Should Citizenship Duties be Required?

There are many strong arguments for Americans to force shameful Republicans in the Senate to do their Constitutional duty and seriously consider an Obama nomination to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, it becomes easier to slough off still another solitary example of Republicans doing the bidding of the rich few. Conservative forces have dominated government and our economy for some 35 years. We are accustomed to throwing up our hands and feeling powerless.

But put all the arguments together and the failure of Americans to act should amount to dereliction of duty, perhaps akin to Australia’s fine for not voting. It would be one more siesta on our part, piling on failures to act, like 30% voting turnouts and general indifference to the gradual dissolution of our democracy.

Laissez-faire capitalism, championed by the same Republicans, tells us to shop, don’t bother our self-indulged selves with the small stuff (Bush’s spurious war in Iraq, for example). “Fend for yourself. Play the lottery.  “Some day, you’ll be a ‘devil-may-care rich dude’ like those celebrities the media seems to pitch every waking hour.”

Even the proclivity of most legislation to favor corporations isn’t always apparent to us, like only getting a for-profit health care reform in “Obamacare” where taxes and government continue to line the pockets of Pharma and private for-profit health care providers. Even that has relentlessly been demonized by all Republicans, probably because it’s Obama’s plan and mainly helps the poor.

The people versus corporations – corporations are always winning that contest.

Under the guise of austerity, cuts in social spending harm the poor segment of society. Then labor unions over the years – vilified by constant conservative propaganda – have been gutted with relentless attacks at state and federal levels by the GOP. They once were the bulwark of workers, even the middle class.

Let’s consider this new affront, perpetrated by Senate Republicans. Consider what damage the Supreme Court has already done to our republic, actually to all of us who bother to fight the rich establishment. We can easily witness several realms where fair and equal conditions in government and business has been taken away, to a large measure by the courts, especially the Supreme Court.

So here we are. We are reduced to a hack politician, Mitch McConnell calling the shots in the once-esteemed U.S. Senate. Thirty percent chose Mac. Instead of Golden Arches, we get fallen arches. Mitch, whose pitch for the rich, would ditch the Senate’s basic duty of vetting and confirming Obama’s Supreme Court selection, whoever it may be. Yes, thirty percent of Kentucky voters selected the King of obstructers, a representative reason why nothing important is done in the U.S. Senate now. More important, seventy percent of American voters didn’t bother to vote in 2014, giving us this GOP mess in both Houses of Congress.

Like lambs set up for slaughter, we never think it will be our turn for that unequal treatment that some 20 years of conservative Supreme Court rulings have exposed us to, revolutionary rulings that have given corporation personhood status. Most of us didn’t get extended prison terms for using or selling drugs. Most of us haven’t gone bankrupt with health care costs. Most of us haven’t had to sue a large corporation for discrimination or unfair labor practices or for body-harming consumer products. Most of us weren’t shut out from voting because of the SCOTUS notion that minorities don’t need protection against disenfranchisement. Most were not affected by the Hobby Lobby decision which fails to separate church from state. Then there are the forced arbitration clauses SCOTUS condoned, allowing corporate monoliths to stealthily get you to cede suing rights.

Conservatives continue to demonize — like an inscribed litany — all government under the rhetorical guise of “big government,” until it has become a cliché or a punch line.  Frank Luntz has aided Republicans for years with “talking points” and “wordsmithing” to pound our brains with conservative values.

He has been quite successful.

How often have you repeated some diatribe or joke about government incompetence? George W. Bush, in effect, made government incompetence so with his attitude, including appointments of unqualified people to top positions (FEMA for one) and his reckless spending in Iraq. This climate has real consequences in voting habits, in prejudices, and in our selection of candidates.

We see signs that indifference to good government will continue. Look at the large surge in Republican presidential primary voters, inflamed by the nasty campaign rhetoric coming from the three top candidates. Look at the unimpressive numbers of Democratic voters, especially among the young who helped Obama get elected for two terms.  Democrats are discussing issues vital to Americans. Republicans are pitching insults, lying about Democrats and one another, and making issues about personal grooming and appearances. Do we want to encourage school yard bullying or good and fair government?

The Holocaust Memorial poem, First They Come, seems ancient and irrelevant when unjust behavior has not affected us. But we have been conditioned by a conservative culture that teaches us the values of greed coupled with a dearth of empathy. “We are hard-core, gun-toting individuals. Don’t tread on me.” Of course, that attitude tends to exclude the less fortunate and even vilifies them for perceived laziness, with even a racist theme attached.

But be assured. They will come for you next. The deck is truly stacked against us. The TPP trade agreement, for one, will assure that even middle class jobs will go off shore and income will continue to tank. Give the Republicans a continued majority. Stay away from the voting booth and allow Republicans to defy egalitarian government, to reject selection of unbiased judges and continue to polarize whole swaths of the people.

You know what these actions or inactions will lead to?

We are now in the midst of it.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.