The uncanny resemblance between the strategy being employed to defeat health care and Obama's Presidency and the campaign that killed Clintoncare and turned congress red in 1994 is palpable.
The first time I ever felt maniacal enough to become someone who would call my congressman was in 1994, right after the news stories started flooding the national consciousness with proclamations of a republican revolution. nothing could have been further from the truth.
Jim Walsh, my Republican representative from Syracuse, as many northeastern Republicans were, was not an evangelical Newt follower and so I had no one to argue with on that phone. I won't begrudge him the fact that he didn't do anything to stop the illusion of a Republican Revolution but, as we discussed on the phone that day, it was an illusion indeed.
This is a cumbersome and clumsy history of Republican certitude. There is nothing revelatory, but I feel a need to connect these dots. This is not a center-right country. It can look that way by emphasizing the results of elections and not being honest about the ingredients of those results, but it is so egregiously false that I thread these events together to try to help solidify resistance to the claims that republicans are or ever were the soul of this nation.
This was a pretty sorry country in the times leading to the great depression. The popularity of The New Deal was not some lark. It was time to begin addressing real problems. It was an answer to absurdities in labor conditions, food supply conditions, health care conditions, poverty conditions: we were growing up at long last. It was a sorry time for Republicans and rightly so because their philosophies had been painfully proved worthless. Yet still today, they continue to sell their myths and rally with rhetoric of the late great Ronald Reagan.
"Government is not the answer to our problems. Government is the problem"
What did Ronald Reagan do? He proceeded to begin dismantling the New Deal. Deregulation, tax cuts for rich people and corporations and unprecedented deficit spending on defense.
A cute economic theory was the wink and smile that justified the lost revenues and a wall in Berlin was used to justify the deficit spending on pipe-dream weapons. The word trillion first entered mainstream discussion but only as an absurdity. Not many people were ready to believe any of the devils in our government would be that irresponsible. Certainly no one would have called Reagan a big government rube.
The last four years Reagan was, quite literally, an empty suit. The thieves had already gotten everything they wanted and so the snowball of irresponsibility rolled on down the hill.
George H. Bush, managed to eke out a victory by convincing everyone that the looming payback was just a blip and that Reaganomics would soon bear fruit. The trees never blossomed and he found himself unable to read his own lips. He even got himself a nice, clean, no muss no fuss military victory to rally the jingoists, but as it turned out, those post war polling coups were quick to fade.
As the Reagan Hangover settled in during the early 90s, the nation was screaming for aspirin, So Bush was a dead man walking. The Democrat, whoever he would be, had no credibilty either, because we saw them doing shots with Reagan for the past 11 years (If you can't beat em... and so the Dems spent that decade trying to pork up on military contracts).
The mood of populist revolt was so tenacious (if low-key, due to the hangover), that one of the most successful (and arguably the most successful) third party candidate in American Presidential history was able to garner nearly 20% of the popular vote. He had some interesting things to say:
"Keep in mind our Constitution predates the Industrial Revolution. Our founders did not know about electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today. Just keeping it frozen in time won't hack it."
He was no Ron Paul.
Out of the false-starts and scandal stories of the Democratic primaries in that interesting year of 1992 emerged (like puss from a zit) a man we've all come to know and love as a saviour of journalists and a master politician. But Bill Clinton was no Slick Willy back then. His best quality was that as a governor he had clean hands from the Reagan Democrat taint.
In 1993 he became president by default with a whopping 43% of the popular vote. He quickly proved to be timid and perhaps incompetent and by 1994 there were a lot of people who wished they'd voted for Ross Perot.
By 1994 a remarkable malaise had enveloped the nation and there were ghost campaigns that generated little (read no) interest and of course voter turnout was pathetically low. 36% of registered voters bothered to get ink on their finger. There was a dearth of new voter enrollment. There were also Reagan Democrats who still hadn't gotten tossed on their ear.
The first time that most people became aware that a Republican Revolution had occurred was when they read it in the papers in November of that year.
Yes, so 36% of eligible voters voted. Generally the elections were all relatively close (52% for the Republican 48% for the other guy). That means 19-20% of registered voters barely made their voices heard and it became the Republican Revolution.
It wouldn't be long before Newt overplayed this mythical mandate and we had our nation's preferred stalemate with no health care reform but also no prayer in school.
We plodded along in apathy for another 6 years with no way out, and having no idea how much worse it could get.
All those years of carelessness in our voting choices had one cancer that had yet to rear its head: An activist and political conservative supreme court. In 2000 we got punched in the back of the head as that court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. Nobody was in love with wooden Al Gore, but looking back, There are a lot of us who think we ought to have had more of a bite-the-bullet motivated fortitude about imperfect candidates, Especially any Ralph Nader supporters with ink on their fingers.
But anyway, the point is: the Republican Revolution is about as real as Santa Claus. The ramifications of the hype are remarkable. Newt Gingrich should be a laughing stock, but he still gets credence as some sort of political genius despite a record that shows unprecedented political incompetence. Joe Scarborough should be a clerk in a basement somewhere but instead he mouths off with some air of credibility as a veteran of a better and more American time. The political capital that weaves its way from this Republican Revolution as some sort of last hurrah of a Golden Age of Reagan is dangerous. It must be destroyed at the knees before it proceeds as a campaign cry for Republicans.
"The nation is having doubts about Obama and the radical policies he wants to pursue." Random Republican Pundit
"We're sobering up from our turn to the left" Random Republican Pundit
What this means as we forge into health care legislation battles and a 2010 election is essentially this:
Do not waver. Most Republican victories come not from a new zeal and support for Republican ideas, but from a Vacuum of progressive energy.
True health care reform and at least a draw in 2010 is ours to lose.
From a show I loath on so many levels comes the only talk of how Congress ought to fight the health care battle.
Strategically this would be the most opportune time to march. Marches have a sometimes dubious political value, so marching for health care reform in some general way as I've heard proposed by some, in an attempt to get us progressives flexing our muscle, is not wowing many right now.
In contrast, I think a commitment to be in attendance at the second vote for cloture (i.e. the day after the Senate showed it's true colors) along with a media frenzy of theatrical leg-thrilling for Chris Matthews, "loon" calling by Bill O'Reilly and some well articulated explanations of this Democracy Denied by Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann would be too much for a few isolated and ignominious Senators to rationalize.
They would inevitably have to explain why they won't let them vote.
Any poll proves that the majority are expecting some major health care fixin'.
After they've tweaked it for the last time it will have an impatient endorsement from a massive majority in the House of Representatives and a 51-56 vote commitment in the Senate and a left hand in a white house.
All that would be needed is what any simple democracy expects: a time and place to..... vote.
Why won't you let them vote, Senator Conrad?