WP Comments on the Demise of the GOP, Creating Democracies, and the Constitutional Option

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

unhappy elephant

Over the past week, Winning Progressive has offered comments at the New York Times on why we cannot assume that the 2012 Elections represent the demise of the GOP, how US history shows that creating a democratic government is a long, hard process that requires eternal vigilance, and the historical precedents in favor of using the constitutional option to reform the Senate filibuster rules.

In her recent column A Lost Civilization, Maureen Dowd suggests that the 2012 election results foretell the end of today’s Republican Party.  Winning Progressive commented to urge caution as predictions of permanent partisan majorities or of the demise of political parties are almost proven erroneous.

Yes, the GOP is out of touch with the American people, and has been revealed to be an unserious party that is unwilling to address the serious issues our nation faces. However, we progressives need to be very careful before we declare the GOP to be done, because they are far from being so.

For one thing, history shows that no party gets a permanent majority. The New Deal coalition lasted for quite awhile, but even during its heyday, Republicans managed to win the White House and various policy victories. And in 2000, many “experts” were predicting a permanent Republican majority. Obviously that didn’t happen.

In addition to history, there are specific reasons to worry about a comeback for the GOP. Until Citizens United is reversed, billionaires can still spend endlessly to try to buy our democracy. The GOP runs the Governors’ mansions and statehouses in a majority of states, and is still working to suppress voting, undermine progressive organizations, etc. Our media still varies between false equivalency and mindless fluff that allows the GOP to get away with blatant lying. And if the House Republicans succeed in crashing our economy, who knows what happens in 2016.

So, let’s celebrate and build on our victories. But don’t get overconfident. Instead, continue working to advance the progressive cause, which has always been a long, difficult, and rewarding struggle.

In his column Inventing Democracy, Bill Keller uses the example of South Africa to discuss how difficult it is for nations coming out of oppressive rule, such as Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, to create a stable democratic form of government.  Winning Progressive commented on how our own nation’s history similarly demonstrates how creating a democratic form of government is a long, difficult process that requires eternal vigilance:

Thank you for reminding us that the experience of South Africa teaches a number of useful lessons, perhaps most importantly that the development of a true democratic society from the ashes of war and violence requires a long time that is inevitably filled with struggle

A similar lesson can be learned from our own experience here in the US. Out of a revolutionary war, we first attempted to create a nation based on the Articles of Confederation, but after approximately a decade, it became clear that the government created by the Articles was too weak to be effective.  So, we replaced the Articles with the Constitution and, shortly thereafter, a Bill of Rights that were some of the most progressive and forward-looking governing documents of their time.  Yet the Constitution also enshrined slavery and it took well over a century before the principles of freedom, equality, and civil liberties found in those documents began to fully take hold.

Decades after the Constitution was signed, we fought a Civil War over slavery and whether we would remain one nation. More than 100 years after our founding, women still didn’t have the right to vote. And it took 200 years for basic legal rights to be fully extended to African Americans. And our democracy continues to develop and, at times, slip backwards, as time marches on.

The fact that democratic governance always requires vigilance and involves a long, hard battle, filled with setbacks and advances is a useful lesson as we think about how we can encourage democratic forms of government in other nations. Too often, we throw our hands up at the first sign of trouble. But we can and must persevere.

In Gridlock Reform, the columnist raises concerns that any use of the constitutional option by Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster would set a bad precedent that could be exploited by future Senate majorities.  Winning Progressive explains that there are already precedents of Senate majorities relying on the constitutional option to achieve changes in the Senate rules.

The argument that changing the Senate rules would set a bad precedent is simply false.

In reality, as has been documented by the Brennan Center, the ability to change the Senate rules by a simple majority has already been relied on to reform Senate rules at least twice since the advent of the modern filibuster in 1917. The first was in 1959, when the ability of a two-thirds majority to end a filibuster was established after then Vice President Nixon issued an advisory opinion making clear that the Senate rules could be changed by a simple majority. The second was in 1975, when then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller found that Senate rules could be changed by the majority, which led to reduction of the number of votes need for cloture from 67 to 60.

Even if the were no precedent for finding that Senate rules could be changed by a simple majority, I would urge Senate Democrats to do so now because we all know that today’s GOP will do so at the drop of a hat once it benefits them. But the fact is that such a change is not unprecedented.

