Jan Schakowsky: The GOP’S Politics of Subtraction

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The saying goes that politics is the art of addition. Even first time candidates for any elective office quickly realize that their circle of friends and family is not enough, that they need the support people unlike themselves if they are to have any hope of winning. It’s elemental.

That’s what makes the Republican game plan (assuming there is one) so baffling to me. As each day goes by, they seem to alienate another sector of our society, and most of the time it seems absolutely intentional.

While they are home for the August recess, I just wonder who’s left for them to subtract from their ever shrinking universe of supporters.

The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans made themselves safe districts, ones made up of homogeneous conservative constituents who appreciate their uncompromising and dismissive attitude toward those who disagree. I have to wonder about that.

So far they have managed to be equal opportunity offenders, turning of voters in all walks of life, regardless of age, religion, race, or sexual orientation. Many of those voters surely live in their districts. They includes:

WOMEN: Women are not only the majority of the population, but the majority of voters in most jurisdictions. Just about all of us heard about Todd “Women’s bodies have a way of discerning legitimate rape” Akin and Richard “Pregnancy from rape is God’s will” Mourdock. Women and plenty of men too punished them and they lost their elections. But far worse than stupid remarks are the laws passed particularly at the state level by Republicans that defund Planned Parenthood, restrict access to contraceptives (birth control for God’s sake!), make abortions illegal after 6 weeks before a woman even knows she’s pregnant, force women to have invasive procedures that are unnecessary and possibly harmful, allow doctors to lie to their patients about fetal abnormalities, make criminals out of doctors, put arbitrary requirements on clinics in order to force them to close, and on and on. During the first six months of this year alone, more than two dozen anti-choice bills have become law in 15 states. These laws say to women, we don’t trust you to make your own decisions. Women really hate being talked down to.

But it’s not just women’s bodies that the Republicans don’t understand or care about. It’s our economic well-being. They don’t support equal pay for equal work, or increasing access to quality child care, or expanding the child tax credit, or ending discrimination against pregnant workers, to name a few. It’s no wonder there is a gender gap on election day. As far as I know, redistricting didn’t eliminate fed up women.

Subtract lots of women from the Republican column.

LATINOS: Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King was so insulting that Speaker John Boehner found it necessary to condemn King’s words not once but twice. Referring to the “Dreamers” who came to the United States as undocumented immigrant children, King said, “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Oh me, oh my. What a bad boy Steve King is! Only problem with Republican handwringing is that just a few weeks earlier, that same Steve King offered an amendment on the House floor that called for the deportation of all of those young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. And guess what? It passed with almost all the Republicans, including majority Whip Eric Cantor, voting for it.

The math is really quite simple. 70 percent of Latinos voted Democratic in the last election, and the Latino population continues to grow. If the Republicans don’t get right on immigration, they will never elect a Republican President for generations, and states like Texas will turn solid blue.

Subtract Latinos.

IMMIGRANTS: While 70 percent of Latinos were voting for Obama, 73 percent of Asians did the same. Broad coalitions of immigrant groups are banding together in support of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. If the Republicans appear to be standing in the way — which they are right now — they will lose these ethnic voters for generations to come.

Subtract immigrants

AFRICAN-AMERICANS: In a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court with all the Republican appointees voting together, a major portion of the Voting Rights Act was overturned. It was barely hours later when states that had been covered by Section 4, the overturned section, including Texas and North Carolina, began changing their laws to make it harder to vote. These laws requiring photo IDs, limiting voter registration drives and voting hours disproportionately affect minorities, low-income people, students and senior citizens.

Add to this the Trayvon Martin decision, the persistent demonization of the poor, mass incarceration of young black men, the failure to pass a jobs bill, slashing of education and job training and nutrition programs, and African-Americans are in no mood to vote Republican any time soon.

Forget about attracting African-Americans

GLBT: Despite the dramatic sea change in public opinion regarding the rights of gay Americans, most House Republicans have resolutely remained stuck in the homophobic past. The Supreme Court ruling was applauded from coast to coast, and in state after state, where legal, same-sex couples are getting married. Democrats were nearly unanimous in their outspoken support for this decision, while most Republicans were notably silent. Some Republicans just couldn’t help themselves though. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, said he thought the Supreme Court’s decision went “against the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

Guess what Republicans? There are gay people living in your district.

Subtract gay voters.

SENIOR CITIZENS: Look out Republicans. You better not get too comfortable counting on that senior vote. It is true that you won seniors in the last three elections, but, according to recent polls, the momentum is going the other way now. I don’t care where you live, you won’t find many seniors who support seriously messing with their Medicare, as in ending it as they know it, and turning their health care entirely back to private insurance companies. Same goes for Social Security. “Keep your hands off” is the view of most seniors who are getting pretty nervous about all this self-righteous talk about cutting “entitlements.” Just to know, seniors think these are hard-earned benefits.

