I can save you a lot of time tonight, when the President will deliver his State of the Union Address. The entire affair is completely predictable.
First, the President will tell us that the State of the Union is strong. He will then go on to address its points of weakness: jobs, immigration, education, voting, and guns. He will offer practical strategies for addressing all of these, and he will go out of his way to do so in a manner that studiously avoids offending anyone.
Next, the GOP will tell us that the President is a socialist who represents the worst of “big government” intrusion into our private lives. His economic plan will hurt small businesses. His immigration policy amounts to nothing more than a free ride for illegals on the backs of hard-working Americans. He’s taken God out of the classroom – which explains both poor test scores and school shootings. He’s coming to take your guns away and his wife wants to outlaw corn syrup.
Then they will go home to their districts, where they will proceed to manipulate the democratic process to a state of near-inversion wherein one man has $1 billion votes and most of us have none. Their gerrymandering at the state level will give sparsely populated white Republican districts each their very own representative, while starving the more densely populated urban districts down to just a few. They will change the way their states vote to eliminate the possibility of Democratic victory.
They will continue their prodding – literally – of women along The Handmaid’s Tale path toward losing all reproductive autonomy. They will work to overturn Roe v. Wade, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, to revive Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to constitutionally prohibit gay marriage. They will scale the clock tower and turn the hands of time back at least half a century, and they will do it all while proclaiming themselves to be “the party of small government.”
An unwilling coalition of Ayn Rand capitalists and Christian fundamentalists, they are the New Theocracy. The only thing small about them is their minds.
Republicans appear to be mastering the art of turning back the clock. State by state, they are generating a great wave of anti-union legislation that is being met with apathy and ignorance by most Americans. I’m not sure what to do about the apathy, except to address the ignorance.
If you watch MSNBC, then you know that the reason for the Republican attack against unions is purely political: they are out to disable the funding machine of the Democratic party. Since the GOP tends to represent the interests of the business community, most of their money these days comes from titans like Sheldon Adelson. That one man almost succeeded in buying a Presidential election – talk about an American success story! The Democrats, on the other hand, tend to bat for the middle class which, by definition, has no money to give them. That’s because they work for a living. The only place you can reliably find them doling out cash is to their labor unions, who then forward it to the Democrats. Kill the unions, kill the Democrats’ funding.
That’s exactly what these so-called “right to work” laws do: The legislation is written specifically to outlaw compulsory union dues. So you can join a union and enjoy its protections without shelling out a dime. It’s a pillow over the face of the Democratic party.
The unions themselves will have a difficult time surviving this. No one outside their membership appears to care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2011 shows that only 11.8% of American workers belong to a labor union. That leaves the great majority of us uninformed about their importance and perhaps resentful of their influence. So these laws get passed and we either don’t pay attention or figure they’re justified. Our ignorance is shameful.
Last night we had a dinner conversation with our teenager. You can go to the mall, we said, and get a lot of stuff for a little money. But none of it is made in the US. It’s made in China or Indonesia or someplace where the labor is cheap. Those are jobs that could be here in America but if they were, everything would be more expensive. Labor is cheaper overseas because the people work in terrible conditions with virtually no rights for almost no money, while the companies pollute the local environments because they’re not subject to American regulations.
How can they do that to people? A good question, we said. It’s because they don’t have the history that we do. They never had a labor union movement to stand up for and defend workers’ rights. It used to be like that here, too.
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Like so many American families, we had house guests for the Thanksgiving holiday. I love them dearly and apologize up front if this comes off poorly, but I cannot resist sharing the lesson learned.
X and I have known each other for thirty years. We grew up together, grew apart, and then reconnected. Our childhoods spent in NY, X wound up in New Hampshire while I moved out to the West coast.
During the visit I was horrified to learn – although I had suspected it already – that X had voted for Romney. I’ve had trouble understanding how anyone could be snowed by him, but there X was, someone I respect, hating on Obama. Sure, X had voted for him the last time but had seen things go from bad to worse in New Hampshire since then. I asked why Obama was to blame.
Me: So what does Obama have to do with what’s going in in New Hampshire?
X: It’s the kids. They’re all very upset about what he’s done with education.
Me: What’s he done?
X: The student loans are incredible. It’s so expensive, it’s unbelievable. You can’t even afford to think about it.
Me: What does that have to do with him?
X: He cut the funding, didn’t he?
Me: No. The federal government doesn’t fund colleges; they help provide student loans. Almost all of the funding for education comes from the states. That’s the Constitution; education is left totally to the states. The federal government had almost nothing to do with it until Bush gave us No Child Left Behind. Colleges are funded privately or by the state.
X: So why is there no money?
Me: It’s your state. It’s got nothing to do with Obama. Do you pay state taxes in New Hampshire?
X: My property taxes are off the wall.
Me: Granted. But you pay no state income or sales taxes, right?
Me: So where is the money going to come from? How is the state going to fund education if they have no income?
X: Then where does all that tax money go?
Me: Infrastructure. Administration. Roads and bridges. The DMV.
X: Well, I don’t pay attention to politics anyway.
Me: I get that now.
And I love you anyway.
Well, Mr. President, you did it. Much to the surprise of your opponent and his backing billionaires, you triumphed. So now that your second term is secured, I’d like to speak to you on behalf of your liberal voters.
Many of us who voted for you the first time did so with the knowledge that your actions would be constrained by the requirements of your seeking re-election. In other words, we knew better than to expect big things from you during your first term. We figured the payoff would come during the second.
Needless to say, you accomplished a hell of a lot anyway, especially considering the fact of complete Congressional obstruction; for that we are grateful. Now, however, is the time for a change in strategy.
We have seen you reach your hand “across the aisle” to achieve bipartisan consensus, only to have it spat upon by opponents who despise you more than they actually disagree with you. We have seen you embrace their ideas, contrary to the desires of your base, only to have them disavowed by their proponents. We have seen you give ground at the beginning of negotiations, fully expectant of reciprocal concessions which were never forthcoming. It’s time to stop trying to meet them in the middle, because they are far to distant from it.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that the Republicans are suddenly going to become cooperative. They will never do anything that threatens to make you look good. They hate you.
We know that you are a good man in a difficult time who is sincerely doing his best to do right by his country. We know that your are playing what has always been a white man’s game and are amazed at and proud of your ascent. You make us proud of our country. You more than make up for the embarrassment caused us by your predecessor.
Sir, we require no more convincing. We know that you tried, we know that your opposition is intractable, and now we just want you to go back there and haul out President Badass. It’s time to start dominating.