“Populist Republicans”: Forget about families & helping communities through financial hardship…
Perhaps the voters won’t be so forbearing moving forward…
Over the weekend, as the American Rescue Act successfully garnered enough votes in the Senate, our “populist R’s” showed their negligence to the American people, yet again. As expected, although somewhat unforeseen — considering the significance of the bill — all 49 R’s voted against it. This contemptible showing of impudence to the American public comes as no revelation; though it will not be forgotten by voters, particularly swing voters. People need help, acutely, and R’s are more content to claim the economy can recover without more assistance. Furthermore, they are obstinately conceding that we can ill afford to add to the deficit — even though R’s had voted for 4 trillion dollars of assistance during the Trump presidency.
Thankfully, Democrats pushed through and ensured our country can proceed to move forward with financial reform; to find a way to combat the bleak hardship COVID-19 imposed among a myriad of communities and marginalized people. Doing the people’s work, as I like to put it. R’s are satisfied to imply: millions of people will just find a way to get back the employment they previously had — even though it’s virtually nonexistent, perhaps forever. I was even surprised to see Collins, Murkowski, and Romney all vote no. So, for R’s, it was not to be, as even the “moderate” R’s reduced their investment to the American people to about zero. They played politics with it, even though polling showed over 60 percent of Americans supporting the bill. Personally, I think it would have been extremely advantageous for these “moderates” to vote with the Democrats, as they might have been able to recruit some swing voters, but I suppose they think they have enough stock with the Republican base.
In a piece by Christopher Buskirk in The New York Times, I found an interesting realization, which was ineludible.
Republicans have long prided themselves on being the pro-family party. But what does that really mean? The debate over the child allowance makes that palpable. And it’s forcing Republicans to decide who they are. Will they be the party of capital gains tax cuts or of cash payments that make it more practical for parents to raise their own children? Is there a way for the party to embrace both?
Not that long ago, Republicans would have locked arms denouncing the Biden proposal. And to be fair, even Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio, whose pro-family bona fides might have made them at least open to these plans, quickly denounced the Romney plan as “welfare assistance,” explaining that “an essential part of being pro-family is being pro-work.”
But many Republicans aren’t quite so sure a child allowance is a bad idea. In fact, a growing number believe that government policy that directly supports children and family life is not just beneficial, but essential to the health, vitality and sustainability of the nation. That’s because supporting a family of four in the middle class has not been possible on a single median wage for a long time, which has meant that most families need two incomes or some other kind of support. As a result, many young people report both delaying having a family and having fewer children than they want. (Buskirk, NYT).
There is something very fundamentally wrong with how the R’s are interpreting the financial norms of the country, which is this idea that people want to “live off” the government. At what point do R’s decide that this substantial incongruity is not valid? For the economy to be prosperous as a whole, families and communities must have a chance to flourish — and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure this is happening. If our country supports the belief that middle-class individuals are entitled to circumstantial sustenance to allow their families to thrive — and I truly believe people desire this in both RED and BLUE states — then we must accept the needed resources of the federal government. Should it be acceptable that two incomes are needed to raise a family? I don’t think so.
I’ve observed two things in these discussions that also map directly onto the broader fault lines in right-of-center politics. The younger people I’ve spoken to are more likely to support a child allowance than the older. The dividing line seems to be around age 50, with support increasing among younger people, while opposition increases in frequency and vehemence with age. The other is that people who work in politics are more likely to oppose this idea, probably because they are the ones most invested in an ideological outlook and with the most institutional incentives to toe the line.
A cynic might reply that of course people in their 20s, 30s and 40s would be more likely to support this plan; after all, they’re the ones most likely to have kids and receive the cash. There is something to that, but I don’t think this is a case of raw self-interest driving people to get their hands on some free money. What’s really going on is that these people are in a very different place financially than Generation X and especially baby boomers when they were raising young children. Millennials, many of whom are now in their 30s, own a share of national wealth that is roughly one-quarter what the boomers owned at the same age and are well below where Gen X was, too.
