Demand Representation from the Reds

It’s the redding of America. Republicans spilled Democratic candidate blood across the country last week.

Scarlet covers the map. Republicans took governorships in traditionally blue states. They won U.S. Senate seats in purple states. And they secured majorities in both houses of legislatures in 29 states of all hues, the highest number since 1920.

That means in January, GOP politicians will represent even greater numbers of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens, Libertarians. They don’t solely represent climate-science-denying, immigrant-hating, Ebola-scare-mongering tea partiers. They represent everyone residing in their districts. And those people must speak up about what they want because it’s sure as hell not what Republicans have promised to do.

Republicans could easily – though wrongly – perceive their big victory as a mandate. But exit polls show something quite different: Voters don’t like Republicans any better than Democrats. What they mainly think is that the economy stinks. And they want Washington to fix it. Though the recession is officially over and employment up, they’re not feeling it on Main Street. They held their noses at the ballot box and gave Republicans responsibility for doing something about it.

House map

Voters told exit pollster after exit pollster the same thing: Though they pulled the lever for Republicans, they don’t like them. Fifty-four percent of voters told National Election Pool tabulators that they had “an unfavorable opinion” of Republicans. That’s the same percentage that had an unfavorable opinion of Democrats.

That’s no mandate. That’s a pox on both parties.

What voters want is economic revival. Repeatedly, they named the economy and jobs as their priorities. In the National Election Pool survey, 78 percent of voters said they were worried about the economy over the next year.  In the Hart Research poll, 54 percent said their income was declining, and 68 percent said “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people’s standard of living and boosts the economy.”

Though they picked the GOP, voters harbor no hope that Republicans will improve the nation’s financial standing. Sixty-two percent of those polled by Hart said they believed Republicans in Congress have no clear plan to strengthen the economy or create jobs.

And voters are right. Republicans aren’t talking about jobs. Instead, they want to cut taxes for corporations, slash federal programs for the poor and elderly and kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This would hobble the economy, not heal it.

If Republicans repealed the ACA, they’d be reaching into workers’ pockets and pulling out money. That’s because the 10 million who got insurance through the law would have to buy it on their own instead – if they could afford to do that, which, of course, they couldn’t do before the ACA. In addition, since the ACA, the price of health care has risen at historically low rates. Without the ACA, those charges would spike again, costing everyone with insurance more.

It’s not what voters want. Fifty-nine percent told the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies that their vote had nothing to do with the ACA, and half of voters said they wanted the law retained or fixed, but not repealed.

They’re not interested in cutting taxes for the rich and corporations either. Just the opposite. Two-thirds told Hart pollsters that they support increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for job training, education and deficit reduction.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, isn’t listening. He said last week that lowering corporate tax rates and the federal debt were his top priorities.  Absolving corporations of their responsibility to pay for the public services that enable them to reap huge profits while simultaneously slashing public programs that provide equal opportunity for all citizens to succeed is austerity economics. It has failed miserably in Europe. Replicating it in the United States would impose the same economy-blighting results on Americans.

That’s not what voters want from a redder America. They want economic renewal.

Like Boehner in the House, reds in the Senate are setting off in the wrong direction. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions is expected to take over the Senate budget committee and demand cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Gutting programs that this country has pledged to its elderly would defy the wishes of voters and damage the economy. Less money in the hands of senior citizens means less money spent, which, in turn, means less economic revving.

Voters strongly oppose any attempt to balance the budget on grandma’s arthritic back. In fact, 61 percent told the Hart pollsters said they want Social Security benefits increased. Also, 76 percent opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting Medicaid.

The exit poll results should serve as a bright red light to Republicans. Stop. Quit pushing failed economic ideas that Americans despise.

For decades, both parties boosted the economy with infrastructure spending. The condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads, pipelines, locks and dams all improved, as did employment, commerce and the nation’s finances. It worked.

But then Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate and presumptive majority leader beginning in January, vowed to make President Obama a one-term president by blocking all legislation, no matter how good it would be for America. He obstructed all infrastructure spending proposals.

The 72 percent of Americans who support investment in infrastructure need to call their red representatives. Tell them to invest in America. Do something that works. Something Americans want. And stop trying to take money out of workers’ wallets.

Tell them that if they insist on trying to mangle cherished programs like Social Security, voters will wash that red right off of that map in two years.

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