Monday, November 01, 2010

Republicans benefiting from mass confusion and ignorance

I guess it is appropriate that the election falls so close to Halloween this year because it promises to be a real horror show. Even though a few of the Tea Party’s scariest candidates don’t have a chance of winning – like Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell and Carl “I’ll Take You Out” Paladino — there are plenty of others like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Joe Miller in Alaska and Ken Buck in Colorado who have a very good chance of winning. And then there are the ones who are already shoo-ins for election like John Boozman in Arkansas and Mike Lee in Utah.
Suffice to say that the Senate is going to get a lot crazier even if it stays majority Democratic. But the really sad news is what is likely to happen to the House. A Republican takeover in the House, which seems all but assured, pretty much guarantees legislative gridlock for the next two years. What this means is that any kind of progress on legislative issues will be stymied and, worse, there will most likely be a number of confrontations over the debt ceiling and threats to shut down the government. At the same time, we can all enjoy the spectacle of partisan witchhunts as Republican lawmakers use their new powers to pursue vendettas against the Obama administration.
What is hard to understand is why people would want to choose this course. I chalk it up to flat-out ignorance mixed with a good deal of Faux News/Wingnut Radio brainwashing.
‘Unfair,’ you say! Perhaps in some cases there are people who have thought these things through and believe for their own reasons that it would be best to return to the policies of the previous 10 years. But some recent studies have revealed that too many people seem to be seriously confused about some of the key issues.
Steve Benen addresses those studies here and here.

In a democracy, the system breaks down and produces counter-productive results when those in charge -- the voters -- are uninformed. And the fact is, a whole lot of Americans are deeply confused about the facts.
The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters.
Most voters don’t believe it.
A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.
Public perceptions aren’t even close to reality -- by a 52% to 19% margin, for example, likely voters think their federal tax burden has gone up over the last couple of years, even though it hasn’t. Indeed, Democrats approved one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, and the public has no idea that it even happened.
The same is true of the strength of the economy in general -- the economy stopped shrinking and started growing more than a year ago, but 61% of respondents in this poll said the economy continued to shrink in 2010, even though it hasn’t.

Needless to say, it is hard to win an election when people are this confused about things.
And then there is this...

After a historic legislative session that saw the passage of health care and Wall Street reform bills, most Americans think Congress accomplished less than or the same amount as usual.
In a new Gallup Poll, 37 percent said Congress did less than what is accomplished in a typical session, while 35 percent said it did the same amount.
Only 23 percent said Congress accomplished more than usual.

So people think taxes have gone up when they have not. They think the economy is worse than it really is. And they think Congress has done very little when it has actually accomplished more than any other Congress before it.
When people go to the polls holding such backwards and upside down assumptions, it is no wonder that they end up voting against their interests.
All I can say is that the rightwing campaign to keep people ignorant and misinformed has been highly effective. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, et al. are very, very good at their jobs. That is why they get the big bucks, no doubt.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to end up with a country that is hamstrung and dysfunctional for the next two years, if not longer. It is highly depressing especially after the promise of what could have been after the big blowout Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008.
But Republicans managed to hold fast even with one of the smallest minorities in history and by massively abusing Senate rules on filibusters and secret holds. Thus they were able to stall, stymie and kill large numbers of bills and change others far beyond what would have easily passed on a straight-up, majority vote.
So the new standard now is that 59 votes in the Senate is not enough to do anything, therefore nothing will get done until we actually get a party with a lopsided majority in Congress or until reason and rationality breaks out and we finally reform the Senate’s antiquated and undemocratic (not to mention unconstitutional) filibuster rules.
Alas, the former is much more likely to happen in my opinion before the latter.
Good luck, my fellow Americans. We are all going to need it.

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