The GOP is writing its new national platform just in time for the upcoming convention. It’s not finished yet, but since issue stances are approved one by one, we already know a lot of what the platform will say. Not surprisingly, the “new” platform solidifies the Republican acceptance all of the far right extremism we’ve seen since President Obama was elected. The Republicans are not saying anything new — we’ve heard all of this time and time again from candidate after candidate — but they’re now codifying their dangerous ideas and embracing them on a national level. This will probably be the most far right major party platform we’ve ever seen in this country. Here’s a sampling of what the Republicans hope will be the new laws of America.
1. Immigration Policy, or Anti-Latino Bigotry
Today, the platform embraced Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the draconian, xenophobic, racist immigration law the state has that was mostly dismantled by the Supreme Court. To put it simply: “papers, please” lives on, but the rest is gone. The court assessed the law in terms of state vs. federal power, determining that out of the four main parts of the law, three of them were unconstitutional because they intruded upon the federal government’s right to set the laws of its own borders (I’d go into more detail, but this isn’t a post about Arizona v. US; I wish I’d written one). This means that the national Republican party wants to pass this a similar law on the federal level; this way, there won’t be any more supremacy clause issues.
However, in Arizona v. US, the court noted that they were not judging the constitutionality of the law with respect to the 14th amendment, implying that there’s definitely a good equal protection violation argument against the law. In fact, the little that’s left of the immigration law is winding its way through the judiciary system, with federal District Court Judge (for the District of Arizona) Susan Bolton hearing the case in terms of equal protection violation yesterday. On Monday, the 11th Circuit allowed for Georgia and Alabama’s (even worse, if you can believe that) anti-immigration laws to stand. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath for these to stand at the SCOTUS level — or at least, God, I hope these laws are overturned, because aside from being repulsive on the level of civil and human rights, they blatantly disregard the 14th amendment.
2. Protecting “Human Life,” or How to Control a Lady and Faking Scientific Knowledge
Despite Republican condemnation of Rep. Todd Akin, the national platform embraces a stance on abortion that stems from Akin’s principles — it just lacks Akin’s fabricated “medical” BS (I may write more about this in another post). In other words, the Republicans aren’t complaining about his policy understanding: they just think he should’ve been more vague and less openly misogynistic when talking about it. The GOP wants to pass a “human life amendment” to the US Constitution, outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, because as Republicans such as Mike Huckabee have pointed out, a child is always a gift from God. (TRIGGER WARNING) This is true regardless of whether it is conceived out of love; a broken condom; or a violent, potentially PTSD-inducing, and continually humiliating and ostracizing experience that may leave you traumatized for the rest of your life. After all, wasn’t it worth being brutally raped by your father, a man who is supposed to protect and take care of you, to have your precious little sister-daughter?
Moving on, the platform’s language also praises “informed consent” laws — some of which are very similar to those outlawed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey — such as mandatory waiting periods; mandatory ultrasounds (like in Bob McDonnell’s original and current abortion laws in Virginia); and regulation of abortion clinics, which may sound fine at first, but what actually happens is that legislatures impose completely unnecessary provisions such as stringent rules on room dimensions that serve no medical purpose. Instead, they’re solely imposed to force abortion clinics to close their doors because one of their walls is eight inches too short.
Now, since this is a “human life amendment” and not an anti-abortion amendment, it affects stem cell research as well. If the GOP got its way, there would be no more federally-funded stem cell research. In other words, who cares if you’re paralyzed? There are LIVES in there.
I’d like to pose a question to those who claim that life begins at conception: let’s say you’re walking by an IVF clinic, and suddenly, the entire building is engulfed in flames. Almost everyone manages to get out, but they’re all too injured to go back to save who is left. You are the only one who can do it, and you can only go in once. You run in, and there are two rooms. In the first, there is a sobbing, badly burned four year old boy. In the other, there’s a container holding ten human blastocysts. What room do you choose? Do you save the boy or the container?
You probably saved the four year old, right? Now, what if there were 50 blastocysts? 100? 1000?
You still want to save the kid, don’t you? In fact, you’re going to save the kid every single time, regardless of how many blastocysts are suspended in liquid in that container, aren’t you?
