I'm not talking about religion except as an anology. I'm talking about the moment that a non-believer finds himself in deep shit and prays to God for help. That's the analogy.
Republican supporters have those moments; even the most stident of them who march right in election after election to vote straight party. The ones who memorize the GOP talking points that they hear on radio and television so they can repeat them at the water cooler at work, over the fence to their neighbors, or at the dinner table to "librul" relatives. The ones who hate taxes and welfare and "socialism". The ones who wear the flag pins and make a huge fuss over showing how patriotic they are. Those guys. We have met them or know them.
I'm talking about their "come to Jesus" moments because there have been so many of them lately and we'll see more.
Republicans, conservatives, or whatever they're calling themselves these days are very different from us "libruls". They live in a self-centered universe and see only things that affect them on a personal level.
They hate taxes because they see taxes not as a way to collectively support the means and methods of an advanced society, but as something "taken" from them that should be theirs and theirs alone. With that line of thinking, they easily fall victim to the GOP meme that "you can spend your money better than the government". Of course, they wouldn't spend their money on the military, roads, schools, water treatment, food inspection, etc., but that never enters their self-absorbed minds and even when it does, they think of that money as "wasted" until it's the road in front of their house that needs repair or the schools their own children attend.
They hate anyone or any thing that's different from their concept of what they think their community should be. It's that sense of tribalism that creates artificial divisions of "them" and "us" whether it's based on religion, ethnicity, ideology, urban vs. rural vs. suburban, or any other factor they deem important enough to create a line of division. In their minds, those divisions are important because it creates a class or classes of people beneath them and allow them to feel superior. It's the base reasoning for racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, and other social ills. It's why they go out of their way to decry anyone "different" as though there's a war. It's why they support ending welfare, unemployment, and other parts of our formerly robust social safety net (they think only it affects "those other people").
They love a strong "daddy figure" because of the safety and security they think it provides. The more aggressive their leader is, the more admiration they have, particularly when their words or actions are directed against "those other people".
The GOP has tapped into all of those things that are the essence of their followers and has used them well. They've used the self-centered nature of these people to their own ends for decades to support things like ending the Estate Tax (by making people think that someday they would be rich themselves), funnelling money to Wall Street and saving corporations pension costs by ending pensions in favor of self-funded IRAs and 401Ks (by making people think that putting away their own money privately will make them all millionaires by retirement age), Tax Cuts (by pretending that they're not aimed at the most affluent of us and making sure that the taxes of working people are high enough to keep their followers decrying taxation so the next tax cuts and the next and the next will continue to have massive support), ending Welfare (by creating the false illusion that Welfare is only for "those other people"), ending financial and corporate regulations (by making them think that business is being held back from creating fabulous jobs for them because of evil regulations), and on and on. They have created a legion of followers by relying on the selfishness and tribalism of their typical supporter.
The right wing, conservative, Republican (whatever they're calling themselves these days) have made sure they control much of what people see and hear on the media by ending the regulations that prevented a William Randolph Hearst media empire and others that ensured that broadcasting was done in the public interest. They've used this pipeline as a nationwide propaganda network giving talking points to their followers and supporters to repeat so they can feign an intellectual superiority of knowledge and awareness over others. They've used the internet, as well, to push out their skewed "facts" and misinformation as well as an extensive network of forwarded and reforwarded emails to blanket every inbox they can reach with more of the same.
We Liberals (and, yes, I use a capital L) see things differently. We see "us" instead of "me". We see harm to one as harm to all. We have an open tent which welcomes all ideas and discussions. And this view of our world makes us speak a very different language than the GOP which creates a bigger difference when we try to educate them.
Fortunately, the GOP agenda is unsustainable and has led us to today. All that tax cutting has left the wealthiest with a bonanza subsidized by regular people, has left the now pensionless workers with an empty retirement account forcing them to work longer than they should, has left people at the mercy of their banks, mortgage companies and credit card issuers, has left them without much support when they lose their own jobs or homes, and has left them with poisonous toys and toxic, contaminated food and water.
I've seen it in Wisconsin. One of the most common signs I saw in Madison during the protests said:
I've spoken with many of these people when I was out gathering signatures. People who told me they voted Republican for years, but no more. They had their "come to Jesus" moment when the wolf was at their door; when they were personally affected by a Republican policy or law or public official they loudly supported. In their minds, they thought they were "safe". Only "those other people" would be affected. Now it was their grandma whose Medicaid was being taken away, their child being crammed into an overfull classroom with no art or music or sports because of massive budget cuts, their town that would be subjected to the toxic effects of mining, their hunting or fishing spots that would be endangered by enironmental deregulation or lack of enforcement, their kids that were getting kicked off Badger Care, their kids that were facing even more massive tuition increases at the State University.
We're seeing the same things nationally.
It's been easy for Republican supporters to decry Unemployment Compensation, food stamps and other safety net programs because they have been told the recipients are lazy and don't want to work. The false image of the lazy, good for nothing collecting huge checks they don't deserve has worked well to reduce or drastically cut those programs. Now it's their job that's gone and the tiny check they get, after a humiliating application process they supported to ensure there would be no "cheaters" getting benefits they weren't entitled to, isn't enough to pay their bills or purchase sufficient groceries. And they have to submit "proof" of a continuing job search (policies they supported to prevent people from staying on UC longer than they needed to) which they find degrading and insulting. And to be subjected themselves to the same stares at the grocery store that they gave anyone using food stamps to pay the bill.
Now it's their home they're being cheated out of by the small print and legal language in a complex mortgage document. The echoes of "too much regulation" removed most Truth in Lending laws or other protections that would have saved them from this fate. It's their friendly banker that steered them into a Wall Street account that paid the bank and Wall Street firm huge fees rather than an FDIC insured savings account because we got rid of those regulations, too. Their account is now empty, legally robbed through outrageous fees and unwise investing. Ditto retirement account that they were told would make them millionaires by age 60. Ditto the college education fund they set up to help their kids climb the ladder of success.
They're having their "come to Jesus" moments one by one as they realize that the policies they wholeheartedly supported and voted for have paid them a personal visit. Many of them are "Reagan Democrats", former Democratic voters that responded to the self-centered, tribal dog whistle the GOP blew so often in the late 70s and beyond. Supporters of the GOP always wait until the wolf is at the door, then demand to know why nobody has done anything about the wolves.
As they stumble out of their Republican stupor with the realization that they are now "those other people", it's our time to educate them, remind them, and welcome them home.