Ken Trainor’s disgust for the Republican Party is fully warranted [The problem that causes so many problems, Viewpoints, May 7], but there are grounds for condemnation beyond what he laid out in two recent columns [The once and future Democratic-Republican Party, May 14].
In a nutshell, the party’s three-pronged conservative ideology — libertarian, social/religious, and establishment — is a toxic brew, poisonous to the country’s social fabric.
The misnamed GOP — its grandness having died at the presidential level with Lincoln’s assassination, followed by brief blips of respectability provided by Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower — is now a thoroughly conservative party, perversely so.
The standard defense of conservatism has been that it seeks to conserve society’s achievements and move cautiously, incrementally, toward perfection. Hogwash.
One can begin with the easily defended charge that conservatism, all the way back to the 18th century, is the ideological defense of the privileges of those already privileged. It now, and always has, operated in the interests of the wealthy few and will, on a dime, turn reactionary, utilizing the stealthy guise of “reform” to undermine even the most popular and effective public policy accomplishments.
While not all conservatives joined in (and some actually took the other side), the indisputable historical record reveals that the causes of conservatism include the defense of slavery with its invocation of property rights and a harsh reading of the Bible; the installation of Jim Crow segregation; resistance to women’s suffrage; opposition to worker protection laws, including child labor laws; alarmist protest to Social Security and Medicare (which continues to this day in only the most superficially disguised form); unprovoked fierce and murderous resistance to the Civil Rights Movement; opposition to consumer and environmental protection laws; and assaults on democracy itself through voter suppression laws.
How can one account for the hysterical intensity of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts to sabotage social safety net programs? With respect to the ACA specifically, was there ever a plausible expectation that the Republican Party was even interested in an alternative government plan to protect the already insured from insurance abuse and extend health insurance to the uninsured? No, because conservatives can’t stand the very notion of government providing assistance to the truly needy, as evidenced by their unmistakable delight with the rough rollout of the ACA.
The contemptible conservatism of today goes beyond mere indifference and crosses the line into sadism. People have been dying because they lack insurance.
The driving energy in the GOP is “don’t tread on me” selfishness, dressed up as “freedom” and “liberty” to amass concentrated wealth in the hands of the few. The Republican Party is the party for those who think the poor are too rich and the rich are too poor. They seek to maximize wealth inequality — the real object of raw capitalism — beyond the extremes that already exist.
And to win elections on behalf of the privileged few, the GOP courts bigots of various stripes, the self-esteem-challenged gun enthusiasts, and Christian theocrats resentful of the Establishment Clause, as historically interpreted.
As a voter (but not as a past or future juror, certainly), I’m a strong believer in guilt by association. Obviously, one would not expect such nihilistic conservative causes in our nation’s checkered history to have ever attracted those with an informed social conscience. Most regrettably, the sensibilities of the conservatives of the 19th and 20th centuries still persist.
And sure enough, the Republican party has in its leadership ranks — in extraordinary numbers, far more than can be accounted for randomly or listed here — buffoons, bimbos, bamboozlers (Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and the Koch brothers), and bigots (Ted Cruz, admirer of an unabashed racist and homophobe, the late Jesse Helms).