Why Obama, Progressives Are Winning on Issues

obama basketball

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s 2012 campaign is giving the progressive base something it has not experienced since FDR: a clear cut ideological victory for progressive economic strategies and values. And Republicans know it. That’s why the GOP is already redefining the election so that it is not a test of failed and unpopular conservative policies, but rather is an example of what happens when these failed and unpopular policies are not effectively promoted.

Remember when conservatives demanded in 2008 that John McCain let “Palin be Palin”? And some even claimed that a liberated Palin would have led the ticket to victory? Now they are insisting that Mitt Romney “Let Ryan be Ryan,” despite the VP nominee’s politically destructive Medicare positions. As conservatives like Chris Chocola, president of the right-wing Club for Growth, put it, “The Romney ticket would be well served to let Paul Ryan be Paul Ryan. If someone says you’re going to change Medicare as we know it, you say, ‘You’re damned right.’ Paul Ryan can give that answer.”

As polls show Mitt Romney’s large lead among seniors on the issues of health care and Medicare “evaporating,” it’s obvious that Paul Ryan’s support for turning Medicare in to VoucherCare is alienating voters. But that’s not how Ryan’s backers see it. They blame Romney’s declining support on his perceived refusal to openly embrace right-wing Medicare “reform,” voter opposition be damned.

Just as Sarah Palin supporters believe that the GOP could have won the White House in 2008 if only McCain had allowed “Palin to be Palin,” now we have Ryan backers like Craig Robinson, a former GOP political director in Iowa, telling the NY Times, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.”

This is why bad and dangerous Republican ideas never die— their backers spend millions of dollars convincing voters that the policies only failed due to ineffective implementation.

That’s why the GOP promote tax cuts for job creation despite the massive job losses of the Bush years, and supports a new war with Iran despite the catastrophic failure in Iraq (an invasion also deemed a “good idea” that was poorly executed).

Backing Romney on “the 47%”

While most saw Romney’s disparaging comments about “the 47%” as unpopular with voters, the GOP base applauded Romney. Erick Erickson in Red State argued, “For once, we see Mitt Romney undercover and off the record and he sounds like a real person not pulled by the gravitational forces of the DC GOP Elite who have capitulated to $16 trillion in national debt. And suddenly, those beltway Republicans are beating up Romney for saying something off the cuff, maybe not as polished as he should have, but that is agreed with by a majority of Americans.”

The “majority of Americans” refers to a recent Gallup poll that found that 54% of respondents believe “the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” That’s a far cry from agreeing with Romney’s comments that 47% of Americans lack “personal responsibility,” but it reflects the right-wing’s continued insistence that most agree with their reactionary agendas, election results notwithstanding.

The GOP has enshrined all the worst elements from the Libertarian Party platform of the 1970’s—-end government regulation, cut taxes, destroy the safety net to end “dependency”—while simultaneously rejecting the progressive side of the Party’s agenda—protecting women’s right to choose, ending foreign wars, decriminalizing drugs, and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Obama has framed Romney’s 47% comments in the most ideological of terms, connecting it to his convention message that the GOP promotes a “You’re on your own” society. Whereas the 2008 campaign was framed around idealistic and ultimately ambiguous concepts of “Hope” and “Change,” this election is entirely about what kind of nation American voters want to create.

Barack Obama is an unlikely vehicle for a “which side are you on campaign.” But that’s the framing both presidential campaigns sought, and Obama now has a chance to come out of November with a powerful mandate for increasing public investment and ensuring that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy disappear.

Democrats Domestic Agenda Prevailing

Since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the nation has dramatically reduced public investment in housing, education, public transit, and infrastructure while cutting taxes on the wealthy. The 1993 Clinton tax increases represent the only deviation from this course, and, despite accolades for the economy’s performance during the 1990’s, public investment in vital domestic programs either declined or remained at Reagan-Bush levels.

In other words, the budget priorities of the Newt Gingrich-led House in 1995 have forever reduced funding for Legal Services, Community Development Block Grants, the National Endowment of the Arts, and other programs.

While President Obama’s stimulus package boosted funding for some infrastructure projects and “green jobs,” funding for housing, transit, and a broad range of domestic programs never returned to pre-Reagan levels. And in order to secure passage of the package, one-third of the stimulus was in the form of tax cuts, continuing the dominance of failed Republican job creation strategies.

randy shawNow Obama is lampooning the GOP for seeing tax cuts as the answer to all problems, and is promoting progressive’s longtime agenda for a “New New Deal.” Of course, the President does not describe his emphasis on public investment in such terms, but that is what he is advocating

No wonder conservatives are going all out to blame Romney for Obama’s increasingly like victory. The voters are handing a big win to progressive policies and values, and that’s a message that the GOP can never accept.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

Published: Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on September 25, 2012
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About Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Director of San Francisco's Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Editor-in-Chief of the online daily newspaper "Beyond Chron." He is the author of three books, "Beyond the Fields", "The Activist's Handbook", and "Reclaiming America".