Despite the confusing chatter you’re hearing about the Republican Party’s desire to become more inclusive, it is now clear that American voters will choose between two starkly different sets of values in 2014 and 2016.
Controlled by Republicans, the House of Representatives provides a reliable picture of the party as it is today. And the picture is not pretty.
The Democrats have a majority in the Senate, and – despite the Republicans’ abuse of the filibuster provision – have managed to fend off the House’s most draconian assaults on domestic and global programs that aid the poor and sick. You can bet that the Republicans are salivating over the possibility of gaining a majority in the Senate next year. Their savage assault on humanity would then be unleashed in all its fury.
The Republicans are fiercely intent on reversing Obamacare, of course, and the House has passed nearly three dozen bills to make their position crystal clear. And that’s just the beginning. Their proposed legislation has included not just slashing the food stamp budget but eliminating it entirely. Environmental programs are another target, as is funding for education, research and the arts.
The House Republicans want to shift nearly $50 billion from domestic programs to the Pentagon (in breach of their sequestration agreement). That shift would include deep cuts in transit and community development grants – and foreign aid.
My in-basket today included a petition asking the Senate to block a House proposal that would eliminate funding for UN agencies, including those that provide services for women and children. The bill would also slash funds for the World Health Organization and for peacekeeping. (I signed it of course.)
That tells you a lot about the Republican Party as it is today. Their philosophy sees America as a merciless jungle in which only the strong survive, and as a mighty military power that would impose its will on the world without regard for the poor and the sick.
It is a philosophy embraced by such popular Republican presidential hopefuls as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
You might think of it as a kind of libertarianism. But it is anything but. They want to give the rich and mighty the freedom to abuse the helpless, but they refuse to stay out of our bedrooms.
Republican controlled legislatures across the land have declared war on women’s rights, passing laws that virtually ban abortion in their states. And Republican activists are fighting against our right to marry anyone we love, regardless of gender.
The Republicans also seem to be taking a hard line on racial issues. They have backed away from immigration reform, and are immoveable on gun control and stand-your-ground laws.
How can such a party hope to win a majority of votes in today’s America?
The answer is they probably can’t. But that doesn’t matter. The way the political system works, the GOP can fail to get a popular majority and still gain control of Congress. One factor is the composition of the Senate. Small, rural states have the same number of federal senators – two – as large, urban states. And in small, rural states voters tend to be overwhelmingly white, conservative, uneducated, gun loving, and male dominated.
Another factor is the way voting districts have been gerrymandered over the years. In many states, districts have been drawn so that one vote in a sparsely populated rural area carries as much weight as two (or more) in a densely populated urban area. And as the whole world knows, those urban areas are predominantly Democratic while the rural areas tend to vote Republican.
Not content with such advantages, Republican legislatures are passing voter identification laws that disenfranchise millions on minority voters, who – understandably – favor the Democrats.The Supreme Court has come to the aid of these legislatures by removing the federal oversight provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The bottom line is that mighty forces are aligned against America’s precious traditions of freedom and democracy. And the concepts of justice and compassion that most Americans accept are under attack. It’s something for us to remember next November. None of us who believe in a free, decent and just America can afford to sit this one out.