Sunday, November 04, 2012

If It's Not Race, Then What Is It?

After Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have gotten back in the clown car driven into the sunset. After eight months of Mitt Romney and his ten-thousand-dollar bets, his glee at being able to fire people, his phantom tax returns, and his binders full of women. And after the Citizens United decision put the election up for sale to the highest bidders, who went out and spent six billion dollars, the next President of the United States will be chosen for the rest of us by two very small, and very specific groups of people. They are non-Hispanic white men over thirty with high school diplomas living in Toledo, Ohio and non-Hispanic white men over thirty with high school diplomas and/or college degrees living in Cincinnati, Ohio. No matter what they tell themselves, or what they say in polite company, or whatever answers they’re giving pollsters to keep the race as close as it’s been, the only thing that could be preventing these white guys from re-electing our current President is the fact that Barack Obama is black.

People may not like it, but the simple fact is the Electoral College makes Ohio the most important state in the country. And because the Ohio electorate has been polled, dissected, and focus grouped ad nauseam, we know that the direction America takes over the next four years will be determined by about 2% of the 60,000 white guys in Toledo and about 2% of the 60,000 white guys in Cincinnati who are still “undecided” as to which candidate they’re going to support. If they’re being honest, these 2,500 guys have to admit that no matter what area of public policy means the most to them, literally everything is better now than it was in November of 2008. The economy is growing, more people are working, the unemployment rate is down, the housing market is coming back, the stock market is way up from its bottom, and corporations are sitting on record amounts of cash. After successfully decapitating Al Qaeda, we’re out of Iraq and will soon be out of Afghanistan. We’ve got more control of the country’s banks and bankers, we’re producing more energy domestically, we’re improving our schools, and we’ve joined the rest of the civilized world in making sure our people won’t get sick and die for lack of health insurance coverage.

All of this happened because of the leadership of President Barack Obama, a Democrat who believes that the role of government is to make sure American families have what they need to survive, to thrive, and to move our country forward. By comparison, the Republican Party and its nominees for President and Vice President believe that the role of government is to cut deficits by spending less money, and to stay out of the way of the private sector.

That Republican approach to governing couldn’t be more wrong for working class and middle class white guys living in Toledo and Cincinnati. First of all, if not for government spending on the Miami & Erie Canal in the early 19th century, there wouldn’t even be a Toledo, Ohio. Government spending on major projects like the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art saved the city during the Great Depression. Thanks to President Obama making an unpopular bet on the American worker, government spending to bail out the automobile industry saved the city during the Great Recession. Keep in mind that Toledo, about an hour’s drive from Detroit, is where the Chrysler Corporation builds the Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep Liberty. I’m willing to bet that most of the undecided working class white guys living in that city either rely on the kind of blue collar jobs that government spending provides, or have a father or grandfather who did. Maybe it’s me, but residents of a city that owes its very existence to reliable government largesse voting for candidates who promise to cut spending doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

For those working class or middle class white guys living in Cincinnati, the choice in this election is more concrete – and is perfectly represented by the Brent Spence Bridge. Whenever these guys or their families fly into our out of town, they have to use the Brent Spence to get to Cincinnati’s airport, which is located in northern Kentucky. Their cars and trucks are among the 150,000+ vehicles that cross this functionally obsolete bridge every day, and they know the traffic gets so bad that companies pay extra money to avoid it. Over a year ago, President Obama stood on the Ohio side of the bridge and gave a speech calling on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which would have helped to create jobs repairing the bridge as well as supplying or supporting the companies doing the work. The economic growth around the bridge project (especially once completed) would have benefited the entire region. But because the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader in the Senate – whose districts are actually connected by the Brent Spence – weren’t willing to discuss increasing taxes on “job creators” to help pay for it, the American Jobs Act was a non-starter. To the Republican Party, making Cincinnati’s working class and middle class white guys suffer with a dilapidated Brent Spence Bridge is better than hiring many of those same guys to upgrade it.

The task of repairing the bridge – located on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America – has now been “sent back to the states and to the private sector,” as Mitt Romney likes to say. The result is that the Governors of Ohio and Kentucky are said to be close to signing a memorandum of understanding to develop a plan to finance the repairs so that work might be able to begin sometime before the end of 2015. How that helps anyone, including Cincinnati’s 60,000 working class and middle class white guys, is beyond me.

So let’s take a look at what the Republican Party and its nominees are actually offering the white guys of Toledo and Cincinnati. The Romney campaign has partnered with Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS Super PAC to pump boatloads of outside money into ads that don’t even pretend to be truthful or honest. It got so bad in Toledo that workers at Jeep plants had to call in to see if their jobs were actually being sent to China as the Romney campaign claimed (FYI – their jobs are safe). Romney himself wanted the Detroit-based American auto industry to die so that he and his vulture capitalist friends could pick at the corporate carcass (Romney still turned a tidy profit off of the auto bailout). To show his love for Cincinnati, local boy John Boehner and the Senator from across the river have done a treasonous two-step in Congress over the past four years; obstructing our President’s plans and delaying the inevitable economic recovery so that Obama and his Democratic allies in Washington couldn’t campaign on it. And they got our nation’s credit rating lowered in the process. To reward these people with the political power they covet so badly is to turn a blind eye to their ineptitude and their treachery. The white guys I know from Cincinnati and Lexington wouldn’t go out like that.

The bottom line is when you take away those GOP voters who are basically unreachable because they want to go to war with Iran or because they want to grant Constitutional rights to unborn babies, you’re left with the fiscal conservatives and the Libertarians. But anyone who actually cares about economic growth or creating jobs or getting the federal budget back on the road to being balanced can’t honestly support Mitt Romney’s plan because the numbers just don’t add up – it’s as mathematically simple as that. And anyone who actually cares about personal freedom can’t support a party that would deny marriage rights to people because of their gender, or a party who would involve the government in private consultations between an individual woman and her doctor. So for any non-ideological conservative, it’s simply not possible to vote Republican in this cycle and claim to be using anything resembling logic, reason, or even math.

Putting aside the fact that he’s up against someone with no experience, no credible plan, a pattern of misleading voters about his intentions, and a history of enriching himself and his partners by putting working class and middle class people out of work, the foundation question that every voter has to answer: Should President Obama be re-elected?

Well, he has met or exceeded every expectation, he executed his job extremely well under uniquely awful circumstances, he’s established a track record of providing care for the must vulnerable Americans, and he has obviously outperformed his predecessor. He’s got the job now, he wants to continue doing the job for another term, and there is nothing stopping any of us from voting for him because he’s on the ballot in all fifty states. More importantly, there is no conceivable way he could have done his job any better, especially when considering the fact that the 111th Congress of 2009-10 was the most productive session since the Great Society of 1955-56 – with no help at all from the Republicans.

So it seems to me that Toledo’s and Cincinnati’s working class and middle class white guys can either stand with public school teachers, first responders, veterans, women, the labor movement, and a bona fide American hero like former Secretary of State Colin Powell and re-elect President Obama – or they can stand with the ONLY group of people whose support for our President has dropped significantly since 2008. It’s a crowd known for its hysterical, irrational opposition to the social and economic advancement of black people: White men with high school diplomas and no college degrees, age 30 to 65+, living in the South. These old boys are POW’s in the public policy war for racial equality, they weren’t too happy about the fact that a black President was elected in the first place, and they’re certainly not going to be inclined to give him a second chance. The way I see it, the only way President Obama doesn’t get re-elected is if Buckeyes choose to vote like Crackers and Klansmen – if white guys in Toledo and Cincinnati choose ignorance over introspection, and racism over reason.


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