Why do Republicans hate America? No, really. It’s not a rhetorical question. Since consolidating its power in January 2017, the GOP has systematically set out to dismantle the economic strength of this nation, coddle predators, shield traitors, attack those who are working, and strip protections from the most vulnerable. Are these the actions of a party that loves the nation it has sworn to serve?
Consider the GOP’s attempts over the last year to blow up the U.S. economy and make life harder for its constituents. The Republicans’ first try at demolishing the economy as if it were nothing but an old abandoned building was their reckless attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which housed and protected millions of American citizens. The GOP’s congressional leaders held no hearings, refused to even listen to expert testimony and were utterly unconcerned about the impact that dismantling a key component of the nation’s health care system would have on one-sixth of the American economy.
When the button jammed on that detonator, Republicans tried another, more powerful type of explosive, and this one threatens to be much more successful. In December, they passed a tax bill that adds an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit — with no significant investment in infrastructure, education or health care to show for it. And now, as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made clear, when the GOP-fueled deficit balloons, they’re coming after the retirement and medical social programs that he has demeaned and mislabeled as “entitlements.” Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, however, are hard-earned benefits funded, in large part, out of our paychecks. They provide much needed support to the elderly, the infirmed and those with disabilities.
For America’s senior population alone, the Republicans’ assault on the safety net is going to be destabilizing and, in many cases, lethal. Currently, 9 out of 10 Americans over 65 receive Social Security. Forty-nine million are on Medicare, estimated to increase to 64 million by 2020. Nearly one-third will require nursing home care, which costs three times the annual income of those over 65. Imagine what an aging America will look like just a few years into the future with no Social Security, no Medicare and no Medicaid.
Not satisfied with their own multi-pronged attack on the social fabric and safety net of the nation they claim to love, the Republicans have also let a foreign government attack the United States. Instead of repelling the invaders, strengthening our defenses and ferreting out the collaborators, the GOP has acted more like a fifth column shielding the saboteurs. In the fall of 2016, when confronted with the reports from 17 agencies in the intelligence community about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened then-President Barack Obama with partisan nuclear destruction and left the nation vulnerable to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s machinations. In March 2017, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sabotaged his own committee’s investigation into Russian interference, and for that unconscionable act, Ryan rewarded him by threatening to allow contempt of Congress proceedings against the Department of Justice unless Nunes could review the FBI files on the case. In January 2018, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sent a letter to the DOJ demanding an investigation of former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was so alarmed by what he was uncovering that he alerted the FBI that the Russians had cultivated a Trojan Horse in the form of Donald Trump. ”This was a national security issue,” Steele said. For having more concern about the United States than the Americans involved had shown, the Republicans tried to sic the FBI on him.
Consider the myriad other ways that the Republicans have demonstrated their destructive contempt for America. They removed protections for students against predatory lenders and financially hobbled the capacity of the next generation of leaders to actually engage in anything but mere survival. In August 2017, they sheared off millions of acres from public parks and seem ready to sell them to the highest bidder.
They have rushed through nominees for lifetime appointments on the federal bench who are demonstrably unqualified and would warp and mangle what has been the rule of law in this nation for decades. They have lied to the American people about so-called rampant voter fraud so that they could deny millions of citizens the constitutional right to vote. And they have tried to undercut the development and use of renewable energy, require power plants to use only coal or nuclear fuel, and opened up once-banned offshore drilling, which has now sent coastal states into a panic about the ever-looming threat to their very lives this decision has posed.
The Republicans have also lit a short fuse under America’s “soft power” ― our ideas, aspirations and strivings ― that makes the nation a world leader and not just any other one in the constellation. It only took a year under the GOP’s stranglehold for the global respect in which the U.S. was held to plummet from No. 1 to No. 6 in a global reputation survey. Within that short space of time, the Republicans have abdicated America’s international leadership on climate change; targeted, harassed, banned and deported immigrants of color with reckless abandon; and removed human rights and democracy as a goals of U.S. foreign policy.
Some Republicans, of course, have stood up every now and then to defuse these time bombs, to try to “put country over party.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has been steadfast in his opposition to Trump and has challenged the White House’s ill-advised policies on immigration. Kasich, however, is also the governor of a state that has mastered the art of voter suppression from literacy tests, to artificially created long lines at the polls in counties with sizable minority populations, to voter roll purges that have removed twice as many African-American as white voters. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) helped torpedo the initial attempt to destroy the ACA. But all three voted for a tax bill that transfers inordinate wealth to the 1 percent, raises the burdens on the middle and working classes and saddles the nation with a deficit that dims the future. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has warned of impending doom, but his rhetoric of resistance has little correlation to his actions. Instead of holding the line, he has voted to destroy the ACA, twist the tax code to benefit the uber-wealthy and scuttle the nation’s environmental protections.
The Republicans wear their patriotism and love of country like a badge of honor, but they have demonstrated neither. Instead, they have been contemptuous and complicit. They seem determined to recreate the civil rights and deregulated financial sector wilderness of the 1920s; a world where millions of American citizens could not vote, where women were separate and unequal and where Wall Street gambled so recklessly that the global economy imploded and ushered in more than a decade of double-digit unemployment and the Great Depression. That desire to strip us bare once again has revealed a deep, unrelenting disdain for this nation ― for its people, its hopes, its ideas, its lands and its institutions. Their lies about love of country put them in power. Their hatred ― if we recognize it for what it is ― will put them out.
Carol Anderson is a historian and a professor of African-American Studies at Emory University. She is the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth Of Our Racial Divide and the forthcoming One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.
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