As the midterms approach, it is important to remember that we are still in the midst of an ongoing effort by the vast majority in the Republican Party to overturn the results of the last election. It is the party whose foundational tenet remains the Big Lie of election fraud. It is also the party, however, that has no meaningful policy positions in relation to any other vital issues facing the nation and the world.
The following ten questions intend to compel Republican candidates, their supporters, and the media to make clear and unequivocal statements in relation to real issues the nation faces. This would contrast the phony issues that Republicans obsessively engage such as Critical Race Theory, “wokeness,” and how Democratic policy priorities have somehow contributed to global inflation. These questions should be asked of every candidate in every possible forum. Only a simple “yes” or “no” answer should be given or allowed. These questions are explicitly framed so as to eliminate grey areas.
The ten questions will be stated initially without commentary. The commentary for each of the questions will follow. Every person with a heart, a soul, and a brain should easily be able to answer these questions affirmatively. They represent the minimum standards of freedom, equality, and citizen responsibility in our society.
- Is Joseph R. Biden the legitimately elected President of the United States?
- Is reduction of fossil fuel use essential to diminish greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change?
- Do members of the LGBTQ+ community have the right to free association and to receive the benefits of civil contracts associated with marriage and family?
- Should a female who has been raped or who faces a pregnancy that threatens her life have the right to an abortion?
- Should a person wanting to possess a military grade assault rifle have to undergo a background check?
- Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?
- Have the Covid 19 vaccines achieved astounding success in slowing the spread of the virus and limiting the emergence of new variants?
- Are the torrents of dark money flowing into American politics undermining the very foundations of equality essential for sustaining a democratic society?
- Are the Medicare and Social Security trust funds vital tools in securing the health and well-being of our elderly population?
- Are public schools key institutions in forming communities that transcend race, class, gender, and religious differences?
- Is Joseph R. Biden the legitimately elected President of the United States?
Polls show that the vast majority of Republicans have been brainwashed to believe that Joseph Biden is only president as the result of massive fraud in the 2020 election. It is disturbing that such a large swath of the public is so vulnerable to such a lie. What is truly disturbing, however, is the number of Republican elected officials who are willing to promote this lie either tacitly or explicitly.
A common response of Republicans, when asked whether Joe Biden is the legitimately elected President, will not answer simply “yes” or “no.” Their knowingly dishonest response is to confirm that Joe Biden is the President without confirming that the election was legitimate. The sad fact is that it is virtually impossible to win a Republican primary without embracing the Big Lie in some way. Their response is a prevarication, a little lie that sustains the Big Lie. It fuels the fires of sedition and destruction that consumes the Republican Party today. It violates both the spirit and the letter of the oath these elected officials take to uphold the Constitution.
It is morally reprehensible to allow election deniers of any degree a forum in our free press. Every Republican interviewed on a major network or by a newspaper should be required to affirm that the results of the 2020 presidential election are fully valid and in accordance with the Constitution. In a potentially disturbing development on this front, CNN appears to be willing to grant even more access by election deniers to their airwaves. Allowing airtime to any of the 147 Republicans who reused to certify Joe Biden without a full retraction and apology is aiding sedition.
January 6 brought these questions into very clear focus. There were even a few days when Kevin McCarthy and Lindsay Graham had seen a problem with Trump’s efforts to foment a violent coup against our country. There were also a few days when corporations were refusing to contribute to the campaigns of election deniers. All is now forgiven and forgotten by them. The major corporations and their political shills are now comfortably ensconced in the shadow of the bloated master grifter.
The coup continues. Republicans have already taken control of the judicial branch of government. Another Republican victory in either chamber of Congress will likely end our nation’s experience with democracy. Republicans know that they cannot win fair elections. Consequently, their solution is to end fair elections.
