The Republican Leadership may be doing just fine with the Wall Street crowd and extremists who oppose birth control, but for the majority of ordinary Americans its actions over the last several weeks have rapidly begun to seal its fate as a minority party.
First, let’s start with the fact that the Republican Party is – at this very moment – a distinctly minority party in American politics.
The Gallup poll reports that the number of Americans identifying as Republicans has fallen to its lowest level in the quarter century it has been tracking the number: 25%.
Republicans lost the last Presidential popular election by almost five million votes.
The FEC reports that combining the total number of votes cast by Americans for President, House and Senate in 2012, Americans voted for the GOP 158,605,000 times and for the Democrats 176,167,000 times. In other words they cast over 17 million more Democratic votes than Republican votes in 2012.
And even though Republican gerrymandering allowed the party to maintain control of the House by a slim margin, 1.17 million more votes were cast for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans.
Right now, GOP hopes for victories do not rest on their ability to appeal democratically to the majority of voters. They hinge entirely on successful gerrymandering and voter suppression policies that reduce the turnout of ordinary Americans. That means their hopes for political success in the future rest on very, very thin ice. And – amazingly -- they seem to be doing everything they can to make the ice that separates them from complete political marginality thinner and thinner.
For instance, last week the House voted to authorize its leaders to sue President Obama for “exceeding his executive authority” – even though he has issued fewer executive orders than most recent Presidents from either party.
Polling shows that most Americans think the lawsuit is a political stunt that will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars – and many believe it is a first step toward attempts by House extremists to impeach the President.
Polling also shows that the issue of the lawsuit simultaneously convinces swing voters to support Democrats and fires up Democratic base voters. And it allows President Obama – who has leaned into the GOP lawsuit – to say, correctly, that the GOP is suing him for doing his job helping ordinary Americans, while the GOP leadership has prevented votes on scores of bills that would benefit ordinary people and would pass if they were allowed to come to the floor.
That includes the minimum wage bill that would immediately benefit 28 million ordinary Americans and would indirectly benefit millions more by putting money in people’s pockets to spend on goods and services sold and produced by other workers and businesses across the country. Polling shows that over 70% of Americans agree that America should increase the minimum wage and over 80% agree that no one who works full-time should live in poverty. No matter, the GOP leadership won’t bring the bill to the floor – because if it did the bill would pass.
Recently my wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and I joined other Democrats taking the “Minimum Wage Challenge” to call attention to how difficult it is to live on today’s minimum wage. We worked very hard at trying to live on the $77 per week of discretionary income that the average minimum wage worker has to buy groceries, transportation, gas, pet food, entertainment, clothing, cleaning, etc. We still went over by about $5.
The “Minimum Wage Challenge” makes it really clear how little workers take home who work hard flipping burgers, cleaning hotel rooms, or bussing tables. Some small examples: One trip a day to Starbucks costing $3.25 per visit – that many people take for granted -- would gobble up $22.75 or 30% of that $77. A five-dollar meal at Subway each day would consume $35 or almost half of the $77. The fare on the DC metro five times a week, eats up almost a third of the $77 just trying to get to and from work at the minimum wage job.
And to those in the Republican Party and corporate community who claim the minimum wage is adequate, I say: take the “Minimum Wage Challenge” yourself – see what you think after a week.
Of course the minimum wage is just one of a series of popular measures that the GOP leadership refuses to consider – including extending unemployment payments for the long-term unemployed – many of whom have worked all of their lives, paid their taxes, and now have been kicked by the GOP to the side of the road.
On the other hand the GOP was right there, passing extensions of tax breaks for Big Business.
The fact that the GOP leadership does the bidding of Wall Street does not go unnoticed by the voters. Neither does the fact that they would rather engage in costly political stunts like suing the President instead of dealing with bread and butter issues of concern to working families.
