Frequently a question contains the seed of its own answer. In last Friday’s BDN OpEd page, however, one column’s question could have read its answer from the column directly above.
At the bottom of the page, columnist Matthew Gagnon asked what needs to change in Republican Party politics in order to attract more minority and women voters. Just above him, Margaret Carlson was asking why Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins were unfairly bludgeoning Susan Rice, a black woman who is President Barack Obama’s likely choice for secretary of state.
It would have helped if columnist Carlson had revealed the obvious reason for the Republican’s ridiculous assault on Susan Rice. It’s clear they are trying to discredit Rice, so the president will instead choose Sen. John Kerry for the post, thus opening the Massachusetts senator’s seat for another bid from their buddy, former Republican Sen. Scott Brown. In other words, McCain, Graham and Collins are maligning a fully qualified black woman in order to shoehorn Brown back into the office he lost to a woman in the election just past.
So to Gagnon’s question about what needs to change, the answer seems obvious: Stop it! Just stop it! Instead of attacking minorities and women for some short-term political gain, recognize that the real gain you must achieve is undermined by the very attacks Republicans use to advance their white-male, corporate-funded power structure.
Last week, Republicans named 19 chairmen to head the various committees in the House of Representatives. Their choices presented us once again with a sea of white male faces, and each face might as well have had “more of the same” tattooed on each gleaming forehead. Last week, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was bemoaning the fact that 3 million fewer Republicans voted for Romney than voted for McCain in 2008. Limbaugh missed the obvious: With the right wing treating American women like they’re living in some Islamist country, fewer and fewer of them will take time off from their jobs to go vote Republican.
These days, Republicans are girding their loins to take us over a financial cliff, simply to protect the very wealthiest Americans from a measly tax increase they can easily afford. Mitt Romney may be dead as a candidate, but his image lives on as the face of the GOP. As long as Republicans pander to the CEOs, bankers and hedge fund managers – in other words, the 2 percent – they shouldn’t be surprised to see the other 98 percent drift more toward the traditional American goal of offsetting the power of big money with governmental regulation.
And here are some more traditional American facts Republicans should reacquaint themselves with as they attempt to cling to power:
1. Government tax money does create jobs. They are jobs that rebuild our infrastructure of roads, schools, railroads, airports, seaports, internet and power facilities and complete scientific research — all the stuff needed from taxpayers, so society can succeed.
2. Immigrants are traditionally hard-working people. Why do you suppose Romney employed illegal gardeners until he started his campaign? Limbaugh continues to claim that Democrats attract Hispanic voters with “free stuff,” but once again, he misses the point. Provide good healthcare, a good, affordable education and opportunities for decent housing, and there will be no stopping growth and prosperity for everyone in this country. People come here to advance themselves, but Republicans are hell-bent on frustrating those ambitions. If the Tea Party had its way, there would be no minimum wage, even though that path could lead to a new slavery and ultimately to another civil war.
3. If the GOP does believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, they should stop trying to turn this into an ever-more exploitive, right-wing nation. It is cruel, and frankly un-American, to make your personal economic agenda the defunding of social safeguards, such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and Medicaid, to work against the concepts of universal health care, Medicare and Social Security, and to oppose birth control and other women’s rights, while pushing extreme jail sentences for blacks, pushing charter school racism and promoting tax breaks for the wealthy and their corporations. Many conservative Republicans have found themselves during this great recession dependent for their survival on these very same tax-supported safety net tools. It’s easy to be self-righteous about the poor and disenfranchised until you find yourself and your family in that same desperate boat.
Some might say I am trying to make Republicans into Democrats, but that’s not the goal. Democrats, too, are too beholden to the wealthy, the banking interests, the pharmaceutical, energy and munitions lobbies and the corrupting influence of Washington itself. What we need is a balance of power between the rich and the poor, between government and business, and between political parties — just to keep everyone as honest as is humanly possible. Republicans and Democrats need one another, but in order to flourish they both need to represent the best interests of most of the nation and not just of the fortunate few.
Lee Witting is pastor of the Union Street Brick Church in Bangor, a columnist for the BDN’s Voices series, and the former publisher/editor of the Castine Patriot. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.