Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Party Out Of Gas

As some of our staff get ready to travel this Memorial Day weekend, we've begun to look at the gas prices around the nation - and cringed.

It should be absolutely no surprise that gas prices are spiking right before Memorial Day. Gas prices go up before Memorial Day every year, as they have for as long as we can remember. This year, it's hitting our Midwest staff especially hard, since gas prices in the entire middle section of the country, from Colorado on the Western edge, to Ohio on the Eastern edge, and from Minnesota southward, all the way to Oklahoma are higher than virtually anywhere else in the country.

Of course, the folks responsible for robbing us all at the pump have the same excuses they've always had: The oil prices are up, or there are refinery problems, or there's tension in the Middle East, or some other lame excuse. Those same tired old excuses may have finally ran out of gas, though, as Americans appear to be moving to hybrids and plug-in electric cars in ever higher numbers. Plug-in sales tripled last year, and both electric and hybrid vehicle sales have had a record year, so far.

It seems Americans are finally tired enough of the oil executives' lies that, as a society, we've moved on to the "tune it out" stage of revulsion.

Which, it seems, Americans are also doing with the scandal-obsessed GOP.

As Greg Sargent, Steve Benen, Kevin Drum, and others have been warning for a while now, the Republican Party's constant focus on scandals is on the verge of locking them into a 1998-style setup for the 2014 elections.

Indeed, even Charlie Cook has now noticed that the GOP's fixation on scandals of little or no interest to the public has effectively tied the GOP down to a series of politically dead issues. That's not just the perception of a few members of the media.

As Steve Benen notes, several polls this week from CNN, Pew Research Center, and USA Today, as well as the Washington Post/ABC News poll, all say the same thing. While Democrats keep their attention focused on legislation like the immigration bill - and have earned surprisingly favorable ratings from the American people for doing so - Republicans' slavish devotion to scandalmania has the American people thinking less favorably of the GOP than they have in at least two decades.

Scandalmania 2013 hasn't particularly hurt President Obama either. His approval ratings in multiple polls have nudged up a little recently, not down - a factor that's likely due to the continuing improvement of the U.S. economy, as Nate Silver smoothly lays out.

In our opinion, though, the biggest reason Americans are simply beginning to ignore Republicans is the desperation factor highlighted by Drum, Benen, and Sargent. Even some young GOP Congressional staffers are mocking the delusional witch-hunt tactics of the Congresspeople they work for as crazy.

As every new supposed outrage against President Obama is greeted with hyper-partisan cries for impeachment from Republicans and right-wing media, the American people have just begun to tune out conservatives and the political right.

The same fact now applies to Republicans that applies to the 'muggers' at the gas pump: Americans don't need a whole series of excuses and lies to know the real reason Republicans keep acting the way they do.