If Republicans are desperate they know who to thank. The party continues to collapse at the hands of a man the people chose to beat the Democratic Party’s first female nominee. Instead of backstabbing we’ve been waiting for a plan for an election win. What we got instead was a Better Way and its poverty war, a new GOP agenda unleashed while party members rush to add their names to the anti-Trump wall of shame.
This isn’t the path to victory we were looking for. It’s not even close.
Better Way to fight a poverty war? Ask a Democrat.
Paul Ryan betrayed the GOP’s greatest weakness while promoting the anti-poverty portion of this new scheme to win favor:
The war on poverty is a stalemate at best.
So we can keep doing the same things and getting the same results.
Or, instead of trapping people in poverty, we can get them on the ladder of opportunity… 1
The speaker’s observation about repetition and failure has as much to do with failed GOP party politicking as it does with how America fails to help the poor. Ryan is no Lyndon Johnson. That’s a good thing, but Johnson knew how to sell a poverty war. It isn’t the same thing coming from Republicans and even if it was, another war on poverty isn’t what we asked for.
Voters know that when you want to fix poverty you turn to Democrats. The poor are their turf. No matter how many costumes Republicans don they aren’t going to be able to trick voters into believing in their solutions. Too much has come before this and real solutions are not what a poverty war is about. It’s about perpetuating poverty and scraping up funding for the government dole. This is the territory of Democrats. They are really, really good at it.
Cheap words aren’t a Better Way
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers helped push the Better Way vision this week. She spoke of “returning power to the American people,”2 an ironic goal given the party’s efforts to yank the rug out from under the people’s choice for a conservative president:
“At the end of the day, what we do is – and has to be – about people, not just policy,” said McMorris Rodgers. “We are not defined by where we come from.”3
People may not be defined by where they come from, but the Republican Party is. This makes it a bad idea to announce new agendas that aren’t convincing when the going gets rough. It didn’t work when the GOP tried to be the party for Hispanics after the 2012 Romney disaster. It didn’t work with the Pledge to America. It isn’t going to work now. Words are cheap. Actions speak a lot louder.
Republicans are fond of words, whether they are threats or promises, but a war on poverty makes GOP efforts to look like Democrats even more shallow, transparent, and pathetic. The party didn’t embrace the Fight for $15. It wasn’t too hot on Obama’s new overtime order for salaried workers. When you try to sell work instead of dollars to people used to liberal spending and government mandates, you’ve got a problem.
Fight poverty by rewarding work? Not exactly.
Disunity in the ranks isn’t the only problem with this Better Way to fight poverty. There is a fundamental misunderstanding behind it as to why we fight poverty wars that speaks to everything Republicans stand against.
A Better Way sounds suspiciously like Obama’s Fair Shot, but for many people living in government-funded squalor the first item on the “Our Ideas” anti-poverty list will blow the whole concept out of the water:
A good job is the surest way out of poverty. If you are capable, we will expect you to work or prepare for work. 4/sup>
Perhaps Republican PR meisters missed too many breakfast meetings. Maybe the party is so shell shocked by Trump that it is only firing on a few cylinders. For eight years our government has indoctrinated the poor, underemployed, and those making minimum wage into believing that nothing is their fault. It’s the fault of the rich. The fault of corporations. The fault of fast food chains. The fault of the Republican Party. When the low-skilled jobs many will be stuck with won’t pay the $15.00 per hour Middle Class stepping stone they are told they deserve, how are they going to react to the conservative plan to get them out of the hole with hard work?
They will vote for anyone but Republicans.
There is more to this than working, of course. Saving for the future is another idea, not an especially good one for those barely making enough to eat. Everyone should save. Not everyone can. Education is important. That’s nothing new. Come to Illinois and see how it works in practice.
We need an election war, not a right wing war on poverty
If they are going to imitate their opponents, the Republican leadership should forget fighting poverty and try sticking together. If they could learn to agree with each other they might be able to make one of their desperation agendas believable. We know they can do it if they want to. Look how they got together to turn on Trump.
The party’s by the bootstraps approach is admirable given that Democrats have focused the nation on government doing what the individual used to do. Still, this one is a little too late to sell. Hillary Clinton and a campaigning Barack Obama will be a lot more believable to the downtrodden than another Republican plan that requires Americans to take responsibility for their lives. Besides, how can we expect voters to trust the GOP to fight a poverty war when Republicans don’t even trust their own pick for president?
Updated June 11, 2016: link to Paul Ryan press release added.