This is Who the Republicans Are

My Republican friends have to explain to me why they aren’t outraged by the hundreds of voter suppression laws being passed by Republican legislatures in 43 states across the country. They must convince me that their silence about this isn’t a sign of their own complicity in this “Jim Crow in new clothes”, to quote Senator Raphael Warnock (D, Ga).

Over the short history of this country, it has been understood that political parties attract voters by virtue of their platforms, which were usually designed to show how much the party plans to do to help their voters when they are elected to office. When a political party loses an election, those in charge of said party have historically reviewed their platform and met with their voters to ascertain what changes could be made to attract more people to vote for them in the next election. Until now.

In 2021, Republicans have concluded that they cannot maintain their minority hold on government if all those eligible to vote are permitted to do so. They instead believe that making it as hard as possible for those they believe will be voting against them to cast a ballot is their only means of remaining in power, and have wasted no time in putting every roadblock they can in front of their own citizens, particularly those with Black and Brown skin.

Those in the Senate who purport to be liberals have to stand up for what is right, and that means immediately doing whatever is necessary to bring SR1 to the floor for a vote. Because Republicans have chosen voter suppression to platform modification, they will do what has worked for them since 2008 – invoke the word ‘filibuster’ followed by a demand for a 60-vote majority to pass any legislation. There is really no other way to go – the filibuster must be not simply changed,, but eliminated. Claims that the filibuster permits the minority to obstruct legislation they do not like and therefore “be careful what you wish for” is proof that the filibuster is designed as a means of obstruction.

A functioning democracy is always at risk of having a reversal of the party in power; that’s pretty much the point, right? In the United States, the minority has been given way too much power to stand in the way of majority rule, which is supposed to be the way our democracy works. While it is reasonable to allow those in the minority to express their opinion about legislation they disagree with, it is ridiculous to allow the party that lost all three branches of government in the last election to decide which legislation is going to pass and which is going to die because they don’t like it.

In fact, Republicans have used this ability to prevent Democratic administrations from enacting anything that the Democrats were elected into to office to initiate. Why is the losing party able to hold the winning team hostage by denying them the mandate they won in an election simply by stamping their feet and plugging their ears while repeating “La, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you….”? The Senate, formerly considered ‘the world’s most deliberative body’ has been transformed into a two-headed monster; the one on the left has the only functioning brain, while the one on the right is a whiny little bitch.

The citizens of this country spoke loud and clear last November. We voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead us out of the mess that Trump and decades of Republican obstructionism brought us to. The Republicans need to get over the fact that they lost and deal with the mandate the American People gave to the Biden Administration. If they cannot do that, they should be drummed out of existence as a political force for decades to come, if not forever.

Joe Manchin (D, WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D, AZ) need to put on their grown-up pants and stop acting as though the Republicans have a shit left to give about anything other than their donors and their stock portfolios. If Senators Manchin and Sinema give a damn about the American people, they’ll stop pretending that the filibuster is anything other than a holdover from Reconstruction used to stymie any attempt at civil rights. Why do they and most on the right find it unacceptable to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour? Have any of them tried today to live on $290 per week (at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr for a 40 hour work week)? That income may allow a high school student to put some funds aside towards college, but there is no independently living adult who can survive on under $1,200 per month in total income. Of course, those who are only making $7.25 per hour have the opportunity to apply for government subsidies for food, rent, heat (in the Northeast) and cash assistance, but why are the taxpayers forced to lift these folks out of poverty instead of requiring their employer to pay them a living wage?

The social safety net programs have been in the sights of Republicans for as long as I can remember, and it’s particularly galling since many of the working poor who need these programs to survive would be lifted out of poverty if they were simply paid a wage that met their cost of living. Why do so many in the Senate refuse to acknowledge that the below-poverty-level federal minimum wage is directly responsible for every dollar of social safety net funds needed to bring those families to a livable income?

