It is a testament to how far the modern Republican party has fallen that a headline that says “Republicans cut free school meals for hungry kids” just elicits a yawn from mainstream media and a “What else do you expect” shrug from the rest of us.
During the Trump years, the blatant cruelty towards marginalized, the weak, the poor seemed like a direction from the top. But the various initiatives at the state level, from Republican lawmakers secure in their positions, prove once and for all that Trump was merely a personification of everything the GOP stands for.
If that sounds like hyperbole, consider Florida senator Rick Scott’s 11-point Plan to Rescue America. Despite being called “insane” by the Orlando Weekly, this manifesto is well within the mainstream of Republican thought in the 21st century.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the more outrageous elements of the “Rescue Plan!” (courtesy the Orlando Weekly)
- Raise taxes on everyone but the rich, regardless of income.
- Turn schools into patriotism factories where kids are forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance (unconstitutional) and teachers can get fired for making white children uncomfortable (i.e., “critical race theory”). Close the federal Department of Education and implement a voucher program that ghettoizes public schools and routes billions of tax dollars to unregulated religious institutions.
- Impose more draconian sentences for violent and nonviolent crime, and expand qualified immunity so that cops can even more easily abuse their authority with impunity. Blue lives matter, etc.
- Give the president a line-item veto (not only unconstitutional, but it would render Congress irrelevant), prohibit debt ceiling increases (calamitous), tax poor and retired people.
- Cut IRS funding in half.
- Ban same-day and automatic voter registration, and don’t count absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day. But voter ID will be mandatory, of course.
- Ban abortion, ban porn, give tax breaks to “nuclear families” and allow faith-based groups to discriminate against whomever they like.
- Stop participating in peacekeeping missions, end imports from China (only $435 billion a year), “take climate change seriously but not hysterically.”
Lest you think this is not possible, I urge you to read the plan for yourself, there are more goodies in there.
Scott's plan is not an outlier; he speaks for the party of Trump, McCarthy, and McConnell in coming up with such a profoundly anti-American plan that even some Fox News anchors have been appalled, understanding correctly that should the voting public actually be informed of how the Republican party thinks, even their most die-hard supporters would flee the GOP.
But consider this: Rick Scott may be anti-intellectual like the rest of his ilk, but surely he is reasonably politically savvy. Then how did this insane plan make it past his fevered imagination? The answer lies in the belief among Republicans that thanks to Fox and other media allies like Sinclair and Clear Channel, and their intense efforts to suppress the Democratic vote everywhere they control state election apparatus, they are guaranteed to stay in power at the state level and will be able to use this leverage to control elections at a national level.
This reshaping of America as an insular, xenophobic, dog-eat-dog society by the likes of Rick Scott and his fellow Republicans can only be prevented if Democrats return to the polls in such massive numbers that we deliver a stinging repudiation to this vision.
Think about the ideal of America, which is welcoming to all despite the color of one’s skin or sexual orientation, that provides opportunity to the weakest members of our society to make something of themselves, where we value teachers, and then join us in moving towards that ideal.
The alternative is a return to the Wild Wild West, a lawless America at the mercy of religious institutions, where cruelty is the default, and there is no home for anyone who is not wealthy or white.
Those really are the two choices we face.