The term “something always beats nothing” has been around a long time in politics; in this case it’s the perfect description of the issue facing any Republican presidential candidate. If the Republicans want to win the White House they can’t simply oppose the multitude of bad ideas put forward by the Democrats, they have to offer up security and better solutions to an insecure electorate.
It’s human nature; when people are insecure they will often consider or adopt any idea that comes along, even a very bad one, rather than accept the status quo that is causing unbearable stress and unhappiness.
Most Americans believe they are middle class. According to a study by Pew Research, nearly half, 47 percent, of Americans describe themselves as middle class, another 11 percent as upper middle class, and 29 percent as lower middle class. Together, 87 percent selected the term middle class somewhere in their self-description. They are generally doing OK, but they are very insecure because they have something important they could lose – their middle-class status.
Psychological studies have shown that having something you value and losing it is a far more devastating than never having it and almost no one wants to move down the economic ladder. If you fall out of the middle class you land among the poor; that prospect generates real fear.
American families are frequently comparing themselves to the folks across town or, even worse, to the glitterati – the super-rich and famous, the fashionable, and naturally, envied. The comparison only increases their angst, others seem to be leaving them behind.
The poll also says “most Americans (62 percent) think the economic system in this country unfairly favors powerful interests.” Only about half as many (33 percent) say the system is “generally fair to most Americans.” This view is skewed by political preference, but even half the Republicans hold to it. The reason people believe it is because it’s true.
Although many middle class Americans are themselves part of those powerful interests in business, trade, and labor, it usually escapes their notice because the average person has very little individual power; therefore, they see themselves as disposable; potentially replaced by a less expensive immigrant or machine.
That is why the middle class supports entitlement systems – especially their entitlement systems. The sometimes off-budget, un- or underfunded, cost of middle class entitlements such as Medicare, Social Security, the deductibility of mortgage interest, tax-free employer paid healthcare premiums and life insurance proceeds, among many others far exceed those that go to the poor.
A reliable attack mode for the Democrats has always been, “If you elect the Republicans they are going to take your ‘(fill in the blank)’ away.” Republicans understand that the fiscal ship of state must be turned to survive, but too few understand that it must be turned slowly because change adds to the fear factor. Using the famous football analogy, “you have to play to win the game” – not merely the moment. America’s future is a long-term proposition.
Accomplishment is the name of the game; make the programs, even the ones that are politically distasteful, work by fixing them. If Republicans can’t make them work, they must offer better ideas to accomplish the same worthy goals because something beats nothing and it always will.