The Republicans’ slimy “Obama Agenda Survey”

Recently my father-in-law received a letter from the Republican National Committee. The letter asked for his help in making sure “that Barack Obama is a one-term president.”

My father-in-law is a life-long union member. He has spent 30-plus years as a union roofer; before that he was a Teamster truck driver. He’s Catholic, and he is a member of the National Rifle Association, the NRA – which is probably why he received the RNC letter.

The RNC letter asks him to “read and complete” an enclosed “2011 Obama Agenda Survey” which is “REGISTERED in your name and affixed with a tracking code” assuring it is “accounted for in the tabulated results.”

Before I deal with the content of the “2011 Obama Agenda Survey” I want to point out the misleadingly dramatic urgency of the RNC letter.

The Republicans’ labeling of their letter as “REGISTERED” and “affixed with a tracking code” is a clever attempt to mislead. They are implying that this is an official communication – much-like the Publishers’ Clearing House sweepstakes letter claiming that you may have just won a million dollars! Obviously, you haven’t won a million dollars; and obviously, this seemingly official letter, “REGISTERED” and “affixed,” was mailed to millions of other people – who, like my father-in-law – did not ask to receive it.

They continue with the false urgency: “So please, no matter what, do not discard or destroy your survey,” and “you must return your survey” because “the RNC is working to keep the political debate focused” as “Obama and the Democrats want to take our country – towards socialism …”

And, unless you want “ever-expanding federal government, sky-high taxes and a foreign policy of apology and appeasement … please respond immediately. … We don’t have a moment to waste.”

As the ominously worded “2011 Obama Agenda Survey” shows, the Republicans have absolutely no problem confusing facts with far-right conspiracies and lies. However, in an attempt to treat the “survey” fairly, I want to make clear that some of the questions are objective yes or no questions – questions like “Should English be the official language of the United States?” and “Do you believe President Obama has done a good job of managing the war in Afghanistan?”

Most questions, however, are entirely misleading, deny factual data and are designed to cause an overwhelming fear of government – BIG government! – imposing its will on a powerless citizenry.

For example, they ask, “Do you support creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington D.C.?”

First, a “national health insurance plan” isn’t even on the table in the House or Senate – unless, of course, the Republicans are talking about Medicaid and Medicare, which the majority of Americans want and support. The Affordable Care Act, which they are alluding to, isn’t a national health insurance plan; it is a health care consumer protection law. Moreover, when its provisions are enacted they won’t be “administered by bureaucrats in Washington D.C.” In fact, most of the ACA’s provisions will be administered by state and local governments and private firms.

Other survey questions are meant to provoke ugly racism. For example, “Are you in favor of the expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements) that Democrats in Congress are pushing to pass?”

Let’s dissect this sentence.

As to “expanded welfare benefits,” the Republicans must be talking about unemployment benefits, as no other “welfare” expansion programs are being pushed by anybody right now. Never mind the fact that unemployment insurance isn’t “welfare.” It’s your money: you put it in; you get it back in times of unemployment.

As to “unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements),” this is an outright lie! No one, ever in the history of American politics, has ever argued for “unlimited eligibility” on anything, especially welfare reform. This question is meant to provoke racist images of inner-city African Americans “living large” – indefinitely – off the backs of hard-working, tax-paying white folk. It is akin to “Cadillac driving welfare queens,” a fable, a lie, and crass attempt to use racism and sexism to divide the working class.

While there are many other questions in the RNC “2011 Obama Agenda Survey,” I think you get the picture. Their “survey” is nothing but propaganda.

In short, the Republicans aren’t concerned with balancing the budget or governing, as the deficit debacle demonstrates. They aren’t concerned with making our country better, as their disregard for our infrastructure and job creation makes perfectly clear. And they aren’t concerned with simple, good old-fashioned honesty, as this letter makes abundantly clear.

In fact, the only thing honest about the RNC letter is its repeated request for money.



Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.