One of the tenets of traditional conservatism is "local control." If you recall reading a little about that ugly little "War of Northern Aggression" held a few decades ago, it was valiantly fought over the principle of "state's rights." <pause for laughter.> Conservative state politicos often tout their support for "limited government," and "individual freedom." <more laughter, someone in balcony shouts "bullshit!">
But when conservatives get elected, the first order of business is to put power and control systems in place to preserve and grow that majority - at the expense of local control. From gerrymandering voter districts to overriding city and county legislators, Republicans have grown brazen in their desire to dominate the political landscape.
Make no mistake, "both sides" engage in redrawing voter maps, but with the aid of right-leaning courts (that have gutted the Voting Rights Act) and computer-generated voter analysis, new districts increasingly disenfranchise minority voters and dilute the progressive voice. When legislatures have a supermajority of right-wing lawmakers (that are backed by hand-picked courts,) the rights of the majority are threatened. (See: abortion rights, establishing common sense gun regulations, the advancement of renewable energy.)
Let's take a look at some of the wrong-headed power plays that are limiting democratic representation. (I have some more thoughts, below, on idiotic policy and how progressives should counter decades of putting up with "wrong," but the Outlaws have some thoughts on the matter, too.
It's common political knowledge that rural areas tend to be more red while urban areas trend blue. This is absolutely the rule here in Texas. In an effort to expand and consolidate their power, Abbot, Patrick & Co. have their sights set on Houston - probably the most Democratic stronghold in the state. Houston expanded access to the ballot box during the pandemic much to the delight of area voters. This appealed to a wide spectrum of voters, but statistically, the extended voting hours, expanded early voting, and ease of mail-in ballots, slightly favored Democrats.
From voting rights to municipal investment strategies to renewable energy policy and school district takeovers, Myra Jolivet reminds Houstonians that they are under attack. (Other city dwellers take note, if they haven't come for you yet, rest assured that you are on the list.)
Roger eats a little crow with Bearnaise sauce this week, because it looks like he is as good at political prognostication as he is at tennis. (His game is embarrassing enough, and you really don't want to catch him in tennis shorts.)
The good news? Gov. Greg Abbot finally got some balls! The bad news? They're big, red, and ugly... and there are thousands of them floating in the Rio Grande. But man, is he proud of his balls.
Work is underway to float the large buoyant balls in the middle of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. They are Abbott’s latest attempt to fight illegal immigration, a task reserved only to the authority of the federal government. A lawsuit was immediately filed by an Eagle Pass businessman and environmental groups insist there are dangers for more than just people trying to swim the river. Unsurprisingly, this latest border controversy has got our Outlaw Jim Moore all exercised over what he considers the venal politics of the Texas governor and the lives it will cost.
"They go low, we go high." Wasn't that a quaint political strategy? Michelle Obama used the phrase in 2016. The full quote was, "When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is: ‘When they go low, we go high’.”
To be fair, it is generally agreed that the Obamas could not afford to be seen as aggressive, combative, or bombastic. Angry right-wing conservatives were already apoplectic that an educated black man was rising (and ultimately held) the most powerful office in the world. They would not tolerate a direct or perceived challenge to the historical dominance of white rule. Attacking the far right with aggressive language, even if done defensively, would only reinforce the narrative that their 'way of life' was threatened.
"TGLWGH," (they go low, we go high,) was an acceptable (and productive) tactic... for the Obamas. But if you recall, First Lady Michelle Obama used the phrase in 2016, on the campaign trail in support of Hillary Clinton. Obama could not afford to rile the GOP base any more than they already were. But he had other cards to play as well. An incredibly motivated base backing him. A nation tired of the Bush years. Minority communities that were emboldened at the prospect of a black president. And finally, progressive voters of all stripes were excited for "hope and change."
Hillary Clinton on the other hand, faced a divided base. Bernie Sanders presented a far-left ideology and younger voters were taking note. Eight years of a black, Democrat president had inflamed and motivated the far right. It didn't help progressives that the conservative message machine and their extremely well funded communication channels were sharper and louder than ever. They labeled her as "shrill" and sexists among them derided her as "uppity" and overly "ambitious." She (wrongly) assumed that she had to "go high" to try and counter the insults.
