Point of View

Reality v. rhetoric: Nothing can hide the inconsistencies in Republican positions

August 4, 2013 

Republicans say: They are pro-life, opposed to abortion. Many even oppose contraception. But they support the death penalty. Indeed that most red of red states, Texas, boasts of its large percentage of the nation’s state-sanctioned death.

They are so pro-gun that they oppose even limiting the weapons of mass killing. They are for increasing the numbers of concealed weapons on our streets, in our restaurants (and bars), at our schools and in our workplaces, yet they refuse to balance such freedom with even modest regulations, even when the numbers of suicides, murders and accidents by bullet greatly exceed by many times that of other countries and constitute a genuine threat to public safety.

They vote in Congress to reduce or cut off food stamps to feed the hungry.

They vote to cut the budget, refusing to fund or reducing money for food safety, infrastructure improvements, air traffic control, weather forecasting, occupational health and safety, consumer protection, air and water and other pollution controls, public health, medical research (including mental health) and myriad other government initiatives and oversight that save lives.

They oppose the Affordable Care Act with its health coverage for tens of millions of the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions, which would save lives by encouraging preventive care and relieving the overcrowding in emergency rooms. Here in North Carolina, they refuse federal assistance for Medicaid, robbing a half million North Carolinians of health insurance and care.

They block reform of our immigration system, which would improve the economy, reduce the government deficit and help reduce crime, saving lives.

They vote to cut funding for schools at all levels – Head Start and Smart Start and teacher hiring, training, salaries and tenure – all of which harms education, undermining the opportunity for less-privileged children to improve their lot and live healthier and more productive – and longer – lives.

They rush fracking to override environmental concerns, cut incentives for renewable power and weaken or ignore research on climate change, endangering the quality of our lives.

They pursue economic, fiscal and tax policies that exacerbate the imbalance between rich and poor, a gap that now equals or exceeds that of the 1920s before the social programs that established a safety net for all citizens – that lead to longer lives.

Their arguments are to protect the unborn and to maximize our freedom and liberty.

Some Republicans even want to declare our state a Christian one. How does eradicating the separation of church and state advance freedom and liberty?

What about the freedom of a woman to avoid or end an unwanted pregnancy? What about the freedom of our citizens to have a healthy, safe environment and to be protected from predatory lenders, products that injure and fraud in the marketplace? What about the freedom to be free from government (and indeed commercial) snooping and surveillance? What about the freedom to vote at a convenient time and place in our numerous, frequent elections? What about the freedom to have an equal voice in public policy, free from the peddling of big money and aggressive lobbying? What about the freedom to pursue recourse in the legal system? It’s a lot harder with overburdened and under-staffed courts, which recalls the old aphorism that justice delayed is justice denied.

Republicans champion patriotism, the flag and the pledge of allegiance, largely ignoring its last words: “with liberty and justice for all.”

Americans fought World War II for the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and of worship, freedom from want and from fear. Where are those in the Republican program?

Not all Republicans adhere to all, or even perhaps most, of these ideas or political positions. But the party as a whole, and its legislators and governor in Raleigh, are in the thrall of those who do push such efforts or wish to block initiatives to improve the quality of life in North Carolina and the nation.

North Carolinians aren’t fooled. Most don’t devote much time to the Sturm und Drang of the daily political combat but rather live their lives as best they can in these challenging times. However, they recognize the inconsistency of0 the discourse. The gap between rhetoric and reality is obvious. No amount of advertising, advocacy, argument or misleading appeals to fear and bigotry – or campaign money from the outside the state – can hide the truth. We’ll see whether it matters come next year’s elections.

Richard H. Kohn is professor emeritus of History and Peace, War and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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