A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tea Party coverage obscures Republicans like Ike

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Dec. 11, 12 or 13

In a few weeks it will be 60 years since Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his State of the Union speech proposed a law to “eliminate excess profits,” reminded Congress that the corporate income tax was 52 percent, and advocated greater conservation measures to protect water resources.

That memory helps reveal that right-wing extremists backed by the wealthy and powerful have hijacked news about the GOP – the party of Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln.

Today, the sky’s the limit on profits and Wall Street’s setting records; profitable corporations are supposed to pay a 35 percent federal tax rate, but many pay less or nothing because of loopholes and special breaks, according to Citizens for Tax Justice; and the GOP wants to limit the Clean Water Act.

However, new research by University of New Hampshire sociologists shows that everyday Republicans who don’t abide the Tea Party have views on environmental issues closer to Independents than the right-wingers who get much of the attention.

“Across a range of science and environmental issues, non-Tea Party Republicans are more similar to Independents than they are to Tea Party supporters,” says UNH professor of sociology Lawrence Hamilton, first author of “A Four-Party View of U.S. Environmental Concern” in the journal Environmental Politics.

Realizing that non-Tea Party Republicans are more receptive to scientific findings is somewhat encouraging, Hamilton says.

“Science communication gets caught up in a political spin cycle that can counter years of data with a few days of blogging,” he says.

Still, too many in Congress are being held hostage by the well-funded, influential Right.

Unlike Eisenhower – the World War II leader who became the 34th U.S. President – GOP leaders today ignore widespread popular support to kowtow to the cacophony from the Tea Party or to their campaign contributors. Polls show sizable majorities of Americans favor ending subsidies to fossil-fuel companies (62 percent); improving, not killing, the Affordable Care Act (64 percent); offering a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (68 percent); raising the minimum wage (70 percent); keeping food stamp funding as it is (70 percent); taxing millionaires at 30 percent or more (71 percent); lowering student-loan interest to 3.4 percent (83 percent); and requiring background checks in all gun purchases (92 percent).

Eisenhower, affectionately called Ike, would have led such efforts, not deferred to the domineering rich. After all, Ike ended the Korean War, built the Interstate highway system, sent federal troops to desegregate public schools in Little Rock, Ark., made both conservative and liberal appointments to a ground-breaking U.S. Supreme Court, stood up to Red-baiting demagogue Joe McCarthy, and coined the term “military-industrial complex,” which he criticized.

He erred, too, of course, engineering a coup in Iran that continues to echo in the Middle East, having a U-2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union, and continuing a dangerous Cold War. But he avoided escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam, defied Democrats who for political gain conjured a phony “missile gap” compared to Soviet weapons, promoted protecting voting rights, expanded Social Security, increased the minimum wage, and established the cabinet post of Health, Education and Welfare.

In 1967, journalist Murray Kempton wrote a reflection on Eisenhower in Esquire magazine, saying Ike was “as calm when he was demonstrating the wisdom of leaving a bad situation alone as when he was moving to meet it on those occasions when he absolutely had to.”

Certainly, Ike was no Michelle Bachman, Ted Cruz, Steve King or Rand Paul. Maybe it’s unfair or unrealistic to fondly recall such Main Street Republicans. But Ike showed the possibilities.

Jean Edward Smith in his biography “Eisenhower in War and Peace” added that Ike “knew the difference between right and wrong.”

Many Americans – many Republicans – must concede that if the Tea Party isn’t malicious, its adherents sure don’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong.

[PICTURED: Photo collage from]

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