And then on June 16, 2015, a profound change agent rode an escalator down into the lobby of the New York Trump Tower.
A former game show host and heir to a real estate fortune, the wildly popular populist Donald Trump was almost reptilian in his ability to instantly and viciously attack his opponents, his perceived enemies, and anyone in his orbit that he deemed insufficiently loyal. TGLWGH was not a strategy that would pierce his armor.
He went low. Stayed low. Lived low.
Trump labeled everyone around him with (often) derogatory nicknames. ("Crooked Hillary," "Low Energy Jeb," "Lyin' Ted," "Failing NY Times," and "Crazy Joe Biden.") He insulted veterans, Gold Star families, the disabled, and the war dead, ("losers," and "suckers.") And while the GOP has for years dog-whistled their disregard for ethnic minorities, Trump openly belittled them and elevated white nationalism, (see: Charlottesville torch-lit white nationalist rally, 'good people on both sides,' and the confederate flags being thrust at the Capitol Police on Jan. 6.)
Progressive messaging strategist Rachel Bitecofer is adamant that TGLWGH is a losing strategy.
While Republicans focused on branding Democrats as dangerous socialists intent on destroying America, Democrats were branding Republicans as good friends they just couldn’t wait to work with it! The poll-tested value of telling swing voters how great the other party is and how much you can’t wait to work with them is pretty high, but the electoral viability of such a strategy is low, very low.
...most Americans don’t follow the news, especially not political news, if you want them to know the Republican Party has collapsed into a dangerous cult that’s coming after their health, wealth, and freedom, you damn well better tell them yourself!
Even Obama wasted months and months trying to "bring Republicans to the table," as he "reached across the aisle" to achieve "consensus." The GOP worked madly to deny him a health care bill, and later would never stop trying to repeal it. They denied him a Supreme Court pick by refusing to take a vote on Merrick Garland, his nominee. Joe Biden erred in a similar fashion, confident that his many years in the Senate had given him the negotiating chops to facilitate bipartisan compromise. They refused to work with him on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure/recovery bill (which ultimately passed.) They raged about the sloppy and costly withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan, even though he was following the plan put in place by Trump. They block or delay voting on federal judge vacancies and military appointments/promotions. The list goes on...
After realizing that they haven't changed a bit, and in fact, are more determined than ever to rule by disruption and destruction, Biden has moved forward, quietly and effectively. The Infrastructure bill DID get passed, alongside a Covid recovery bill. Hundreds of millions have been invested in climate change (part of the Inflation Reduction Act.) Unemployment is the lowest it's been in decades. The American Rescue Plan put 500 Covid vaccinations into Americans' arms. Signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that created enhanced background checks, closed the “boyfriend” loophole and provided funds for youth mental health.
But that's still the whole WGH thing (we go high.) In addition to noting these many successes, it's important to calmly and pointedly communicate to those whom you have influence over evidence of the abject failure of the modern Republican Party. Need some help?
They've Been Wrong About Everything
Economics. For decades, the GOP has preached "trickle-down economics." Many have trained themselves to say this without smirking. Trickle-down is also known as "Reaganomics," "supply-side economics," and even "leak-through economics." Critics and serious economists have referred to this theory as "voodoo economics" or more succinctly, "bullshit."
The theory, broadly, is that cutting taxes for the wealthy class (and also big business,) allows those benevolent, compassionate billionaires to wisely invest in the greater economy. They will generously establish NEW businesses (that will need tax breaks,) and hire more people and EVERYONE will benefit from their intelligent allocation of resources. Reagan, the 'great communicator,' was not the first conservative to promote this scheme, but he was effective in convincing voters to "trickle down" with him.
The success that Reaganomics has had is in gutting the middle class. The decimation of unions among other things also factored into this, but tax policy leads the way in making the rich richer and the middle class disappear. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in social science to know that giving people more money doesn't motivate them to start a new companies and hire hundreds of people... if someone hands you more money, you keep it! Or spend it on real estate or passive investments. Sure, some of that goes into the consumer economy, but in a disproportionate way. Giving more money to rich people, makes them more rich.