Most everyday Americans haven’t seen meaningful increases in their average wages in 30 years, even though productivity per person and gross domestic product per person have gone up over 80%. The GOP has addressed this fact by claiming – incorrectly – that the problem is caused by huge “welfare” payments to people who don’t work. But, as willing as some people are to accept that myth – even those who do are increasingly aware that the real culprits are the extravagantly paid CEO’s and gang on Wall Street. And pretty much every ordinary working American believes that the rules of the game have been rigged against them and in favor of the 1%.
Everyday that the GOP fails even to consider increasing the minimum wage – which obviously benefits only working people -- they are further marginalized in the minds of ordinary Americans.
African Americans – who comprise 13% of ordinary Americans -- respond to the GOP lawsuit, the threats of impeachment, and years of outrageous disrespect for the first African American President, to be disrespectful attacks on the entire African American community.
And then there is the way the GOP moved last week to marginalize themselves with Hispanic voters. Today Hispanics represent 16% of ordinary Americans. By 2050 they will represent 30%. No matter. Not only did the House GOP leadership refuse to bring a popular immigration reform measure to a vote that was passed by a large bi-partisan majority in the Senate. But last Friday, the Republicans also passed a bill to eliminate the Dreamer program that was established by the President to defer the deportation of children brought to America as minors who have known no other country except the USA.
If anyone had remained unconvinced that was true, the vote on the Dreamer program sealed the deal. To find something to address the children border crisis that would pass with the support of their caucus, the GOP leadership had to keep making their bill meaner and meaner until they satisfied their most extremist members.
It is likely that this vote will be a watershed moment similar to former GOP California Governor Pete Wilson’s support of Prop 187 in the 1990’s that turned formerly purple California into a bright blue state. Between 1960 and 1988 California voted for the Republican Presidential nominee in six of seven elections. It has voted Democratic in every Presidential election since 1992.
Together, Hispanics and African Americans currently comprise almost 30% of the population of the United States. With every passing vote the GOP demonstrates over and over again that it has completely written them off.
If you add women – particularly single women -- the GOP math gets downright bleak. But that’s what you get when you nominate candidates like Congressman Corey Gardner who is running for Senate in Colorado -- who opposes birth control --not just abortion rights—birth control. Remember, 98% of all women in American will use birth control at some time in their lives. That’s what you get when you oppose equal pay for equal work. That’s what you get when you discount the concerns of millions of moms for the safety of their kids by blocking the popular bill to require background checks for all gun purchasers.
And as its leadership makes the GOP more and more the party of Wall Street instead of working families, regular white working men increasingly realize that GOP candidates are simply out of touch with ordinary people and are not on their side, either.
Take for example the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, an almost-billionaire who made $53 million in 2012. He made $25,000 an hour, but was so out of touch with ordinary working people that he called for a reduction in the state minimum wage from $8.25 to $7.25 right after he got into the race.
What should the Progressive response be to the increasing marginalization of the GOP from the mainstream of ordinary Americans? Simple. We need to keep standing up straight for progressive values because they are, in fact, American values.
Progressives and Democrats represent the aspirations of the vast majority of ordinary working families, instead of the interests of Wall Street bankers. Progressive positions on immigration, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, student loans and college affordability, women’s right to control their reproductive decisions, equal pay for equal work, gun violence – virtually every issue – are embraced by super majorities of the American electorate.
And the social base of the extremists who have taken the helm at the Republican Party represents a smaller and smaller percentage of the American population every passing year.
You can’t build your future as a party on the thin ice of gerrymandering and voter suppression forever in a society where everyone has the right to vote. In the end you have to convince the majority of Americans that your party embodies their interests and their hopes or you will lose.
Of course Progressives can’t take anything for granted. And we can’t wait forever. After all, in the “long run” we are all dead.
But if we keep up the battle -- if we overcome the setbacks -- the future is ours to win. Or to put it another way, the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice – but we have to provide the hands that make it so.
You can follow Robert Creamer on Twitter @rbcreamer.
You can follow Robert Creamer on Twitter @rbcreamer.