2. Is reduction of fossil fuel use essential to diminish greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change?
Has anyone, anywhere, at any time every heard any Republican say any one remotely intelligent thing about the climate crisis? The Republican Party is beholden to the fossil fuel industry, which keeps politicians immersed in the torrents of money they flood into the political process. They have funded an entire pseudoscience claiming that atmospheric carbon dioxide is not to blame for the world’s crisis. This point will not be belabored here. The PBS series Frontline (Season 40, Episodes 10-12) provided an excellent summary of the disturbing evidence of how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted both the science and politics surrounding the most important existential issue the world faces today.
The good news is that there are ways of limiting the damage to our climate caused by excessive atmospheric carbon. We will, however, need to act quickly and decisively. In 2007 Bill McKibben set up an excellent concept for addressing the climate crisis by establishing a goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million (ppm). There are various strategies and emerging technologies that can get us to this goal. They were presented in a NOVA episode on PBS two years ago, “Can We Cool the Planet?” (Season 47, Episode 15). Every politician should be asked about which legislation they would promote to achieve the goal of CO2 reduction to 350 ppm.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s bold executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035 have revealed that most Republicans are powerfully ignorant about the existing and future benefits of electric vehicles (EVs). The sun is the source of all energy on earth. Let’s cut out the middleman (fossil fuels) and the corrupt industry built around those fossil fuels. We have made better light bulbs. We can now make better cars. Would someone please send Republicans the memo?
3. Do members of the LGBTQ+ community have the right to free association and to receive the benefits of civil contracts associated with marriage and family?
In the aftermath of the Trump Court’s decision to overturn Roe in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, Clarence Thomas has made it abundantly clear that a spate of other established precedents would be next on the chopping block. The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision granting same-sex couples equal protection under the law will be a priority for conservatives to overturn now that Roe has fallen.
Conservative arguments in the 2021 Fulton v. City of Philadelphia anticipate a day in which homosexuality might not be criminalized, but discrimination against same-sex couples will be largely permitted. The Fulton decision essentially determined that a Catholic foster agency had the right on religious grounds to deny same-sex couples the ability to provide homes for foster children.
It seems truly disturbing that a religious institution that receives tax exemptions and taxpayer funds can so openly discriminate against a subset of our community looking to assist needy children. It is an expression by those whose god is too small to embrace a fuller spectrum of love and desire that might occur among people. Discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community is a foundational tenet of the Christian Nationalism that presently defines the Republican Party.
4. Should a female who has been raped or faces a pregnancy that threatens her life have the right to an abortion?
The framing of this question is the absolute minimum standard of female autonomy that every reasonable person should be able to embrace. The interface between a woman and a fetus is a profoundly complex biological phenomenon. Medical complications can arise at virtually any point during the gestation period. These complications often involve deeply personal and tragic decisions that women should not have to share with anyone outside of their most trusted inner circle. The Trump Court’s decision in Dobbs as well as Lindsay Graham’s abortion ban at fifteen weeks would insert the power of the state and federal governments into that decision.
What is clear from the Dobbs decision is that the state and federal governments will need to erect a massive bureaucracy and enforcement mechanism, a kind of womb police force. It cannot be emphasized enough that the states where the most severe restrictions have been imposed are also among the poorest states in the nation. Mississippi, where the Dobbs case originated, is also the state with the highest rates of maternal, infant, and child mortality in the nation. There is nothing at all “pro-life” about the state of Mississippi.
One of the many lies about abortion that Republicans promote is that the Democrats advocate for “abortion on demand” that allows any woman for any reason at any time in a pregnancy to have an abortion. This Republican lie correlates with another lie asserting that a large percentage of abortions occur in the 3rd trimester. While there may be a segment of activists in the women’s rights movement who reasonably argue that a woman’s body is her own, that is not the formal position of Democrats. The formal position of Democrats is the Roe standard.
Before the Trump Court’s decision in Dobbs, all women in principle had the right to an abortion prior to the point of fetal viability, generally considered to be around 22 weeks. This is the Roe standard. On a strictly partisan vote this July, House Democrats passed a bill to restore the Roe standard at the federal level. This would have allowed states to impose abortion restrictions only after the point of fetal viability. This, however, was too much for House Republicans. They want to ensure that safe and legal abortions remain the exclusive domain of wealthy women.
