Like Jon Stewart, I had an "I give up" moment last week watching the extraordinary spectacle of House Republicans denying health benefits to 9/11 responders because -- they claimed -- they were outraged that to pay for it, the bill called for closing a loophole that benefited tax-dodging multi-national corporations.
It is old news, of course, that the GOP would engage in this kind of depravity, but the underlying dynamic here is worth pointing out -- the party's deep hatred and contempt for non-privileged Americans (i.e, about 98 percent of the population). Oh sure, they'll try to bludgeon people over the head with their "patriotism" when "supporting" the ordinary Americans who comprise our Armed Forces, for instance. But even there, of course, when it comes to actual material support for our troops' well-being, their hatred and contempt shows through. More broadly, the picture could not be more clear -- the Republican Party is barely trying to hide the fact that their over-riding concern is the well-being of the richest two percent of Americans at the expense of everybody else.
For example, their numerous about-faces on the relative merits of economic stimulus versus austerity are all perfectly explicable once one understands that, in all circumstances, their goal is to support policies that help the rich and hurt everybody else. This is why they support extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, despite the long-term consequences for our deficits, while insisting that we cannot extend unemployment benefits, despite the far smaller consequences of insurance extension for government red ink. And we know that their only effort to defend this obvious and shameful behavior is by claiming that the tax cuts "pay for themselves," a position that no serious economist anywhere on the ideological spectrum believes is remotely true, including the guru himself.
But whether its opposition to strengthening things like mine safety, to insistence that the plain language of the 14th amendment should be ignored so that we might exclude from citizenship millions of generally less well-off and vulnerable Americans, to a full-throated attack on a core precept of American democracy -- religious tolerance -- to their fact-free opposition to inclusive marriage rights (and the list goes on and on), all of their positions come into picture-perfect focus once one understands that the party's over-riding interest is in improving life for only the very elite, most privileged and most secure strata in our society, and for making life more difficult for everybody else.
Let me say clearly that if you yourself are in agreement with their positions on one or more of these issues, you may have what you consider to be perfectly valid reasons for doing so. My point is not, specifically, to condemn each and every one of these positions (though I am obviously not trying to hide my own views on them). What I am arguing is that the totality of the party's mission is simply beyond dispute. On major issue after issue, if one wants to know what the GOP's position is, one merely needs to ask: what side of an issue is beneficial to marginal, or even ordinary, and therefore non-privileged groups in society and what side only benefit elite interests and/or harms the well-being of ordinary or marginal Americans?
And given this reality, it's mind-boggling to me that the Democratic Party cannot manage to articulate an effective set of themes for the coming Fall campaigns and that the White House has decided, for now, to make Tim F-ing Geithner the public face of their painfully half-hearted attempts to explain why the GOP is irresponsible. One major political party actually hates most Americans. And the other one, whether indifferent to the fates of those Americans or too afraid to say otherwise, won't call them on it.
At this point, I don't know what makes me more frustrated.
Jonathan Weiler's most recent book, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, co-authored with Marc Hetherington, was published last year by Cambridge University Press.
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