Top
Guestbook
The Back Road Web Links
Follow Me On
Search
The Woman in White Marble

{Click Marble or visit Books in the main menu}

The Republican Party ~ Not So Funny Now

By Dale Rominger

In my book Alien Love I had a bit of fun with the Tea Party, which realistically speaking is now the Republican Party. Referring to the fictional historian G.K. Schumann’s universally acclaimed work entitle The Tea Baggers: Conspiracy or Idiocy? I wrote:

He was the first of Revisionist to uncover the Tea Baggers’ origins in something called the Tea Party. However, he differs from most other Revisionists studying that period of American history by arguing that the Tea Bagger phenomenon, which eventually led to the complete collapse of the United States of America, was not an international conspiracy to bring down the country, but a movement made up of delusional and stupid Americans bankrolled by infamous billionaire brothers and supported by their own news media empire.[1]

As you can guess the story takes place in an undisclosed future and it was fun writing it in the recent past. However, as the November election nears, the Republican Party isn’t much fun anymore. Here’s why I say that.

There are four trends in the Republican Party that should keep us up at night: The Republican Party’s embrace of extreme beliefs and policies; the Party’s unwillingness to compromise; its embrace of lying as a normal form of political discourse; and its manipulation of voting rights that undermines the basic principle of democracy.

Extreme Beliefs and Policies

Off the top of my head here are a number of beliefs and policies, some cruel and some delusional, held by Republicans (I’ve included footnotes to explain some of the more absurd entries):

  • A woman’s body rejects sperm from a rapist but not sperm from her husband;[2]
  • A woman’s reproductive rights should be legislated by the state;
  • A woman who has a miscarriage can be tried for murder;[3]
  • There can be no exceptions in anti-abortion legislation (not rape or a threat to the woman’s life);
  • God and/or Nature punish(es) women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children;[4]
  • It’s inappropriate to use the word “vagina” in front of women;[5]
  • Human beings and dinosaurs co-existed on earth;[6]
  • Climate change is not happening;
  • President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya;
  • President Obama is a Nazi, or a communist, or a socialist, or a fascist, or all of them at the same time (Republicans need to be given dictionaries);
  • Weather events are indications of God’s wrath (usually punishment against human beings not favoured by the Republican Party); [7]
  • Education equals elitism;[8]
  • The separation of church and state is the work of the devil;[9]
  • The separation of church and state should be abolished;
  • The USA should be a Christian theocracy;
  • Mitt Romney deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden than President Obama.[10]

When Republican congressmen Robert W. Ney and Walter B. Jones declared that the listings of French fries and French toast on restaurant and snack bar menus in the House of Representatives would be replaced with the words Freedom fries and Freedom toast (they were angry with the French for not supporting the USA war in Iraq) we felt embarrassment because US congressmen were displaying such juvenile behaviour. They were members of Congress for goodness sake! But freedom fries is one thing and climate change and rape are something else. While it is not surprising that we all do not share the same understanding of reality and never will, in any society there is always a range of what is acceptable. In a pluralistic democratic society that range can be very broad, as it is in the Unites States. Nonetheless, there is a limit to what is acceptable. Some beliefs and policies that stray too far beyond the acceptable norm should be rejected.

I am not suggesting that people cannot hold views outside what is commonly accepted as a reasonable understanding of reality. However, sometimes society does, through cultural practices and/or legislation, limit the influence and actions of people whose views are considered extreme. For example, parents cannot for religious reasons deny needed medical care for their child. We would not put a person who truly believes the earth is flat in charge of NASA. And yet we have reached a point where it is apparently acceptable that a person who believes that a woman’s body will reject a rapist’s sperm can debate and pass laws that affect women’s reproductive rights. As I said, not so funny anymore. Of course, one of the best ways to keep extreme views out of government is not to vote for people who hold such views.

