As the midterm election winds to a dramatic close, pollsters predict game-changing gains for Republicans. Though it’s down to the wire in many hotly contested races, these forecasts speak to the appeal of the GOP’s fiery “less government, less spending” rhetoric this campaign season. The problem is that beyond rousing slogans, not enough Americans understand the real policy changes that a Congress effectively controlled by the GOP will aim to bring about – the real consequences that would hurt real Americans.
Under the Republican Party’s blueprint for America, BP might no longer be required to fully clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and donors will be allowed to keep their contributions to political campaigns secret.
The GOP future for America
These positions, based on recent votes in Congress, foretell how the Republicans will govern if they win in today’s elections.
Republicans have voted against extending Medicaid to the unemployed. They effectively killed a bill that would provide treatment, screening, or compensation for Americans who assisted during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. They tried to block extensions of basic unemployment insurance. They allowed the oil industry to virtually write its own rules for oil exploration and clean up. They have called for opening up off shore areas to oil wells. And they have tried to stop funding to state governments to stimulate the economy.
And here’s the possible post-November reality – a grim outlook for all Americans, no matter how they voted.
If some of the more extreme Republican candidates get elected, their views – far outside the mainstream – suddenly have credibility. This is particularly troubling in the Senate, where one member can yield tremendous power.
These candidates have railed on the evils of unemployment insurance, want to eliminate minimum wage laws, and would do away with Social Security and Medicare. Some aim to remove most basic government regulations, gut consumer protection laws, and cut federal aid to education. Republicans that are even more radical would seek to position Christianity as the effective state religion, essentially declare war on Islam, and press for aggressive action in Iran.
Look at their track record
Still have doubts? Just look at the party’s congressional track record of late. Senate and House Republicans recently voted to prevent bills from reaching the floor, or took positions, that would: bar homosexuals from the nation’s military; allow the ash from burning 136 million tons of coal to be dumped into the nation’s waterways; object to addressing greenhouse gases and the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere through climate legislation; lead to the loss of tens of thousands of government employees; and drastically cut welfare, food stamps, health care for children, and other government programs to aid the poor.
At every turn lately, Republicans have hamstrung the Democrats to create a totally dysfunctional governmental process. Certainly, Democrats have used the filibuster and held up Republican appointments before, but with this new kind of refusal to participate, Republicans have co-opted and derailed the democratic process.
Historians haven’t seen such minority obstructionism since 1917. In the 1960s, 8 percent of major Senate bills were subject to filibusters: Today Republicans play the filibuster card for 70 percent of major Senate business.
Minority rule is especially troublesome in the Senate, where the GOP has held up bills passed by the House and threatens to filibuster nearly every Democratic proposal. They also refused to confirm more than 240 Obama appointees, paralyzing government.
In the Senate, the Democrats finally convinced one or two Republicans to join them in passing major bills signed into law by President Obama. These laws include: a $30 billion lending program and $12 billion in tax cuts for small businesses; stimulus funds to save 3.5 million American jobs; a new manufacturing enhancement act; extension of unemployment benefits; estate tax relief that protects inheritance for 99.8 percent of citizens; Wall Street reforms; a credit cardholder bill of rights; health care extension for 11 million children; and legislation estimated to create 1.7 million jobs in clean energy.
Republican opposition to these critical pieces of legislation was almost unanimous.
No compromise for Republicans
Over in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office lists more than 300 bills passed by House Democrats that couldn’t even make it to the Senate floor due to Republican opposition. A number of them involve significant changes in the areas of most concern to voters: economic recovery and job creation, consumer protection, assistance to homeowners, affordable health care, clean energy jobs, fiscal responsibility, and national security.
“It’s hard to compromise with people who are against government solutions,” said Congressman Sam Farr of California, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “Republicans pushed for the election of ultra-conservative ideologues who don’t want to cooperate because they don’t think the government should be doing education, fire protection or jails; they want to contract out government jobs to the private sector.”
Actual policies don't add up
The country is battling out of a recession, trying to recover from four large items that President Bush put on our national credit card – tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year, two wars, and a prescription drug program – in addition to the collapse of the housing bubble. Republicans hope their negative stance will drive independent and Democratic voters away from the polls and allow conservative ideologues to put them in office.
Will Americans fall for the Republican refusenik stance, which is full of contradictions? We’ve seen where the Republican roadmap to “prosperity” ends. It just doesn’t add up.
Smaller government, lower taxes, and deregulation – mantras of the Republican Party since the Reagan era – are enshrined in their promises to “take America back.” But their actual policies are at war with real Americans.
Don Monkerud is a writer who follows cultural issues and politics, and writes occasional satire.
An earlier version of this article first appeared at www.consortiumnews.com and www.counterpunch.org.