The New Republican Reality: No Policy is Too Right-Wing


Richard Moore


  The New Republican Reality: No Policy is too Right-Wing
 By Andrew Gumbel
 The Independent U.K.

 Monday 08 November 2004
Conservative pipedreams are suddenly part of America's mainstream.

Los Angeles - Where should the United States invade next?
Iran, Syria, or Cuba? Will George Bush merely slash taxes on
the rich even further in his second term, or will he have the
courage to abolish income tax altogether? Will gay marriage
simply be outlawed state by state, or will a much-threatened
constitutional amendment come into being?

These might once have been idle questions for conservative
Washington think-tanks. But now, with President Bush safely
re-elected for another four years and increased Republican
majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, such
radical right-wing notions are no longer pipe dreams. They are
the active stuff of policy discussion.

Grass-roots conservatives, many of them religious
fundamentalists who paved the way for President Bush's victory
in the suburbs and the rural heartland, are positively
salivating at the prospect of having their efforts rewarded.

"I don't know if we're going to abolish the prescription drug
benefit [for senior citizens], but we'd like to. It's just an
expansion of government," the Republican strategist and
direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie said over the weekend. "We'd
like to see oil and gas exploration increased in the
continental United States. We want a constitutional amendment
on marriage. We want the culture of life expanded."

This wish list and others like it now face little or no
opposition in Congress, in the White House or - as the federal
bench is increasingly filled with ideological conservatives -
the courts. The rest of the world may have thought the first
four years of Mr. Bush's presidency were quite radical enough,
but they could turn out to be just the hors d'oeuvre to a
radical-right beanfeast.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Vice-President Dick
Cheney was supporting the idea of abolishing income tax and
replacing it with a flat national sales tax - a highly
regressive notion that would effectively shift the tax burden
drastically away from the rich to the dwindling middle class
and the working poor.

In Cuban exile circles in Miami, meanwhile, hardline
anti-Castro leaders are getting very excited by a pledge
President Bush made in one of his last campaign appearances in
Florida to liberate their homeland. Career diplomats at the
State Department are getting concerned this might be an
indication that military intervention - the first since
President Kennedy's disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 -
might be seriously contemplated.

State Department stalwarts are getting equally alarmed at the
prospect - yet to be confirmed - that Colin Powell will depart
his post as Secretary of State and open the door to a
neo-conservative takeover of foreign and national security

A senior State Department official, writing anonymously in the
online magazine last month, laid out a stark future
for US policy in the Middle East in a second Bush term, the
first part of which appears to be close to fruition already.
"The neo-cons, working in tandem with a similar staff in the
office of Prime Minister Sharon of Israel, have a three-part
agenda for the first part of Bush's second term," he wrote.
"First, oust Yasser Arafat; second, overthrow the secular
Baathist al-Assad dictatorship in Syria; and, third,
eliminate, one way or another, Iran's nuclear facilities."

The Republicans' domestic agenda is likely to contemplate the
further delegation of social services to religious charities,
the further concentration of media ownership in a few
corporate, largely pro-Republican hands, further moves to
restrict or even outlaw abortion, restrictions on the civil
rights of gay couples (for example, their right to bequeath
property to each other) and increasing challenges to Darwinian
evolution in school classrooms.

Some of the new faces in the Senate gave a flavor of the kind
of politics we can expect out of Washington in the next
political cycle. Tom Coburn, newly elected Senator from
Oklahoma, is on record saying he thinks doctors who perform
abortions should be executed. (So much for the "culture of
life" behind the anti-abortion movement.) Jim DeMint of South
Carolina said during his campaign that homosexuals and
unmarried pregnant women should not be allowed to teach in
public schools.