Unwillingness to Compromise

The Republican Party has become overtly obstructionist. It seems this practice is driven by two elements: Tea Party ideology/theology and its opposition to (hatred of) President Obama. An article by James H. Fitzgerald in the Tea Party Tribune called "Our Moment. No Compromise. No Surrender. Total Victory” gives a flavour of Tea Party ideologically and theologically driven politics. I will quote the article at length:

America was knocked for a loop in 2008. Then the Anointed One arrived and promised us Hope, Change and a Fundamental Transformation of America. His oily charm, expert huckstering, and army of zealous followers overwhelmed the senses of a terrified nation.

Three years of insane spending and Marxist rhetoric later, the American People have been souring on the Chosen One.

Our goal in 2012 should not be limited to the removal of B. Hussein Obama. It should not be limited to putting Republicans into the majority in both Houses. We should seek nothing but complete, total and crushing victory over Authoritarianism in this country.

A Conservative-run Republican Party with millions of aggressive grass-roots activists would have nearly limitless government reducing power.

In the America I envision in 2012, I see a Congress and a President working together to eliminate entitlements, remove entire departments of the Federal Government, enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, secure our borders and restore our reputation in the world.

I see state governments capping property taxes, eliminating public service unions and transforming themselves into “right to work” economic powerhouses.

The American People are ready to learn how to be free again. We need to lead the way and bulldoze through any opposition.  

In case you think Mr. Fitzgerald is unrepresentative of current Republican thinking, a few quotes from leading Republicans might help:

Grover Norquist, lobbyist and Tea Party activist:

"Our goal is to inflict pain. It is not good enough to win; it has to be a painful and devastating defeat. We're sending a message here. It is like when the king would take his opponent's head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see."
And:
"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Andre Bauer, Lt. Governor for South Carolina:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behaviour. They don't know any better."

Rep. Allen West, Florida:

“I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky (Senate Minority Leader):

Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.[11]

These are obstructionist, aggressive, violent words spoken by national leaders in the Republican Party: complete, total and crushing victory; bulldoze through any opposition; inflict pain; facilitating the problem if you give a person ample food supply; top political priority over the next two years should be to deny. The Tea Party is not about winning, it is about destroying the opposition. No one ever said democracy would be easy, but it should not be a blood sport.

It is interesting to note that the Tea Party is as uncompromising with RINO’s (Tea Party acronym for Republicans in Name Only) as it is with Democrats. As is true of most extreme movements, the goal is not just to defeat the enemy, but also to purge and purify its own ranks. Be that as it may, all too often Republican views do not respect the American people, political leaders of opposing views and the principle of governing through compromise. These are the voices of ideological purity and religious fundamentalism.

The Republican Party quickly and proudly became the “Party of No.” No compromise. No governing. Total victory or nothing. For example, the Senate Republicans blocked the Veterans’ Job Bill that would have provided $1 billion over five years to help veterans find jobs in their local communities. The bill was blocked on a procedural vote 58 to 40, where 60 votes were required to overcome Republican objections. Senator Patty Murray of Washington State said:

At a time when one in four young veterans are unemployed, Republicans should have been able, for just this once, to put aside the politics of obstruction and to help these men and women provide for their families...[Senate Republicans] are willing to do absolutely anything to fulfil the pledge he [Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader from Kentucky] made nearly two years ago to defeat President Obama. It doesn’t matter who gets in their way or which Americans they have to sacrifice in that pursuit, even if it’s our nation's veterans.

Democrats are no longer worthy opponents in governing the nation, but representatives of abhorrent  ideologies (Marxism, socialism, communism, authoritarianism, liberalism, etc.) and theological evils (atheists, baby killers, homosexual abominations, liberal theologians, etc.). When you see the person across the table as ideologically repulsive and theologically evil, any compromise is defeat. You simply cannot compromise with evil. You must defeat it. Total victory is the only option.

