Republican Right Embraces Its Long, Hypocritical Tradition of Pandering to Fear
They’re back. Like the fourth sequel to a bad horror movie, the Republican Right has once again chosen to embrace its long ignoble, hypocritical tradition of pandering to – and stoking -- fear.
As the election nears, their ads are filled with images of ISIL terrorists, Ebola viruses, Secret Service breaches, and “porous” borders through which knife-wielding Muslim extremists are surely infiltrating every corner of our society.
It’s not just disgusting. It’s also hypocritical. The fact is that the Republicans have an abysmal record when it comes to defending the security of ordinary Americans.
Last week, the New York Times reported that:
Darkness is enveloping Americans politics.
With four weeks to go before the midterm elections, Republicans have made questions of how safe we are – from disease, terrorism or something unspoken and perhaps more ominous – central in their attacks against Democrats. Their message is decidedly grim: President Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm.
But this is nothing new. Right-wing demagogues have perfected their techniques for appealing to our darkest fears for decades. It’s embedded in their DNA.
Who can forget Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s who fomented the “red scare” and claimed to “have in his hand a list of Communists” who had infiltrated the government -- of General Dwight Eisenhower. McCarthy and his followers cowed many in politics, government, and entertainment with charges that they were “un-American” for years before his tactics so sickened the country that the term “McCarthyism” is now used to denote “ the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence”.
Then there was Sarah Palin, who fabricated the fictitious “death panels” of the Affordable Care Act.
Even the genial George H.W. Bush won election by stooping to the racist demagoguery of the infamous “Willie Horton” commercial.
Last summer, you would have thought that there was an enemy army at our southern border – not 10-year-old refugees from violence in Central America.
And earlier this month, Congressman Duncan Hunter “revealed” that his secret sources had tipped him off that ten ISIL terrorists had been apprehended at the border trying to infiltrate the United States. Turns out that, according to the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol, Hunter’s charge was sheer fabrication based on no evidence whatsoever.
But the thing that really makes this kind of fear mongering so outrageous is the fact that Republicans themselves have such a horrific record keeping Americans safe and secure.
Let us recall that the worst attack on our homeland in American history -- 9/11 -- occurred after the Bush Administration had ignored warnings that Osama Bin Laden was planning an attack. That attack did not happen under Bill Clinton or Barack Obama – it happened under Mr. “War on Terror” George W. Bush.
And let’s also recall that for all his bravado following the attack, the Bush administration failed to apprehend Osama Ben Laden. Barack Obama did.
Of course it was the Bush Administration that kicked over the sectarian hornet’s nest in Iraq in the first place, with a completely unnecessary war that was bungled so badly that it created a Sunni power vacuum and created the conditions for the development of ISIL.
And the Iraq War was, itself, the product of precisely the same kind of Republican fear mongering we see today. It was, after all, Saddam Hussein’s non-existent nuclear program that the war was ostensibly launched to destroy.
Remember Condoleezza Rice’s famous line: “But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”?
Republican advertisements try to sow insecurity with their disturbing images of Ebola viruses and the fear of an American epidemic. But they don’t mention that it was the GOP that has slashed funding for the Centers for Disease Control – the first line of defense against Ebola and other viral threats to the United States.
And in real dollars, Republican budget cutting has also slashed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 23% over the last decade. In fact the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins says that if the agency had not gone through a 10-year slide in research support a vaccine for Ebola would be ready today.
The GOP has made much of recent Secret Service security breaches at the White House –without ever noting that their sequester has starved the Secret Service of needed personnel.
The most disgusting GOP ads this cycle are probably the ones that whip up fear of immigrants flooding into America and bringing with them diseases and embedded ISIL terrorists. These amazing ads take all of the ingredients of Republican fear mongering and conflate them into an inflammatory cocktail of fictitious boogeymen. They are all aimed at playing upon the legitimate economic anxiety of ordinary Americans and convincing them that Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are endangering their safety and security.
And, of course, they completely ignore that by every measure the borders of the United States are massively more secure today than they were during the Bush Administration.
If you broaden the lens to focus on that underlying economic insecurity, the Republican record gets even worse. It was Republican George W. Bush whose economic policies led to the most catastrophic meltdown of the economy in half a century. When Barack Obama became President the economy was bleeding 800,000 jobs a month. Obama’s stimulus policies, on the other hand, have led to the longest sustained period of private sector jobs growth (55 months) in modern history.
Most middle class Americans – and those aspiring to be middle class – wouldn’t have a clue from their personal lives that America is in fact wealthier per person today than at any other time in history. That’s because those Republican economic and tax policies allowed the top 1% of CEO’s and Wall Street bankers to siphon off virtually all of the economic growth America has experienced over the last 30 years and left the middle class with stagnating incomes.
The GOP has consistently opposed changing the Bush era tax policies that greatly contributed to the ever-greater concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. And they have fought tooth and nail to stop popular Democratic proposals that would improve the economic security of the middle class and prevent the continued concentration of wealth – like raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, continued unemployment benefits, asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, and lightening the burden of student loans.
Then there’s retirement security. The Republican’s failed plan to privatize Social Security would have eliminated the Social Security guarantee and forced middle class families to rely on the ups and downs of the stock market for their retirement prospects. If your idea of retirement security is a Las Vegas roulette wheel, the GOP is the party for you.
And now they have tried the same thing with Medicare – with a wildly unpopular plan to replace the Medicare guarantee with vouchers for private insurance that would raise out of pocket costs for seniors by several thousand dollars a year. And the Republicans say they are concerned with our “security”?
Let’s not forget Republican fear mongering about the budget deficit. Throughout the Obama Presidency, GOP-Tea Party politicians have inveighed against an “exploding deficit” that would surely turn America into an economic basket case. America will go the way of Greece, they claimed.
All of this deficit handwringing has been intended to promote austerity policies intended to allow them to shrink government down so it can be “drowned in a bathtub.” Never mind that those austerity policies have been a disaster in Europe where they have actually been tried.
But once again the GOP has not stopped at fear mongering. Its deficit hypocrisy has been nothing short of breath taking. The truth of the matter is that it was the Bush-Cheney regime that left the nation with ballooning deficits as a result of their tax cuts for the rich and spending on the Iraq War. During the Bush years, Cheney was quoted as saying “deficits don‘t matter.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that as they left office the federal deficit hit a whopping 9.8% of Gross Domestic Product.
And, the Obama stimulus policies that Republicans claimed would explode the deficit have actually shrunk the deficit by over half. It is now anticipated to be only 2.8% of GDP in 2014 -- lower than its average for the last 40 years of 3.1%.
It’s no surprise given this record that the GOP has resorted to fear mongering and demagoguery so often in its history. When you really just represent the interests of the top one or two percent of the population – of the Corporate CEO’s and Wall Street Bankers – it’s hard to convince ordinary Americans that they should entrust you with the leadership of their country unless you can distract them with fear. The GOP offers fear because it cannot offer hope.
Republicans have a horrible record of securing the nation against physical danger and against economic disaster, so to compensate they bluster on and on about the “security and safety” of the American people.
They’re like the sanctimonious televangelist who rails on and on against fornication and ends up getting caught in bed with an underage hooker.
And in the end, history will deal with the demagoguery of Right Wing Republicans like Ted Cruz the same way it dealt with demagoguery of Joe McCarthy. If he’s “lucky” maybe future generations will even label all acts of demagogic, hypocritical fear mongering as “Cruzism”.