Friday, November 9, 2012

Love Defeats Hate

The presidential election of 2012 presented a clear choice between love and hate.

Throughout the entire presidential campaign it was unmistakably clear that this election represented a battle between those who love Barack Obama and those who hate him. Most of the President's supporters - including me - admire him. Many of his opponents despise him. None of the Republican candidates generated significant enthusiasm on their own merits. They were instead evaluated on the basis of their "electability" - whether they could defeat Obama. The candidate the Republicans ultimately nominated stood for everything and nothing. Even after six years of campaigning no-one can say precisely what Mitt Romney stands for. His appeal lay not in himself or his positions but rather in the simple, sincere hope that he could oust Obama from the White House. Republicans in this election had no-one to cheer for - they only had someone to cheer against. Almost no-one is heartbroken that Romney will not sit in the White House. Many are dismayed that Obama will remain there.

More importantly let us consider the issues that led to the defeat of the Republican Party in this election:

Immigration:  When Rick Perry supported giving in-state tuition rates to undocumented college students, he was excoriated by the other Republican candidates, who outdid themselves and each other in opposition to immigration from Mexico. See  Tom Curry, NBC News, How immigration blew up on Rick Perry (9/27/2011)Romney endorsed the unconstitutional Arizona law S.B. 1070 and declared himself in favor of adopting policies so harsh that immigrants would "self-deport." See Rick Ungar, Forbes, Romney's Demise May Be Traceable To These Two Words - "Self Deportation" (11/7/2012). Guess what, folks? Immigrants, legal or illegal, are people too. Your ancestors were all immigrants. It's time for the Republican Party to stop catering to the racist elements driving their anti-immigration policy. As Rick Perry said to his colleagues on the stage at the debate, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.” If they want to have a fighting chance of winning Colorado or Florida in 2016 the Republican Party had better grow a heart before the next national election.

Taxes and the Social Safety Net: The most influential statement by either candidate during this campaign was Mitt Romney's contemptuous remarks about the "47%" of Americans who supposedly have no concept of personal responsibility and no desire to learn about it. This from a man who pays 13% in federal taxes - and perhaps a lot less! What made Romney's statements even more incredible was the fact that he was speaking to a room full of comfortably seated millionaires as the waiters moved silently among them, gathering their plates and filling their glasses. These workers probably earn minimum wage and pay no federal income tax - but they do pay over 15% of their wages in employment taxes, and a far higher percentage of their income in sales taxes and property taxes (on their homes or as a portion of their rent) than anyone seated in that room. Romney's contempt for working people and his desire not to pay taxes is not hatred - it is simply thoughtless and selfish. But his plan to gut Medicaid - the lifeline for the poor and disabled - crossed the line into cruelty. When a rich young man asked Jesus how to get into heaven, he was told to give all that he had to the poor. That is for almost all of us an impossibly high standard. But which political party comes closer to that ideal?

Same-Sex Marriage: If there is any issue where love and hate contend it is this one. On the one hand you have loving couples seeking legal recognition and protection of their families,and on the other hand you have the religious right screaming that the devil is stalking the land in the form of tolerance for gays and lesbians. For eight years now there has been an unrelenting barrage of hatred directed at gays and lesbians. Karl Rove's strategy of demonizing the gays worked in 2004 and re-elected Bush. Now the tapestry of hate is wearing thin. On election day 2012 the people of four states (Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota) spoke in favor of same-sex marriage, and the people of another (Wisconsin) elected an open lesbian to the United States Senate. The  people of the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, and the West Coast will never again vote for a political party that so vehemently opposes equal rights for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

Contraception and Women's Rights: Access to birth control is central to women's lives. Family planning is vital to their education, their careers, and their personal lives. Nearly all people consider the use of contraception to be a responsible act for sexually active couples, whether married or unmarried. Yet look at the Republican response to the President's decision to treat contraception the same as other forms of preventive medical care. Rush Limbaugh repeatedly and loudly defamed Sandra Fluke as a "slut." By extension he insulted every woman who uses birth control and every woman who ever used it. Nor is it morally legitimate to oppose the central principle of the Lily Ledbetter Act - that women should be paid the same as men for doing the same work. Women vote Democratic by overwhelming majorities for a reason. They don't want to be patronized or "wooed" by a candidate - they want equal coverage for health care and equal opportunity in employment.

Universal Health Care: Is there a more serious ethical and economic problem that our country faces than the fact that 81 million Americans lack sufficient access to medical care because they cannot afford it? Republicans have vociferously opposed the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") even though it was originally a Republican idea. But they have never put forward an alternative plan that would provide medical care to the one-fourth of American citizens who are in desperate need of it.

Birtherism, Islamophobia, Racism:  The Republican Party has an unhealthy component that thrives on pure hatred. This group can't even acknowledge the fact that Barack Obama is an American. Moreover many "birthers" believe that Obama is a Muslim - and they unthinkingly assume that's a bad thing! They don't want to allow American Muslims to build mosques or community centers. They falsely claim that there's a conspiracy to impose Sharia law in the United States while at the same time expressly striving to impose what they regard as Christian doctrine upon the rest of us. Only one-fourth of southern whites voted for Obama, compared to about half of whites in the remainder of the country. Why do you suppose that is? Are the social and economic interests of southern whites so different than those of whites in the north or the west? Or is some other factor at work?

Hate Radio: If the Republican Party wants to be taken seriously in states now commanding over 330 electoral votes it will have to repudiate the demagoguery of its most audible spokespersons - Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannitty, and Ann Coulter. I don't agree with Ann on much - but I will never forgive her for calling President Barack Obama a "retard." I doubt that the parent of any special needs child will ever again hear her voice without shaking with anger. For years the Republican Party has used and excused these apostles of hate to whip up the base. Now all they do energize the opposition.

To govern responsibly this country needs a healthy, responsible Republican Party. Democrats need Republicans to cut spending, just as Republicans need Democrats to raise taxes. But no-one needs the hatred that has engulfed the GOP since the days when it was my father's party. Unless Republicans cut loose from those elements who hate blacks, Mexicans, gays, women, the poor, and Muslims they will never again be able to win the votes of most Americans. The Democratic Party bade farewell to the Dixiecrats in 1948 and it took decades for the Democrats to put together another popular majority. Now the Republican Party confronts a similar dynamic.

The Republican Party must face the fact that in the long run hatred cannot defeat love.

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