Friday, March 9, 2012
So, About The Electoral Gaps
Part of that is simply the fact that the GOP is basically carrying on a conversation from 1980 with itself. I mean, they are even trying to call Obama "the Black Jimmy Carter". They are so desperate for another Reagan moment, that they are forcing the old playbook on the current world.
First, they are demagoguing Social Security and Medicare. And that's not fair. Only Democrats should be allowed to do that. But this goes back to the basic trope from the ACA fight and the Tea Party's rise: "Keep the government out of my Medicare!"
To today's seniors, Medicare and Social Security are something they earned during their lifetimes. They put this money away, and now they deserve it. The problem is that's not true. That's not how these programs work. My Social Security and Medicare taxes go to my parents and their friends. My kids' taxes will go to me. These are not saving accounts that sit in a dusty vault in DC somewhere. They are an intergenerational transfer of wealth.
And that's OK. But to accept that is to accept the basic premise of a welfare state, and that would create too much cognitive dissonance in their gray and wrinkly heads. They cannot understand that THEY are the beneficiaries of the welfare state.
But the current rhetoric of the GOP is trying to whip up fear in the Granny Set that Obama will come and steal that money from them. Of course,the money that isn't there, it's coming out of my paycheck. To help with this, ACA set up a reasonable way to control costs within Medicare. Republicans are trotting out the "death panel" nonsense again, as if changing the way we pay for procedures is exactly the same as getting off the train at Auschwitz.
More broadly, the debate about "my money" going to "those people" is at play here, too. Mitt Romney's response to a college student: "Don't ask the government to help you with your student loans." is not, as Professor Krugman suggests, really about ignorance. It's about "my money" going to "those people".
And to the old, white Republican, college is increasingly a liberal plot to force evolution and condoms down their throat. (Ew. Sorry about that last one.) So I don't want "my money" going to help "those people" get a college education. Even though college educations are increasingly important. And even though we ALL pay for things we don't want. I'm not happy that we went to war in Iraq and are still in Afghanistan. But I still pony up my share.
What's remarkable is that "those people" are traditionally imbued with greater melanin. When Reagan talked about "welfare queens", he was not referring to that moocher Elizabeth II. He was talking blackedy black black black. And "immigration" is not a reference to your great grandfather Patrick O'Toole. It's about brownedy brown brown brown.
This assault on the college aged - both rhetorically by Romney and Santorum, through the hatred of OWS and the efforts to disenfranchise college aged voters - is remarkable because "those people" look a lot like your kids and grandkids, people. The need for more and more "those people" has now brought their own children and their crippling college debt into the firing line.
And you know who else is "those people"? Pre-menopausal women. But I think the last two or three weeks has well established this last point, so I won't belabor it.
The changing demographics of the electorate have been a big topic for a few years. It certainly figured into Obama's election. But in their fervor to appeal to the rump of the GOP, the presidential contenders have embraced a set of positions that is just bizarre to anyone under 55 or who doesn't get sunburned falling asleep under a reasonably powered lamp. Whether it's Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare, Romney's drop dead to that college student, Santorum calling on an end to any public funding of contraception, all of their positions are designed to appeal to old, white people.
It is difficult to see how this creates a winning coalition in November. Indeed, it would suggest a Democratic takeover of the House.
I guess we shall wait and see on this, and inevitably there will be a pivot to the center once Mitt finally wraps up his triumphal campaign against two guys whose national campaign offices are the back booth at a Denny's somewhere.
We are in cloud cuckoo land right now.