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None Dare Call It Treason: Why Republicans Won

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Democrats have offered many excuses for their devastating losses in the 2014-midterm election, but they failed to include the most obvious: they were weak. Starting with President Obama and extending through most of the Party leadership, Democrats didn't fight back. Democrats routinely let Republicans get away with actions that, were the roles reversed, Republicans wouldn't stand for.

In 2014 Republicans bullied Democrats. Republicans proved, once again, they will say and do anything to win. Republicans don't care if they scuttle our democracy along with the fragile economy, to them winning is all that matters.

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Let's begin the 2016 campaign season by calling Republican politicians by their true name: traitors. Enemies of the United States of America.

The Republican descent into treason began with Ronald Reagan and his deplorable "Reaganomics." At the forefront of this philosophy were three big lies: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else; markets were inherently self correcting and therefore there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because that was a natural consequence of the free market.

In 1981, the Republican Party embraced plutocracy and ushered in a thirty-year period where America's working families were abandoned in favor of the rich. Inequality rose as middle class income and wealth declined. As corporate power increased, unions were systematically undermined. As CEO salaries soared, fewer families earned living wages. Reaganomics produced a warped and brittle US economy, where more than two-thirds of our GDP was housing related: building, buying, and furnishing new homes or borrowing against existing homes in order to maintain a decent standard of living. In 2008, when the credit bubble burst, the debt-based consumption model failed, taking down first the housing sector and then the entire economy, resulting in catastrophic job losses.

That's the mess President Obama inherited -- the dreadful consequences of failed Republican policies. In 2009, there was a brief honeymoon period and (some) Republicans worked with Democrats to pass the "Economic Stimulus Act." Then Republicans dug in their heels and reverted to character. On the even of the 2010-midterm election, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "We need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government" The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

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From that point on, Republicans did everything they could to prevent economic progress. Republicans became "the Party of No" and blocked every Democratic proposal to boost the economy, lower the unemployment rate, protect the longtime unemployed, and reduce inequality. In the face of this, President Obama, with the support of the Federal Reserve, nursed the economy back to health: the stock market boomed and unemployment was reduced below 6 percent. In 2013, the federal budget deficit was a reduced to a third of the size it had been in 2009.

However, for many Americans, the economic recovery was illusive because their wages were flat. Businesses recovered but workers didn't. Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage and otherwise improve the lot of working families.

On October 1, 2013, to make a political point, Republicans forced a government shutdown that lasted 16 days. This cost the economy $24 Billion, cost taxpayers $2.5 Billion, and eliminated 120,000 jobs.

Indeed, since the passage of the 2009 Economic Stimulus Act, there's hasn't been one thing that Republicans have done that improves the lot of working families. They don't care because it was never their agenda.

On August 29th, President Obama identified the Republican political strategy: "There has been a certain cynical genius to what [Republicans] have done in Washington. What they've realized is, if we don't get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everybody" And the more cynical people get, the less they vote. And if turnout is low and people don't vote, that pretty much benefits [the Republicans] who benefit from the status quo." That's what happened in 2014. Republican voters turned out but Democrats were depressed about the prospects for change and didn't vote.

President Obama knew what was happening but for whatever reason he didn't call out the Republicans as obstructionists, as enemies of democracy. In 2014, Democrats were weak and didn't fight back. Democrats didn't blame Republicans for an economy that while growing is only working for the rich. (Indeed, Democrats didn't have any consistent message in 2014.)

But liberals don't have to hold back. Playing nice has cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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Liberals can fight back. We can call Republicans on their immoral plan to ruin democracy. Liberals must call Republicans by their true names: traitors.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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