The Great Republican Fear Machine Backfires
Fear has been the Republican Party’s greatest weapon, and notably so during the Age of Bush: Fear of people with funny names and skin colors. Fear of people who do not worship a Christian God. Fear of people who are not red-blooded Americans. Fear of people who don’t spout patriotic slogans or wear American flag lapel pins. But now the screw has turned and fear has become the party’s greatest enemy.
This fear is palpable practically anywhere you go these days, whether it be a hospital waiting room, PTA meeting, shopping mall or town square.
Americans are fearful of losing their jobs if they still have them or finding work if they don’t. They are fearful of being able to make mortgage and car payments. They are fearful of being able to send their children to college. And they are fearful of being able to pay for medical care for their aging parents, let alone themselves and their kids.
It is hardly worth mentioning that these fears are substantially the result of the Bush administration’s failed economic, social and educational policies, as well as tax cuts that benefited the rich at a time when the U.S. was fighting not one but two wars.
But I’ll mention that anyhow because it should be remembered that a supplicant Democratic congressional minority pretty much went along with The Decider only to kind of find its voice in the closing days of his administration, which happened to be about the time that an audacious whippersnapper from Illinois came out of nowhere to forge these fears into an electoral mandate that begs comparison to FDR in 1932 at the depths of the Great Depression.
As perverse as it may seem, if fear is now the Republicans’ greatest enemy it is Barack Obama’s greatest friend.
This is because without the fear that is abroad in the land the chances of him engineering a policy revolution not seen since FDR would be slim to none, and without that fear the “government is bad” meme flogged by Bobby Jindal in his Republican response to Obama’s address to Congress — a tactic that is at the heart of the party’s intellectual bankruptcy — would not have been so discordant to Americans who need their government more than ever.
As it is, reforming health care, easing a disproportionate tax burden on the middle class, bringing energy policy into the 21st century and other initiatives that will cost trillions of dollars while sending the federal deficit into uncharted realms will be difficult enough with the traditional enemies of reform sharpening their knives and the Republicans playing their obstructionist part more for political mendacity than philosophical reasons.
It was FDR who famously said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That seems a bit simplistic even in this sound-bite day and age, but it is a reminder that exploiting people’s fears for political gain rather than trying to ease their fears for the greater good is perhaps the biggest reason that the Republicans’ time in the wilderness will be long.
Shaun Mullen is a former The Moderate Voice columnist. Over a long career with newspapers, this award-winning editor and reporter covered the Vietnam War, O.J. Simpson trials, Clinton impeachment circus and coming of Osama bin Laden, among many other big stories. He blogs at Kiko’s House where there is a related post today on the conservative love affair with Edmund Burke.