The competing realities of red and blue America now seem to exist on different planes.
Democrats, in total control of the federal government, are spending big with tax dollars to convince Americans that government still works and pushing vaccines to get the country back up and fully running.
Republicans, in control of more state governments, are working overtime to change election rules and make it more difficult for Americans, who handed Democrats the keys of state, to do the same thing in the future.
Convincing people government is not an enemy. The sloganeer in chief for the Democratic view is President Joe Biden, who promised Monday that within 10 days there will be 100 million Covid shots in American arms and 100 million stimulus checks.
“We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them and do it without waste or fraud,” he said, adding a sort of to-do list:
- “That we can vaccinate the nation,
- that we can get our kids safely back in school,
- that we can get our economy back on track by helping hundreds of thousands of small businesses open and stay open, and
- that we can give people of this nation a fighting chance again with relief checks, lower child care costs, lower health care costs and so much more.”
He added: “That’s our job. That’s our responsibility.”
That’s an activist federal government in the mold of FDR. Just wait until Democrats start pushing their infrastructure proposals to evolve the US economy away from oil.
Nearly half of Republicans aren’t pursuing a vaccine. Just focus on vaccines — one issue where a partisan lack of trust can have snowballing consequences. Public health experts say they are necessary to get American life back to normal. But there is a distinct partisan break on who is willing to get them.
The vast majority of Democrats — 92% — have either gotten the vaccine or will try to get it, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released March 11. Only half of Republicans said they’ve gotten the vaccine or are trying to.
If you don’t like polls, listen to Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has talked about hesitancy among White Republicans.
That’s why Dr. Anthony Fauci specifically called out former President Donald Trump and said it could make the difference for him to more vocally call on Republicans to get the shot. (Trump did once, during his speech to conservative activists at CPAC.) But he did not take part in a public service campaign with the other former presidents.
“It seems like an intrinsic contradiction, the fact that you have a program that was started during his presidency, and he’s not out telling people to get vaccinated,” Fauci said on Fox News Sunday.
“I wish he would. He has such incredible influence over people in the Republican Party — it would really be a game-changer if he did.”
Making rhetoric match reality. There’s no doubt that Biden has changed the message and substance of US government since taking office on January 20, but on some issues the changes are not complete.
On the southern border, migrant kids continue to flow toward the US, perhaps drawn by his more humanitarian change in tone. That the government under Biden is now housing them at overflow sites is something his administration will have to address. On Monday, they announced undocumented teenagers would be housed for a time at the Convention Center in Dallas.
Blaming Biden at the border. Immigration seems destined to replace nonexistent election fraud as Republicans’ top issue. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy held a press conference at the border and blamed Biden for the influx of arrivals.
“It’s more than a crisis. This is a human heartbreak,” McCarthy said at a news conference near the border. “This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration.”
Different views of integrity. Biden’s trying to restore a sense of integrity to the social functions of government. Republicans are also talking about integrity of the system, but as an excuse to change rules they no longer like.
Making it more difficult to vote. Arguing they are adding integrity to the voting system, despite no evidence of fraud, their top priority at the state level is to curb access to early voting and put barriers between people and the ballot box.
“Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who turned a 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election loss into a mission to bring more Black Georgians to the polls, talked about new voting bills on CNN over the weekend.
In Georgia they would end automatic voter registration and limit voting by mail and Sunday voting, all steps that experts say disproportionately target Black voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
“I do absolutely agree that it’s racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” referring to historic state and local laws that institutionalized racism and segregation in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Versions of these proposals have been replicated in Arizona, Texas, Iowa and scores of other states.
The effect could be fewer Black votes, but supporters say they’re just trying to save money and add integrity.
“Even those of us who never claimed that the election was stolen recognize that the electorate has lost confidence in the legitimacy of the system. We must work to restore that,” Georgia Senate President Butch Miller said in an email statement to CNN when bills there were passed by his chamber.
A chicken in every pot
Seeing Biden make promises about stimulus checks in American pockets, kids in American schools and vaccines in American arms, brought to mind the old promise to put “a chicken for every pot,” which had been stuck, apocryphally, in my mind as something that came from FDR. I was completely wrong!
According to American Heritage, it was from supporters of his predecessor, President Herbert Hoover, who took out an ad in 1928 in a New York newspaper, referencing the promise through Republican policies of “a chicken for every pot” and “a car in every backyard, to boot.”
In between that 1928 ad and the 1932 election, the Great Depression hit and every American pot most certainly did not have a chicken in it. Democrats in 1932 claimed Hoover had promised “a chicken in every pot” even though he had not.
The actual phrase “a chicken in every pot” is much older, although I could not find something I was comfortable linking to at the beginnings of the phrase.