Republicans have long been the party of back-seat drivers.
There’s a noticeable lack of actual policy solutions in the Republican Party’s platform. What they are running on in 2022 is comprised of (largely manufactured) culture war villains and finger pointing blame. What is lacking is what has long been lacking – where’s the solution?
It’s called running on anger, which explains why Republicans have been working so hard to blame President Biden for surging gas prices (even though the president really doesn’t control gas prices, although there are a few very progressive things he could do that would completely outrage Republicans and their big special interest donors on Big Oil) and inflation, topped off with general outrage about an evolving culture that is leaving behind their base of old white men and their white, second class citizen wives.
Lawrence O’Donnell pointed this out Saturday morning over a Fox News clip whining about “wokers” hating Mr. Potatohead (in case you were concerned about the relevancy of their complaints):
“The Biden Admin is being run by a bunch of wokers. It’s easy to recognize the wokers. They hate George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potatohead. The wokers also hate America, and they want to beat the crap out of it.”
This is the entire Republican policy platform. https://t.co/bHpndZNi75
— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) April 16, 2022
The MSNBC host has a point. Let’s dive into the facts.
The RNC Research team has been busy pushing their often false or exaggerated complaints about President Biden from inflation to Obamacare to gas prices, but one thing that is missing is what they would do differently.
We need only recall the Republican solution to Obamacare — oh, wait, there wasn’t one. Until their attempt at “Trumpcare.” Republicans had long been working to get rid of affordable healthcare and free wellness visits and caps on insurance company’s profits and… Let Them Eat Cake? We know not. Until Trump, when they decided to try to take back the “Obamacare” name – the very name they had given the Affordable Healthcare Act in an attempt to smear it, by coming up with their own plan passed in the House, which of course didn’t mandate big companies offer insurance coverage.
We only know their base has been conditioned to froth at the mouth when they hear “Obamacare,” even though of course many of them are on it and we all benefit from the laws ruling insurance companies, even though they were undermined by the Trump administration.
Speaking of, the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage Obamacare are one reason costs have gone up for insurance – something that the RNC blames Biden for.
The Brookings Institute used the word sabotage to describe Trump’s actions regarding his very popular predecessor’s signature achievement and they explain why: “Webster’s defines ‘sabotage’ as efforts to foster ‘destruction and obstruction’ and to ’cause the failure of something.’ In the context of the administrative presidency, it reflects a commitment to program emasculation and termination through executive action. As such, it sharply departs from the constitutional requirement that the president ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’”
The Congressional Budget Office determined in May of 2019 (just short of a year before a global pandemic would make having insurance access vital), “Increases in health insurance premiums and the elimination of the individual mandate penalty have contributed to” the rise in the uninsurance rate.”
CAP explains “Millions of Americans lost coverage before and during the pandemic,” due to the Trump administration.
The conservative Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal wrote several days ago that inflation “It generally results from too much demand chasing too few goods.” It’s called a global pandemic and ongoing supply chain shortages. The Journal concludes there are two factors driving up inflation, “Pandemic-related forces, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have pushed up inflation to highest level in four decades.” They warn, “The causes are myriad, and the tools usually deployed to tame price pressures can, in some scenarios, push the economy into a recession.” Inflation is a challenge, and one President Biden’s administration must handle carefully in order to address the price inflation hitting Americans while keeping an eye on signals of a recession. Even the Journal notes that there’s also the issue “with some companies seizing on a rare opportunity to raise prices”; i.e. corporate greed.
Corporate greed is not an issue Republicans are wont to address, let alone able to address. Our entire political system has been taken over by corporations and with Citizens United opening secret doors to dark money, corporations and their owners and foreign governments can and do shovel money into willing political hands. Republicans pushed for this and protect it, although now both parties participate (it should be noted that if Democrats didn’t participate, they would not be viable candidates, which goes back to how deeply this abusive, anti-democratic corporate takeover is entrenched in our fledgling democracy).
