First things first. Why put “Republicans” in quotation marks? Because, as many have noted, the old Republican Party years ago was taken over by tea party and related activists. Moderate Republicans are an endangered species, at least until the election. Extremist views, which once were whispered only in the shadows, now are out in the open, and considered fair game for discussion by the media. Where once interviewers would challenge such positions, now they just turn to the representatives of the other sides, and ask, “What do you think of that?” Interviews as ping pong. No judgement by much of the main stream media.
It is in this context that the Republican platform is worth examining in some detail. Most people view party platforms as empty exercises, to be discarded once the election is over. But a platform really is a statement of intent, unbound by the realities of legislative give-and-take. It is an insight into the heart of what “Republicans” would do if there were no constraints.
And note this: if Trump wins the election, it is certain that the Senate and the House would stay with Republican majorities. The party would be able to pass legislation with few or no constraints. What this means for the country can be seen at the state level, where a Republican monopoly in Wisconsin is working to destroy what is left of the unions, in North Carolina where a Republican monopoly is working to restrict voting rights, and in Kansas where a Republican monopoly has bankrupted the state through huge tax cuts. This year’s platform could be a blueprint for the Trump presidency.
It is ironic that some Republicans are calling for a Senate majority to act as a “check” on a Clinton presidency. Perhaps some Democrats should be calling for a Senate majority to act as a “check” on Trump?
This Republican platform promises to:
o Pack the Supreme Court with justices committed to extreme conservative policies;
o Significantly cut taxes for corporations and cut social programs;
o Continue attacks on unions, on financial regulations, and on environmental protections;
o Break down the separation of church and state;
o Support religious discrimination;
o Completely ban abortion;
o Continue to deny that climate change is a problem;
o Substantially increase the military budget and troop levels;
o Abandon the nuclear control deal with Iran and consider “all options” including war;
o Abandon many international agreements and treaties, including those to protect women, children and the disabled, and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
This platform prefers the 1% to the 99%, and it prefers war to peace.
A vote for Trump is a vote for this platform.
A vote for a third party is a vote for this platform.
A refusal to vote is a vote for this platform.
Time to get serious about voting!
Now, let’s look at the platform in more detail.
“Preamble: American Exceptionalism”
With this frightening background, let’s look at the platform.The first sentence in the Preamble is “We believe in American exceptionalism.” It is the ideals of liberty, equality, individualism, including freedom of speech and religion, and of our democratic system that make us exceptional, different from other nations. Note that I focus on the ideals, as the actual behavior of the United States often has contradicted these ideals. If America is exceptional, it will be so to the extent we behave according to those ideals.
But when Republicans speak of exceptionalism, there often is a subtext: we have a moral right to intervene anywhere we choose in the world; we always act from good motives; we never do anything wrong; and apologies are a sign of weakness. The rest of the world looks at our invasions of Iraq and other countries, our military bases everywhere, our long interventions throughout Latin America, and much else, with sceptical eyes. Our self-interest compromises our claims to moral superiority. Are we really so different from every other country that we alone have the right to meddle everywhere? Beware of patriots talking about exceptionalism.
“Preamble: Constitutional Originalism”
“We believe that the Constitution was written not as a flexible document but as our enduring covenant.” Behind these words is a debate from the beginning of the nation until today, on whether the Constitution can be interpreted by the Supreme Court, or simply rigidly applied according to the original text and meanings. This assumes first that the original meanings were clear and universally accepted in the 18th century. Not true. Second, we have a rich tradition of interpreting the Constitution as a living document, using it as a guide to address issues which did not exist at the start.
Conveniently, the Republican position supports the Republican policy of a small and weak government, with strictly limited powers. It is not clear that this policy is accepted by a majority of the citizenry, or that it would succeed in supporting broad prosperity for all. Taking the shackles off business, for example, is a formula for the 1%, not the 99%.
Another example: I see no basis for corporations having the right of free speech in the Constitution, in its original language. Corporations did not exist when the country was founded. But a Republican majority interpreted it that way. Was this originalism?
A third example: The right to bear arms described in the Constitution is linked to the need for a well-regulated militia. The Republican majority interpreted the Constitution as granting an unlimited right to bear arms, while ignoring the language about militias. Was this originalism?
