Why do Republicans Hate America?

That scene from the 1995 film “The American President” starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening was one of the most classic movie speeches of all time.  Right up there with George C. Scott’s “Patton” speech at the opening of that film.  And amazingly the central message of President Shepherd’s speech is as poignant today as it was nearly 15 years ago.

But the quintessential line of that movie to me is the one uttered by Bening’s character, Sydney Ellen Wade, while on a quick getaway to Camp David, and it has stuck with me since the very first time I saw the movie.  After seeing several news clips containing what has become the typical Republican hate speech, she turns to her president boyfriend and asks, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?”

I would differ from her opinion only slightly, in that while it’s pretty clear that Republicans do indeed seem to dislike Americans, I would take it just a bit further.  So why is it exactly that Republicans hate America?

One need only look to the past decade to get an idea of what I’m talking about.  But it goes much further back than that.  Republicans have repeatedly and emphatically supported policies that undermine the very nature of what this country stands for.  They have implemented policies that have stripped away fundamental freedoms and rights, and blockaded efforts to reinforce them.

Republicans stand side by side with corporate interests and against ordinary citizens.  For example, deregulation:  Republicans demand that government stay out of the way of big business, insisting that any government regulation is harmful to our nation’s economic interests, despite the fact that they’ve been proven wrong over and over and over again.

Federal Savings and Loan Crisis

The misguided efforts by the Carter administration to bolster the profitability of Savings and Loans banks and thrifts turned disastrous due to the deregulatory policies of the Reagan administration.  This deregulation led to exceptionally risky and questionable practices, which started the S&L’s on their slide to oblivion.  Banks could throw money into any kind of investment they wanted, and by 1985 bank after bank after bank slipped into failure mode.  Failing banks were left to operate unfettered, though, as they dug deeper and deeper into insolvency with no government intervention whatsoever.

Ultimately, President George H. W. Bush (the first) would be forced to intervene, stepping in to bail out the banking system at taxpayers’ expense and institute a truckload of reforms.  But the damage had been done.  Fat cat bankers got rich (although some, like Charles Keating, went to jail), the consumer got reamed, and the taxpayers were out tens of billions of dollars.

Deregulation, Round II

In 1999, at the urging of a Republican Congress, the Clinton administration acquiesced to the desires of the Congressional majority (although Treasury Secretary Larry Summers was certainly among the cheerleaders of the efforts) and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.  Glass-Steagall created a stern barrier between commercial banks and investment banks.  Until then, a commercial bank could not get involved in stock trading activities or securities trading, and investment banks were prohibited from engaging in commercial lending activities.

This limited the risk exposure for depositors, and ensured that ordinary business people would have a solid and reliable source for the loans that kept their businesses operating.  Commercial banks would stick to safe, conservative lending activities and avoid great risk, while investment banks were free to engage in more volatile financial markets, such as stocks, securities, derivatives, etc.

But with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, commercial banks were free to invest in whatever financial activities they chose.  There was no longer a differentiation between a commercial bank and an investment bank, as traditional commercial banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo created their own investment giants to directly compete with the likes of Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and J. P. Morgan.  Banks were also free to underwrite insurance policies from companies like AIG.

The further erosion of safe lending practices and the creation of mortgage-backed securities produced the unsustainable housing boom and subsequent bust that led to the near total collapse of the U. S. economy in 2008.  Critics of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that facilitated the Glass-Stegall repeal predicted the doom that ensued 10 years later.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley has also led to an enormous concentration of activity into a very small handful of banks.  Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown asserts that “Fifteen years ago, the assets of the six largest banks in this country totaled 17 percent of GDP.  The assets of the six largest banks in the United States today total 63 percent of GDP.”  That assertion was confirmed by PolitiFact.com.  That so much of the U. S. economy is concentrated in so few institutions is troubling to say the least.   When one institution falters, the entire system gets rocked, which is precisely what happened in 2008.

The deregulation farce was proven even more forcefully in 2001 when Democrats acquiesced to Republican assertions that the free market could and would police itself.  In a grand experiment, the electricity market was completely deregulated in San Diego, and subsequently the rest of California, resulting in disaster.

With government rules and oversight completely removed, energy suppliers were free to manipulate the market for electricity in the most creative and sinister ways they could find.  And instead of increasing competition in the marketplace and driving down rates, the markets were tweaked and contorted, sending the rates that consumers paid through the roof, driving small businesses to shutter their doors for good because they couldn’t pay their bills, and making the term “rolling blackouts” a constant in the vernacular of all California residents.  California still hasn’t completely recovered economically.

The direct manipulation of the supply of energy by companies such as Dynegy and Enron by shutting down power plants for “maintenance” or deliberately sending power generated locally out of state, only to be repurchased and transferred back into California at grossly inflated prices (all done within a single corporate umbrella), all in an effort to fleece ratepayers is the direct result of deregulation.  Enron employees openly mocked the stupidity of the California system, and encouraged the creation of an artificial power shortage in the state by whatever means necessary.

