This morning the call-in radio talk show On Point had some terrific politics discussion. The program, which is nationally syndicated, is produced by WBUR in Boston and hosted by Tom Ashbrook (who is nearly always fantastic in my humble opinion.) Today’s program was titled The Democratic Take On The 2012 Race and featured guests Katrina vanden Heuvel, Robert Shrum, and William Galston. I recommend listening to the whole show, but the most amazing few minutes occur at about 36 minutes when a very passionate and earnest woman named Amy calls in. Her words manage to capture, in a very personal way, what is fundamentally wrong with today’s Republican party. Oh, and did I mention? She’s a Republican.
The woman, named Amy, is calling from Evanston, IL, but she and her husband are from Indiana. The six or so minutes that lead up to her call help to put her comments in context, so I’ll start there.
At about 30 minutes into the program a guy named Scott from South Carolina calls in to say that “Obama is done.” The reason: “because welfare is a failing mechanism.” After a somewhat incoherent ramble that more or less boils down to “I work hard but most people on welfare are lazy and cheating the system,” Ashbrook (politely) interrupts him and asks, “Why do you associate welfare with this president, Barack Obama?... We’ve had welfare for a long time… Bill Clinton, Democrat, helped whack it back… lots of food stamps out there under George W. Bush, why do associate it in particular with Barack Obama?”
Scott responds with a fairly predictable (though again, somewhat garbled) rehash of Newt: “Well, it’s not really Barack Obama, it’s more of the Democratic Party. And like I said I’m a Republican and I believe in Welfare, I think there are people out there that truly need it. But I believe the Democrats are more lackadaisical and more into systems instead of actually helping people get to work. There’s plenty of jobs out there, they might not be what people want, but…”
There follows a discussion among the panelists about Republican framing of Obama as responsible for—even pushing for—people’s dependency on the government.
Some choice excerpts:
“I think that Newt Gingrich is stuck in the early 1990s when those issues were very much front and center… but that’s not where the country is now….
“They’re stuck not only in the early ‘90s, they’re stuck in the Republican primaries with the Republican base. This stuff appeals to … the delusions of a Republican base who thinks that ‘Obamacare’, which is modeled on ‘Romneycare’, which is an individual mandate that was originally a Republican idea, is somehow or other equivalent to the public guarantee of healthcare that you have in a lot of European States.”
Which brings us up to Amy’s call.
She tells us that she and her husband are lifelong Republicans and that they split the ticket in 2008—voted for Obama and Mitch Daniels, who they "have a lot of admiration for." Over the last four years both graduated from college, had good jobs making “very, very good money."
We both lost our jobs. And because of that, we have had to get food stamps, we have had to get assistance. As a Republican, I look at Newt Gingrich, basically talking to me like I’m the bane of the existence to democracy, I look at Romney as a walking corporation, and I’m like, ‘where are the working-class Republicans? Where’s our nominee?’ I mean, Democrats and black people are not the only one on assistance.
Where’s your vote headed, then, Amy? If you had to do it today, and if it was one of them, or President Obama, where do you turn?
(Deep Sigh) President Obama. I want to see Obama’s State of the Union address, I want to see his plans for the future, and if he has a positive outlook, and if he’s not demeaning and he has a way to go, then my Republican vote is soon gonna be switched to Independent. I don’t see where these Republicans are going. I don’t understand why they don’t realize that not every single Republican has twenty million dollars in the bank.
So there you have it. The Republican party has perfected the job of belittling people. The two main choices for presidential nominee are a mega-wealthy blowhard with a nasty temper and no empathy for the struggling masses, and a mega-mega-wealthy “walking corporation” who has no concept about what life means for most people.
Is Amy’s experience typical? Is her view—that the Republican party is out of touch and doesn’t care about working people—finally beginning to seep into the party itself? I don’t know, but I’m encouraged. If Amy is in any way like other Independent voters out there, Republicans will get what they deserve this November.