News & Politics

Conservative Politics Increasingly Out of Whack With Public Opinion -- Is an Anti-GOP Backlash Coming Up?

The GOP did good job feigning mainstream populism until last week, when it proudly stood its ground against not only core American values but also public opinion.

The Republican Party is now officially out of touch with the vast majority of the American people. While there was no real doubt of this before, Republicans did a better job of feigning mainstream populism on and off. Until last week, when the GOP proudly stood its ground against not only core American values and principles but even mainstream popular opinion.

First, it was taxes. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Senate Minority Whip John Kyl petulantly abandoned debt negotiation talks with Democrats because the Republicans are firmly opposed to any repeal of tax breaks for the super rich.  Here were are, a nation that has always relied on those who get the most out of America to give the most back — now at a time when, as the profits of the rich continue to reach record levels, unemployment and economic stagnation for the rest of us remains.  All the Democrats want to do is restore the upper tax rates to the levels under President Clinton, then the economy was thriving — not even to the much, much higher levels under past Republican presidents like Reagan or Eisenhower.  And almost two-thirds of Americans agree that we should raise taxes on the rich to address the deficit

Yet the Republicans continue to push irresponsible and unpopular cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.  It should now be apparent to every American that the Republican agenda in these respects does not prioritize the economic health and well-being of the hardworking American middle class but, rather, the greedy interests of wealthy campaign donors and Wall Street.  The GOP would rather create even richer billionaires than create more jobs for working people.  The GOP would rather give handouts to insurance companies than make sure our seniors can keep affording their health care. 

Meanwhile, in an historic vote on the right side of history and basic human decency, New York has enacted marriage equality for same-sex couples.  Four — count ‘em, four! — Republicans in the state senate voted in support of the law.  Meanwhile, 53% of Americans — a majority — support same-sex marriage.  And, as we know from the history of comparable civil rights struggles, public opinion will only grow more favorable.  And, unless they do something, the Republicans will grow even further out of touch.

In the short term, this doesn’t bode well for Republicans in 2012.  Apart from the fact that they don’t seem to have a candidate who possesses both a genuine smile and a genuine knowledge of American history, the Republicans are quickly losing public opinion on every political issue on which they’ve sought to demagogue in the past.   It will get harder and harder to gin up fear about gay marriage and divide voters as public opinion tips further toward marriage equality. And despite having successfully elevated the deficit as a political issue in 2010, the Republicans are showing a pathetic lack of leadership in seriously solving the problem — meanwhile, putting our entire nation at risk of default.  In fact, the very same deficit crisis Republicans played up to win in 2010 will likely be their downfall in 2012.

But in the long term, I worry about the health of our democracy, such as it already was, when one of the two major political parties is so beholden to special interests that it increasingly ignores the interests of not only all voters but even its own base.  The Tea Party, albeit entertaining, has meant that Republican figures like Michelle Bachmann hold greater sway than someone like John Huntsman or Gary Johnson who, while I may not personally agree with their politics, I can objectively state they are more in line with the American mainstream than Ms. Bachmann could ever dream to be.

Which makes the surge of Bachmann and the pro-rich petulance of Cantor and Kyl a dream for the Democrats in 2012 — but, ultimately, a nightmare for our collective political future.

Sally Kohn, Chief Agitation Officer of the Movement Vision Lab, is a community organizer, writer and political commentator. You can read more about her work at:
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