, Newburyport, MA


January 23, 2014

Remember the Mugwumps

Paul Krugman’s editorial in The New York Times, Nov.1, entitled “A War on the Poor” with another subhead, “What happened to the Republican Party?,” brought to the fore many thoughts of where the party had come from and laid rumbling earthquake-like tremors of where it was heading.

Krugman takes us back to 1936 when Alf Landon received the Republican nomination for president. His acceptance speech provided themes taken up by modern conservatives: “the incompleteness of economic recovery, persistence of high unemployment and the economy’s lingering weakness to excessive government intervention and the uncertainty it created.” Landon went on to say, “out of the Depression has come, not only the problem of recovery, but also the equally grave problem of caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained ... Their relief at all times is a matter of plain duty.”

Quite a difference in perspective, 1936-2013, since it appears common knowledge the party views the unemployed as having it too easy, coddled by unemployment insurance and food stamps. There is a move within the GOP, however, to select less extreme candidates that are causing damaging tactics such as the government shutdown.

So, where, when and how did this train derail? Krugman relates the results of focus groups held with members of various Republican factions. They found the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps ‘Those People,’ not people like themselves and binds the rising non-white population to the Democratic Party. And, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.” Krugman’s conclusion: “There is indeed a war on the poor and that war is now the critical defining issue of American politics.”

How else can this be viewed other than by the Republican attack on everything from Obama personally to the hold on appointments such as the head of FEMA and other local and regional judges?

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