The American political system has become dysfunctional to the point of gridlock. The two main parties seem unable to work together. Of course it would be naive to assume that this situation is the fault of the Republican Party alone. However, when one party in a two party system ceases to govern, is driven by hatred and embraces delusional attitudes and beliefs, then government simply does not work. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see how the Republican Party can reclaim its genuine conservative credentials, much needed in a diverse country like the United States, without somehow leaving behind extreme right-wing ideological purity and Christian fundamentalism.[12]

The Embrace of Lying as Normal Political Discourse

Politicians lie. We all know it, though we don’t like it. We might concede that there are legitimate though exceedingly rare occasions when political lying is understandable: national security, for example. However, while it is one thing to say that lying might be, on occasion, necessary for some national good, it is quite another thing to embrace political lying as an acceptable category of discourse, particularly when it is for personal gain.  It is almost as if we are witnessing the professionalization of political lying; the acceptance of lying as normal discourse within the profession of politics. Such behaviour is a denial of the prima facie duty of honesty (truthtelling), makes a mockery of any reasonable professional code of ethics, and undermines the foundation of trust between citizens and elected officials.[13]

Karen Lebacqz in her book Professional Ethics: Power and Paradox stipulates that the professional should be:

  • fair;
  • competent;
  • honest;
  • oriented toward the good of client and of society; and      
  • not taking advantage of clients (abusing knowledge or power).

Lebacqz then states: "This suggests that a number of prima facie duties lie behind ethical codes and find expression in them: justice, beneficence, non-maleficence, honesty and fidelity."[14]

While the above discussion about extreme beliefs and policies might make us question the Republican Party’s commitment to beneficence and non-maleficence, the issue here is honesty and fidelity. It certainly is not too much to ask that our elected officials demonstrate fairness, honesty and devotion to the good of citizens and society. If our politicians do not demonstrate fairness and truthfulness, what happens to our relationship with them and the integrity of our democracy? What happens to trust? Obviously there is a difference between the act of telling a lie (which we all have done) and being a liar. And it is difficult to tell when acts finally defines character, though most of us would agree they eventually do. Nonetheless, it is true that when a politician lies, trust is undermined.

I think it is fair to say that we do not expect our politicians “simply to do or avoid doing certain things, but to be or become a certain kind of person.”[15] We are not simply concerned with behaviour, though we certainly are. We are also concerned with character and integrity. Again Lebacqz:

The link between two discrete actions or decisions is difficult to establish if we think only in terms of rules for behaviour.

We may be better able to explain our sense of broader obligations if we turn from the language of duty to the language of character. Character gives continuity from one action to another. While actions may be discrete, the person or moral agent who acts is the same person.

The intimate relationship between actions and character cannot be underestimated. Our sense of character can affect our actions and decisions, and our actions and decisions create who we are and what we want to become. Our actions can underpin our character and can change our character. A politician cannot claim to be of good character if he or she acts unfairly, is dishonest, does not work for the good of citizens and society and abuses his or her power.

The word trustee implies that “power is given over something of value.”[16] For example, a doctor is entrusted with power and knowledge in the area of health and wellbeing. A lawyer is entrusted with knowledge and power in the area of legal relationships and justice. A politician is entrusted with knowledge and power in the area of governing and making laws, both of which  require at the very least a fidelity to an ethical use of his or her authority.  As Lebacqz says, the professional:

Is entrusted by society with power in an area that is crucial to the well-being of people...The one who is entrusted with something valuable or crucial to human well-being must be trustworthy – worthy of what is entrusted. Knowledge and power...are given over in order that the trustees may serve society, not, for example, to aggrandize themselves. In short, reciprocity is implied: something of value is given so that something else of value may be gained...It is also granted in the conviction...that those to whom it is given are trustworthy.[17] (emphasis in original)

So, at what point do we decide a politician is not trustworthy?

Misrepresentation and lying can take many forms. The appearance of untruthfulness through numerous shifts in beliefs and positions, the contradiction between public and private statements and the making of false statements can all undermine a politician’s trustworthiness.  

It is difficult to tell what Governor Romney holds to be true and what we can trust in his pronouncements simply because he has changed his position on a long list of issues, perhaps most blatantly on healthcare. He could have said: I held that belief and now I hold this one and these are the reasons I have changed. And: I held that position and now I hold this position and these are the reasons I have changed. Such statements would at least counter the notion that his beliefs and positions are not simply political opportunism. Unfortunately, it is obvious to most that Romney has moved to the right to win the support of the Republican base, which is to say, the Tea Party. (Or it might be argued after viewing the Mother Jones video mentioned below, that he moved left to be elected governor of Massachusetts.) This movement of positions in order to win elections was even acknowledged by Eric Fehrnstrom, a long time adviser to Romney. When speaking of Romney’s move to the right during the primaries, Fehrnstrom said: “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

While some might dismiss the ease with which politicians change their positions on crucial issues as simply political realism, at some point, however, such political expediency undermines trust.

