Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why the Heck II

Why The Heck II

After last week’s post a friend asked me a very pertinent question.  He said he understood my thinking in voting for Barack Obama in 2008, but found it difficult to fathom how I could possibly reject Romney in 2012.  Romney, in his mind, was a terrific leader, an excellent Governor of Massachusetts, a man of the world, of deep experience, and a superb manager. 

Romney would have been a great President, my friend insisted.  Why the heck hadn’t I voted for Romney?

Issues, I said.  Issues mattered to me.  I wasn’t what many on the Right contemptuously call an Obamabot.  I was aware of Obama’s flaws.  But I watched the Republican primary debates very closely, I saw Mitt move sharply right, and I found the gap between what I believed and what he was saying grow to a chasm.  Mitt Romney had tried so hard to convince the GOP base that he was one of them, that he convinced me of the same.

To be fair, I didn’t have any illusions that Mitt was the passionate and committed “severe conservative” he claimed to be.  But by failing to be his own man, he made me evaluate him on the terms his party defined for him.  Those were terms I (and apparently the majority) couldn’t go with.

My friend insisted that Mitt would never have governed that way.  But I don’t think we should be guessing what politicians really mean when they are whispering to their campaign competitors, or shouting to their base.  We should take them at their word.  And we should evaluate whether we want to be led by them in the direction they indicate.  

Now is the time to make those evaluations—now and over the next two years, as we pick a new government.  We are about to have midterm elections in which every poll and every prognosticator predict Republican gains and possibly a huge Republican wave. 

Forget about being “Ready for Hillary.”  Are we ready for the Republicans? How should the voters react to potential GOP dominance? Is it what we want?

Obviously, if you are a Republican, you can head to the polls and measure the drapes.  But if you are a moderate wondering who to vote for, or a disheartened Democrat wondering whether to vote at all, I would ask you to picture a Republican future, and ask yourself if that’s the type of political world you want to live in.  What do Republicans do when they are in charge?  

The best way to gauge that is to see what they have done.

Priority one tends to be voting rights. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 22 states have enacted new restrictions on voting to be in effect for the 2014-midterm elections.  These vary, but include more stringent voter identification laws, reduced or eliminated early voting, changes to absentee voting, restrictions on registration drives, and fewer hours for polling places. The primary purpose of these, even the GOP admits, is directed at reducing Democratic turnout, particularly among minorities and younger voters.  Think of it as securing the borders against unwanted choices by the electorate.

Also a target are working people. The GOP loves the working person, so long they don’t have the temerity to organize, or ask for higher wages, or equal pay for women, or better health and safety regulations. In 2013 alone, 21 states introduced right-to-work legislation.  At the Supreme Court, a conservative majority legitimized discriminatory conduct based on religious belief, and curtailed the rights of public service unions to collect dues.  

The environment?  I want to table the entire question of climate change, since there is absolutely no way you are ever going to convince the overwhelming majority of Republican voters that such a thing exists.  So, for the purposes of argument, let’s stipulate it's a gigantic fraud.  How about the rest of the environment—water, air, land preservation?  I don’t think anyone can make a serious case that the GOP supports any substantive regulations, and particularly not those that involve the extraction industries.  Who co-wrote the GOP platform on the environment?  Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy and power subcommittee, and a major supporter of coal, gas, nuclear, and “reducing the regulatory burden.”   Want to see the GOP in action on the topic?  Visit North Carolina, where, earlier this year, an accident at a waste pond caused nearly 27 million gallons of contaminated water and much as 82,000 tons (that’s “tons”) of coal ash spilled into North Carolina’s Dan River.  What happened to good old Duke?  To start with, they were well protected—from liability.  Before the incident occurred, state regulators, as directed by newly elected Governor Pat McCrory (a Duke employee for 28 years) blocked lawsuits against Duke for existing hazardous sites, eventually shielding 31 waste ponds from litigation and absolving Duke of responsibility for cleaning up it’s own mess.  Then, after the accident, it rushed to declare the water safe to drink despite having detected substantially elevated arsenic levels.  

Maybe the environment isn’t important to you.  How about personal privacy, and reproductive rights? Just since the start of 2014, 13 states have enacted new regulations restricting abortion, and most of these aren’t little “tweaks” but rather omnibus actions with the clear intent of closing any and all abortion providers in their states.  I understand the pro-life arguments and respect those who oppose abortions. But, if you are a voter with anything less that an “A” rating from the evangelical right and don’t want this view imposed on you, you should strongly consider that the GOP expects to nationalize what they have accomplished at the state level.

And guns, an issue that people get more passionate about than pregnancy?  The GOP and the NRA stand together as one.  Guns for good guys and good gals, pretty much everywhere, in every place, and at every time, and for anyone who can get a permit. Maybe you are like me, don't oppose reasonable gun ownership, and don’t care what people do in other states.  If Texans want to play cowboy, and you live in New York, let them play cowboy in Texas.  But, that’s not enough for the GOP.  They support what amounts to universal reciprocity on carry.  If a Texan can get a license, regardless of his background, his health, even his emotional stability, it must be honored in every state that permits carry.  That’s just about everywhere. You need not meet New York’s standards for obtaining a permit. When Ted Cruz rolls his tank into Manhattan and flashes his Lone Star permit, Texas rules. That’s to be national policy, written into the GOP Platform.  At the state level, Georgia passed a bill of such (breath-taking) breadth that I think I’d want to buy a gun as a precaution before I went there.  In Georgia, not only can virtually everyone get a gun, but they can use it: you can claim “stand your ground” even if the firearm you are standing with isn’t legal.

These five are an “O-fer” for me, and I can offer a dozen more.  You might agree with me on some or all, but still decide that utility is more important that principle, and just vote for the guy you think will make the trains run on time.  That’s the beauty of living in a democracy.  We don’t have to justify our choices. We just have to make them, and then live with the consequences.   

My friend told me today he was going to convert me.  He’s very smart, and very persuasive. But, he has got some “issues” to work on. 

September 10, 2014

Michael Liss (Moderate Moderator)

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