2010 was the year of a massive Republican power grab. The GOP took advantage of low voter turnout and disenchantment over President Obama—at a time when progressives thought he wasn’t doing enough on issues of importance to them, and conservatives thought he was destroying the nation, and in any case did not like the idea of a black president.
For the GOP, the 2010 takeover of Congress was payback for the trouncing John McCain received at the hands of Obama two years earlier. The Tea Party had its day, and the Obama presidency has been held hostage ever since. While the Republicans are jamming up Obama’s agenda and his nominees, everyday Americans—including African-Americans— are paying the ultimate price with sequester madness.
Meanwhile, redistricting in the form of severe racial gerrymandering has resegregated the South. This has allowed House Republicans to represent overwhelmingly white, conservative districts, and ignore the prevailing national sentiment on a wide variety of issues.
Despite broad-based, bipartisan support for immigration reform, Republican lawmakers have doubled down on anti-immigrant rhetoric and have made raw appeals to racism among their base. The most outspoken critics of immigration reform come from overwhelmingly white districts. For example, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who wants to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, has a district which is over 94 percent white. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who is known for a long list of controversial and outrageous statements, represents a district that is nearly exclusively white.
On Monday, Tea Party Republicans were expected to appear at an anti-immigration rally organized by a front group called the Black American Leadership Association, which has ties to white nationalist John Tanton. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Tanton is “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”
Meanwhile, despite widespread calls for gun control to stem the tide of armed violence in urban centers, rural and suburban areas alike, a radicalized National Rifle Association has called for armed rebellion against the U.S. government. The NRA has hijacked the GOP in the process, making it impossible to pass even the most milquetoast, common-sense gun control laws in Washington. The powerful lobbying group has also stalled efforts by the Senate to confirm B. Todd Jones as director of the ATF. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” and reform the filibuster, confirming executive branch nominees with a simple majority rather than the current 60 votes Republicans have used to block the president’s appointments.
In addition to blocking Obama’s cabinet picks, Republicans in Congress are responsible for the sequester, painful mandatory cuts which are implemented when lawmakers cannot agree on budget cuts. The implications of the sequester are most disastrous for poor and working people, with cuts to programs such as Head Start, Meals on Wheels and federal unemployment compensation. And the effects on the legal system—including furloughs in the federal defender system, cuts to the judiciary, and dwindling resources to pay jurors—could cause a constitutional crisis.
And just recently, Tea Party members of Congress ripped the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, out of the federal farm bill. And now one of the most effective anti-poverty programs is in danger of cuts.
Doing damage on the state level
On the state level, the Tea Party wing of the GOP seized state legislatures and governor’s mansions across the country in 2010. And they ran with it, passing through some of the most horrendous and draconian legislation of all time, from voter ID and forced ultrasounds to bans on Sharia law. The result is nothing less than a political freak show playing out.
Ushered into office with the 2010 Republican landslide, Florida Governor Rick Scott transitioned from his prior job as a hospital executive, where the corporation he led was involved in the largest Medicare fraud scheme in history. As governor, Scott has banned paid sick leave for local governments, initiated a voter purge, and denied voting rights to ex-felons. And weeks ago, Gov. Scott signed into law the Timely Justice Act, which will speed up the pace of executions and increase the likelihood of putting innocent people to death, in the state with the highest number of wrongfully convicted death row survivors.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder implemented an Emergency Manager Law, which has allowed the state to take over financially distressed cities and school districts and nullify the will of the voters. Most of the municipalities facing emergency takeover, including Detroit, are predominantly black. This is the new plantation.
Tom Corbett, Republican governor of Pennsylvania, came to power under the Tea Party radar because he was the state attorney general and appeared like a reasonable person. Yet, he and the GOP-controlled State Assembly have attempted to ram through one of the most draconian voter ID laws in the country. A Pennsylvania judge blocked implementation of the law for the 2012 elections.
Further, Corbett and Pennsylvania’s Tea-Party-controlled legislature have enacted cold-blooded cuts to public education, hitting disproportionately black and brown school districts such as Philadelphia. Philly was forced to make extreme cuts to education by closing 23 schools, laying off thousands of school staff, eliminating secretaries and all assistant principals, and gutting art, music and sports programs. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers approved $400 million on two new prisons, and $600-800 million in annual corporate tax breaks.
A war on black voters
Finally, Texas Republicans redrew the state electoral map by ignoring demographic changes and without seeking input from minority groups, and implemented one of the nation’s most stringent voter ID laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decimation of the Voting Rights Act. Now, Republican Texas legislators have passed a restrictive abortion law banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. During debate in the state senate, state troopers confiscated tampons and other feminine hygiene products belonging to women who came to watch the debate, while others were allowed to carry concealed firearms. No wonder these lawmakers are called the Texas Taliban.
In the U.S. Congress and Tea-Party-owned state houses, they want to erase the legacy of the civil rights movement, the New Deal, liberalism, the labor movement and other perceived Democratic hallmarks. For political gain, they are bringing down the government as a force for good because they say it is broken, and they prove it to you by proceeding to break down the government.
Conservative Republicans have won many elections by opposing government programs on the grounds that black people are benefiting more from them. It was known as the Southern Strategy. As the Tea Party has worked overtime since 2010 to dismantle the social welfare safety net and scale back highly coveted and hard-fought rights, poor people and people of color will disproportionately feel the impact. After all, black people have benefited from efforts to expand opportunity and inclusion. And for the GOP, the Obama administration represents the most visible sign of progress for black people, and so they must stop it. But everyone, regardless of race, is cut out of the game this time.
Tuesday, 16 July 2013