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Republicans' Biggest Fear: Proof That Government Spending Works, Destroying Their Brand

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The president and the punditry seem perplexed that Republicans vote against their own proposals. The president in particular seems to believe that in a choice between voting for their constituents and exposing their hypocrisy, the Republicans will, in the end, vote for their districts.

That is wrong. Much more importantly, however, it "misunderestimates" Republicans' devotion to their economic belief system, the alternative reality they constructed to maintain it, and the political, psychological and financial stakes they have invested in it.

When he fashions his jobs bill, therefore, President Obama should eschew calculations of what Republicans might support. They will not support anything, no matter how illogical or hypocritical that opposition may seem.

After all, if job-creating government spending works, it will constitute a real-life refutation of the economic mythology by which Republicans define themselves. It would be as if the early 17th-century pope peered through a telescope, recognized that the Earth indeed orbited the Sun, and freed Galileo of house arrest.

As much as the right wing hates President Obama and the prospect of his re-election, they know that with 41 votes in the Senate, they can block almost everything he, and the Democrats, want to do. They have already done it.

So, while Republicans are very willing to tank the economy to reduce the president's reelection chances, they know that if he wins, all they will have to do is bide their time for another four years, blocking Obama's nominees, blocking Obama's domestic policies, taking the country to the brink time and time again to extract concessions for their paymasters.

An Obama reelection victory will, for them, be unfortunate, but only a four-year blip on their road to absolute power. Indeed, Limbaugh and Hannity will likely do better with Obama around as their foil than if someone like Rick Perry entered the White House and suddenly had to take responsibility for the havoc he would wreak on the country.

But, if major job-creating legislation is passed, and millions of jobs are indeed created, the right-wing economic catechism that government spending and counter-cyclical deficit spending do not work, carefully perpetuated by four decades of lies and distortions, and promulgated by the investment of billions of dollars to erect an alternative reality, will be vanquished.

So, while the president is correct that government spending on transportation projects has always been non-partisan -- even Sarah Palin was for the "bridge to nowhere" funds before she was against it -- and while Rachel Maddow and Steve Benen cleverly suggest that the president take all Republican spending requests (minus the non-productive ones) and fund them as a way to get Republican votes on an infrastructure bill, Republicans will vote against their own proposals when the nexus between that spending, reduced unemployment and economic growth would be clear and unambiguous.

That is another reason the president must be bold, clear and simple. A laundry list of 10 measures that each contribute a bit indirectly will not only not work, it will so disappoint the middle class that no great pressure will be exerted, and Washington will work as it usually does (i.e., not at all). Anti-government Republicans, and Republican anti-government mythology, benefit when government does not work, even if they are the cause of failure.

Instead, the president must provide the middle class a plan that excites them, to be able to see clearly that 4 to 5 million jobs will be created within the next year, so that there will be a 2-million-person march on Washington, demanding that Congress act.

It does not really matter what additional items he includes in his actual submission to Congress. His speech should focus entirely on what he will propose to guarantee (not incentivize, but guarantee) 4 to 5 million jobs, with specifics, and how it will be financed. Without those elements, the plan's virtues will be lost in a cacophony of criticism and convoluted explanations.

The president must provide a well-conceived plan like that, present it clearly to the American people, refrain from giving a laundry list, and invite the American people to Washington to show their support.

If the American people have no doubt that the plan will achieve those goals, the country will erupt with strong support. Two million people will march on Washington. For once, Democrats and the middle class will control the agenda for several months. At that point, Republican members of Congress will have to decide whether they want to risk losing the House and Senate as well as the presidency.

Then, and only then, might the plan pass, now. Short of that, Republicans are not going to sacrifice their sacred belief system and alternative reality just to escape exposing their hypocrisy.

Avoiding heresy always trumps avoiding hypocrisy. The penalties for the former are more certain, swift and lasting.

A political strategy that does not incorporate this understanding will fail.

The American people cannot afford that failure.

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