Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Why OWS Is the Next Republican Boogeyman. 24 October '11
There's no question about it - next year's election will be historic - and it will be vitally important.
But it will also be wholly unique - unlike any election ever before.
And that's because neither Party is going into it with its usual strategy.
The Republican boogeyman role - played over the last 60 years by Communists and Muslims since 9/11 - is dead.
When President Obama killed Bin Laden, it took the steam out of their boogeyman strategy.
And to make matters worse, Obama had earlier gone to Egypt and said, in essence, “Tear down these dictators!” - helping spark the Arab Spring and totally deflating the Republican fear machine, which now sputters along on the fringes, trembling about Bachmann’s gays - Santorum’s fertilized eggs - and Perry’s immigrants.
And heck - throw in the likelihood of Mormon Romney’s presidential candidacy - and that means Republicans can’t even add “God” to their traditional “Gays, Guns, and God” trinity of GOP terrors.
Without someone or something to be afraid of, the Republicans are truly lost, wandering in the wilderness.
Unfortunately - so are the Democrats.
Just as often as Republicans have used the boogeyman strategy to win elections - Democrats have used the Santa Claus strategy - as in give people stuff that they want like unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, the 40-hour workweek, safe workplaces, clean air and water, and the minimum wage.
What the American people needed, they got - and they got it from the Democrats playing the role of Santa.
But thanks to a strategy laid out by Reagan advisor Jude Wanniski more than 30 years ago - Democrats are on the verge of shooting Santa... just as Wanniski had planned.
As I've talked about on this show numerous times - Wanniski encouraged Republicans to play Santa by giving people tax cuts and running up massive deficits so that when Democrats eventually came into office - there would be a so-called "debt crisis" - and Democrats wouldn't be able to give away any more stuff.
In fact - the so-called "debt crisis" would be so bad - Democrats would have to play Scrooge - and take stuff away - start cutting the social safety net.
Eventually - they'd have to shoot Santa.
Reagan dutifully ran up more debt in 8 years than every president from George Washington to Jimmy Carter - combined.
Herbert Walker Bush followed Reagan’s lead, adding trillions more to the debt and throwing in a war for good effort.
So when time Clinton came into office - Republicans went to phase two and began screaming about the debt crisis.
And Clinton bought into it - he dutifully shot the Santa Claus of “welfare as we know it” and kneecapped “the era of big government.”
Then when Clinton left - it was right back to business as usual with George W. Bush, who put Wanniski’s program on steroids - adding almost $6 trillion to the national debt, and a couple more wars.
For three decades, Wanniski’s strategy has worked brilliantly for Republicans and their rich donors, with the added bonus of largely wiping out the once-politically-active and pesky unionized middle class.
Three Republican presidents ran the nation’s debt up to such incredibly high levels that President Obama is now talking about shooting Santa Claus - cutting Medicare and other benefits.
So that's where we stand today - Republicans are trying to gin back up any fear card they can find because, to their chagrin, nobody’s really all that afraid anymore of gays, communists, or, frankly, even the Muslims.
And Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to revive Santa Claus, but Republicans in the House and Senate are successfully blocking their efforts to raise the taxes on rich people and corporations necessary to bring Santa back to life.
So - at least for the moment - it’s dueling straw men.
But Republicans are already thinking ahead - and have chosen their next boogeyman...
Occupy Wall Street.
And they're using GOP TV (aka “Fox News”) and a well-funded punditocracy to push out the message.
But frankly, I don't think it's going to work.
Unlike in the sixties when hippies were turned into boogeymen and then stuck for a while - Republicans will have a much more difficult time demonizing Occupy Wall Street folks.
That's because this isn't just about ending wars so that young people aren't drafted like it was in the 60s - this about the economic livelihood of the 99%.
This isn't just college kids in the streets - young people now are being joined by teachers, cops, firefighters, hard-hat, unions - wide swaths of the American electorate who collectively feel that they're being economically screwed - and in fact are.
Good luck turning THAT into a boogeyman.
As for the Democrats - they have a strategy too.
They're repeatedly - but unsuccessfully - bringing before Congress proposals to revive Santa with unemployment insurance extensions - jobs for infrastructure, teachers, and cops - and free healthcare for the growing class of the working poor via Medicare.
But the election of 2010 stripped Obama of the electoral advantage he needed to actually pass any of this Santa Claus legislation.
So the only hope he has is that the American people see that at least Democrats are trying to bring Santa back to life - and the Republicans keep pulling the plug.
That's why President Obama has been acting more like Harry Truman lately and running against a "Do-nothing" Congress.
So far - the polls haven't confirmed whether or not it's working.
So maybe that's why the electorate seems largely asleep, and political discussions seem vapid - neither side has it's trusty "go-to" platform to fall back on.
Barring another attack on America before November 2012, or the OWS movement turning violent - hopefully neither will happen - Republicans have lost their boogeyman.
And as long as Tea Party has control of the House of Representatives and that control remains unbroken, the Democrats have lost access to their Santa Claus.
Meanwhile, thirty years of Reaganomics and Clinton's insane free trade policies continue to destroy the American Middle Class.
As the old Chinese curse goes, we live in "interesting times".
That's The Big Picture.