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Posted by on Apr 14, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 23 comments

Eric Cantor’s Solutions Center epitomizes GOP’s failure to understand, relate

After reading this post at the Ohio-based blog, Plunderbund, about House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s attempt to offer online answers to (his notion of) constituent concerns, here’s what I wrote in a comment there:

What is most obviously out of touch about Cantor’s site is that it is geared ONLY toward people who:

-already have a job
-already have a house
-already have savings

as opposed to the more than 22 million who are either out of work or are underemployed, the millions who’ve lost their home already, the millions who are tenants whose landlords have been foreclosed on and therefore the tenants are evicted and the people who have no savings AND no job that will bring them a chance to save.

I abhor namecalling, but if ever I were to break my rule on that…

Seriously.  It’s not only that the images on the site are of a white married couple with a young boy and a baby standing in front of a stereotypical home that cued me into the website creator’s vision of who would need this site. Or that when you click for answers, one of the nice white people with perfect hair and a perfect body offers you the answer.

It’s that the site is created for the haves.  And Cantor, on behalf of the GOP membership in the House of Representatives, is now outfront and center demonstrating how little the Congressional members from his party care or think about the have-nots.

Unless he’s planning on creating a mirror image website for them.

I wonder what the cartoons and characters would look like on that one…

Foreclosed home, stack of unpaid bills, food stamps, unemployment line, insurance denials, single parents…

And, oh – people of color, perhaps?

Sigh. I don’t use this phrase much but if anything deserves to be called an epic fail, Cantor’s attempt at offering solutions is it.

These observations about how out of touch Cantor’s ideas of what Americans need and what would help Americans are is supported by the Politico poll just out today that Joe Gandelman discusses here.

Cross-posted from Writes Like She Talks.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • estevan

    At this stage, I agree that an informed discussion coming from the right is strongly needed but whether or not they use some overly generic “white” figures to promote their “ideas” is irrelevant.

    If the discussion is about losing a home and losing a job then we can’t get distracted with the possible social concerns of how that information is being presented. Honestly, that should come a distant second. Bringing it up like this is just going to cloud practical concerns at hand – jobs, money, homes.

  • CStanley

    What’s sad is that being in touch means being politically correct to so many people, apparently.

    At least his website addresses an important constituency which should be front and center for economic recovery- entrepreneurs. The website doesn’t say a peep about helping small businesses keep or hire more workers, even though small business is the job creating engine of the country.

    • StockBoySF

      CStanley: I agree with you that entrepreneurs should be given more attention. Especially for people who want to apply for some of the government money for “green businesses”.

  • To both American mutt and CStanley,

    I respectfully but very confidently disagree. The need for help as represented by Cantor’s Solutions Center only applies to people who already 1) have a job 2) have a home 3) have savings. He is talking to people about how to keep what they have.

    He is not speaking to people who 1) have lost a job 2) have lost a home 3) have no savings. He could not be clearer.

    Sure – it can be finessed into a bigger picture, but the reason why he and the party, as he represents it, are floundering is because of this basic inability to show – really really show – that they understand who is suffering and what can actually be done to alleviate it.

    • CStanley

      Did you even read it, Jill? It’s rather brief, so I don’t know how you missed where he says that the GOP proposes not taxing unemployment benefits to help the jobless.

      You’re right that the main focus is on helping people keep what they have, but there is also a fair amount about how to promote economic growth so that more people can have those things.

      As a conservative, I (and Cantor) answer your last question by saying that ‘what can be done’ is to create as many new jobs as possible. Sorry if that doesn’t express enough solidarity with people’s suffering for you, but I’d rather ask how to give someone a job then how to wipe their tears.
      And even with high unemployment and foreclosure rates, the majority of people still DO have homes, jobs, and savings, and so he’s not ‘out of touch’ to speak to the concerns of that majority (while also addressing the minority who currently don’t have those things but hope to in the future.)

