An Open Letter to the Republican Powers-That-Be
Dear Republican Elite,
For more than 30 years, in your desire for unchecked power you have mounted a campaign to delegitimize and sabotage the role of government as an instrument of the public interest.
You’ve led the charge to cut taxes on the rich and roll back regulations that enforce fair business practices and protect the public. You promised us that supply-side economics and free market fundamentalism would unleash the power and genius of the private sector to create jobs, promote widespread prosperity, and strengthen our economy.
And for a very few, that promise paid handsome dividends: a small number of you have benefited tremendously – but at tremendous cost to so many.
And because of the disastrous record of the previous administration, voters elected a Democratic president and Congress in their desire to steer the nation in a new direction.
It was at this point that your loyal opposition turned into deadly brinksmanship. In your determination to obstruct a president working to lift this nation out of a historic crisis – and to lay the groundwork for a return to power – you organized, funded, and championed a reactionary rearguard movement you hailed as the Tea Party.
You whipped up this assortment of rabid partisans, anti-government extremists, social and fiscal conservatives, xenophobes, crackpot theorists, racists and neo-confederates in order to provide political cover for your campaign of massive resistance to government activism, reconciliation and reform by America’s first black president.
At every opportunity, your combative opposition movement pushed to block progress and protect your position of privilege, filibustering hundreds of pieces of legislation and agitating and manufacturing political crises in an attempt to make our nation ungovernable.
Attempts to slash spending culminated in an unprecedented refusal to raise the debt ceiling, taking us to the brink of national default and resulting in our first-ever credit downgrade. This grim, destructive and entirely unnecessary
showdown, which resulted in crippling across-the-board spending cuts that have hampered our national economic recovery, was followed by a series of government shutdowns or shutdown threats mounted to undo healthcare reform and executive action on immigration.
Since then we have endured similar brinksmanship over voting and abortion rights, funding for Planned Parenthood, marriage equality, arms control, education reform, and efforts to end discrimination.
Republicans have blocked job-creation bills and dozens of judicial appointments – including one on the Supreme Court – and have gutted the Voting Rights Act and prevented discussion of common sense gun safety regulations.
Beyond this shocking dereliction of duty, Congress has become little more than a rolling partisan grand jury committed to endless investigations of its Democratic political opponents on trumped-up charges.
Today we have Republican Congressional leaders threatening to void executive action on power plant emissions and an historic global climate change agreement. Last year 47 Republican senators wrote a letter to leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran in an effort to kill a landmark agreement among the world’s powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes – even though the alternative could be an unavoidable slide to war.
In your desire to maintain power, you backed politicians who have allowed economic inequality to reach near-crisis levels, and you have given voice to an hysterical nativist movement that is motivated by fear, resentment, intolerance and hatred, and which insists that it alone is the true heir to our Constitutional tradition –– but which also rejects the spirit of bipartisan compromise, demonizes its political opponents as illegitimate enemies with no right to govern, rejects the spirit of scientific and scholarly inquiry, and in its ideological extremism and increasingly violent rhetoric appears hellbent on overthrowing our established norms of social and political economy and international affairs.
These are the people who call themselves "pro-life" but would deny a rape victim compassion and her human dignity, and would also deny millions of people health care via Medicaid, and who cheered when the Supreme Court did their dirty work and gutted the Medicaid expansion component of the Affordable Care Act.
They would force the unemployed and working poor to submit to a humiliating drug test as a condition for getting government assistance, deny free or reduced-fee school lunches to children from needy families, condone police brutality and unequal justice in our courts, rip law-abiding immigrant families apart and deny their children an education and needed social services, mock the concept of civil rights for religious, ethnic or sexual minorities, and vigorously defend the right to discriminate out of some notion of "religious freedom."
All while defending or expanding subsidies and tax cuts to the largest, most profitable banks and businesses, rewarding firms that send our jobs overseas, and gutting regulations on predatory banks and corrupt and polluting businesses.
And opportunistically taking advantage of must-pass spending bills to insert riders that weaken laws that were enacted in the aftermath of our financial crisis to stabilize our banking system, and also weaken campaign finance regulations meant to restore faith in the fairness and legitimacy of our democratic process.
Meanwhile, low interest rates mean millions of Americans could be put to work modernizing our aging and crumpling infrastructure, which would also upgrade our workforce's skills and make our public facilities safer and more efficient for business and daily life. But even though time is running out – the Federal Reserve Board is expected to raise interest rates again this year – Republican lawmakers feel no urgency to act on this proven economic stimulator, even though they campaigned vowing to jump-start a sluggish economic recovery that their own party's obstruction has prolonged.
And though ISIS continues to slaughter thousands and destabilize the Middle East and has made no secret of their territorial ambitions, there has been no vote – not even a discussion – on an authorization to use military force against them, while these same Republican Congressmen accuse our administration of coddling terrorists and even siding with our enemies.