It is obvious that originalism is useful whenever it promotes the Republican goals. Interpretation also is useful when it does the same. The goals are greater than consistency, it seems.That is why this election is crucial for the Supreme Court, which is facing several nominations over the next four years.
“Restoring the American Dream” (The economy)
“Wherever tax rates penalize thrift or discourage investment, they must be lowered.” Quite a prescription. Any tax takes money away from people, so could be characterized as penalizing thrift. Similarly, taxing business takes money away from possible investment, so any business tax discourages investment. Logically then, all taxes need to be lowered, based upon this prescription.
Historically, Republicans have called for lower taxes in good times (the government does not need all the money) and in bad times (the people and businesses need the money). It seems there never is a good reason to raise taxes. In the context of Republicans wanting to starve the government to death, cutting taxes has to be their priority. But Republicans also want to increase defense spending, and maintain Social Security and Medicare. This means that cuts in Federal income must come out of every other program, such as regulatory agencies and assistance to the poor and middle class. Not that this makes economic sense. Contractors and businesses would benefit, and the 99% would suffer.
“We propose to level the international playing field by lowering the corporate tax rate to be on a par with, or below, the rates of other industrial nations.” The fact is that the effective corporate tax rate, that which actually is paid, is about the same for the U.S. as for the other major industrial nations. (1) Individual businesses pay widely differing taxes in the U.S. because of loop-holes and preferences won by lobbyists on Capital Hill. A strong program to eliminate these loop-holes and corporate welfare would help all U.S. businesses to a level playing field, which would be preferable to more tax cuts for the corporate world.
As I have pointed out elsewhere, (2) the share of federal income tax receipts from corporations vs individuals has fallen from over 40% in the 60’s to under 20% today. Right: the corporate share of taxes paid has been cut in half since Reagan. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that actually unfair to the rest of us? Time for corporations to pay more of their fair share?
“The worst of Dodd-Frank is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau....If the Bureau is not abolished, it should be subject to Congressional appropriations.” Republicans want to abolish the Bureau whose purpose is to protect consumers from corporate bad behavior. Again, the interests of the 1% against those of the 99%. Subjecting the Bureau to Congressional appropriations means more Republican control, again favoring the 1%. An independent CFPB is what we need, not a weakened one.
”We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund programs that should not be the business of the federal government.” These programs include aid for mass transit and many alternatives to the car. The car alone deserves government support?
“We renew our call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon law.” This law requires federally funded projects to pay wages at the locally prevailing rates. Repeal would mean lower wages and non-union workers on federal projects. How would this help the 99%?
“We support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws.” Such laws allow workers to opt out of union dues, and continue the long-standing Republican effort to weaken unions. Again, this means lower wages for workers, and greater profits for the 1%
“A Rebirth of Constitutional Government”
“We reject unfair preferences, quotas, and set-asides as forms of discrimination.” By attacking remedies for discrimination as discriminatory, these Republicans continue to double-speak, reversing the meaning of court decisions to help those who have suffered from discrimination for too long. This continues the Southern Strategy by the party, to stand on the side of those who discriminate. How will this help the country to make progress?
“We understand that only by electing a Republican president will America have the opportunity for up to five new constitutionally-minded Supreme Court justices appointed to fill vacancies on the Court...reverse Roe [would outlaw abortion], Obergefell [would outlaw same-sex marriage], and the Obamacare cases.” These Republicans would politicize the Supreme Court as never before, imposing their social views and continuing to involve the government in people’s private sex lives, while at the same time calling to get the government off our backs. It is ok to free businesses from taxes, but not ok to free people to make their own decisions on sexual matters. Is this not tyranny in the name of morality? A throwback to the 1950’s if not to the Middle Ages? As for Obamacare (more properly labelled Romneycare), after years of calling for repeal without a credible substitute, these Republicans do not seem to care about denying affordable health care to tens of millions of Americans. Why is that?
