It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment when the Republican Party began committing political suicide. It may have been when Republican Congressman Paul Ryan came up with a plan to end Medicare as we know it, and almost all Republicans in Congress signed onto the plan. Whatever that moment was, the Democrats have used the Republicans’ extremist overreaching to find their own voice, with considerable success. That Democratic narrative can be boiled down to the phrase “the Republicans don’t represent you, and we do.”
The first major sign of the Democrats’ new narrative could be found in President Obama’s passionate jobs speech last September at the Brent Spence Bridge connecting U.S. House Speaker John Boehner‘s Ohio with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s state of Kentucky. In his speech, President Obama touted his American Jobs Act, stating that:
This bill is not that complicated. It’s a bill that would put people back to work, rebuilding America. Repairing our roads, repairing our bridges, repairing our schools. It would lead to jobs for concrete workers like the ones here at Hilltop, jobs for construction workers and masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, iron workers. Put folks back to work.
Senate Republicans filibustered the American Jobs Act, allowing Democrats to accuse Republicans of voting against job creation in order to run on a bad economy next November.
Amazingly, the Republicans keep giving the Democrats new fodder to strengthen this narrative. For example:
- Republicans keep pushing for an extension of George W. Bush‘s tax cuts for the rich, yet they opposed President Obama’s proposed payroll tax cut extension, which primarily benefits middle class workers. It is difficult to square such a position without concluding that Republicans care more about their rich financial backers than the middle class, and Democrats hammered the Republicans on that point. Analysts widely viewed this payroll tax cut fight last December as a clear win for the Democrats. Apparently, the Republicans agreed, as they just caved to President Obama and the Democrats on extending the payroll tax cut, which President Obama wisely termed the “middle class tax” cut.
- At the Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa last December, Mitt Romney tried to bet Rick Perry $10,000 that Romney’s first book did not call for a national health insurance mandate. For most Americans, $10,000 is not the amount they wager on a gentleman’s bet, but rather, a large sum that they look to invest in a home or their children’s education fund, if they are lucky enough to save or borrow that much.
- After President Obama ordered that health insurance companies must cover birth control, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa held a hearing on birth control in which he did not allow any female witnesses. Several Democratic lawmakers, including Carolyn Maloney of New York, ripped Issa for his male-only hearing panel, and some members of Congress boycotted or even walked out of the hearing in protest. This was yet another action that furthered the Democrats’ narrative that Republicans are insensitive to women, who make up more than half of U.S. voters. Amazingly, that narrative was strengthened yet again when Republican billionaire Foster Friess, a financial backer of Rick Santorum, then suggested that “gals” should put aspirin “between their knees” as contraception. In fact, Republicans seem to be doubling down on social issues generally, while the Democrats are focusing on jobs. Which of these is more likely to appeal to middle class and independent voters in the general election?
- Republicans have similarly taken actions and made statements that have offended blacks, gays, and Hispanics, three of the nation’s important voting blocs (especially Hispanics, who form a rapidly increasing percentage of the U.S. population, many of whom live in key swing states such as Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada). For instance, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich keeps falsely calling President Obama “the food stamp President”, which some analysts view as a “dog whistle” appeal to the racist instincts of some white voters. Likewise, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told a debate audience in Tennessee last October that the U.S. should build an electric fence on its southern border to kill would-be illegal immigrants. And a highly partisan Republican crowd booed a gay U.S. soldier at the Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Florida last September, feeding into the Democrats’ narrative that the Republican Party is extremely intolerant.
In short, this year, the Republicans seem to be handing the Democrats political gifts that keep on giving, and the Democrats have finally learned how to unwrap their gifts.