“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”
I get asked, from time to time, why I am so partisan in my political writings. Why can’t I, some ask, cover politics from the middle, offering up a balanced approach to the views of both Republicans and Democrats? Why do I ridicule Republicanism at every turn, mocking the core beliefs of one portion of America?
The reason is simple: Republican ideology is simply wrong. The empirical evidence, the logical arguments, the experience we have in seeing Republicanism enacted over the last 30 years, it all adds up as pretty damning proof that the Republican plan for America is a failure.
I ought to know — I was a Republican for 20 years.
That’s right, dear readers. Your friendly neighbourhood progressive (or is it socialist? Communist? My nickname is Comrade, after all) spent his formative years pushing the tax-cutting, free-trade, government-is-the-problem agenda of the Republican Party. I supported future-embarrassment Newt Gingrich and the House GOP in 1994. I voted for grumpy old Bob Dole in 1996. I eagerly supported and voted for that cartoonish disaster George Bush in 2000.
I even held my nose I voted for him again in 2004, when he and Karl Rove cynically used gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive up Republican votes in swing states. I didn’t even complain when it was clear that John Kerry had actually won Ohio, and the election — at least until the GOP stole votes from him. Heck, I even voted for McCain and that bimbo in 2008.
When you add up my volunteer time and the time spent writing pro-Republican editorials, the odds are quite good that I have done more to support the GOP than the majority of people who write in to tell me how stupid I am for thinking that we can provide health care for every person in America. (And don’t worry — I’m working on my first reader-fuelled mailbag, so we can all share in the fun!)
The drift from right to left began a long time before I ever cast my first vote for a Democrat, and was a bit more complicated than some might make it out to be. You see, in America (and I imagine in other countries as well, but my scholarly background is in American politics, so I don’t want to overreach) partisans support their “side” with as much fervor and dedication as a sports fanatic. Republicans support Republicanism and oppose Democratic policies in much the same way that, say, a Boston Red Sox fan supports the Sox and hates the Yankees. I think there’s an old joke that talks about how Derek Jeter could push a woman out of the path of an oncoming bus, saving her life, and the Boston Globe would write “Jeter Pushes Down Elderly Grandmother”.
Political ideology is formed in much the same way as sports team identification. Parental, family, and environmental cues fill in whatever gaps exist in your knowledge base. If you’re poor and black in the middle of Detroit, and all your neighbours are Democrats, and all your relations are Democrats, the odds are good that you’ll grow up a Democrat. You’re also almost certainly a Tigers fan.
Flip that around to white woman in the middle of Houston, and you’ll end up a Republican. You’ll also be an Astros fan. This is pretty much common sense.
Now, what happens when that white woman moves to Detroit? Does she stop rooting for the Astros? Of course not! That’s her team! She may not wave the Astros flag around for everyone to see (although my grandparents do have a giant University of Michigan flag in Buckeye territory) but she’s unlikely to swap teams, particularly if she cared for baseball to begin with.
The same can be said of politics. Once formed, party allegiances are incredibly difficult to overcome. This is particularly true among the truly devoted. Just as it would be incredibly rare to meet someone who was a die-hard Yankees fan who suddenly developed a love for the Red Sox, it is very rare to meet someone who was a die-hard Democrat and is now a Republican, or vice-versa. (It happens more often when the parties realign around different issues, which hasn’t happened lately.)
In my case, it was incredibly difficult to overcome my early support for Republicans and simply switch to something else, even as my personal views on issues changed. First, I realised that social conservatism was a joke and not the proper use of government power whatsoever. It’s your womb, your body, your bedroom. Consenting adults can do as they please.
Then, around 2005, I started to have my doubts about this permanent-war state that the Republicans have come to believe in. Even when we’re not actively at war, we’re always building up, always preparing for war, agitating for war, and jeez, just itching to go in there and kick the crap out of someone, somewhere.
I realised that war was the reason 9/11 happened. It wasn’t some obscure theorist who said that. It was Bin Laden himself, who told us that 9/11 was a direct response to our planting US bases in the Middle East and in our undue influence in matters in their region. So I became anti-war.
All that was left was economic policy. Then the economy collapsed, and I saw two responses. Once the banks had been bailed out and the economy brought back from the edge, we had two routes.
The Republicans argued that poor people were stupid and deserved their fate, that the unemployed were lazy and deserved to starve, and that government has no role in helping them.
The Democrats argued that a stimulated economy would help everyone, that the unemployed were laid off through no fault of their own, and that government absolutely has a role in helping them.
And then my friend Fred laid out a simple proposition that I had never even considered. “John,” he said. “Libertarians rightfully fear the power of government and seek to minimize the damage government can do. But private power, corporate power, it is unrestrained. It can do more damage to liberty than any government could ever dream of.”
That is why Republicanism is so ridiculous. Republicans support the Libertarian ideals of small government and limited regulations on businesses. But it is business that holds too much power. It is business pollutes the earth. It is business that jacks up commodity prices for profit. It is business that purposefully starves some countries so it can make a killing (literally) off higher food prices. It is business that chooses to let people die rather than pay for a saving medical procedure.
Look no further than the health care debate. A true independent, knowing nothing of our customs, politics, or economy, could look at the data and conclude that the cheapest, most effective model for universal health care is a single-payer, government-tax-sponsored plan. It isn’t even debatable. And yet, half the country opposes it. Why? Because they don’t want to pay for someone else’s health care. They don’t want to contribute to society. They only think of themselves — until it’s their grandmother who has cancer or their kidney that’s failing.
Furthermore, it’s a ridiculous position to take, that a for-profit model (that is to say, private insurance) will benefit the country as a whole. I cannot take my heart attack and shop around for doctors who will give me a better price, the way I might bargain-hunt for a new TV. It’s a captive market and it’s a universal need. That we do not yet have government-managed health care is a crime against humanity, and if ever there were a world court, people would hang over this malfeasance.
What about issues of liberty? For all the talk of being pro-life, Republicans are in favour of war (killing people), executions (killing people), cutting off social aid (starving people to death) and pollution (killing us all). For all the talk of liberty and freedom, Republicans build more prisons than they do schools, primarily to house non-violent drug users whose only crime is to enjoy drugs not approved by the government. Or perhaps we can talk about the hundreds of laws against gay marriage, gay sex, gay adoption, or gay people in general — do they not have the right to freedom and liberty?
So yes, the Republican Party is a joke, and people who take their policy prescriptions seriously really ought to rethink what, exactly, they are supporting.
Of course, this is not to say that I am now a Democrat. I think both parties are flawed. It is just the reality that Democrats are not nearly as bad as Republicans. Democrats still, on occasion, can be pushed into doing the right thing by the American worker. They often don’t, but they can on occasion surprise you. Republicans, however, cannot. They are bought and paid for.
And that, my friends, is why I write so disdainfully of the Republican Party. Their ideology is simply greed wrapped up in the flag. They cheer death and destruction; they support endless war and starvation for those who cannot afford food. Left to their own devices, they would enslave us all and despoil the Earth in the process.
Do I fear the government’s power? Of course. But government is checked by a Constitution and rights passed down for 220 years.
I am much more afraid of what Monsanto or Goldman Sachs can do with no limits to the power they can wield.
— Comrade John Thorpe
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