“Requiring that major new federal regulations be approved by Congress before they can take effect.” The premise of the civil service is politically neutral, professional decisions affecting the country. This requirement would make every major regulation subject to political approval. In light of the platform’s other proposals, it is clear that health and environmental regulations would be gutted by a Republican majority, in service to economic interests. Not a good idea for the 99%.
“We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, ... , which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” Simply put, this Act would legalize discrimination against same-sex couples. How is this in keeping with our ideal vision of not imposing religious views on society? The separation of church and state requires businesses to keep religion out of their public work spaces. This Act would be a major step backward, and an attack on a fundamental Constitutional principle. It contradicts Republican so-called reverance for our Constitution.
“We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms...support firearm reciprocity legislation to recognize the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms to protect themselves and their families in all 50 states...oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifles...oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition...” Firearm reciprocity means that any state would have to recognize right-to-carry laws of any other state. This, of course, means federal pre-emption of state rights, something Republicans otherwise argue is a sacred principle in the Constitution. Measures to restrict magazine capacity, or ban the sale of the AR-15, for example, are meant to reduce the potential for mass murder in the country. These Republicans are against this, thus in favor of keeping weapons of mass murder easily available to anyone. How many rounds per second do hunters need, I wonder. Licensing and registration similarly are means to prevent access to weapons by felons and the mentally-unstable. These Republicans support their right to weapons.
“We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm the the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution...We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood...We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.” As noted above, these Republicans will do everything they can to ban abortions, denying women of their right to choose what to do with their bodies and their families. If ever there were an area where government needs to stay out of individual decisions, this is it. Individual conscience is superior to government coercion.
“We support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting.” As has been well-documented, voter ID laws disproportionately keep minorities and the young from voting. This discrimination reduces the numbers of Deomcratic voters. Voter fraud is virtually non-existent, so the intent clearly is to empower the Republican Party. At a time when fewer than half of eligible voters cast ballots, is it really a good idea to reduce the number of eligible voters? Wouldn’t it make more sense to move federal elections to the weekend, and make it easier for people to vote, rather than restricting voting? Which is more democratic?
“America’s Natural Resources: Agriculture, Energy and the Environment”
“We oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.” Labeling empowers individuals to make their own choices of food. These Republicans would deny us this information. Is this a good idea? Who benefits? Not the consumer...
“We support the opening of public lands and outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production...Congress should give authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federally controlled public lands within their respective borders.” This is a prescription for race to the bottom, an incentive for states to compete with each other in cheap energy production. The public lands are a public trust, and need to be managed in the national interest. Removing federal oversight of the public lands will increase environmental damage.
“We oppose any carbon tax.” Even though this would be an efficient means to reduce emissions to meet our climate change goals. Of course, these Republicans deny that climate change is a problem.
“We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission.” A little history: EPA was created in 1970 by Richard Nixon. At that point in time, America’s air and waters were severely polluted. Industries and cities had very little waste treatment. The states were responsible for all environmental regulation, and they had failed. Public outcry led to the environmental movement, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, The Toxic Substances Control Act, and so on. These Republicans propose to take us back to that time, abolishing the EPA and reducing it to a tiny commission. Is that what we want and need for liberals and conservatives alike, who profess care for the environment? I don’t think so.
“The Republican path to fiscal sanity and economic expansion begins with a constitutional requirement for a federal balanced budget....requiring a supermajority for any tax increase with exceptions only for war or legitimate emergencies.” This means that federal expenditures could increase only in good times. In recessions, the budget would have to be cut, meaning no federal stimulus, which would make a recession worse. A supermajority for a tax increase practically would mean no tax increases at all. And the exception for war is laughable: we have not increased taxes to pay for our defense since 9/11, but have more than doubled the defense budget since then; at least $300-400 billion a year extra for defense, adding to the national debt. Again, cuts would have to come out of social programs, hitting the middle class and poor just when their needs increase. Is this good public policy?
On Medicare, Republicans would split the country into those over 55 and those under 55: ”Impose no changes for persons 55 or older. Give others the option of traditional Medicare or transition to a premium-support model.” Of course this model means privatizing Medicare, giving the program to the private insurance companies who routinely denied coverage to many Americans. You can be sure that the private model would provide less coverage for more money than Medicare.
