A last look back at the midterms reveals factors that carried the GOP to victory. Republicans’ big win had little to do with GOP policy positions, unless you consider the party’s plan to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct – then blame Democrats for not getting things done, to have been a policy position. The party gambled that it could play the American people for suckers, and won.
The genesis of the GOP’s un-American levels of obstructionism was revealed in Robert Draper’s 2012 book “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives." Draper described how, on the day that Barack Obama began his first term, a dozen senior Republican members of the Congress met for dinner at a Washington restaurant where they hatched a plan to sabotage everything that Obama might attempt to accomplish, starting with his economic policy. In attendance were the likes of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), Sen. Jim DeMint (So. Car.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) who continues to de-rail jobs programs for veterans.
Their cold-blooded disregard for the people paralleled their mad desire for power. They orchestrated record numbers of filibusters. They squelched the president’s jobs bill, thus depriving 3 million Americans of work at re-building our road and bridges. They shut down the government. They brought the nation to the brink of default and created a downgrade in the credit rating of the U.S. They refused to take up immigration reform and sometimes voted down legislation they had originated, upon learning that the president approved of it.
Beyond their skyrocketing levels of obstructionism, there were additional reasons that Republicans won big. FoxNews and right-wing radio distinguished themselves as carriers of the paranoia virus that has infected their listeners with the notion that Obama is not one of us. Their audiences have been lured into the seductive abyss of non-information. The result is that their audiences view Obama as a socialist, Muslim Brotherhood-friendly, gun-grabbing, anti-Christian freedom-hater. It is absurd, but reinforces the notion that we are what we learn.
Bald-faced obstructionism and media irresponsibility were bad enough. Then Republican candidates and PACs sunk neck deep into dishonesty. Here in West Virginia, my favorite was Rep. Shelly Moore Capito’s claim that, “The president is out to destroy our jobs and our freedoms.” Rep. wannabe Evan Jenkins lapsed into a brief amnesia regarding the poetic beauty of market forces with his advertisement that “(Rep. Nick Rahall, his opponent) helped Obama kill coal.”
The phony scandals (IRS, Benghazi, Acorn, death panels, the president’s birth certificate...), along with gerrymandering and voter suppression also led to the GOP’s victory sock hop. Similarly, the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions (corporations are people and money is speech) permitted astonishing amounts of cash, much of it from unknown sources, into the campaigns, mostly to the advantage of Republicans.
Dems hurt themselves by running from the President’s many accomplishments, a few of which I described in my previous column. Watching Dems do that, I was reluctant to vote for them too.
One more reason that Republicans won big is cultural change. Year by year, greater numbers of Latinos and people of Asian descent live here. Gays marry. Pot is legal. A black man is president and a woman may be next. For some right-leaning voters, that a darkie is capable of leadership fits with nothing they have ever believed about the world. Sadly, conservative office seekers, stuck without effective policy ideas, happily have exploited the fears of those who remain burdened with the handicap of wishing that it always would be 1959.