Republicans swept last year’s elections. The GOP captured more than 675 state legislative seats, flipped 10 governor’s mansions, gained control of over 20 state legislative chambers, and won more than 60 seats in Congress previously occupied by Democrats.
Elections this lopsided have consequences for the victors and vanquished alike. Usually these consequences come in the form of a honeymoon, with the winning party able to pursue its ideological agenda.
But now, almost before it started, the honeymoon is over. Voters — Democrats, independents, and yes, growing numbers of Republicans — are concerned about tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans while working and middle-income Americans struggle to make ends meet.
In Florida, police officers in Broward County are planning a mass rally on July 16 to officially switch their party registration from Republican to Democrat. They are tired of Gov. Rick Scott’s attacks on workers.
In Maine, Democrats and some Republican legislators are pushing back against an overreaching tea party governor who has insulted labor and minorities and signed bills rolling back health care reform and eliminating the state’s 38-year-old law allowing people to register to vote on Election Day. In New Hampshire, after the Democratic governor vetoed an anti-union, anti-worker bill, Republicans are working furiously to try to corral the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has pushed back against Republican efforts to deny benefits to unemployed workers. “You don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need,” she said. “That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel. And we are better than this.”
And in a number of key electoral battleground states, GOP governors are suffering from dismal approval ratings. Florida’s Scott stands at 29 percent. Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Ohio’s John Kasich each top out at 33 percent. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker’s 43 percent, while slightly higher, is still lackluster and incredibly polarized. His approval rating from Republicans is 87 percent and just 9 percent from Democrats.
So why has the public lost that loving feeling? And where do we go from here?
The reason behind the disenchantment is clear. The GOP has not only attacked essential services popular with the public, like public education, Medicare, and Medicaid. Republican politicians have also made scapegoats of the public employees who provide these services. Yet every one of us knows someone who works in the public sector — the police officer or firefighter risking his life to protect us, the schoolteacher grappling with crowded classrooms, the public nurse in fear of losing her job. And we don’t like seeing our family, friends, and neighbors attacked. Voters across the country are demanding an annulment from the GOP.
The good news? Across the country, people are fighting back. This July, activists are organizing more than 1,000 “house meetings” that will focus attention on the economy and the need for job creation. These “Rebuild the Dream” house meetings are being organized by national groups like Center for Community Change, MoveOn, and USAction. But the force driving them will be local, in places from Peoria, Illinois to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Other activists plan to mark the July 30th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid and to attend congressional recess town hall events in August. Still others will turn out for a nationwide “jobs tour” sponsored by ProgressiveCongress.org.
To be sure, we face difficult choices as we figure out how to rebuild our economy, spread the necessary burden of taxation, and avoid debilitating cuts to the important services our families and communities depend on.
But Americans of all ideologies and political parties know the way forward. Instead of rewarding companies for shipping good jobs overseas, Americans want to close corporate loopholes and invest in good jobs right here in the USA. Instead of slashing Medicare and Medicaid, Americans want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. Instead of attacking and scapegoating workers, Americans want working and middle-income families to be able to bargain for good American wages and benefits.
That’s what we’re organizing for this summer. This is a fight to take back our country and rebuild the American dream — good jobs and strong communities, with liberty and justice for all. Our country deserves no less.