It has been a hell of a few weeks in US politics. The usual stagnate and un-moving nature of things has given way, for the moment, and we have recently seen some massive changes in very quick succession. While I consider myself a bit of a politics junkie, some of the changes, like the confederate flag coming down in South Carolina, I can’t even begin to make sense of, others, like gays being extended the right to marry have been long overdue and unquestionably inevitable.
However, what I think has been even more telling than how dramatic and important some of these changes have been is how many of them represent a loss for Republicans and what their handful of victories have been. In just looking at the most recent Supreme Court session, we see loss after loss for the GOP. Gays got the right to marry, tens of millions of people were guaranteed healthcare, voters held on to the right to draw their own voter districts to prevent some of the gerrymandering that has been going on around the country, and states won the right to not issue confederate license plates. Remember, expanded rights, expanded access to healthcare, greater citizen control over our democracy and the removal of a hateful symbol are losses.
That said, Republicans did a get a win in that court session. The win being polluters gaining the right to put as much mercury into the air as they want. According to the court, it costs too much for some companies to fix their plants to prevent this, so they shouldn’t have to not pollute. Unrestricted mercury emissions is a GOP win!
When it comes to the confederate flag, the effort to take it down in SC was led by the state’s Republican governor and was supported in emotional and moving speeches by Strom Thurman’s son (Sen. Thurman was a notorious segregationist), and a descendent of Jefferson Davis (the would be president of confederate South). I along with a lot of others in the black community was more than surprised to see so many Southern Republicans rally behind this issue. That said, there were and still are plenty who took the more traditional Republican view by defending this symbol of hate as a symbol of heritage (a heritage of hate). And it was no surprise that Republicans in the US congress tried to sneak amendments into bills last week to ensure the confederate flag would continue to fly and offend people in federal parks.
The epiphany that seems to have swept across the South in regards to this flag and how it seemingly came from nowhere will have me scratching my head for a long time. However, something that makes more sense is seeing Donald Trump, the “billionaire” Republican presidential candidate, rise in polls after using some of the most racist and hateful language used by a national politician in my lifetime. There was nothing subtle or veiled about his words and when given a chance to walk it back, he doubled and tripled down, which has only gained him more Republican support. While I don’t think there’s any chance this blowhard has what it takes to go the distance, his rise does give support to that old saying that “Not all republicans are racist, but most racists are republicans.” So for some Republicans, finding a bigot willing to speaking openly is a win!
All this said, Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin, joined the race this week and timed his announcement with some legislative accomplishments he thinks he can run on. Namely, he removed wording from the states’ budget that said state workers should be paid a “living wage.” While that wording has proven to be meaningless under Walker since the government there has not allowed any state worker to successfully argue that minimum wage isn’t a living wage, despite what experts at MIT have concluded. The bigger point, however, is that this along with workers no longer granted the right to have at least one day off a week, are both seen as GOP wins. People not earning enough to live on and not having the right to any days off are wins for Republicans!
Last but not least, Obama just delivered another loss to the GOP this week in announcing a nuclear arms deal with Iran. While it reduces Iran’s current stockpile of nuclear materials by 98% and promises to be the strictest inspection program ever, Republicans, who can’t ever seem to explain what an acceptable deal would look like, continue to call the deal dangerous. War is the only logical outcome, according to their inability to explain what peace would look like. So peace is a loss, whereas war would be a win.
I can’t pretend to understand what’s going on in Republican politics right now. It seems they’re lost in the woods and set to have one of the nastiest and most divisive primary seasons ever. It could be their long awaited civil war is upon us. The far right and economic conservatives haven’t had anything in common in a very long time. Perhaps this is the election where they just have to put all their bad ideas forward and lose terribly so they can go back to the drawing board and start over. Personally, I think Republicans know they can’t this time. I think most of the people who are running are in it because they want to come in second. The GOP has a long history of running the guy who comes in second the next time around. They can avoid Hillary and be setup for the next elections when the dynamics in the party and in the country are different and maybe even get a multi-million dollar contract to be a commentator on Fox News in meanwhile.