Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Republican Psychosis & GOP Voter Suppression in Michigan

Professor Sean Wilentz
In a special report published in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz wrote what I consider to be one of the most concise, insightful and well-written analysis of the evolution of the Republican party I've ever read entitled, "The Turning Point".

Do yourself a favor and click the link above and check it out if you haven't read the piece, it's a must-read if politics gets your blood going or you just want to better understand the madness of today's GOP.

Wilentz looks back at the enormous philosophical changes that have taken place within the Republican party since the 1960's and on through the 70's, 80's 90's up to today in order to help make some sense of the fractured, divisive undiluted rage that defines today's GOP.

Based on the bizarre antics and statements of some of the Republican presidential front runners, or the reckless political obstructionism of members of the Congressional Freedom Caucus, one might think a psychologist would be better suited to such a task.

But Wilentz ably draws on the volumes of research he conducted for his well-received 564-page analysis of the rise and fall of the Reagan era published in 2008, 'The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 to craft one of the most insightful political pieces in Rolling Stone this year.

In doing so he makes the case that 2016 is going to be one of the most important political elections of our time; not only because of what's at stake, but because of how it will impact the three major branches of the American government - especially the Supreme Court.

White House material? Bush, Rubio, Walker, Cruz and Paul
Though you might not know it by the caliber and quality of the candidates seeking to become the GOP presidential candidate next year, the importance of the 2016 elections isn't lost on Republicans either.

It's not just the conservative corporate oligarchs like the Koch brothers who've pledged to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money into the 2016 elections to tilt the political outcome in favor of their own self interests.

The Republican party has eagerly tapped into the divisive undercurrent of fear and anxiety that courses through the minds of millions of working-class white Americans who ironically feel disenfranchised and shut out of an economic system tilted in favor of the same wealthiest 1% who've bankrolled the conservative think tanks and activist groups that intentionally created the Tea Party.

Not as a viable political party as the talking heads of conservative media would have you believe, but as a mechanism to vent the anger these Americans feel onto immigrants, racial minorities, women's reproductive rights, same-sex couples and refugees fleeing the ravages of terrorism and conflict that was fueled in no small measure by wars started by the Republican presidential administration of George W. Bush - and paid for by American blood and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.

As Wilentz observes in his article in Rolling Stone, Americans across the south and mid-west who once voted for Democrats in the 30,'s 40's, 50's and 60's now vote against their own self interest by aligning themselves with a political party that has vilified those they label as "other".

As a result, these days the term "voter suppression" has become synonymous with the Republican party in America.

As reported in a fascinating piece posted on the progressive Michigan Website eclectablog.com, Michigan voter repression law SB 571 (among other things) blocks public institutions like schools boards, library boards and local governments from "providing information about bond and millage proposals."

Like other similar voter suppression laws passed by Republican-majority state legislatures in states around the nation, Michigan's SB 571 would create longer lines at the ballot on election days, restrict the amount of time working folks have to vote and block the use of public funds to educate voters about the election process.

As the eclectablog article notes, Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press tore into Michigan Republican legislators for the political hoodwink they pulled on the people of Michigan in an op-ed in which he described how Republicans deceptively passed SB 571 in total secret. As Dickerson wrote:

"...when it emerged from a Republican caucus room Wednesday evening, SB 571 had metastasized into a 53-page behemoth that included GOP-friendly amendments to 10 different sections of Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act. It was adopted by both houses late Wednesday night without a single Democratic vote or amendment, and after the Republican majority voted to clear the Senate chamber of Democratic staffers and lock the senators themselves inside."

The actions of Michigan Republicans were as repugnant to the principles of Democracy as voter suppression is to American values enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.

You really have to read Dickerson's op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press to believe the kind of shit these guys pulled in an effort to put in place what he describes as a "permanent majority" in the state legislature; and eventually, in Congress as well.

It lays bare the determination of Republicans to alter the foundations of American Democracy so that a numerically shrinking demographic can run it, revealing a desire to put in place what is essentially a Democratic version of Apartheid here in America in order to counteract the demographic shift that will make Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and non-white people the majority of the American populace within two decades - possibly sooner by some estimates.

The actions of the Michigan legislature also underscores the main thrust of Sean Wilentz's article, a point I think most Americans understand.

With the titanic shifts in the demographic makeup that define who we are as a nation, 2016 is truly going to be one of the most critical elections of our time - one the American people cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch unfold. 

But to me one of the most troubling aspects of the GOP's voter suppression tactics is the idea that rather than accept and understand the ways in the American populace is changing, Republicans have decided that gerrymandering legislative districts to create false majorities and actively working on ways to keep millions of eligible voters from taking part in the election process is actually a viable solution.

That in itself is an indicator of a much deeper psychosis - I'm not a psychiatrist but it's a clinical term I don't use lightly.

Just consider the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential race; you know the names, you've heard the statements about building walls and treating foreigners like some kind of menace; or blocking women from making their own choices about their personal health care decisions.

When is the last time you can recall attendees at a political rally physically attacking protesters who show up?

Or literally dragging a reporter of a different ethnicity out of the room for asking questions?

Does any of that sound rational?

If you look at even a basic definition of psychosis, it's not a stretch to say it sounds an awful lot like today's Republican party and the right-wing media spin doctors who control their message.

Consider this definition from the Healthline.com Website:

"Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by thinking and emotions that are so impaired that they indicate that the person experiencing them has lost contact with reality. People who are psychotic have false thoughts (delusions) and/or see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations). These experiences can be frightening and may cause people who are suffering from psychosis to hurt themselves or others." 

Do those characteristics sound like any particular political party you know?

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