Point of View Columns

Republican Time Travel

On January 5, 2011 the Republican Party will take control of the United States House of Representatives. The leadership of the G.O.Tea Party has already stated that its first legislative agenda item will be the repeal of the health care legislation that was just passed in 2010.

There are just a few things wrong with this “strategy”. First, most Americans would like to see Congress focus on improving the economy – that means more jobs – and finally face up to the looming budget crisis that is already overwhelming local and state governments.

Second, it is not going to happen. No matter what happens in the House, the Senate is not going to support the repeal of the health care bill. And, by the way, there is the slight detail that President Obama would veto such a bill. So why bother?

Why does the Party of No seem to be so obsessed with going back into time and undoing real or imagined wrongs? We have already heard Republican leaders question the need for the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights bills of the 1960’s. Others have suggested that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution should be revised so as not to automatically confer citizenship on any person born in the United States.

Given the tendency of today’s Republicans to want to undo some very elemental aspects of how these United States work consider a few hypothetical questions:

1. If free, compulsory and universal public education for grades K-12 was proposed today, how do you think that Republicans would vote? Given the phalanx of Republican opposition to free, compulsory and universal health care it seems pretty clear that most Americans in the 20th century might not have seen the inside of a school house if today’s Republicans were in charge in the late 19th century.

2. If free and unconditional college education was proposed for over 10 million war veterans today, what would be the response of the Party of No? Given the closed ranks in opposition to federal health care for less than 100,000 9/11 first responders I think that it is fair to say that millions of World War II veterans would have never gone to college, that opportunity being denied by today’s Republicans.

3. If a national highway system was proposed to link this country for purposes of the economy and defense while also stimulating the economy where would the G.O.Tea Party stand? If the near universal opposition of Republicans to the 2009 stimulus package is any indication, we would still be traveling on two lane highways through much of this country.

Think about what this country would be like without a universal public education system for the past century – industrialization and modernization would be a pipe dream at best.

Where would the much glorified American middle class have come from without the G.I. Bill that allowed so many veterans to go to college and pursue professional careers? Who would drive the economy and manage the growth of corporations? Indeed, who would manage the sprawling, primarily agrarian country in the aftermath of World War II?

The suburbs that surround every city in America would simply not exist without the modern national highway system. Indeed, the phenomenal expansion of the South and the West would never have happened.

The fact is that the South and the West are home to the so-called red states. It is also true that many American suburbs are considered to be Republican strongholds. How deliciously ironic then that, if it was up to today’s Republicans, the very programmatic initiatives that gave birth to today’s Republican Party would never have existed.

This is not simply a matter of entertaining alternative history. The mindset and philosophy of the G.O.Tea Party would have blocked or eviscerated most opportunities for progress in this country if they had the chance to do so.
But that mindset and philosophy is now being applied to issues related to climate change, immigration and the reformation of the education system. This country cannot afford this dangerous know-nothing nihilism – the consequences are too awful to contemplate.

In the days to come we can hope that the Party of No will come to its senses. It may be more useful to start thinking about saying no to the Party of No, before it is too late.

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