cash on hand to cover emergency expenses such as an unexpected home repair or car breakdown.

1 million Americans are thrust into bankruptcy as a result of unpaid medical bills and 2 million Americans are adversely affected by unpaid medical bills.

Before the millionaires and billionaires moan and groan about the collapse of capitalism if the Ocasio-Cortez or Warren legislative initiatives were to become public policy or Sean Hannity warns that the liberals are taking the United States down the road to Venezuela, let’s start a conversation about why millions of Americans have so little savings, are up to their eyebrows in debt, and have lost confidence in the American Dream.

Somehow I have this gut feeling that the super rich will survive a tax increase, but I know with certainty that the average American will not survive the fact that for years Washington policy makers redistributed wealth to the 1 percent.

 


In Praise of Strong Women

January 8, 2019

It was bound to happen as 100 women entered Congress and presidential hopefuls followed in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton. What has happened is media pundits, election strategists and old white guys begin to question the suitability of women for high office in government. Already Elizabeth Warren has a ” likability” problem, Bronx Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is denounced as a dancing flake, and Michigan Representative Rashid Tlaib is castigated for having a potty mouth (and worse yet from a woman of Palestinian heritage). This is only the beginning of the campaign to question whether women are ready to run government and hold power.

What this avalanche of criticism is really about stems from the fact that the old boy network feels threatened as women question the male approach to governing, offer new policy prescriptions for the nation, and most importantly show no fear of speaking their mind. Many of these guys hate it when women challenge their knowledge and authority or worse yet vie for political power. The era of nit wit Democrats and Republicans in political office is likely over but that doesn’t mean  these guys won’t go down without a fight.

It is of course refreshing to have women in power and offering new solutions to desperate problems. More importantly, it is vitally important to have voices in this country talk about children, health care, education and income inequity rather than how much will be spent on a new aircraft carrier,  how to justify excessive corporate welfare or defend deregulating the banking industry.

Now having women play a larger role in our governing system does not mean that this country is on the way back from near political suicide. These women are politicians, and many novice politicians; they will make mistakes in judgment, offer unworkable solutions, fail to keep their word, and embarrass themselves in public venues. They may be a refreshing change of pace but their presence in government is only one piece of a complex puzzle of change.

But one thing is certainly true – having women in government, strong women in power offers some hope that the old ways of doing the business of our nation will at the very minimum be questioned if not changed. I am reminded of Bob Dylan’s famous lines from the song The Times They Are A-Changing, which appropriately fit the rise of strong women:

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’

It will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin.

 

Good Luck Strong Women.

 

 

 

 


Women Rule

November 8, 2017

Much has been made of the victory of the Democratic Party in Virginia and the impact of the message it sends to Republicans and President Trump. The real story of the election returns both in Virginia and elsewhere, however,  is the rise of women to positions of governmental responsibility and leadership. This could be the beginning of the Year of the Woman in American politics.

In Virginia 12 of the 16 seats that flipped Democratic in the House of Delegates were won by women. In my home state of Massachusetts two women who were first-time candidates won elections for mayor, one over a guy who said that his opponent was a stay at home mom while he had a full time job. Talk about a huge sexist miscalculation.

But besides the victories of women, there is mounting evidence that the ol’ boys club of politics may be facing  more and more female challengers.  Organizations such as Emily’s List and She Should Run are reporting that there are thousands of women who have expressed an interest in running for political office. With the victories in the Virginia election, the number of women seeking to enter the governmental fray will likely increase even more.

This burst of female political energy was bound to happen not just because of recent sexual harassment charges, but also because women have had enough of men making public policy decisions on equal pay, contraception, workplace advancement and health care.  Male office holders running for re-election against a woman in 2018 should be very scared. What’s that old saying about ” Hell hast no fury, then a woman scorned.” Hillary will not be the first female president of our country but her legacy may be encouraging the sisterhood to take up the fight for woman power.

Now before this analysis of women in politics gets out of hand, men still dominate the governing landscape and turning the tables on generations of male control is not going to happen with one election cycle. The ol’ boys will still be around suggesting that these female entrants to politics are novices who aren’t ready for “prime time.”  But what the ol’ boys don’t understand is that they may be up against a political movement that will be difficult to stop. The Tea Party was a movement, Trumpism was a movement and now Women Rule may just be the new movement destined to shape our politics and the direction of our country. Women got the right to vote in 1920; 2018 and beyond may be the time for women to get governing power.