Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Out On The Porch

My dear, departed friend Steve Creech used to say, "Down here in the South, we don't hide our crazy relatives.  We put 'em out on the porch to entertain the neighbors."  I got thinking about that yesterday as the florid psychotic heart of the GOP displayed itself over the weekend.

I want to be clear about some things.  First, there are millions of Americans who support the Republican Party for all sorts of reasons.  The party's insistence on fiscal probity; it's claim to support not just socio-economic but socio-moral policies that they believe will make the United States a better country; the party's long-held belief that our common life is enhanced by supporting both small businesses and corporate entities in their business pursuits, encouraging both thrift and investment in order to bring about a general prosperity (these are deeply held American beliefs; de Tocqueville mentioned them as deeply held back in the 1830's); many support particular candidates out of personal knowledge of who that person is.  There are Republican elected officials nationwide who are thoughtful, conscientious, dutiful, hardworking, and dedicated.  There are millions of Republican voters who are so for good reasons, and are themselves intelligent, thoughtful, dedicated persons.

The heart of the public face of the Republican Party, however, is none of these things.  The "base" - and to some extent the principle money folks who support the party - are, in fact, dedicated to a series of policy positions and a vision of the United States that is not only detrimental to the economic health and well-being of the majority of Americans; their views on various matters of social policy are rooted in some of our worst traits: bigotry toward minorities; the dehumanization of women; a view of social stability rooted in the maintenance of the dying WASP status quo.  Even while a voter, or perhaps millions, would not support policies to implement this vision, they will vote "R" on their ballots in the fall for all the great and good reasons outlined above.  What they will receive, however, are elected officials dedicated to implementing a series of policies that are directly contrary to the interests of the voters' intentions (think the election of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, elected to do one thing, but immediately setting out to do another).

When I started doing this whole internet political writing thing, many could pretend that views such as those espoused by Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri were limited to a tiny fringe of the Republican Party.  Indeed, one would never find an elected official of such prominence saying the kinds of things Akin did; instead, it would be a blogger somewhere.  Many liberal bloggers would go after a person who wrote such a thing, insisting this was what Republicans believe, and be chastised because, hey, it's just a blogger, right?

The past couple years have seen far too many high-profile incidents of Republicans expressing their views forthrightly, however, to dismiss as some holdover from the fringes of the right.  The attacks on Sandra Fluke, initiated by Rush Limbaugh but supported by many prominent Republicans, exposed the reality that the right isn't so much opposed to abortion, or even contraception; these are means toward the end of denying women fundamental human agency.  Not believing women have the right to choose how to live their own lives, including how they choose to express their sexuality, they instead go after abortion and contraception, slut-shaming any woman who might dare speak out loud enough for many to hear.

With the elevation of Paul Ryan to the VP spot on the Republican ticket, Medicare became an issue in the Presidential campaign.  Ryan's disingenuousness both about the particular policy he recommended in 2010, as well as his more philosophical position regarding this and other government funded programs is now an important matter.  Over the weekend, Ryan was in Florida, insisting that the plan put forward by Gov. Romney would not endanger benefits for those already in the Medicare system; it would, rather, address systemic issues further down the road.  Except, of course, just today, Romney surrogates have come forward and admitted that current beneficiaries would see cuts, as well.

Finally, there is the matter of race.  Few issues get the Republican base riled up faster than the claim, made by many Democrats and liberals, that a parade of euphemisms and code words hide a deep canyon of racial hostility within their ranks.  Whether it's talk about nonexistent voter fraud or Pres. Obama loosening work requirements in the welfare reform law passed in 1996 (a claim thoroughly debunked; that Romney continues to use it demonstrates a dedication to dishonesty that may well be the only thing he cherishes), these are in fact surrogates for talking about disenfranchising or otherwise limiting the civil and political rights of African-Americans.  Precisely because what many call "the dog whistle" is so difficult to hear, there is a measure of plausible deniability about such claims.

Until the Ohio Secretary of State, the highest ranking official tasked with overseeing elections, admitted that the rigmarole around weekend voting was intended solely to prevent blacks from voting to support Democratic candidates.
I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. Let’s be fair and reasonable.
No longer hiding within the fetid ranks of the right wing blogs and news sites, or couched in code or fancy phrases, it is now clear the Republican Party, feeling it has nothing to lose, is allowing its inner crazy uncle to sit on the porch for the whole world to see.  Florid political psychosis like this is certainly entertaining; it is also a good thing, because now voters can see what the Republican Party really wants to do, what policies it wishes to support, and why.

Remember this in the fall.  The election isn't about serious policy matters; it's about letting the crazy uncle who hears voices and wears burlap shorts to protect himself from aliens make important decisions for all of us.

Not really much of a choice after all.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More