If you want the Senate to no longer be a hopelessly broken institution, call your Senators now and urge them to use the Constitutional option to reform the filibuster.

The GOP Crazy Train Keeps Chugging Along

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Of the many factors that contributed to the GOP’s substantial losses in the 2012 elections, perhaps the most significant are that today’s GOP is focused on obstructionism and denying reality, rather than on making a serious effort to address the serious economic, social, and foreign policy challenges facing our nation.  The GOP’s obstructionism has led to, among other things, an inability to fully address the impacts of the 2008 recession, the downgrading of the nation’s credit rating due to the debt ceiling fight, and growing levels of vacancies on the federal judiciary. And far too much of the GOP has been focused on climate denial, rejecting evolution, birtherism, anti-immigrant nativism, death panels, Black Panthers, the myth of voter fraud, “creeping” Sharia law, denying that rape can lead to pregnancy, and other ridiculousness, rather than on serious issues like jobs and economic growth.  Faced with the choice of steady and pragmatic Democratic leadership versus a Republican Party that has gone off the deep end, it is not surprising that voters chose the Democrats.

The results of the 2012 elections have led some Republicans to suggest that the party has learned its lesson and is already moderating its approach by, for example, reaching out to Latino voters, being more open to compromise, and prioritizing jobs and the economy.  But the reality is that there is virtually no evidence that the GOP is offering anything more than meaningless talk on these issues.

If you want to get a sense of just how empty the purported efforts by the GOP to return to sanity are, check out David Brooks’ recent column in the New York Times, titled The Republican Glasnost.  Brooks claims that:

Over the past month, the Republican Party has changed far more than I expected. First, the people at the ideological extremes of the party have begun to self-ghettoize. The Tea Party movement attracted many people who are drawn to black and white certainties and lock-step unity. People like that have a tendency to migrate from mainstream politics, which is inevitably messy and impure, to ever more marginal oases of purity.

. . . . .

Second, politics is being reborn. For a time, Republican candidates like Richard Mourdock of Indiana proudly declared that they didn’t believe in compromise. Political activists spent more time purging deviationists than in trying to attract new converts.

But that mania has passed.

. . . . .

Finally, there has even been some shifting of economic values, or at least in how the party presents those values.

And what does Brooks offer as proof of these alleged major changes in the GOP?  The primary “evidence” that he points to is speeches by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at last week’s Jack Kemp Leadership Foundation Award dinner in which the two offered some positive rhetoric about economic opportunity, reducing poverty, and immigration.  This is weak tea to say the least.  While Rubio and Ryan’s speeches included some nice-sounding, though vague, platitudes, they offered little in the way of policies to support such platitudes or to moderate the core Republican strategy of providing tax giveaways to the wealthy, increasing military spending, eviscerating Medicare and Social Security, and demolishing the safety net.  While Rubio and Ryan may be offering some nice talk to try to mask their policy goals and make themselves appear more palatable to the media as they gear up for likely Presidential candidacies in 2016, unless those policy goals change there is little reason to think that the GOP itself is changing.

More importantly, a look at Republican actions since the election demonstrates that the GOP crazy train is continuing to chug along virtually unabated.  For example, any claim that the GOP is returning to reality is belied by the Senate Republicans’ absolutely disgusting vote last week against ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. As described at this FAQ:

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a treaty that describes the obligations of ratifying countries to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.  The treaty embodies the American ideals that form the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): empowering persons with disabilities to be independent and productive citizens

Ratifying the treaty would have put the US in a leadership role in helping to advance the cause of equality for persons with disabilities throughout the world, would have helped equalize employment standards regarding disabilities throughout the world, and would have assisted Americans living abroad who have disabilities.  Ratification of the Convention was endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce and every major veterans organization, and former Senator Bob Dole, who has a disability as the result of his military service in World War II, made a special trip to the US Senate to encourage his fellow Republicans to vote for the Convention. Yet ratification went down to defeat in the Senate because all but eight Republican Senators voted against it.  And why did they do so?  Because Rick Santorum (R-13th Century) and Glenn Beck raised blatantly false conspiracy theories about the Convention threatening US sovereignty and letting the United Nations dictate how people raise their children. Such conspiracy theories are typically limited to the tin-foil hat crowd, but in today’s Republican Senate caucus, they trump common sense and disabled WWII veterans like Bob Dole.

