There are many important stories in the world. Today is Memorial Day for example and where would America be without our soldiers. I hate war but I admire the men and women who fight for our country. Even some of our soldiers may agree that saving our own Democracy from a Party that seems intent on destroying it is worth concentrating on, even on this sacred day. Our soldiers have always fought and even died for Democracy. Democracy needs them for a different kind of war now.
Michael Flynn, addressing a QAnon crowd, called for a Myanmar-style coup in America. Many Republicans are convinced that Democrats are an existential threat to our nation because of their progressive ideas. They don’t want to see America invest in America’s social structure along with other critical infrastructure. They don’t want to set a minimum wage that offers solvency for American families. They don’t want to see a government health insurance program that allows even the poorest Americans to have health care.
They don’t like workers banding together in unions to keep employers from abusing our workers. They don’t like consumer protections. They don’t want to pay for young people to go to a community college, even given the gauntlet of poverty, violence and drugs young people must make it through to have successful lives.
They don’t want to pay for child care so women can work. In fact, they think women should stay home with the children and have babies because our population is getting too old. They would get rid of contraception if they could. They don’t even want social security for those who have no other pension. They do want to tax people but only people who make less than $400,000 a year. No wonder they want ‘small government.’ The taxes of Americans who make less than that won’t pay for much. Since the party insists that only a big armed force and plenty of killer weapons can keep America safe from our enemies abroad that doesn’t leave much money for social matters.
They say that forcing all Americans to pay for social programs is undemocratic. Well, in a sense, since each individual cannot choose whether to contribute to a federal program, or to not allow their tax dollars to go towards that priority, this does constitute a kind of mandate.
Societies do not necessarily guarantee absolute individual freedom. In fact, some societies offer little individual freedom at all. This week the leader of Belarus pretended a plane had a bomb on board so they could get the pilot to land in Belarus so that a young journalist on the plane could be arrested for trying to speak freely. There is a certain authoritarian strain in American politics on the right that wants to use fascist means to insist that America do things their way. And we are back to Michael Flynn (and Donald Trump).
Societies do have social contracts with their members. Since FDR, social programs have been part of American governance and American life. Now Republicans tell us that this was a huge mistake and that they are absolutely certain that including social programs in federal governance will kill America. So they are trying to kill democracy because they are so certain that they are right. They are trying to kill the Democratic Party because they insist that America only spend to encourage “makers” to come back and rescue the American economy. And that is clearly not what happens when you help corporations these day. Corporations plough the money back into their own operations and shower their stockholders with dividends because they own a lot of stock, and this increases their profits without expanding their operations or hiring more expensive workers. Our corporations, grown in America, could now care less if America continues to thrive. They are not actually Americans anymore; they are citizens of the world.
Republicans who still see themselves as Conservatives have decided that they and only they hold all the answers to how America can remain first among the nations of the world. They have made sure that Democrats are unable to help the middle classes and the poor through federal government programs. They have used creative voter strategies to keep power in Congress and they have used obstruction to have their way.
Republicans point to LBJ’s War on Poverty and argue that it was largely ineffective at solving stubborn poverty or prejudice. They deliberately undermined those programs and attached a stigma or set up tough requirements to make the programs unattractive. There is proof in the data, that although such programs did not end poverty, they were helping to make changes in the poorest neighborhoods and towns. That LBJ, and indeed, the Republicans did not foresee the ravages of opioids is a burden that rests on the pharmaceutical industry and, with the enormous profits they have made, they should tackle the addiction problem and end our sorrows at this waste of human lives. Even knowing the dangers of opioid addiction these meds are being used to treat our veterans today.
For one party to ‘take the wheel’ and decide that they know best how to steer the nation so that it will be successful in having the world’s best economy and be the dominant power on the globe is not the democracy/republic we all signed on for.
There have always been factions in American politics. That is how political parties were formed. There has always been contention. We fought a Civil War because slave owners wanted to force America to accept slavery. That was a war, not a coup.
But Republicans are apparently tired of contention. They want a government that doesn’t have to negotiate every issue. Of course, Democrats would like that too. But Republicans have used a set of strategies to change the dynamics of American politics and to prevent a two party system from operating as it should. They have interpreted constitutional powers in ways that allow them to use these powers against compromise and they have learned the power of fixing elections in seemingly legal ways, although, desperation seems to be driving them into more unseemly election practices such as the Big Lie, recounting settled votes, passing laws in red states that allow officials to overturn elections, along with what is happening in states like Florida, Texas, and Georgia right now.
Republicans have learned how to hold onto the majority in Congress, or at least in the Senate, and they have learned the power of simply stubbornly saying no and not even allowing legislation to come to the floor. Even though Republicans have lost the majority in the Senate, the Democratic advantage is extremely slim. With the Republican Party so insistent that it knows what is best for America, and the filibuster still in place it may look like Democrats won in 2020, but the reality is that unless the Dems do some things they find unsavory, like passing bills with single party votes or getting rid of the filibuster, the Democrats are still being held at bay by a cult-like Republican party.
Meanwhile America sinks further into a morass of poverty and violence, fueled by a belief that all will be well if we just bring manufacturing back home and build up an arsenal of ever more super weapons. When the factories come home all will turn around and America will be an engine of progress once more. But that is just another ‘big lie.’ You can’t recreate the past.
You can move on into a future that deals with the economic realities we have now and builds on those strengths. Learning how to live in new and lighter ways on the planet offers the economic gains of the future and puts us on a path to sustainability rather than extinction. The Republican Party is wrong for these times. They made a deal with a devil but they had already sold their soul to hang on to imagined past glories.
On this Memorial Day when Republicans offer themselves up as the true patriots who honor our soldiers far more than the ‘sorry’ Democrats, it is important to remember that warmongering is not a good future for our world’s continued existence and that promises to our soldiers have not been kept. We must remember which party is the one that is saying no to the needs of the people and that includes the needs of veterans. In the midterms please give the Democrats a chance to change the focus of the American government from the wealthy to ‘we the people’.
On Tuesday, June 1, 2021 Max Boot wrote this article in The Washington Post: