Republicans are faced with a dilemma: How to bring together a party that is facing a deep rift over the absolute surrender of authority to Donald Trump, when at least a handful of their members still believe that this democracy thing still has a chance?
The answer seems to be to bring Republicans together around traditional values. Such as denying a decent wage to American workers, trying to starve the cities where most Americans live off the funds needed for basic services, and punishing people who lose their jobs in a crisis. Those are rock solid Republican values, Trump or no Trump.
So Republicans are holding hands for a unified stand against COVID-19 relief. The “passed in the middle of the night” rhetoric has already become a talking point on Fox News and is a feature of social media blasts from Republican “leaders”—a position that’s been reduced to role of being a designated Trump surrogate.
To sell their supporters on the idea that a bill that’s about to pay them money is secretly evil, Republicans seem to be depending on listing out some of the smaller items in the bill, under the pretense that “only a fraction” of the bill goes to “’real’ COVID relief,” which they’ve defined downward to little more than vaccine funding.
But the whole point of the bill is that is broad. It does hit a lot of areas. It does contain funding on many different fronts. That’s because the pandemic itself has been hugely damaging the the whole economy, not just the “trucks that deliver vaccine” economy.
That’s why the bill also includes $58 billion to assist pension funds that have come close to collapse over the last year, $25 billion in direct assistance to restaurants and bars that have been hit hard by restrictions during the pandemic, $30 billion for people who have been unable to pay their rent after the pandemic wiped out both their jobs and their savings. These are the kind of things that Republicans have decided to unite against.
Even for their own core supporters, they’re going to need every bit of help that Fox, Facebook, and AM radio can generate, because the COVID-19 relief bill is wildly popular. As Joan McCarter wrote on Wednesday, polls show the bill enjoying the support of 76% of voters, including 60% of Republicans, and 71% of independents.
“If you want unity, there’s unity—the public is unified with Biden and the majority of Democrats in wanting this package to pass. Among the 76% supporting it, a majority—52%—strongly do so, with healthy chucks of both Independents (42%) and Republicans (34%) saying they strongly support it.”
What Republicans are actually demonstrating with their “unity” against the COVID-19 relief bill is what they’ve been demonstrating so vividly for decades: Opposition is all they have left. As Nancy LeTourneau writes:
“When it comes to actual policies being put forward by the two parties, we are witnessing a significant shift. Democratic policies are not only overwhelmingly popular with voters, they have been demonstrated to work. On the other hand, the Republican policies of trickle-down economics and deregulation have been a colossal failure, but conservatives haven’t come up with a reasonable alternative.”
Republicans know they have a losing hand. They even know that blinding supporting Trump is a losing play. They just … don’t have anything better.
Any Democratic senator (ahem … Joe Manchin) who throws their vote in with Republicans, should realize that they are playing for a losing and deeply unpopular team.