The other day, I was at a family dinner party where briefly, politics came up. The consensus was the common NPR/national media response: both sides are at equally at fault, and an underlying implication that the Democrats are just as extreme as the Republicans. I probably should have said something, because this common line of thinking is completely without substance (really a great read if you have the time), but being polite, I chose to point out that money in politics makes politicians in both party’s less effective, and that people should visit moveon.org to sign the online petition for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people, etc.
However, the simple fact is that our political parties, as currently comprised, couldn’t be more different—and it’s not that Democrats are extreme leftists that are bringing up legislation that is completely unreasonable. Look at the bills they’ve passed: a small stimulus package (that worked—see the last post), Obamacare (which Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts, and regulates the private healthcare market—hardly the socialist or government-run system its accused of being), common sense regulations for Wall St. (that probably didn’t go far enough), and a couple of bills cutting taxes for small businesses as well as encouraging American companies to hire American workers.
During Obama’s tenure, the Democrats have proposed to end subsidies for Big Oil in order to give states money to hire more teachers, fireman, and police. Just outrageous, right? They’ve also proposed to cut the deficit by letting tax cuts expire for any money made after $250,000 in salary, and then a second stimulus package to aid state and local governments, which are having MASSIVE budget issues. Oh, and recently, they put forth a bill that would take away tax cuts for businesses that moved their operations overseas, and that would have subsidized the moving costs of businesses that wanted to move their production back to the U.S. Of course, none of the things I’ve mentioned in this paragraph got done, because Republicans either filibustered them in the Senate, or refused to bring them up for a vote in the House.
So let’s talk about the Republican Party as currently constituted. This is a party that has not passed a single piece of landmark legislation to create jobs, despite using that promise to win the 2010 election. If they had, I’d imagine they’d be talking about it now. They’ve also broken the record for using the filibuster to prevent presidential appointments as well as to oppose legislation.
Among other Republican accomplishments: bringing government to a screeching halt during the debt negotiations last summer and calling into question the full faith and credit of the United States, despite the fact that Obama was willing to pass a $4 TRILLION DEFICIT REDUCTION PACKAGE THAT INCLUDED CUTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. What an incredible socialist that guy is, you know? The reason Republicans didn’t get it done: it would have given Obama a “win.” That and it would have included revenue, which would have forced them to break their promise to their God and King, Grover Norquist.
Oh, but don’t worry, that’s not the only time the Republican’s have put party before country in the last four years. One could in fact, make a cogent argument that this is exactly what they intended to do in the first place. After all, there’s that meeting they had shortly after Obama’s inauguration where Republican leaders met to oppose anything and everything the Democrats put forward, even if it would hurt the economy. Still don’t believe me? Mitch McConnell said himself that his #1 job as Senate Minority Leader was to make sure Obama was a one-term president.
Moreover, look at what has been done by Republicans in the states. They’ve passed voter ID laws in 20 some states that overwhelmingly disenfranchise urban voters, especially African Americans, college students, and the sick and elderly, even though there’s almost no evidence of actual voter fraud. They’ve also been primarily responsible for the “stand your ground” laws, meaning that if someone perceives you as a threat, they can shoot you dead—legally.
By the way, did you know they have private, for profit, debtors’ prisons in Alabama? Guess who’s responsible: the state’s Republican Legislature. But I’m still not sure what’s worse, that, or the fact that in the Texas Republican Party’s official platform, they specifically oppose the teaching of critical thinking in school (about 2/3’s the way down on page 12). And if you think that’s an anomaly, guess again—take a look at the official website for the House Republicans. On it, you can find their plan for restoring America. IT DOES NOT EVEN MENTION EDUCATION, despite our country’s dismal scores in science and math. Instead, they propose to make it easier for highly skilled foreigners to come take American jobs, as well as to promote “free trade,” which is essentially code for allowing corporations to move their factories overseas.
I could go on, but I won’t. Hopefully, it’s clear that we’re talking about two completely different political parties, and the fact that our government doesn’t work is not, primarily, the fault of the Democrats. The truth is that the current Republican Party is a radically different party than it was even 10-15 years ago, and I’m not the only one saying it. Plenty of moderate Republicans have said it as well, like Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), who said recently, “I’m frustrated by how my we—I mean the Republican Party—give deferential treatment to our extremes…” and, “I would say the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find…much more congenial—a little less anger.” Read the story.
Ultimately, to say that the cause of Washington’s dysfunction is that Democrats are too far left and Republicans are too far right, is like saying that if we put a group of scientists and witches together and told them to run an experiment, they’d be equally to blame for not producing results. The Republican Party might as well make witchcraft a part of their stated platform, since they don’t believe in science (read: climate change), or using experience to make decisions going forward; for instance, the fact that tax cuts have not led to more jobs or prosperity, but instead, massive state and federal budget deficits.
I’ve been asking now, for two solid weeks, why people vote for Republicans, and I’ve yet to get an answer. What I speculate is that it’s one of three things: 1) they don’t really pay attention to what is going on, or they’re mildly misinformed by right wing media, but they’ve always been a Republican, they’re family and friends are Republican, so that’s how they vote, facts be damned. 2) All they do is listen to FOX News and right wing radio, and any information that conflicts with the lies they’re told is the evil liberal media—which they block out—so they can live on in willful ignorance. Angry, angry, willful ignorance. Or, 3) they believe the falsehood we’ve talked about today, that both parties are equally wrong and equally responsible for our national problems, and viewing themselves as thoughtful independents, they sometimes vote for Republicans.
My message to groups one and three (two being completely insane) is simple: if you can’t bring yourself to vote for Democrats this November, just don’t vote. If you can’t explain, or justify, why you should vote Republican, then you shouldn’t. Don’t vote. Because the fact is, if you vote for Republicans, you are approving of their extremism—indeed, you are endorsing our government’s dysfunction. Oh, and you’re also endorsing a group of people who, if they do what they say they will, will almost certainly crash the economy. Again.