My political views have definitely evolved over the years. When I was a young man in the 1980s, I thought that, despite my antipathy toward the policies put forth by Republicans, at least they had to have the best interests of America at heart. They just saw a different way of moving the country forward.
But I can no longer endorse that opinion.
Given the recent unwillingness of right-wingers on Capitol Hill to negotiate in good faith on a federal budget; their zealousness to shut down the government as part of a continuing culture war (just as they did in 1995); efforts by GOP governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere to destroy public and private unions (the backbone of workers’ rights); Republicans’ drive to “essentially end Medicare” and do away with Medicaid, roll back President Obama’s important expansion of health-care coverage, and make us even more dependent than we’ve been on bottom-line-driven insurance companies; their wish to hand out more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and hand the bill for those to the already strapped middle class; their push to eliminate regulations that hold corporations accountable for the health and safety of their employees and anyone else; and House Speaker John Boehner’s 11th-hour insistence that any federal budget win the approval of a majority of his caucus (a pretty ludicrous proposition, when you consider the ideological extremism of so many of its members), I must now accept that Republicans don’t really care about advancing the cause of all Americans.
As right-wing U.S. Representative Mike Pence (R-Indiana) accidentally acknowledged last night during an appearance on Fox “News,” in the battle over the budget “we’re trying to score a victory for the Republican people.” Some in the Beltway media will undoubtedly pass that off as a slip of the tongue, but there’s more truth in Pence’s statement than anything else.
Now, I don’t think that all Republicans share the radical viewpoints espoused by their national leaders. There are certainly decent members of the party, and each of us knows some.
But when it comes to the GOP leadership in Congress, and in at least some of the 50 states, I’ve come to believe that they don’t honestly care about anybody except themselves. No matter what they might say in front of microphones. They don’t care about union enrollees. They don’t care about members of the middle class. They definitely don’t care about the poor or the unemployed. They don’t care about people who believe that women ought to have birth-control choices, or those of us who think that arming more and more Americans (even college students!) can only lead to increased violence. They don’t care about people who don’t attend a Christian church. They don’t care about anyone who’s black or Latino or Asian, or anything but white (except if those same people are willing to swear fealty to GOP causes, and pay big into the party’s coffers). They don’t care about folks who think government plays a vital role in keeping citizens healthy and preventing corporations from taking advantage of their employees. They don’t care about people who endorse public funding of the arts. And they damn well don’t care about anyone who calls him- or herself a Democrat or a progressive. We are, to their minds, the enemy. Not simply people with different ideas of how the nation and the world should operate. We’re the enemy.
“The worldview to which much of the GOP subscribes,” writes MyDD’s Charles Lemos, “is one that we as a nation thought we had long put behind us, but they want to repeal the twentieth century and they don’t mind destroying the country in the process.” The evidence of that seems to abound right now. Today’s Republican Party, led by religious and social extremists, appears anxious to turn the nation over to Big Business, deny clear evidence of global warming, escalate the wealth gap among Americans, and ignore anybody who isn’t pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.
What’s more, as Rachel Maddow laid out last night on her MSNBC show, Republicans have developed a long-term game plan--assisted by now-unregulated corporate funding--to do away with any political opposition whatsoever. To make the United States, in effect, a one-party system. With right-wingers in charge--and to hell with the rest of us. As she explains it, it doesn’t matter that over-reaching GOP governors or other legislators might fall before the wrath of angry voters in the interim; what matters is that laws and practices are slowly but surely bent in favor of the Republican Party and its worst ideologues for decades to come.
This is a frightening and undemocratic proposition, and I hope it’s nothing more than a great conspiracy theory. But after observing the games being played of late by the GOP, I am more convinced than ever that today’s Republican Party stands up only for “the Republican people.” It’s a sad turn for a political party that Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt once hoped would do its best to improve the lot of all Americans.
Watch and learn:
READ MORE: “What’s Really Holding Up the Budget Deal?,” by Ezra Klein (The Washington Post); “New Polls: Tea Party Roadblock to Budget Compromise” (The Huffington Post); “Countdown to the Tea Party’s Comeuppance,” by Steve Kornacki (Salon); “Shutdown Fever” (Think Progress).