Exploring the puzzling phenomenon of the poor Republican (Opinion with Video)
The recent November 2012 US election saw Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney pounding on the poor repeatedly. On the campaign trail, while catering to his rich donors, he called 47 percent of Americans moochers who lacked work ethics. After losing the election, he defended his defeat to his rich donors by saying those lazy free-loaders depending on the metaphoric "government cheese," received bribes in the form of “gifts” to vote for President Barack Obama.
But through all Romney’s stroking of the rich and praising of those who he claimed “built it,” I’ve always wondered how poor Republicans coped with the barrage of put-downs hurled by their party leader.
How do Republicans who fit into Romney’s “47 percent losers” category handle the harsh criticism? You know, the demographic that desperately needs health care, a living wage as opposed to the minimum wage; and who may get government assistance in the form of disability, food stamps and housing, despite having jobs?
Don’t get me wrong. There are hard-working folks on both sides of the political aisles who fight their darnest to make a success at life but who seem to fall short regardless of how long and hard their toil. But the Democratic Party's rhetoric is consistent, and even if they may not always walk their talk, they are smart enough to know not to kick the “99 percenter” when he’s down.
The Republican Party hasn’t learned that tact, and Romney’s seemingly out of touch rhetoric loudly proved it. Yet there are people who, despite needing all of the social programs Obama and the Democratic Party are fighting to keep, hate “Obamacare" and dislike the president because they think of him as a “socialist, a “Muslim,” “unAmerican” or dislike him because “he’s a half-breed.” One actually said that the South is going to rise again.
I kid you not. Check out the video attached above, in which some of the good folks of Mississippi, the poorest yet most conservative state in the Union, tell why they vote Republican and hate the president and the Democratic Party.
It is fascinating to watch these Mississippians defend being Republican while living in a place where poverty seems to have taken up permanent residence. They live in a place where hope is abstract and education, dental and medical health are fleeting ghosts. But the deep irony of their tragedy is woefully lost as they passionately defend their conservatism, God and party.
But then again, can one make the same argument for poor liberals whose lot in live has not changed since a Democratic administration took office? A substandard public education system in the inner cities across America that continues to churn out academically under-prepared high schoolers or dropouts? (Read more on the disparity in education and the startling drop-out rate among male black youth here).
Prof. Cornel West and TV host Tavis Smiley have repeatedly “double-teamed” Obama for neglecting the poor, especially minorities. West has even harshly called him a “Lincoln Republican in black face” and he and fellow advocate Smiley have hosted a couple “poor bus tours” across America to spotlight poverty. (See video with West and Smiley here).
Some applaud both men for calling the president on his failures, but defenders of Obama say both men are either on a personal vendetta or are surprisingly out of touch with the reality of the presidency. I say it may be a little bit of all of the above, but that doesn't make West and Smiley wrong on their assessment.
Some might say at least president Obama is fighting to prevent cuts to social programs that many Americans, including the elderly, the disabled, the uninsured and those needing an interim hand-up, not a hand-out, depend on to survive. Romney categorized almost half of the country lazy welfare queens.
However, it does feel like both parties have thrown their poor constituents under the bus despite their loyal support, for unfortunately, under our political system, those who have the least among us get the least attention. So minimum wage languished at $5.25 an hour for more than a decade before Congress, after voting no several times, finally brought it to $7.25 in most states. Millions have no healthcare while Republicans ran a crusade to torpedo “Obamacare.” Most low-wage jobs—especially the service industry with employees who come into constant contact with consumers-- provides no health care for its workers as a killer flu rages through and cities declare public health emergencies across this country.
If one appears to be trying to solve a problem, but the problem seems stubbornly stuck in place and another ignores the problem or says he cannot help, but both end up at the close of the day with the problem unsolved, are they equally incompetent and or unfeeling, or does the one who tried get your approval?
Are there distinct differences between how the Democratic and Republican parties have treated the poor?