What's Wrong with the Republicans?
By Nayyer Ali MD
America has a two party political system, and for it to function in a healthy fashion both parties need to be rational and committed to the national good. They should also refrain from demonizing their opposition and indulging in all sorts of conspiracies and fantasies about American politics.
When one party gets too far from reason, the whole system can break down. This is where we are now, with the Republicans suffering from a dis-connect with reality that has just gotten worse under Obama. The old, rational Republican Party of Nelson Rockefeller or Gerald Ford or Bob Dole is now long gone, and we are left with a bunch of extremists that want to destroy the government. So in what ways have the Republicans lost touch? I can think of at least 15 major issues.
1. Voter suppression. The fabricated notion that fraudulent voting is rampant and justifies a variety of hurdles to make it hard to vote, that just happen to hit Democratic voters hard, shows how little regard they have for the American people or democracy. George Washington didn’t have photo ID, and none of us need it either. Hopefully, a liberal SCOTUS in a few years will throw out all these voter ID laws. Also, the Republicans have declined to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in compliance with the recent SCOTUS decision.
2. Immigration. Republicans confuse two different issues. One is what to do to keep new undocumented immigrants from coming to the US, the other is what to do about the 11 million who are already here. A fence does nothing to keep them out. The reality is that falling birthrates and a growing Mexican economy mean that the number of unskilled workers that will enter the US in the next decade has fallen sharply. At this point there is little or no new net immigration. Securing the border is just a pointless ruse to avoid dealing with the 11 million here who should be given legal status as an amnesty, just like Reagan did in 1986.
3. Climate Change. It would be fine if Republicans wanted to argue about the best and most effective way to tackle this issue, but instead they completely deny it even exists. This anti-science bias is pervasive in the Republican party and infects not just cranks but is expressed by its most senior leaders and opinion makers.
4. Rejection of evolution. Evolution is the basic foundation of biology. That Ben Carson denies it is strong evidence that he is disqualified to be President. If a leading Dem rejected the science of evolution, he would be a persona non grata in the party. But to openly declare the obvious, that Darwin was right, is something no Republican is willing to do. They even indulge the fundamentalists that want to teach creationism or at least dumb down and minimize evolution in high school biology texts.
5. War. The Republicans have learned nothing from the last 15 years. They still shoot first and ask questions later. After two long disastrous and costly wars, we should not be looking for more places to put soldiers. Wars don't solve our problems, and trying to reshuffle the Mideast chess pieces with firepower doesn't work. Yet listening to them, it seems they want a full scale war against ISIS and perhaps another against Iran. No humility or sense of limits, just march to war with eyes shut.
6. Economic illiteracy. The Republicans don't understand the deficit, the debt, the debt ceiling, or what economic policy should be in a recession. They completely reject the idea that tax cuts add to the deficit, or that tax increases can cut it. They believe that all economic problems can be solved by reducing taxes on the wealthiest. This is absurd and was shown to have failed under W. But they keep hitting the same note.
7. Minimum wage. They consistently block any increase in the minimum wage, even though it was over 10 dollars an hour back in 1970 adjusted for inflation. Many states, even red states, have voted to up the minimum wage. Republicans claim that higher wages will cost jobs. While that is true if taken to an extreme, it does not apply when dealing with modest minimum wages. Minimums are needed because the lowest skilled workers have no bargaining power, and need a minimum wage to allow them to earn a decent living. There is overwhelming public support for a higher minimum.
8. Guns. Republicans believe that every time there is a gun death, it should be lamented but not spur any action. They are totally defeatist on this issue. It is bizarre that to drive a car one has to be licensed and insured, but neither is the case for guns. No one is proposing gun confiscation. But many states have tight gun control laws and the ones that do have much lower gun violence than states with lax laws. If we just tighten across the board to the same standard we can save thousands of lives per year. Mandating safety features on new guns is also a no-brainer, after the ongoing child deaths from loose firearms.
9. Religion/Abortion. The Republicans have allowed religion into their party and a very particular fundamentalist religion. Their opposition to abortion is hypocritical. Everyone knows that if abortion was outlawed, middle class and wealthy women would still have access to the procedure, it is the poor that would be cut off. If they want to cut the number of abortions then provide birth control and sex education. And keep religion out of public life.
10. Health care. Once upon a time the Republicans agreed that we should improve access to health care while cutting costs. Now they think the system in 2009 was perfect, and we should just go back to that. Republicans believe that health care is just another consumer good, you get it if you can afford it. But in reality, we all pay for free emergency care, and we all pick up the tab when someone becomes fully disabled because their medical condition was not treated at an earlier stage due to no insurance.
11. Keynes and Inflation. The Republicans used to be Keynesian in their policies if not rhetoric, but with Obama they rejected this obvious truth and insisted on austerity during a Great Recession, which has hurt the economy and the recovery. When Bush had his first recession in 2001, they pushed tax cuts as stimulating the economy, but under Obama they rejected any stimulus, even though half of Obama's stimulus was tax cuts. The Republicans remain obsessed with the idea that government policy is about to cause hyperinflation, when in fact we have been skirting with deflation for 6 years now. This make-believe world they live in has nothing to do with what is needed to guide economic policy.
12. Campaign Finance. Citizens United destroyed limits on cash in politics. Republicans thought that was going to be good for them, but 100 million dollars hasn’t helped Jeb! Half of all the money raised this cycle has come from only 150 individuals, obvious proof that our electoral system is being manipulated by a small number of extremely wealthy people. Money may be speech but it is also influence, and the rich should not have a blank check to buy influence.
13. Criminal justice. The public is finally understanding that we have locked up too many for too long with little to gain from it. It is time to cut back on the penal state.
While a few Republicans are interested in reform, the vast majority remains committed to mass incarceration. In addition, the Republican Party as a whole does not acknowledge that African Americans are being victimized excessively by police across the country, and we need to enact real reforms, including but not limited to body cameras, to address this issue.
14. Entitlement cuts. Republicans believe that the biggest problems with America are that the rich pay too much in taxes and the elderly get too much social security and Medicare benefits. In reality, Social Security and Medicare are solvent for decades, and further down the road, small tweaks will keep both functioning well. There is no need to cut benefits now because some table projects that in 2038 we won’t have enough revenue to pay all benefits. Medicare spending in fact has grown much slower than expected in the last 7 years, and we are doing remarkably well in controlling costs.
15. Racism. Not all Republicans are racist, but there sure seems to be a lot of Republican officials making racist comments, emailing racist cartoons about Obama, using the N word, not to mention the anti-Latino racism underneath the immigration stance and the anti-Muslim hysteria when talking about people from the Middle East. This racism is what drives the voter suppression, the opposition to immigration reform, the desire to cut the safety net, and the opposition to Obamacare. Anything that disproportionately helps minorities is seen as taking from deserving Whites and giving to undeserving others. Racism has fueled the Tea Party antipathy to Obama and the 50% of Republican primary voters who think Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim. The fact that elected Republicans let this cesspool of crap build up for the last seven years is part of why they no longer have control over the party.
I make a very good living as a doctor, and I pay a heck of lot in taxes. A political party that appealed to me on the grounds of keeping my taxes low should have the inside track to my vote. But the Republicans have so much other baggage that I cannot take them seriously. Until they reverse the 15 points above, and rejoin the planet Earth, my support is to the Democrats.