Thursday, April 17, 2014

Robots Versus Humans

As we were winding ourselves up to put together Thursday's edition, our staff noticed a curious yet telling difference in the way many candidates of both major parties are handling complex issues this election cycle.

As the outside funding and dark money groups wind up their candidates for 2014 - candidates that are overwhelmingly Republican - key facts on issues like Obamacare, unemployment insurance, birth control, and the minimum wage seem to have completely bypassed many of those running for office. We say this because of the ridiculous robotic rhetoric we're hearing bleated by candidates, like the comments by GOP Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on the Affordable Care Act, or GOP Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida on making the minimum wage a living wage.

It doesn't seem to matter to these candidates that more Americans want to keep Obamacare and fix the few things that aren't perfect with it, or that Americans from all parties overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. They just keep repeating their talking points like little robots, as we're sure their dark money donors want them to do.

This robotic reaction phenomenon isn't only happening to less well-known politicians - or just on the local level.

On Wednesday, President Obama released a statement calling out House Republicans for doing absolutely nothing on the issue of immigration reform. A few hours later, the President called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to wish him a happy Passover. During the call, the two apparently disagreed about the President's statement earlier in the day on immigration, though according to the White House, Obama's conversation with Cantor was "pleasant" overall.

For anyone who is honest about how today's Republican Party works, what happened next should be no surprise. Like the finely honed hate machine the right has become, Rep. Cantor's staff sent out a blistering press release of their own about the phone call. The Republican Majority Leader blasted the President on the issue of immigration reform, but then effectively guaranteed the issue won't see the House floor for the rest of this year.

Cantor's robotic response to a very complex issue might seem confusing to those Americans who only catch 10-second soundbites on cable news, or quick Tweets and Facebook posts from their friends. However, as Greg Sargent pointed out yesterday afternoon at The Plum Line, there's an important piece of nuance in the actions of Rep. Cantor and his staff that tell those of us who truly care about the issue what really happened yesterday afternoon.

Sargent noted, "House Republican leaders are refusing to even offer, let alone vote on, their own proposals to do something about the 11 million, even though some rank and file Republicans, and some major GOP-aligned constituencies (the business community; agricultural and tech interests; evangelicals; the GOP consultant class) have been clamoring for reform for months or years. The Senate bill is utterly irrelevant to the basic question on the table: Is there any set of terms and conditions under which a sizable bloc of House Republicans can bring themselves to support some form of legalization?"

On that question, we can confidently answer in the same robotic style that so many bought-and-paid-for Republicans are already mimicking: No. Republicans can't do it.