I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but if this comes out well feel free to pass it on. And again: while I volunteer for Jerry Brown, I do not speak here for him or anyone other than myself.
In a normal election year, voters ask themselves "Should we reward the party in power?" In the academic field of voting behavior, in which vineyard I once toiled, it's called "retrospective voting." Republican political analysts know that this is how voter psychology works -- and they've been banking on it.
This year, voters should ask themselves a different question.
The question of this year should not be "Should we reward the Democrats?"
This year's question should be: "Should we reward the Republicans?"
I explain my take on this below.
I start with this proposition:
For all of the argument back and forth here and elsewhere about whether Democratic achievements during the 111th Congress have been wholly outstanding or woefully inadequate or how far in between, the truth is that Democrats this year have done pretty much what a party in power is supposed to do.
Democrats have pushed their agenda, -- sometimes with vigor and sometimes with diffidence, with success in many areas and failures in others -- within the general bounds of what might be expected of a majority party that is in the ideological minority in the legislature. (This may or may not be a "center-right county," but when your median voter in each house is somewhere in the ideological neighborhood of Ike Skelton or Bill Nelson, it sure is a center-right Congress.)
What they could have expected to be able to do is what Reagan got to do in 1981, what Bush got to do in 2001 -- less so Clinton in 1993: to be given the opportunity to try to govern.
I don't mean the right to govern without limits or opposition; surely, Democrats opposed both Reagan and the Bushes, although not enough for my taste. But Democrats did not declare "total war" on Administration policies. They recognized, even after the debacle of 2001, that the nation needed to be governed, and they allowed such governing to take place.
They did not hope for the country to fail -- or if they did, they at least had the decency to keep it to themselves.
Moreover, they did not act in ways to ensure that the country would fail. That's a line that has not often been crossed in American politics -- the proximal antebellum era is the only pre-2009 example that comes to mine -- and yet that is what the Republicans have done.
They have wanted things to get worse. They have acted to increase the likelihood that things would get worse.
They did it purely for political gain.
What has been extraordinary during this period has not so much been what Obama or the ruling Democrats have attempted or managed to accomplish, but what the Republicans have attempted and managed to obstruct.
John McCain's new threat to filibuster the Defense Authorization bill if it authorizes repeal of DADT -- the Defense Authorization bill, for God's sake, usually the most mandatory of "must-pass" bills -- is just one sign of how far things have veered from political normalcy.
What the Republicans have done during these two years -- as I'll discuss in greater depth below -- is extreme, abnormal, largely unprecedented. They don't simply accept that the baby will be cut in half if they don't get their way -- but they show up at Solomon's court bearing their own meat grinder and seasoning salt.
I don't throw around the word "treason" lightly, and -- unlike some of you, I'll bet -- I'm not going to employ it here.
This is not the sort of behavior that should lead to a tribunal and mass hangings.
No: the proper punishment for this behavior, to this callous disregard for the national welfare, should be political.
What the Republicans have done -- the lying, the delay, the lock-step obstruction -- at a time of the greatest national economic emergency post World War II -- is disgusting.
The electorate of this country should act the way we are biologically inclined to act when we experience disgust -- we should vomit the poison of Republican obstructionism out of our system.
But we aren't doing it -- because the public, goaded by the media, is asking the wrong question.
The question is not "Should we reward the Democrats?" Democrats are not acting unusually for a ruling party.
The question is: "Should we reward the Republicans?" Republicans are the ones acting in ways that prior political leaders, prior electorates, and prior electorates would condemn. They do not want what is best for the country.
I repeat -- they do not want what is best for this country.
Whether it is economic recovery, maintenance of domestic industry, rebuilding of infrastructure, greater domestic employment, fair elections, or keeping foreign entities from buying American elections, they simply do not want what is best for the country.
They simply want political gain.
And this is astounding. Can you imagine a legislative minority that wants the government to suffer? This is not how the minority party is supposed to behave. It is almost unprecedented. It is strange, unusual, bizarre.
When you choose what to punish, do you choose the commonplace or do you choose the aberrant?
You punish the aberrant -- you punish when someone goes beyond the bounds of acceptability.
What the Republicans have been doing, with their attempts to sabotage any action the Obama Administration has taken towards "pulling the car out of the ditch," as he says, is remarkable. No less remarkable is the lack of remarking about it within our media. It's as if praying for national failure, courting it, facilitating it, is now OK.
