The Coming Dark Era of Cruelty and Ignorance
We are soon to experience something none of us have ever been part of. A near (but not quite) plurality of the voters this week turned over two branches of government to a party expressly dedicated to enforcing and enhancing the privileges of a select few (far fewer than their voters) without regard to the damage it will cause to large numbers of citizens, the norms our country has developed over two plus centuries, our position in the world and our aspirations for justice and equity. Those two branches will in turn constitute the third branch in such a way to make it a tool to upend the rule of constitutional law in order to entrench that party into a position that will be difficult to dislodge it from. This branch, in other words, will continue the partisan and radical departure from the rule of constitutional law that it embarked upon in the first decade of this century with such decisions as Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and Shelby County v. Holder. The last decision, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that had been renewed by a nearly unanimous Congress, possibly helped the party’s takeover. In addition, by retaining state houses and governorships that party will have no difficulty maintaining a system of gerrymandered election districts that will, in all probability, keep the House of Representatives in the hands of the party, despite the fact that it receives only a minority of the total vote for that house.
Let’s look forward to some of the things we have been promised. Whether all of these will come about or come about in the way they promise is uncertain, because this party is notorious for hyperbole, misrepresentations, intentional deceptions, ignorance and the bald faced ability to make promises that it has no intention of acting on. But these things have been proclaimed so loudly that it would be difficult for even these dissemblers to duck without experiencing something close to shame before their ardent followers.
First and foremost, healthcare. If there has been one overarching legislative goal of the GOP it has been to repeal “every word” of the Affordable Care Act. Now we can debate the margins of this legislative scheme. We can bemoan the fact that it left private insurers in charge of a system distorted by self interest and incentivized to restrict rather than provide health coverage. And certainly the legislation was not a clever piece of politics. The parts that everyone agrees on (no disqualification for pre-existing conditions, coverage of adult children to the age of 26, requiring minimal coverage and other things like certain “free” procedures such as vaccinations) are hidden under a complex scheme to jerry-rigged in a way not completely understandable to the public. The efficiencies of the system are not clearly demonstrable, and it is easy for a disingenuous politician (such as those soon in charge) to blame price increases on the legislation, instead of the insurers who demand them. And without the public option, these same freedom-lovers can claim that the mandate for coverage is an unconstitutional infringement on the right of our citizens to refuse coverage and then throw themselves on emergency rooms when necessary. All of these faults are obvious. They greatly harmed President Obama’s political position and wiped out his party’s overwhelming control of Congress in one fell swoop. But here is the fact: 22 million people now have a basic form of health insurance that the Republicans intend to eliminate under the guise of letting the “free market” provide health care. Untold others will be cut loose, not because they need subsidies but because the insurer will not want to continuing to cover expensive illnesses or “pre-existing conditions.” This denial of medical insurance to those who need subsidies or those now under expanded Medicaid coverage will of course probably not effect the electoral prospects of this party (or at least its right wing). That being the only thing these craven politicians truly care about, expect to hear a Dickensian refrain: “Are there no charity clinics? Are there no tax credits for health savings accounts?”
Next, deportation. If there is one thing that this party’s new leader proclaimed from every balcony he could climb onto, it is that “illegals” must go. They constitute 11 million or more souls. In other words, about 11 times as many as the infamous Operation Wetback netted in 1954 by means so ham-fisted that many U.S. citizens were caught up in the net and ejected. We will see how callous the citizens who ushered in this group will be. Likely it will be a blot on our history. I will not discuss the infamous “Wall,” an idea so stupid and so ineffective in its intended purpose that I can only say it will probably be attempted by the party who really doesn’t care about policy or consequences.
Third, climate melioration. Time is rapidly running out to prevent much of the worst consequences of carbon pollution of our atmosphere and oceans. The party soon in charge believes that such concerns have been part of a vast international hoax. They have doubled-down on “creating” jobs in the coal industry, a near impossibility owing to technological and economic developments. As an illustration, West Virginia in 2005 produced the greatest amount of coal in its history, while at the same time employing the fewest number of employees at any time up to then. Since that time, demand for coal has decreased. As the U.S. military is studying how global warming will effect our geo-political and strategic position and coastal cities are considering how to protect themselves from sea level rise, our new rulers proclaim this is all a fantasy by scientists to extort money from poor oil companies in order to buy a new lab coat.
Gun regulation. Need I say more? The only civil right that Republicans believe in is the individual right to possess military-style weapons free from the prying eyes of a government overly-concerned with whether the bearer is mentally stable or criminally inclined.
What used to be called “civil rights.” Right before the election, the GOP of North Carolina boasted about how it had depressed the votes of African Americans in this first election without the Voting Rights Act protections. President elect Trump has promised to reduced crime in “African American communities.” You need only hear one speech by his African American expert, Rudy Giuliani to get a view of how sanguinary that is likely to be.
Income inequality. On the trail the new president has speculated whether the minimum wage was too high. And his tax “plan” returns more money to his class of plutocrats at the expense of everyone else and our economic well being. One need only see what classes of stock have risen in the day since the election to determine who believes they are going to feed at the GOP trough: private prisons, military contractors, fossil fuel companies, etc.
This list could be extended to great length. The key point is that with a party that has no concern for fact, scientific or otherwise, motivated by a narrow constituency for its intended largesse and propelled by a willingness to gin up support by spouting lies intended to appeal to the unfounded fears of the most gullible and the desire for destruction of the status quo by those who believe that they have not gotten their due owing to accommodations of people much browner than they, we are likely to experience at a national level the glorious economic miracle of Kansas and to have our foreign policy mimic the knee-jerk resort to conflict and violence against the non-whites much like the Likudniks or the xenophobic parties of Europe.
This country has not seen anything like this since before the Civil War, when slavocrats had control of the Democratic Party and that party had control over the electoral majority. It took this country over a decade to develop a political response to that grip and even when it achieved constitutional relief, the party of white privilege and injustice fought a civil war to override the decision it could not control. Such is one outcome when a group believes that it is entitled to power, notwithstanding law, morality or evidence. We are about to see how that plays out again.