Thursday, August 22, 2013

So, Secede, Already!

I've ridden a lot of political pendulums in my day. I've lived through assassinations and impeachment and resignation and scandals and recessions and wars and various movements of one kind or another. But, no matter what, I believed that America was on an ascending path. Sometimes the incline was so gradual, you could barely feel it,  while other times we bounded forward. Always though, the progress was upward. We became more tolerant of others who were different whether in race, gender or sexual orientation, more conscious of our environment, more compassionate toward the vulnerable.

Of course, Americans never agreed completely and we fought some battles royal in Congress and state legislatures about individual policies. What are the fairest tax rates and what about the budget and what restrictions should there be on abortion and what about guns and how regulated should corporations be? But, over all, it seemed we had more or less the same vision for America as the "shining beacon on the hill. The standard, most of us agreed, was an America that was was just to all its citizens, an America that was founded on, and lived by, principles of honor, an America that took its stewardship of its land and air and water seriously. We didn't always live up to it, or agree on how to accomplish it, but that was the collective ideal.

Now, for the first time in my life (I'm 67), I see us going backward instead of forward. I see one of the two major political parties nominate ignorant men who have sheer contempt for science to the legislative science committees. They pooh-pooh the vast majority of experts who warn about climate change even as the polar caps melt and the seas rise and the storms become ever more deadly. They spout the most ridiculous theories about conception, especially as it pertains to rape. They teach our children backward theories from the Bible that will only sabotage American students' ability to get the professional jobs of the future.

I see racism come flooding back like a tidal wave of ugliness. The Supreme Court abolishes an important part of the Civil Rights Act and red states don't even wait 24 hours before rushing bills to the floor to pass ever more repressive voter suppression laws, even ones that had been adjudged discriminatory before the court made its decision. I see them trying to stop college students from voting. I see them cut early voting hours and forcing 9,500 voters into a polling place designed for 1,500. I see them labeling a teenage boy innocently walking down the street a "thug" as a justification for why a pretend cop had to shoot him and why we need "Stand Your Ground" laws. And Congress, which reauthorized the Voting Rights Act just a few short years ago with huge majorities, sits on its hands, knowing the House Republicans would never allow legislation to come to the floor.

I am amazed at where we've found ourselves in so many of the red states where governors have passed arbitrary laws closing women's health clinics (where many poor women go, not just for abortions but also mammograms and cancer screenings and family planning supplies). I see that women have once again become the property of men, not our husbands, but our politicians, who mandate that if we want an abortion we must agree to have an invasive tool shoved into our vaginas and that our doctors must lie to us, by law!

The same right-wingers who rant and rave against President Obama, whom they accuse of trampling our rights and taking our freedom and shredding the Constitution, are the ones who take away rights that have already been deemed constitutional - the right to an abortion, the right of college students to vote on their campus, the right to have access to healthcare (which was duly passed by Congress and declared certified by the Supreme Court), the right of gays to marry, the right of workers to collectively bargain. They refuse to honor the laws they don't agree with. North Carolina considered a bill naming Christianity the state religion, in direct opposition to one of our basic founding principles. And don't even get me started on the various moronic bills that have passed in red states regarding guns (such as making it a felony for federal agents to confiscate guns based on a law that doesn't exist). How respectful of the Constitution is all of that?

It appears that the ultra-conservatives have simply given up on democracy in the states where they have super-majorities (and they've re-districted their precincts in such a way that those majorities are likely to persist). Michigan, for instance, has done away with democracy altogether. The governor of that state can arbitrarily appoint town managers to take over from elected officials. The Manager is essentially a dictator who can tear up contracts and close schools and sell off assets that belong to the people. The voters of Michigan disagreed with giving the governor this power and repealed the law. What did the Republicans do? Why they simply passed it again, making it recall-proof the second time. Take that, Michigan voters!

In Ohio, the Republicans stuffed all their new abortion restrictions into their budget, something that had never been done before. It more or less happened in secret and can't be repealed. (Too add insult to injury, Governor Kasich signed the budget with only men surrounding him and invited a little boy, about four, to help him sign it. See, Ohio women, you don't have as much standing in your government as even the youngest male child is case you had any doubts).

Power has gone to the heads of giddy North Carolina Republicans. They've passed a positive plethora of new laws regarding voter suppression and abortion (despite the new governor, McCrory promising that he would sign no new abortion restrictions). They've proposed closing polling places on NC campuses and passed legislation that will shut down most women's health clinics in the state. Alabama is in the process of shuttering it's last clinic. Ditto other red states. They pass these abominations in the middle of the night or in special session or they hook them on to other types of bills (in NC, it was a motorcycle safety bill!) They make protesting their actions so onerous as to be all but impossible. When Wendy Davis filibustered Texas' new abortion bill, she had to stand for 11 hours without sitting down, without leaning on the podium, without eating, without drinking, without going to the bathroom, without letting anyone taking her place for even a moment, In Texas, they refuse health care funding from the federal government and throw tens of thousands of women off of Medicaid. And many of these states are doing the same with Obamacare even though it is a clear financial benefit to their state. They prefer to see their citizens uninsured.