Those Republicans who have been riding the moral high horse, pointing their judgmental fingers at women who choose to have abortions, are now having to face the reality of the ethical tragedy spawned by their simplistic and legally absurd assertion that life begins at the point of conception. It is clear that the Dobbs decision has created a powerful reaction among the public that has threatened the political chances of Republicans in the upcoming midterms. Every Republican candidate should have to answer the question of under which circumstances might a woman be entitled to decide to have an abortion.
A quick side note on the close correlation between hostility toward abortion and toward the LGBQ+ community in the history of fascism. Soon after the end of the Hitler’s propaganda success of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion (Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität und der Abtreibung). Why these two disparate issues should be rendered under a single office is a sociopolitical matter that will not be engaged here.
The question for now is a simpler one. For the most part, mature societies have correctly vilified antisemitism. Why have we not vilified homophobia and transphobia in the same way. Let us never forget the suffering of those who wore the pink triangle as well as those who wore the yellow star.
5. Should a person wanting to possess a military grade assault rifle have to undergo a background check?
Again, this is a bare minimum requirement on which every reasonable person should agree. Of course, in a more reasonable society we would have an assault weapons ban! While background checks are required to purchase a firearm at a federally licensed gun dealer, only 40% of guns in the US are sold at such dealers.
There is only one country that experiences more gun deaths on an annual basis than the US. That country is Brazil. Brazil is not the standard to which we should aspire.
The question should be constantly asked in our political campaigns: Why does anyone not actively serving in the military need an assault rifle? When this question came up ever so briefly after our most recent elementary school massacre, Senator John Thune of South Dakota said that such weapons were needed to control the prairie dog population. Seriously! Who knew that the prairie dog population in the Upper Midwest was so great?
Here’s an idea. Ban assault weapons and create a federal prairie dog patrol that can be funded by all of the local, county, state, and federal money that is saved by not having the thousands of police officials spending hundreds of thousands of hours investigating a crime that virtually never happens in those parts of the world where we might wish to live. Think as well of all of the money we might save by not having to counsel those who live the remainder of their lives with the physical and psychological trauma visited upon them in these frequent massacres. If the problem is prairie dogs, as Mr. Thune suggests, let’s go after the prairie dogs! The most interesting question arising from Mr. Thune’s absurd comment is whether he should better be depicted as Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam. Discuss amongst yourselves.
This obsession with guns and violence defines today’s Republican Party as much as anything. The image that evokes this essential spirit of the Republicans is Marjorie Taylor Green holding an assault rifle with a gold crucifix above her cleavage with targets superimposed on the faces of three Progressive Democrats. Sexualized violence in the name of Jesus. Republicans use the Second Amendment to desecrate the Second and Fourth Commandments.
6. Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?
It is one thing to pay lip service to supporting Ukraine, as many elected Republicans do. It is another thing to make the public aware that it will take more than words to sustain the sacrifices required to ensure that Ukraine does not succumb to Putin’s genocide. These sacrifices include higher energy and food costs.
A major factor creating the inflation the world is experiencing today are the sanctions imposed on Russian energy. The Saudi led oil cartel has colluded with the fossil fuel industry and Russia to attain record profits this year. The Russian assault on Ukraine has also raised our appreciation for how much a role Russia and Ukraine play as the world’s breadbasket and sources of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus fertilizer inputs. Without any sustainable evidence, however, Republicans are blaming Biden for inflation rather than Putin. The point is that helping Ukraine means that we will have to pay more and do with less until Putin or his successor is forced to withdraw troops from a land that is not his.