Only half of millennials are earning more than their parents - the share of children earning less is the lowest on record. Since 1989, people under the age of 40 have seen their share of the nation’s wealth plummet from 19 percent to nine percent. Property and stocks get more tax breaks than work income. (So when a retired Republican living on a generous pension and social security tells you to work a little harder, tell grandpa to get a job.)
And isn't it interesting that a wealthy individual/company making a small investment in politicians can yield enormous support for tax laws that ultimately pay a huge return on that investment?
Guns. The far-right has formed a physical, nearly sexual relationship with firearms. The US has more guns in circulation than any other country in the world and the stores will be selling more tomorrow. We have 120.5 firearms per 100 residents.
The National Rifle Association, in the 70's transitioned from being an organization whose mission was “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation," to one focussed almost solely on their interpretation of the Second Amendment - that the population needed protection from a tyrannical government. The NRA became one of the strongest, most powerful lobby groups in the country. The money they spent on politicians was staggering.
The NRA and their allies wanted, of course, to sell guns. As time went on and the GOP branded itself as the real Americans - the patriots - the lust for guns dovetailed nicely into their patriarchal worldview. The well-financed marketing campaigns were often based on self-protection and fear - fear of criminals, fear of desperate immigrants, fear of tyranny, and yes, fear of outsiders (read: ethnic/racial minorities.) "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!" How many times did you hear that growing up? I've pointed out that comedian Jeff Jeffries has one of the most superb (and hilarious) takes on American gun humpage than anyone else I know.
You have guns because you like guns! That's why you go to gun conventions; that's why you read gun magazines! None of you give a shit about home security. None of you go to home security conventions. None of you read Padlock Monthly. None of you have a Facebook picture of you behind a secure door. -Austrailian comedian Jeff Jeffries
Japan — 10 gun deaths a year. US — 110 gun deaths per DAY. And the Japanese, btw, play violent video games, have access to violent movies, and mental illness is proportional to U.S. rates. But, they limit access to guns, and somehow (who knows how?) have a lower crime rate, and "mass shootings" are extremely rare.
The good-guy-with-the-gun crowd has said that we simply need more guns to keep us safe. It's one of the most transparent lies that they tell. Our society has become more dangerous and less safe; more guns have translated into lockstep with more gun deaths.
There were over 376 guns that answered the call of the Uvalde School shooting. Robb Elementary School had appropriate locking doors. The response time was optimal (there was law enforcement inside the school within 3 minutes.) Many of those on the scene had been "trained" in active shooter drills. Within a few minutes, several officers had long guns (which would have matched the gunman's firepower.) Yet it would be an hour and 17 minutes before they would bring down the shooter. 19 school children between 8 and 11 years old were slaughtered that day, along with 2 teachers who died trying to protect them.
Virtually every mantra that Republicans like to recite regarding how guns make us safer was shattered that day. There were more guns, guns were everywhere in fact. The doors had locks, (but as it turns out, one was either faulty or set incorrectly,) law enforcement was quick to respond, (they couldn't have gotten there any faster if they'd run across the campus,) and they had firepower equal to the shooter. And 21 people died that day, because all of that rhetoric is BS. It's wrong. Always has been. More guns don't make us safer.
Do we need to review how wrong the GOP has been in outlawing abortion? In the recent Dobbs decision, the stolen Supreme Court sent abortion law back to the states. Several states instituted various bans within hours. In several states, doctors were afraid to perform anything that resembled an abortion, no matter the medical need of the mother. Rape victims had to cross state lines to find clinics that could care for them. More than half of abortions were being performed on women of color - so they have been disproportionally affected. Unwanted children are being born into poverty. Emergency-related medical procedures are often denied or postponed, creating other adverse health effects.
Because the majority of sitting Supreme Court judges had promised to honor precedent and leave Roe v Wade alone, it was a shock to many when they realized that their states were shutting down clinics. Many pro-life politicians had promised to continue to allow abortifacients, though they are also being outlawed in red states. And remember how the GOP anchored their case on "states' rights"? Pro-life groups are now making headway with Congress in creating a sweeping, federal anti-abortion law.
If there is any silver lining to this issue, it is that it seems to have motivated progressives and Democrats to organize to fight back. It was a total surprise for some that a half-century of precedent was taken away. It showed just how far the modern GOP is willing to go in the control of women's lives. Even folks that are usually apolitical have found a reason to rise up.
