Republicans say they’re being victimized. Which is odd because they control an entire house of Congress, making them able – and, apparently, ready and willing – to jam up any legislation that doesn’t meet their needs. They also control a Supreme Court packed with Republican judges. Yet now, as they deal with the budget cut called the Sequester (which they campaigned on for decades) and find themselves at the target end of a frustrated president and a terrified electorate, they’re whining about being “berated.”
If you wonder why that is, however, you need to go back in time to Saint Reagan. Unlike other conservative leaders in the world at the time, such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan was a self-pity king. As Michael Kingsley put it in his piece titled “Annihilate! Obama’s very secret plot to end the Republican Party“:
Indulging the self-pity of the voters has been a worsening ailment of American politics for years. The essential difference between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—founders of their respective parties in their current forms—is that he did it and she did not. She told voters to “pull up your socks,” or ”get in your car,” or “polish your boots,” or “eat your vegetables.” Over at Reagan’s, you could have pancakes for breakfast every day, because you’ve suffered enough. Self-pity is a powerful force. It’s usually bad policy but good politics.
Throughout his political career, however, Reagan campaigned on the idea that people had no shared responsibility, that anything which went wrong, well, it was the fault of the government. In St. Ronald’s own words, you can see both the rhetoric of contempt and the image he aimed to portray (quotes from brainyquote.com):
We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
Man is not free unless government is limited.
I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.
Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.
Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.
Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.
What we have found in this country, and maybe we’re more aware of it now, is one problem that we’ve had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless, you might say, by choice.
Ronald Reagan took and built upon mistrust of the government, which set in after the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon out of office. He made it OK to ridicule public service. Government workers, after all, were just crooks looking for a way to take money out of your pockets. He envisioned an America where it was OK to have ice cream for dinner. Taking more money out of the tip jar than you put in? That was just setting things right and getting your fair share even if it took away from others. In Reagan’s America, people were homeless or jobless because they wanted to be and deserved no help from their fellow Americans.
But then Reagan took that distrust and aimed it in another direction. It wasn’t just government that was the problem, it was the Democrats. It wasn’t the party of Nixon, but the party which stood in opposition to Nixon which was the problem. He used the power of the bully pulpit to hammer the idea into people’s heads, without ever saying so, that Republicans were the “responsible” party, and Democrats were weaklings, unable to govern effectively. The Democratic party, being the actual party of responsibility, ignored this and kept working to keep this nation afloat, even as – enter stage right – came the Gingrich Revolution. By assuring people they were the victim and letting them wallow in “woe is me,” Reagan in turn created the foundation upon which Newt Gingrich built, and now we have a Republican party which does not govern, but instead sits in wallowing self-pity. Nothing is their fault; it is the fault of government, lazy people on welfare, or people on an unemployment vacation. The party of “personal responsibility” wants to take no responsibility for their own actions, or results.
So, when they find themselves on the losing side of any debate, they are quick to throw about the blame. You will find them blaming losses on non-existent organizations like ACORN, the demands of the slut vote, and the fact that Obama promised “free crap.” At no point do they sit down and say, “what did I do wrong?” It is always someone else who gets the blame. Just recently, Marco Rubio‘s rebuttal to the State of the Union address offers some prime examples:
“In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.
We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military.
And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place.
“The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year.”
All of these, of course, are Republican ideas now being blamed on the President. The spending cuts, the deregulation push resulting in economic collapse, and most of all, the budget, with all that spending and deficit that Rubio is complaining about, have been created by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. By blaming the President, Republicans are attempting to shift blame which they rightfully deserve. And this is but a single speech given by a single member of the Republican Party. You find other examples in Paul Ryan blaming Obama for Medicare cuts he proposed, how the Democrats are to blame for gun violence, not the NRA, or even how Democrats are buying votes. They call the President a con man, a bully, and far, far worse. They seek to blame the President, when their own policies and programs are the ones at fault.
The problem is that the GOP image was built on the illusion of being “the strong ones.” Recall the attacks against Democratic candidates as being soft on crime/terror/communism/fill-in-the-blank. They presented themselves as tough as nails, the cowboys. Now they are the crybabies, unable to handle not getting their own way. In fact, it comes down to a much more basic concept, something every 3rd grader understands. The Republicans are nothing but a bunch of bullies.
Fact is, they never were tough; they never had workable ideas. They just puffed themselves up and went after what they viewed as a weaker opponent in order to try to mask how fragile they actually were. Ever since Richard Nixon destroyed whatever progress the Republicans had made in this country, they have been puffing themselves up to appear bigger, stronger and more confident. In reality, they had not a clue what they were doing. And now, the bullies got a scratch and are running home to mommy.
They had control of all three branches of government, which they’d claimed would herald in a conservative utopia. Instead, we had two recessions in a single presidential administration. We had the housing market collapse. We had banking institutions relying on government handouts simply to function. Our entire economy ground to a halt. We had a lost decade. Despite their promises, they could not deliver. And what do they do? They blame everyone but themselves, even now.
Right-wing windbag Rush Limbaugh, as ever, can’t grasp what is going on, believing that Obama is some mad genius strategist. But not only that, he’s a mad king, a tyrant with absolute power. Limbaugh fails to grasp that the only thing Obama is doing is acting in the same manner an adult does when a child is throwing a tantrum. He is standing there, and letting the tantrum work itself out, not lifting a finger in any way, shape or form.
The Republican Party is at the point where they either grow up or be relegated to the dustbin of history. Their fairy tale, that they can have their cake and eat it too, is over.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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