For as long as I can remember, Democrats have been portrayed as pussies. And by allowing themselves to be portrayed as such, they’ve proven that depiction to be accurate. If most liberals think that Republicans are evil, greedy, small-minded, war-mongering zealots, then most conservatives think that Democrats are spineless, effete academics, unable to stand up for what they believe.
And I can’t stand here and argue that either perception is incorrect.
The last three decades of politics have shown that our most-ingrained stereotypes only touch the tip of the iceberg. When Democrats have been in charge of Congress, they’ve allowed the minority party to bully them through fear and arcane procedural tactics, and have passed legislation that can best be described as severely compromised — when they’ve passed legislation at all. When Republicans have been in charge, they’ve run roughshod over the cowering Democrats, and passed legislation that can best be described as the closest thing a democracy has come to legalizing pure evil.
Time and time again, Democrats have backed down from winnable fights for fear of losing elections, or fear of public opinion, or fear of their own damn shadows. Ineffectual “leaders” like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, George Mitchell and Tom Daschle have made a new art form of getting down on all fours and presenting themselves to their Republican masters like submissive animals.
Now, with Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, Republicans have presented the Dems with a golden opportunity to reverse years of backing down, running away and shrieking with cowardice. And if the Democrats somehow fuck this up — then abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
In a recent tweet, Nate Silver linked to a poll which shows that likely voters favor the Ryan budget 48/33 when asked — until they’re told what’s actually in the budget. Then, these same voters oppose it 56/36.
This discrepancy speaks to a perception problem that Democrats have had since the days of Jimmy Carter. For whatever reason, this party has severe difficulty communicating facts and positions to the voting public. This isn’t to say that Democrats have always had a problem communicating message: both the ’92 Clinton campaign and the ’08 Obama campaign did wonderful jobs coalescing a simple, effective message. But the party at large has a large education gap between what it wants the public to know and what the public actually knows.
Part of this can be blamed on the stupidity, ignorance and lack of curiosity on the part of Americans. Sorry, but it’s true. We live in a willfully, aggressively, proudly dumb country. 50 percent of Iowa Republicans believe Barack Obama was born outside the United States. Half of Americans believe Christianity is older than Judaism. We elected George W. Bush twice for God’s sake. (Kind of.) And those people that Jay Leno interviews on the street are such idiots, am I right?
The best part is that we’re not only stupid, we’re distrustful and resentful of intelligence and education. Politicians who use words with more than two syllables are branded as elitist know-it-alls who are out of touch with common Americans. In elections, experience and qualifications matter far less than physical appearance and folksiness. Remember how Joe Biden had to dumb himself down in his debate with Sarah Palin — he couldn’t allow himself to appear much smarter than her for fear of seeming like an intellectual bully.
Not only are we morons, we’re easily influenced. We’re susceptible to propaganda, marketing and persuasion of all kinds. Which means that the party that best controls the media will usually come out on top. And despite the zombie-like myth of the liberal media, corporate control and cutbacks in investigative journalism has long assured that mainstream media is sympathetic to conservative messaging. Democrats have been unable and unwilling in recent years to publicize key facts that would support their positions and expose Republican chicanery.
Part of the problem is that Democrats live in fear of being labeled negative campaigners. Attack ads have gotten a bad rap over the years. Political ads condemning the opposition don’t necessarily have to be black-and-white commercials with scary music and unflattering photographs of the candidate in question. They can simply state the truth, or at least the truth as the party producing the ads understands it.
Which brings us back to the Ryan budget. The proposal includes many cuts long deemed to be political poison. Ryan’s plan slashes Medicare and Medicaid while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans (because trickle-down worked so well in the ’80s), meaning that whatever cost savings he’s accruing by jeopardizing access to health care for the poor and old, he’s giving back by letting rich people keep more of their “hard-earned” money. It’s the anti-New Deal.
It’s the kind of proposal that could be destructive to the Republican majority — if Democrats can somehow get the public to see through Ryan’s propaganda. This budget should be used as a hammer to unseat every representative from a swing state who voted for it. Many of the economic claims that support the Ryan plan have already been debunked — but can Democrats get the word out, and in language that voters can understand? Paul Ryan and the conservative powers that be have given the Democrats the 2012 election on a silver platter. And I have absolutely no faith that the Democrats have the courage or the wherewithal to take advantage.
And if they fail…
Hey, David Simon Cowell, got a spare bedroom in Ecuador? (Actually, considering cost of living, I’m assuming you have a spare bedroom for me, one for my wife, one for my baseball card collection, and one for my ant farm.)