Monday, December 14, 2015

The Republican Party Threatens our Republic

Commentators across the political spectrum have expressed dismay at Donald Trump’s call for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States.  Some of his GOP colleagues, together with public opinion on the left, and much of the media have condemned him for moving beyond the pale of political commentary.  In distancing themselves from Trump and his open bigotry, some members of the Republican Party have declared that Trump doesn’t represent their party or their views.
Would it were so that Trump was some kind of deranged outlier within his party.  The trouble is, he’s is just screaming, red in the face, hateful spittle defacing the country he would like to lead, the exact same bile that his Republican colleagues have communicated for years, using variants on the dog whistle that defines their politics of hate and division.  On Tuesday, at the GOP’s debate, we’ll see this hatred on full display, albeit expressed with varying degrees of transparency by different candidates.
Trump may have gone bigger than any of them with this particular policy prescription, but a quick look at the utterances of Republican Party politicians demonstrates that he is well within the mainstream.  It should also illustrate that Trump in particular and the Republican Party more broadly, represents a threat to our country’s values, its well-being, and to the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and people around the world.  They menace our laws; they threaten religious, racial, and other groups within our society.  And their language has become increasingly contemptible and incendiary.
Trump, for example, completely reversed crime statistics to incite racial animosity.  His supporters seem untroubled by the fact that his campaign told a bald-faced lie about crime in the United States, designed to foster race-based anger.  What matters is that his lie fit the pattern of misrepresentation featured on FOX and other propaganda organs. 
Trump and his colleagues have demonized and attacked Latinos in the United States for months.  They have defined Latino migrants as “illegals”, ignoring their humanity.  Trump’s rhetoric, imitated to various degrees by his competitors, has incited violence against Latinos, encouraging his supporters to embrace a toxic form of ethnic nationalism.
Ben Carson, neurosurgeon extraordinaire, compared refugees fleeing a conflict partly of the U.S.’s own making, to “rabid dogs”, demonstrating an incredible degree of ignorance, hate, and bigotry. 
Jeb Bush, who has gone to great pains to portray himself as more humane than Trump, urged voters to embrace religious tests that fly in the face of the Constitution and of the idea of universal humanity by only admitting refugees who are Christian.  He was joined by Ted Cruz, who seems to believe that people should sort themselves into societies based on their religion, repudiating key components of our Constitution as well as the diversity that is a central characteristic of our own society.  Lest we think that his religious bigotry is a novel feature of Republican Party rhetoric, we should recall that Newt Gingrich argued in the last election cycle that only Christians should be allowed to teach in U.S. schools.
Donald Trump, of course, has a diverse array of targets for his bigotry, and took time off from inciting hatred against Muslims and Latinos by mocking a New York Times reporter with a physical disability, later claiming—untruthfully—not to know the reporter in question.  The juvenile (but no less hateful) spectacle of Trump’s mockery alone should leave no question about his unsuitability to lead our country.
Republicans have drawn cheers from their base by relentlessly attacking the media.  When journalists had the temerity to do their job by asking tough questions about Republican politicians’ economic platforms, the candidates threw a fit, refusing to submit their programs to further scrutiny.  Republicans, led by Ted Cruz (who compared Obama to Hitler for passing healthcare reform) claimed that Democrats got easier treatment, but this is a claim easily disproven, illustrating how journalists—who if they do their job are the single greatest threat to the party of sociopaths—are a useful foil for right-wing candidates. 
Republicans have shown an utter disregard for the threat of climate change, repeatedly mocking the President and Democrats for joining the national security establishment in acknowledging the injustice, instability, hardship, and destruction that is likely to result in the long-term from climate change. 
Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and John Kasich have all called for the reinstitution of torture, illegal by U.S. and international law, embracing the savagery of the Bush presidency without recalling how the methods of that administration generated hatred and terrorism around the world.  Trump, who is apparently very unfamiliar with key principles of justice (the need for evidence to prove guilt), argued that even “if [waterboarding] doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway”. 
Chris Christie, Donald Trump, and others have attacked the President and Democrats for backing Black Lives Matters protestors, who are calling attention to the dysfunctional, destructive, and ultimately counterproductive culture in policing that has led to the injury or death of a disproportionate number of African Americans.  Trump has indicated his support for vigilante violence directed at black protestors. 
Donald Trump has called for a registry of American Muslims, a special form of ID for American Muslims, and his supporters have shouted calls for ethnic cleansing at his rallies, while a Nevada Assemblywoman declared her desire to murder terrorists and refugees alike. 
Reaffirming his disregard for justice, the law, and human life, Donald Trump called for the families of terrorists to be murdered in a kind of barbaric scorched earth quest for vengeance. 
Donald Trump lied about having seen thousands of American Muslims celebrating 9/11 in yet another bid to incite hatred and provoke divisions, doing ISIS’ recruiting work for the organization he would ostensibly like to destroy. 
In the face of repeated mass killings in the U.S, Republicans have uniformly asked our citizenry to resign itself to living in a climate of terror (foreign and domestic), violence, fear, and threats.  Gun regulations aren’t a silver-bullet—indeed, the hate speech and promotion of vigilante violence by the political right is an important contributor to violence in our society—but they would certainly help.  But they find no backing from a party that offers prayers rather than action to the families of slaughtered citizens. 
And perhaps indicative of their wholesale embrace of ignorance, bigotry, and small-mindedness, Republicans launch attacks on higher education in general, and the humanities and social sciences in particular.  In other words, institutions that bring people of diverse backgrounds together are a threat to their program.  Institutions and fields of study that promote empirical study, rigorous thought, respect for the truth, respect for humanity, and knowledge of human history, the human condition, and of human difference offend the sensibilities of this increasingly fascist party.
 The broader political party has tied its hands and abdicated the use of its senses as its members have pledged oaths to their backers, signing destructive climate and tax pledges that commit them to sabotaging federal and state government.
This is a party that has ceased to contribute in any meaningful or decent way to public life in our country and has, instead, dedicated itself to perpetrating social violence while inciting physical violence.  The candidates who will be on stage Tuesday have no shame and have no business running for office.  They represent a cynical, toxic approach to politics that seeks to un-do the civic bonds that characterize democratic society.  They deserve our scorn and their party deserves wholesale destruction at the polls.  The alternative is increasingly too frightening to contemplate.   

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