American politics rely on bipartisanship. They rely on compromise and moderation. Foremost, they rely on fact. Since the founding of the Republic, two parties have chosen to come together on almost every big issue, and violence only ever solved one – slavery. Now, America faces an absence of fact, an inability to agree, and stubbornness unmatched by even the most petulant child.
Science has been a common ground for Democrats and Republicans for 100 years. Both parties agreed with the National Science Foundation, NASA, research investment and technology grants, but the 2012 Republicans across the board supported sequestration cuts disregarding their impact on research and development. Some current Republicans cannot even accept the scientific facts that human-caused global warming is happening and evolution is real. This does not bode well for a century in which technology, scientific transparency, and accessibility to knowledge are quickly advancing.
The Republican platform has not always been as radical as the 2012 platform.
In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower wrote, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor law and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again.” The Republican Party has rejected this idea, but we still hear from them, and Eisenhower’s prediction that anti-New Deal politicians would disappear failed; they now control the party.
In 1961, Eisenhower said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.” This year, former Gov. Mitt Romney proposed giving the military-industrial complex $2 trillion that it did not need, which would have exploded military power; Eisenhower probably would have advised against that.
In 1971, Richard Nixon, in agreement with Democrats and economists, famously declared, “We are all Keynesians now.” Now, the Republican economists rely on the unproved and oft-rejected “supply-side” economic theory that has never worked and, in fact, has increased inequality and led to the Great Recession.
In 1997, months before the Lewinsky scandal instigated the polarization of American politics, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) worked with President Bill Clinton to create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Hatch, a conservative Republican, saw the benefits of compromise and intended to show that the Republicans did not “hate children” because “as a society, we have a moral responsibility” to take care of the most vulnerable. In 2003, former President George W. Bush signed the largest Medicare expansion since 1965, and called it, “the greatest advance in health care coverage for America’s seniors since the founding of Medicare.”
In 2012, six Republican state governments are blocking the expansion of health care to almost 4 million poor Americans by rejecting the Medicaid expansion provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Supreme Court’s decision on the ACA allowed states to opt-out of the expansion, and states with a large proportion on uninsured do not want to pay for just 10 percent of the expansion.
In only 10 years, our politics have become so divided that, where before states were willing to pay 50 percent of the cost of insuring poor Americans, they now will not even pay 10 percent. In only 10 years, the two parties lost the agreement that poor Americans should go to the doctor. In only 10 years, the Republican Party has shifted policy from providing more Medicare and Medicaid to cutting $1 trillion from Medicaid and turning Medicare into a voucher program.
This fundamental shift in Republican politics does not bode well for their future as a party, but as an American first, this shift does not bode well for our country. We face essential questions over the coming months: how do we fix Social Security? How do we control health care costs? How do we distribute the tax burden? How do we cut our deficit and pay down our debt?
We can answer those questions far better with moderate Republicans on the other side of the negotiating table. It is time for the Republicans to reenter reality.
They need to accept that polling methods are real, and stop creating new internal polls that falsely favor their candidates.
They need to accept that, with small changes, Social Security and Medicare are sustainable, instead of trying to privatize those programs. They need to accept that the rich should pay back their tax cuts that created our huge national debt.
They need to accept that we must address rising sea levels and our warming Earth.
They need to accept that gays and lesbians are people too, and that they have the same rights to family, love and country as every other American. They need to accept that women have the right to equal pay, the right to choose and the right to fair and unfettered access to equitable health care.
They need to accept the undocumented immigrants who came here out of a sense of hope, the same sense of hope that led many of our ancestors to come to this great land: hope for liberty, opportunity, and equality. The American people know that no person will ever “self-deport” from our “city upon a hill.” As Winthrop continued, “The eyes of all people are upon us,” and now, the world looks for leadership to repair our faltering global economy and help mend the conflicts that plague the world.
Former President Abraham Lincoln, in 1858, foreshadowed his solemn duty by saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand… I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
I do not think America will fall, but Republicans must move their policies back into the mainstream. If they do not, our house will most surely become “all one thing”: Democrats.
Zac Bears is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.