Heard enough from Republicans

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I read Thomas Sowell’s piece on “Talking Republicans” and an old joke came to mind. It’s the “Maid’s Lament” that “when he’s not talking, his plans for marriage are what he’s not talking about.”

When Republicans talk I listen, and what I’d like to hear is the venture capitalist’s plan about how to fix the American economy. Mr. Sowell is an economist and a “senior fellow” at the Hoover Institution. I’d like to have heard, at least, his opinion about the subject. I was, of course, disappointed — but my disappointment wasn’t unanticipated.

The Republicans aren’t talking because they don’t have much to say that’s new and that anyone wants to hear. It would be refreshing (while listening to Romney write off 47 percent of the American people as “non-producers”) to hear a Republican tell us how he would make us more productive. The venture capitalist model would be to take over a company, liquidate its least productive assets, break all its contracts, lower wages, lay people off, outsource, plunder its pension fund, leverage its productive assets and load it up with taxpayer-protected debt, and then sell out and take the money and run. Do it again and again and you can make a lot of money, it’s true. But in history very few people are noteworthy for the money they made. Great leaders are about more than money. Is this to be Mitt Romney’s legacy?

I listened carefully to the Republican primaries, and heard a lot of Republican talk, but what wasn’t said was much more important that what was. I watched each would-be nominee genuflect to the Tea Party, a group which claims to want fiscal responsibility, less intrusive government, “strict constructionist” constitutional views (with special attention given to the Second Amendment), and respect for religion (especially Christianity, and maybe Judaism, for the moment), an increase in the amount of money spent on the military and a decrease on what’s spent on schools, the social safety net, etc... and they are especially incensed at the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” — Obama’s signature accomplishment. 

I watched five clowns agree that any one of them would make a better President than Obama. They rallied around Herman Cain for a moment because he was black and proposed a very regressive tax plan, but soon dumped him, as they did with all the rest. The only one left standing was the one propped up with the most money. And yes, by the way, he’s white. Never mind that he signed a prototype of “Obamacare,” called “Romneycare,” and no matter that he signed gun control laws opposed by the NRA, and no matter that he saddled Massachusetts with debt, and no matter that he isn’t exactly Christian or Jewish. I think his biggest asset is that he’s white. The reason Republicans aren’t talking is because they don’t need to mention that our president, the nearest thing to royalty we have in America, is black, has a black wife and black children and they are surrounded with white servants in the White House. They have no objection when white Republicans run up huge deficits.

The issue of race goes way back in the American political story. After the Civil War, which was fought largely over slavery, the defeated South voted Democrat because they hated Lincoln. They were “yellow dog Democrats,” “Dixiecrats,” as long as Jim Crow controlled things and the Democrats tolerated it. When LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act they switched sides. Busing and affirmative action — active attempts to bring the “underprivileged” into the mainstream of American life — united and organized this group into enough voters to shift the power from the Democrats to the Republicans. 

Moderate Republicans, who belong to the party for the “right” reason, namely that they believe in the free-enterprise system, tthink that what is best for the wealthy, intelligent and well-educated is what is best for America. They see little to be gained by paying people for not working, and resent the “redistribution of wealth” that the social safety net represents. Their big problem, their big challenge, is that the rich are few and the poor are many, and the votes count. The Republicans have to get enough of the poor, stupid and uneducated to vote Republican in order to win and have their way. So we see a lot of negative advertising, name-calling, fear-mongering, flag-waving, God-invoking, xenophobia, homophobia and other gut-level appeals to attract these votes. This time they would do best by keeping quiet — those votes are assured because Obama is black.

The people who need to speak up are the Democrats. We’re the ones who let the Republicans get away with lies if left unchallenged. The airwaves are filled with Republican vitriol intended to energize the ignorant bigots, and left unchallenged, other better people will come to assume it must be accurate. Where is the Democratic answer to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch? We hear about the “liberal media” — but where is it? Who is making the progressive argument? 

Those of us Democrats who defend the Constitution, love America and believe that the Constitution directs the government to “...promote the general welfare” and believe that the government has a legitimate role to play in education, health care, and civil rights, need to speak up. If we also believe in the Second Amendment as the guarantee that we’re governed with our own consent and believe that we should have a strong military with a defensive mission, we ought to pick up a flag and wave it — just like they do. 

When Mitt Romney writes off most Americans as “non-producers,” we ought to call him on it. Did he ever consider the taxes the working poor pay on the gasoline they buy to get to their miserable jobs making the likes of Romney rich? Who built those roads the captains of industry use to haul their goods to market? Whose children, wives and husbands died fighting for America in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan? 

The Republicans have said plenty, thanks. Now it’s time for the Democrats to speak.

Colvin is a resident of Columbia Falls

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