I wrote about this in March as the gas prices rose during the Russian attack on Ukraine: If Republicans really cared about gas prices, they could do something about it. “Republicans have been wailing so much about higher gas prices somehow being the President’s fault, and yet as legislators, they have the power to actually do something about those high prices, whereas the President does not.”
Reminder: “Big Oil raked in huge profits in 2021 and is putting that money into their CEO salaries and shoveling it back to (perhaps increasingly unenthusiastic) shareholders, as investors were already soured on the Oil and Gas industry way before Biden took office.”
Republicans have done nothing about high gas prices, and they wouldn’t dare. “If Republicans really cared about high gas prices, they would tell their most devoted donors in the oil and gas industry to stop price gouging Americans and maybe even put forth legislation to pass a windfall tax on Big Oil, instead of blaming Biden for something over which he has very little actual control.”
None of these facts matter, though, when it comes to how Republicans campaign. Enter the Anti-Woke culture war and the often absurd Villains.
Dr. Seuss, Disney, Mr. Potato Head, no one is immune from accusations of waging a Woke culture war on Republicans. Fox repeatedly drums into their viewers’ minds the idea that the Woke Left “hates” them. The Woke Left even “hates” George Washington, Thomas Jefferson! My goodness, do you need to hear more to conclude that the Woke Left is your enemy?
Probably not! And what does an established enemy do for a party bereft of policies to attract their base of voters, who are not by and large the 1%, but are convinced to vote to give the 1% welfare every election? Constant fear-mongering about The Enemy. It can be misleading claims about a caravan, brown people bringing Covid to white people (who refuse to vax and mask, which means they are the actual spreaders of Covid), and now… Woke Culture.
Woke culture does work with the Republican base, and it works with Trumpers and it infiltrates down into young people hearing this from the angry, entitled and often ignorant men they are offered as true geniuses. Just the other day a young woman lectured me about the dangers of Wokeness, getting stuck in a convoluted morass of talking points that went nowhere, but she was quite upset by it all. It had the same fever as the 2016 Facebook scrolling white people warning (wrongly, of course) about Hillary’s pizza parlor.
Is it threatening to some white people to be told they should respect the desire of women and minorities for equal rights? I’m sure it is, but how much of that fear and rage is being deliberately stoked by Right wing media and Republicans and how much is organic? It’s a wonder that Black people’s wish to not be shot for existing is so problematic for a segment of white people. What if they were being led through this cultural change with an empathetic lens, instead of the constant hate-mongering of Right wing media?
It used to be that the two sides disagreed on policy solutions, but not reality. And it used to be that even Republicans would urge empathy when push came to shove. Now they have morphed into a distorted version of their prior party, one identifiable by its blustering, wrathful histrionics that rinse and repeat a barrage of fallacious personal attacks against the Democrats in order to deflect their own lack of argument, including “Leftist, Commie, AOC!, Woke!”
The Big Drama Show is meant to distract and divert from the facts. As facts come closer, the ire gets louder.
Emotions win elections. Republicans know this, and due to social media and an ill-prepared news media clinging to “both sides” objectivity beliefs that have been successfully weaponized by the Republican Party, Republicans do not need actual policies to win elections.
Democrats are over in one corner with so many policies and executive changes to help Americans that I can’t see how they ever inform people about what they are actually doing. It would be so much easier to run on The Enemy. And for Democrats, that would actually be truthful, as Republicans (incited from the top down, and The Call Came From Inside the White House) attacked our Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism and tried to overturn a secure, safe, democratic election.
But Democrats cling to the old-fashioned idea that if you do good things for The People, they will vote for you.
And so we have the Empty Policy Party running against often exaggerated and even made up Villains. It would be a good sign for democracy if the press would interrupt Republicans in the middle of their Dear Diary hysteria over made up issues to ask them what and how they plan to address the issues over which they are pointing fingers.
What we have here is a party based on spittle-inducing ad hominem attacks. The party of backseat driving babies, pointing their fingers and offering no ideas to actually help people.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.