They’re the ones feeling the brunt of the brutal slowdown in real wage growth that started in the 1970s, of the steep rise in the cost of education, of the financialization and globalization of the economy that have all made it harder to start a family and raise children. These private conversations have been instructive. One conservative friend in her late 20s, upon hearing about the Biden plan, told me, “What the heck, I guess I’m a Democrat now.” She was joking about switching parties, but not about her support for the child allowance. Other young Republicans might go the additional step, which would spell doom for Republicans who are already struggling with younger people. My friend is a frequent critic of Mitt Romney, but she likes his plan — a lot. (Buskirk, NYT).
Once again, this refers back to an idea I presented in a previous posting, which is the failure of the R’s party amongst younger voters. Young people have been placed into a desolate position for many years, especially with the increase in college tuition and the general cost of living, just as Buskirk conveys. Political debate is a practice that needs to occur within our governing body, but at some point, the folks debating need to realize that we have a substantially onerous condition for young people in this country. It’s no longer acceptable for R’s to disregard the issue at hand, and young people are consciously aware of this.
So why does it have to be this complicated with R’s?
In another piece, by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, we see that it does tend to come down to RED states and BLUE states, that R’s are incessantly defiant to change based on assuming their base will go against them — although the reality is that people in these RED states need the help just as much.
The analysis looks at the political economy of 26 states that voted Republican in presidential elections three times since 2000. Of those, 21 are what the authors call “low road states.”
Mostly Southern, they largely maintain that model centered on weak unions and low wages, and tend to have smaller governments and far fewer urban centers.
Tellingly, the authors find, those states have aggregate wage averages that rank below those in the states that voted blue three times since 2000 (though vast inequalities persist within those blue states). The red states that come closest to blue states (like Texas) have dense urban centers.
Another group — “left behind states” — are the ones in the industrial Midwest. They, too, are struggling in the knowledge economy. But they have legacies of progressive policies strengthening unions and public spending (though GOP lawmakers have recently undermined these).
By contrast, the “low road states” still labor under the legacies of “conservative governance,” which include lower minimum wages, anti-union policies, and underfunded education and infrastructure. (Sargent, WAPO).
Trump exposed the ineffectual truth the last four years: R’s don’t see BLUE states; they only see RED states and have spent all their time attempting to indoctrinate their constituents on the premise of demonizing social assistance. Look at the example Sargent cites: they largely maintain that model centered on weak unions and low wages, and tend to have smaller governments and far fewer urban centers. Are we to infer R’s are asking these provinces in RED states to accept an underprivileged way of living? Seems like it. Furthermore, are we to assume their constituents agree to this? From what we saw in the last Presidential election, I suppose so.
Why? Because GOP policy at the federal and state levels is largely set by “national business groups and organized wealthy backers.” This undercuts “the prospects for robust intergovernmental transfers, both to spur local economic development and to finance the social programs” on which poorer, nonurban voters “increasingly rely.”
Consider the rescue package. It would provide a boost in financial assistance for people who get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. Those are people who might be struggling to afford health care amid the current economy, many in red states.
Yet Republicans uniformly voted against this, after spending years trying to repeal the ACA with no alternative vision, and even as many red states have still refused to take federal money to expand Medicaid. (Sargent, WAPO).
The GOP has such a resilient hold on the constituents who would rather choose not to receive a boost in healthcare insurance because it would go against the same propagandized rhetoric we referenced above. In most cases, certain RED states are so against the ACA, that they are content with not having any coverage at all — even though we have numerous examples of communities in these states suffering disproportionally from COVID-19.
Irrevocably, we ask ourselves: what becomes of the R’s, if they continue down this road? I think we are already seeing the results, as Georgia represented a significantly vital example of what happens when a party neglects its constituents based on wealthy backers holding the middle-class hostage in these communities. Biden’s Rescue Act presents an opportunity for millions of young parents to grow their families equitably, irrespective of what state they reside in. I’ve personally felt, for years, that it’s objectionable to just assume younger voters will continue siding with an immoral party; a party with no forebodings about future efforts to build financial stability, which all Americans deserve…
1. Buskirk, Christopher. “There is a Generational Divide Among Republicans.” The New York Times. March 8, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/opinion/romney-republicans-child-allowance.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage. Accessed March 8, 2021.
2. Sargent, Greg. “The GOP scam is getting worse — for Republican voters. A new study shows how.” The Washington Post. March 8, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/08/study-political-economy-red-states/. Accessed March 8, 2021.