Congress is back in session today and that means one thing – countdown to shutdown. Over the next month candidates will jockey for title of conservative champion as each one steps over the other to showcase their anti-establishment government chops. Stump speeches will bemoan the intrusiveness of the Democratic regime, lambast President Obama’s recent Iran Deal and executive actions, and call all God-fearing crusaders to arms in the fight to preserve religious liberty from the icy grip of evil liberals and soulless atheists. I understand that this type of description might ruffle a few feathers, but before you jump down my throat let’s take a look at a few things the next month has to offer:
Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood took center stage in the GOP’s assault on women’s reproductive healthcare this summer and there isn’t any sign that they plan on letting up. Phrases like “abortion factory”, “baby murderers”, and “heinous and despicable” have managed to whip the base into a frothy-mouthed frenzy over the possibility of another showdown that harkens back to 2013. Even after the validity of the videos was undercut when it was found they were all heavily edited, Congress still tried to cut off federal aid to one of the largest healthcare service providers in the country.
Despite nearly a dozen state investigations that haven’t found any wrongdoing on the part of the besieged healthcare provider, conservatives are not backing down. Some have even gone so far as to scrub pertinent information from public releases just to keep the fire burning. Muscled out and on the sidelines of a crowded and extremist-pandering GOP field, Senator Ted Cruz has taken hold of the issue, making it his own war cry in a last ditch effort to save ‘Merica. It’s a good bet that as long as the issue rouses voters to his cause, and to his poll numbers, Cruz and other bandwagon candidates will be sure to keep Planned Parenthood in the headlines.
GOP September Debate: September 16 marks the second GOP primary debate and you can be sure it’s going to be even more explosive and bat shit insane than the first. In the first debate everyone expected Donald Trump to fall flat on his face and bow out. Rivals treated him with kid gloves or ignored him all together. Instead, his refusal to apologize for his misogynistic comments, flip flops on immigration and abortion, boastful bribe tactics, and barking callousness when backed into the corner won him further standing with the base. His primary poll numbers have steadily climbed and are currently hovering at 30%, far outpacing those of establishment candidates. His success has had a ripple effect as more and more candidates that were attempting to toe the moderate line have jumped with him to the far-right.
However, he made three key mistakes; when he refused to rule out a third party run, attacked conservative darling Megyn Kelly, and fell flat on his face during his recent interview with radio host Huge Hewitt and subsequent twitter tantrum. All of this should be giving rivals room to breathe. By refusing to demonstrate party loyalty and attacking the hand that has fed him for the past 8 years, Trump has provided the kryptonite to his own defenses. It’s hunting season this time around and Trump has painted a fat, neon bullseye on his back where friendly-fire will be the game of the evening.
Employment Policies: President Obama’s executive order calling on all federal contracting companies to provide sick leave for their employees is just another in a long line of actions he has taken to increase worker rights, protect against discriminatory practices, and create jobs. His executive actions have been lauded by Democrats, unions, and low and middle class laborers but have drawn the ire from the GOP. A host of states and municipalities (including Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and Newark) have decided they are not going to wait for the Federal government to take action, increasing wages and enacting laws that make paid sick leave a requirement. Leading companies, such as Facebook, Walmart, and Netflix, have also taken the reigns, offering unprecedented paid paternal and sick leave for their employees. The U.S. is slowly playing catch up to the rest of the developed world –it is the only “OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy.” According to the OECD Better Life Index, the U.S. ranks (out of a total 36 developed countries) 26 for employees working long hours, 10 in gender inequality, and a whopping 32 when it comes to time actually devoted to leisure and personal care. All of this points to a working class that is overburdened, underappreciated, and missing out on the joys of life and family.
The majority of labor policies that attempt to address work-life balance in the U.S. are labeled as socialist cons by the far-right. Little has been done to address the growing gap between the rich and poor and stagnant pay experienced by low-wage and income workers. While many view Obama’s executive orders as small steps that will set new workplace standards, there is another group on the right that will inevitably label them as job killers and government overreach. It’s a well-rehearsed song and dance that never fails to bring about a few extra base voters.
As we draw closer to October, battle lines will be drawn and hardened – both around issues and amongst party officials. Expect the attacks to get nastier with each passing day and the policy proposals more outrageous. And when Congress fails to prevent the Iran deal the GOP will be left with nothing but their own unfettered outrage and an October deadline to fuel their voters.