The Square Deal
Posted on December 6, 2011As Republicans continue to fumble all over themselves, President Obama made a bold move to reclaim the white middle class.
Mitt Romney (the only GOP candidate to utter the words middle class in any of his stump speeches) wisely decided that the Trump debate was one too many. Newt, the newly anointed front-runner (I will believe it when I see it), will join Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann in what can only be described as the logical extreme.
Why not Trump? You had David Addington, for Christ’s sake, ask a question at the last CNN debate. And Trump will get ratings. And for Newt, Santorum and Bachmann, it is all about the ratings.
Meanwhile, Obama tried to grab back the voters he is currently losing. As the Hill reported: “This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class,” Obama said in Osawatomie, Kans. “I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own.”
Roosevelt visited Osawatomie in 1910 after his presidency, and “laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism,” Obama said. “ 'We are all Americans,' ” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. 'Our common interests are as broad as the continent.' ”
Obama is not exactly a rough-rider. His idea of roughing it is to take a 17 day vacation to Hawaii, just as he demands that the Congress stay in session. But his political instincts are pretty good. He knows that his poll numbers among white working class voters are abysmal. And he knows that if he can paint the Republicans as obstructionist and captives of industry, it will be his best chance to improve those poll numbers.
The problem for Obama is that it is not true. The working white middle class looks at the government and sees not the solution, but the problem. They see the affirmative action policies imposed by the government and they get angry. They see policies that make it harder for the white middle class to get into college or qualify for school loans or to get government jobs, and they get angrier. They see that the very wealthy tend not to be Republican, but Democrat. They see that the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice is much more likely to file a civil rights law suit than they are to file charges against Goldman Sachs and they go crazy.
The white middle class gets the joke. They have to pay more to the government to get less in service. They look at the Democrats and they see a party that is made up of two types: minorities and very wealthy people. They don’t see a place for them in this party, and for that reason, these folks have become Republicans.
But the Republicans are so completely incapable of speaking to the bulk of the white middle class, that these folks aren’t certain who to vote for. Mitt Romney gets the lyrics right, but he doesn’t get the beat. Newt speaks to their worst instincts, not their best motivations. Huntsman started the campaign by going out of his way to alienate a large block of these voters. So desperate were some of these voters that they actually entertained the notion that Hermann Cain could be their man. That didn’t work so well.
Republicans have to take note. The white middle class doesn’t like Obama, but they don’t like them either. Yes, they don’t trust government right now, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want government to work. What they want is the government to work for them.
They want to get rid of all of these racial preferences, government rules that are obnoxious and unconstitutional. Get rid of them! They want everybody to pay their fair share in taxes. They want college to be affordable. They are sick and tired of paying for public schools that suck. They don’t want to go to the DMV and be treated like crap by the employees there. They hate the stupidity of the TSA. They want the politicians to back the cops when they knock the heads of criminals, but they don’t want the cops to rip them off with overly generous labor contracts. They want their hometowns to be able to hang up Christmas decorations without a liberal filing some stupid lawsuit.
They don’t want really want a libertarian paradise, where everything is guided by the invisible hand of the marketplace. But they will take that over a government that taxes them, wastes their money, provides them with third world service, cheats them out of a job and basically screws them every day.
Republicans need to articulate better how they are going to help these folks get through life. They have to lay out a vision that doesn’t get rid of government, but makes government work for everybody.
Teddy Roosevelt had the square deal. That is what the American people want. The party that can lay out a square deal will win the next election.