An Act of Political Hara-Kiri

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, Politics, West Side Spirit.


Alan Chartock. Photo courtesy of wamc.org.

To understand what he did and why he did it, you have to understand the realities of elections. Since about half the eligible people don’t bother to vote in presidential elections, the name of the game is to get your voters to turn out. When Romney chose Ryan he was offering a huge incentive for conservative Republicans to get out and vote. He was lighting a fire under their behinds. That’s the way elections are won or lost.

The Romney problem is that there are more Democrats and independents in the United States than there are conservative Republicans. Romney’s vice presidential choice will light an even bigger fire under the keisters of the Democrats and independents who do not want to lose Social Security as we know it or the highly popular program. Ryan is death on both of these programs.

There may be a lot of people who don’t like what the Republicans are calling “,” but just ask any senior or anyone who just can’t wait to get to Medicare, what they think of the incredibly popular senior medical program; or ask seniors (or their appreciative children) what they think of Social Security.

I remember my late mother’s appreciation for her Social Security check. My mom had worked all her life putting money into Social Security. I admit that my mother hated most Republicans but the thought of losing Social Security or of the Republicans trying to “modify” Roosevelt’s signature program by handing it over to the Wall Street crowd to get their hands on the highly efficient program would have brought this liberal lady out onto the streets. By threatening Social Security and Medicare, Romney has given the Democrats the gift of life. No matter what he says to save the day, the words and actions of Ryan will prove to be fatal to Romney. In fact, Romney has committed political suicide by choosing Ryan.

Finally, there is Medicaid, a program designed primarily to help the poor and elderly who have no other place to turn. When those often non-voting poor realize that their health care is being threatened by the draconian Ryan, they will have a good reason to vote. As we saw, not that long ago in Florida, just a few votes can swing an election.

In New York, the Democrats should be celebrating. The New York state Senate is up for grabs and if the lower-income voters turn out, it is inevitable that they will vote for Democratic candidates down the line. Democrat Andrew Cuomo has given Dean Skelos and the Republican Senate majority every break. He didn’t veto their self-serving gerrymander bill as he promised he would. I am old enough to remember the Democratic landslide in Goldwater-Johnson in which all kids of Republicans got thrown out in New York.

To turn this election in their favor, you had better believe that the Democrats are going to plaster the television airwaves with Ryan’s picture and what he wants to do with two of the most popular social programs in American history. You’ll see crying babies and seniors threatened with eviction. When I explained how this was going to work to some elderly friends, one of them said, “You don’t have to worry, it will only be younger people who will lose these benefits.” In response, I said, “These younger folks have been putting money into these programs for years. They are looking forward to Social Security and Medicare. They are going to be very angry when and if all of this comes down.”

Poor ; he may be good at making a lot of money. That doesn’t make him smart. He’s just committed political hara-kiri. In New York, he’s probably the best thing the usually hapless Democrats have going for them.

Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.

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