This was all accomplished, presumably, with the blessing of the George W. Bush administration.  Ken Lay, then CEO of Enron, was a major contributor to Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, a close friend of Bush’s, and at the time expected to be named to Bush’s cabinet as Energy Secretary.

The massive fraud and subsequent collapse of Enron, the decimation of the life savings of thousands of former Enron employees, and the obliteration of the Enron employee pension system sent countless families and retirees into complete and utter financial ruin.  All the while making those at the very top of the Enron corporate ladder very, very rich.

Yet it’s Republicans that continue to trumpet these anti-competitive policies that have repeatedly done so much damage to the U.S. economy and have decimated the middle class.  It’s the repetition of Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics” that has been debunked repeatedly.  Adam Smith’s invisible hand that mystically and magically ensures fair competition and equality in the marketplace.

It is Republicans that are currently vehemently against instituting tighter rules and restrictions on our banking industry, and who decry the tighter oversight of our health insurance industry as a “government takeover of healthcare!”  The very companies who are driving the American economy into a ditch are the companies whose interests Republicans represent.  They are policies that have been proven beyond a doubt to greatly benefit the big corporate interests while at the same time destroying the well-being of ordinary Americans.

The notion that big business will always operate in an above-board manner and always do the right thing because that’s how they survive and therefore don’t need any rules or regulation is utterly laughable and totally disingenuous.  The insistence that tilting the scales in favor of the very wealthy is the only way to ensure the long-term economic well-being of our nation as a whole, and will ultimately benefit the middle class has been proven to be an outright lie.  And it’s all undoubtedly very Republican.

Don’t trample my Constitutional rights!

Deregulation isn’t the only weapon in the hate arsenal.  Since the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated we’ve heard this steady stream of shrieks and cries from the Right about how suddenly America’s Constitution is being trampled on, how the Dems seek nothing more than to eliminate the constitutional rights provided for by the Founders and subsequent congresses.  The truth is it’s the Republicans who insist on repealing Americans’ Constitutional rights and Democrats who are hell-bent on protecting them.

It was the Bush administration that brought us the NSA’s warrantless wiretap program, where government spies could listen in on any American citizen’s private phone calls or read their private emails, all under the guise of protecting us from terrorism.  Never mind the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

It is Joe Lieberman—the “independent” Senator from Connecticut who threw his support behind the Republican ticket in the 2008 election and who has moved farther and farther to the ideological right since his inclusion on the Democratic ticket in 2000—and his Republican pals that support the automatic revocation of citizenship at the mere suspicion of having ties to extremist groups or terrorist groups.  No trial, no conviction as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, just pure McCarthyist paranoia.

It was a Republican Congress that convened an emergency session to directly interfere with the private family matters of Michael Schiavo.  Schiavo’s wife, Terri, had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, and the doctors had determined her to be brain dead.   He had long since accepted the fact that his wife was gone, and wanted the ordeal to end.  As the next of kin with power of attorney, he instructed Terri’s feeding tube to be removed.  Congressional Republicans and George W. Bush intervened on behalf of Terri’s parents and passed a bill intended to force doctors to keep her nourished and hydrated, completely eschewing the alleged Republican doctrine of keeping government out of private family affairs.

And the case of little Elian Gonzalez, then just six years old, where many on the ideological right insisted that President Clinton ignore the law and allow Elian’s extended family in Miami to maintain custody of the boy instead of returning him to his father in Cuba as required by law.  The fight was fueled by the “fight against Communism” rather than what was in the best interests of the child, whose mother had died in the attempt to come to the U.S. without the father’s knowledge, and who was among only three survivors of the trek.

And what of Republican attempts to subvert the very Constitution they claim to adore in an attempt to recognize and promote Christianity as the official state sanctioned religion of the United States?  What of the Right’s crusade against science and the theory of evolution, the invention of “intelligent design” as a means to teach creationism in the classroom?

It is Republican legislatures in Kansas and Texas that have enacted laws to severely restrict the teaching of scientifically proven and accepted theories of evolution in public schools.  It is Republican controlled Texas that mandated a social studies curriculum “that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.”

It is the ideological Right that insists on denying a woman the right to choose what happens within her own body.  It is the Republican ideological right that insists on imposing their morality and their religious values in determining what is within the law and what isn’t, and denying religious freedom to others.

Republicans, apparently, are all for freedom, so long as those freedoms have received the stamp of approval from Republican leaders.  If this keeps up, the concept of “freedom of religion,” or, as the case may be, freedom from religion, will no longer exist in this country.

Rule of law

Republicans are all for the rule of law, except for when they aren’t.  Murder is against the law, except for when it’s a Republican sanctioned assassination, such as when Scott Roeder shot abortion doctor George Tiller in the head while attending church services, and who provided perfectly legal medical services to women.  (Ok, so maybe it’s a bit harsh to suggest that all Republicans sanction such actions, but there wasn’t exactly a huge outcry against Roeder’s actions from the right-wing media and right-wing politicians.  By and large they were rather quiet on the subject.)