Other evidence that the GOP has not changed abounds.  For example, last week Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has been in charge of the Senate Republicans’ obstructionism strategy for the past four years, took obstructionism to new heights when he filibustered legislation that he himself had proposed.  Over in the House, the GOP has selected only white males as chairs of the nineteen major committees, and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is to be headed by a climate skeptic, Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Finally, Brooks suggests that there are “increasing signs that House Republicans are willing to unite behind Speaker John Boehner so he can cut a deal to avert the ‘fiscal cliff.’”  It is true that House Republicans are realizing that they have no real bargaining power because, without a deal, taxes will go up for everyone next year and the American people will hold the GOP responsible for that result.  And yet, Boehner and the rest of the House Republican leadership have not really put a serious proposal on the table.  Instead, they are demanding lower tax rates, combined with closure of unidentified loopholes, that would purportedly provide increased revenue only due to the mythical growth that allegedly would result from such tax changes.   And Boehner has made it clear that he plans to hold our economy hostage each time there is a need to increase the debt ceiling.  In short, there is little sign that the GOP believes more in compromise today than it did before the 2012 elections.

Brooks is a GOP apologist who make lots of money pretending to be a “reasonable” centrist.  As such, it is understandable that he needs to keep telling himself that the GOP is changing so that he can feel better about continuing to support a party that is riding a crazy train to nowhere. But, as the actions of Republicans over the past months have shown, it is going to take a lot more than a couple of speeches full of platitudes for the Republican Party to free itself of the crazy that has taken over what used to be the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

WP Comments on the GOP’s Detachment From Reality, Hope for Middle East Peace, and the Value of Immigration

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Following are some more recent comments at the New York Times from Winning Progressive on the GOP’s lack of seriousness or connection to reality, holding onto hope for a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, and the value to our economy and fiscal health of increasing immigration.

In The Conservative Future, David Brooks attempts to find hope for the conservative movement by identifying a handful of writers and bloggers who are purportedly engaged in a “vibrant and increasingly influential center-right conversation.”  Winning Progressive thinks that, while it would be great if there were meaningful policy discussions occurring on the right, Mr. Brooks is holding onto false hope:

It is all well and good that there are apparently some folks on the right that are thinking about policy issues in serious ways. While I am sure I strongly disagree with the people you identify on most everything, it would be great if serious thinkers held greater sway in today’s GOP, as it is critical to the future of our democracy that we return to having two parties, rather than just the Democrats, focused on how best to improve our society, help people, and confront the serious issues we face.

Unfortunately, the thought that today’s GOP is going to “evolve quickly” is little more than sheer fantasy. And the reason is that today’s GOP has been overrun by a combination of religious extremists, self-interested billionaires, and people who are so trapped in the right-wing echo chamber of Fox “News” and its ilk that they have lost most all connection to reality. Those facts are not going to change quickly.

A great example is Lindsey Graham, who occasionally has shown flashes of reasonableness. His reward is that conservatives are targeting him in 2014. And so now Graham is grandstanding on the Benghazi nonsense. Or take Sen. Rubio who, with an eye towards 2016, has no idea how old the world is.

It will take a lot more than some writers, bloggers, and deep thinkers to bring today’s GOP back to reality.

In his column Grand Old Planet, Paul Krugman recounted how out of touch with reality today’s GOP has become.  Winning Progressive echoed those sentiments and argued that this recent election results were a victory for reality over fantasy:

Perhaps what made me most pleased about the recent election results is that they were a victory for reality over fantasy.

We can debate until the cows come home the various policy issues facing our nation, and no single election is likely to significantly change the outlines of those debates. But this past election presented a more urgent question – whether we were going to reward a party whose platform and strategies are so detached from reality.

Mr. Krugman has well laid out a number of those fantasies in this column. But there are plenty more, including birtherism, the lies that ObamaCare is a “government takeover of health care” and includes “death panels,” the claim that ending Medicare’s universal guarantee and replacing it with vouchers is somehow not ending Medicare as we know it, the fantasy that we can give nearly $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and still balance the budget without raising taxes on the middle class, the claim that rape cannot lead to pregnancy, and the assertion that Solyndra and Benghazi involved major conspiracies and coverups by the Obama Administration.

The fact that today’s GOP is so tied to such myths says a lot about how far the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower has fallen. But it also says a lot positive about the American people that we rejected that failed party and its fantasies.