  • CStanley – That he includes any of that is well and good but I fear that you are either intentionally missing my point or we’re just talking past each other. My point, as starkly as I can state it is: The people who need a solutions center the most are not the people who are seeking to keep what they have. Yes, they need help, but they are not, in my opinion, in the most dire straits nor the ones who would be looking to Rep. Cantor for solutions. In my opinion, any such Solutions Center, at this point in time, should focus on those who are most unrepresented and underrepresented and in need of assistance. In my opinion, Rep. Cantor has not shown even superficially (as in, who he depicts or the language he uses to characterize the questions that are being asked) that he has a handle on the characteristics of the Americans who are suffering the most.

    That is my beef with his Solutions Center.

    • CStanley

      And the solution to not having a job isn’t to get a job? I guess we will have to agree to disagree, because that just makes no sense at all to me.

      What characteristics should our elected officials be focusing on, other than the need for employment (and doing away with taxation of UE benefits?)

  • kritt11

    At least someone in the GOP finally realized that they needed to offer some solutions! This has been sorely lacking in the past, and has hurt them in the last 2 elections. I agree with Jill that Cantor doesn’t appear to be concerned about those who have already lost everything.

  • But CStanley, Cantor failed to employ any hook or lede that had anything to do with a solution to not having a job OR how to get a job. He leads with four questions that speak to people who already have a job with advice about how not to lose that job. In mental health we say that the clinician needs to be where the client is in order to help them get to where they need to go. Cantor starts out at a place where the assumptions are: person has a job, person has a home, person has savings. That is NOT the same place as: person has no job, person has no home, person has no savings.

    The advice to those two sets of people are vastly different – and Cantor says to me that members of the second group are not where he is and are not where he wants to be, with the clients. That’s his choice, but, as I’ve written, in my opinion, it’s that second group of individuals who most are in need of advice.

    • CStanley

      You’re just expressing your desire for Cantor to take a liberal’s view of the government’s role, Jill. Conservatives don’t believe that our government has any duty (nor would we even find it desirable) for them to ‘be aware of where the client is’ in the sense that a clinician does for his/her patient. The duty we see for government is to help foster the economic climate where there will be jobs for people to go and get.

      Sometimes, the handholding type of approach actually impedes the government from putting the focus on the areas where it could actually do the most good (again, creating policy which helps economic growth), so your ideological view of the need for govt to ‘be there for us’ is diametrically opposed to ours. You are free to have your own opinion, of course, but you’ll basically have to just admit that you don’t accept conservatism and will never vote for Cantor or other GOP, so your advice about how to sell these ideas and candidates to people like yourself is pretty meaningless.

  • DdW

    “but I’d rather ask how to give someone a job then how to wipe their tears.”

    Where have I heard this before?

    Let me think…not in the bible, for sure

    O yeah, “If you teach a man to fish…” exceptt what good is it for the man to fish when there are no fish in the sea?

    • CStanley

      Gee, D.E, and here I was thinking we had a ‘wall of separation’ between Church and state. Have the rules been rewritten? Should I be expecting my elected reps to follow Biblical principles?

      “If you teach a man to fish…” exceptt what good is it for the man to fish when there are no fish in the sea?
      Fish in the sea, as an analogy for the needs of the unemployed, would mean jobs, no?

      • DdW


        “Gee,” I didn’t think that compassion would fall under the separation of church and state. Sorry!

        And, you’re right, fish in the sea, as an analogy for the needs of the unemployed, does mean jobs—of which there aren’t too many new ones being created lately

  • CStanley – I’d say you’re being stubborn but maybe you are just being an idealogue – which is what has gotten Republicans into the spot they’re in now. It does nothing to address reality – that’s why the adherence to the mythical pure free market system doesn’t ever work – it doesn’t address reality, which isn’t pure and never will be.

    If a political party, in its implementation of what it says are its principles, wants to ignore tens of millions of people, they certainly can. And the voters, in turn, shall choose to ignore the members of that party.

  • CStanley

    It does nothing to address reality

    No, you’ve only shown that it does nothing to address your feelings. Address reality for unemployment = creating more jobs. How much more real can you get?