What is truly contemptible about the hypocrisy of Republican policy toward Ukraine is the esteem which the GOP and its media acolytes accord Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Just as Orban’s fascist Hungarian predecessor, Admiral Horthy, was little other than a pimple on the ass of Adolf Hitler, so Orban is little other than a pimple on the ass of Putin. Orban and the entire Christian Nationalist movements of Europe and North America depend on Putin for their funding and social media support. It is not a surprise, then, that Orban is the leading figure in Europe trying to undermine both the military support for Ukraine as well as the sanctions regime set against Putin and his fellow kleptocrats. It is also Orban who, a week prior to his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Committee in July, disparaged interracial marriage. Hitler is surely laughing in hell. Putin is surely smiling in the Kremlin.
One searches in vain for any negative statement about Orban from any elected Republican official. Silence is complicity. And if Republicans want us to stop referring to them as fascists, then they need to distance themselves from people who clearly embrace fascist ideals. (More on this in later posts.)
Volodymyr Zelensky is one of the great leaders of our time. If you want a portal into the soul of this man, NETFLIX continues to offer all three seasons of “Servant of the People,” the political comedy for which Zelensky was the Executive Producer and lead actor. The series is not only entertaining, but also prophetic. Watching it requires navigating some linguistic (it is subtitled, not dubbed), cultural, and historical barriers, but it is more than worth the effort. What you will see in this series is a nation very aware of the challenges it faces; a people conscious of what is worth living for and what is worth dying for! Most importantly, the series and the war attest to the strength of democracy in the face of assault by a corrupt dictatorship.
Democracy owes an eternal debt of gratitude to Zelensky for his refusal in July 2017 to succumb to Trump’s attempt to extort him into investigating Hunter Biden. One might even argue that it would have been in the short term interests of Ukraine to accept the despicable quid pro quo. Zelensky, however, saw the broader picture. One can only imagine the fate of Ukraine had Trump won.
The heroic Ukrainians, assisted by the astute support of Biden and our NATO allies, have provided a much more hopeful scenario than was anticipated when Putin attacked Ukraine in February. The war, however, is far from over. Putin controls many levers in Europe and North America among the parties of the Right. Putin is hoping and likely to receive major victories in upcoming elections in Italy and Sweden. Of course, he also hopes the Republicans win in this year’s midterms. That will give Tucker Carlson the opportunity to broadcast from Moscow this spring.
7. Have the Covid 19 vaccines achieved astounding success in slowing the spread of the virus and limiting the emergence of new variants?
About 500 people in the US continue to die of COVID every day. The vast bulk of these deaths occur among the unvaccinated. A cynic might declare that this is Darwinism in practice. The problem, though, is that the unvaccinated serve as hosts and vectors for mutating variants of the virus. These variants emerging among the willfully ignorant threaten the lives of those who follow the sound advice of the medical community.
Republican refusal to adhere to sound medical practice during the pandemic ensured that our death rates were the worst among advanced economies. A conservative estimate would attribute roughly half of the one million COVID deaths to Republican refusal to accept the vaccine, mask mandates, social distancing, and lockdowns needed to ensure the best health practices during the pandemic.
Michelle Steel and Young Kim, the two Republican Congressional Representatives from my part of Orange County, have asserted themselves as advocates for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education. They are surely as well in strong support of puppies and apple pie. They have stood by in utter silence as their constituents have threatened and intimidated school boards, other public agencies, and medical professionals for implementing even the most basic precautions in response to the pandemic. As elected representatives, you do not get to stand by silently while members of your party disparage sound medical advice. Of course, they have also said absolutely nothing intelligent on the challenge of climate change. Their silence on these matters is the clearest indicator of their utter lack of courage, principle, and leadership.
8. Are the torrents of dark money flowing into American politics undermining the very foundations of equality essential for sustaining a democratic society?
Dark money (largely untraceable funds that enter our political process through various groups and individuals) is the specific reason why our country has not been able to address climate change, gun violence, the opioid crisis, the obscene cost and complexity of our health care system, student debt, and a host of other issues that more functional societies have effectively engaged. If a coroner has to write a report on the cause of death for U.S. democracy, the specific disease will be the metastasizing cancer of money power.
