How can you be sure that your party is truly off course? Consistently bad polling is a start, an inability to win national elections is another clue. But for the final nail in the GOP’s coffin, we have the revered former Republican Senator Bob Dole’s deep disappointment and shock at the modern day Republican Party.
After the 89-year-old Republican wheeled his way back onto the Senate floor in 2012, hoping to pass an international treaty modeled on his historic Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, he got quite a shock. Dole was betrayed by his own party, including a senator from his own state of Kansas: The treaty was killed by his own party.
The Boston Globe covered Dole’s reaction to the loss, which he blames on his party’s anti-government rhetoric. Dole called for the party to take a time-out to make repairs:
As Dole sat in his Washington law office in February, still stunned by the outcome, he blamed his own party and suggested a headline: “Republican Party closes its doors to make repairs.” The GOP, added Dole, one of the party’s most revered figures, “needs a timeout” to tone down the antigovernment rhetoric.
To be sure, Dole says there is a larger problem of political dysfunction in which Democrats also share blame. But if there is a legislative tale that symbolizes the rise and fall of bipartisanship in Washington during the past quarter-century — and the Republican Party’s own schism — it is the story of Dole’s initial success and recent failure on behalf of people with disabilities. It is also the story of Dole himself, discovering how Washington has changed and become a broken city.
It must have been a shock for Dole to discover just how crazy his own party has become. It’s a shock for anyone who pays attention. Those who don’t pay attention play the false equivalency game, but the legislative process tells the truth.
In Dole’s case, we have a solid treaty based on existing legislation that had bipartisan support; a treaty first negotiated by former Republican President George W. Bush. Let that sink in. Among many other countries, Afghanistan (where we are allegedly fighting for freedom) has ratified this treaty, but we have not.
The treaty ratification was killed as all but 8 Republicans voted against it. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has dragged the Senate into the tea party Republican ditch (his filibuster record speaks for itself). The tea party was against it because they hate anything the UN does; they see the UN as imposing on American exceptionalism. They would rather have Mitt Romney taking orders from Netanhayu than be a part of the United Nations.
In order to justify this, the Republicans put the head of the Home School Legal Defense Fund on the stand (you can’t make this stuff up). He spewed the typical paranoia of the far right, hysterically proclaiming that ratifying this treaty would give the UN control over his kid because his kid wears glasses. Quote: “The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty and so, my kid wears glasses, now they’re disabled; now the UN gets control over them.”
Sounds crazy, right? After all, UN treaties are not American law, and we already have that law on the books and no one has come for the kids, not even anyone from the “evil” Democratic Party, as described by the home schooler head. Okay, so the home schooling advocate is a bit nuts. But wait. Republican Senators James Inhofe and Jim DeMint began echoing the home schooler’s hysteria, adding (falsely) that the treaty covered abortion. Oh yes, There’s nothing like the poison pill of the abortion debate to deliberately kill a bill/treaty/discussion.
Bob Dole, meet the new GOP.
The modern day GOP doesn’t believe government should do anything. Anything. Anything at all, except serve as a function to collect taxes that can be redistributed to corporate entities poised to grift off of the government (see Gov Rick Scott’s infamous Medicare fraud history as an example of the Great GOP Privatization Heist).
Nothing echoes more clearly the problems in DC than Dole describing his governing principles during 89-90 session. When he was the Minority Leader in the Senate, he says he thought he was there to do something, and as such, he saw it as his “job” to meet the Democrats halfway. He described an agreement with the Democratic Majority Leader to never criticize one another, to build a relationship of trust. Dole concluded, “I thought when I was elected I was supposed to do something.”
Imagine that. He thought he was being paid to actually do something for the country other than swear fealty to the paranoid rantings of the Republican base.
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