Okay we’ve been told repeatedly that in November the voters spoke. What they said, however, is open to interpretation. According to Republicans voters said exactly the same thing most members of their party say all the time: they want smaller government, lower taxes and deficit reduction. And apparently what this amorphous throng supports is a return to a lot of the same practices that got us in so much trouble a few short years ago.
But ask conservatives of all stripes what they think should be eliminated from the budget and after a lot of stammering it eventually becomes clear that bold measures tend to single out the weak and powerless for sacrifices strong, influential members of our society will never be asked to make. Imagine in our current state of cardiac arrest, the kind that constricts normal humane impulses, local governments are curtailing police, firefighters and medical staff because of budgetary constraints. One might have thought those weren’t optional services but rather must-have requirements that any decent functioning governing structure should provide.
It remains to be seen how localities will maintain security with a diminished municipal workforce or promote the general welfare, that rarely referenced constitutional assurance. Interestingly, despite its popularity as a conservative talking point, poll after poll indicates that deficit reduction is not a priority for voters. The beauty of right-wing partisanship though, is that, in the absence of facts, politicians make stuff up or return to time-worn, long-since-disproven talking points.
Just keep saying the stimulus hasn’t worked and using the phrase “Obama-care” instead of health-care reform and before you know it, a frustrated majority of Americans join in the chorus regardless of whether or not their support is a sensible response to reality. On a recent Washington Journal the ability of Republicans to sidestep questions about how their policies affect the country was brought into sharp relief by Texas representative Kevin Brady who touched at length on all the major positions of his party with that mean-spirited arrogance that is a Republican trademark and South Caroline Representative Joe “you lie” Wilson. Both ignored viewer questions, simply regurgitating partisan talking points instead.
It’s the way Republican interviews go. You get a healthy dose of tired partisan rhetoric and learn absolutely nothing useful. Wilson kept insisting that Don’t-ask, Don’t-Tell was working although several callers told about military personnel who were neither asked and didn’t tell but who were tracked down and dismissed because of their sexual orientation. Nor did it matter that enlistees called in to say there were known gays in their unit and it didn’t matter to them. No matter what evidence contradicted Wilson’s position he just kept saying DADT works.
And even though most military leaders and Defense Chief Gates agree it’s time to repeal DADT, Wilson, like other stubborn ideologues, says there must be more discussion and hearings to determine how to proceed on the issue. But the fact is there are growing numbers in the military and civilian population that would subtract DADT from the military lexicon and add “Don’t Care.”
Basically the new Republican majority is determined to bludgeon Democrats into accepting their total package, stalling everything else, even ratification of the New Start treaty, until the Bush-era taxes and omnibus government spending bill issues are resolved. But political posturing doesn’t restrain all honest debate and some Republican lawmakers may be wavering on their pledge to subvert anything that doesn’t square with their usual follow-the-leader strategy, as more and more members of the current and former diplomatic community speak out about how important the new Start treaty is to national security and our standing in the world.
If voters in November were clear about anything it was their frustration about the slow rate of economic recovery, constricted job market and the feeling that Wall Street was the big winner, Main Street the big loser; their concerns were very personal not ideological. If a massive government spending program suddenly provided jobs for vast numbers of the unemployed and new laws made it less attractive for companies to off-shore jobs and profits there would probably be a huge shift in public opinion and a lot less talk about free markets and smaller government.