Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines earlier this year by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.”
This week Republicans are demonstrating to the voting public that they not only rejected Jindal’s characterization, they embrace it.
Here’s how Tom Friedman describes it.
We’ve got messes aplenty abroad and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is totally paralyzed. Indeed, the G.O.P.-led House has become a small-minded, parochial place, where collaboration is considered treason, where science is considered a matter of opinion, where immigration is considered a threat, where every solution is a suboptimal compromise enacted at midnight and where every day we see proof of the theory that America is a country that was “designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.”
Before we proceed let’s recap to put this in perspective. The Republican Party failed to win the White House in the last election even though voters were living through the worst economy since the Great Depression. They failed to retake the Senate after winning the House in 2010 and even though there were more Democratic seats being contested than Republican. They even lost the popular ballot for the House by 1.4M even though through gerrymandering they managed to retain their majority.
The past two elections proved that the Republican base is shrinking while the Democratic base is growing. The Chairman of the Republican Party addressed this issue earlier this year.
The way we communicate our principles isn’t resonating widely enough…Focus groups described our party as ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘out of touch,’ and ‘stuffy old men.’ The perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow.
When Republicans lost in November it was a wake-up call….We know that we have problems. We’ve identified them, and we’re implementing the solutions to fix them.
If the last week is any indication, the Tea Party elected representatives in the house are still asleep.
In no particular order, here’s what we’ve seen.
The House cuts $40B cut from the food stamp program. Conservative Republicans claim that there are people receiving food stamps that should be working, but the data doesn’t support that view. The SNAP program (current version of food stamps) already has provisions which require those who can work to at least demonstrate that they are trying to find work or suffer the consequence of losing their benefits.
Studies have shown that SNAP is one of the most effective government programs we have. It has an abuse rate of about 1%. Most of that is private retailers buying SNAP benefits for cash rather than providing approved groceries. It has a stimulus multiplier of 1.73, which means that every dollar of benefits generates $1.73 dollars in economic benefit. That is the highest of any government program. It’s better than corporate tax giveaways. It’s better than military spending. It’s better than bailouts and stimulus.
It also provides essential public health benefits to low-income people and that has an economic impact also.
The Trust for America’s Health, a health advocacy organization that focuses on disease prevention, warned recently of the consequences of cutting food stamps: “If the nation continues to underfund vital public health programs, we will never achieve long-term fiscal stability, as it will be impossible to help people get/stay healthy, happy and productive.”
Indeed, according to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “research shows that low-income households participating in SNAP have access to more food energy, protein and a broad array of essential vitamins and minerals in their home food supply compared to eligible nonparticipants.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “good nutrition can help lower risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis.” As it is, public healthcare expenses for diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease cost taxpayers more than $100 billion annually.
Cutting SNAP will impact the economy, cost jobs, reduce health, and increase the healthcare costs. I’ve also posted that the stress associated with food insecurity actually affects brain development in children. That inhibits academic success and ultimately affects employment prospects. 72% of those receiving benefits today are families with children.
We have enough food. What we suffer from is a misguided ideology that suggests that benefits create a culture of dependency. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 30% of SNAP recipients worked in 2010, up from fewer than 20% in 1990. Most of the rest are either elderly, children, or disabled.
Fortunately the Senate will not pass this massive reduction in SNAP and a more modest reduction will likely emerge from the conference process. House Republicans know that too. This was an ideological vote to re-enforce the conservative Republican position that hungry people chose to be in that state because they are too lazy to find a job.
This is a similar bit of Kabuki Theater. Senator Ted Cruz was elected based on his pledge to defund Obamacare. His rants and accusations finally goaded the House into action. They passed exactly the bill that Cruz has been asking for. That bill will expose what people have been silently saying for a while. Cruz isn’t even close of having the votes in the Senate to accomplish what he promised to deliver. He has already tried to lower expectations.
Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so….At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.
Boehner would have none of it. He responded.
We’ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow. Then this fight will move over to the Senate — where it belongs. I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle.
So at the end of the day, Cruz’s bluff is going to be called. He doesn’t have the votes and will go down in flames as a result.
John McCain told CNN on Thursday: “In the United States Senate, we will not repeal, or defund, Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational.”
Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, said of the House Republicans’ strategy of threatening a government shutdown to force the defunding of Obamacare, “I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”
Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, has said: “There isn’t anybody that thinks that Obamacare is going to get defunded. It cannot happen.” He added, “It is as impossible as anything can possibly be in Washington, D.C.”
Republicans may have gained some points in the process with their base, but the rest of country will be left scratching their heads over the spectacle.
Regulating Sexual Relationships
Finally last week in Michigan, Republican AG Bill Schuette argued in a brief supporting Michigan’s ban against same sex marriage that states have the obligation “to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.”
This is really a simple calculation for any rational Republican.
How many of the 47M people receiving SNAP are going to vote for Republicans in 2014?
When the Republicans shut down the government or force the government to default on its debt obligations in an effort to stop Obamacare, how many voters are going to blame Democrats – particularly given what even some Republicans are saying?
Finally, how many people are going to support a party that claims the government has the right to “regulate sexual relationships”?
This is the logical conclusion of the cynicism that began with Nixon’s southern strategy. Republicans exploited racial backlash to promote the economic goals of low taxes for the rich and deregulation. They were remarkably successful in convincing low information whites to vote against their self-interests. Instead they blamed four decades of middle class wage stagnation on the poor, liberals, and unions. Sustaining this strategy, however, required morphing from racial fear to an embrace of fringe conspiracy group paranoia. These fringe groups have always existed in US politics, but only gained credence as their apocalyptic fears of a black man in the White House came to pass.
Now the monster that Karl Rove and Fox News created to take back the House in 2010 and continue to promote the agenda of low taxes for the rich and deregulation has broken loose and is running amok. Even Karl Rove can’t control it.
Any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn’t. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.
When ideology leads to extremism, it always demonizes its opponents. Ultimately its opponents includes its previous allies. It narrows its focus and base of support until it finally collapses under the weight of its own self-destructive rage. Tea Party driven conservative Republicanism has reached this point. They are willing to alienate hungry voters and shut down the government to demonstrate the purity of their ideology. We will suffer the consequences of their actions between now and 2014. Then voters will hold them accountable and the Tea Party will become another footnote in history. Frankenstein died because he couldn’t figure out how to live in this world. Tea Party-backed Republican Conservatism is going to suffer the same fate.