One of the greatest ironies of the 2012 election is that some who claimed to be the Constitution's greatest defenders were so unhappy with our Republic's choice for President they are now calling for dissolving the Union altogether. Instead of hearing the clear message from voters about their policy positions, Republicans are blaming the electorate as "takers", calling for secession and lamenting the end of America as they knew and loved it. Fox News and friends completely botched the election results but will likely be forgiven by those who just like having their stereotypes of Democratic constituencies validated. The Anger is palpable. Rev. Franklin Graham said by reelecting Obama, America is going further down the "path of destruction", Fox News blamed single women for being single issue voters, Ann Coulter blamed Hispanics for "Ethnic loyalty" and O'Reilly simply announced the end of the "white establishment".
Before going any further let's get this straight – America was first a land of many indigenous nations that was colonized by Europeans who spread from sea to sea with the help of massive immigration. Today's immigrants are no less entitled to the opportunities to make a living off this great land than prior generations, a point well made by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Still there is a bitter romanticism about days the "white establishment" ruled the land, particularly the 1950s. An article titled "War on Men" that was just published by Fox News even blamed the 1960s sexual revolution and gender equality saying,
…the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them.
This completely misses the point that most Americans really do care about freedom, the freedom to make their own personal choices and having the economic opportunity to do so. What was so great about the '50s wasn't that Leave it to Beaver represented the typical American family, but that it was a time of reletively low income disparity in the US. Yes, the greatest generation lived during a time when the rich paid their fair share and the highest marginal income tax rate was 91%. People saw the value of organized labor and as recently as the 70s, CEOs only made an average of 26.5 times their employees. Now, CEOs make over 200 times their employee and the Right still vilifies those who fight for fairness for working people. More over, they want you to believe that they earned all that money through “hard work”, yet they nominated a CEO for President who made $20 million this year even though the only thing he has run lately is – a failed Presidential campaign.
Today's Conservative tantrums present a great opportunity for Democrats to reach out to white middle-class male voters, a demographic they continue to struggle with. A successful effort could put the final nail in the national Republican Party's coffin. Unfortunately for the foreseeable future, Texas will not be that final nail. Here, Democrats may be winning the future demographic race but right now their inability to win moderate rural voters is crippling. Democrats share of the vote was less in 2012 than it was in 2008 and far behind Gov. Ann Richards' 49.7% in 1990. The truth is, in Texas there's a messaging gap not a demographic one – Republicans have hurt mostly-White rural Texans with their economic policies just as they have set back minorities across the board with their social policies. Those with a stake in the longevity of the Republican Party know it must change its social and economic image to be a viable institution in the future. The party that had once drawn success from a lock-step approach to legislative victory is now in the throes of an inner party struggle between those who feel the party is purifying itself into nonexistence and those who believe a broader appeal sacrifices their conservative values. This is most evident in the Republican quest to recruit Hispanics into their ranks. Conservatives claim that Hispanics have a natural propensity to be conservative but their voting trends show something much different. Not only did Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for Obama, they are majority supporters of his more controversial policies including the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality. This suggests that even if Republicans managed to cool-down their anti-immigration rhetoric it won't be enough to sway most Latino voters. And, its likely for the same reason they lost the greater election – their economic policies just don't add up to success for the middle class.
There was a time when Republicans stood up for workers rights and fought for living wages and the end of exploitation of cheap labor. These are policies that lead to a rising standard of living and the strengthening of the middle class, but now those days are gone. During the campaign the focus was abstract; rich vs poor, 1% vs the 99% but since voters rejected Romney's top-down economic approach the conversation has gotten more specific (Google the debacles of Hostess, Papa John's or Denny's). Fiscal conservatives need to ask themselves – who picks up the tab when full-time employees can not afford basics like housing, food or insurance? Judging by the results of the last election, taxpayers have figured out they're left on the hook and don't much like subsidizing corporate America so they don’t have to pay their employees fair wages. I had a Twitter debate with a policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (a right-wing "think tank") about the Walmart strikes. He said he had not heard a good argument for buying local over a mulitinational chain. When I told him, "local retailers return a total of 52% of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14% for the nation chain retailers”, he responded, “This is not an important economic indicator.”. That sentiment explains why Texas is so great for business but not so for children and it demonstrates that the loyalty is not to family, community or country but to upward redistribution. If Republicans want to build a coalition of voters big enough to win a national election maybe they should consider bringing some of their own gifts to the Party. In the meantime Texas Democratic leaders need to exploit the Republican's current identity crisis and remind Independents and moderates that the "good old days" were about economic prosperity brought on by policies that focused on growing wealth inside-out, not upside-down.
