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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Will the GOP Ever Change?

The Republican Party just got swamped, and they still don’t believe it!  As has been said by many a pundit, demographics had a lot to do with this.  But it was the ignoring of the demographics that really hurt.  The GOP continues to live in a parallel universe that does not any longer exist in the real world.  I, for one, hope they stay there, because far be it from me to want to help them recover from their blindness or their myopia or their ignorance.  But, I do not believe for a minute that the likes of the Koch brothers will stop pushing their agenda wherever they get the chance: in the states and local governments, for instance.

I suppose one has to agree that it is not just the ignoring of demographics that hurts the GOP; it is primarily their policies and attitudes that keep them from influencing the electorate much beyond the white men who are overwhelmingly dedicated to their bellicosity, their fear-mongering, their rugged individualistic approach to all things (social Darwinism), and their jingoism which attempts to declare exceptionalism when we are behind other developed nations in practically everything from education to environmental protection to oil independence to health care to entrepreneurship to research and development.  In fact, it’s difficult to find any major area of nation-building in which we do hold the lead, except the power of our military and our weaponry.  Is that what attracts these white men to the GOP: dominance through military power?  Or, is it the simple fact that these are WHITE men, as opposed to men of color?  It’s probably both for some.

So where is the Republican Party going to adjust itself?  Are they going to support a balanced approach to solving budget and deficit/debt issues?  Probably not without the caveat of no tax increases for the wealthy.  Are they going to stop treating women as second class citizens, and support the Ledbetter Act for equal pay for equal work?  Are they going to stop trying to define “rape” for women so that victims cannot  be seen as other than willing (“she wanted it”)?  I doubt it. Will they stop trying to dictate women’s health issues like contraception availability? Are they about to give a break on abortion or will they continue to seek to make abortion completely illegal, with no exceptions for rape or incest or health of the mother?  You know as well as I do that, as long as the Party caters to right-wing extremists and evangelicals, the push for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion will not go away. 

How about immigration?  Will the GOP be able to give up the mantras of “protect our borders”, “no amnesty” and “illegals” in order to construct reasonable immigration laws that allow for children of adults who brought them here illegally to become citizens?  Will they support a plan for non-citizens who fled  across our borders for work and hope for a better life, to have opportunity to go through a reasonable process to become citizens?  Will they be able to appeal to the Hispanic voter with the same old rhetoric that insults and demeans and chastises Latinos who want to be a part of this country?  I doubt it.  They fail to see that even “illegals” have something to offer this nation.  They are not just “takers”; they are, in most cases, people looking for a better life, and are willing to give back to a country that will nurture them toward that better life.  The Republican Party can not seem to let go of it’s harsh rhetoric in order to advance the cause of expanding the life-blood of this nation:  its immigrants. 

Instead of fixing blame and shame, how about we approach this in a more positive way: give people who have come here illegally the chance to show their patriotism.  Instead of talking amnesty, let us talk of service and sacrifice.  Let us allow non-citizens the chance to show what they have done for this country, or can do for this country, in terms of service in the armed forces, service in their communities, efforts to lift others as well as themselves.  Let us ask a reasonable number of years of community or national service from them instead of ten years of processing their “papers”.  I’m tired of negative approaches to issues.  Can’t the Republican Party find positive initiatives in these policy areas?  Probably not, as long as the right-wing nuts are in charge or are being catered to. 

Is the Republican Party prepared to face facts?  That is the real question regarding climate change.  It is always easier to live in a world of denial of evidence.  But that is not the real world.  Here we are in the midst of a planet that is giving us signals as to its ill-health, and half of the population is simply ignoring the signs and the evidence.  The deniers would rather stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best, rather than face the reality of our planet’s situation.  Is it not possible that the planet is sick; is it not possible for us to be facing a catastrophe of our own making?  Is it possible that our industrial waste and gasses and soot and chemicals and nuclear wastes have NOT injured our planet?  That is the real question.  Those people who have been the victims of environmentally-caused disease and cancer,  may already have an answer.  They know the toxic effects of our industrial waste and effluence.  They know what chemicals can do that lie buried but not inert.  They know what smoke of any kind can do to one’s lungs.  They know the result of nuclear leaks and explosions. 

We stand at the precipice of further destruction of our planet.  The weather patterns are changing; icebergs and glaciers are melting; the oceans and seas are rising; storms are record-setters;   Yet the GOP refuses to face the inevitable.  Romney wanted in his Plan to eliminate all regulations related to controlling carbon emissions.  The Republican Party platform wanted to put environmental regulation with the states.  The thrust of their environmental platform was to protect economic development over the protection of our planet. Our planet is displaying symptoms that cannot be ignored, anymore than we would ignore a lump in the body that appears all of a sudden.  Will the GOP change its attitude toward environmental policy?  Not likely.

Maybe they will appeal to a broader constituency by making some attempt to improve the health care system.  There are some signs that they are not going to attack Obamacare in the same way they did in Obama’s first term.  There was even some recognition from Speaker Boehner that this is now the law of the land and that there may be some parts of it that are worth keeping, even supporting.  Wow!  But, what will they do to further reform the health insurance business?  What will they do to increase the coverage of Medicare and Medicaid?  What will they do to the insurance exchanges that are soon to be structured in each of the states (something they should support considering their mantra about states being the right places for most innovation and oversight).  I confess I don’t really know.  One thing I do know: many Republican Governors will be happy to accept federal support when it comes their way under the Affordable Care Act.  But taking initiative to improve the quality of healthcare?  That’s something else.  I see nothing on the horizon that will do that from the Republican side.  Tort reform is not an answer, nor is opposition to boards of experts who would make suggestions for improvements in Medicare and health care delivery.

Can Republicans ever deal fairly with any of this?  I don’t know, but I know some in the past who could.  Where are those people?  That is the real question.  For the Republican Party is at best its own worst enemy.  It needs to change; to move away from right-wing rigidity, and come back to the real world.  But that may be impossible without a civil war within the Party.  The Republican Party has to move back from the right-wing; back to a more moderate stance on almost every issue.  And it cannot do that with the Tea Party radicals hanging around its neck. 

It’s more than demographics.  It’s more than rhetoric and talking points.  It’s true reform that is needed.  Policies must be re-examined in light of what is occurring in the real world: the world of facts and empirical data.  The Republican Party has to move to the Center or even to the Center-right.  But that means jettisoning the right-wing nuts in the Tea Party.  And, right now, they are the “base.”  Is a new Party necessary?  Probably.  Certainly, new policy innovations are imperative.