Former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas sat slightly slumped in his wheelchair on the Senate floor on Tuesday, staring intently as Senator John Kerry gave his most impassioned speech all year, in defense of a United Nations treaty that would ban discrimination against people with disabilities.What was the reasoning behind rejecting a non-binding treaty which would have no effect on existing US law? Again from the Times:
Senators from both parties went to greet Mr. Dole, leaning in to hear his wispy reply, as he sat in support of the treaty, which would require that people with disabilities have the same general rights as those without disabilities. Several members took the unusual step of voting aye while seated at their desks, out of respect for Mr. Dole, 89, a Republican who was the majority leader.Then, after Mr. Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, rolled him off the floor, Republicans quietly voted down the treaty that the ailing Mr. Dole, recently released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, so longed to see passed.
Among their fears about the disabilities convention were that it would codify standards enumerated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — and therefore United Nations bureaucrats would be empowered to make decisions about the needs of disabled children — and that it could trump state laws concerning people with disabilities.Yes, the evil United Nations and their faceless bureaucrats would swoop in on their black helicopters with blue-helmeted soldiers from Sri Lanka and take over state governments in the name of disability rights.
Another reason for GOP reticence? Home schooling. From Talking Points Memo:
“I do oppose the CRPD because I think it does impinge upon our sovereignty,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “Unelected bureaucratic bodies would implement the treaty and pass so-called recommendations that would be forced upon the United Nations and the U.S. … This would especially affect those parents who home-school their children. … The unelected foreign bureaucrats, not parents, would decide what is in the best interests of the disabled child, even in the home.”Again, the fact that this was a treaty which would require no change to US law was beyond the point; somehow, laws would change, via those powerful "recommendations" which would somehow be forced upon poor, put-upon US lawmakers. How this would come to pass is best left to one's imagination. But, I would wager that black helicopters and Sri Lankan soldiery would be involved.
I'm not arguing the merits of the treaty—although, for what it's worth, a treaty which merely stipulates that discriminating against those with disabilities should be illegal, and which is based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, should be as controversial as voting to rename a post office. But this episode does shed more light into the dark recesses of the majority of the Republican Party.
Right now a bestseller on the Right is Glenn Beck's Agenda 21. According to Think Progress:
Agenda 21 is a completely non-binding international framework for sustainability passed in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. The framework, which sets out very loose aspirational goals for making communities more efficient and less carbon-intensive, was signed by then President George H.W. Bush and later upheld by Presidents Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.It is another aspirational framework—not even a binding treaty—which advises UN members that perhaps it would be wiser if we could be better stewards of the only planet we have.
In the hands of the conspiratorial Right, it has turned into a master plan to depopulate the countryside—where "real Americans" live—and drive everyone into the cities where the populace can be controlled by—you guessed it—UN black helicopters and blue-helmeted Sri Lankan soldiers, in a reverse Khmer Rouge plan to start at Year Zero and save the earth for Thumper and the all-powerful world government nomenklatura. Google "Agenda 21" and you will be treated to conspiracy theories which would make Pat Robertson blush. It is the Unified Field Theory of the coming New World Order.
Silly as it sounds, GOP-dominated state governments have gone on record as opposing any attempt to impose Agenda 21 on their states. They will resist, with legal avenues and with force, if needed.
It used to be that fears of one-worldism were relegated to the militia movement and the remnants of the John Birch Society. But from the Reagan official who once said America would wave bon voyage to the UN should it leave New York, now to elected Republican officials preparing for the UN Armageddon, what once was fodder for poorly printed newsletters is now a dominant discourse in one of the America's two major political parties.
The GOP fears anything which doesn't fall within the purview of "Americanism", at least as they interpret that vague word. George Washington warned the country of "foreign entanglements". That horse has long left the barn. The GOP is fine with being entangled with the world—as long as the world acquiesces to US standards. And that's what is so ironic about the treaty. From TPM:
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities essentially makes the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act a non-binding international standard. It requires no change to U.S. law.The world, at least in this instance, wants to be more like the US; but because it is a UN treaty, it is anathema to the dominant faction in the GOP. Any hint of nations banding together to form a consensus is a threat to its vision of US power; even something as laudatory as a document which brings US disability law to the rest of the world becomes sinister when sifted through the UN sieve.
This is all of a part with birtherism: Obama looks foreign, sounds foreign, and seems to have foreign ideas, so he can't be a real American. It is a parochialism which runs as a thread through American history, where defining Americanness meant having an Other as a foil.
And it's also part and parcel of the modern Republican Party: its narrow-mindedness; it's utter lack of regard for anyone not of its circle—and often not even them; its disbelief in any kind of common humanity which binds together the world's peoples. A convention which has been US domestic law for 22 years becomes suspect when it returns from the foreign recesses of the UN. A health care law which incorporated many once-mainstream Republican ideas becomes the greatest tyranny ever faced by the nation when translated into action by a foreign usurper.
The nation cannot long abide such a state of affairs. A healthy democracy requires at least two parties which compete with differing views, but inhabit the same realm of reality. At this time, the United States does not have that. Somehow, the fever swamp must be dredged.