A few months ago, I got an email from Toledo, Ohio. Someone in Log Cabin Republicans had read, ‘What?s a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing in the ACLU,’ and wanted me to speak to their chapter. I explained that I would be happy to speak, but that I was no longer Republican.
I did not pull punches. (I know this comes as a great shock to those of you who know me.) After explaining why Goldwater Republicanism had been consistent with ACLU membership, I acknowledged that the GOP has become a very different party than the one I joined so long ago. I ticked off the following departures from “traditional Republican values.”
Value: smaller, more limited government.
- America has lost a net of 2.4 million jobs during the Bush Administration. That is, we have lost 2.4 million more jobs than we have created. What’s worse, virtually all the job growth that has occurred can be explained by the rise in the number of people on government payrolls.
- This is the Administration that gave us the Patriot Act, and has recently asked Congress to pass “Son of Patriot Act,” which would authorize secret arrests, end consent decrees against illegal police tactics, and give the Attorney General unchecked power to deport foreign nationals. It would also strip citizenship from people for belonging to organizations that John Ashcroft decides are somehow connected to terrorism.
- Speaking of our Attorney General, he has detained people at Guantanamo for years without charging them with any crime; he has subpoenaed hundreds of women’s medical records from hospitals in a fishing expedition to identify those who might have had late-term abortions; has publicly questioned the patriotism of those who disagree with the Administration; and spent 8,000 of our tax dollars to cover the marble breast of Lady Liberty.
Value: fiscal responsibility.
- As Tom Friedman wrote in the NYTimes, this is the Administration that has given us Budgets of Mass Destruction. Bush inherited a surplus, and turned it into a 5 trillion dollar national debt.
- The deficit can’t be blamed on defense expenditures or even the Iraq war, which is costing us something over a billion dollars a week, since Bush has dramatically under-funded Homeland Security, and cut veteran’s pay and amounts earmarked for military equipment. (Some parents are sending their soldier-children bulletproof vests, because of delays in supplying them to our troops on the front lines.) The budget Bush recently sent to the Congress didn’t have a single penny in it for either Iraq or Afghanistan—there will be a supplemental appropriation for those “incidental” expenditures. But the Administration has boosted domestic spending for its own pet projects—like the 1.5 billion to earmarked to promote heterosexual marriage—while slashing taxes for its big business supporters.
- Massive tax cuts mean less revenue. If a fiscally prudent Administration really believed that tax cuts were the answer to every question including how to cure cancer, it would reduce expenditures and live within its means. Democrats may once have been the party of “tax and spend,” but this is the Administration of “borrow and spend.”
- The problem isn’t just Bush’s penchant for “fuzzy math.” As the media recently reported, the Administration deliberately lied to Congressional Republicans about the cost of the recent Medicare amendments, threatening to fire the actuary doing cost projections if he shared the real numbers with anyone in Congress.
Value: free trade and respect for the market.
- Can we spell steel tariffs?
- How is a 190 billion dollar farm subsidy—going almost entirely to large corporate farms—consistent with market economics?
- For that matter, how can the party of free markets justify preferential regulations for oil and gas companies, a Medicare bill that does little for seniors but a whole lot for drug and insurance companies, and huge no-bid contracts to cronies like Bechtel and Halliburton?
Value: individual liberties and the rule of law.
· Judicial appointments should have been our first clue. Democrats had held up 6 nominees before Bush’s recess appointments, but 171 have been confirmed. Very few federal lawsuits ever get to the Supreme Court. These district and appellate court judges will shape our rights (or eviscerate them) for decades to come.
· An administration that respects the rule of law does not “out” Valerie Palme as a CIA operative when her husband displeases it. A lawful administration doesn’t operate in secrecy, or stonewall Congress’ 9-11 Commission. It doesn’t refuse to identify the members of the Vice President’s “Energy Task Force.”
· An administration that respects the Constitution and the Bill of Rights does not engage in a culture war against gays and lesbians, does not have a Secretary of Education who tells audiences that the public schools need to “teach Christian values.” It doesn’t have a Parks Director who posts bible verses in the Grand Canyon. (That’s the same Parks Director who re-filmed a video on the history of the Washington Mall in order to replace footage of the Millenium March for Gay Rights—which really occurred there—with a Promisekeepers march that didn’t.)
- Bush wants a constitutional amendment to “protect” marriage by barring same-sex unions. Bill Maher asked the appropriate libertarian question: “What business is it of the state how consenting adults choose to pair off, share expenses and eventually stop having sex with each other?”
There are just two reasons people oppose same-sex marriage: religion and homophobia. Neither is a proper basis for awarding or denying gay people legal rights or civil liberties. The party of Lincoln used to know that.
We can hope—but I’m not holding my breath.