Through the seventies and a little beyond that, a semester at a state university was less than a couple hundred bucks a semester. That's now easily five to six thousand dollars per semester. That does not, obviously, cover room and board if a student would like to go to a college not in their hometown.
Conservatives used to value excellence in education. Educated workers and professionals promoted innovation and a knowledgeable workforce. While racism has always led to oftentimes gross inequalities in schools, education and robust public universities have been a hallmark of conservative ideology. States often prided themselves on the quality of their universities and their ability to produce an educated workforce.
These days, fast food cash registers have pictures of food drawn on the screen, not prices that need to be calculated. Many high school grads lack an understanding of making change, or basic math for that matter.
The U.S. is actually bringing manufacturing back, but a C-grade student coming out of high school is probably not smart enough to operate complex machinery and robotics in a modern factory. The Detroit assembly lines don't look anything like they did in Post War America. Even refinery workers, hospital aides, construction workers, and those in other service professions must have computer skills, good reading comprehension, and some math proficiency to succeed. Or they'll be working that cash register with pictures on it. (Soon to be replaced by self-serve kiosks.)
But decent schools require tax money, and taxes are kryptonite to Republicans. Rather than continue to build a strong school system, Republicans have been dismantling them by neglect or cutting their funding, year over year. Teachers' salaries have not kept pace with inflation as their workloads have increased. State university tuition was deregulated in 2003, allowing them to set their own prices. In a matter of just a few years, the cost of a degree went sky-high. Lenders began to prey on students, encouraging them to take on more and more debt to complete a college education. Students were not allowed to declare bankruptcy, so there was absolutely no risk to banks. Encouraged by political groups, the various culture wars entered the classroom and school boards. Teachers, frustrated and underpaid, have left the profession in droves.
This suited Republicans just fine. As they dismantled public education, they declared them failures and pushed for privatization.
Their answer has been a fight for "school vouchers," also known as "school choice." Republicans wish to divert public education tax dollars back to parents, allowing them to apply money to private or religious schools. This is universally despised. Rural school districts would lose money as it was siphoned off to urban parents that actually had schools to choose from. While some are buying into this nonsense, even urban parents with access to private alternatives realize that the few thousand dollars that they might receive in a voucher, would barely dent private school fees which are often as expensive as private colleges. In other words, this is another policy that would almost exclusively benefit the wealthy.
Louisiana has a "school choice system in place. According to a recent study, 99% of Louisiana’s voucher tax credits go to families that earn more than $200,000 per year. Ted Cruz's kids go to a tony, private high school in Houston. The tuition costs approximately 30K a year. A YEAR! How far would a 7 or 8,000-dollar coupon go there with your family?
Any questions? Private schools are often not accredited. Religious schools, which are pushing hard for voucher programs, don't want state "interference," but their wealthy donors want that voucher money. In addition to them not being "beholden" to the state for academic requirements, private schools can select their student body. They are not required to teach special needs kids or any other kids that they don't consider worth their effort.
Private/public partnerships in the form of "charter schools," have proved (on average) no more effective than standard public schools in increasing test scores. Since there are owners and shareholders, the charter school business and schools in other states that accept vouchers (or other money from the state) are rife with corruption and grift, escaping the oversight of school boards and local representatives monitoring spending and enrollment figures.
So be sure and play a little TGLWGH. Be all positive and smiley-faced when you point out the positive economic news and the Democrats' accomplishments in the last couple of years. But throw a little shade at the failure of Republican policy over the past few decades. Government isn't the problem, never was. Bad government (and the dismantling of good government) is the real problem. We recently saw four years of that. Got stuck with a wretched Supreme Court because of it.
Failures. The modern GOP - forever wrong, never in doubt. About the economy, guns, abortion, education... heck, we didn't even cover health care (ugh!) poverty, and climate change. (Don't you love that one Republican climate-denier hold-out friend of yours, standing neck deep in storm water for the 5th time this year screaming, "There is no climate change! There is no climate change!")
Go ahead. Go a little low. Don't get down there and drown in the mud with 'em, but strategically, politically, you'll make a stronger case if, in addition to bragging about the successes of progressive policies being implemented, you clearly delineate where Republicans have gone off the rails.