2010: The GOP’s Campaign to Demonize the Unemployed

Last updated on August 10th, 2014 at 05:00 pm

Just as some blame the rape victim for the rape, Republicans have taken to blaming the moral character of the unemployed for their joblessness. To the GOP, unemployment was not caused by the financial collapse, or years of Republican tax cut and spend policies. To the GOP, the unemployed are individuals of poor character who must be campaigned against in 2010.

The GOP’s 2010 strategy is based on the idea that an unemployed person is lazy or jobless by choice, which has its roots in the Protestant work ethic or the embedded belief in our society in the morality of work. This was a belief that dictated American economic policies towards the unemployed and poor until the Great Depression. With the radicalization of the Republican Party the language of stigmatization of the unemployed has returned to America’s political discourse, and launched a full on assault on the moral character of the nation’s jobless.

For example:

Here is video of Tom DeLay calling the unemployed lazy:

Tom’s argument is what we here at Politicus call “fallacious argument ad nauseam”. There are so many holes in his argument so as to render it unworthy of being called an argument. Let’s just run through them super quick, because after all, he does claim to be speaking for “people in the real world” and last I checked, this is where I do, indeed, reside.

Questions for Tommy: what “studies”? Who are these “many people” you cite as a source? Is that (the alleged laziness of the American unemployed) really the pressing problem right now? (Kinda seems like global economic collapse is a weeny bit more pressing than Tommy’s moral judgments, but hey…)You say “people are unemployed because they want to be!” and yet you have no data to back this up.

You claim this is true because in what can only be dubbed a daringly hubristic feat of circular logic, you hope to appeal to a widespread belief of your own making! Brilliant, really. And yet, still, utterly devoid of fact, I’m afraid. Yes, when Tommy isn’t appealing to an anonymous authority (“people say” and “studies show”), he’s just makin’ things up for the troops.

Here is GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle calling the unemployed spoiled:

Of course, Angle is not alone in her irrational hatred of the unemployed. Also in Nevada is GOP Rep. Dean Heller, who in February made the claim that unemployment benefits create hobos. According to the Echo Daily Free Press, Heller said, “I believe there should be a federal safety net,” Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. “Is the government now creating hobos?” he asked.”

Here is Rachel Maddow’s collection of quotes from Republican Senators about the unemployed:

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Their point is clear. Government should not be there to assist the unemployed. They argue that unemployment benefits harm the unemployed by making them lazy. This argument has no bearing in economic reality. It is based wholly on simply ideology, and a mystical belief in the free market. It is irrelevant that this ideology when turned into policy only adds to the woes of the many. The Republicans have an ideology and they are sticking to it even if they have to run this country into the ground.

Let’s just see if the average voter understands this. From the looks of the videos here, and the comments of the average Fox News viewer, the right is quite sure that every unemployed person is a lazy person who doesn’t deserve help. Which, of course, is beside the point even if it were accurate (which it clearly isn’t). The point is that our economy depends on being stimulated right now. We can’t even have a reasoned debate about how to stimulate it (or rather, we did have one and the Republicans tuned it out because they don’t want to stimulate it) because the Republicans are so busy demonizing American citizens in order to warp their positions into making “sense”. They’re just a few steps shy of McCarthyism, but they’re definitely on the edge.

Here comes the interesting part. What makes the Republican Party think that the unemployed are going to support them, when voting for them means that they are definitely going to lose the only financial lifeline that they have until they can find work? While this might be an ideologically pure electoral strategy, it also would seem to be an absolutely self defeating one too. Insulting the unemployed may play great with the wealthy white party base, but it certainly isn’t going to motivate an unemployed individual to head to the polls and vote Republican. Maybe someone ought to tell the GOP that the unemployed vote too? On second thought, let’s not say a word and let them find out for themselves in November.

Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements. Awards and  Professional Memberships Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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