In Enough, Roger Cohen discusses the continuing pointlessness of the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.  We echoed these sentiments, but encouraged people to hold out hope for a peaceful settlement and offered some suggestions for a path forward:

This is right on. As I’ve argued previously, both sides are in a cycle of violence that is getting us nothing except more death, bloodshed, and suffering. We have to replace that cycle of violence with a recognition of three things: (1) that both sides have valid claims, (2) the blame game is pointless because there is more than enough blame to go around, and (3) the solution is two states, based on the 1967 borders with land swaps, international peacekeeping, and international aid to rebuild Palestine.

The question, of course, is how could we ever get to that solution. Here are a few thoughts. Palestinians need to realize that they can never win through violence, if for no other reason than that they are massively outgunned. Instead, Palestinians should follow the lead of the Civil Rights Movement and Gandhi and engage in active, non-violent civil disobedience. Israelis need to stop the illegal settlements. And the US and the rest of the international community need to use foreign aid to empower moderates who are operating in good faith and isolate and push out of power extremists on both sides.

This all seems hopeless today. But if someone had told you 20 years ago that we would have twice elected an African American President and had voters pass marriage equality in three states, I’d bet you would have thought they were crazy. So let’s keep hope alive.

In More Babies, Please, Ross Douthat argued that the declining birthrate in the US is threatening our country’s long term financial health.  Rather than having more babies, however, Winning Progressive urges that we welcome more immigrants to our country:

Instead of people having more babies, why don’t we just reform and loosen our immigration laws so that more people, mostly of working age, come to our country?

Immigration has always been the life blood of our nation, from the Polish, Irish, and Italian immigrants who came in the late 1800s and early 1900s to the Latino immigrants of the past couple of decades. And many more people want to come to the U.S. from other countries but either cannot get their way through our broken immigration system, or do not want to risk coming here illegally. As more people immigrate to an area, economic activity and jobs are created to provide basic goods and products to them. And having more young, working age people in the system will help support Medicare and Social Security for decades to come.

Unfortunately, our nation has taken a turn towards opposing immigration over the past few years. States like Arizona and Alabama have instituted cruel “self-deportation” policies that seek to make life so difficult for immigrants that they will “choose” to leave. And at the federal level, the GOP continues to obstruct sensible policies like the DREAM Act.

Rather than having more babies, let’s turn this anti-immigrant sentiment around and return to our nation’s better values of welcome the “poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.”

Republicans Continue to Insult America

Friday, November 16th, 2012

 

They think we’re stupid!

The declaration that Republican resistance to immigration reform alienated Latino voters merely scratches the surface of the reason the Republicans lost the election.

The delegitimizing and criminalizing narratives about President Obama and Latino “immigrants” reflected not only a politic of contempt, denunciation, and fear-mongering, but furthered the idea of some whites that no one has a right to live within these borders but them…”this is our country”… “let’s take our country back”.

Republicans wagered that they could indeed “take the country back” with “white only” votes and could therefore afford to marginalize and demonize every minority in the country.  It was calculated and deliberate….a southern strategy on steroids meant to inflame the passions of whites, alienate people of color and divide the country along racial lines.

It didn’t matter to Republicans that the insults and disregard they show the African-American president translates to all people of color.  But people of color throughout the nation were witnessing their  insults and wondering, if they choose to be openly and deliberately disrespectful to the man who holds the highest office in the world, what do they think of me?  If they will fight so fiercely to see that the president fails, how much success do they want for me?  If they believe the leader of the free world is a lazy “retard”, what do they think of my efforts?  If they are willing to sabotage the country in order to see him fail, what roadblocks will they erect for me?

Still others blame Republican losses on the dismissal of women’s issues and the “distraction” from the economy.  No doubt it was an element of their defeat, as well.  As they enacted laws to restrict and govern the reproductive rights of women, it became clear, their aims had little to do with “the sanctity of life”.

In fact, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) cited the real reason Republicans are against contraceptives,

“….Preventing babies from being born is not medicine….. that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.”

Republicans lost because they indulged in fear-mongering, believing America is so racially divided they could stoke those divisions  and “win back America” by dividing it even further.  They tried to disenfranchise minorities and poor whites with voter ID laws, gerrymandering, purging and every dirty trick they could devise. They’ve tried these tactics before.  Apparently, they forgot there have always been whites who locked arms with minorities to fight for the rights of “all” people.

