Friday, January 30, 2015

Mittens Drops Out & Other Not-So-Surprising Stuff

So Long! Farewell! Auf wiedersehen goodbyeee!
Mitt Romney's decision to drop out of consideration for the 2016 GOP presidential race is making big headlines today, but I'm really not sure why.

It's certainly less surprising than the Republican-heavy Texas legislature proposing a state budget that threatens to cut funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings by cutting off Planned Parenthood's participation in such cancer prevention treatments for low income women.

Do only wealthy Texas women deserve access to comprehensive health care in the GOP's view? At this point I'm honestly not sure if Texas Republicans are just predictably misogynistic, or simply bat-shit crazy.

Mitten's anti-climatic decision about seeking the White House is about as surprising as Death Row Records founder and "rap mogul" Suge Knight being arrested for murder at 3am this morning after he intentionally ran over two people outside a Burger King in the Compton section of Los Angeles.

And it's right on par with unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin's killer George Zimmerman having yet another domestic abuse charge against him mysteriously dropped for the third time since 2013.

By the way, one of those charges involved his holding a shotgun to the head of girlfriend Samantha Scheibe during an argument; talk about stand by your man.

Girlfriend seriously needs to wake up.

To me, Mitt Romney's decision to shelve his presidential ambitions once and for all is less a headline story than a reflection of a deep philosophical divide within a Republican party that has long since been enslaved by an almost pathological need to appease the tiny right-wing extremist wing of the party; typified by Tea Party politicians like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The GOP is governed not by the will of the majority of the American populace, but from a shadowy coalition of wealthy American oligarchs (led by Libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch), corporate lobbyists, the American Legislative Exchange Council and a network of conservative media outlets and talking heads who function more as propagandists than journalists.

What doomed Romney's presidential chances from the start is the fact that this coalition bakes it's bread by ignoring a fundamental cornerstone of the Constitution espousing a separation of church and state.

Instead this coalition channels fundamentalist "Christian" values into a misogynistic assault on women's rights and abortion that manifests as a rigid, ethnocentric brand of patriotism; and openly embraces intolerance; like having a top leader of the US House of Representatives (Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise) who once spoke at a white supremacist event held by a group called E.U.R.O and described himself as "David Duke without the baggage." [Source].

Sadly for Romney, this coalition of the very party he wanted to represent as president, rejects him as an outsider.

Not because of his immense wealth, which they embrace, but for his religion; which they fear. 

Even though Romney is by all accounts a decent family man and a member of a conservative religion (the Mormon Church) that is unquestionably charitable, even to non-Mormons; he is viewed as an "other" by the core Republican base in the southern and mid-western United States.

And today's Republican party lumps "other" into a massive cultural bin which they fear; and see as a "threat" to an abstract sense of what they like to call their "freedoms."

The party of "family values", have made stripping American families of their right to accessible, affordable health care (by attacking the Affordable Care Act) a priority - so Romney having championed comprehensive healthcare for the people of Massachusetts when he was governor also pegs him as strategic liability for today's Republican party.

So Mitt's announcement today is less surprising than it is logical given the current climate of the GOP.

But I will share one thing that surprised me today though.

On a September night back in 2012, Walmart employee Markeith Williams (pictured left) was part of a group off employees remodeling a section of a Walmart store in Richmond, California.

He was tying some rope around his waist to help move a large counter when a Walmart supervisor named Art Van Riper, notorious for screaming insults at his employees, told Washington, "If it was up to me I'd put that rope around your neck."

The employees who were working that night, including Washington, were understandably upset about Van Riper's comment and it's not so subtle lynching connotation.

They addressed their concerns about being respected in their work environment to Walmart's store management, demanding that Van Riper be disciplined for his comments and behavior.

When that didn't work they wrote a letter to Walmart, and when that didn't work they staged a work stoppage at the site.

So Walmart fired the workers. And Van Riper? He's still working for Walmart.

According to, last month a judge ruled that Walmart had illegally fired the workers who engaged in the work stoppage as a result of Van Riper's behavior in the workplace.

Given the massive scrutiny Walmart is under for it's employment practices, it's surprising to me that Van Riper is still working for the company and the workers who complained about his abusive behavior are not.

Feel the same way? Take a minute to add your name to this online petition from the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) calling on Walmart's executive vice-president Kristin Oliver to fire Art Van Riper and rehire the workers who were fired for having the guts to speak up on Markeith Washington's behalf.

Decoupling working Americans from union representation may be a GOP policy, but the right to be respected in the workplace is still a freedom that's worth standing up for.

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