Romney was caught-out recently when Mother Jones posted a video of a $50,000 a head private fundraising event. The video revealed much about Romney’s beliefs, positions and character. Most dramatic was his dismissal of 47% of the electorate with these words: “[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” However, the video also exposes some of the contradictions between Romney’s public and private statements.

For example, in public he supports the two-state solution in the Middle East. In private he states that the Palestinians do not want peace and that the two-state solution is neither possible or desirable. He said: "You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise that this is going to remain an unsolved problem…We sort of live with it." His reasons for not pursuing a two-state solution include, for example, the concern that a Palestinian state would border Syria and Jordan. This is not true. The West Bank borders with Jordon and Israel, Gaza borders Israel and Egypt.[18] Not only does Romney lack honesty about his position, he is ignorant of Middle East geography.

The secret video is long and interesting and Mother Jones has a lot to say about it, but it fundamentally undermines trust in Romney’s integrity and calls into question his devotion to honesty. If the voters willingly give power and authority to a politician they have the right to expect that he or she is trustworthy. The clash between public and private behaviour and pronouncements undercuts trust.

Finally there is just plain lying: the conscious false statement meant to deceive. Rachel Maddox of MSNBC has a blog entitled Chronicaling Mitts Mendacity. The last time I looked she was on Vol. XXXIV. There is much material there for any political scientist or ethicist to ponder, not to mention voters. But for my purposes here I want to turn to Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Ryan’s speech accepting the nomination as the Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate cannot be classified primarily as a series of changed beliefs and positions, though changes of heart may have been articulated. Nor do I want to pursue any revealed conflict between private and public statements, though again, many may have been exposed. What was remarkable about Ryan’s speech was the use of blatant false statements meant to deceive.

Here is what a few media outlets said about Ryan’s acceptance speech: The New York Times said: “Honesty is lost. Facts are the loser. The truth is dead.” The Washington Post said it was a “breathtakingly dishonest speech.” The New Republic asked if it were “The Most Dishonest Convention Speech Ever...?”

If you are thinking such statements are to be expected from the “left-wing liberal media,” here is what Sally Kohn of Fox News said about his speech:

Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

She went on to say:

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shutdown of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin,the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bothering to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

So, a gold medal awarded by Fox News for Paul Ryan for what many think was the most deceitful speech ever. One example might help to highlight the extent of Ryan’s use of lying as political discourse. A General Motors plant was closed in Ryan’s home district. Here is what he said about that closure:  

Closure of the General Motors Plant in Janesville, WI"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight."

Ryan has blamed President Obama for the closure of the plant not just in his acceptance speech at the convention, but also in a speech in North Canton, Ohio on 16 August 2012. The only problem is, the plant was closed during the Bush presidency before President Obama took office.  From Jed Lewison of the Daily Kos:

But despite Ryan's emotional story, GM announced the plant's closure in June of 2008. In October of 2008, the date was accelerated from 2010 to the end of the year. And on December 23, 2008 the last SUV rolled off the line.

Ryan claimed that the plant was closed because President Obama's "terrible energy policies" led to gas prices of $4 per gallon. Gas prices did reach $4 per gallon, but again it ocurred during the Bush Administration. Ryan claimed that President Obama promised to keep the plant open, but according to The Detroit News, TPM and USA Today that was not true.

I’ve highlighted this example not because it is necessarily the most important issue in the election, but because of the brazenness and arrogance of the lie itself. Obviously Ryan knows when the plant closure. Obviously the date of the closer is easily confirmed and has been by numerous media sources (and there are numerous clips on YouTube from local news stations reporting the closure). So why did he tell this lie in at least two speeches? And what does it imply?

