When Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell unashamedly announced that the GOP’s primary goal was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected for a second term, he meant it. There was no reason to doubt his intention or his resolve. You didn’t have to parse his words or hire a translator to understand the cynical, self-serving and mean-spirited program that McConnell was outlining. Republicans would do anything to ensure that President Obama would have no victories of any kind. Political junkies, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, pundits and insiders got the message immediately. For the rest of the population, McConnell’s statement promising to ignore the greater good of the country and, instead, to make sure that the economy would be in bad shape during the 2012 campaign, may have seemed like just more background noise.
Now, though, the message has sunk in beyond the Beltway.
According to a Suffolk University poll conducted in Florida and released today [November 3, 2011], a large percentage of voters believe that Republicans are intentionally sabotaging the economy as a strategy for defeating President Obama.
With 51 percent of voters saying that jobs and the economy are the most pressing issues in the nation today, 49 percent said they believe that the Republicans are intentionally hindering efforts to boost the economy so that President Barack Obama will not be reelected. Thirty-nine percent disagreed. As expected, most registered Democrats (70 percent) agreed that Republicans are intentionally hindering the economy and hurting Obama, but independents (52 percent) and even some Republicans (24 percent) also agreed.
Sure, the poll is from just one state. But Florida is a big one, it’s quite diverse, and it’s a critical electoral state, so this result can’t be ignored. And it’s a political “meme” worth repeating.
And in Florida, nearly half of voters — and a majority of Dems and independents — believe Republicans are so craven, so devoid of a sense of duty to their country, that they’re holding back the economy on purpose because they hate Obama more than the care about the rest of us. Nearly one-in-four Republicans believe this to be true.
I guess this isn’t a fringe idea after all.
Here’s a suggestion for other pollsters: given these results in one of the nation’s largest states, and the fact that the charge has been made by so many prominent political voices, perhaps it’s time to start putting the question to a national audience?
The follow-up questions is, of course, whether voters who recognize the GOP’s cynical political strategy will be influenced by it on election day. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent looked at the poll results and noted:
…it’s very possible that the GOP will benefit politically from blocking Obama’s jobs policies, even though they have majority support. This new Florida poll raises another possibility: That Republicans may benefit from blocking Obama’s policies even though voters accept the idea that they’re sabotaging the economy for political reasons. An equal number — 29 percent — say they will vote either Democratic or Republican “no matter what,” with another 13 percent saying they will only vote Democratic if the economy gets better, meaning Dems will be held accountable.
The question is this: Even if voters are persuaded that this is the case, will they chalk it up to mere politics and still hold Obama accountable for failing to get his policies through in spite of politically-motivated GOP obstructionism? Will voters who don’t grasp the realities of filibuster abuse conclude that whatever the motives of Republicans, Obama’s failure to get around them proves he’s weak or ineffective?
That’s a frightening and discouraging scenario. If voters know that Republicans have deliberately undermined jobs programs and economic stimuli that could make citizens’ lives better, yet they still blame the whole shebang on President Obama and knee-jerk vote for Republican candidates based purely on party loyalty, irrational ideology and blind hatred of President Obama–we are facing a bleak and possibly disastrous future–for both our economy and our democracy.
I’m going to hold out the faint hope that people are smarter than that.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.