Sunday, April 14, 2013

Giving a Voice to The Voiceless...Republicans?

Latest Newspaper Column:

"Psst!" The voice came from a dark alley down a side street. If the voice hadn't sounded like someone I knew, I would have quickened my pace and walked on. But I stopped.
"What's going on, dude?" I asked the familiar figure in the shadows.

"Have you heard the latest?" he said, his voice glum.

"Can you be a little more specific?" I said.

"It's the General Assembly," he said.

"Oh, Lord," I sighed. "What have they done now?"

"Where do I start?" he said. "They've decided to monkey around with the state's divorce laws and require couples to wait two years instead of one to get a divorce. And they have to get hours of counseling in the meantime."

"Oh," I said, "I can't think of any way THAT could possibly go wrong. And don't tell me - let me guess. Whoever came up with this bill hasn't provided any way all this counseling's going to get paid for."

"Of course not," he said. "You and I both know it's going to be a disaster. Having the state keep couples together who don't want to be is just asking for more domestic violence. Not to mention the fact that it's more government intrusion in people's lives. We're supposed to be the party that's against that." He shook his head. "Every time we get in and have a chance to do some real good," he said, "we go and pull something like this."

"Hey, that's right," I said. "Aren't YOU a Republican?"

"Shhhh!" he said frantically. "They can't know!"

I was going to ask who, but I knew. "Don't worry," I said resignedly. "Your secret is safe with me."

OK, it didn't happen in a dark alley, but his dramatization is a reflection of actual conversations I've had in the past few weeks with at least three Republican friends (yes, I do have them) who are aghast at what our new GOP overlords are doing, but who, for one reason or another, don't feel like they can go against the current Republican Jihad.

It's not just the cockeyed proposal for the government to force divorcing couples to stay together when they've decided to part. It's nonsense like the attempt to suppress votes among college students by denying their parents the state tax deduction if the kids vote where they're going to school.

That's right: The people who supposedly are against any and all tax increases are perfectly willing to raise yours if your college-age children vote where they live the majority of the year. Note that it doesn't matter how much actual support you provide them; their status as dependents is entirely determined by where they vote. Yes, they can vote absentee, but why should they have to?

What problem is solved by this, other than the pesky problem for the Republicans that college students tend to vote Democratic, and if you make it more inconvenient for them, the Democrats may lose some votes in the next close election?

It seems to me that the Republicans spend a lot of time and energy, not on the economy or job creation, but on trying to make it more difficult for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups to vote. Makes you wonder just how confident they really are about their ideas, if they have to try and rig the election to win.

Or how about the bill introduced in the General Assembly to make any "public servant" who attempts to enforce a federal gun law guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor? Or the one attempting to exempt North Carolina from the First Amendment by establishing an official state religion?

Another frustrated Republican friend asked me, when we were discussing the above, "What the heck does this have to do with jobs or the economy? How is this going to make this state more of a draw for business?"

It's the classic GOP bait-and-switch: They say they're about growing the economy, easing regulation, creating jobs, etc. You know, the "doing real good" that my Republican friend mentioned. But as soon as they get in, it's all about the radical right-wing social and theocratic agenda.

And now, it's not just liberal democrats feeling as if N.C. voters have been hoodwinked. And yet, for one reason or another, the people I call the "sane Republicans" feel like they can't speak up. In fact, one of them was the one who suggested that I write a column on this subject - so long as I didn't use his name.
Well, giving a voice to the voiceless is part of my mission in life. I just never thought the "voiceless" would include members of the ruling party.