I'll Leave you with a speech President Eisenhower gave to the AFL-CIO in 1955 (emphasis is my own):
You of organized labor and those who have gone before you in the union movement have helped make a unique contribution to the general welfare of the Republic–the development of the American philosophy of labor. This philosophy, if adopted globally, could bring about a world, prosperous, at peace, sharing the fruits of the earth with justice to all men. It would raise to freedom and prosperity hundreds of millions of men and women–and their children–who toil in slavery behind the Curtain.
One principle of this philosophy is: the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice. Workers want recognition as human beings and as individuals-before everything else. They want a job that gives them a feeling of satisfaction and self-expression. Good wages, respectable working conditions, reasonable hours, protection of status and security; these constitute the necessary foundations on which you build to reach your higher aims. Moreover, we cannot be satisfied with welfare in the aggregate; if any group or section of citizens is denied its fair place in the common prosperity, all others among us are thereby endangered.
The second principle of this American labor philosophy is this: the economic interest of employer and employee is a mutual prosperity. Their economic future is inseparable. Together they must advance in mutual respect, in mutual understanding, toward mutual prosperity. Of course, there will be contest over the sharing of the benefits of production; and so we have the right to strike and to argue all night, when necessary, in collective bargaining sessions. But in a deeper sense, this surface struggle is subordinate to the overwhelming common interest in greater production and a better life for all to share. The American worker strives for betterment not by destroying his employer and his employer's business, but by understanding his employer's problems of competition, prices, markets. And the American employer can never forget that, since mass production assumes a mass market, good wages and progressive employment practices for his employee are good business.
The Class Struggle Doctrine of Marx was the invention of a lonely refugee scribbling in a dark recess of the British Museum. He abhorred and detested the middle class. He did not foresee that, in America, labor, respected and prosperous, would constitute–with the farmer and businessman–his hated middle class. But our second principle–that mutual interest of employer and employee–is the natural outgrowth of teamwork for progress, characteristic of the American economy where the barriers of class do not exist. The third principle is this: labor relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government's unwarranted interference. This principle requires maturity in the private handling of labor matters within a framework of law, for the protection of the public interest and the rights of both labor and management.
The splendid record of labor peace and unparalleled prosperity during the last 3 years demonstrates our industrial maturity. Some of the most difficult and unprecedented negotiations in the history of collective bargaining took place during this period, against the backdrop of non-interference by Government except only to protect the public interest, in the rare cases of genuine national emergency. This third principle, relying as it does on collective bargaining, assumes that labor organizations and management will both observe the highest standards of integrity, responsibility, and concern for the national welfare. You are more than union members bound together by a common goal of better wages, better working conditions, and protection of your security. You are American citizens. The roads you travel, the schools your children attend, the taxes you pay, the standards of integrity in Government, the conduct of the public business is your business as Americans. And while all of you, as to the public business, have a common goal–a stronger and better America–your views as to the best means of reaching that goal vary widely, just as they do in any other group of American citizens.
So in your new national organization, as well as in your many constituent organizations, you have a great opportunity of making your meetings the world's most effective exhibit of democratic processes. In those meetings the rights of minorities holding differing social, economic, and political views must be scrupulously protected and their views accurately reflected. In this way, as American citizens you will help the Republic correct the faulty, fortify the good, build stoutly for the future, and reinforce the most cherished freedoms of each individual citizen. This country has long understood that by helping other peoples to a better understanding and practice of representative government, we strengthen both them and ourselves. The same truth applies to the economic field. We strengthen other peoples and ourselves when we help them to understand the workings of a free economy, to improve their own standards of living, and to join with us in world trade that serves to unite us all.
In the world struggle, some of the finest weapons for all Americans are these simple tenets of free labor. They are again: mart is created in the Divine image and has spiritual aspirations that transcend the material; second, the real interests of employers and employees are mutual; third, unions and employers can and should work out their own destinies. As we preach and practice that message without cease, we will wage a triumphant crusade for prosperity, freedom, and peace among men. To close, it is fitting that we let our hearts be filled with the earnest prayer that, with the help of a kind Providence, the world may be led out of bitterness and materialism and force into a new era of harmony and spiritual growth and self-realization for all men. Thank you very much.