  • CStanley

    the adherence to the mythical pure free market system

    Government policies to improve the growth of the economy isn’t a myth, and it isn’t laissez faire economics. You appear to now be throwing out a talking point.

  • CStanley – I’m truly sorry that you are unable to understand or accept or agree with the importance of the failure of Cantor’s Solutions Center to address Americans who are unemployed, lost their home or have no savings. There is nothing on that site that would make them click on any of it (to even get to his ideas) because none of the characters are asking questions that would be asked by someone who does not have a job, who does not have a home and who does not have savings (they would read the questions and think, “I’m not the intended audience”).

    It is a ruse by Cantor to make the site just another platform for his ideology and the site is disingenuous and it fails to attend to tens of millions of Americans’ needs. Which is part of why he is in the minority. And so long as he keeps talking this way, he will remain in the minority and any good ideas that linger? Won’t get taken up because he’s not addressing those in the most dire of circumstances.

    It’s actually really very sad and demonstrates an utter lack of empathy. That’s a scary thing indeed. A bit like Mark Sanford and others.

    • CStanley

      There you go with the emotion again, Jill. What the heck does empathy do for anyone? Frankly, when I see politicians expressing empathy but not offering concrete plans to improve conditions, I’m a lot more worried about that because they’re playing on people’s emotion to distract from the emptiness of their plans.

      There is nothing on that site that would make them click on any of it (to even get to his ideas) because none of the characters are asking questions that would be asked by someone who does not have a job,
      That’s the first time you’ve expressed a criticism that’s based on logic. Fine, he should think about rephrasing or providing other questions if he wants to convince jobless people that he has some decent solutions for their plight. But since the majority of the country is not in that situation, you aren’t making a logical syllogism to say that “this is why he’s in the minority.” Reaching the majority of people whose concerns center on keeping what they have might well reflect a pragmatic view of who his target audience is. Just because you find it offensive that he doesn’t express ‘feeling the pain’ of others, doesn’t mean that he might not be successful in reaching the majority, which is what he needs to do.

      And since you apparently feel that the Democrats have more empathy, what is it that you see in their policies that reflect that? Is this all about style of outreach, and expressions of caring?

      It is a ruse by Cantor to make the site just another platform for his ideology
      Huh? A political leader’s website reflects his ideology and you think that’s a ruse? Why the scoundrel! How dare he create a website about political ideas!

      Sorry, I’d better quit, as it’s becoming impossible for me to comment without heavy sarcasm- I just honestly can’t believe some of the comments you’re making. The site, and Cantor, obviously don’t appeal to you. So? Obama Hope/Change hype didn’t appeal to me (and 48% of the country.) Doesn’t make it wrong, and obviously a small majority preferred it. So it goes.

  • CStanley

    “Gee,” I didn’t think that compassion would fall under the separation of church and state. Sorry!A government isn’t human and doesn’t have emotions or conscience. We as individuals have conscience and moral obligations toward compassion.

    And my comment was in regard to your use of a Biblical reference- under other circumstances I presume you wouldn’t think we should look to religious texts for standards for political leaders.

    And, you’re right, fish in the sea, as an analogy for the needs of the unemployed, does mean jobs—of which there aren’t too many new ones being created lately
    Which is why Cantor explains that helping entrepreneurs is the most likely route toward creating more of them.

  • CStanley – It’s got nothing to do w/Dems or Reps, liberals or conservatives. This is about communicating. Cantor has plenty of experience in communications given that he’s made it to minority whip. His attempt at offering solutions demonstrates that he has no interest in communicating to certain groups of people. And if that is not what he intended for visitors to the site to think, then he needs to change the communications on that site.

    There really are only a couple of choices:

    1. He only wants a certain audience to pay attention to his ideas.
    2. He wants everyone to pay attention to his ideas, but he’s failed to provide any appeal to tens of millions who aren’t asking the questions he’s composed because he’s phrased his communication in a way that those individuals will not recognize as relevant to their situation and therefore Cantor’s ideas will continue to not only not appeal to those Americans but those Americans won’t even be able to hear what Cantor has to say because Cantor hasn’t spoken in a language that would get them to even take a look.

