Remember when you were a kid there was always one friend who had very strict parents. While there were rules and consequences in your house, this friend seemed to live in a home of “zero tolerance”. Their situation made your parents seem the model of understanding and compassion. But the real difference was that you lived in a home in which there was an assumption that you were a good person who did your best to be honest, respectful and hardworking. If you didn’t live up to those expectations there were consequences to be paid, but always in an atmosphere of unconditional love and understanding. In the home of your friend the assumption was that he was lazy, disrespectful and deceitful, and he could only be kept on the “straight and narrow” with the harshest of discipline and “tough love”. That friend of yours, no doubt, lived in a Republican home.
For the past five years the narrative of the GOP has been typical of that harsh parent. They are basically saying to all of us (that is 47% of us) that we have made it because we have worked hard and we deserve everything we have. You, on the other hand, are where you are as result of your own doing and you deserve to be where you are. Therefore, we will do everything we can to keep us where we are, and you where you are. The,”us”, by the way includes corporate America, Wall Street, as well as the wealthiest among us. The one thing you can say about the GOP is that they do what they say. The House of Representatives voted 109 times to undermine environmental controls. Who do you think benefited by those votes? Certainly, the oil industry was not disappointed at this turn of events.. More restrictive abortion legislation was passed between 2011 and 2013 than during the entire previous decade. If you can’t control your sexual urges and behavior, you must pay the consequences. Who’s parent does that sound like? Rand Paul recently stated that expanding Unemployment Benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks is a disservice to the long-term unemployed because it just makes it easier not to seek employment. He even went so far as to quote a study showing this to be the fact. One problem, the author of the study quoted by Paul says that he completely misrepresented the study’s conclusions. That’s right, Rand Paul, trying to make the case for an assumption of laziness, misstated the conclusions of the study. How many times have we seen a situation in a movie or TV show where the wife beater standing over the bleeding spouse expresses sorrow for his behavior, but lays the responsibility on the wife for making him beat her? Learning to sound compassionate after behaving with brutality is a real skill, so much so that the GOP just sent a memo out to its members to help them in that area. This was sent out to explain their position on not extending Unemployment Benefits. Wouldn’t you like to grow up in that home?
The fact is, the GOP, with the urging of the Tea Party, has become the party of “tough love”. They truly believe that we make our own beds and we must sleep in them. They discount any economic circumstances that impact on the makeup of that bed. While they profess admiration for those who “lift themselves up by their own bootstraps” they continue to cut those very bootstraps. Their sole objective is to protect their own position whether through restricting the vote, cutting funding for “safety net” programs or attempting to repeal the ACA. They like their beds, and they don’t want to make room for anyone else to jump in.
Listen to the rhetoric of the GOP during the coming months as they seek both the financial and political support of their base. They will talk about the need to act with fiscal responsibility, the need to create jobs and the need to reduce the size of government. Yet is was under their leadership that the most jobs were lost, the government grew at the fastest rate and the deficit mushroomed without GOP restraint. Unfortunately, “tough love” often comes with hypocrisy and self-delusion, as illustrated by the wife beater.
2014 will be our chance to confront this absurdity and force the changes necessary for the good and for the soul of our country. Let’s make this mid-term election one that will help put us back on the right track. We need to return to the values that led to The War On Poverty 50 years ago. At that time this country, the envy the world over, stood for compassion, respect for individual freedom, help for those in need and empathy. It is time to take America back, and live those values once again.