The nasty mailer sent by mayoral candidate Dennis Dillon to Westminster’s Republican residents is a microcosm of what ails the GOP nationally. It reflects a non-serious approach to governing by substituting vapid talking points and jargon for real policy ideas. It centers on cultural wedge issues instead of prescriptions for change and improvement. It employs tiresome fright labels like “socialists” and “Leftist” and summons the usual Republican bogeymen, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.” It was not the message of a serious candidate, and Tuesday’s election results bore this out.
Comedian Bill Maher summed up the GOP’s situation recently when he called Americans “a silly people,” but cited some recent news stories “owned” only by Republicans. As our new president rolls out “New Deal” scale legislative proposals to fight COVID, get the economy and American workers back to full speed, and address climate change and dozens of other critical topics, the Fox News cheerleaders have inspired Republican politicians to criticize the new Mr. Potato Head design and attack “woke” liberals for removing Dr. Seuss books from the shelves. (Reminder: It was the publisher who discontinued six of 60 Seuss books because of stereotypical ethnic illustrations.) This latter issue went so far as to move Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to read “Green Eggs and Ham” on TV in protest, despite it not being among those discontinued. That defines “silly.”
The silliness escalated when a photographer captured Kamala Harris’ book, “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” on a cot at a new shelter in Long Beach, California for unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border. A tsunami of rabid misinformation ensued with articles in the “Daily Mail” and “New York Post” claiming the book was part of a welcome kit given to the children. Fox News picked up the story, and some conservative commentators then accused Harris of “cashing in on books at (the) border.”
There was only the one book involved in the one photo. No mass giveaways. No secret profits for the vice president. The silliness season continued. Conservative media asserted that President Biden warned July 4 celebrations may be canceled if people don’t get COVID vaccinations, and that he wants to curtail our yearly beef consumption to fight climate change. Neither statement was true, though even the former president’s namesake son climbed on board the silly express by tweeting, “I’m pretty sure I ate 4 pounds of red meat yesterday. That’s going to be a hard NO from me.”
And let’s not forget the Big Lie of a fraudulent 2020 presidential election. There’s absolutely no proof for this either but claiming otherwise has become a litmus test for most Republicans. Evidence is not necessary for blind belief.
So, what’s going on here? My own theory is that Republicans are frustrated by President Biden’s roaring into office with thoughtfully constructed plans to do many of the things the former president promised but never accomplished. How many times did we hear him pledge to reveal in the coming two weeks a “terrific,” “phenomenal” or “fantastic” new health plan to replace Obamacare? He did announce a one trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, but with few details, and the funding responsibility was placed on states.
Biden’s performance, especially in his “First 100 Days” speech, has also put the lie to the meme that he’s mentally addled and lacks energy and focus. This is exasperating to his critics, giving them little to substantively discuss. Hence, all the manufactured and silly stories to keep the base riled.
With the many critical issues facing the U.S., it’s disturbing to see the Democrats’ loyal opposition reduced to riding in a clown car. Biden’s transformational legislation requires study and informed debate. Sure, maybe he has overstepped the bounds by larding the American Jobs Plan with too many marginally relevant programs, though affordable childcare and universal pre-K are certainly deserving of attention.
What’s especially upsetting is to hear Senate Minority Leader and Dark Lord of Obstruction, Mitch McConnell, threaten, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” Notice that his party’s focus isn’t on jobs, health care, or our disintegrating infrastructure. The GOP can be counted on to fight anything that helps the poor and middle class. If it does, it must be socialism. Over the years, Republicans have applied this label to unemployment insurance, Social Security, disability insurance, Medicare, and Obamacare. This time, doesn’t Biden’s agenda deserve action and not inertia or blockage?
Bill Maher finished his commentary by telling us that “in two generations China has built 500 entire cities from scratch” and has “40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. America has none.” If we continue the silliness, who do you think will own the 21st century?
Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.