In other words, you are prioritizing currently existing human life over potential life. Clearly, you think that some forms of life are more important than others. Why does this prioritization disappear when we’re talking about sick people or adult women as opposed to children*? Considering the increasing number of Republicans who claim that pregnancies should not be terminated to save the life of the mother, why do people think a young boy is more important than an infinite blastocysts, but an adult female is worth less than just one? How about all those sick people who will die without stem cell intervention — don’t they matter, too?
* You guys DO know that kids get sick, too, right? Just checking.
Leaving the stem cell discussion behind, it’s important to note that the national party is not advocating a policy position of no abortions EVER, even if the mother would die without one — just a disturbing number of party members. The official policy does not prefer the blastocyst to the woman. (TRIGGER WARNING) Rather, the GOP believes it’s more important for a fetus to remain implanted in the womb than for a woman to potentially have her life destroyed once again (because rape on its own wasn’t enough). Clearly, carrying a rape-fetus to term isn’t 100% soul-crushing to every single one of the 32,000 survivors a year who become pregnant as a result of their rape, but apparently women don’t deserve the choice to see if they can handle it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if pregnancy as a result of rape IS soul-crushing; the female, currently-living human life’s entire perception of her existence is insignificant. What IS important is that there could potentially be a baby, although that’s definitely not a given — even though it IS a given that the rape victim is around. Oh well! As a female rape victim, she has been honored by a rape-child, and she should shut up about it already and realize just how fortunate she is.
3. Voter ID, or Keeping the Poor and the People of Color Away from the Polls
Countless numbers of exposés, including the fantastic work on the Daily Show lately, have proven over and over again that there is effectively NO IN PERSON VOTER FRAUD. Since 2000, only ten cases have been documented in the entire US — less than one per year. Regardless, in the past several years (although this issue has only recently been extensively discussed in the media), many states have enacted voter ID laws. In other words, you must have a state-issued ID to be able to vote on top of being an eligible, registered voter.
So, if there’s no in person voter fraud, why on earth would anyone want to enact laws that make it harder to perform our most basic civic duty? Well, as Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, a Republican, has openly admitted, mandatory voter ID is how Mitt Romney would be able to win the state’s electoral votes this November.
Data analysis has shown that Republicans overwhelmingly tend to win elections when fewer people are voting. This gives the party a huge incentive to restrict the number of voters. Now, they’ve been doing this for years; for example, we’ve disenfranchised released felons for no good reason for years now (if you really want former prisoners to reintegrate into society, you probably shouldn’t be depriving them of the right to vote, the most quintessential symbol of being a model citizen). This isn’t enough, however. There are still a good number of voters.
Who tends to be liberal? Academics, of course — after all, Republicans really enjoy railing against them — but it’s really difficult to stop them from voting. Any other currently active groups who tend to vote Democrat who are easy to disenfranchise? There are several, actually, including the poor, people of color, and students/youth. Of course, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes it a lot harder to disenfranchise people. Now, you have to provide at least the illusion that voting restrictions are “colorblind.” For example, people are fine with disenfranchising felons. This is true even though our criminal justice system is incredibly stacked against people of color (please read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander if you haven’t). While drug use is constant across racial bounds — and thus you’d expect the percentage of drug users arrested by race to equal their demographic percentages — 37% of those arrested for drug crimes are black. The problem? Only 13% of the American population is black. Despite this, people don’t complain about this disenfranchisement because the term “felon” is colorblind. ANYONE can be a “felon;” if most felons are people of color, that’s just a coincidence (or, for many, it’s proof that their racism is justified).
Voter ID is a “colorblind” — and ostensibly non-classist — concept as well; after all, ANYONE can have one. However, the voter ID requirement serves as a modern iteration of the poll tax, and remember, those were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act 47 years ago.
So, how well does it work? Let’s look at Pennsylvania to check. Thanks to state Republicans, there’s a voter ID law in effect this fall (unless it’s stopped by the courts, but that hasn’t happened so far), 11% of Pennsylvania voters lack a form of ID the new law requires to vote. That number on its own is alarming, but when you break it down, you find a disturbing pattern.
8% of white people lack valid ID to vote.
15% of those earning less than $35K a year do.
18% of people under the age of 25 do.
