Here’s a little exercise to demonstrate that I hold facts above party affiliations. Let’s look at that State of the Union address as a starting point to see how truthful President Obama was.
Then let’s look at Republican responses.
Those responses reflect a battle in the Republican party that is likely to continue for at least the next two years.
I’m relying on factcheck.org and politifact.com
Here are the statements that they felt weren’t accurate:
more than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China
A survey showed most “expressed interest” in it, but are not “actively looking” at doing it.
the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave
Canada and Japan also don’t mandate paid short-term sick leave.
The U.S. has gained 11 million private sector jobs in five years.
This was actually true but somewhat misleading because dramatic public sector cuts in part as a result of Republican supported federal spending cuts reduced the net jobs growth to 6.4 million.
more of our people are insured than ever before
That’s based on some preliminary numbers. We don’t have the full 2014 federal numbers yet
Here are the topics that they felt were accurately discussed:
our deficits cut by two-thirds
Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis
creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999
the only advanced country on Earth” that doesn’t guarantee “paid maternity leave to our workers
America is No. 1 in oil and gas
America is No. 1 in wind power
Factories are opening their doors at the fastest pace in almost two decades
We heard the message you sent in November loud and clear, and now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.
Exit polling suggests that voter’s primary concern was the economy (45%). This is evidenced by the fact that as the economy improved since the election, Obama’s approval ratings have also improved dramatically to over 50%. Republicans have focused their attention on veterans, the Keystone pipeline, Obamacare, and an abortion bill.
frustration with Washington’s dysfunction
While Congress has a historically low popularity rating of 11%, voters returned 95% of their representatives to office. They apparently expect their existing representatives to act differently.
We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills
We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families
Fewer than 1 million people ended up with no healthcare coverage at all last year. That is consistent with the normal churn in the market place from previous years. The primary cause is job change. Average premium increases are at historic lows. The number of uninsured is also at historic lows meaning that more people are gaining insurance than losing it. The Kaiser poll taken right after the election shows only 29% support repeal. Only 9% indicated that the law figured into their vote.
the Keystone jobs bill
Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy,
The pipeline will create only 50 long term jobs. It will create thousands of temporary construction jobs for the year or two it takes to build the pipeline. That construction will contribute $3.4B to the economy. That’s comparable to the costs to build the new Cowboy and Yankee stadiums combined. Roughly .02% of GDP. In other words a negligible amount.
we’ll work to correct executive overreach
Obama is on pace to issue fewer executive orders than any president since 1900.
cut wasteful spending
Recent reports indicate that Jodi Ernst’s extended family received over $460K in federal farm subsidies. Recent studies also support the claim that federal spending cuts have slowed economic growth and prolonged high unemployment.
we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society
Ireland is the only European country than bans abortion. The other countries that ban abortions in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Indonesia have large Catholic or Muslim populations. They include Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan. Likely not the societies that Ms. Ernst intended to reference.
President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it
many families feel like they’re working harder and harder with less and less to show for it
neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs
not a word was said about radical Islamic terrorism
Obama vowed to combat “violent extremism” and asked for congressional authority to use force against the Islamic State.
Obama “could not bring himself even to bring” up the president’s executive action on immigration
Obama said he would veto legislation that attempted to undo his immigration order
“liberal elites” wanted to regulate “what light bulbs we can use.”
President George W. Bush signed the bill that phased out traditional incandescent bulbs, in favor of more energy efficient ones.
The message 2014 voters meant to send was, “fix the economy”. Republicans have used their gains in this election as an endorsement of their larger agenda, but exit polls and even election results don’t support that position. This, however, reveals a weakness in Republican philosophy. It’s magic thinking. Their deep investment in their world view puts them in a bubble. They see a lot of other people who are in the bubble with them, but they don’t see how many people are outside that bubble. Even worse, they can’t understand why anyone would choose to be outside their bubble, and so comfort themselves with narratives about dependency or democratic deception.
Those outside the bubble, however, are reacting to facts on the ground. The solid economic growth news since that election resulted in a dramatic increase in President Obama’s approval ratings. His numbers are comparable to Ronald Reagan at the same point in his second term. Republicans successfully made the economy Obama’s responsibility in 2014. Now they are paying the price for that political gain.
The real reasons behind this solid growth are historically low interest rates, lower oil prices, a strong dollar, a robust stock market, recovering housing industry, increasing tax revenues, and increased government spending. The debt is going down (as a percentage of GDP), growth in healthcare spending is slowing, and the financial condition of programs like Medicare and Social Security are improving.
