Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Don't Believe the Pledge: Social Issues Still Dominate the Republican Agenda

One of the sites that I visit several times a day is the Slatest,'s picks for the dozen most important or newsworthy items at any given time. Today, this morning, I went there and discovered that item number one was this story about how all Senate Republicans have now signed a pledge stating that they will block all Democratic legislation unrelated to tax cuts or government spending in the current "lame duck" session of congress, according to the AP.

To an idiot, this pledge would seem to fit right in line with the Republican Party's current focus on economic issues rather than social issues. Ever since the economy tanked and the Tea Party gained national prominence, Republicans have made it seem like they are more eager to talk about taxing and spending rather than divisive social issues. But the real idea behind the Republicans' pledge isn't a call for congress to focus more on the economy: it's a call to stop progress that Democrats are trying to make towards ending discriminatory government policies.

There is not and has never been much of a threat that congress will refuse to act on the sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts. News agencies and the public have been talking about this for months, even since before the election, and every move in the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans has been high-profile. And also, congress is not full of idiots: our elected senators and representatives do have the mental ability to discuss more than one issue per session of congress. So the whole point of the pledge is that Republicans have vowed to block the Democrats' two important social policy bills: the DREAM Act and repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The whole point of this pledge therefore is not to advance discussion on the economy, but rather to advance a social agenda that discriminates against gay people in the military and perpetuates the injustice of deporting non-citizen U.S. college grads and military servicepeople.

The hypocrisy doesn't stop there.

I noticed some of the other items on the Slatest were also about Republicans. The number 4 item was a story about an art exhibit at the Smithsonian that was pulled because Republican lawmakers were offended at its content. The number 10 item was a story about how the chief of staff of incoming House Speaker John Boehner had a meeting with a rabid right-wing anti-abortion activist named Randall Terry, who has called for the murder of abortion doctors. And the number 6 item was a story about Julian Assange, who Republican Representative Peter King has labeled as a terrorist.

Censorship of art, abortion activism, calling people terrorists: all of these things are social issues, and all of these things are foremost on the minds of prominent Republicans.

You would think the newly fiscally-focused GOP would be able to put aside their social views and seriously discuss a measure that would generate $3.6 trillion dollars over the next 40 years of new taxable income for America. One would think Republicans would be open to hearing about ways the military could retain thousands of honorable soldiers while simultaneously increasing the number of college campuses in which ROTC groups will be allowed to operate, not to mention the cost and efficiency savings that would come from not having to investigate the personal lives of soldiers. And one would think that any politician would think twice about blocking measures that have the support of 58% (DADT repeal) and 70% (DREAM Act) of Americans.

By signing the pledge of non-cooperation, Senate Republicans have made a choice. They have chosen to allow social issues to continue to dominate their party, even if those social policies would create significant economic good. They've placed social issues above economic issues, even as they claim that they are doing the exact opposite.

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