By Bill Boyarsky
While going through my weekly ration of hate comments, including a veiled death threat, from my ultra-left readers, I wondered what they expect if their actions—or inaction—result in the defeat of President Barack Obama.
How will they feel on election night and the arrival of four years of Mitt Romney and maybe four years after that?
Perhaps in a few years or months, they’ll think of their attitude toward Obama when Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act denies them health care because of a pre-existing condition or leaves their kid without insurance. Maybe they’ll regret as they watch the Republicans begin to dismantle civil rights laws, a move presaged by the party’s surprisingly successful efforts to disqualify African-American and Latino voters. Hopefully, they’ll feel remorse as Romney and a Republican controlled Congress finally get a chance to eliminate the safety net for the poor.
Many, but not all, comments on my column reflect an anti-Obama animus that at times reaches hysterical proportions, expressing anger worthy of Fox News. Not since the Vietnam War and “Hey, Hey LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” have I seen anything like this. In fact, I thought of those days when I read an Open Salon blogger who wrote: “Obama-bin-laden is the most hideous of the worlds terrorists. He is not the ‘leader’ of the free world, he’s a murderous, criminally insane, war monger.” Or as another blogger, fantasizing an Obama monologue, wrote: “It took guts for me to take out Osama Bin Laden. You have no idea the hell I went through sitting in an overstuffed leather chair 7,000 miles away as the operation went down. And by God if I’m going to get credit for that then I’m taking credit for taking out those useless civilians too!” One wonders whether these bloggers are equally critical of Mitt Romney, who has for years threatened to go to war with Iran.
Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen analyzed the situation this way in The Huffington Post: “Obama’s conservative opponents lambast him as a radical, a socialist, and a purveyor of class warfare. His left-wing critics think he’s in bed with Wall Street, too cautious and timid to challenge the corporate establishment and the richest 1 percent.”
Unfortunately, polls at this stage of the campaign indicate Romney’s supporters are more motivated than Obama’s. A Gallup poll in late July asked people whether they were more enthusiastic than usual about this election. A total of 51 percent of Republicans said they were, up from 35 percent in 2008. Democrats, on the other hand, were considerably less enthusiastic—31 percent, down from 61 percent four years ago. Although Obama and Romney are just about even in public opinion surveys, there are troubling signs: By a 60.7 percent count, those polled think the country is on the wrong track and less than half—47.5 percent—say they approve of the job Obama is doing.
These numbers show Obama vulnerable to the Republican attack, led by unlimited spending by Super PACs expected in the fall. Fired up Republicans, anti-Obama independents and apathetic Democrats could be enough to put Romney in the White House and give the Republicans the Senate in addition to the House, which they now hold.
The harm from a Republican victory is—or should be—well known. When it comes to the economy and social programs, Romney has made it clear that he will be led by the nose by the conservative House Republicans and their intellectual inspiration, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Ryan’s budget plan, recently retitled “The Path to Prosperity,” would sharply reduce Medicaid, which provides medical care for the poor, by cutting appropriations drastically and then using the remaining money for block grants to the states to design aid programs that would fit their political tastes and economies. Noam N. Levey reported in the Los Angeles Times that the plan would cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Other House Republicans want about $2 trillion in cuts. I’ve seen what Medicaid does—caring for people before they are so sick they must go to an overcrowded emergency room for asthma, a seizure, heart failure or other sudden attacks that can be prevented by early and consistent care.
Medicare would be converted to a voucher plan, with recipients given government payments with which they could shop for policies in a virtually unregulated insurance marketplace. Food stamps would be cut. So would loans and Pell Grants for college students. “The plan would shift tax burdens so substantially from the wealthy to the middle class that people with incomes over $1 million would face much lower effective tax rates than middle-income families would,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
It took years to put together this safety net, conceived by liberal Democrats. What a shame if a segment of today’s liberals, so scornful of Obama, share the blame for dismantling it. All it takes is this one election.
Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras (CC-BY-SA)