Full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat, have been since I turned 18 during Clinton's first term and helped vote him into his second. This discussion is about why I shall forever remain a Democrat, even if the party is occasionally disappointing.
· The Republicans are the party of bullies.
· I loathe bullies
· Therefore I don't want Republicans in power.
That's a simple syllogism to be sure, but I admit that while my minor premise is personal and has no need of support, my major premise is merely a claim that itself needs to run through the inductive gauntlet before its veracity can be assured. Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming in support of that premise.
On August 24, 2012, Mitt Romney addressed a crowd in his home state of Michigan and said, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised." This comment raised the specter of birtherism, the insidious belief that President Barack Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States, but rather a Kenyan, smuggled into this country by his American mother, and protected by a cabal of Hawaiian government officials, the liberal media (especially MSNBC), and George Soros himself to one day become the President of the United States, bent on destroying this country with his anti-colonialist, pro-socialist, pro-islamist ideals. Quite frankly, I've seen this movie. It starred Sam Neill.
When the media, the White House, and average citizens called Romney out on his flirtation with birtherism, his response was not unexpected: "I've said throughout the campaign and before, there's no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S. This was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know -- we've got to have a little humor in a campaign." His defense boiled down to, Can't you take a joke? Anyone who has ever been bullied, been the target of bullying, or simply been witness to bullying knows that this is the bully's first line of defense whenever called out on bad behavior. Can't you take a joke? It's all in good fun! We were just goofing around. That this is a pattern for Romney is also undeniable. In May of 2012, the story of how a young Romney bullied a gay student named John Lauber hit the news. Romney and his cadre of privileged buddies hunted, assaulted, and cut the long hair, which they said offended them, off Lauber's head. Romney's response was to first claim no memory of this event, but after the evidence began to build he simply called it "high jinks and pranks," of his youth. This defense harkened back to the Bush credo of "youthful indiscretion."
It is not fair, however, to paint a whole party based on the misdeeds of one member, even if that member is its current standard bearer. There is the case of the leader of the College Republicans at UT Austin, Lauren Pierce, saying that the idea of assassinating Obama was tempting, and then claiming that it was just a joke. There is the real standard bearer of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, apologizing for calling Georgetown student Sandra Fluke a slut by insisting that it was "an attempt to be humorous." Even these are just moments from when Republicans of all stripes are called out on their bad behavior.
Another behavior of bullying common in the Republican party is that of breaking the window and blaming the other guy. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Paul Ryan, candidate for Vice President, said that President Obama was responsible for Standard and Poor's downgrading of the United States' credit rating from AAA to AA+, when in fact Standard and Poor's pointed to the shenanigans of House Republicans, including Ryan himself, for that downgrade. Even Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, admitted that the debt ceiling was a "Hostage worth ransoming." Yet, the Republican response is to blame Obama.
For the Democratic National Convention, the Republicans are planning to infiltrate the activities and ask people "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" The impetus behind such a strategy is to lay the blame for any perceived lack of progress clearly at the President's feet and denies the culpability of Republican intransigence over the last four years, including McConnell's pledge that his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has accused the president on numerous occasions of refusing to work with the Republicans on everything from Health Care Reform to Paul Ryan's Budget, when in fact Obama held out olive branch after olive branch for the first two years. The Republican idea of bipartisanship seemed to be Do what we want.
Frankly, I'm not surprised by this behavior, mostly because the Republicans have become the party of the powerful, and while the Democrats aren't perfect, at least they occasionally try to give voice to the rest of us. Between Citizens United and Mitt Romney's declaration that "Corporations are people, my friend," the country has become increasingly hostile to the rest of us and increasingly generous to the powerful. For quite some time now, there has been a constant conservative meme of protecting corporations from the deprivations of the hoi polloi. A Minnesota woman was successfully sued for $1.92 million for file sharing twenty four songs. Monsanto has sued numerous farmers for patent infringement whenever its pollen contaminates nearby crops, and has itself been protected from countersuit. One of the rationalizations for Citizens United was that it put corporations and labor unions on equal footing when it came to campaign contributions, but that rationalization discounts the steady decline of labor unions in the private sector and the attacks on labor unions in the public sector.
Bullying is about exerting power, and in the Republicans' case, power over the poor, power over women, power over minorities, power over anyone perceived as other, as not "one of us." Bullying stems from a lack of empathy. Yes, great hay is made about understanding the plight of the bully, and how the bully is simply lashing out from his or her own pain, but that denies the simple fact that bullying is an act of objectification. When you bully anyone you deny the essential agency of that person. That person is other, a target to be hit, spit on, insulted, and tortured. The bullied is merely an outlet for the bully's frustration. Everyone has pain. Only bullies and abusers choose to unleash that pain on others. So I have no sympathy for Republican bullying, whatever their motives.
For me, the choice is clear. Send the bullies packing. This country will be better for it.