The 2010 Citizen’s United decision by the Republicans on the Supreme Court fully encoded the destructive power of money. This opened the floodgates for massive flows of anonymous domestic and foreign monies into every scale of U.S. politics, from the presidency to the local school board. The Republican SCOTUS asserted that the money was speech, but it did not require that the public even had the right to know who was speaking.
Consequently, one could effectively argue that the three most powerful individuals in American politics are people that no one has heard of: Charles Koch, Peter Thiel, and Barre Seid. The result of Citizen’s United is that outside spending by non-party outside groups exploded after 2010. Money is speech and corporations are people. Bad theology, bad anthropology, horrible politics.
9. Are the Medicare and Social Security trust funds vital tools in securing the health and well-being of our elderly population?
Most Republicans will deny that they have as a policy platform the privatization and defunding of the enormously popular and successful Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The Republican problem, though, is two-fold. First, there is no formal policy agenda or platform that Republicans can point to that indicates how they intend to address any specific problem. The closest thing we have to an articulated policy program by a leading Republican is that of the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Florida Senator Rick Scott. His “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” not only raises taxes on the poor but terminates funding for Social Security and Medicare after five years. There were, of course, many other horrors in this so-called plan. Very few Republicans have publicly endorsed it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denies that the Republicans will do any such thing. When asked, however, what his policy priorities would be should Republicans retake control of Congress, he contemptuously responded that the media would have to wait until Republicans had power to see what their agenda would be. It is important to remember that at the 2020 Republican National Convention, the Republicans did not even go through the effort of writing a platform. They deferred entirely to the incoherent whims of their candidate, Trump. The only results of the two years when Republicans had absolute control of the federal government was a $7 trillion loan taken out against our children and grandchildren and three members of the Supreme Court who lied under oath during the confirmation hearings. Of course, the lower federal courts have been fully corrupted by Trump appointees taken from a list provided by the billionaire-funded Federalist Society as well.
It should be assumed that Republicans will destroy these two pillars of security for our elderly should they reassume power. The Republican Party is being paid by lobbyists and dark money to find ever new ways to funnel wealth from the middle classes to the super wealthy. One way of doing that is to attack Social Security and Medicare. Another way to do that is to attack public education.
10. Are public schools key institutions in forming communities that transcend race, class, gender, and religious differences?
The public school is the bedrock of American democracy. It is where local communities gather to shape themselves in relation to the various elements of their local culture and changes over time. When the public system works well, it bridges gaps in wealth, race, religion, and gender. It does so within the changing framework of state and federal law. In the final analysis, healthy schools reflect healthy communities. Public schools represent the confluence of Arts, Sciences, Humanities, and Sports that contribute to the formation of balanced individuals in community.
Republicans, however, do not share this vision of healthy and diverse communities. Instead, under the empty slogan of “parental choice,” they look to establish a taxpayer subsidized source of funding for private charter schools that will operate outside the purview of the taxpayers. These schools will not be required to engage any racial, religious, ideological, differently enabled, or heteronormative individuals or families. They will not have to examine the complexities of history or biology that do not fit within their predetermined framework. Their students will be taught what to think, not how to think.
As with everything Republican today, the slogan “parental choice” is a grift. Charter schools are ways of funneling public money into various private companies operating outside the purview of accountability to which all public schools are beholden. John Oliver examined the grift of charter schools back in 2016 in his program, “Last Week Tonight.” Charter schools tend to exacerbate fissures within already broken communities. Troubled public schools tend to exist in communities with high rates of poverty, crime, and homelessness.
Schools did not create these problems and schools alone cannot solve these problems. Selectively extracting particular students (along with their engaged parents) from a troubled school does not address the larger problems in the community. Diverting funds and other resources from the troubled school in order to facilitate a charter school is simply another variant of trickle-down economic theory.
Public schools can and should be reformed. This reform should occur within the framework of local, state, and federal education policy that ensures that all students be treated equitably. I was fortunate to have attended and taught at socially and racially diverse high schools. The lessons of diversity are ones that last a lifetime. Charter schools will not and cannot enhance diversity or address the foundational problems of the communities where schools struggle.