Telling a lie that is so easily exposed seems to indicate that the one who tells the lie thinks that lying is acceptable and that there will be no consequences. He or she must also think that people do not deserve the truth, which in turn implies a lack of respect for those people. The fact that Ryan so easily told this lie, and many others, during the formal political setting of delivering his acceptance speech as candidate for the vice-president of the United States, implies that lying for political purposes is an acceptable form of political discourse, at least for him and his party.

Given the extent of his lying during his acceptance speech, what does it say about Ryan’s integrity and character? Given the audacity of his lies in the professional setting of a convention speech delivered to his party and the American people, can we say that he is a trustworthy trustee? And finally, what does it say about the Republican Party that their presidential and vice-presidential candidates lie so often and so “professionally?”

An article by Jonathan Freedland, entitled “The Republicans: Behind the Barricades” in The New York Review of Books (Volume LIX, Number 15, October 11-24, 2012), highlights the Republican Party’s embrace of purposeful misrepresentation, subtle deception and down-right lying. For example, the Party’s convention theme was actually based on a deception. The theme was “We Built It,” of which Freedland says: “This might be the first-ever campaign theme to rest entirely on a…willful misinterpretation…” He notes that on July 13th President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, Virginia where he said:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own…The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we of things together.

Along with Fox News, Republicans lifted the following out of context and played as if in a endless loop:

If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

They never referenced the full context of the statement, but many would say they were only taking political advantage of a gaffe by Obama. This is, of course, partially true. However, to build your entire convention theme around a deception is representative of something else: a corporate acceptance of deception as a legitimate political strategy. Based on this misrepresentation and using the slogan “We Built It,” the convention built its case against President Obama. Throughout the week numerous speakers told their stories about how they as individuals and families built their business on their own, declaring “I built it!” Unfortunately, many of these stories were themselves deceptions, as Freedland pointed out. Referring to the convention case against President Obama’s so called socialism he said:

But this idea rested on a deception too, one more serious than the deliberate ripping of Obama’s words from their context. For Republicans at the podium boasting of their self-reliance and government-free success were only telling part of the story.

One example will make his point: that of Sher Valenzuela, a candidate for lieutenant governor for Delaware. Valenzuela told how she and her husband built an upholstery business despite the burden of government regulations, which she called an “all-out assault on free enterprise.” Interestingly, she failed to mention that her company benefitted from $2 million in federal loans and somewhere around $15 million in federal contracts. Acknowledging $17 million in federal, that is public money, in loans and grants would have somewhat taken the wind out of her Ayn Rand sails.

And just for the record, “We Built It” Republicans held their convention in a center built with public money - $80 million in city of Tampa and county bonds. The convention itself was subsidized by the federal Presidential Election Campaign Fund to the tune of $18.4 million. Some $50 million in federal funds for security was also made available.

All too often self-reliant, individualistic, Randian Republicans fail to complete their stories, leaving out the very information that would undermine the veracity of their mythology. Whether it is Michele Bachman criticising government spending and receiving federal subsidies for the family farm of which she is a partner, Governor Sean Parnell of Alaska criticizing government spending while Alaska receives more federal aid than any other state in the nation, or Mitt Romney pulling himself up by his very expensive bootstraps he inherited from his very rich father, Republicans know what not to say and when not to say it. Misrepresentation, deception and actual lying are part of the culture and practice of the GOP.

Paul Krugman describes this as the Post-Truth Campaign and asks: "Won't Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not..." If lying is acceptable political discourse without consequences, we should not be surprised by the Romney pollster Neil Newhouse's recent comments. When asked about a New York Times article that stated a Romney ad claiming President Obama had announced plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries was a lie, Mr. Newhouse responded: “We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

It might be said that Republicans have created the Post-Truth Party.

Manipulation of Voting Rights

If you are confused about the need for Voter ID laws in numerous states across the nation, just listen to Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Pennsylvania. At the Republican State Committee meeting in June of this year, Turzai gave a list of accomplishments won by the Republican controlled legislature. He said:

"We are focused on making sure that we met our obligations that we’ve talked about for years. 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." (emphasis mine)

In other words: Romney will win the state of Pennsylvania because Voter ID will deny the vote to enough people who would have voted for President Obama. At least we can give Mr. Turzai points for his straightforwardness, and, of course, he may be right.