Keep it up, and you can subtract your senior voters.

BUSINESS: I know Republicans think the business community is their natural constituency. But take a deeper look and you will find considerable unrest. Many business leaders have joined the growing coalition that favors immigration reform. From low-skilled to the highest tech immigrant workers, businesses want to hire them without breaking the law. They have been directly pressing Republicans to stop obstructing and start supporting comprehensive reform.

Look again and you will be hard pressed to find supporters of a government shut-down or another debt ceiling debacle among mainstream business leaders. Rather, you will find dismay at the prospect of yet another destabilizing economic showdown, more self-inflicted wounds, and politically suicidal moves on the part of intransigent Republicans. Bill Dunkelberg, Chief Economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, said, “the pall of uncertainty over economic policy continues to depress investment spending and growth.”

Keep acting crazy, Republicans, and your business base will look elsewhere.

THE MILLENNIALS: College students in Texas weren’t appreciative of the questionable policy to allow a gun license to be used as an ID for the purpose of voting, but not a student ID. Students nowhere are happy about the enormous debt they are forced to incur when they pursue a college education. Ask Republican Virginia Foxx, and she’ll spell it out for you. “It is not the role of the Congress to make college affordable and accessible.”

Today’s young people are the most progressive in generations. They are more engaged in their communities, much more tolerant and open to new ideas. We have seen them take the leadership on the immigration issue, education, and now on environmental issues as well. The Republicans continue to be climate change deniers at their peril. They may be wedded to Big Oil and choose to bury their heads in the tar sands, but our young people see environmental degradation as a major issue of their generation. This is their century, and they are not about to make their world uninhabitable for themselves and their children. The Republicans continue to demean “tree huggers” and attack each and every effort to regulate against green house gases. They accuse the EPA of being a job killer and vote against clean energy funding, despite the fact that good 21st century jobs depend on clean energy technologies.

Subtract young voters.

PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: Just before we left Washington for the August recess, John Boehner called a vote to repeal Obamacare. That made it an even 40 times the Republicans voted for repeal.

129 million Americans have pre-existing health conditions. Many of them are stuck without insurance or paying huge premiums for the privilege of being sick, or locked in a job they don’t want just to be insured. That’s a lot of people who are desperately looking forward to January 1, 2014, when people young and old with pre-existing conditions – cancer, heart condition, diabetes, asthma – will no longer have to worry about having insurance coverage and will not have to pay more than anyone else to get it.

That’s just one of the myriad of benefits that Obamacare offers to Americans. If you are one of those millions with a pre-existing condition, you may wish you could vote 40 times against the Republican who wanted to repeal Obamacare.

Subtract the millions of people with pre-exiting conditions.

WORKERS: Fact: Between 1948 and 1973, the productivity of U.S. workers rose 96.8 percent and wages rose 93.7 percent. Fact: Between 1973 and 2011, productivity rose 80.1 percent but wages rose only 4.2 percent. Fact: Median household income today, adjusted for inflation, is at 1989 levels. Fact: 28 million workers earn less than $9.89 an hour, or $20,570 per year. Fact: The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40 percent just since 2009. Many of them earn as much on the first day of work in January, as their workers earn all year.

You don’t need to be a math whizz to see the problem.

I have been at some demonstrations recently with low-wage fast food workers who are engaged in one-day strikes, demanding $15 per hour and a union to represent them. They now make the minimum wage. The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as many states including New York. If lucky enough to work full time and never miss a day, those workers make a grand total of $15,080 over a year — clearly not enough to live on anywhere in the country. If that worker were to earn an hourly wage of $15, he or she would make $31,200 per year, rich by nobody’s standard, but an amount a small family can frugally live on, particularly if there is another worker in the household.

Republicans demonize those workers as “takers” because they have to turn to government programs for food assistance and health care. But it’s low-wage employers who depend on taxpayers to subsidize their employees because they refuse to pay a decent wage. It’s those rich companies and their CEO’s who are the real “takers.”

Republicans have been working non-stop since the early 1970’s to destroy unions, an effort that has successfully brought private sector union membership down to 6.6 percent of the workforce. It is no accident that wages stagnated as workers lost the power to collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions. That was the plan.

Conventional wisdom says that low-income people don’t vote in large percentages, and there is evidence to bear that out. But something new is happening. The working poor and middle class workers are organizing and fighting for fair wages and a better life for their children. They are in a voting mood.

Subtract workers who won’t take it anymore.

Add up all the voters that the Republicans have done their best to reject, and I refuse to believe that there are enough “safe” districts for them to maintain control of the House. I see danger for Republicans in 2014.

 

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