Back where they belong
I've long argued, (just one example here.) against firm opposition by some Democrats, that the idea that the country was conservative and therefore Democrats better cow-tow to conservative policies and ideas was a crock.
I've suffered for many years watching as spineless Dems all cowered in fear of actually standing for core Democratic principles and wimped out on countless issues where they'd bend to the perceived conservative desire of the country.
But I've contended that not only do a firm majority of Americans support Democratic policy positions over Republican, but my larger point has been that support for Republicans among the squishy middle, the middle to lower class folks who suddenly decided it was cooler to be macho Republican, was a mile wide and an inch deep.
Just as they'd been stampeded and conned into identifying as conservatives or Republicans, these people could just as easily be turned back to their natural affilitation with Democratic policies and prinicples. (after all, they've been backing a party who actively worked against these people's own interests for decades)
There are many reasons these fine folks were conned into identifying as Republicans, among them the billion dollar conserative media noise machine, the effective campaign to label Dems as "wimpy" or somehow not like the oh-so-manly Republicans, and the con-job to convince people that Republicans were somehow better at defending the country than Dems. And chief among the reasons as well was the massive Rove-inspired campaign to spread fear, division, and hatred as hard and as often as possible.
The Republican noise machine encouraged these folks to blame any number of groups for every problem they had in life, and then associated all of them with the Democratic party.
It was an incredibly massive campaign in which the right wing literally built a parallel system of government and media alongside the legitimate ones, and they largely succeeded, to the point where rank propaganda is now considered "news", and conservative "think tanks" are responsible for most government policy.
Kevin Phillips, the noted conservative thinker, has published several revealing and important books delving into the dark side of the Bush dynasty, the corrosive anti-democratic influence of the so-called Christian right, and three books examining the enormous and widening gap between the super-wealthy and the other 99% of the country and the creation of this plutocracy in America, "Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich", "The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath", and "Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics".
Paraphrasing the title of Phillips' notable book which predicted the Republican majority all the way back in 1969, Paul Krugman writes, "The Emerging Republican Minority" in the New York Times.
But at this point 2004 looks like an aberration, an election won with fear-and-smear tactics that have passed their sell-by date. Republicans no longer have a perceived edge over Democrats on national security — and without that edge, they stand revealed as ideologues out of step with an increasingly liberal American public.
Right now the talk of the political chattering classes is a report from the Pew Research Center showing a precipitous decline in Republican support. In 2002 equal numbers of Americans identified themselves as Republicans and Democrats, but since then the Democrats have opened up a 15-point advantage.
Part of the Republican collapse surely reflects public disgust with the Bush administration. The gap between the parties will probably get even wider when — not if — more and worse tales of corruption and abuse of power emerge.
But polling data on the issues, from Pew and elsewhere, suggest that the G.O.P.’s problems lie as much with its ideology as with one man’s disastrous reign.
For the conservatives who run today’s Republican Party are devoted, above all, to the proposition that government is always the problem, never the solution. For a while the American people seemed to agree; but lately they’ve concluded that sometimes government is the solution, after all, and they’d like to see more of it.
Consider, for example, the question of whether the government should provide fewer services in order to cut spending, or provide more services even if this requires higher spending. According to the American National Election Studies, in 1994, the year the Republicans began their 12-year control of Congress, those who favored smaller government had the edge, by 36 to 27. By 2004, however, those in favor of bigger government had a 43-to-20 lead.
And public opinion seems to have taken a particularly strong turn in favor of universal health care. Gallup reports that 69 percent of the public believes that “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage,” up from 59 percent in 2000.
The main force driving this shift to the left is probably rising income inequality. According to Pew, there has recently been a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who agree with the statement that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” Interestingly, the big increase in disgruntlement over rising inequality has come among the relatively well off — those making more than $75,000 a year.
Indeed, even the relatively well off have good reason to feel left behind in today’s economy, because the big income gains have been going to a tiny, super-rich minority. It’s not surprising, under those circumstances, that most people favor a stronger safety net — which they might need — even at the expense of higher taxes, much of which could be paid by the ever-richer elite.
And in the case of health care, there’s also the fact that the traditional system of employer-based coverage is gradually disintegrating. It’s no wonder, then, that a bit of socialized medicine is looking good to most Americans.
The illusion that the majority of Americans were foresquare in support of all these often crazy movement Republican notions was just that. It was propped up by smoke and mirrors and held together with bailing wire and string, and would only last as long as Fox News and talk radio could keep it going.
Never let it be said that the American public aren't a frighteningly uninformed and easily swayed group, but even when it's years too late, they eventually do begin to "get it". And that's become apparent since the mid-term elections and the fact that we have made some steps towards a government which functions in the way it was designed to work.