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“Who Are They Serving?” A Theme for Democrats to Use Against Republicans Nationwide

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Republicans Routinely Betray Their Supporters

A major theme of the campaign of my wife, April Moore, running against Republican incumbent Mark Obenshain for the Virginia State Senate, is posing to the voters of this majority-Republican district the straight-forward question: “Who Is He Serving?”

That theme gets to the heart of the matter with Mr. Obenshain, whose major impetus is to serve the Money Power and the Republican Party (which is the political instrument of the Money Power) rather than to serve the people who elected him.

(April has run ads along that theme — in the district’s major newspapers — regarding his efforts to block the extension of health care to 400,000 Virginians, to prevent the raising of the minimum wage, to put the “right to work” con into the Virginia Constitution, and to keep Virginia from taking any responsible action to reduce the threat from climate change.)

But that same theme — “Who are they serving? – fits the Republican Party as a whole, from coast to coast. Mark Obenshain is quite typical of the Republican Party of this era in his carrying water for the rich and powerful, and his putting the interests of his Party ahead of those of the nation and its people.

This theme, I suggest, could be adopted by Democrats on a nationwide basis, for it will fit almost every Republican.

To give but one example:

Every Republican in the Congress who helped pass the Trump tax bill at the end of 2017 should be challenged with “Who is this guy serving?” campaigns, to highlight the betrayal and the grotesque greed involved in a political party serving the billionaire class and the corporate power at a time when the picture of inequality in wealth and income in the United States is already the worst it has been in living memory.

(Who could knowingly support a Party that takes money away from struggling families and the generations to come to further enrich the billionaire class?)

This is hardly an isolated example. (Think of the various times we hear that one action or another of President Trump’s is hurting the very people who make up his base.)

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that the great majority of the “achievements” of the Republican Party at both the national and state levels are injurious to the majority of the American citizens who make up the Republican base.

Today’s Republican Party can be described as one that gets its power from the people it betrays.

So the question, “Who Is [my Republican opponent’s name here] Serving?” is a great way to highlight the need for a lot of people to turn away from the Republicans, who are not really interested in serving them.

 

A Route Into the Motivational Core

There’s something simple and powerful about this approach: it appeals to self-interest.

For years I’ve been trying to call the Republican-supporting, Trump-supporting conservatives back to “the better angels of their nature.” I’ve been trying to illuminate the dark nature of the political force they’ve been supporting by making appeals to the basic moral values that they used to say they were committed to – back before they were led into to the dark space they occupy now: values like “the integrity of the constitution,” “playing by the rules,” “respect for the law,” and “love thy neighbor.”

In the political sphere, it seems that those higher-level concerns have somehow (largely) drained away from the hearts and minds of American conservatives.

But “Who Is Your [Republican] ‘Representative’ Serving?” does not require of people a moral response. It just requires them to feel angry at those who have hurt them, and to act on that anger. Nothing of a higher order involved.

Rather, calling attention to the Republican betrayal of the very people they rely upon for the power simply draws upon just that very basic animal sense — one we all have from before we develop moral feelings — of looking out for one’s self-interest, and anger at being hurt.

A very reliable motivational source available to be tapped into and directed against those who have betrayed them.

 

Especially Suited to the Right-Wing Mind

Indeed, we have good reason to believe that the retributive “Throw the bums out” response is especially powerful among the people in the Republican base. Striking back at those who have hurt us is an impulse that is especially strong among conservative, rural males.

“Do you mean that this guy, Obenshain, who talks so glibly and vaguely about his “Shenandoah Valley values,” is really siding against our interests regularly, in the service of the people who are really his masters?” To quote the Music Man: “Make your blood boil? I should say!”

It is not on the pick-up trucks of liberals that one sees the bumper stickers that picture an angry snake and the threatening motto, “Don’t Tread on Me.”