Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., April 1, 2 or 3
President Obama’s 5-million vote victory over Republican Mitt Romney showed the country’s shifting demographics – more voters who are younger, better educated, more likely to be women, and more diverse in religion and race. That supposedly signaled to some GOP leaders that they should be less extremist and strident and more mainstream and open to the actual makeup of the nation.
So some GOP figures have claimed they’re moving toward the political center, even releasing a 100-page self-examination titled “Growth and Opportunity Project” detailing the GOP’s “narrow-minded” and “scary” image and other problems.
But, still influenced by its Tea Party faction, the GOP’s moving too little.
Compared to Republicans from the last several decades, today’s GOP still looks more like U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy (of red-baiting notoriety) than Dwight D. Eisenhower (whose GOP platform stated, “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”).
Some examples of today’s wolves in shepherds’ clothing:
* “Elect me to government (which I hate).” GOP figures who loathe government continue to use its power to shaft working people who make wages so low they need Medicaid. Some GOP governors are refusing to take part in Obamacare’s arrangement to pay for new enrollees in the program for three years and 90% of the costs afterward. Notably, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Texas’ Rick Perry and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker are refusing to expand medical coverage to needy citizens there.
* Dirty politics. Besides trying to rearrange Electoral College votes in swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania – where electoral votes could henceforth go to winners of Congressional districts gerrymandered to favor Republicans instead of a winner-take-all formula – the GOP and the Koch brothers are behind efforts to kill key parts of the Voting Rights Act and add new state-based restrictions, all to discourage voting, a republic’s most important right.
* States rights. Republican governors and legislatures now control 24 states, where measures are being proposed that range from cutting taxes on the rich at the expense of the middle class to mandating the teaching of the philosophy of "intelligent design” as science.
* Violence against women. After much wrangling, Congress finally passed the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill this winter, but more than 130 House Republicans voted against it. (Afterward, some, such as U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, issued misleading press releases implying they’d voted for it. King did not.) Also, on the state level, Indiana is one of nine states where GOP lawmakers are passing requirements for women to submit to invasive ultrasound procedures before they can terminate pregnancies or receive the contraceptive pill RU486. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, an ex-Congressman, was expected to sign the measure.
* What’s the matter with Kansas? Gov. Sam Brownback, an ex-U.S. Senator, is pushing an agenda drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers (based in Wichita). Kansas’ new Speaker of the House, Ray Merrick, is active with ALEC, a corporate front group behind many right-wing initiatives. Brownback eliminated Kansas’ business tax and income tax and now faces billions in new debt, which some say must be paid for by increasing sales taxes, which hurts middle-class and working people.
* Hot air. Holding key seats on the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, climate-change deniers are blocking measures to address global warming. One, Tea Party darling Dana Rohrabacher from California, actually said that climate change could have been due to “dinosaur flatulence, y’know, or – who knows?”
* Budget battles. Federal spending is at its slowest growth rate since Eisenhower’s administration in the 1950s, and Obama has hinted that he might accommodate cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in some sort of “grand bargain” (which understandably concerns progressives), but anti-government GOP-ers, led by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, propose the type of social safety net slashing and burning that Europe’s trying – and failing with.
Even this week, everyday working people shouldn’t be fooled.
Further, Americans should remain engaged and active. If a half dozen Senate seats change, the new-fangled GOP and old-fashioned right wing will control Capitol Hill (as well as the Supreme Court), the pretense will drop, and the rest of Obama’s administration will be blocked even more forcefully than the filibuster-happy, do-nothing Congresses of 2009-2012.
[PICTURED: Editorial cartoon by Gary Markstein, from U.S. News and World Report's Facebook page]