Thursday, July 9, 2015

All Roads Don't Lead To Rome

There has been this persistent meme over the last few years that both parties are basically the same. They're corrupt and hopelessly beholden to their own narrow self interests. They could care less about their constituents and their main concern is about staying in power, no matter what the cost to the country.

Now I won't insult your intelligence by saying there isn't some kernel of truth to this. These days, it's pretty damn hard to look at the polarization that has gripped Washington without wanting to throw up. But, despite all the nonsense and the gridlock, there are clear differences that distinguish both parties. And those differences will go a long way towards determining what kind of country we live in over the next four years and beyond.

Go down the list of issues - the economy, the environment, gay rights, healthcare, immigration reform, voting rights - and then look at the platforms of both parties. If you really can't tell the differences, you're braindead.

The Economy: Democrats are for raising the minimum wage and a tax system that rewards the middle class and asks the top 2 percent to pay a little more. Republicans are for massive tax breaks for the wealthy and for reducing the deductions that the middle class and working poor desperately need to make ends meet.

The Environment: Democrats believe that global warming is caused by man and want to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere. Republicans to a man and woman deny that global warming is caused by man and are for eliminating virtually all regulations on coal-run power plants. The latest Supreme Court ruling against the Obama Administration proves just how determined the GOP is in overturning EPA regulations.

Gay Rights: Democrats support them. Republicans don't. It's that simple.

Healthcare: Democrats were exclusively responsible for passing the Affordable Care Act. Republicans opposed it at every turn. While the healthcare law does have its problems, the GOP has been unwilling to assist Democrats in fixing them, instead concentrating all their efforts into repealing it. Whether or not you think Obamacare is a good thing, the fact is, the GOP has no alternative plan to put in its place and most likely never will.

Immigration reform: Democrats, with the help of a few brave Republicans, passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate. It was never allowed an up and down vote in the House because it was blocked by conservatives who are vehemently against any bill that has a pathway to citizenship.

Voting Rights: Democrats oppose any attempt to suppress the votes of minorities and poor people, whose only crime is that they don't have a photo id. Republicans keep claiming that their only concern is wide-spread voter fraud, but have not, as of yet, offered up any hard evidence that any exists. What is certain and indisputable is that the overwhelming majority of those affected by these voter suppression laws tend to vote Democrat. Hmmm.

Any questions?

Look, I realize it's tempting to throw up your hands and, like Ed Norton, say "a pox on both your houses." Some days I find myself uttering the same thing. But if one digs deep and gets beyond the minutia to the substantive issues, it becomes painfully clear just how foolish such thinking can be. Yes, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush come from political dynastic families that represent the power elite of the country, and it's not surprising that both have had trouble energizing their respective bases. There's no denying though that, if given the chance, both would govern very differently.

Think about this for a moment. The next president will likely get to nominate one or possibly two Supreme Court justices. Did you enjoy the Obergefell and King decisions? I did. Want to see them reversed? Easy. Just vote Republican or sit out the 2016 election and watch a future President Paul, or Bush or Rubio nominate the justices who cast the deciding votes against both. Think it can't happen? Read Michael Tomasky's piece in the Daily Beast about being "relaxed" (his word) and complacent (mine).

Remember, apathy is the ultimate enemy of any Democracy. Being a Monday-morning quarterback is all fine and dandy when it comes to your favorite sports team. When it comes to who gets to run the country, it can have tragic consequences.

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