As throngs of fat, angry white people crowded Washington to heed the lunatic ravings of a pudgy, angry white guy who clearly didn't get beaten up enough in high school, and while John Boehner measures the drapes in the Speaker's office, recent polls reflect the prospect of Republican victory in the mid-terms. Republicans hope to take back their country and restore its honor. The question is: take it back from whom? And who is the "they" who have lost it? And what is this mythical time of "honor" to which we need to go back? The lackadaisical, pre-civil rights Eisenhower 50s? Or the Reagan 80s, when we charged ourselves into the illusion of prosperity? Still, you have to give credit where is due. These people do not quit.
From day one of this administration, the single goal of Republicans was to get back in power. Screw the mess they made of things. Screw any attempt by the administration to fix it. Like it was drugs they were being offered, they just said no and rode the obstructionist train to get back in power. And that meant tearing down a popular president. And by any means necessary. Democrats and other sane, reasonable people like to mock the Birthers, Deathers, Town Hall screamers, and Tea Partiers, as well as Congressional simps like Virginia Fox, Louis Gohmert, and Joe "You Lie!" Wilson. They're so dumb, they're amusing. Cartoonish. But there has been a definite method to all this madness. The strategy was to keep slinging mud. Take down a popular president by a thousand retarded cuts. It didn't matter how crazy. Obama's a Muslim! A Socialist! Fascist! Communist! He's killing grandma! He wasn't born here! He's not one of us! His policies are Un-American! He's ruining the country! Trampling on the Constitution! He's not even a Christian! What's the dog whistle message? Who's the "us" he's not one of? C'mon, it's not that tough to figure out. This is how you play the race card without playing the race card. But it isn't really about race. Race is just a convenient sidebar. This is about fear.
Somewhere Dick Armey is laughing himself sick. He's actually mobilized thousands of middle and lower middle class Americans to demonstrate, shout, scream, and carry misspelled signs to rallies with the goal of restoring to power the very corporate shills who screwed them in the first place. That is a stroke of PR genius. That's what's behind the smile skulking under Dick Armey's Stetson. And in classic Democratic fashion, they stood by and let it happen by allowing the opposition to control the message. They got swift-boated again. But, more importantly, they made a strategic blunder coming out of the gate.
Barack Obama was elected because the economy was crumbling. People were talking about a second great depression. And McCain was so rambling and incoherent, even the most hard-core Republicans looked at this crazy old man and his milfy night nurse and shuddered at the thought of turning the keys over to them. Better trust the young smart kid. And they did. But in great part because the Republicans self-destructed. We didn't have an epiphany that launched us into a post-racial America. We voted our economic self-interest. Fear, usually a Republican motivator, this time worked for the Democrats.
But upon taking office, this administration got too cool. They assumed the election was a mandate instead of a plea for help. And they went right for health care instead of making their primary focus from day one: jobs and the economy. Every single word out of their mouths should have been "We're fixing the mess Bush got us into. We're on it. We're putting America back to work." That message should have been simple, clear, and repeated daily: "The other folks broke it. We're fixing it. Recovery will be slow. It'll take time. But we're on it." Then, if jobs numbers were bad. If unemployment rose. If the market dipped. People would know, yeah, it's taking time. But we're getting through it together. And the president's on it.
They should have trumpeted every rise, every upturn, as turns of the wheel in a slow painful climb out of a Republican ditch. They should have mocked the shit out of every birther nut who crawled out from any rock, while painting themselves as the adults who are cleaning up the mess left by the kids. That single idea needed to be both the substance of their efforts, and the content of the message. It needed to be both reality, and optics.
And if and when that message was secure, and the economy did begin to turn around, even slowly, then the president would've had the good will of the American people, been untouchable by the lunatic fringe, and could've passed real health care reform, and real Wall Street reform. From a position of success, he could have dispensed with the dick armies in their flag shirts and dingle ball, tea bag hats as the silly people they are.
Republicans love crowing about the dangers of underestimating the American people. But there are also dangers in over-estimating them. Even if health care was an economic issue, the truth is, as a nation, it's not a subtlety we're in the mood for. Americans don't want theory. Americans want jobs. We're not a nation of economists. We're a nation of workers. Give us a job, we're happy. As a voting nation, we're not that deep. We fall for most any silly shit if it's repeated often enough and put in simple enough terms. And has a sidebar of fear. Like when the government wants to go to war. They flash pictures of some Satanic, mustachioed thug, wave a flag, talk about God and freedom, give the war a jazzy name like Operation Kick-Ass, put up a tough-looking square-jawed general as the point man, and we're off. And if doubt rears its ugly head, they put out a news story showing a soldier on leave sneaking into his kid's classroom for a surprise reunion and some tearful hugs. We choke up at this stuff and forget to question whether it was worth it to send the guy overseas in the first place. It's the ultimate misdirection and we eat it up with a fucking spoon. The same way we've bought that what's really ruining this country is illegal aliens, welfare fraud, and the gays being allowed to get married.
The president needed to be FDR, calming nerves in a time of national crisis. Now he's in danger of becoming the second coming of Jimmy Carter, at the hands of goons like Palin, Angle, Bachmann, and Joe Miller, Palin's greaseball protégé in Alaska, who claims that God is funding his campaign. They've actually managed to convince people that intelligence and reason are not the answer, and that we need a return to lead-footed, bone-headed meanness and stupidity. And the head of this revolutionary movement? Its spiritual and intellectual leader? Beckles the Clown. A man who proves there's an extra "m" in Mormon.
So, here we are with a sputtering economy, and like a battered wife who goes back to her abusive husband because maybe this time he'll be different, the country seems poised to turn Congress back to the Republicans. While the Democrats simply stand by, accepting their role as the mother-in-law who doesn't want to interfere. They're so off message they can't even seem to find the message on which to get. But despite the midterm results, however hideous, there is time to get on message. But the message has to be simple. And clear:
Republicans broke the economy. They turned a budget surplus into a deficit. They pissed away a Trillion dollars on an unnecessary war. They de-regulated Wall Street and let them screw us. They de-regulated oil companies and let them screw us. But we're fixing it. Recovery is going to be slow and painful. But we're headed in the right direction. Put Republicans back in power, and they will resume screwing us all in ways we can't even imagine. Tax cuts for the rich. Program cuts for the poor. And fuck-all for the middle class.
There's still time to turn Obama into FDR. But right now the only thing Democrats have to fear is not using fear itself.