Open Forum: ‘Us vs. Them’

Posted: August 26, 2014

Fellow Republicans should be dismayed after reading Andrew Nicholson’s Open Forum (“Diverse as Republicans?”), published Aug. 22. Bragging about past achievements of a few Republican ethnic/racial minorities does nothing for easing current concerns about the party’s relevance today.

The Republican Party of Virginia’s creed is stark evidence the party is clueless. It reads like a list of tired old-school homilies, meaningless phrases that carry no weight. The essence of the Republican creed is perceived by many to be mere lip service, selectively applied, creating an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Furthermore, much of the rhetoric associated with this creed is not supported by facts, or Republican actions.

There are three looming inconsistencies negatively impacting the Republican Party. They are: individual responsibilities, reducing the role of the federal government, and religion (the “Conservative Christian” variety).

Much is made about welfare cheats, fatherless families, and the like, and their collective impact on government spending. The reality is that 91 percent of all federal benefit dollars went to those 65 or older, the seriously disabled, and members of working households. Of the remaining 9 percent, 7 percent went for medical care and unemployment benefits, and other Social Security payments. Money for non-working, healthy individuals is a tiny fraction.

Sadly, 40 percent of all births in the United States were out of wedlock. Between 1996 and 2010, Congress spent more than $1.2 billion on Republican sponsored abstinence-only programs, with absolutely no evidence they work. For example, Mississippi instituted an abstinence-only program, yet it now has the second highest rates for teen pregnancy and STDs in the nation.

Also, while the party promotes individual responsibility, it interferes with a woman’s right to practice it. Regardless of one’s belief in the legitimacy of abortion, appropriate contraception, and sex education, dictating top-down restrictions on how women might care for themselves stands in stark contrast to the vow supporting individual responsibility.

The party’s emphasis on reducing the role of the federal government is a key foundation of Republican appeal. However, current Republican efforts do not support this. In the Ryan budget of April 2014, military spending through 2024 would grow by $483 billion over the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act. At the same time, non-defense spending would be cut by $791 billion below those same 2011 limits. His primary $2 billion reduction is based upon the cancellation of ObamaCare (ACA), which half the younger population supports. This is obviously not an honest effort at reduction.

The hypocrisy of the “Conservative Christian” element in the party is destroying the opportunity for attracting non-religious and younger voters. More than 16 percent of the population is unaffiliated with any religion; three-quarters of them are under 40, and less than a quarter is Republican. Evangelicals are 26 percent of the population, but only half claim to be Republican. Stating that “faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers, is essential to the moral fiber of the nation” creates a chilling effect because it is code for specific religious domination.

America was not founded as a “Christian nation” as some would insist. The Founding Fathers were not avid followers of Jesus Christ. They were devotees of the Enlightenment, which specifically refuted related religion. The Republican promotion of Christian ideals as the embodiment of this is, at the very least, a perversion of the historical truth on a remarkable scale.

Republican social policies have been harmful to younger Americans’ ability to be competitive. Creationism in schools, abstinence-only programs, anti-science positions, and opposition to the rights of non-heterosexuals have been catastrophic for party appeal and effectiveness.

It is possible that some Republicans might argue they are the popular party because they control the House of Representatives. The reality, though, is that many victories were achieved by gerrymandering. In 2012, even though the Republicans won the House, they received 1.4 million fewer votes than Democrats. Not a good trend for a democracy.

To be sure, this is not a plug for the Democratic Party — far from it. They practice tyranny of the many over the few, wielding the federal government like a club. They exploit victimization to garner support. Unfortunately, if everyone is acting the victim, then no one is leading.

This message is bound to be lost upon the party extremists, who will write to The Star disavowing what is said here. Hopefully, though, clearer thinkers will take this to heart. Repeating the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome is not logical.

John B. Tidwell resides in Winchester.