“In the past year, 7 in 10 low-income families experienced at least one civil legal problem, according to a recent University of Chicago NORC survey done for the Legal Services Corporation. Such problems include foreclosures, domestic violence (getting a restraining order, for example), custody disputes, debt repayment or neglectful landlords. The elderly, rural residents and veterans — all core components of the Republican base — are especially well-represented in this population.”
What is interesting about these budget cuts is the way they reveal a real fault line that runs through the Republican base. It turns out that while socially the base may be very “Republican” i.e. anti-foreigner & Anti-immigration, anti-LGBT & anti-gay marriage, hard core Christian & anti-Muslim, and bigoted against people of color, those very same people, often without realizing it, are very Democratic in their economic / policy attitudes.
The hard core Red States in the heartland are some of the largest recipients of Federal aid in the form social safety net support (often known as welfare). As was the case with so-called Obamacare, often these people, who are not the most sophisticated folks, don’t even understand the details of the support they get. When the find out what’s involved with cutting these GOP vilified programs they are often horrified.
The nation’s poor have been relying on Federal assistance in myriad ways. Legal assistance is just another program that benefits low income people who no other means of navigating the legal environment in which all of us live. When faced with losing this support due to GOP budget cuts, the poor and working class folks who have relied on them are not happy.
In most cases these programs exist because Democrats created them and pushed them through the legislative process, sometimes with moderate GOP support and sometimes with no GOP support at all. Now that the GOP is in control of Congress and the Presidency all of these programs are in danger of being either eliminated or drastically cut. And it is the core voter base that is waking up to the fact that they’ve elected leaders who are ideologically committed to destroying the safety net upon which they depend.
This points out a glaring reality. The Democrats have been and continue to be the political party that has consistently, since the Great Depression, championed the programs that provide a floor to poverty. Programs designed to keep our poor and working class citizens from sinking below the waves and drowning in poverty. And they have been doing an abysmal job of reminding people of that fact.
Why is it that the GOP has such a strong base of support precisely among the folks that depend on these essentially Democratic programs for their survival? One must arrive at he conclusion that, in its championing of the rights of our vulnerable minorities, women’s rights, workers rights, civil rights for minorities, LGBT rights, and diversity as a positive value, the Democrats have done a very poor job of reminding the American public that the programs upon which our nations poor and working class depend for survival, are Democratic programs.
The GOP has mastered the art of playing upon the social biases of the American heartland to convince them to vote against their own economic interests. As long as power seemed to lie in some part with the Democrats, the GOP could blame all sorts of issues on those terrible Liberals in Washington. But now, the GOP is in the position of having to own the whole thing. They control the whole government. And that is starting to wake people up. Voters in the heartland are starting to look at the proposed cuts in the GOP budget & health care bills on an item by item basis.
GOP legislators trying to create the ACA replacement are finding that, in order to keep the elements of health care coverage that the voters feel are essential, they are ending up with something that looks suspiciously like Obamacare 2.0. This is revealing a major fault line in the GOP between those who hesitate to risk losing the support of their base by seriously damaging their economic survival and the hard core ideologues who put their radical libertarian philosophy ahead of the welfare of their constituents.
It is clear that the Democratic Party must figure out how to craft a message that makes this clear to the poor and working class folks who seem to have not understood or have forgotten just what it is that the party does for them. We need to get back to the old Democratic party alliance with organized labor, develop programs designed to deal with the widening wealth / income divide, think forward by working out programs designed to help the work force transition to the jobs of the future as the robotics revolution destroys traditional work models.
But more importantly, the Democrats need a better understanding of how to sell their program. They need a “ministry of propaganda” that understands the current neuroscience of how voters make their decisions, how to craft a message the resonates. We clearly are the party which has the agenda that benefits the poor and working classes economically coupled with an idealistic civil rights agenda of diversity that appeals to the educated liberal elites.
How we develop a sophisticated messaging program to “sell” that fact will determine the survival of the party in the future. The GOP control of the entire legislative process is going to create the opportunity to create a huge backlash against the GOP programs which are now transparently for the benefit of the richest oligarchs at he expense of the common man. But the Democrats have to craft the message and hammer it home. They also need some candidates that are inspiring and charismatic that can get the voters excited about the Dem agenda.
Article on the Threat to Legal Aid in the GOP Budget
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