We got the good news last week. Regis was cast in BPI’s spring theatre production of The Gardener’s Lament. He’s already begun to prepare for his role as a squirrel who raids a local garden, seemingly looking for food but actually … well, I won’t spoil the ending. The director asked the actors to prepare for their roles by reading the script, writing diaries that fill in their characters’ life histories, and spending a few minutes each day talking to themselves in-character. The babies, Nancy and Michelle, are fascinated by that last bit. Alas, they asked him what he was talking about, breaking his train of thought, at which point he huffed and scampered off to the privacy of his bed nook. The girls were sad until Mrs. Squirrel explained that Regis is just scared.

“And that’s okay,” I explained. “I get scared too.”

The girls gave me blank looks in reply, so I began to explain some of my research in 21st Century Political Nuttitude, including a TPM story about Republicans campaigning in Iowa, where Mitt Romney told voters:

[President Obama] sees the European welfare state as perhaps being the more appropriate model. An entitlement society, where the role of government is increasingly to take from someone to give to others. That would deaden the American spirit. That would substitute envy for ambition. It would poison the very spirit of America that allows us to be one nation under god.

And at least some Iowans agreed, according to TPM:

“I think a lot of people have lost the idea of what America really stands for,” Connie Burns, a Middle School teacher from Atlantic, Iowa, told me at a Romney stop. “Which is the freedom, opportunity, basics to provide for your family.”

Burns said she doesn’t think Obama doesn’t believe in the “spirit of America,” but she said the president has “his own idea of what America should be” and said she’s scared of a second Obama term.
“I think he’s turning our country into a socialist state. I think he just wants big government and just wants to take over,” said Barbara Bonnes, a retiree from Glenwood, Iowa in the crowd for Romney’s speech in Council Bluffs. She perceived a creep into health care that concerns her. Obama’s second term would leave America “a whole nanny country,” she said.

Some of this is simply the fruit of a long-running narrative portraying President Obama as Other. From conspiracy theories about his birth certificate and groundless beliefs that he is a Muslim, to dog-whistles about his college grades, to patently racist arguments that he is an “affirmative action president,” the usually muted but always audible subtext has been that this president – a black man named Barack Hussein Obama – is Not A Real American and thus Not A Legitimate President. Similarly, the brouhaha over ACORN and widespread efforts at voter suppression reinforce the idea that President Obama should not and would not have won the 2008 election, except that too many Not Real Americans were allowed to vote.

But the fear that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have stoked going into 2012 is not entirely about race. It’s also about class. While Republicans howl “class warfare” and “socialism”, those howls are a smoke screen for their own, truly radical agenda.

Except for the 2010 Affordable Care Act – the landmark health care law that a plurality of Americans feel did not go far enough – President Obama and Democrats created no new “entitlement” programs since 2008. The “punish the wealthy” tax increases Democrats have called for is simply a return to the rates before the budget-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001.

In fact it’s Republicans who want to rewrite the social contract: privatizing Social Security and Medicare, gutting public education, repealing child labor laws and environmental and labor rules, and cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans while raising taxes for median- and lower-income workers. Yes, you read that last bit right. Despite their pledge to Grover Norquist, many Republicans do support tax increases for most Americans. Witness the recent showdown over whether to continue the payroll tax holiday – a tax break for working Americans struggling to pay bills – which Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) decried as “poor public policy.”

When Mitt Romney says “the very spirit of America that allows us to be one nation under god,” he means that god’s free market decides who should be rich or poor and government should reinforce those distinctions. And if that creates a de facto American aristocracy, well, the only alternative is “socialism.”

So yes, I explained to Nancy and Michelle, I’m scared. There’s a lot at stake in 2012, and I want to do everything I can to stop the radicalism of the Republican Party. They had long since fallen asleep by the time I finished explaining, because they’re still babies. We grownups don’t have that excuse.

Good day and good nuts.