For many years, there was a tradition in politics. You could count on each side giving its spin on an issue in hopes of influencing voters to their point of view. If you didnt have the time or inclination to research the issue on your own, you could be relatively certain that the truth was somewhere in the middle. But sometime in the 1990s that changed.
I first realized the change in 1999 when I visited the website of the Republican National Committee in search of quotes from conservative Republicans. What I found was Gore Gaffs, dozens of ridiculous statements attributed to then-Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore. The only problem was that I recognized all of the quotes as having been made by Dan Quayle. I was dumbfounded. Why would the leadership of a political party lie about something that could so easily be disproved? For what possible benefit?
The only conceivable answer is a cynical one the party believes that no one will actually recognize the lie or hold the party accountable. Unfortunately, Gore Gaffs foreshadowed an ugly and disturbing trend by the party.
The Bush administration used lies and half-truths to lead us into an unnecessary war in Iraq. It lied about the outing of a clandestine CIA agent whose husband publicly exposed administration lies during the run-up to the war. It lied about the firing of U.S. Attorneys. It lied about eaves-dropping on American citizens. The list of lies during the Bush administration is quite lengthy and growing. In fact, former Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, recently admitted that he was pressured to raise the security threat level in 2004 to help Bush get re-elected. And it was recently discovered that former Vice-President Dick Cheney and the CIA hired a mercenary force (Blackwater, aka Xe) to form an international hit squad that was unconstitutionally kept secret from Congress.
Complicit in all of the lies are Fox News and conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh. Rush has long been known to make things up in order to whip his audience into a frenzy and increase his ratings. And, although Fox claims to be fair and balanced, its anything but. Former Bush Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, admitted that the administration used Fox to get out its talking points. It takes only a few minutes of viewing to realize that Fox News is simply a megaphone for Republican lies. But, of course, its viewers are so partisan or uninformed that they dont care or dont know.
During the 2008 presidential election, the GOP was in full attack mode. The difference in tone couldnt have been more striking. Indeed, had one not known better, one might have concluded that all of the problems created by 8 years of the Bush administration were actually the fault of the Democrats.
The 2008 elections were a strong rebuke of the Republican Party and its policies. But rather than examining the policies that led to the election defeat, the party decided to redouble its attacks. Republicans and their surrogates blame the loss on perceived voter fraud by Acorn. And, with a lack of real leadership, the party has turned to Rush Limbaugh as its titular leader. He and other conservatives are not just spinning issues based on their point of view. They are creating, or at least repeating, lies in order to scare people about the new administrations policies.
Attempts to rescue our financial system following its collapse under Bush are described as socialist and unnecessary government intervention. The same terms were used to describe the rescue of the auto industry, one of our nations few remaining manufacturing industries. A carbon cap and trade bill will lead to the collapse of the energy industry and put millions out of work. Health care reform is a Nazi policy using death panels designed to kill granny or an attempt to put bureaucrats between you and your doctor. Never mind that three government-run health care programs are run quite well. VA, Medicare and Medicaid are generally well-liked by those who participate in them.
At town hall meetings, angry conservatives have tried to shout down any real discussion of the issues, and, as if to make their shouts more forceful, some have brought loaded guns.
The Republican Congressmen and Senators refuse to discuss policies or the merits of legislative initiatives. They offer no counter-proposals. All they offer are lies, fear and more tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy. And if any Republicans dare break ranks with their brethren on a single vote, theyre labeled RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and theyre attacked by even more conservative candidates in the primaries.
For more than 30 years, the Republican Party has led an assault on the middle class and the poor with trickle down economics. In truth, under Republican leadership, the economy was reduced to a trickle. And none of the tax cuts have trickled down.
Indeed, a recent study found that the disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the population has reached the highest level since 1913, and the tax rate on the wealthy has dropped from 70 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2009. Thanks to Republican policies, as of 2007 .01 percent of the population controlled 10 percent of the wealth and 10 percent of the population controlled 49 percent of the wealth. And, if you want to consider the effect of Republican policies on health care reform, 47 million Americans are now uninsured, millions more are underinsured and nearly a million Americans will be forced into bankruptcy this year by illness.
This is why a fiscal conservative and social liberal like me no longer votes for Republicans. After 40 years as an independent, I am now a proud member of a party that respects me enough to not lie to me.