    I really don’t know why you’re avoiding recognizing this.

    I want to get elected in my town. I need to speak to people so that they will hear me. I need to listen to people so that I know where they’re coming from and what their needs are. It is that basic. Cantor shows no interest in any of that. He is only interested in pushing his agenda because he thinks it’s right.

    That’s the making of a politician who will eventually lose, just as McCain/Palin thought that there were enough “real Americans” to whom they could appeal, they discovered that the “real America” they envisioned has gotten tinier and tinier and in fact, America has a whole bunch of other looks that must be incorporated to any vision of America.

    Cantor has the same affliction.

    • CStanley

      He is only interested in pushing his agenda because he thinks it’s right.

      Well, good that you at least acknowledge that!

      I guess it’s a fundamental difference in how we see things, Jill. I have a lot more respect for someone who says what he thinks is right than those who worry more about making it SOUND right to others. I realize of course that the latter is important in politics too, but I can’t imagine why you’d feel it more praiseworthy to make it seem as though he cares about certain people then for him to put forth the concrete ideas of what he thinks will work best to help those people. It’s like a person on a ship is working to throw lifesavers out to drowning people and your concern is whether or not he’s speaking kindly to them- to me, the action itself is the display of caring and compassion.

      Now, having said that, I’m also taking issue with the way you’re framing this as politically unwise too, because in order for your rationale to make sense in terms of his likelihood to succeed in reaching a majority of people, you would have to be able to make the case that the MAJORITY of voters fall into the category that you feel he offends or overlooks- and God help us if we get to the point that we have over 50% unemployment. Don’t you get that point? Maybe you find that offensive- that he’s going to frame the message in the way he thinks best to convince those who might support him, not the minority who probably never will (no matter how empathetic his language or approach might be.)

      But just because you see that he’s not doing outreach to a particular minority of voters (the have nots), doesn’t mean that this isn’t a politically viable outreach.

      And I hardly think that the 45 % of voters who backed McCain and Palin can accurately be described as ‘tiny’.

  • CStanley

    Also, Jill, I’m still curious about what else you think should be done to help the ‘have nots’ (other than making gestures toward them in the way the questions are asked and addressed?)

    IOW, do you have an actual policy gripe here, something you think the current administration/Congress is doing better for the unemployed and those without homes or savings?

    If Cantor included other buttons on the main page with questions like “How will I survive unemployment” or “How can I find a job”, and then linked to the parts that respond to those things, would that make it all good for you, or do you think his answers to those questions are inferior to the current status quo?

  • CStanley – I’m not commenting on a couple of your comments above because you get way into invective, you’ve inserted all kinds of words that I didn’t use or even imply and it’s fine to have those comments here as your reaction to what I’ve written but I’m not going to fisk it.

    Now this gets at what my initial post and observation are about,

    “If Cantor included other buttons on the main page with questions like “How will I survive unemployment” or “How can I find a job”, and then linked to the parts that respond to those things, would that make it all good for you…”

    The inclusion of such questions would pretty much solve it. It’s a given that on policy, there would be minimal though possibly occasional, general overlap between myself and anyone looking at how to help those folks with those needs and those questions – and that is fine. There are practical checklists that he could provide for resources to check, questions to ask oneself and so on, that both utilize what’s already out there in resources, and cause individuals to ask themselves hard questions too – that’s also fine.

    What I object to is using people’s anxieties as a vehicle for Cantor’s agenda. Everyone sees through that which is why I call it disingenuous. Instead, acknowledge reality-based, present tense concerns as well as future-based worries and then address all of those with actual steps people should take, can take, must take. Again – to use people’s misfortune or fears as a basis to just get one’s agenda across – which is, in my opinion, how Cantor’s Solutions Center reads – is of little practical use to anyone.

    Unless no one who was designing the site was interested in including practical steps/suggestions/recommendations and intended it to be just a vehicle for Cantor’s agenda.

    If the latter is the case, well, then – they succeeded in that goal, but doesn’t do much for anyone else.

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