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McCain-Palin's Phony Love Affair With Main Street

11/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Every four years the Republicans put on a show to spin Middle America into believing that the Grand Old Party is the champion of Joe-the-Plumber, Joe-Six-Pack, and other salt-of-the-earth folks out there. They elbow them under their "big tent" for the nominating convention with a wink (what else?) and a nod and then spend four years short-changing them to the advantage of those they truly hold dear--overprivileged financiers, industrialists, corporate elites. Democrats have consistently supported legislation benefiting street level citizens; Republicans have opposed that legislation or given tepid support. For progressives, that's an obvious description; for some others, it's a highly dubious one. Let's see how the evidence pins this down.

Republicans voted in the Senate against establishing Medicare in 1965 and split about evenly in the House. This crucial national program to provide health insurance for older Americans has been a thorn in the GOP's side. President Reagan declared it an assault on freedom, and other Republican leaders have shown their displeasure by wishing it to "wither on the vine" (Speaker Gingrich) and viewing it as "no part of the free world" (Majority Leader Armey).

Democrats under FDR proposed and overwhelmingly approved the original Social Security Act of 1935 to help retired citizens survive old age. Republicans went along cautiously. Many now want to privatize the program by allowing insurees to invest their assets in the stock market (social security?). They consistently denounce other safety net programs as "wasteful spending" or "handouts." These programs sustain Main Streeters in trouble due to unemployment, health problems, bankruptcy, mental illness, housing crises, and other complications of bad luck or personal insufficiency.

The Republicans have always opposed regulation of business that protects the "little people" against greed-ridden and corrupt practices of insatiable corporate elites. The GOP vehemently fought against New Deal regulations to monitor commerce, safeguards responding to abuses that triggered the 1929 crash--and now the 2008 meltdown. It has had a long and unswerving record of deregulating measures meant to check the avarice of Wall Street and industry. Republicans constantly contrast pernicious actions of government (with the prefix "big"), that purportedly strangle business, with the lofty free market concept that grandly bestows freedom and prosperity on everybody (today's frantic news flashes notwithstanding.)

Republicans have consistently tried to defeat fair tax policies that lighten the load on Main Street and shift a larger part of the load to our wealthiest citizens. This they decry as socialist-contaminated income redistribution and label "class warfare." Republicans have no parallel tag for tax loopholes that favor the well-heeled, or corporate welfare rip-offs that line their pockets.

Republicans have been traditionally against laws that help working people form unions and gain rights to bargain with their industrial overseers. Collective bargaining gives workers a tool to earn a greater share of the profits that accrue from their combined labor. Many Republicans see this system for rebalancing company financial gains as another form of class warfare. For this reason they have been working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) now moving through Congress and a top priority of the nation's trade unions. The law wants to make it easier for unions to carry out organizing drives and increase their membership. McCain says thumbs down and has pushed a "Right-To-Work for Less" law. You read that right! Most workers aren't ecstatic about making less for their labor, an affront to the dignity of work and to the pocketbook of workers.

The list is long and could go on for pages.

Republicans historically have been the Party that delivers favors to the millionaires' club, bucking the initiatives of a Democratic Party that has historically looked out for the Main Street crowd. It's not a perfect two-way divide, but that's the way it breaks. As the Bush regime closes out, public policies have enabled the top one percent of Americans to possess 40 to 50 percent of the nation's wealth--an astounding figure that by now has lost its capacity to shock. Despite these realities, in election after election the GOP has been able to magically hoodwink Middle America into believing that it is its friend and benefactor.

Realize, McCain has been a Republican without pause throughout his 26-year political career. He and Palin are running as Republican stalwarts and are solidly embedded in the Republican infrastructure of politics and governance. Is there any reason in the world for a sane person to believe that these self-congratulating mavericks will overturn the Republican Party's long-standing commitment to their overprivileged cronies at the top and transform the whole Party apparatus in January into machinery that promotes the deep interests of struggling Main Streeters at the middle and bottom?

That's darn unlikely to happen. You betcha. My friends.