In Ohio, two government officials are accused of attempting to irrevocably damage a fundamental institution of our great country, the right to vote. How? Well, by extending the weekend hours by which citizens in their district could vote-in early, of course.
32 states this election year have run through bills concerning voter registration, only a slight decrease from the 34 states that saw legislation try to pass through their Congress last year. Most of these bills revolve around tightening up restrictions on the forms of ID needed to hand in a ballot, under the auspices of safeguarding the polls from voter fraud. Nearly all of them are wholly and empirically useless. That’s because voter fraud is a problem without a bogeyman; the exceedingly rare cases-someone stands a higher chance of being struck by lightning than of witnessing a documented fraud-that do occur wouldn’t necessarily even be stopped by the ID laws being squeezed out by the bucketful.
What the proposed laws are great at doing though, via time-consuming, confusing or expensive requirements, is marginalizing entire swathes of citizens from being able to vote successfully. Groups like the elderly, poorer minorities or students, the same groups who tend to vote Democrat. And surprise, surprise, the backers behind these suddenly necessary laws all happen to be Republican. Like Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who fired the two officials that defied his ban of extending hours. Or Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose restrictions on third-party voter registration groups were only recently just struck down as unconstitutional, though not before slowing registrations in his state down to a crawl. Let’s not forget Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who after sending off letters asking 4000 ‘suspected non-citizens’ to present proof of citizenship, eventually needed to admit that about 90% of them were Americans after all. Certainly not last or least, is Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who hardly minced words about his accomplishments this election period:
Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
The list goes on and on. An entire political party driving its focus towards finding as many ways to squeeze out citizens from the most basic freedom of choice. And they’re succeeding.
As the Legion of Doom wraps up their summer summit and with our national elections only a scant two months, I figure it’s only becoming of me to address one of my particular pet peeves of the political variety: The ‘Both Sides Are Just As Bad’ argument. I’ve had more than one friendly discussion about the merits of our political system, as incredibly rotting as it is, end with someone pulling out the trump card of casting a pox on both houses and refusing to pick any other option than C. None of the Above. And it’s frustrating. It’s honestly more frustrating than seeing the fringe views of the Right become more brazen about stepping up front and center as the sole voice of the people.
Let’s put this simply. Both sides are not just as bad. The level of badness is something you can spend an entire day debating on a CNN roundtable, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the U.S. is quickly free-falling into a first-world parody of itself, with the Conservatives right there at the epicenter nudging it along. The GOP and its policies are anti-science, anti-women, anti-minority, anti-poor, anti-economy, and perhaps most stunningly of all, anti-reality. Virtually every cause they campaign for actively harms the country as a whole. Name me a talking point of the GOP platform and I’ll name you something wrong with it. Like so:
Reinstating the Gold Standard: Not only would it leave us vulnerable to fluctuations in the gold market and unable to maneuver ourselves economically, it’s likely not possible to bring back on a wide scale. Not even Reagan in the 80′s was willing to give this crackpot idea more than a passing glance. Also, last time I checked, this isn’t the United States of Warcraft.
School Vouchers: Let’s leave aside that there hasn’t yet been any marked improvement among students given federal money to attend different schools of their choice, and focus on the fact that in Louisiana, the money is finding its way into schools more interested in teaching creationism than basic biology to its students.
Abortion: Pro-lifers reject science, distort facts, and leave disadvantaged women unable to get the health care they need by shutting down clinics that dare to also offer abortions. Then there was that time they nearly shut down the economy over funding being given to Planned Parenthood. Speaking of-
Economy: Romney’s vagueness aside, the little he has provided about his proposed tax reform shows a complete lack of appreciation for 3rd grade math, with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center unable to find any way his reforms don’t end up cutting taxes for the top 5% of the country, while raising everyone else’s. While that’s not bad in of itself-if by not bad, you mean a disastrous burden to throw onto already struggling Americans of course-it also flat-out contradicts Romney’s promise to not raise taxes on the middle class.
Global Warming- Oh my god, global warming. From the Captain Planet villianesque attempts to legislate laws that ignore scientific research on sea-level rise when building new properties on North Carolina coastlines to the ridiculous attempts by Congressmen to veto climate change, it’s this last one that will leave the largest mark on all of us. Because unlike government officials, we don’t get a reset button to press when the willful ignorance and denial by every Republican in the House and Senate to do something about a warming planet leaves us and our future generations damaged beyond repair. There’s nothing but anger that courses through my veins when I imagine the devastation we’re being led into by spineless men and women who couldn’t say the words ‘climate’ and’ change’ in the same sentence, much less do anything about it.
Now, if I had to sum up the GOP in one long winding rant, it’d go something like this:
They’re reactionary to a fault. They’re unwilling to compromise. They’re unwilling to be wrong. They’re unwilling to cede ground to corporate interests. They’ve lost the soul of the political system by allowing unlimited fonts of money to be funneled to whoever they please. Some want a theocracy, others want unchecked and unregulated corporations serving as chairmen of the country. And they lie. They lie, they misrepresent, they obfuscate , they deny, they pander, they manipulate religion and patriotism to deceive citizens into willfully voting against their interests. And do you know what the worst part is? It’s that they’re become all of this in the name of loving their country. Which they do. They absolutely love their home every bit as much as I do, if not more; they’re just willing to advance their agenda at whatever the cost, because they’re convinced it’s the best thing for the country. Even if not a single speck of evidence backs up their ideas, even if they have to make things up to convince everyone just how right they are.
I’m not a citizen of the Reagan years, of the supposedly saner GOP, I’m a citizen living in one of the most radically wrong developed countries in the world. And don’t you dare tell me that the other side is just as bad. Because when you do that, you mask the problem, you make it okay to tolerate the lunatic views of a party that is damaging our country with every piece of law that comes their way. Because the other side is just as bad. It’s not that the Democrats don’t pander, make mistakes or enact horrible policy decisions that threaten our freedoms either. They do. But that’s exactly why people need to call out their mistakes too, not excuse it as just politics. I don’t want to be a Democrat any more than I want to be a Republican or Independent. I only want the decisions made by the elected officials we choose to put in power to be informed, honest and critically thought out. And that’s not the GOP right now. We should have the courage to call it as such, not make apologetic pleas that we couldn’t present a fair and balanced view of it all, as Erza Klein of the Washington Post did when lamenting his fact-checking sessions on future porn star parody and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech. Screw balance. Give me the truth first and we’ll start from there.
I know some who will decide to not vote for Obama, or any Democrat for that matter, this year as a means of protest, and while in some cases I understand (NY being a virtual lock electorate votes-wise), I can’t understand the attitude that opting out is a legitimate choice to make. Well, that’s not fair actually, I can understand it. It’s a choice I made when I was 18 and didn’t vote. Despite being informed and supportive of the policies of both candidates, I opted out because it didn’t seem worth it. It was a horrible mistake to make then, and it would be a horrible one to make now. Because I have the means by which to inform myself of what can work for our country; it’s not perfect, it’s not as easy as trying to debunk a ghost sighting or a homeopathic remedy, but it is worth it. Choosing to throw your hands up in the air in disgust might feel great and worthwhile, but it only gives license to people who rely on silence and apathy to stifle change. I would rather fail to persuade the candidate I voted in to make the best decisions for the country than refuse to make a choice at all. And I wish more of us were willing to fail right alongside me.
If only to say they tried.