Thursday, October 23, 2014
Loading...





Parker: Democrats acting desperately

H.L. Mencken gets a workout in election years when voters are reminded by pundits of the curmudgeon's observation that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.


Posted on April 2, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON — H.L. Mencken gets a workout in election years when voters are reminded by pundits of the curmudgeon's observation that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

Mean. But true?

If you're a Democratic strategist, this seems to be the motto operandi. If you're a Republican strategist, you're thinking: Better dumb that down.

There now, if everyone is equally offended, we can proceed.

First, let's dispense with Democrats, as voters are likely to do this November for countless reasons. Chief among them is the recent debut of the Democratic "strategy" of hurling "pocketbook" legislation at Republicans that has no chance of passing.

This is not exactly a paradigm-shifting strategy. Minimum-wage debates are sort of like funeral suits. You keep them handy for those glum times when respect for dying ideas must be paid. Giving strategists their due, the bills are catchy, using as they do the poll-tested word "fairness" in their titles. (For some reason, I have an irresistible urge to enlist "Modern Family's" Phil Dunphy to say: "Geniuses.")

The minimum wage campaign is obviously an effort to bestir the Democratic base to turn out at the polls, where Republicans tend to show up in greater numbers during midterm elections. But Democrats can't force votes in the Republican-controlled House so this "strategy" is mainly something to talk about. At best, Democrats get to reiterate the familiar trope that the GOP is the heartless, greedy, obstructionist Party of No.

Even if House Speaker John Boehner ignores the minimum wage, which he will, the consequences of inaction fall at his feet, not at any individual congressman's. Thus, it may not hurt the generic GOP brand as much as Democrats hope. Also, even if a minimum wage bill is passed by the Senate in the next few days, who cares?

Republicans really only have one vulnerable incumbent senator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, so, theoretically, the political benefit is more a positive for Democrats who get to vote for it than it is a negative for Republicans.

In the meantime, Republicans benefit from a time of record distrust of government, even though, irony observed, they have earned their own share. But being viewed as obstructionist on more government spending and economic tinkering may not be such a bad thing. As for seeming uncaring, this is harder to shed if only because opposing a wage increase seems like such a decent idea.

Which it is — in times of economic stability.

It is not such a great idea when viewed in the context of broader economic implications and the probability that raising wages will do more harm than good. For sure, raising wages won't create jobs and more likely will cost jobs for the very population we all want to help. Low-wage earners usually lack job skills, which won't be acquired in the unemployment line. It also makes little sense to apply one national wage when costs of living are so diverse across states.

Again, none of this matters. The wage increase won't go through. Democrats know it. Republicans know it. The only people who may not know it are the dead and busy. Thus, this is much ado about nothing ... for everything.

If Democrats can make Republicans look nasty enough, maybe a few more single women, low income workers and minorities will turn out in November. That's not nothing. If Republicans prevail, after all, the Obama administration is finished. That's everything. So the stakes are high even if the strategy seems not so lofty.

Mostly the Democratic campaign agenda reflects desperation: If all you can do is attack your opponent, chances are you have nothing much to sell. Poll after poll shows Americans aren't buying what the Democratic Party is selling.

Strategy, meanwhile, cuts both ways.

Boehner also can force votes on vulnerable House Democrats — jobs votes such as the Keystone XL pipeline that squeeze Democrats between their union base and environmentalists. And then there's the gift that keeps on giving, Obamacare, not to mention the economy, record debt, higher taxes, and dubious leadership in foreign affairs.

Now where was I?

Oh, yes, fairness. To wit: It is highly probable that Mencken, who referred to the South as the "Sahara of the Bozart" and pilloried rural Christians as "ignoramuses" during the 1925 Scopes trial, would have little good to say about today's GOP, for which the South is Ground Zero.

Then again, he rarely said anything nice about anyone.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Recommended for You


Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
 In this July 25, 2014 file photo, a black bear in captivity waits for visitors to throw food into his pen at the the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine.  Money is pouring into Maine to support — and oppose — a referendum to ban three methods of bear hunting. Both sides have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to win the November ballot question.

Posted on Oct. 22, 2014 at 2:56 p.m.
 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn participates in a rally before casting a ballot in early voting at the Adamsville Recreation Center in Fulton County on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 in Atlanta.  Nunn is running against Republican David Perdue.

Posted on Oct. 22, 2014 at 2:12 p.m.
 Protesters carry crosses with the names of black men who have been killed during a march to the Ferguson, Mo., police station, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Activists planned a day of civil disobedience to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in August and a second police shooting in St. Louis this month.

Posted on Oct. 21, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
Back to top ^