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Why Genuine Conservatives Are Leaving The GOP

A post to Daily Kos: The Republican party in reality is a broad coalition of White Supremacists, anti-democracy authoritarian fascists, and religious fanatics that can only be described as a cult. The conservatives made a deal with the devil in the 1960’s with the Nixon “southern strategy” to bring in the racists, and then Reagan grabbed the anti-choice people in the 80’s, and finally, Gingrich brought in the anti-democracy fascists where power became the goal at any costs.

https://www.alternet.org/millennial-conservative-leader-explains-why-hes-leaving-trumps-republican-party-after-kavanaugh-vote?src=newsletter1097154

What Now?

The last week or so has been an absolute tsunami of disappointments, bad news and terrifying omens.

The Supreme Court punted on gerrymandering, and issued several horrifying decisions: it upheld Trump’s travel ban, required public sector labor unions to represent non-member workers  who don’t pay for that representation, and upheld Ohio’s draconian voter purge program, among others.

Every one of those decisions will benefit the GOP in the midterms, and every one of them was 5/4.

Mitch McConnell undoubtedly feels very proud of himself, but the price of those legal victories–won with a “stolen” seat– was the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court. Americans simply don’t know what a dispassionate Court composed of properly appointed, nonpolitical jurists would have decided, and they are convinced that the Court is now ideological rather than judicial.

Then, of course, we got the news of Justice Kennedy’s (long-rumored) retirement, and McConnell’s gleeful promise to seat a replacement (who will have passed the litmus test) before the midterms.

All this is on the heels of the humanitarian crisis at the border–an entirely unnecessary blot on our national honor (assuming we have any left) brought on by our racist President.

So what now? What should we expect?

Perhaps I’m wrong–I so frequently am–but I think we are heading for a period of civic disturbance that will make the 60s pale in comparison.

I just don’t think good Americans–and I remain convinced that good Americans are the majority–are going to passively watch their country taken down the road to fascism (as Madelyn Albright recently warned). We aren’t going to watch children being separated from desperate parents, Social Security and Medicare being raided in order to fund tax breaks for the already obscenely rich, or an economy that had finally recovered being trashed by tariffs imposed by a petulant and ignorant blowhard.

Americans aren’t going to sit still while that blowhard continues to embarrass the country, insult our allies, cozy up to (and probably collude with) our enemies, and divide Americans from each other with an unremitting barrage of racist, misogynistic rhetoric.

Trump’s constant (and ungrammatical) self-glorifying tweets may play well with his base, but they nauseate the rest of us.

The midterm elections will be critically important, but even if a “blue wave” materializes, we will in all likelihood no longer have a court system that defends stare decisis and the rule of law. We will still have the pent-up anger of hardworking Americans who have watched an already inadequate social safety net eviscerated in order to bestow extra dollars on people who don’t need those dollars. We will still experience the fury of women who are being told that they are less than equal, and that the government controls their bodies. And we will still have to deal with the frustration of citizens whose votes are suppressed, aren’t being counted, or are being discounted.

Those and multiple other civic frustrations are already beginning to erupt.

I don’t pretend to know how this will all play out, but I’m pretty sure it is going to get ugly before it gets better. America is in one of those periodic struggles for its soul–a struggle between the “good guys” who care about the common good and their fellow Americans, on the one hand, and the Trumpers who care only about themselves on the other. My bet is on the eventual victory of the good guys–but I know that a hell of a lot of people are going to get hurt in the meantime.

We need to just hang on. The next few years are going to be rough. And dispositive.

“Thoughts And Prayers” Again

The numbers are mind-numbing: More than 430 people have been shot in 273 school attacks since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history occurred in the last five months.

Most sickening is the faux sympathy expressed by politicians who are wholly owned by the NRA–among them, Indiana’s Todd Young, and Florida’s Marco Rubio.

A friend’s post on Facebook was a far more honest reaction than the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” of politicians corrupted by campaign dollars : he professed surprise that parents who have lost children in these mass shootings haven’t taken violent action against politicians who– with NRA support– allowed their children to be murdered, and he warned that “Some day, unfortunately a distressed parent will decide that ‘since I lost a child perhaps politician X should lose a child or a spouse.’ These tragedies will only stop when there is meaningful gun control.”

Given the Administration’s daily assault on the rule of law and the norms of civilized behavior, reflected in elevated instances of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism and general hatefulness, that day may not be too far off.

Articles on gun ownership rarely point out that–despite the enormous number of guns in the U.S.–a majority of us do not possess them; America’s estimated 300 million firearms are largely concentrated among people who stockpile them. A significant number of those owners have an unreasoning, hysterical, and evidently all-consuming fear of being disarmed, which makes them a formidable part of the GOP’s increasingly rabid and unreasoning base.(Interestingly, gun sales–which had spiked due to fears that the scary black man in the White House was going to confiscate them–have declined significantly since Agent Orange was elected. Make of that what you will.)