And Donald Trump, your own party’s presidential nominee, had the unmitigated gall to go even farther, calling our president and Commander-in-Chief the “founder” of ISIS, and the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton the co-founder.
Is this what you wanted when you recruited and deployed this insurgent faction against a Democratic administration that has worked diligently, desperately – and often single-handedly – to contain the fallout from the previous administration’s Crash of 2008 and unnecessary wars, promote a sustainable economic revival, restore frayed relations with our allies, help millions of medically uninsured Americans in crisis, address an imminent climate catastrophe, and curb the risks posed by an unregulated financial system?
Today, the Republican Party, which you have championed as the sensible pro-business party, has become an irresponsible, destructive force in this nation and has abandoned any claim to represent the needs of the citizenry. And because of the promises that you cynically have made – and then expediently broken – to your own constituents, you have now fueled a nihilist anti-establishment movement that has rejected your influence, your agenda and your preferred candidates and instead has embraced the racist, sexist and xenophobic alt-right movement and its champion, Donald Trump.
Trump, who espouses a blustery, jingoistic “America First” unilateralism that has rattled our allies, has said he will build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it, expel an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in what would surely be a new Trail of Tears, block Muslims from entering the country, and impose American economic hegemony under the threat of protectionism.
He has also expressed his admiration for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian leaders, raised doubts about his willingness to uphold Ukrainian sovereignty and defend our allies in eastern Europe if attacked by Russia, said that NATO might be obsolete, stated that perhaps Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia might be better off with their own nuclear weapons, and that he would not rule out nuking Europe to combat ISIS.
His isolationist foreign policies would most likely encourage Russian adventurism, and his protectionist economic and trade policies would most likely benefit China’s expansionism.
Your own economic advisors project that a Trump presidency would lead to a recession and the loss of millions of jobs.
Your own military and foreign policy experts have called his ideas “dangerous.”
Our nation’s allies are alarmed.
Is this what you want?
And because of this terrifying prospect, dozens of prominent Republicans have denounced Donald Trump and promised to vote for Hillary Clinton. And with her high levels of support among Democrats and the inroads she is making with moderate Republicans, educated white professionals and married women, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency.
But that is not enough.
No, it is not enough to excise Trump from the GOP; he is merely a symptom of a larger malignancy that has metastasized across the Republican base. And because a Democratic president saddled with an obstructionist Congress in the thrall of an insurgent, aggrieved, know-nothing base only promises more unproductive gridlock and recriminations at a time when economic inequality threatens social upheaval, and global instability threatens our national security and the prospects of peace and prosperity.
And no, wistfully holding out hope for some tricky ticket-splitting, or the ability of a more moderate Republican Congress to rein in an alarmingly erratic Trump presidency, does not seem realistic.
No, we also need a Democratic Congress that is willing with work with a Democratic president and a thoughtful, responsible opposition.Because a political movement founded on hatred, resentment, bitterness, outrage and score-settling has discredited itself and has proven itself to be unfit to govern.
And since you regard yourselves as the Party of Business, let me present a proposition. Here is the bargain that is before you:
By supporting a Democratic president and a Democratic-majority Congress, you can be assured of the passage of sound and effective policies and investments that create jobs, strengthen the economy, boost the fortunes of workers and business interests alike, and strengthen the nation’s balance sheet.
Also, a preference to resolving international disputes diplomatically – and without unpredictability – and expanding diplomatic, trade and security ties with other nations will further enhance our national interest and promote peace and stability abroad.
Moreover, expanding educational opportunities and access to healthcare, upgrading our nation’s infrastructure, and upholding fairness and stability in our financial sector will also pay long-term dividends and protect long-term value. Just as importantly, these policies will also contribute to greater social harmony and defuse the volatility created by mounting economic inequality, racial strife, and social polarization.
This nation became the strongest, wealthiest, and most innovative nation on earth because of our unique social compact that prized both the rights of the private individual and the public interests of the commonwealth as vital to the formation of a more-perfect union.
And yet, the entire world was plunged into the first global economic crisis in its history largely because of the unbridled greed and insanely risky business practices of a private sector that had convinced the public of the merits of self-regulation by the marketplace.
It took a Democratic president, acting against unprecedented Republican obstruction, to successfully overcome the worst ravages of that crisis: Corporate profits and the stock market are at record levels, consumer spending is rebounding, and unemployment rates and our nation’s deficit are declining.
Much work remains to be done. And because you have profited tremendously from President Obama’s success, it is incumbent upon you to recognize our social compact and fulfill your responsibility as citizens as we proceed together to meet the challenges facing this great republic that we all share.
As a prominent Republican from the previous administration recently said while endorsing Hillary Clinton, “It is too late to save our party, but it’s not too late to save our country.”
What’s in it for you? A happier, safer, and more just world for all of us to share, and a growing, stable and upwardly mobile middle-class with greater opportunity for people to advance, fulfill their potential, and live their lives in dignity without fear of being exploited and victimized – the best, most sustainable hope for our long-term prosperity and the realization of the American Dream.
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