One of the most obvious things about the three days worth of speeches at the Republican National Convention was the small number of times the speakers referenced the party’s presidential candidate. One could almost wonder what they were conventioning for if not to anoint their candidate. But the tactic makes a lot of sense, if one assumes the party leadership does not plan on concentrating on the top of the ticket.
The race for President is a tight one, and will probably come down to turn-out, which is the reason that the Republicans are working so hard to limit turn-out by traditionally Democratic voters. The Republicans have also had the opportunity, because of the 2010 census, to redraw legislative districts. In states with Republican majorities in their legislatures, those new districts have been drawn to favor an increase in Republicans being elected to the House of Representatives.
That is where the Republicans are truly focused, not on Romney and Ryan, but on the House and Senate. If they can achieve a large enough majority in both chambers, it doesn’t matter who is president. Or so they think.
Republicans tend to suffer from collective amnesia. Their last President proved that majorities in the Congress really don’t matter if a President wants to bypass them. President George W. Bush used signing statements, hand-written notes on bills that he was signing into law, saying that his administration had no plans to enforce the law. A veto can be overridden. A signing statement cannot. Bush used almost 100 signing statements to short-circuit bills passed by the Democratic majority in the House and Senate in 2007 and 2008. He also used almost 200 executive orders to bypass Congress during this two terms, and used them to bypass our Constitution, our laws and international laws in his handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
President Obama resisted using executive orders until there was no other way to implement a handful of small measures to help the economy. He has used only one signing statement to void a part of a law as he signed it – the National Defense Authorization Act. He wrote an extensive signing statement that showed why the indefinite detention provisions of the law relating to American citizens were unconstitutional. Of course, this Congress hasn’t passed as many bills as were passed during Bush’s administration. In fact, the current Congress, the one that was sworn in in 2011 with a tea party surge, has broken the previous record for how little a Congress can accomplish.
The speeches that did not focus on Mitt Romney were intended to fire up the base for the House and Senate races, for the state elections. Romney is an irrelevancy, Republicans seem to think, if they can control two of the three branches of government and the state governments. They can afford to wait until 2016 to elect a President.
We, however, cannot afford to wait another four years for a recovery. We cannot afford to follow Europe into social program austerity and compound the problem with lower taxes or continuing the stupidities of our tax code. Europe is on the brink of imploding. They are in double dip recessions and depressions because of those policies. China has seen its economy slow, as has most of the world. No nation, not even North Korea, is economically isolated. What we do in the next four years will be impacted by what the rest of the world does, and the worst thing we need is a relaxation of what few regulations we have about tax havens and tax shelters, multinational corporations and foreign ownership. We have seen new trade agreements hung up by Republican filibusters while Republicans lament the President’s inability to deal with China’s unfair trade practices – another one of their warpings of facts.
The global economic situation strongly resembles the world after World War II. The war had touched every continent, had involved so many countries. The world was shifting in monumental ways – from old empires to new Cold War alliances, from colonies to liberated nations. The Great Depression that preceded that global war had impacted every continent as well. It was a time to reinvent our nation, remake our economy with our faces pointed to the future, leaving the ways of the past behind us. Our national debt was huge, even greater as a portion of our GDP than it is today. We had barely instituted a new program called Social Security. We had 16 million veterans returning just as factories that had provided materials for the war effort were closing. There had been a surprising housing shortage in our big cities during the war.
President Obama’s view of how to deal with our economy today is drawn in large part on the policies of our post-war presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Though technically from opposing parties, they followed the same ideas for our economy – the huge investment of the GI Bill that paid for education for our veterans and helped them start their own businesses, investing in infrastructure for the second half of the 20th century, support for housing through low-interest mortgages, and a 90% top tax rate to help pay for it all. It worked. By 1960, we had the greatest middle class and the strongest economy in the world, and our national debt was under control, not because we were paying it off but because our GDP had soared to the point where the national debt was a minor inconvenience. History says this is the path to take. History condemns the policies of the Republicans which have driven us into the Great Depression and two recessions. And “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Re-electing Barack Obama is not enough. We must have control of the House and at least 60 seats in the Senate. Without a Democratic majority, the President will be severely handicapped. Without a Democratic majority, the President and his cabinet will be harassed and harried as they have been by Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Peter King. Without a Democratic majority, we cannot recover and will only slip further and further into the kind of economic disparity that fuels real revolutions and actual communism. That, too, is part of the historical record.
The Republicans say that they want to “take back our country” without ever saying from whom or to when. But read between the scripted lines and you know who they want to take the country from – anyone who is not white, not Christian and does not conform to the Anglo-Saxon ideal. They want to take us back to the 1920s or the 19th century, when there were no protections for workers, when there was no protection for our environment, when people died from lack of medical care, when women died from illegal abortions that their desperate situations drove them to, when children were dumped at orphanages or sold into prostitution or bonded servitude because their parents could not afford to take care of them. My own mother-in-law was six when her parents accepted $20 for ten years of her life as a house maid. It was 1913.
We have nine weeks and four days until the election. Our future depends on the outcome at every level. Please, volunteer, not just to man phones for the President, but to work for your Democratic candidate for your House seat or your Senate seat, for your state legislators and state officers, for your town or county, you school board. Volunteer to drive people to the polls or, if needed, to drive people to the DMV offices to get photo Ids. Please. Volunteer. It’s our future on the line.