Republicans lost because of their misguided views about science and climate change; because of their desire to withhold medical access to  millions of Americans.  They lost because they mock and demonize homosexuals.  They lost because they ran up the debt and  then refused to help fix it.  They lost because they laid off workers across the country, then spent four years yelling about the unemployment rate.  They lost because they protect the right of corporations to ship jobs overseas and dock their American-made profits there, as well.  They lost because they lie to the American people.  They lost because they think the electorate is stupid and they insult our intelligence.  They lost because the electorate is not for sale.

They lost because there really is such a thing as divine retribution.  How many votes were lost to illegitimate purging, registrations that were destroyed, thrown away, altered or unrecorded?  How many voters were rejected for lack of picture identification when none was required, or because voters names were left off the rolls?  How many votes were lost because people couldn’t wait in 8 hour lines because they had to report to work, pick a child up from school or the sitter?  How many votes were lost because of malfunctioning or broken equipment?  How many provisional and absentee ballots did they throw away or simply fail to count?   And the still lost!

There is no doubt in my mind President Obama won reelection by a vote tally that far exceeded 3 million.  They know it too.  They cheated so much, I can’t help but wonder, if in Minnesota where the electorate voted for a Democratic government and chose to reelect President Obama, loud-mouth, mendacious Michele Bachmann really won.

The only thing more amazing than the Republican miscalculation about “white power”, is their idea that they can now win back votes by merely flip-flopping overnight on the views they have espoused for the last five years.  But that alone will not heal the damage they have done, nor will supporting legislation they have disparaged for so long.  It will not change the minds of millions who were dishonored by their tactics.  This isn’t just a case of what they say or do…it is about what they believe.

An Open Letter to Undecided Voters

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

 (By Brian Frederking of the Toward the Common Good blog)

Dear undecided voters,

You are not really deciding whether to vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. You are deciding whether or not to vote for the Republican Party.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans are systematically trying to prevent the poor, the elderly, and racial minorities from voting in key swing states. There is one documented case of widespread voter fraud this year – committed by a Republican group.

Republicans have fueled the birther movement with routine references to birth certificates, including the presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Not one Republican leader has publicly criticized this obviously racist movement.

Republicans are lying about the Obama administration changing welfare rules in order to stoke white racial resentment.

Republicans have an explicitly racial strategy to win the election – deny voting rights to minorities and make racist appeals to whites.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans have shattered all the records for filibusters in the Senate. They say no to everything, even to their own ideas when they are embraced by the president. They are more interested in denying the president any political victories than they are in solving the country’s problems. Republicans have killed numerous jobs bills, including one for returning veterans.

Republicans in Congress have the most conservative voting record in the history of the party. Repealing Obamacare is only the start. They want to roll back much legislation passed in the 20th century. House Republicans have passed bills that would outlaw abortion and contraception. They are against equal pay for equal work. They are against enforcing the Voting Rights Act. They want to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, and pulverize Medicaid. Say goodbye to student loans, consumer protection laws, and food safety.

Republicans have turned the word ‘freedom’ to mean that everyone is on their own. Congratulations – you are free! Now try and find some affordable health insurance.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans peddle an ideology that is completely in the economic interests of the 1%. But that ideology does nothing to solve our everyday problems. Limited government does not lead to a better education for our children. Limited government does not lead to energy independence; or deal with climate change; or prevent the next financial crisis; or make sure everyone has access to medicine; or prevent jobs from going overseas. It simply enables the rich to get richer. It enables corporations to pay more in CEO compensation than taxes.

Please consider the last 20 years. Where were we when Bill Clinton left office? Where were we when George W. Bush left office? Obama is offering us Clinton policies, and Romney is offering us Bush policies. It is as simple as that.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Why is the GOP Scared of Health Care Reform? Because It Shows Government Can Help People

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

With the Supreme Court having upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the majority of Americans have made clear that they want to move beyond the debate over health care reform and let the law be implemented.  Republicans, however, have apparently not gotten the message, as they have continued their incessant and unfounded attacks on the ACA.   For example, we have witnessed:

* 31 House Repeal Votes: House Republicans took their 31st vote since January 2011 to repeal, defund, or dismantle health care reform, with no proposal to replace any of the significant benefits of the law.  All 31 votes were, of course, pointless as repeal legislation would not pass the Senate or, even if it did, it would be vetoed by President Obama.  Yet House Republicans continue to hold these votes, with one GOP Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn saying that she wished the House would vote to repeal the ACA every day.