I know of no one who advocates confiscation of guns. Not only would it be ridiculously impractical, but no one seriously advocates coming after the hunters, the people with legitimate security fears, or even collectors . There are plenty of steps that rational legislators could take to limit gun violence far short of confiscation, or even erosion of those precious (and exaggerated) Second Amendment rights.

Nicholas Kristof suggests an eminently reasonable approach:

Gun enthusiasts often protest: Cars kill about as many people as guns, and we don’t ban them! No, but automobiles are actually a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting.

We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them – and limit access to them – so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921.

Kristof says we should abandon the “gun control” terminology–which has a Pavlovian effect on fringe gun owners–and opt instead for “gun safety” or “reducing gun violence,”  using auto safety as a model. That model would include constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access to them by people who are most likely to misuse them.

He lists a number of steps that already have broad public support: keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and people on the terrorist no-fly list, tightening background checks, ending immunity for gun manufactures–I strongly suggest that you click through and read all of his recommendations.

This one really resonated with me:

If someone steals my iPhone, it’s useless, and the same should be true of guns. Gun manufacturers made child-proof guns back in the 19th century (before dropping them), and it’s time to advance that technology today. Some combination of smart guns and safe storage would also reduce the number of firearms stolen in the U.S. each year, now about 200,000, and available to criminals.

And by the way– the next time I hear about a “good guy” with a gun, I’m going to puke.

As Kristof notes, there is overwhelming evidence that more guns and more relaxed gun laws lead to more violent deaths and injuries, no matter who owns the firearm. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a gun in the house was associated with a significantly  increased risk of a gun death, particularly by suicide but also by homicide.

Our inability to act like adults when it comes to weapons is just one element of a frightening and dispiriting collapse of responsible government. When is the last time any of us used the word “statesman”? Instead, I’ve been hearing a different word–kakistocracy. It translates into “rule by the worst among us”?

I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means…

Not every policy change is a reform, and I’m getting more than a little annoyed by efforts to paint things like tax cuts and voucher programs as “reforms.”

I’ve explained in previous posts why the abominable tax bill currently being rushed through Congress isn’t “reform.”  In several states, including Indiana, theocrats intent upon taking tax dollars from public school systems and directing those dollars to religious schools have employed a similar tactic, cloaking those efforts in the rhetoric of “educational reform.”

Betsy DeVos has frequently referred to one such program, in a county in Colorado, in glowing terms, so it was really satisfying to learn the results of a recent school board election in that county.

On Tuesday night, the longstanding fight over a controversial voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado, appeared to have come to an end. In a local school board election that has found its way into the national debate over voucher programs, four anti-voucher candidates—Chris Schor, Kevin Leung, Anthony Graziano, and Krista Holtzmann—defeated reform-supporting candidates in a landslide.

According to the story in Mother Jones, Douglas County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. The school district is large, with 67,000 students.

As Politico has put it, the county “has gone further than any district in the nation to reshape public education into a competitive, free-market enterprise.” Since 2009, the board has successfully ended a collective bargaining agreement with the local teachers union and enacted a “pay for performance” salary system for teachers.

Its most controversial move, though, came in 2011, when it approved a sweeping school voucher program that aimed to give up to 500 students publicly-funded scholarships to attend participating private schools. The county’s voucher program was the first district-created program in the country. Ninety-three percent of the pilot class of scholarship recipients enrolled in religious schools, according to court documents. It sparked outcry from those who argued that it was a diversion of public money away from public schools. Over the next few years, the suburban district in many ways become a model for conservatives looking to reform education nationwide and the group of reform-minded board members received support from national right-wing groups like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

That generous financial support kept pro-voucher commissioners on the school board until an election in 2015, when three members were ousted by opponents of the program. The Board was still majority pro-voucher, 4-3, but their power was weakened.

This month, after a campaign that saw hundreds of thousands of dollars pour in from the Koch brothers, a Republican political committee on behalf of pro-voucher candidates and the teachers’ union on behalf of the anti-voucher candidates, the anti-voucher candidates swept to decisive victories in all seven races.

That voters were not swayed by the influx of money and rejected the voucher program was a great outcome. But here’s my beef. A spokesperson for the winning slate was quoted as follows:

“Students at every school, students at every grade level and students with varying needs, all of them won tonight because our schools can now continue the return to excellence that began two years ago, after it became clear that reform had failed our children.”

Reform didn’t fail. An effort to enrich religious schools at the expense of public ones failed.

If I learned one thing in law school and in the practice, it was this: he who frames the issue wins the debate. When political activists accept the other side’s framing, they are agreeing to fight on the other guy’s turf.

The word “reform” denotes improvement. Tax cuts for rich people at the expense of middle-class Americans isn’t “reform.” Robbing public schools in order to benefit religious schools isn’t “reform.” In both cases, it’s theft, and with respect to vouchers, it’s an effort to circumvent the First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State.

Call it what it is.