Mar 21, 2013 - Issue 509

To GOP: Make it $10 Billion
Or Save Your Money

A headline in the local paper Monday morning announced: “GOP to spend $10 million to reach out to minority voters.”

It’s common knowledge that American voters have extremely short memories, especially when it comes to politics, but the announced plan of the Republican National Committee (RNC) to spend $10 million to send political operatives and low-level staff into minority communities across the country to bring them into the fold is like a contractor buying a hamburger for a politician, in exchange for a $2 million contract.

The announcement was made by the RNC with considerable fanfare over the past weekend and the party and its leader, Reince Priebus, believe that a precinct - and ward-level presence will get the party’s message out to voters and they will be “talking about our party, talking about our brand,” the Associated Press reported.

How well have these people thought this out? Aren’t the Republican Party and its cohort on the right the very outfit that was in the business of suppressing the votes of these very people? Didn’t they kick hundreds of thousands of minority voters off the rolls? And, didn’t their election officials at the state and county levels fix the voting process so that minority voters were waiting hours to cast a ballot, discouraging many so they went home without voting?

That appeared to be the objective and it seemed to work, but that still did not win them the presidential election. Priebus and his party must believe that minority voters will forget this and register Republican for the next election. It worked fine for George W. Bush in two elections. Why didn’t it work in this one?

Analyses of the voting patterns in the 2012 presidential election showed that voters in the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The GOP knew that going into the election behind their standard bearer, Mitt Romney and they believed, as did he, that his election was a sure thing, the economy being so bad, unemployment so high, and the housing crisis far from over. And, the never-ending wars continued so enthusiastically by Bush and Cheney have not really reached their natural conclusion, since the conclusion would include rebuilding nations and societies that have been destroyed by the U.S.

Still, Obama was elected by a comfortable margin. Republicans and even Obama supporters realize that, to the extent that he might have been willing to take any bold steps on any given issue, the president was thwarted by the GOP that has become known as the “party of no.” Some of their rising stars know this is true, with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warning that the GOP must not be “the stupid party.” They have a lot of work ahead of them.

The GOP and its rightist political elements, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), made certain that Obama’s signature first-term issue, health care, would be as much of a failure as possible. They managed to eliminate the so-called public option, which would have given a very small alternative to the stranglehold the insurance industry has on health care in America. Essentially, what Americans now have is the same system of health care, if it can be called a “system.” The insurance companies remain firmly in charge and are raking in even more hundreds of millions of dollars because everyone will be required to buy health insurance policies. Because of that, Americans will continue to pay twice as much per capita as countries such as Canada and Germany, but there will still be tens of millions without coverage. This is not universal coverage or a “system” and it certainly is not a plan. Does the GOP think that the people will forget that?

There are a few other issues that the GOP is going to have to explain to the people they are trying to reach: low-cost housing (nothing in the works), education (students might pay off education loans over 20-30 years), and the one nobody talks about, the debt for the illegal war in Iraq that was put on a credit card. It is believed that that war alone will cost as much as $3 trillion and, possibly, much more. 

If the GOP is going to send its young operatives into the ghettoes and “minority communities” to make the case for their joining and supporting the party, they’d better bring their lunch, because most of those places are what have come to be called “food deserts.” That means good, wholesome, nutritious food is not available in those places, and what is available is fast food, which is cheap (it’s industrial-agriculture produced), and tends to cause obesity and diabetes. Another problem is local schools. The imbalance in funding of city schools, compared with suburban schools, is well known. The answer to the reduction of the quality of schools by the Right Wingers has been charter schools (supported by ALEC, the infamous Koch brothers, and no end of Right Wing think tanks), which tend to take money from the other public schools, which must accept all students, rather than the often-handpicked students of the charters.

The list of GOP assaults on programs for human beings, in favor of corporations, is very long. They are for reducing the feeding programs for children, food stamps for families, and programs like Head Start and daycare (which they would like to eliminate altogether). The party works every day to eliminate programs for people, disdainfully and mockingly referring to them as “entitlements,” never speaking of the “entitlements” they provide for Corporate America in the billions of dollars, in subsidies, handouts, and tax breaks that never seem to be enough to satisfy their greed. The party operatives had better have good answers when they go into the “minority communities” to sell their peculiar brand of “American enterprise.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, in releasing his new budget, has just rolled out the same old budget that would eliminate “entitlements,” such as Medicaid, reduce or eliminate Medicare, and sharply cut into Social Security benefits. He does this, as if he doesn’t know that people actually try to live on $600 a month from Social Security.

There is not so much as a hint that he or the rest of the Republicans would ever consider cutting back on the Pentagon budget or the other departmental budgets that hide even more money for the military and defense. During the presidential election last fall, Romney kept up a steady drumbeat of accusations that any cuts to the military and defense would make the U.S. vulnerable. To what, he never did explain. Most of the world is afraid of the U.S. and what it might do to them or their neighbors (they have the example of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their wars of choice). All of that money could have been spent on making Americans healthier, well housed, and educated.

What must be adding some urgency to the GOP thrashing about is another headline in the same paper, on the front page, on Monday: “Whites set to become minority.” It is not scheduled to happen until 2043, but it will happen and for the GOP, which has trouble drawing any minority votes, that could be the thing that will cause the party of old, white guys to wither away. That is, if it doesn’t happen sooner.

The RNC and Republicans, in general, know that something is wrong with their perspective on life and their political philosophy. It appears that the only Americans they can see are those with lots of money…millions or billions (preferably, the latter). These circumstances are going to force Republicans to do a very strange dance before the people, who they have to convince are being deprived of the necessities of life “for their own good.” Trouble is, they don’t want to change either their perspective or their political philosophy. They are the tools of Corporate America and the nation’s wealthy elite. They seem to believe that, even though they might have only a few million dollars, one day they could be filthy rich, as are their benefactors. And, they have convinced a large percentage of the American people that they, too, can become filthy rich.

That belief is like raising money for the state or city by building more casinos. How much money can be squeezed from the masses of people until there is no more for that one, last casino? The people should begin to get the message soon, that they are being played the fools, and no one likes that feeling. The GOP, however, has held out the carrot of vast wealth for the masses, while, at the same time, they have stirred up the passions with social and constitutional issues (abortion, gay marriage, privatizing everything, and scaring everyone into believing there is a terrorist under every bed). Until last fall’s election, they thought they had it nailed and that their plan was working.

They thought the high unemployment rate could be hung around the neck of Obama, but the people showed more intelligence than that. They know that it took two parties, beholden to the monied interests of the nation, over a long period of time for us to ship millions of our well-paying jobs to low-wage countries. But, the voters must have seen that the “party of no” is the worst offender, as they make no bones about protecting the wealth and power of corporations and the wealthy 1 percent.

If the GOP is actually going to go into minority communities to try to convince them that their lifelines are going to be cut “for the good of the nation and themselves,” they are going to need more than a measly $10 million, even if they plan to pay their political operatives the minimum wage, which they are likely to do. Or, they can call them “interns” and pay them the equivalent of $3 an hour as a “stipend.” Their $3-an-hour interns will have a great responsibility in explaining the GOP philosophy as put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan in his latest budget, which is just as destructive as the budget he put forth the last time. 

A $10 million project budget just won’t do. If they really want to convince the people that they are not out to reduce them to penury, they should come up with a thousand times that $10 million and put it to good use in those communities, for housing, schools, health care, and supermarkets that specialize in fresh foods.

The GOP does not have a public relations problem, as they seem to think. They have a real problem relating to the nation’s founding principles, as found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and their perversion of those principles is what has brought us to the danger point. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.