‘Ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party’

OK so the data is in, and it’s looking like the gap between perception and reality has never been wider in living political memory. Compare some of the following talking points raging across the airwaves over the past several months with the actual facts.

The stimulus bill isn’t working:

Today’s reports from leading economic research firms and the independent Congressional Budget Office indicate that the stimulus saved 1-2 million jobs, and kept the economy from crashing more severely through unemployment extensions and COBRA support.

Americans oppose the health-care bill:

Last week’s New York Times/CBS poll indicates that a solid majority of Americans (59%) support health care, including the public option passed by the Democratic House of Representatives last fall.

Oh, and did we mention that the top five health insurance companies posted record profits last quarter? Even after pouring billions of dollars into lobbying against health-care legislation, they managed to raise premiums, cut coverage, and drop more customers.

Republicans oppose the cuts to Medicare in the health care bill:

The GOP’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget plan released last week calls for $650 billion in Medicare cuts over the next 10 years, compared to the proposed $400 billion savings of the health care plans.

Republicans are more responsive to popular anger about Wall Street financial abuses:

Republicans actively oppose several Democrat-initiated efforts to control the recession-inducing financial risk-taking on Wall Street, whether that’s increasing the regulatory power of the Federal Reserve, establishing an independent regulatory committee to oversee Wall Street or creating a Consumer Protection Agency. As Richard Eskow reports in the Huffington Post,“The party that’s benefiting most from anti-bank ‘Tea Party’ rage turns out to the party that is most willing to let the banks do whatever they want, regardless of the risks.”

Republicans are populist; Democrats are elitist:

Sarah Palin and the tea parties aside, Republican lawmakers continue to promote legislation that enhances the flow of taxpayer resources into the pockets of the very rich, corporations, and Wall Street financiers; and obstruct Democratic policies that would benefit all of us like education, health care, and infrastructure improvement.

What to do about it all?

Republicans: Govern first, then campaign:

Republicans spend so much energy to get reelected, they don’t bother to govern anymore—that is, to set aside ideology long enough to compromise over decisions that will benefit the public. And why should they? They’ve got money pouring in from corporate interests and all those reptilian brains out there supporting them.

Democrats: Govern, then campaign:

Democrats have the opposite problem of Republicans. They are so busy fighting amongst themselves that they can’t agree on a consistent message about what they really do stand for. A little bit of the campaign mentality would help here.

Voters: Activate cortex:

Fear and rage are the emotions of the Reptilian brain (amygdala), shutting down our other brain functions, (especially the intelligent cortex) while we fight or fly. Advertisers and the conservative media are master manipulators of this brain, convincing us to we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need and to vote for politicians who work against our self interest.

We voters have to recognize our responsibility for this mess. By voting with the amygdala instead of the cortex, we send strong messages to our legislatures supporting ideological partisanship rather than smart policy. We can change that: Think first, then vote.