No one working a full forty hour week should need government assistance to survive. Allowing businesses to pay so little to their employees benefits the business owners at the expense of their workers. Requiring all businesses to pay their employees a real, living wage lifts everyone up, freeing up trillions of tax dollars to fund infrastructure, climate remediation, green energy, healthcare and so much more. We all do better when we all do better.

Of course, many smaller businesses working with a smaller profit margin may be required to raise prices, and those who are the least profitable may end up closing, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Not all businesses are destined for success, and holding down workers’ pay for the exclusive benefit of the business owners perpetuates disparities that have effectively transferred massive wealth from the many to the few. The fact is, none of the people currently taking up seats in the Senate have any relevant experience within their own lives that compares with trying to survive on too little income week after week, month after month, year after year, without any reasonable expectation of a change until you die or retire, often on too little Social Security income. Apparently, Republican Senators (along with the two Democrats noted above) no longer have any capacity to empathize with those less fortunate than themselves. They lack any real ability to fathom what it’s like to live in a world that doesn’t include a huge inheritance or the good fortune of having your way paved by your predecessors without any input or talent on your part. These character flaws make them the wrong people to represent the vast majority of their own electorate. Their ivory towers have blinded them to what it’s like for the rest of us down her on the ground.

In order to lift the folks at the bottom of the income ladder up, those at the other end of the scale have to pay their fair share in taxes. Trillions of dollars in tax revenue are lost to loopholes, tax shelters and both legal and illegal tax avoidance by the top 0.1%. It is no longer tenable that the majority of IRS tax audits focuses on those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Why not focus all that energy on those filers most likely to bring in the most in taxes, fees and penalties? Surely auditing one fraudulently filed 1040 by someone with billions in income would be more financially beneficial to the IRS than auditing thousands of low-income filers who did their own taxes and made an honest mistake?

Republicans have used their obstructionism in the Senate as proof that the Democrats can’t do anything when they’re in charge, convincing the slimmest of ‘majorities’ with the help of the tilted electoral college and Senate to put them back in charge. Once there, they prove again that they lack the intellectual and moral authority to actually govern, preferring instead to use rhetoric to keep their base engaged while doing nothing to benefit the citizens of the country. Power for the sake of power, as a means of maintaining power without regard for the will of the people, or majority rule. Republicans have gone all in on the Big Lie, and they’re using it to do everything possible to prevent anyone they deem undeserving from casting a ballot, especially people of color. They have to obstruct because they know that the people will keep Democrats in charge because Democrats get things done.

This is who the Republicans are. Racist to the core. Interested only in themselves. Those who chose to remain within their ranks need to acknowledge that this is their underlying reason for being there; taxes, abortion and guns notwithstanding.

His Hubris is Stunning

How can it be acceptable that the President says out loud on camera that he is intent on preventing the US Postal Service from delivering mail-in ballots in time for them to be counted in the upcoming election and receives no rebuke from anyone in the Republican Party? Polls show that 60% of Democrats intend to vote by mail, with an equal number of Republicans expecting to vote in person. This is in no small part because we on the left receive our information from reputable sources that provide actual facts, while Trump’s cult believes the bullshit they’re being fed by Fox and others. A recent study revealed that people whose source of pandemic information included Sean Hannity took significantly more time to follow recommendations about mask wearing, social distancing and the like. Culling the herd, I suppose. This voter suppression effort does not seem to consider that the pandemic Trump refuses to responsibly address or even honestly discuss will be so much worse in the fall, when the flu makes its annual visit across the country. Closer to the election, when more Republicans watch their friends get sick and die because they of their denial of the facts, it will be too late for them to obtain a mail-in ballot because of Trump’s interference. Sad.

