By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist
Other than Trump’s election lies, America’s most damaging, anti-democracy presidential utterance exited the face of Ronald Reagan on the occasion of his inauguration: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” said he, thus igniting the incremental incineration of democracy that’s inflamed our country ever since.
But we are the government. We choose it, we empower it, we — when we’re dutiful — direct and limit it. If government is the problem, therefore, the problem is us (RogerEbert.com: tinyurl.com/problem4u).
JFK spoke, intimately, inspiringly, at my very small college only a month before his assassination. But one might question his inaugural admonition, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Because “doing for us” is what democracies are about. What we can do for our country is to put competent people in charge who are committed to good governance; rather than Trumpiloids, committed to big donors, big lies and power for power’s own sake.
LBJ wanted his “Great Society” to promote “the desire for beauty and the hunger for community … a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods … [T]he Great Society is … a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the products of our labor.”
That’s the “do for you.” Later, in a graduation speech, he defined “do for your country.” “Will you join in the battle,” he asked, “to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin? Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?” How unlike Reagan!
Therein is the immutable difference between Democrats and today’s Republicans. Democratic presidents and Congresses have aimed to help all Americans, while Republicans, echoing St. Ronnie, have worked to keep it from happening. Convincing the convincible that a government that’s “here to help” is their enemy, they claim social programs create laziness, that regulations choke capitalism. Why? Because they cost money, which means higher taxes and safety constraints on their donors. So, instead of Democrats’ vision of government serving its people, we get Reaganite Republicans serving only the wealthy. And themselves.
We get Trump, whose “renegotiating” NAFTA was a major factor in the current baby formula shortage. We get 192 Republicans voting against a solution because they’d rather see babies go hungry than help President Biden fix it. (American Shipper: tinyurl.com/noformula4u)
We get every Republican voting against a bill cracking down on gasoline price-gouging, in order to hurt Biden (and us) and help their fossil-fuelers enrich themselves. Fifteen years ago, when a barrel of crude cost $75 dollars more than it does now, gas cost about $1.50 less per gallon. But gouge away, say Republicans. You keep the donations coming and we’ll keep blaming Biden. (Fact: Prices are much higher in many other countries. That’s President Biden’s fault, too?)
We get this year’s CPAC meeting in Hungary, home of Trumpists’ second-favorite tyrant, whose list of speakers featured hate-fomenting liar Tucker Carlson and a Hungarian journalist who’d called Jews “stinking excrement,” the Romani “animals,” and Blacks even worse. And, completing the trifecta, Trump. It’s now who they are, and, through indifference by some voters and intent by others, that’s what we get.
We get a Republican party determined to reject health care for all Americans, spiking Democratic proposals while offering none. A party committed to creating distrust in our electoral system by perpetuating transparent lies about fraud, to justify disenfranchising voters most likely to vote against them; wanting to hand presidential choices to their state legislatures rather than voters. A party to blame for the anti-science beliefs, conspiracy theories and distrust, as well as incompetent and inattentive management, that led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths from covid-19.
We get Mitch McConnell’s 6-3 “pro-life” Supreme Court, ready to ban abortion, simultaneously ruling that innocence isn’t enough to keep a state from executing someone (Daily Beast: tinyurl.com/prolife4u).
We’ve gotten a party that chooses an evolution-denying, domestic-abusing, self-described mentally ill, unintelligible football player and a clueless coach as U.S. senators, as long as they’ll beat qualified, honorable Democrats; and which is itching to remake America as a puritanical Christian theocracy (MSNBC: tinyurl.com/walker4u).
Whether or not it’d have prevented any of America’s almost daily, heartbreaking massacres, we get 50, backboneless senators afraid of even the most minimal gun control legislation. Whose stars are still scheduled to speak at a NRA convention in Houston. But we do get thoughts and prayers (MSNBC: tinyurl.com/50sayNO and tinyurl.com/thoughts4u).
And, because enough people believed Reagan, we got Jan. 6, 2021, too.
Email Sid Schwab at email@example.com.