The voter restriction movement focuses on five areas:

  • Restricting voter registration drives;
  • Repealing election day registration;
  • Cutting early voting;
  • Enacting laws that challenge the citizenship of voters; and
  • Mandating that voters produce unexpired government-issued photo identification at the polls.[19]

Obviously the focus on these areas of voting rights is not accidental. Changing or restricting the processes and rights in each of these area tends to affect people who are more likely to vote Democratic.

  • In 2008 some 30% of people voted early, and these voters favoured President Obama over Senator McCain by ten points.
  • New restrictions on registration drives set up regulatory hurdles that make it difficult to register people to vote.
  • 12% of minority voters reported registering through a drive compared to 6% of non-minority voters.
  • Republicans have introduced laws that make voting more difficult in at least 40 states.
  • Republicans have introduced laws in some 30 states requiring voters to show photo ID before voting. Those who lack government issued photo ID’s:
    • 18% of young people;
    • 19% of Latino Americans;
    • 20% of Asian Americans; and
    • 25% of African Americans.[20]
    • Some estimates claim that around 11% or 20 million people will be disqualified from voting.[21]

Below is a map and a chart indicating the kind of voting legislation implemented in various states. Of the 33 states that have approved voting laws, 32 are Republican. (See NCSL: National Conference of State Legislatures. I encourage you to click on the link. The NCSL website is interactive and explains, for example, the differences among Strict Photo ID, Photo ID, and Non-photo ID laws, as well as presenting details about each state.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLEASE NOTE:

  • Alabama will become a photo ID state in 2014 if its new law receives pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.     
  • Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have new strict photo ID laws which may take effect before November 2012 if they receive pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Wisconsin's new strict photo ID law was held unconstitutional on March 12, 2012. It could take effect before November 2012 if that ruling is reversed by a higher court.    

 

* New voter ID law has not yet been implemented; state presently has a voter ID law in effect.
** New voter ID law has not yet been implemented; an older voter ID law remains in effect.

 

The main reason given by Republicans for changing the way in which Americans register to vote and actually vote is to prevent voter fraud. Below is the 2012 GOP Platform on the issue:

Voter Integrity to Ensure Honest Elections

Honest elections are the foundation of representative government. We support State efforts to ensure ballot access for the elderly, the handicapped, military personnel, and all authorized voters. For the same reason, we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud, particularly with regard to registration and absentee ballots. We support State laws that require proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration to protect our electoral system against a significant and growing form of voter fraud. Every time that a fraudulent vote is cast, it effectively cancels out a vote of a legitimate voter.

Voter fraud is political poison. It strikes at the heart of representative government. We call on every citizen, elected official, and member of the judiciary to preserve the integrity of the vote. We call for vigorous prosecution of voter fraud at the State and federal level. To do less disenfranchises present and future generations. We recognize that having a physical verification of the vote is the best way to ensure a fair election. “Let ambition counter ambition,” as James Madison said. When all parties have representatives observing the counting of ballots in a transparent process, integrity is assured. We strongly support the policy that all electronic voting systems have a voter verified paper audit trail.

So, does the United States have a problem with voter fraud?

The George W. Bush administration carried out an investigation into voter fraud and found no evidence that it is a persistent and serious problem. A New York Times study of voter fraud over the previous five years from 2006 found that 86 people had been convicted of voter fraud: that is 86 of the approximately 196,000,000 people who voted, or .00004% of all voters.

Here is quick survey of reports on voter fraud in the United States:

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law 

  • Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare.   
  • Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud.    
  • Voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct. 
  • Raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda.   
  • Claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.

Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action – An Analysis of Voter Fraud in the United States

Based on the research and analysis conducted for Securing the Vote, we offer several conclusions about election fraud in the United States today:

  • Voter fraud appears to be very rare in the 12 states examined in that report. Legal and news records turned up little evidence of significant fraud in these states or any indication that fraud is more than a minor problem. Interviews with state officials further confirmed this impression. 
  • Notable election reforms of the past 10 to 15 years—such as the NVRA [National Voter Registration Act], more permissive absentee balloting rules, all mail-in voting in Oregon, and the enactment of Election Day Registration in several more states—have not facilitated voter fraud.   
  • Analysis of several cases of election fraud that have received significant attention in recent years suggests that some of the most notable allegations of fraud have proved to be baseless.       

Washington Monthly 

In her 2010 book, The Myth of Voter Fraud, Lorraine Minnite tracked down every single case brought by the Justice Department between 1996 and 2005 and found that the number of defendants had increased by roughly 1,000 percent under Ashcroft. But that only represents an increase from about six defendants per year to 60, and only a fraction of those were ever convicted of anything. A New York Times investigation in 2007 concluded that only 86 people had been convicted of voter fraud during the previous five years. Many of those appear to have simply made mistakes on registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, and more than 30 of the rest were penny-ante vote-buying schemes in local races for judge or sheriff. The investigation found virtually no evidence of any organized efforts to skew elections at the federal level.

Pittsburgh’s Post-gazette.com 

A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.

As the saying goes, Republicans have a story about voter fraud in the United States and they’re sticking to it. The truth is irrelevant. However, on occasion a Republican here and there goes off message and tells the truth, as did Turzai of Pennsylvania and Paul Weyrich, the "father" of the right-wing movement and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, who said:

Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.[22] (emphasis mine)

You can understand Republican concern and their moves to disenfranchise voters when you look at the politics of race in America. It is estimated that Mitt Romney will need to win 61% of the white vote from a turnout of 74%. In 2008, John McCain won 55% of the white vote from a turnout of 55%.[23] And in a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll from early August the results were not encouraging for Republicans.  Non-white voters favoured Obama over Romney by better than three to one; 74 percent of Latino voters and 90 percent of African Americans supported Obama.[24] As South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said of the Republican Party: "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."

Of course, Mr. Weyrich is right. Elections are never won by the majority of people. They are won by the people who register to vote and then actually go to the polls. But you would think that if a politician valued democracy, he or she would not only want more people to register and vote, but would think it is his or her responsibility to work towards that end. The Republican Party holds the opposite view.

In Conclusion

Cards on the table. I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and will again this November. While I tend to think of myself as independent, I vote Democratic. Thus, I can be accused of possessing a rather biased point of view. My response: Don’t we all.

It can be argued that what I have said about the Republican Party can also be said of the Democratic Party. After all, Democratic politicians lie too. Yes, I am sure they do. However...

The Republican Party is now largely made up of, and is certainly controlled by, extreme right-wing ideologues and Christian fundamentalists. The views and policies the party members hold are often bizarre, and would be humorous if not held by senators, representatives, governors, judges and candidates for high office. The problem is, we’ve become used to Republican extremes. The Republican Party itself declared through its leadership that it would obstruct efforts of President Obama and the Democrats to govern. It is beyond controversy that the Republican Party has undertaken a huge effort to stop people from voting under the pretext of voter fraud. As for the professionalization of lying, yes politicians lie, misrepresent and change their minds. However, I think there is evidence that during this campaign the Republicans have institutionalised political lying, Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the party conference being a prime example.

I believe that if Mitt Romney’s father George Romney, Governor of Michigan, were alive today, he would not recognise the Grand Old Party nor would he approve of it. In the 1964 elections Barry Goldwater was heavily defeated by Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party won large majorities in the House and Senate. To rebuild the party that had been reduced to a “regional rump,” Republican governors formed the Republican Governors Association hoping it would act as a counterbalance to the Republican National Committee that was controlled by Goldwater conservatives. The Association was sponsored by George Romney and other party moderates. In a letter to Goldwater, George Romney wrote: “Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation.” He continued to say that political parties with ideologically driven programmes “lead to governmental crisis and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”[25]

Imagine the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House and the Supreme Court all in the control of members of the Republican Party, which is to say the Tea Party, or those who embrace Tea Party beliefs and policies, or those who are simply afraid of the Tea Party. The Republican Party needs another George Romney.

