Crow and Humble Pie

lawrence o'donnell“…When they lose this year, will there be a lesson to the Republican Party and Republican primary voters of don’t be tricked into going right?” Lawrence O’Donnell asked a guest on his TV show the other night.

I’m a big fan of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” But I winced at “when they lose.”

Maybe O’Donnell knows something I don’t. I’m a Kentucky history teacher, not a political insider and an ex-aide to a powerful Democratic senator. But I’d have said “if they lose,” with emphasis on the “if.”

O’Donnell is not alone in thinking Mitt Romney probably sunk himself when he named Paul Ryan his running mate. Even GOP honchos evidently are fretful, at least in private.

Like O’Donnell, I’m voting Obama-Biden. Yet I haven’t read or heard that anybody on the Obama-Biden team has said “when they lose” in reference to the opposition.
It looks to me like Ryan hasn’t swung the election either way, so far at least.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Obama beating Romney 48 to 44 percent. In July, the spread was 49-43, Obama.

The poll suggests that Romney didn’t get much of a bounce from putting Ryan on the ticket, according to Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor. Even so, Romney gained a point.

And Murray cautions: “In a smaller sample of voters living in 12 key battleground states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin – Obama leads Romney by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. That’s a narrower edge in these battlegrounds than the eight-point lead the president enjoyed in the June and July NBC/WSJ polls.”

Other polls also show that Ryan hasn’t significantly helped or hurt Romney.
HufPost Pollster logged a quintet of national polls and 11 state polls after Romney tapped Ryan, blogged Simon Jackman, a Stanford political science professor, on The Huffington Post. “The bottom line? No real change in Obama-Romney vote preference, at least at the national level.”

Double Bottom Line: The Race Is Still Tight

It’s hard to imagine Obama pulling away in the polls unless the jobless rate improves. (The numbers don’t seem to be helping Romney either.)

Unemployment is still a tad above 8 percent and will likely hover around 8 percent at year’s end, according to the Kiplinger seers. The unemployment rate is “consistent with an up-and-down economy that isn’t likely to fall into recession, but also can’t seem to build much momentum,” they say.

Maybe not, but the Obama-Biden campaign is bracing for a rising tide—tsunami is more like it—of cash the Romney campaign, the Republican Party and right-wing super PACS will spend to convince John and Jane Q Citizen that the economy isn’t rebounding and it’s the “socialist” Obama’s fault.

The Democrats don’t, and won’t, have the cash to fire back, ad for ad, reminding voters that George W. Bush’s economic policies–which Romney-Ryan want to reprise–caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that GOP lawmakers have closed ranks to thwart just about everything Obama and the Democrats have tried to do to fight the recession.

“Going right?” Led by the Republicans, the county has been in a big right turn since Ronald Reagan was president. President Bill Clinton was hardly a New Dealer. Neither is Obama. When the Republicans slam him as a socialist, it just shows how far right wing they are.

O’Donnell thinks Ryan, especially, is too far right wing for the country. After all, he’s an acolyte for Ayn Rand, the loopy, far-right-wing atheist, philosopher and novelist who famously extolled the virtues of selfishness. Ryan has called for privatizing Medicare and Social Security.

Getting rid of Social Security and Medicare “as we know it,” might scare many seniors. But talk to middle-aged and younger Americans. More than more than a few of them will tell you they are at least open to the idea of privatization.

It’s no wonder. For years, they’ve been listening to Republican claims that Medicare and Social Security are going broke and won’t be around when they’re in their golden years.

Too, they’ve bought into another familiar GOP refrain: everything the federal government does, except for the military, is bad and “free enterprise” is always better.

By “free enterprise,” the Republicans really mean the freedom to be as greedy as you want and to heck with the consequences to society. Too, the GOP is still crooning the old-time Social Darwinist tune: if-you’re-poor-it’s-your-fault.

“Free enterprise” in action means freeing big corporations that give big bucks to the GOP from “socialist-job killing” unions and government regulations such as those that protect worker lives and limbs on the job, guarantee the food we eat is safe and protect the environment from rapacious polluters.

At the same time, pundits like O’Donnell think Ryan will scare off independents, even those who are economic conservatives but social liberals.

Ryan is an uber-conservative and proud of it. He has said he opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest. (Romney now promises he and his sidekick would allow victims of rape and incest to terminate pregnancies.)

Before he started playing on the Romney team, Ryan co-sponsored a bill that would give a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a person, thus criminalizing not only abortion but in-vitro fertilization and some forms of contraception.

Even so, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also showed that 54 percent of respondents, no doubt independents among them, said Ryan won’t affect their vote one way or another.

In any event, I don’t see Republican social liberal/economic conservatives jumping the Romney-I’ll-say-anything-to-get-elected ship over Ryan the ideologue. Nor do I see a lot of Romney-leaning independents changing their vote over Ryan’s absolutism on abortion.

I suspect many independents still think all the abortion-is-murder and fertilized-eggs-are-people, too, rhetoric is merely more GOP election year pandering to the “family values voters” of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand you persuasion who make up a larger and larger chunk of the GOP base.

The Republicans have been promising Religious Righties they’ll get rid of abortion one way or another since Ronald Reagan discovered the social issues were dandy wedge issues to peel off the votes of working stiffs who used to vote straight Democratic.

Roe v. Wade Still Stands

But the tea party knuckle-draggers–heretofore merely useful idiots on election day to GOP country clubbers–have become the tail that wags the Republican dog. If Romney and Ryan get in and the GOP grabs the Senate and holds the House, the tea partiers will demand their pound of flesh, and abortion will really be doomed.

Of course, well-heeled, conservative Republicans and independents with money know they’ll still be able to discretely terminate unwanted pregnancies. They’ll just hop planes to “socialist” Canada or to one of those “socialist” countries in Western Europe for a safe and legal abortion and call it a vacation.

Finally, in play are two more factors that keep me from saying “when they lose.”

First, nobody is more motivated to vote this November than the tea party white folks who sport signs declaring “OBAMA’S PLAN WHITE SLAVERY,” who tap their toes to the music of graying, saber-rattling, Vietnam War-era draft evaders Ted Nugent and Hank Williams, and who hate the president because he’s not a white guy. (One of them recently told a union buddy of mine: “Now, I’m not a racist, but Obama needs to go back to Africa.”)

Second, if those Republican neo-Jim Crow laws designed to keep down the minority vote stay on the books, Obama could be in big trouble in at least three key states–Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

True confession time: thirty-two years ago this month, I sounded like Lawrence O’Donnell. I was sure Ronald Reagan was way too right-wing and way too B-Movie, “Bedtime for Bonzo” vapid to get elected dog catcher, much less president. I was cocksure “the Gipper” was leading the GOP to another Goldwaterloo.

Berry CraigI found crow to be less than tasty as an entrée. Humble pie is not a palate-pleasing dessert, either.

Not until after the polls are closed on November 6 and the TV news networks declare my candidates the winner will I say, “when they lose.”

Meanwhile, I’ll be opening my wallet, sticking an Obama-Biden sign in my yard and joining my union brothers and sisters in volunteering for Obama-Biden in my corner of the Bluegrass State.

Berry Craig

Posted: Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on August 22, 2012
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.