Several states, including Texas have begun grinding down their asphalt roads in favor of going back to gravel, claiming they can no longer afford paved roads. Are we kidding? Other countries, like China, for God's sake, are investing in new dams and high speed rail and alternative energy sources and in America, we can no longer even afford to pave our freaking roads? Seriously?

And on a national level, I've seen things I've never seen before in my lifetime from a party so obstructionist, it appears they are willing to bring down their country if it means bringing down the president they loathe. Over and over, they plunge our economy into uncertainty and crisis - debt ceilings and sequester and a new record for filibusters and refusing to confirm a president's appointments and a downgraded credit rating and a possible shutdown. They refuse to pass a jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, a farm bill, an immigration bill. When Putin complains about Obama, they sympathize with Putin! They evidently can't even bring themselves to be loyal to an America led by Barack Obama!

And not only has the right-wing of the Republican party gone completely off the rails, the right-wing segment of the Supreme Court has followed them over the cliff. It used to be that the Supreme Court justices went to great lengths to appear non-political. Of course, we knew from how they voted which way they leaned but they weren't advocates for their beliefs off the bench. No more. Now Justice Thomas' wife works openly for a conservative organization. Now Antonin Scalia proudly gives speeches touting his radical credentials. So, it doesn't appear that we can count on them to try to bring the scales of justice back into sync. But we probably figured as much after Bush v Gore, didn't we?

And I keep hearing impeachment talk. The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton and now they'd like to impeach Obama (although I haven't been able to ascertain on what grounds) so it appears that they truly believe that they should always get their way and if the voters disagree, then they are justified to overturn the people's will because, don't you know, they have all the right answers and the rest of us are, obviously morons, incapable of making momentous decisions such as who should be president.

So, you know what? I'm sick of them. I'm ready to let them secede. Let the red states form the Conservative States of America. Let them elect Ted Cruz as their president. Let them make a certain form of religious Christian fundamentalism their "official" national religion. Let them ban abortions and be governed by only one party (is that the same as fascism?) and give every baby a gun on its first birthday. I hate to see a gorgeous state like Louisiana sell its wetlands and gulf coast to the highest bidder, be it oil company or chemical company, but heck, they've pretty much already done that anyway. Let all their schools be fundamentalist Christian schools producing masses of misinformed graduates. Let their poor go hungry and uninsured. Let them go back to the halcyon days when only white male property owners could vote. Let them form their own army (I mean, if they all have guns, it shouldn't be too hard to raise a militia, should it?) Let them decide for themselves whether people should pay any taxes at all (as it is, most of them collect more from the feds than they pay in, unlike most blue states, and of course, they'd have to give that up. And, heck, if they think gravel roads are hunky-dory, I guess it should be their decision. Let them outlaw unions and privatize Medicare and Medicaid. Let them do their own scientific research about how dinosaur farts caused global warming in an earlier time and how pregnant victims of rape should be stoned because conception proves they are lying about the sex not being consensual. Let them build a giant electrical fence and then add a moat full of crocodiles around their boundaries to keep out anyone not deemed welcome in their society.

Meanwhile, here in the good old USA, we'll build a progressive nation that cares about its environment and its poor and believes that every citizen should have the same civil rights and the same access to healthcare and we'll be willing to pay for it, as we always have been. We'll continue to try to develop exciting new sources of energy and high speed rail and cures for diseases. We'll continue to try to improve our schools. We'll raise the minimum wage and the salaries of teachers and bring back collective bargaining rights. We'll let gays marry and give the Dreamers a path to citizenship. We'll try to equalize prison sentences between whites and blacks and throw fewer people behind bars for non-violent drug crimes. We'll allow women to make their own family planning decisions.

We'll let the CSA have Alito and Scalia and Thomas and we'll take the rest (well, Kennedy can decide for himself) and fill the empty slots with enlightened judges. We'll wash our hands of Guantanamo and either let the inmates go or put them in prisons on American soil. I guess if the conservative states want to keep it, they'll have to be willing to fund it. We'll make our voting rules and regulations uniform among all our states and encourage everyone who is eligible to vote.

When areas of the USA suffer catastrophe, we'll provide funds to help them rebuild. We'll regulate insurance companies and banks and oil companies so that they have to treat their customers fairly.

You might think this would mean we'd want and expect all the Republicans to decamp to the new country but that's not true. Most of us progressives prefer a strong two-party system. We believe the ideal government consists of checks and balances and the two parties contribute to that. We'd happily welcome the Republican party of Eisenhower and even Reagan and many of the old statesmen the party used to send to Washington. I truly believe many mainstream Republicans would welcome this as well. I think many of them would love nothing more than to break the stranglehold the right-wingers have on their party.

Of course, there would have to be a interim period so all the conservatives in blue state America can relocate to red state America and vice versa. Let's see, they'll lose lots of women, young people, Latinos, Blacks, gays and the elderly. We'll lose, um, well, I guess people who idolize guns and hate abortion, along with a lot of NASCAR fans. Can't think who else. Maybe Ted Nugent can write a new national anthem for their brand new country.

Then we'll just sit back and watch to see who prospers.