From their “Dark Money” bagman Karl Rove to their philosophical guru David Brooks, the GOP elites are in a tizzy over saving the Republican Party from Donald Trump and the other intruders, extremists and crackpots who have fallen in behind Trump as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamelin. But who will save the party from the elites?
Look around at just some of the other sheer lunacy their party perpetrates when it’s not trying to shut government down, redistribute wealth upward, and prevent the president of the United States (who, the last time we looked, has the constitutional right and mandate) from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
The Republicans in southern California just got a 7–6 majority on the region’s air quality board and have set out to reverse all of its safeguards, “reaffirming new smog rules backed by oil refineries and other major polluters,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mary Lou Bruner, a Republican crank in Texas who claimed that a young Barack Obama had worked as a black male prostitute, is on track to become a key vote on the state’s board of education, the group that, as Matt Levin at the Houston Chronicle writes, is, “already drawing intense criticism for textbooks that, among other issues, downplayed slavery and racial segregation.”
That’s important because the school board is such a major buyer of books its decisions affect editorial content in texts all over the country. So remember that Bruner is an eccentric whose Facebook declarations include “School shootings started after the schools started teaching evolution” and “The dinosaurs on the ark may have been babies and not able to reproduce. It might make sense to take the small dinosaurs onto the ark instead of the ones bigger than a bus.” Huh? Yet Republican elites seem quite satisfied to have a Mary Lou Bruner as the arbiter of what their children read in schools.
And while we’re talking about education, travel over to Texas neighbor Louisiana and look at the legacy that former Republican governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal has left behind for his Democratic successor, John Bel Edwards.
Louisiana stands at the brink of economic disaster. Without sharp and painful tax increases in the coming weeks, the government will cease to offer many of its vital services, including education opportunities . . . A few universities will shut down and declare bankruptcy. Graduations will be canceled. Students will lose scholarships . . . Since the 2007–08 school year, Louisiana has cut funding for higher education by 44 percent, the sharpest pullback in the nation.”
Part of this can be attributed to the precipitous drop in oil and gas prices and loss of fossil fuel industry revenue crucial to the state’s economy. But the real problem, according to the Associated Press, is that
“Jindal, burnishing his fiscal conservative credentials for his failed presidential campaign, refused to hike taxes or approve any action that even resembled a tax hike, including trimming expensive business tax credits, even amid an economic downturn . . . Legislators are hearing that cuts described by the Jindal administration as ‘efficiencies’ actually went much deeper, striking at services. They’ve learned about borrowing practices that increased state debts and about threats to Louisiana’s cash flow because it spent down reserves.”
The result? A calamitous budget crisis in the second most impoverished state in the country, a $900 million shortfall that has to be fixed by June 30 and another amounting to around two billion that will need to be closed next year.
So that’s how you govern when you have the power. Thanks, Republicans!
And while we’re at it, ponder, too, the once-great state of Kansas, where, under the right-wing ideology and bumbling leadership of Republican governor Sam Brownback, the clowns are running the circus. The state legislature there is moving toward passage of a bill that would allow the impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices for, among other newly-thought of high crimes and misdemeanors, “attempting to usurp the power” of said same legislature or the executive branch.
The reason? As per Edward Eveld of The Kansas City Star, “A recent state Supreme Court decision, citing the Legislature’s constitutional duty to properly finance public schools, has demanded that lawmakers fix a school funding formula by June 30 or risk the shutdown of public schools for the 2016–2017 school year.”
The court also has overturned death sentences and is considering a case that would void anti-abortion rules. The Republican legislature doesn’t like any of this one bit—not to mention that four of the seven judges were appointed by former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sibelius. So in a classic, don’t-raise-the-bridge-lower-the-river solution, the GOP legislators—who outnumber Democrats by three to one—have decided that the answer is to do away with the judges they don’t like and to hell with checks and balances.
In the words of Esquire’s inimitable Charlie Pierce, “They recognize no limits to their power, no curbs to their desire. There are few frontiers in democratic government that they will not work to violate, or to twist to their own purposes. And they absolutely will not stop. Ni shagu nazad, as Stalin said to his army. Not one step backwards.”
What happened to Kansas? A coup against common sense, sound principles and the “general welfare” hailed in the preamble to the US Constitution. And as it all has gone down, Republican elites seem to have developed a case of laryngitis.
We could go on. Let’s not forget what Governor Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin and Michigan Governor Richard Snyder to Flint. Check out how Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is endeavoring to “fix” higher education there. Will Republican elites please tell us where they stand on their man’s ax-wielding mania?
And what Republican poobah has dared call out Grover Norquist, whose monomaniacal crusade against government has thrown public education into crisis, turned streets and highways into bottomless potholes, and produced stratospheric deficits? (Bobby Jindal, by the way, was just one of the many who signed Norquist’s no-tax pledge, a major reason why his state is barely holding on by its fingernails.)
Finally, this is the party whose elites deceived America into war after cutting taxes on the wealthy so they wouldn’t have to pay for it. And so it goes. All of which leads us to the conclusion that what’s wrong with the GOP ain’t just about Donald Trump, apoplectic, mendacious malcreant though he is. Over decades, the Republicans have built castles of corruption and citadels of crony capitalism across the country and now the angry villagers are climbing over the ramparts. Not one step backwards? Too late.
Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com.
Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.