For years, I believed that most politically-active people were working for policies consistent with their conception of the good society. We were all well-meaning; we just had different points of view, different visions of what the good society should look like, and we obviously differed on how to get there.
The past few years have disabused me of that belief. Incredible as I still find it, the evidence is too clear to ignore: the political establishment of today’s GOP is not composed of people who are well-meaning but deluded. These are people–mostly but not exclusively male–who truly do value their own wealth and power above the lives of others.
The evidence is simply too copious to dismiss, and the moral rot isn’t limited to a few appallingly bad actors like Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and William Barr.
Think about it.
When Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor wanted to delay his state’s primary election so that voters wouldn’t need to choose between risking their health and exercising their right to cast ballots, the Republicans in the state legislature appealed to the Republican majority on the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the election must proceed. When Democrats appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, the five judges appointed by Republicans obediently voted their politics over their humanity.
In the end, the judge the Wisconsin GOP was trying to re-elect still lost–bigly— because voters risked contagion to exercise their franchise. But the risk was real. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal now reports that
Officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted COVID-19 through activities related to the April 7 election, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Monday.
Six of the cases are in voters and one is a poll worker, Kowalik said.
Lest you conclude that this was a “one-off” or limited to the State of Wisconsin, allow me to remind you of the sorts of things this administration has been doing while the GOP’s head clown has been keeping us distracted.
A recent New York Times headline asks “Why Is Trump Gutting Regulations That Save Lives?”
Since Jan. 30, 2017, the Trump administration’s approach to federal regulation has been defined by a simple requirement: “one in, two out.” The basic idea, set out in one of President Trump’s first executive orders, is that whenever a federal agency issues one regulation, it has to take at least two regulations away — and produce an incremental cost, on the private sector, of zero.
The idea was absurd from the very start.
It was profoundly demoralizing to experts in federal agencies, who know a lot about science and who have plenty of good ideas about how to protect public health and safety. But its absurdity has been put in a whole new light by the Covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrates that the regulatory state is no enemy of the people — and that smart safeguards, designed by specialists, save lives.
If there are regulations on the books that are outmoded, or have proved to be more onerous than necessary, they should be eliminated. If existing regulations are demonstrably protecting people–worker safety regulations that prevent illnesses and death, air pollution regulations that protect public health, restrictions on the use of chemicals that have proved dangerous or cancer-producing–arbitrarily removing them to keep the number of rules down is insane.
Unless, of course, protecting the pocketbooks of your donors is more important than protecting the lives and health of your constituents.
Trump’s behavior during the pandemic has been perfectly compatible with GOP priorities–lifesaving equipment stolen from (Democratic) states that desperately need it and doled out to “friendlier” Governors. “Briefings” that are ill-disguised, nauseating political rallies. A complete absence of expressions of empathy for those suffering and dying.
As numerous political scientists have pointed out, as repulsive as Trump is–as morally and intellectually defective–he is simply the visible product of what the Republican Party has become.
For those of us who served a former iteration of that party–a very different iteration–what it has become is heartbreaking.