There are still foreign challenges, but we are very close to hammering out a deal with Iran. We have an historic agreement with China to reduce greenhouse gases. There is also a lot of momentum for Pacific Rim trade deals. Sanctions against Russia combined with the collapse of OPEC have dealt a crippling blow to their economy and stalled any future expansion plans much more effectively than any military response could have. Jihadism remains a worldwide concern. Pressure from a broad military coalition has stalled the advance of ISIS. Financial pressure has affected their ability to govern the areas they do control. Because of the collapse of OPEC and the recent changes in leadership, we are in a better position than ever to pressure Saudi Arabia to withdraw their financial support for Wahhabism and the madrasas that teach it.
The result has been an energized Obama on the offensive. That was the most obvious take away from the State of Union address.
Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress, but are still struggling to build an effective governing coalition between moderates and radicals. This is further complicated by the 2016 Presidential election cycle. No better example than the number of Republican responses to the State of the Union address. I counted six.
Jodi Ernst’s speech wasn’t much of a rebuttal. Instead it was an attempt to promote Republicanism as a kinder gentler philosophy grounded in the nostalgia of rural Iowa. Jodi is this year’s version of Sarah Palin. My prediction is she will follow a similar arc. She will demonstrate similar weaknesses as she eventually has to discuss issues outside her comfort zone and respond to questions from those who will aggressively fact check her statements.
Ted Cruz made a spectacle of himself with his clumsy attempts to post his response on YouTube. The contents of that speech continued his straw man pattern of attacks against Obama. Every time he falsely accuses Obama of some action, and then attacks that imaginary weakness, he loses credibility with young voters.
Rand Paul is in a similar position. He has narratives that he feels work in his favor. He continues to repeat those narratives whether they are relevant to the current conversation or not.
I don’t think Republicans will be able to sort out their differences before the 2016 presidential primary season starts. Instead their squabbles will continue to play out both in Washington and on the campaign trail.
Here are two recent examples.
A moderate group of Republicans (mostly women) were able to water down an anti-abortion bill promoted by Republican conservatives. They are terrified that a conservative social agenda will derail Republican hopes for 2016. Here are some relevant quotes from that group.
“Week one, we had a speaker election that didn’t go the way that a lot of us wanted it to,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said. “Week two, we were debating deporting children, and again, not a conversation a lot of us wanted to have then. And week three, we’re now debating rape and abortion — again, an issue that most of us didn’t campaign on or really wanted to engage on at this time. And I just can’t wait for week four.”
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) was one of the women who raised objections to the initial measure. “We have a responsibility,” she said, “as the elected body representing our constituents, to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure that women facing unwanted pregnancies do not face judgment or condemnation but have positive support structures and access to health care to help them through their pregnancies.”
Then there are those promoting a conservative social agenda.
“That GOP leadership, that establishment, they’ve got to get their stuff together. I love what they believe in, I believe in it too. But they’ve got to get tough, man. You know what? It’s not just the New England Patriots who are dealing with deflated balls right now,” Sarah Palin
“If we nominate a candidate in that mold, the same people who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home in 2016 and the Democrats will win again,” Ted Cruz talking about Mitt Romney
The reason Republicans lost in 2014 is that their message of social conservatism, xenophobia, magic thinking, and randian individualism was rejected by women, young people, minorities, and educated professionals. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party rejects this assessment. They feel that the reason Romney lost is because he wasn’t conservative enough. The establishment wing of the Republican Party has failed so far to find the common ground that would allow them to advance an agenda soft on social issues and hard on financial ones.
The improving economy presents a second serious problem for establishment Republicans. They have to figure out how to get on board. If this growth continues for the next six months without any significant financial legislation getting signed, it is going to be difficult for them to take credit. Their 2014 strategy of blaming the economy on Obama has backfired. Significant financial legislation, however, is going to require some compromise with Democrats. That means some increase in taxes or government spending or both. To get that passed will require a coalition of moderates and Democrats that can overcome Tea Party opposition. If they succeed in passing significant legislation over the objections of the Tea Party and their supporters, the Tea Party almost certainly will take another scorched-earth run at wresting control from the establishment in 2016.
Have to careful what you wish for, but as a progressive, I’m not sure that I could have come up with a better scenario to guarantee another Democratic victory in 2016.