Or when Bush administration officials (particularly White House Senior Advisor Karl Rove) committed treason by revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative (Valerie Plame) because they didn’t appreciate the fact that her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was critical of the administration’s policies and assertions in Iraq.

Our legal system is the best, most just in the world.  Except when those on the Right say it isn’t.  Republicans insist that instead of trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts, they should be tried as “enemy combatants” in military tribunals.  They claim that civilian courts cannot handle the complexity of the issues surrounding terrorism prosecutions, and the only logical way to deal with those who wish to do our country harm is through the special, hastily arranged tribunals created by the Bush administration.  They insist this despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, and despite the utter and complete failure of the tribunal system.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?  According to a recent, comprehensive study done by the New York University School of Law’s Center on Law and Security, since September 11, 2001, there have been 828 suspects indicted on terrorism or terrorism related charges.  Of those 828, 593 have been prosecuted, with 523 of those seeing the successful outcomes of either a conviction or a guilty plea.  There are still 235 cases pending.  That’s an 88% conviction rate.

Conversely, since the creation of the military tribunals, only 20 cases have been tried, resulting in only 3 convictions, including the case of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver who was convicted, sentenced to five and a half years, and released after serving six months.  The military court gave him credit for the five years he had already served awaiting trial.  And if you’re doing the math, that equates to a 15% success rate in military tribunals.  But it’s civilian courts that aren’t up to the task according to Republican fear mongers.

But hey, let’s not let the facts get in the way of your rhetoric.

Democrats are the party of Big Government?

Or at least that’s the stigma, right?  Republicans claim that they’re the only ones who can be trusted to keep government spending and the size of government under control.  Democrats are fiscally irresponsible and cannot be trusted with our national budget.  But when you compare the spending of the Reagan and Bush administrations to the Clinton administration, the facts don’t match up to the rhetoric.

The fairest way to compare the level of spending for the three administrations is to compare government spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product).  By 2008, federal spending under the Bush administration was 20.5% of GDP. By the end of 1988, the Reagan administration was spending at a rate of 21.3% of GDP. The Clinton administration’s government accounted for 18.4% of GDP by the time they handed over the White House keys to Bush.

By the end of the Clinton administration, the federal budget was running a surplus of 2.4% of GDP ($240 billion).  Contrast that to Ronald Reagan, who finished his last term in office running a budget deficit of 3.1%, and Bush who left behind a deficit of 9% of GDP.  And it was Bush’s government that raised the national debt from 58% of GDP to 66%.

But Republicans want us all to believe that they’re the fiscally responsible ones.  Under Clinton, government was more streamlined and efficient than it had been in decades.  Under Bush, government was bigger and more incompetent than we had seen in decades.

And let’s not even start on the subject of “judicial activism,” as if Democratic leaning judges are more likely than not to “legislate from the bench.”  In recent times Conservative judicial activism is more and more prevalent, as demonstrated most prominently in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Citizens United case, or in the Court’s ruling on the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential election.

Republicans have long accused Democrats of seeking to impose “socialist principles” on our society.  But it’s more accurate to say that it is Republicans who more resemble the Communist regimes they claim to abhor.  Over the last two decades we’ve seen Republicans become more and more ideologically homogenized.  Today’s Republican groupthink is more akin to Soviet style communism than any of the wild accusations they fling at Democratic lawmakers.

Elected officials of today’s Republican Party are no longer free to express their own opinion, but only that approved by the Republican leadership.  Dissent will not be tolerated.  Deviation from sanctioned talking points is severely punished.  And those who have the gall to stand on their own principles find themselves exiled from the Party.  Just ask Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

The national Republican Party has become downright Orwellian in nature.  “We are at war with Oceania.  We have always been at war with Oceania.”  And Big Brother is always watching.

When we as a nation begin to abandon what it is that has made this country the envy of the world, the basic principles this country was founded upon, we lose our very identity.  When allow right-wing extremists in this country to commandeer and subvert our way of life, we become exactly like the religious fundamentalists this country is fighting against; we unintentionally begin to emulate them.  And when we allow our citizens to be stoked into a constant state of paranoia, stoking intolerance and hatred, then the terrorists and religious zealots have won.  Their goal is to destroy us from within, and they are succeeding.

“America isn’t easy.  America is advanced citizenship; you’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight!” the fictional President Shepherd tells us.  It’s a lot of hard work to maintain our fundamental identity in the face of so many dire challenges.  And you have to really love this country and what it stands for in order to protect our standing in the world.  To love America is to love its diversity.  To love America is to love what sets us apart from the rest of the world and has made us a global envy.  Republicans, it seems, want to change all that.

So why is it exactly that Republicans hate America?

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