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By JIM BARON
Special to the Standard
When it comes to the two major political parties, Iâ€™m pretty much a â€śplague on both your housesâ€ť kind of guy.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties, when allowed to work their will, are not looking out for you or me. Both will whore themselves out to whichever moneyed interests will stuff fat checks into their campaign coffers. For the last several presidential campaigns, (I donâ€™t remember exactly how many, but it goes back to at least 1996) I have cast my vote for Ralph Nader, to lend support to his protest against the party duopoly that has dominated our politics and the corporate plutocracy that it feeds and nurtures.
But, this year, it is easily the Republican Party that is the scariest bunch of yahoos, ignoramuses, hypocrites and bullies, spouting anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-science garbage disguised as political discourse. And I am not even talking about the presidential candidates, although they are an impressive and diverse collection of whack-jobs. (Tell the truth, when you look at the eight or nine, depending on the event, lecterns arrayed across the stage at those debates, can you honestly say you see a legitimate leader of the free world behind any of them?)
No, I am talking about the rank-and-file Neanderthals sitting in the audiences for those debates.
In the last three Republican presidential debates that have been televised in recent weeks, we have seen and heard the following:
n Loud cheers, whoops and applause when Moderator Brian Williams noted that Texas has put 234 human beings to death in the last 11 years Rick Perry has been governor.
n Shouts of â€śYes!â€ť and â€śLet him die!â€ť when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if our society should allow an uninsured 30-year-old man who becomes catastrophically ill to die because he canâ€™t afford treatment.
n The GOP crowd that pays such lavish lip service to â€śour troops,â€ť loudly booing an active-duty soldier currently serving in Iraq because he is gay. These knuckle-dragging nitwits represent 50 percent or more of our body politic? Really?
In not one of those instances did ANY of the candidates step up and say: â€śWait a minute, maybe we support capital punishment, but we shouldnâ€™t be hooting and hollering over 230-some people dying,â€ť or â€śHold on, someone who is wearing the uniform of our country and fighting in a war deserves our respect, no matter what you think of his sexual orientation.â€ť Not one of them had the guts to stand up to the braying jackasses in those audiences, because it is that howling-at-the-moon faction that is now in the driverâ€™s seat of the Republican Party, and they wonâ€™t hesitate for a second to turn on anyone who is not absolutely ideologically pure. It has become like the French Revolution, the person who is at the front of the mob today could tomorrow find himself in a tumbrel headed for the guillotine for some real or (more likely, imagined) apostasy. But wait! Thereâ€™s more!
If Republicans are known for anything, it is that they hate taxes. They hate, hate, hate them. Republicans hate taxes more than they hate Barack Obama, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is saying something.
They especially hate taxes on rich people and big corporations (see above: stuffing fat checks into campaign coffers), but they pretty much hate any tax on anyone for any reason. With one exception.
Thatâ€™s right! The Republicans this year have taken to talking favorably about imposing new taxes. The party that says it is plain unfair to restore the tax rate that millionaires and billionaires were paying just a few years ago in order to rescue our recession-crippled economy from smothering deficits also says that some new taxes should be levied in the interest of fairness. Who is it they want to tax?
You guessed it! Low-income people and the working poor who donâ€™t earn enough to pay income taxes. It just isnâ€™t right, you will hear GOP-ers argue, that those poor souls donâ€™t â€śhave some skin in the game.â€ť
How wonderfully appropriate that phrase is! Those sorry SOBs have so little else that about the only thing we can take from them is a pound of flesh. And the Republicans want it.
The Republican Party has gotten more conservative and more assertive about what it believes. But it has also gotten meaner, more small-minded and ideologically rigid. They donâ€™t seem to understand, or they just donâ€™t care, that this will make it more difficult for them to win elections. â€śNever give an inch!â€ť has become the new creed of the GOP. Compassionate conservatism is for sissies, it would appear.
Political scientists will tell you that people tend to vote their self-interest. But that just isnâ€™t so with the current breed of Republican rank-and-file.
You will see an interview with a Republican voter from Alabama or Arkansas or someplaceâ€“a guy who clearly doesnâ€™t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out ofâ€“ and he will start talking about how we should have a flat tax or, the latest Orwellian euphemism, â€śfair tax.â€ť What this dumb cluck doesnâ€™t seem to realize is that means just about 100 percent of his meager paycheck will be subject to taxes, while whatever portion of his income the uber-rich guy doesnâ€™t spend is exempt from taxes. And the Republicans have duped their lower-income supporters into believing that is somehow â€śfair.â€ť How much longer are these people going to let the Republican Party use them, abuse them, then sell them out to suck up to Wall Street before they smarten up?
These are the same oppressed, exploited wage slaves who do dirty, backbreaking work for pitiful pay and will turn around and tell you how proud they are to live in a right-to-work state because â€śthe damn unionsâ€ť are spoiling everything in this country.
Is it mind control? Is there something in the water? Maybe it would actually help those people if they wore tinfoil hats, because something is clearly wrong with them.
Jim Baron covers politics and the statehouse in Rhode Island for the Rhode Island Media Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.