Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To the Precipice and Beyond on the Rocks Below

I try to learn by reading and listening. Saturday morning, weekday early evening, and between television seasons, evening news programming raise my consciousness about current events. Analyses from NPR and PBS as well as my own insights drawn from articles in The Nation, Mother Jones, and online sources enrich my understanding. Speakers on C-Span also help to shape my thoughts, the ones I pass on to you.

This past week, the talking heads on television burbled and bubbled at a low boil about the state of the GOP. Those on MSNBC prophesy that the GOP cannot fare well by adopting exclusionary models reminiscent of a segregated South. Across the land, pundits believe that restricting the voters’ access to a ballot will only inspire minorities to stand in ever longer lines. Men and women, even a few on FOX, contend that denying a woman the right to sovereignty over her own body must be eschewed by those on the Right lest they lose their way to the White House. Again and again, self-proclaimed opinion-aires remind the GOP that their tent must be bigger, big enough to shelter immigrants, welcome minorities, entice women, and call card-carrying union members of both genders.

But Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative think-tank veteran and human torpedo responsible for sinking the Equal Rights Amendment initiative, refused to heed the advice of those pundits when she let the world know that voter identification and other restrictions have nothing to do with voter fraud. She explained to fellow conservatives that changes in access to the vote are needed to hurt Democrats, writing:

“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that ‘early voting is giving …[Democrats] a solid lead in the battleground states ….’’

So the states where the GOP can push through laws quickly have accommodated an assault upon Democratic voters. The intent of those laws is exclusion, not inclusion.

Another GOP/Tea Party national figure, Representative Paul Ryan, declared that "We don't want a country where abortion is simply outlawed. We want a country where it isn't even considered.” Like Missouri’s Todd Akin, Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, and Texas’s Jodie Laubenderg, Paul Ryan is unapologetically anti-abortion. Akin, Mourdock, and Laubenderg also suggest that their understanding of rape and basic human biology is as wrong-headed as the GOP posture on climate change.

Anti-immigration legislation and sentiments also prove that the GOP prefers a smaller tent even though the national Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, disagrees. What I believe, what pundits and editorial spokesmen and women do not say is that Priebus is not in charge. In fact, neither the Tea Party nor the Republican Party under anyone’s chairmanship is in charge. Those parties are simply tools with which Big Money leverages influence.

"Loose Change," a photo by Al Griffin

The real GOP policy-makers, the true ideologues, and the puppeteers are Big Money, including the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and Corporate America, aided by the U. S. Supreme Court with whom Big Money often dines.  Big Money also influences those on the left, notably in the area of education policy and practice, but it owns the Tea GOP. They have whipped Tea GOP members into a froth, teaching them fear and envy. You’ll recognize the narrative lines:

Union thugs are sucking the States’ economies dry.
Union thugs refuse to negotiate and must be denied the right to strike.
Right to Work legislation will draw business to states like dung draws flies.
Government needs to slash spending.
Government should be less intrusive--except, of course, in bedrooms. Government must reorient and/or punish homosexuals, and it must stand as the good father protecting and restraining promiscuity in women.
Government regulation is strangling small business.
Neither government nor business can afford to repair the nation’s infrastructure, protect and preserve the environment, provide a social network for those falling into poverty, or serve our veterans in a timely manner.
Health care is not a human right, but a privilege reserved for those most productive.

And my personal favorite, one that’s been around since Ronald Reagan cast his spell for smaller government, deregulation, privatizing government roles and subsequently rose to power, looming as large in the public psyche as Harry Potter among Hogwarts' graduates:

Trickle-down economics will allow everyone to prosper.

"Chump Change," a photo by Al Griffin

The Tea GOP learned to vote against its own interests by believing those narrative lines. They voted to break up unions and supported Right to Work after Big Money spent big money to teach them how to vote. Tea GOPs would do it again, too, because it appears they haven’t connected the dots: Right to Work weakened unions that stood between management and worker to secure benefits, shorter work weeks, and higher pay. Now that each of those has flatlined or begun to plummet, Tea GOPs simply deny and blame someone else--usually Democrats, immigrants, and/or the poor--anyone but themselves and certainly not Big Money.

The Tea GOP has also learned not to trust their brothers, leaders, or themselves. They envy the pennies that any other guy takes from what they perceive to be their entitlement to get ahead while remaining blind to the truth that their own pennies buy precious little these days. Utility companies charge more. College tuition has soared out of reach and well ahead of the rate of inflation. Homes, cars, red meat, fresh produce, and clothing cost so much that many American workers cannot afford to buy those, but seeking to increase profit even more, Big Money moved its production to other countries where workers have no benefits, work longer hours, and expect little income in exchange for their labor. Still the unemployed worker blames immigrants for stealing jobs that actually no longer exist. Big Money wants them to remain uninformed, deaf and blind to the truth that Big Money cares nothing for their ability to seize the American Dream. Big Money is thoroughly narcissistic; it feeds itself and lets the common man starve.

So pundits, please, stop admonishing the GOP Tea Party. It’s not listening. It doesn’t care, and no one would miss it if it imploded. The Tea GOP is a false front, a fa├žade masking the real machinery, and that machinery believes it can state, repeat, declare, and lie without consequence. It can afford billboards, direct mailers, slogans, catch phrases, entire networks, and vituperative media personalities with extra layers of flesh thanks to the many pounds of flesh they have carved from their opponents in a spirit of righteous zeal. Big Money has 501 c4s to spare and hungry scholars who will produce, upon command, whatever study Big Money needs. Like the legendary Mafia, patronage buys friends and commands unwavering loyalty. Those scholars hope to, one day, become "made men and women, sitting at board room tables on floors high above the people they harmed by their reports and missives.

The Tea GOP and GOP Tea can spew, spit, spin, and sully. It can block, refuse, obstruct, reject, and fret. It can shut down the government and lead us all over that fiscal cliff, but it will endure as long as its members are spineless and ambitious. They exist to serve Big Money and hope to curry enough favor to step from politics into the private sector and a six-figure salary of their own. That's the new American Dream, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the public good.