Kathy Hochul's remarkable upset victory in the special election in New York's 26th district has been variously described as "stunning," "odds defying," "something of a miracle" and bound to send "shockwaves through Congress." Personally, I think that's all understating things a bit.
With 30,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, New York's 26th district is normally the most heavily Republican leaning district in the state, and the 165th most Republican district in the country. In the last 100 years the district has only sent two Democrats to Congress. In the 2010 election cycle, the Republican candidate (Christopher Lee) defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of more than 50 percentage points. And a Democrat just won! And she won with a comfortable margin despite being heavily outspent and despite a slew of misleading Republican ads. Let's call this victory what it really is: democracy in action.
But perhaps an even more remarkable thing emerging from this special election is the Republicans' obdurate insistence on blaming "radical scare tactics employed by the Democrats" for their stunning loss.
Well, voters and seniors in particular were scared all right. But it is quite clear that what has really scared them is a clear understanding of what the GOP/Paul Ryan Medicare plan would mean to them.
According to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Paul Ryan Medicare voucher plan would mean that everyone 55 or younger today, would end up paying about $6,400 more per year upon retirement, to be covered by Medicare. Burdening all those 55 and under with this kind of huge increase in Medicare costs would have the same effect as a massive tax increase.
And it probably did not escape the voters' attention even as the Republicans in the House were voting to burden seniors with huge Medicare cost increases, Republicans in the Senate insisted on keeping in place huge tax breaks for big oil. There is a real disconnect here. The GOP's problem is not with what people may have heard in Democratic ads. The GOP's problem is that they themselves are simply not listening to people's real concerns.
A recent poll showed that 72 percent of Americans said that Medicare is "extremely important" or "very important" to their financial security while another poll showed that a wide majority of likely voters (64 percent) favored eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. Republican policy has been totally at odds with American values.
And it is beyond ironic that after years of grossly misleading Republican TV ads about "death panels," "government takeovers" and other nonsense, the Republicans are now complaining about a Democratic candidate who simply tells the truth.
One can't help but recall that great response from President Harry Truman. After someone called out to him, "give 'em hell, Harry," the president responded simply: "I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell." Though it may seem like some sort of special election hell to the GOP right now, it's actually just the truth, come home to roost.
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