19% of Latinos do. 20% of Asians do. 25% of black people do.
It also needs to be said that 18% of seniors lack suitable voter ID as well. While this isn’t always useful to the Republican party — the elderly run conservative — it’s beneficial this year because seniors aren’t fond of Paul Ryan (I’ll elaborate on that more in another post).
As you can see, Pennsylvania is disenfranchising the exact people the Republicans don’t want voting.
Now, in response to the law’s backlash and (accurate) comparisons to the poll taxes of the past, Pennsylvania has decided to provide acceptable ID to residents for $0.
You probably thought I wrote that really oddly, right? Why would I write $0 instead of “free?” Here’s why: money isn’t the only existing form of cost.
In economics, there’s often talk of “opportunity cost.” Opportunity cost is defined as the value of the next best choice you’re giving up when you make a decision. If that sounds confusing, here’s an example.
Let’s say I tell you that you can have two tickets to your favorite band’s concert for no money at all. However, you have to wait in line for five hours. Did you get your tickets for free? Of course not. Maybe your next best option was being at work, and thus you lost five hours of wages waiting for the tickets. Maybe the next best option you had was spending time with your family, or going to a party for a friend who is moving away. Maybe it was running errands. Regardless of what you would otherwise be doing, you gave something up to get those tickets, and you’re not ever getting those hours back. In other words, even though you spent no money on the tickets, they had a cost.
Keeping the concert analogy in mind, it’s clear that even though the new voter-friendly IDs may not have a monetary cost, they still have an opportunity cost. Now, those of us who drive may accept waiting in line at the DMV/MVA as part of life. However, not everyone drives. If you’re poor, and you live in a city center, why would you buy a car? You can’t afford one, and your money would be better spent on, say, food or rent. If you don’t drive, why would you wait at the DMV for hours and hours? This isn’t just a question of annoyance. If you are poor, and you work multiple jobs — and maybe you have kids, too — waiting in line for a few hours is just not a viable option. The opportunity cost of obtaining ID may be too high, and so you forego voting. After all, each individual vote doesn’t count for much, and you NEED to be at work, or finally spending some time with your kids, or going grocery shopping with the little bit of money you have.
If everyone who lacks suitable ID comes to this same conclusion, and chooses not to acquire a “free” ID that serves no other purpose than to help you vote and thus is not helpful in any other way, it means that a huge percentage of the population will be disenfranchised. Beyond this, some people will simply never hear about the voter ID requirement and therefore won’t know they need to get one; after all, people who work three jobs don’t always have time to brush up on electoral law.
THIS IS WHAT THE REPUBLICANS ARE BANKING ON RIGHT NOW. They’re HOPING that people of color, the poor, and youth will not get a say in what happens to this country. Wanting this to happen is extraordinarily offensive in a land where “all men are created equal.” It’s astoundingly racist and classist, and it’s downright disgusting that this is even happening.
4. Forbidding Same Sex Unions, or “Hey, At Least We’re Not Advocating ‘Separate but Equal’”
Finally, the Republicans added to their platform that there should be a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage. Beyond this, the committee resoundingly rejected a measure allowing for any form of federally recognized same-sex union. While the pre-Brown v. Board “separate but equal” nature of civil unions and domestic partnerships for LGBTQ people may be categorically unequal and offensive, at least they help people provide for their families.
This basic recognition of others’ humanity is not acceptable to the GOP. The GOP doesn’t care that there are 1138 federal rights afforded to married straight couples that gay couples will never be able to have if the unbelievably unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act remains standing. The national Republicans espouse heterosexism and homophobia in and out: they believe there should be legal punishment for being in love while gay. If you’re gay and have the audacity to want to act on your sexuality, you don’t deserve spousal benefits. If you and your partner have adopted a child, and he gets sick, you don’t have the right to visit him in the hospital. I could go on for hours here. It comes down to this: any LGBTQ ally — or even just a decent human being — should refuse to support the national Republican party due to its deprivation of human rights to what the Supreme Court calls a “protected class” of people.
Knowing the national Republican party (Hi, Vermont! Feel free to break away from the crazies at any point in time), its platform will officially embrace a few more deeply offensive and horrible policies this upcoming week. To tell you the truth, I’m scared.