As most of you know, I really don’t like the Republican Party. I’ve given lots of reasons—all fact checkable, by the way, for you haters—and until someone can actually defend the merits of that party’s actions in the last 12 years (especially the last four), I make no bones about saying this: they are awful people who’ve done irreparable harm to our nation, making the average American’s life measurably worse because of their corruption and malfeasance. It’s because Republicans have been so bad, primarily, that I ever registered as a Democrat.
However, as my political beliefs have evolved, I’ve realized that the real reason I hate Republicans… is because I am one.
It’s true. I prefer small government and low tax rates. I prefer local and state control to federal control. I prefer free enterprise and free markets to government intervention, and I prefer capitalism to socialism. Those are all traditional Republican values, but please note that I use the term “prefer”, because I recognize that my preferences don’t always work—sometimes socialism is the only option that makes sense (like our military), sometimes a heavily regulated monopoly works better than a free market (i.e. electric companies), and sometimes the free market just doesn’t work and needs the government to step in with regulations (health care). But modern Republicans don’t recognize these exceptions, because they, like Sith Lords, deal only in absolutes.
Indeed, all that seems to matter for modern Republican politicians is money, power, winning elections, and pleasing their base; none of which have anything to do with the virtues I mentioned above. So they’re not really Republicans, and for that matter, neither is their base. These are people that want to impose their “Christian” values on the rest of us—especially if it means putting the government between a woman and her doctor. They worship the rich, because they’re the “makers,” and hate anyone who’s poor (the “takers”). They want to cut funding for food stamps, education, health care—really anything that has to do with helping people—while maintaining or increasing funding for the military. And it’s their way or the highway—no compromise, no new ideas, nothing. Just pure assholery.
In fact, if you think about it, today’s Republicans are really European style monarchists: the rich and powerful should rule the country, our laws should be based on the Christian religion, we should spend as much as possible on the military so that we can kill people we don’t like, and as for everyone else: sink or swim, and if you happen to get screwed by one of the nobility (read: rich and corporations), too bad, so sad, suck it.
What’s really unfortunate, is that there is so much in terms of ideas and solutions that real Republicans could offer. For example, why not strip much of the regulations and rules surrounding how public schools function, and then let states, counties, cities, and individual school districts experiment with what works best for their students? By doing so, we would not only be allowing more local control and educational freedom, but we’d be setting up an experiment in which schools, school districts, administrators, and teachers compete to see what works best. Inevitably, some districts would succeed, others would not, and our educational system would develop numerous approaches to build successful schools.
Oh, and by the way modern Republicans, you hate teacher’s unions, right? Guess how you break them? Pay teachers more, expect more from the teachers who sign those contracts, and guarantee superintendents and principals the power to pay their best teachers higher salaries. As it is now, private schools and charter schools pay their teachers far less, on average, than a public school teacher that belongs to a union, SO WHY THE HELL WOULD ANY TEACHER BE OPPOSED TO UNIONS?
And that’s just the problem, in general, with the modern Republican approach to almost every issue. There aren’t any ideas or solutions, just broad agendas that are pursued regardless of their consequences. Take food stamps, for example. The Republicans in the House of Representatives just passed a farm bill that didn’t include them, pursuing the “cut government/social programs” agenda. This might be passable as the Republican value of small government, but then, the bill they passed contained massive subsidies to large agricultural corporations. How does that value the free market, the notion of capitalistic competition, spending taxpayer money responsibly, OR the concept of small government? It doesn’t. And just so everyone’s aware, cutting food stamps is not only cruel (47% of food stamp recipients are children, and 85% live at or below the poverty line), it’s also bad economic policy: every dollar we spend on food stamps generates about $1.70 in economic activity.
There are other examples of this kind of agenda driven policy-making by modern Republicans, but the overarching problem that real Republicans should have with their party, is that they’ve completely forgotten about fairness and opportunity. Because while I believe in small government, low taxes, and free markets, I also believe that being an American means having a shot at the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness Jefferson talked about in the Declaration of Independence. Why should the richest Americans and corporations have huge tax breaks, loopholes, and subsidies that middle class Americans and small business owners don’t have? Why are paychecks subject to higher taxes than capital gains? These are basic issues of fairness, and yet, modern Republicans stand in the way of any change to these privileges for an already privileged class of people.
And what about opportunity? How much opportunity do college grads have when our national student loan debt is over $1 trillion (average is about $30,000)? How much opportunity is there for a poor person to forge their way out of poverty when the Republican House is cutting food stamps, Republican governors are denying Medicaid to their citizens, and state after state is systematically disinvesting in education? How much opportunity does anyone but the richest among us have when wages for the average American have been stagnant since the 1980’s (type “wage stagnation” into your search engine of choice)? Again, we find Republicans—at best—deaf on issues of opportunity. And at their worst, they are nasty, cruel, and malignant.
Please, don’t mistake me for a bleeding heart—I’m not. People that don’t work hard in school, and can’t so much as hold down a full time job to pay for themselves after, can suck it for all I care. But when we have a system of education that is woefully inadequate (in best case scenarios, saddling graduates with mountains of debt), and a minimum wage so low that full time workers still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, it’s entirely possible for someone to do everything right, and still end up living a shitty life. Frankly, that doesn’t speak well of democracy, and it doesn’t speak well of capitalism.
Still, we find Republicans pushing, not to increase fairness and opportunity, but against them: cutting food stamps, slaughtering public education, opposed to affordable health care or increasing the minimum wage.
And that is how the Action Party must be different. While we strongly support free markets, low taxes, and small, local government, we also must ensure that every single American is treated fairly by our laws, and is given the opportunity to succeed if they are willing to work hard and contribute to our society. It is destructive to our systems of democracy and capitalism to do anything otherwise.
So next time you get into an argument with a modern Republican (aka a European Monarchist), direct them to the Real Republicans: the Action Party.