What more does the 38% cult need to see before they recognize that they are complicit in an authoritarian takeover of the country? To revise the well known Martin Niemöller quotation for the present…

First they came for the undocumented, and I did not speak out – for I am not undocumented. Then they came for refugees, and I did not speak out – for I am not a refugee. Then they came for the mail-in voters, and I did not speak out – for I am not a mail-in voter. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

The US Postal Service is older than the country and enshrined in our Constitution; it provides millions of us, especially our veterans, with life-saving medications, and Trump’s callous disregard for anyone other than himself is on full display as he’s doing everything he can to break the Post Office by cutting funds, removing sorting equipment, firing workers, and letting mail just sit without being delivered. He’s so certain that he cannot be stopped from doing whatever he wants to remain in office that he no longer feels it necessary to keep his thoughts to himself.

How does the ‘leadership’ of the Republican Party sleep at night? Do they not realize that the majority of their base includes the elderly, who are far and away the demographic most at risk of dying if they contract Covid-19? Do they think that somehow their own voters’ mail-in ballots will make it through the sabotaged postal service by magic? Do they so lack in foresight that the can’t envision the massive protests throughout the country if their inability to react and stop Donald Trump’s interference with the postal service and mail-in ballots prevents millions of legitimate votes from being counted, conceivably allowing him a second undeserved term in the White House?

Trump keeps pretending that there will be a ‘civil war’ if he loses in November. What he seems incapable of understanding is that the protests for Black Lives Matter will pale in comparison to the uprising that will occur if he succeeds in stealing a second election using the awesome power of the office he illegitimately occupies to do so. People are willing to risk their lives in demonstrations in order to ensure that everyone is able to have their votes counted.

Trump forgets that he isn’t just keeping Democrats from having their voices heard. Almost all of those serving in the military around the world have to use mail-in ballots (many of whom vote Republican), while veterans receive all their life-saving medications exclusively from the post office. Here’s the ad.

This is the only time in modern history when former members of the military have openly campaigned against the incumbent President.

Republicans seem to think that this is all going to be fine, that we will all just roll over and acquiesce to this fascist turn Trump has displayed to the world. Not only are they mistaken – they are forgetting that elections have consequences. It is not beyond the imagination that Joe Biden’s Attorney General will open investigations into all the corruption that this administration has had it’s hand in, and those investigations will no doubt reach into the party elites who have refused to stand up for the Constitution as Trump has run roughshod over it. They would do well to keep this distinct possibility in mind.

We will vote in numbers too big to manipulate, forcing these authoritarian dictatorial wannabes out, because our democracy cannot withstand the assault of a second Trump term. It is unthinkable and must be prevented at all costs. Anyone who cannot see that should consider packing up and moving to Puten’s Russia for a closer look at what could be our future. Or maybe they should just gather together, unmasked and without social distancing, in a large arena somewhere to share their views (and their respiratory secretions). After all, if the virus is a hoax, what’s the harm?

If You Plan a Viable Future – VOTE

There are multiple reasons for the embarrassingly low percentage of those eligible to vote who actually vote regularly in elections in the United States. There are things the federal government could do to encourage those who have chosen not to vote to exercise their franchise short of mandating that everyone vote in every election, but that won’t be considered until Republicans no longer have control in Washington.

Why is in necessary for us to register to vote in the first place? We have already given the federal government all the information they need (except for party choice) by applying for a Social Security card, something every parent has had to do for their children since at least 1980. There is no logical reason not to have national automatic voter registration in this country. The right to vote is written into the constitution. The federal government certainly knows enough about everyone in the country in order to add everyone eligible to vote onto the voter rolls on their eighteenth birthday and then share those registrations with the states where the individuals reside. The only ‘reason’ there appears to be for requiring individuals to register separately to vote is to put another roadblock in the way of those trying to vote.

In countries like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Iraq (yes, Iraq!), voting participation increased between 76% and 81% once automated registration took effect. In a liberal (vs illiberal) democracy, the goal should be to get as many eligible voters as possible to get involved and cast an informed vote; automatic registration is the first step towards higher voter participation and engagement.

