Steve Benen has a post up expressing amazement that Republicans have decided to make “starve the unemployed” a talking point. Not that it’s surprising that many Republicans believe that unemployment benefits are wrong because they give people who live paycheck to paycheck the occasional opportunity to avoid taking extremely shitty, underpaid work that makes it difficult to look for another job with any potential at all. Just surprising that they’d say that in an era of 10% unemployment, when it seems politically unwise to tell people that it’s their own fault that they can’t get a good job in the worst economy since the Great Depression, and implying they’re lazy. Clearly, the teabaggers are emboldening a lot of dipshits in the Republican party to say stupid shit they’d otherwise think twice about. Most people find these statements appalling, but teabaggers hear nothing but ego-stroking—the underlying argument they hear is that hard times could never fall on them, because they’re good people. Wishful thinking goes far with right wing populists.
I realize Democrats are smart enough to use this to their political advantage in fund-raising and getting votes, but there’s so much more that you can do with this. After all, here’s your major argument for why they’re against universal health care. They cannot stand the idea that someone who has to work for a living might have options, that you may be able to hold out for a better job because you don’t have the threat of death or homelessness hanging over your head. Universal health care means being able to have insurance that’s meaningful at all between jobs, after all. If you have a pre-existing condition, for instance, you basically have to take any job that’s out there, no matter how shitty, as long as it has benefits. Yes, they’re trying to build a society where 90% of people work themselves to death so the other 10% can live lives of unbelievable sloth and luxury. There’s ways that Democrats can weave that truth into a larger narrative in campaign ads.
I wish I could say I feel sanguine now that the Republicans are running around telling Americans that they’re lazy people who don’t deserve to live, and that we only exist to work our fingers to the bone to enrich others. Unfortunately, I’m not resting easy. That message puts off most people, but it energizes a wacky minority, and an energized minority often can wield a lot of power in a democracy. (Look at the anti-choice movement, for instance—they’ve made huge gains while basically standing for the principle that the way 95-98% of Americans live should be severely restricted and punishable by law). We should be very afraid, especially when the Democrats often are so afraid of their own shadows, they’re always making a bunch of random concessions to conservative craziness to exactly no electoral or political benefit. I, for instance, can’t wait until Republicans start claiming on TV that KSM got the civilian trial that Obama nixed, and the hosts don’t bother to correct them.