By Lynn Paris
What Republicans Have Done For Us Lately
I’ve really tried to stay away from anything controversial/political for as long as I could. But a few of the things that have happened in the last month or so, which have flown under the radar of the more sensational stories, have compelled me to take to the keyboard again. Like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, for instance, or the passage of a farm bill by House Republicans.
So let’s take a closer look at them. After the 2008 election of Barack Obama, it became clear that the country’s changing demographics would have a negative impact on a right-wing agenda, or, to put it another way; the combined votes of women, blacks, Hispanics, low-income and young voters could bring about disastrous results for the Republicans.
Because 2010 was a census year, Republicans were able to accomplish enough redistricting of congressional seats to limit liberal voters to as few districts as possible and make sure that conservative Republican majorities were spread across the others. (I watched this play out in Texas and it was a joke; the districts in no way reflected the demographics of the state, making it impossible for Hispanics and blacks to get fair representation.) In addition, Republican governors and their administrations tried to suppress the votes of the poor, blacks, Hispanics and college students by requiring photo IDs and other eligibility-threatening measures. The problem was that most of these policies were illegal under the Voting Rights Act and the Department of Justice was able to fight them, providing Obama with the votes he needed for reelection in 2012.
So what else could the right-leaning Supreme Court do but basically gut the Voting Rights Act – the one Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized in 2006 -- by eliminating its pre-clearance clause? That’s the clause that allowed the DOJ to stop states with a documented history of racial discrimination from enforcing Jim Crow-like photo ID requirements. And how did they rationalize doing that? They released charts showing that black voting in areas under special protection of the Voting Rights Act was generally equal to or even higher than the percentages of white voters. Duh! Maybe that had something to do with the fact that they were under the “special protection” of the Voting Rights Act.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, that’s like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet!
The Supreme Court ruling was met with jubilation by Republican statehouses (including Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, South Dakota and Mississippi) that were now free to discriminate against minorities to their heart’s content.
Greg Abbot, the attorney general of Texas and more than likely its next ultra-conservative governor, immediately declared, “The state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”
Do you all know the rationale that conservatives use for requiring photo IDs? It’s the preservation of “voter integrity” – i.e. to prevent voter fraud, a crime that seems to unduly concern those notoriously anti-fraud Republicans. Voter fraud, of course, has been proven to be practically non-existent, but who really cares? There is no law Republicans won’t gut, no bill they won’t block, no lie they won’t tell to prevent even one more poor or black or Hispanic or young voter from voting.
Sidebar: in North Carolina, Republicans in the state senate weren’t satisfied with their already restrictive photo ID requirements, so they are trying to make it even more difficult for college students to vote by eliminating ID cards from the University of North Carolina system colleges as a valid form of ID.
Because we all know what happened when we let them all vote the last two times; we got a black (Kenyan, Muslim, socialist) president.
Then there’s the Farm Bill. Now, I don’t ever remember being interested in the passage of a farm bill, but somehow, this one caught my attention. Why? Because what I never knew before was that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, has been part of the Farm Bill for the last 50 years.
Well, we know who benefits from the farm bill, right? Rich white “farmers” (i.e. agribusiness). And, we also know who benefits from food stamps. That would be 47 million Americans, nearly half of whom are children or low-income seniors. So House Republicans passed a farm bill that included approximately $195 billion in subsidies to agribusiness over 10 years and jettisoned food stamps and other nutrition programs from the bill, labeling them “extraneous.”
The millions of people who are on SNAP are not extraneous, argued Jim McGovern (D-Mass). “They are important,” he said. “They are part of our community.”
Really? Impoverished seniors? Poor white, black and Hispanic children? That’s not any community a conservative Republican wants to be a part of.
The House bill eliminating SNAP won’t get past the Senate or the President, so it was more of a symbolic gesture on the part of House Republicans to be sure, just in case we’d missed it, that everyone knows exactly which communities they represent.
Every conservative Republican I know – either personally or from afar -- insists that they are not racist; in fact, they are adamant about it, claiming instead that everything they do is about making big government smaller and loosening the regulations that stifle free markets. But why is it they always come down on the side of being anti-anything-that-doesn’t-help-rich-white-guys? Oh, and by the way, these same non-racists are also the ones who don’t much like poor people or Hispanics either.
And, they really don’t seem too crazy about women, as evidenced by their almost relentless war against them. Take the House Republicans who opposed passage, for a year and a half, of the Violence Against Women Act; the outrageous claims by conservatives that pregnancies resulting from rape are very rare; the closing of Planned Parenthood clinics and forced ultrasound bills being passed by Republican-controlled states . . . and on and on and on. The bottom line is that the only entities these regulation-hating Republicans want to regulate are women’s bodies, with a particular emphasis on the uterus and vagina. If it weren’t so frighteningly intrusive . . . and blatantly hypocritical, it would be funny.
In my opinion, there is nothing that conservative Republicans have done since Obama was elected president that didn’t spring from either a racist, sexist or classist ideology. Republicans would say that’s just good politics, part of their overall strategy to keep government small and government spending smaller. I’d say they’re well on their way to alienating enough of the population that it will soon be impossible for them to “take their country back.”
Which is a good thing, because I don’t much like their gun-toting, minority-fearing, woman-demeaning, racial-profiling, Wall Street-worshipping, science-denying perception of our country anyway.
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