* Rejection of Medicaid Expansion: At least four GOP-run states – Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida – have announced that their states will not accept the expansion of Medicaid provided for as part of health care reform, even though the federal government would be picking up 100% of the cost from 2014 through 2016, 93% of the cost for 2014 through 2022, and 90% of the cost thereafter.  Under the ACA, Medicaid is to be expanded to cover people whose income is up to 133% of the poverty line, and the increase in coverage is expected to save states billions of dollars by reducing spending on uncompensated care.  Yet these GOP-run states are proposing to forgo these benefits, even as those states have some of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation.

* Refusal to Set Up Consumer-Friendly Health Insurance Exchanges: A number of Republican-led states, such as South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, are refusing to or delaying the set up the health-insurance exchanges (through which consumers who are not covered by the government or through businesses with more than 50 employees can purchase coverage). While the ACA provides that the federal government will create health care exchanges in states that fail to do so, conservatives are now arguing that people living in states without state-created health care exchanges will not be eligible for the tax subsidies that the health care reform law provides to make insurance affordable for families earning under $88,000 per year.  We’ll have more on this topic in a future post.

* A Quarter-of-a-Billion  Dollars in Anti-Reform Spending – Conservatives have spent approximately $250 million on advertising attacking health care reform, compared to only $75 million in pro-reform advertising.

The GOP’s continued, over-the-top opposition to health care reform can only be described as pathological. The law passed by Congressional Democrats and President Obama eschewed the liberal dream of Medicare for all and instead took an idea developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and melded it with moderately progressive ideas about regulating the insurance industry, making insurance more affordable, and curbing escalating health care costs.  Yet the GOP has treated the ACA as if it were a socialist plot that they must battle to the death.

The question one has to ask then is why is the GOP so pathologically obsessed with stopping health care reform. Partisan gain and hatred of President Obama certainly play a role.  But we think that the primary factor motivating the GOP here is fear of the fact that health care reform will work to improve the lives of tens millions of average Americans and, therefore, undermine the entire ideological basis for today’s Republican Party.

Over the past few years, the GOP has entirely internalized Ronald Reagan’s infamous statement that “government is the problem” to the point where much of the GOP agenda thrives on the rejection of government as a source of social good. And incompetent governance under President W. Bush, unprecedented obstructionism by Congressional Republicans during the Obama Administration, and budgetary cutbacks to important government services have led many people to buy into the GOP’s anti-government message.  At the same time, most of the ways that government directly improves our lives – environmental regulations, workplace safety rules, Social Security, Medicare, infrastructure investments, etc. – have been around so long that many Americans simply take these things for granted, rather than realizing the importance of the progressive politics and policies that make those programs possible.  Combined, the GOP’s consistent painting of government as the enemy and the lack of concrete new reminders that government often can be a useful tool for improving society has created a large political opening for the GOP.

Health care reform, however, threatens to change that dynamic. Before health care reform, our health care system was broken,with 50 million Americans uninsured, excessive costs for not great levels of care, and widespread abusive insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and cutting off people’s benefits as soon as they get sick.   Health care reform certainly will not fix all of those problems, but it will vastly improve health insurance and care in numerous ways that directly benefit tens of millions of Americans by, for example:

* Forbidding pre-existing condition exclusion policies

* Forbidding annual and lifetime caps on benefits under health insurance policies

* Preventing recissions, which is the industry practice of accepting your premiums for years on end, but then cancelling your coverage as soon as you get sick

* Requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80% of your premiums on providing health care services, which has led to $1.3 billion in refunds to consumers

* Requiring health insurance companies justify rate increases of more than 10%.

* Closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage doughnut hole

* Eliminating co-pays for preventive care services

* Requiring insurance companies to cover under their parents’ policies adult children until they reach the age of 26

* Expanding health insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans through providing tax credits to make coverage more affordable for families earning under $88,000 per year and small businesses, and by expanding Medicaid

In short, the GOP tells people that government is the problem.  But the tens of millions of people who will be able to get affordable insurance, who will not have to worry about coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, or who detect a disease at an early, more treatable stage due to free preventive care services will experience first hand that government can be a tool for improving the lives of average Americans.  And that is what scares the GOP so much about President Obama’s health care reform.