2016 — December 5, 2015 at 10:50 am

Yes, Republican rhetoric is extraordinarily divisive — because that’s all they’ve got


ZIMAGE - Donald Trump - Flickr - Gage Skidmore

I blame the economy.

November’s jobs report confirmed that 2015 is likely to be the second best year of job creation this century, only trailing 2014. Instead of wrecking the economy, Obamacare has led us to more new jobs than we’ve seen all century.

While the president’s signature health care reforms face real challenges that demand improvements, more than 17 million have gained coverage, red states are still getting on the Medicaid expansion bandwagon, cancer is being prevented and lives are being saved.

Meanwhile, there are real frustrations with wages, which have stagnated. A concern the GOP frontrunner has answered by arguing that our wages are too high.

Faced with another Democratic president outperforming his predecessor on the economy, Republicans are all running on the economic platform of the Republican predecessor.

Stuck with a GOP orthodoxy that refuses to be revised by reality, the primary has become the equivalent of who can come up with the sickest mom jokes.

The obvious winner thus far is Donald Trump who has insulted every known demographic—except sycophantic nativist masochists. His childish disdain for weakness and his opponents is so refreshing to GOP-leaning voters that sucking up to a billionaire is somehow seen as an act of populist defiance to non-college educated white Republican voters, the exact guys who Trump thinks are overpaid.

Trump has brought out the worst in a party that only accepted him because he was the only famous person willing to go birther on television. Inspired by him, the GOP primary has been an exercise in making the dudebro claims of right-wing internet commenters into mainstream discourse.

Four years ago, Newt called the president a “Kenyan, anti-colonial.” Mitt bleated about Obama wanting to turn America into Europe. We knew what they meant but there was a veneer of civility.

Now Ted Cruz regularly calls the president a “socialist.”

Calling Obama a socialist now is especially odd and not just because the stock market is again setting new records as gas dips towards $2 a gallon. An actual socialist is seeking the Democratic nomination and Bernie Sanders’ big problem with Obama is that he and Hillary Clinton is that they are not socialists.

Making sense isn’t the goal. Making headlines is.

It was Carly Fiorina who popularized the juvenile “baby parts” slander that was parroted by the Planned Parenthood shooter, but her lies were mild compared to this gem from Chris Christie that largely went unnoticed:

Let’s ask Hillary Clinton. She believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit.

In this vile claim, Hillary Clinton is an accomplice to murder – and so are Planned Parenthood and the 1 out of 3 American women who have had an abortion.

Accusing tens of millions of Americans of murder is something that right-wing bloggers do every day and a few times on Sunday. But it’s actually quite new for someone who is running to be the “moderate” Republican candidate for president.

Then there’s “abortion = slavery” thing. Ben Carson seems intent in elevating the far right anti-choice’s rights favorite metaphor into presidential politics.

You may not have heard but ending slavery wasn’t particularly easy. More than 600,000 — about 7 million in today’s population — died to end that abomination. And we still haven’t ended white supremacism, which made slavery’s echoes — including segregation, convict leasing, and mass incarceration — possible.

This “abortion = slavery” metaphor demands some simple questions of Dr. Carson and anyone who traffics in it: How many Americans would you let die to end abortion? Is the Planned Parenthood shooter your John Brown?

Of course, there are some pretty obvious reasons abortion isn’t slavery:

1. The right to control your own body is an argument for ending slavery and for maintaining basic reproductive rights.
The belief that life begins and women’s rights end at conception turns the human body into state property where every period and every miscarriage can be investigated as a crime. (Conservatives call the thousands of pregnancies ended each day a day as “murders.” Meanwhile 30 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, nearly as many ended through abortions. Are these cases of “manslaughter?” Who’s the criminal then? God?)2. Slavery isn’t more common where it’s illegal.
Abortion is.3. You can end slavery with a law.
Ban abortion and people will do it anyway.

This is mostly a debate about the rights of poor women, who are largely already denied basic reproductive freedom. But like the immigration debate, it’s mostly a proxy debate for anxieties about the privileges of being white and male being drained away in the 21st century.

The scariest right wing rhetoric involves war.

Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz seem most intent on driving home the notion that we’re under attack and at war — possibly even in a World War. Trump and Carson seem intent on persecuting this “war” almost solely by making life painful for American Muslims.

There are a number of simple reasons why we should not suggest in any way that we are war with Islam.

First of all, most of ISIS’s victims are Muslim. Second, if we’re going to defeat radical jihadis who are organizing in dozens of countries, we’re going to need the help of the 99.4 percent, according to John McCain’s estimate, of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims who are peaceful and likely despise the bastardization of their religion.

And neither of those two fantastic reasons not to glibly smear a world religion are the best reason not to say we’re at war with Islamic terrorism.

The best reason comes from scholars who’ve studied terrorist recruitment. Monkey Cage‘s Richard Maas explains:

How to help terrorists: Assume that everyone in their ethnic or religious group is a terrorist, too.

It’s exactly what ISIS is hoping for because they know how their recruitment works. Removing “the gray area” where Muslims and the rest of the world co-exist is ISIS’s goal.

But what’s good for recruitment in the Middle East is good for building a base in a fragmented primary in the U.S.

Republican candidates not only seem intent on helping foreign extremists, they seem intent on using the kind of rhetoric that erases the grayness of the co-existence that makes America great.

We won’t defeat this kind of extremism by mirroring it, but by calling it out.

Republican candidates all want to give away trillions more to the rich, make global warming worse, hijack the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and threaten the fundamental institutions that built the middle class including Social Security, Medicare, and labor laws.

The people who’ve been misled into voting Republican don’t want this. Neither does America, which is why Republicans are far more interested in scaring you than telling you what they’d actually do if we were unfortunate enough to see them elected president.

[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]