Copyright © 2012 Dale Rominger


[1] Rominger, Dale. Alien Love. Bloomington: Xlibris Publishing, 2012, p. 43.

[2] Todd Akin, House representative and Senate candidate from Missouri, became famous when speaking about pregnancies from rape. He said: "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down." The words "legitimate rape" rightfully were abhorrent to many and got most of the coverage in the media. However, his claim that a woman's body "shuts down" the sperm from a rapist also deserves attention. Such a notion is not unique to Akin, but is shared by other Republicans and religious fundamentalists.

[3] Rennie Gibbs faces life in prison in Mississippi for the death of her unborn child. Bie Bie Shuai is in prison in Indiana after being charged with killing her unborn child when she tried committing suicide. See: Outcriy in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges

[4] Bob Marshall, a Virginia Republican legislator said: “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

The Republican Party is seeking to give full legal rights to the unborn child. From the 2012 GOP Platform:

The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life
Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

[5] Michigan state representatives Liz Brown and Barb Byrum were barred from speaking in a House a debate on anti-abortion legislation when they used the word “vagina”; Mike Callton, a Republican representative said: “What she said was offensive. It was so offensive I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

[6] Biblical literalist believe the earth is only 4000 years old and that, therefore, human beings and dinosaurs co-existed.

[7] For example, Michele Bachmann said: "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'"

[8] For example, Rick Santorum while running for the Republican nomination for president said: "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor that (tries) to indoctrinate them."

[9] Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas: “this separation of church and state which has been driven by secularists. It’s a ‘narrative’ that has been going on, particularly since the 60s, that somehow (or) another there is this steel wall, this iron curtain, whatever you want to call it, between church and state. The idea that we should be sent to the sidelines, I will suggest to you, is very driven by those who are not truthful. Satan runs across the world with his doubts and his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there (that) is driven is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.”

See The Statesman and Dallas Morning News.

[10] In a recent Public Policy Polling people were asked: “Who do you think deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? Of Republican respondents: 38% said Obama; 15% said Romney; and 47% said Not Sure.
Also see the Daily Kos. Like the Daily Kos I have to assume that Republicans are not that stupid, but hate President Obama so much they were just being difficult. On the other hand, the majority of Republicans still believe President Obama was born in Kenya and that human beings roamed the planet with dinosaurs.

[11] See Obstruct and Exploit by Paul Krugman.

[12] The humiliation of Senator John McCain leads me to believe that if there are any RINO’s, that is to say Republican moderates, left in the party they are so frightened of the Tea Party they will only spout Tea Party ideology and faith and vote as expected. As such, the purging of the party is not likely to happen as a gradual process but might occur if the party were to implode after a major electoral defeat.

[13] You can perhaps tell from my comments that I consider politicians as belonging to a recognisable profession. I do so even though many politicians run for office claiming they are actually not politicians at all and have little experience in or love for the work. Mitt Romney is running for president as a CEO, not a politician. The Tea Party abhors politics though many, like Paul Ryan, have been in Washington for years; in Ryan’s case fourteen years. In fact there is impressive evidence that the Tea Party was not in fact a grass roots rebellious movement of the people but a politically planned movement by political professionals bankrolled by the Koch brothers and given exposure by Fox News.

[14] Lebacqz, Karen. Professional Ethics: Power and Paradox. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985, p. 70.

[15] Ibid., p. 77.

[16] Ibid., p. 87.

[17] Ibid., pp. 87-88.

[18] See Mitt Romney's remark reflect dwindling faith in two-state solution.

[19] See A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain, a link on Protecting the Vote.

[20] See Protecting the Vote.

[21] See A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain, a link on Protecting the Vote.

[22] See Protecting the Vote.

[23] See This is shaping up to be the most racially polarised US election ever

[24] See As Republican convention emphasizes diversity, racial incidents intrude.

[25] Salam, Reiban. “The Missing Middle in American Politics.” Foreign Affairs. March/April 2012, Volume 91, Number 2, pp. 148-149.

·       Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have new strict photo ID laws which may take effect before November 2012 if they receive pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.