And of course it is not. Not one bit. And we have to says so.
The issue this year is not Obama, not his aides, not the Democratic legislative majorities.
The issue is that the Republicans, in rooting for failure, have given up any pretense to patriotism.
They used to say "America First" -- and now they say "our corporate donors first, last, and always." Be they Chinese, Saudi, Indian, or for all we know even Iranian corporations -- that is who they serve.
And this is a scandal -- remarkable in being so little remarked upon.
So we have to ask everyday voters, we have to spread the word where we can, that the issue in this election is not Obama and the Democrats, not whether they have gone too far.
The issue is whether the Republicans in their opposition have gone too far.
Should we reward the Republicans for the unprecedented use of the filibuster?
Should we reward the Republicans for talking about resorting to the bullet if they don't win with the ballot?
Should we reward the Republicans for making common cause with racists, bigots, and thugs?
Should we reward the Republicans for undermining civil society?
Should we reward the Republicans for knowingly and recklessly courting religious war -- just for political gain?
Should we reward the Republicans for preventing the Democrats from passing laws requiring transparency in political contributions?
Should we reward the Republicans for inviting the destruction of any fair electoral system?
Should we reward the Republicans for holding the defense budget hostage to anti-gay bigotry?
Should we reward the Republicans for offering absurd and unsupported interpretations of the Constitution?
Should we reward the Republicans for claiming that people who dispute their wacky theories are ignorant?
Should we reward the Republicans for rejecting basic precepts of science?
Should we reward the Republicans for trying to demean and demote the status of women?
Should we reward the Republicans for lying about doing so?
Should we reward the Republicans for blocking investigation of their corruption while promoting the investigation of Democrats for minor sins, if they are sings at all?
Should we reward the Republicans for attacking the press when it does its job?
Should we reward the Republicans for rewarding the press when it does their bidding?
Should we reward the Republicans for the greatest blockade against legitimate judicial appointments in memory?
Should we reward the Republicans for delaying and adulterating the health care reform law?
Should we reward the Republicans for trying to prevent accountability for Wall Street after its sins?
Should we reward the Republicans for profiting from their cynical venality?
Well, the public at large, shaped like dough by the corporate media, isn't going to prevent it.
If anyone will stand in the way of Republicans being rewarded, it will have to be us.
You don't think Republicans should be rewarded for what they've done?
You don't think Republicans should be rewarded for what they want to do?
Find a campaign. Work with it hard for the next 11 days.
Do the sort of menial, person-to-person tasks that in aggregate make the difference.
Write a letter to the editor. Find a call-in show. Tell the honest story of our times.
Tell people that the question of the day is "Should we reward the Republicans?"
And then get out the vote. Punish the Republicans.
They've gone too far. They've crossed the line. We must make them pay.
Update: I know it's bad form to update with something that you just forgot to include in the diary, especially when a diary has made the Rec List, but I'll do it anyway. Here's what I omitted:
I enjoy Obama's "drove us into a ditch" metaphor, but I think it's misleading. I think it's overly kind.
The Ship of State (or in the metaphor, the Car of State) is always in motion. It never lies lodged in a ditch. So what the Republicans have done is not to stand by as Obama pulled out the car and demanded the keys. They've done something far worse.
What they've done is, once Obama got into the driver's seat, they've been smashing him in the head from the back seat, trying to throw their thick shakes onto the inside of the windshield to keep him from seeing, setting the upholstery on fire -- anything to try to make him crash, to keep him from getting to safety.
They aren't asking for the keys. They want him to wreck the car so they can claim that he's no better driver than they are. And, fundamentally, they don't care who they hurt in the process.
But I guess that that story doesn't make for as good of a stump speech.
Update 2: sirclown has a good observation or three for those who say "we can't help it -- it's just the economy, stupid!"
Lack of regulation was a major contributor to our economic crash. Democrats attacked this root problem with new oversight. GOP tried to block.
Stimulus needed to reverse the course of deepening job losses. Democrats passed a stimulus while GOP tried to block. Democrats prevented the recession from being even worse.
Outsourcing is a systemic problem for American economy. Democrats tried to reorganize tax incentives to deter it and boost job in the US. Republicans tried to block.