On Medicaid, ”...block-granting the program without strings.” The history of block grants to the states is a history of fund diversions, and competition among the states. Why shouldn’t health care be the same for all Americans, no matter where they live?
On immigration, “We oppose any form of amnesty...” that is, no path to citizenship at all, leaving millions in limbo forever. “Gang membership should be a deportable offense.” Even if gang members are natural born citizens? ”...we support stiffer penalties, such as a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any illegal alien who illegally re-enters our nation...” At a time when the U.S. incarcerates over two million, more than any other country, these Republicans propose to increase the prison population. Do these proposals represent compassionate conservatism?
On the IRS, “We also support making the federal tax code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished.” In the context of other parts of the platform, such a simple tax code definitely would mean much lower taxes for corporations and more burden upon individuals. Again, the 1% over the 99%.
“Great American Families, Education, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice”
“To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based organizations, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.” Simply put, this turns the Constitutional separation of church and state on its head, by permitting faith-based organizations to discriminate in hiring and in services on religious grounds, and by preventing the government from enforcing its anti-discrimination laws. Is this respect for the Constitution?
These Republicans continually attack the separation of church and state, on many fronts. Another example: “We encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in American high schools.” Why is it necessary for the federal government to promote this one book over all others? Isn’t this close to establishing one religion over all others?
On sex, “We renew our call for replacing ‘family planning’ programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.” Only people who have completely forgotten their teen years, and hormone-driven behavior, could believe that the federal government has a role in denying teens their sexual activity. What happened to “getting government off the backs of the people? This is government on our backs, intrusive and paternalistic.
On malpractice, “We support state and federal legislation to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits.” This proposal would take away from juries their ability to set non-economic damages, such as for pain and suffering. Why compromise Americans’ right to a jury of their peers in this way? To protect the insurance companies of course. Another choice for business over people.
“We believe that American exceptionalism - the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world - requires the United States to retake its natural position as leader of the free world.” As I noted earlier, there often is a great distance between our ideals and our actions. It is doubtful that the peoples of Vietnam and Laos see us as moral leaders. It is doubtful that our abandonment of the Arab Spring movements cast us as moral leaders. It is doubtful that the prisoners at Guantanamo think we are moral leaders, after more than a decade without due process. It always is dangerous when asserting moral superiority, especially when seeing what follows in this platform.
”We need a Reagan-era force that can fight and win two-and-a-half wars...We should abandon arms control treaties...We must modernize nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms.” This means substantially increasing our troop levels, encouraging proliferation of arms around the world, and re-starting a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. How will this improve our national security? Or, the world’s security? Many nations already see us as bullies. These proposals would lose our friends and encourage our enemies, precisely the opposite of what we need.
“We support lifting the budget cap for defense.” This means no limits on defense spending, while maintaining the cap for domestic spending, including social programs. How would this improve the lives of the middle class and poor? Defense contractors would get richer, to be sure.
“We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran...non-binding on the next President...We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the survival of our friends.” If these Republicans abandon the nuclear arms deal with Iran, it would lead to renewed Iranian nuclear arms development. And “all options” includes attacking Iran with military force. Do these Republicans really think that a war with Iran is a good idea? Let us remember that in 1952, the CIA financed the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq, leading to 26 years of tyranny under the Shah, as well as the sign-over of 40% of Iran’s oil to U.S. companies. Is it any wonder that so many Iranians doubt our good intentions? How would a war with Iran improve our standing in the Arab world?
“We do not support the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty....we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty....the Republican Party does not accept the jusisdiction of the International Criminal Court.” It is clear that these Republicans would walk away from international law, and have the U.S. go it alone. Nothing could please our enemies more, and appall our friends more, than this renunciation of international agreements, and a go-it-alone stance by the U.S.
I submit for your consideration the proposition that this Republican platform is well, downright un-American, and destructive of the American dream. Think about it.
(1) This is well-documented. See, for example, http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/tax-fairness-briefing-booklet/fact-sheet-corporate-tax-rates/
(2) The Myth of High Corporate Taxes http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allan-abramson/corporate-tax-rates_b_2433836.html?
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
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Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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