Op-Ed

Ron Formisano: Electoral catharsis achieved what?

Ron Formisano, professor of history at the University of Kentucky, is author of  The Tea Party: A Brief History.
Ron Formisano, professor of history at the University of Kentucky, is author of The Tea Party: A Brief History.

Well, let us hope the catharsis has some salutary effects. Maybe some Republican-voting Kentuckians have purged their hatred of President Barack Obama and now can enjoy — what exactly?

Obama will be president for two more years and the Congressional makers of gridlock in Washington are stronger than before. The eastern coal industry is in decline no matter what Obama does.

The president, we are told repeatedly, is "deeply unpopular" in Kentucky. And why is that? Archie Bunker knows: "He's a Muslim, was not born here, and wants to help 'poor people,' and you know what that means."

Edith: "But Archie, he's half white."

Archie: "Stifle it Edith."

For younger readers, Archie and Edith were characters in the popular 1970s sit-com All in the Family that satirized white Americans' prejudices, as well as the holier-than-thou moralism of Archie's liberal son-in-law.

If Faux News had been around back then, Archie, ensconced in his armchair, would have been glued to the TV all day and perhaps comatose by nightfall. But let us count the ways Kentuckians should hate the president.

In 2009, as Kentucky's economy tanked with the rest of the country, the federal government's stimulus bill sent some $3 billion into the state for roads, law enforcement, schools, energy assistance and Medicaid: $900 million to Medicaid erasing a $232 million deficit. Apart from that, Kentucky receives $1.40 in tax money for every $1 it pays.

As of September, 521,000 people had enrolled in Kynect, Kentucky's version of the Affordable Care Act. Poor people who have seldom seen a doctor now have health insurance.

But some still hate "Obamacare" and Obama, and believe the false charges about high premiums and other distortions.

Sen. Mitch McConnell wants to kill the ACA but said Kynect's website was okay with him: but the website is Obamacare.

Kentuckians, he counts on our ignorance.

Poverty in Kentucky is pervasive and more white than black. Compared to previous Democratic presidents, Obama's budgets have allocated significantly more assistance to low-income families for food, housing, education, and health care.

These benefits to Kentucky are outweighed of course by the mythical "war on coal." To blame Obama for all the decline in the coal industry that has occurred on McConnell's 30-year watch makes as much sense as blaming him for Hurricane Sandy.

Hatred of America's first black president just partly ruled the mid-term election, a creation also of the five activist, reactionary Supreme Court justices whose delusional decisions that "money is speech" unleashed a $4 billion tsunami, much of it "dark money" from undisclosed sources.

Hundreds of millions went for attack ads. Negative campaigning, studies have shown, turns off many voters who stay home. So the embarrassing turnout of 37 percent was the lowest since 1942 when the U.S. was in a world war.

Anti-Democrats spent $200 million just trashing Obama. The Supreme Court's reactionary majority got just the kind of election they want.

Negative ads discourage voters, while the voter ID and other laws passed by many Republican state legislatures prevent people from voting, targeting groups that vote mostly Democratic. Republicans' claims that such laws prevent fraud are false since such cases are extremely rare and a pretty stupid way to try to cheat (easier just to rig the voting machines as Bush supporters did in Ohio in 2004).

Republican Sen. Rand Paul deserves credit for bucking his party on voter ID and other laws designed to suppress voting. But Republican efforts to suppress voting are ramping up again after their recent victories.

Whether Republican voters' hatred of Obama dissipates or not — perhaps not among the minority who suspect he is a disloyal Muslim or the anti-Christ — the plutocrats and their allies will continue to demonize him.

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