The Republicans, however, know that the demographic group that has been most likely to register and vote with them is aging and leaving this mortal coil. Polls show that only 25% of eligible voters align with the Republicans, 31% with the Democrats, and 40% with Independents. Therefore, from the point of view of the Republican Party, encouraging a larger percentage of the eligible voter pool to cast a vote is demographically counter to their purposes. This is a major factor in the Republicans continued hold on power despite having a minority throughout the country as a whole, since fewer voters overall (of which 71% would NOT be Republicans) gives them a disproportionate share of votes cast.

This leads to the outrageous lies being made by the President of the United States spewing conspiracy theories about the security of mail-in ballots. Trump continues to claim for no reason except to scare his own base away from using mail-in ballots that there will be wide-spread fraud. First of all, there was a recent report from the conservative Heritage Foundation that found just 14 instances out of 15.5 million votes. Secondly, the most recent and egregious case of someone using mail-in ballots to commit voter fraud involved a Republican campaign operative in North Carolina. Third and most disturbing, there are actually thousands of mail-in ballots that are deemed ineligible compared with a minimum of in-person ballots, often for mistakes made by the voter or because of a questionable signature match. In order to have fewer legitimate votes disallowed, rules and regulations about verification of these ballots should be standardized across the country.

After Joe Biden is sworn into office in January, 2021, it would behoove all of us to do whatever we can to push for making it easier to participate in the electoral process throughout the country, in addition to all the other things needed to undo voter suppression and gerrymandering Republicans have used since the Nixon administration to keep those not voting for them from exercising their franchise.

The media has to step up, too. Media outlets not specifically designed to propagate right-wing disinformation and talking points must get off of their ‘both-sides’ soapbox. There is nothing consistent with fair coverage that requires any news outlet to give on-air time to anyone from either side when what they are saying isn’t even true. The opinions of party sycophants are of no importance, nor is their outrage at perceived offenses outside of the right-wing media bubble. If those on the ‘conservative’ side of the aisle cannot provide actual subject matter experts who have serious, fact-based information to bring to the discussion, they should not be provided with a platform from which to spread their crap. Climate change, for instance, isn’t a matter of opinion – it is happening, and it is man-made, and anyone who claims anything different without providing science-based hard evidence for their conclusion should no longer be offered the chance to speak. Ditto for those who want to argue about systemic racism, Covid-19, or any other subject which has been scientifically investigated and understood.

I think it should be mandatory for everyone eligible to vote to do so, but in order for that to be an accepted demand, it is also necessary for every obstacle currently placed between the eligible and the ballot be torn down. Automatic voter registration, Election Day as a national holiday and country-wide mail-in ballots would go a long way towards giving more of our fellow citizens the chance to vote without losing time from work, finding a babysitter, looking for a ride, or any one of thousands other reasons why everyone who can do so does not cast a vote.

The presidency and administration of Donald Trump should have opened the eyes of everyone, whether they have previously voted or not, of the importance for everyone to get informed and cast their vote. Everyone has something that they care about, whether it’s climate change, taxes, election security, money in politics, etc., and the only way to make sure that your government knows how you feel about those things is to vote. Social media could be a force for good, but not as it is currently configured. Print media has suffered mightily in this digital age, and broadcast media has been maligned for real and imagined offenses, making it the individual responsibility of every American to find actual facts about candidates, issues and policies from reputable sources upon which to base political choices.

This country has so much potential to life up to (sort of like both of my former husbands). It’s up to each and every one of us to put our big person pants on and do that which is required of every citizen – learn about the issues, decide which side of the issue you agree with, and vote in every election for candidates whose platforms and plans are what you hope to see going forward.

Vote as if your very future depends on the outcome of every election. Vote as if the life your children and grandchildren will be living will be determined by the election winner. Vote as if the continued existence of the very planet we all live on will be controlled by the next office holder.

It should be painfully obvious by now how very true that is.