You didn’t see Saturday Night Live‘s “Establishment Shuffle” sketch on national television because it didn’t make the actual show. But it’s probably the best summary of the 2016 GOP primary that you’ll find.
In it, the dignified Paul Ryan — who almost had America intentionally default on its debt because President Obama wouldn’t agree to enough cuts to Social Security and Medicare — explains that Trump’s proud racism and erratic demagoguery don’t represent the establishment Republican Party, which prides itself on subtle, coded racism in service of a constant and unwavering effort to undo everything that built the middle class.
The extremism of the GOP establishment becomes more obvious every day as it rushes to support Ted Cruz’s efforts to swipe the nomination from Trump — and deliver it to a Senator who would be the most extreme national candidate since at least Barry Goldwater, and possibly since shoelaces were invented.
The GOP has never stopped catering to the catered and victimizing victims, but it’s worse than ever now. Trump’s cruelty-as-qualification runs on these very instincts, but turns off the voters Republicans need to win a general election. At this point, the billion-dollar baby’s brutality is all theoretical. But Republican cruelty is actual policy, and it has decimated states like Louisiana and Kansas, where the empty promises behind tax cuts for the rich are repaid with the blood, sweat, and fears of low-wage workers.
Saturday’s Boston Globe supplement imagines the damage a President Trump could do. But let’s not forget the damage being done by the Republican right at this very moment:
- Denying millions of the hardest working, most desperate Americans Medicaid expansion, for no good reason.
Look at Texas to see the lengths the GOP will go to deny poor people basic health care. The state with the highest uninsured rate in the nation is turning down billions of dollars, forcing residents to pay higher insurance rates and letting thousands die rather than accept Medicaid expansion paid for almost entirely by the federal government. In addition, the state’s war on Planned Parenthood has driven between 100,000 and 240,000 women in the state to attempt to end a pregnancy themselves. Florida and 17 other states are doing their best to duplicate Texas’ efforts to punish the poorest working people in the state with third world health care.
- Trying to delegitimize the Veterans Administration after overloading it with suffering servicemen.
Like any other Republican-driven “crisis,” there’s much more to the VA than what’s being reported. Exploiting an overloaded system, right-wing billionaires are attempting to destroy what has been the nation’s most effective means of delivering health care for veterans. “Working through the [Concerned Veterans of America], and in partnership with key Republicans and corporate medical interests, the Koch brothers’ web of affiliates has succeeded in manufacturing or vastly exaggerating ‘scandals’ at the VA as part of a larger campaign to delegitimize publicly provided health care,” Alicia Mundy writes in an explosive expose for the Washington Monthly. “All this has been happening, ironically, even as most vets who use the system and all the major veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) applaud the quality of VA health care.” There are problems in the system, no doubt. But they are problems consistent with an American health care system both underfunded and egregiously costly, thanks to the right’s aversion to government expansion.
- Unmooring struggling communities with the destruction of public education.
“School choice” is a perfectly poll-tested term for the conspiracy to undermine community schools that also — how convenient — just happens to target the last effective bulwark against Republican revanchism, teachers’ unions. School choice as a phrase is promising, but again and again, introducing “competition” to one of our most treasured institutions, public education, has uprooted the fabric of communities that have little holding them together. In Michigan a new study finds that “choice” students “fare no better on state standardized tests than similar students who stay in their home districts.” And what do students get in return for empty promises and classroom disruption? Mitchell Robinson, an associate professor and chair of music education at Michigan State University, called school choice “a scam designed to defund poor urban school districts and destabilize public education.”
- Purposely keeping wages as low as possible.
Next year will mark a full decade since the lowest paid Americans got a federal minimum wage increase — so long ago that many states and localities have given up waiting for Republicans in Congress to act. In response to the Fight for Fifteen movement’s activism, city councils are addressing minimum wage increases at the local level, despite state legislatures’ interventions. Meanwhile, many of the same states enforce anti-union measures that purposely lower wages for all workers. Elected Republicans are doing their best to act on Donald Trump’s call that wages are too damn high.
- Doing whatever they can to make global warming worse.
New research suggests that “the disaster scenario” of the West Antarctic ice sheet breaking off, melting, and raising ocean levels by as much as 12 feet could happen much sooner than expected. And Republicans are furious that President Obama is trying to do something about it. Why? Because the effects of climate change will, generally, fall hardest upon the world’s poor: those unable to cope with the devastating effects of drought, flood, and famine. That, or they really believe what Trump said: that global warming is a conspiracy invented by the Chinese.
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz waves as he arrives to speak at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts