The Silence of the Lambs

Update appended.

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Last week, dozens of Republican volunteers packed Mr. Gardner’s campaign offices in the college towns of Boulder and Fort Collins to get a handshake or selfie with the amped-up candidate. Spotting a boy in a Denver Broncos football jersey, Mr. Gardner whipped out his cellphone and showed him a photo of John Elway, the Broncos’ general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback, who has donated to Mr. Gardner’s campaign.

The boy’s father, Dave Holdbrook, a truck driver who has been on disability for several years after a job-related injury, said he had already mailed in his ballot for Mr. Gardner.

“I’m really concerned about what’s going to happen with Obamacare,” he said. “Spending’s just out of control, and Udall’s lined up with Obama 100 percent of the way.”

Republicans Setting the Early Pace in Colorado With 104,000 More Ballots, Jack Healy, New York Times, yesterday

Okay, so Dave Holdbrook thinks social-safety-net federal spending—basic income support and comprehensive healthcare insurance, which federal disability insurance includes—should be limited to him.  Or else he thinks the State of Colorado, together with a gift to him from Anthem Blue Cross, are providing these.  And eventually he will reach the age of 65, and if Medicare hasn’t already been privatized or unabashedly ended with the help of Sen. Gardner, Mr. Holdbrook will angrily tell Democratic members of Congress to keep their government hands off his Medicare.

Too bad basic knowledge and logic won’t be requirements to vote under the voter-ID law that Colorado surely will have by the next election if the Republicans regain control of the statehouse and governorship next week.

Elsewhere within the last two days I read a quote from an Iowa voter who already has voted for Joni Ernst to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin because “of what Obama and Harry Reid are doing to the deficit.” (Something like that; I don’t have the exact quote handy.)  Presumably, that voter is not a farmer and so doesn’t receive federal farm subsidies.  And in the last week, Ernst began running ads featuring pigs, and saying in the ads that she’s for cutting pork.  (Although not cutting the actual farm product, or the farm subsidies that support the product, I assume.)

I read about the ad but haven’t seen it, but I assume it says something about “what Obama and Harry Reid are doing to the deficit.”

The budget deficit, of course, has dropped dramatically since 2010.  And basic government agencies such as the National Weather Service, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Administration are being drastically curtailed, as are other critical functions of the federal government such as basic infrastructure upkeep and federal financial assistance to states for, among other things, funding for their state universities and colleges.

On Friday, on the New York Times blog Taking Note, David Firestone wrote that ‘it’s clearly too much to expect that Democratic candidates would tell voters that a smaller deficit is the last thing the economy needs right now. Not even Senator Elizabeth Warren campaigns that way. But,” he asked, “given the universal mythology that a lower deficit is always a good thing, would it kill Democrats to point out that the deficit actually has fallen by more than 50 percent since President Obama took office?”

His question was rhetorical, of course.  It wouldn’t kill them; they’re just told by their consultants and operatives that it would.  Firestone noted that in an interview late last week with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Guy Cecil, the director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that his organization didn’t want its candidates to “nationalize” the election in this way.  “It is our job to make Senate races about the two people on the ballot,” he said. “Our advice to candidates is that when somebody disagrees with the president, they should say so, and that when somebody agrees with the president, they should say so.”

Yup.  Wouldn’t wanna distract from the “personhood” issue by setting the record straight on trivia such as that the federal deficit actually has fallen by more than 50 percent since President Obama took office.  And by mentioning such dramatic budgetary facts as those cited in the op-ed about the National Weather Service and those discussed recently by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.  Or by noting the drastic cuts in infrastructure upkeep and in financial assistance to state and local governments.  And you certainly wouldn’t wanna point out the direct effects of these cuts.

Bridge collapses, potholed highways, the sudden inability of the National Weather Service to warn of a hurricane’s path, a massive snowstorm, or tornadoes pale in comparison to a “personhood” constitutional amendment that would have less chance of actual passage by Congress and ratification by the necessary number of states than a polar bear will have of survival in Alaska in a few years. So do advances in medicine, warnings of tornadoes and major storm paths, and bringing down what are now spiraling state university and college costs and student loan interest rates.

Firestone continues:

Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any of the Democratic Senate candidates talking about that, or putting it into their ads. None of them mention that the budget is in far better shape largely because taxes went up on the rich, and because health care costs are falling. It’s unusual even to hear that unemployment is down to 5.9 percent, or that 5.5 million jobs have been added since 2009, which is four times more than under all eight years of George W. Bush. (If there are candidates who are exceptions to this, let me know and I’ll mention them here.) Mr. Obama, at least, talks about this all the time. “Deficits have come down,” he said today in Providence. “Health care inflation has come down. There’s almost no economic measure by which we haven’t made substantial progress over this period of time. We’re better off than we were.”

Obama talks about this all the time?  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  And obviously either did anyone else.  Other than, I guess, David Firestone.

The time to talk about the reduction in the debt was, of course, during the series of budget-brinksmanship games in mid-2011, late 2012, early 2013 and late 2013.  Sequestration beginning in the spring of 2013 has brought down the deficit to its current low level.  But at what cost? Obama didn’t talk about this at any of those junctures.  At least not in the only way that would matter: a national primetime televised address, stating—OMG, no!—the specifics.  But he reportedly feels uncomfortable doing that.  And, first things first. His comfort level is what matters.  But there was nothing—other than the director of the DSCC, of course, and the rest of the it’s-always-1995 national Democratic campaign-industrial-complex—to stop the Senate candidates from campaigning on these facts.

I’m tempted to say that the lessons from this campaign are that Democrats, not Republicans, are the ones who need to nationalize elections, and that they need to recognize that what matters most to many men and a majority of women—and clearly to young female and male voters—are broad economic-populist issues.  That’s because it’s no longer the 1980s or ‘90s.

And those certainly are important lessons.  But there’s an even more important lesson for the Republicans.  To win Senate and House races, all they have to do is nominate someone who has made a comment supporting “personhood.”  Like a racehorse wearing blinders, the Republican’s Democratic opponent will be sure to see only that red herring—and only women voters who have that singular focus and don’t much care about storm warnings, highway potholes, or fiscal economics—all the way through to election day.

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UPDATE: Hear, hear, Leo Besarra!   Amen.

There are indeed so many other issues.

11/3 at 2:46 p.m.

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