Democrats like to think that Republicans are stupid, and an event like Rep. Steve King’s anti-immigrant summit in Iowa on Saturday provides plenty of evidence for that argument.
But we could be laughing our way to irrelevancy.
Our guffaws embolden the GOP base and helps GOP donors distract us from the fact that conservatives are winning. And they could be on the verge of winning the prize they’ve been after for decades — a unabashed conservative Supreme Court majority that could last for generations.
Take Steve King, for instance, please.
Last year, even Republicans were mocking him for saying that that most undocumented immigrants were 130 pounds with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” As we laughed, he was taking names.
His staff has a list of 12-16 “prominent Republicans” who have offended the party’s spokesperson for mass deportations.
“Their agenda has been marginalized,” a smiling King told msnbc’s Benjy Sarlin. “Mine’s been strengthened.”
The party abandoned a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Minority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated because of rumors that he supported reform. The House also voted to cancel the president’s executive action the delays the deportation of people brought this country as children and family members of citizens — over and over.
And on Saturday, more than a half dozen frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination showed up to kiss King’s ring at the “Freedom Summit.”
Democrats had a good time watching the GOP embrace Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin along with the new Republican senator from Iowa Joni Ernst. While the speeches came off as incomprehensible and nonsensical to Democrats watching at home, they enthralled a base that doesn’t need any explanation or evidence to believe that Obamacare is the greatest evil ever to confront America.
Carson: even if Obamacare worked, you still can’t have health care in hands of government. [Audience full of people on Medicare applauds]
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) January 24, 2015
Though Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney weren’t there, King assured the crowd that their next nominee for president was speaking from his stage.
Meanwhile in California’s desert, an even more important gathering was taking place. Charles Koch told a gathering of Republican donors that they needed to expand their efforts to elect conservatives in 2016.
While 2012 didn’t go well, the 2014 election yielded Republicans more House, Senate and state legislature seats since any time before the Great Depression. Now they’re planning on spending up to $1 billion in the 2016 cycle.
Because they want more. Specifically, they want the presidency to make sure they keep a conservative Supreme Court majority and expand it.
While those at the King summit are looking forward to the repeal of Roe v. Wade, which will close the few remaining women’s health clinics in red states, the Kochs just want another Samuel Alito and John Roberts — the two most pro-business judges of the last 65 years — for their willingness to screw workers.
David Koch claims to be pro-choice and supportive of gay rights, which means if he were running he wouldn’t support himself because Republicans wouldn’t nominate him for anything.
The Republican base — and American voters — don’t care what donors believe. They care who they identify with. And conservatives have spent billions giving their candidates a framework they point to as a sign that they support “freedom.”
That’s how a Dr. Ben Carson — a distinguished surgeon who has never run for office — can sound as persuasive as almost any other Republican candidate. He just repeats the things he’s read in email forwards and heard on Fox News.
Democrats spend almost nothing promoting the frames and ideas that explain their worldview, as George Lakoff explains in his essential book Don’t Think of an Elephant.
Liberals think reason will prevail and the public would never be foolish enough to re-elect the exact guys who turned a record surplus into a record deficit as we lost two wars. We’ve been proven wrong twice already.
The right looks at this chart and knows exactly who to blame:
Obamacare and high taxes and big gubbermint (hands off my Medicare)!
Meanwhile Democrats struggle to explain the actual reasons why workers are receiving catastrophically low wages in the face of record corporate profits.
I’ll try: Since the 70s, labor has been systematically diminished by regulations that allow corporations to focus entirely on compensating executives and cannibalizing profits to benefit speculators. And our tax system has been hacked to increase the benefits of playing with money while making it more expensive to be poor. And because so much of middle class wealth was tied up in a ponzi-ed real estate market, all of the returns of the recovery have gone to those who make their money off speculation.
Every Democrat should have a three sentence summary of William Lazonick’s “Profits Without Prosperity” at the top of their minds. Few do.
Democrats are better at one thing than Republicans — mockery.
Jon Stewart is the king of liberal mockery. But The Week‘s Ryan Cooper points out that Stewart’s political philosophy isn’t liberalism — it’s the gooey centrism that Republicans have been dragging further to the right every day since 1980.
In 2010, as Republicans were blaming Obama for an economy they helped destroy, Stewart was making the argument that “both sides” were to blame. If they could just work together everything would be fine.
Democrats want to save Social Security. Republicans want to junk it for parts. So why not just junk some of it? When the truth is we should be expanding Social Security.
But there was no rally on Saturday with Democratic candidate after Democratic candidate calling for that. No donors conclave where Democratic donors were deciding to dump more cash into 2016 because they’re all that stands in the way of freedom.
There was plenty for Democrats to laugh on Steve King’s stage — even from Scott Walker, who has won three elections in almost as many years in a blue state.
Thanks to people like King, demographics are still on our side, at least in presidential years.
But the right is trying to figure out how much cash they need to burn to make up for the hilariousness of their candidates. And pretty soon, they may figure it out.
[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]