Democrats and many Independents are appalled at the prospects
ahead. Since moderation seems unlikely in the immediate
future, some of them are left hoping the Republicans will
overreach so drastically that it will create a large political

*  California: Three Strikes and Jail for Life

Petty criminals who steal a slice of pizza or a pack of
batteries are still liable to be sentenced to 25 years to life
under a notoriously draconian piece of legislation known as
California's Three Strikes law. First introduced in 1994, it
was sold to the public as a way of ensuring that violent
repeat offenders are kept out of harm's way. But it rapidly
became clear that the law applied to offenders of almost any
kind. As a result, thousands of shoplifters, welfare frauds
and other small-time offenders found themselves on the
receiving end of a judicial sledgehammer.

A modest proposal to amend the law and exempt the
pizza-stealers was well on its way to success at the polls
last Tuesday until a coalition of prosecutors and prison
guards managed to talk Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and four
former governors into campaigning to defeat the measure. The
airwaves were bombarded with adverts falsely claiming that
thousands of violent offenders would be released if the ballot
initiative passed. Result: Three Strikes will stand unamended
for the foreseeable future.

*  Arizona: Immigration

Arizona voters resoundingly endorsed a ballot initiative
requiring immigrants to show proof of citizenship when seeking
government benefits - potentially barring all foreigners from
the public schools and health programs.

Quite what the initiative known as Proposition 200 means is
not clear because its language is vague, but already it has
spooked the state's large Latino population, most of whom did
not vote. Attendance at public pre-schools in Phoenix has
already dropped - numbers at one visited by a reporter dropped
from 20 to just 2 at the end of last week.

Supporters of Prop. 200 say it is time to crack down on
illegal immigration. (This is a state where ranchers take pot
shots at Mexicans sneaking across the border.) Statistics show
undocumented workers pay more into the system in taxes than
they take out of it. Opponents hope they can strike the
measure down in court before it spreads to other states. A
slightly less draconian measure was passed in 1994 in
California but later deemed unconstitutional.

*  Oklahoma: Death Penalty for Abortion Doctors

Widely seen as the kookiest candidate in the recent election,
Oklahoma's new Senator-elect Tom Coburn is so conservative it
actually pains him to request federal money for his home state
- usually the number one job of any elected representative in

On his campaign, he advocated the death penalty for
abortionists and "other people who take life" - not,
presumably, executioners or US military personnel in Iraq. He
loves guns so much that after the Columbine High School
shootings in 1999 - when he was a Congressman - he said he saw
nothing wrong with people having access to bazookas and using
them "in a limited way". And he loathes homosexuals. "The gay
community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every
area across this country, and they wield extreme power," he
said. "That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom we
face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for
abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda."
Interestingly, Coburn is a doctor - an obstetrician, to be
exact, who once admitted sterilizing a 20-year-old woman
without her written consent.

*  Kentucky: The Terrorists are Out to Get Me

The republican Senator Jim Bunning achieved re-election by a
hair, but not before spooking many of his constituents into
thinking he had lost his marbles.

He insists that all rumors about Alzheimer's or another
degenerative disease are nonsense. One can be forgiven,
though, for thinking him a touch paranoid for insisting on a
massive security detail in the less than high-profile
Bluegrass State. ("There may be strangers among us," he said a
few months ago, hinting that al-Qa'ida was out to get him.)

Ditto his assertion - entirely unsupported by the facts - that
campaigners loyal to his Democratic rival beat up his wife
until she was "black and blue". The Washington rumor mill
suggests that, having won re-election, Senator Bunning - a
former baseball star - may now quietly retire.

*  Nationwide: Replace Income Tax with a Levy on Sales

 Extreme policy ideas begin in the White House itself. Dick
 Cheney, the Vice-President, was reported yesterday to favor
 the kind of tax reforms that would make even the most radical
 fiscal wonk blush.

 Mr Cheney is said to be among a powerful lobby with the
 President's ear whose recommendations include the abolition
 of income tax, the cornerstone of a progressive tax policy.
 In its place would come a national sales tax, in effect
 replacing a tax on income with a levy on consumption.

 The idea that a Bush administration would use the tax system
 to favor the rich is hardly an outlandish one. Much
 pre-election debate centered on tax cuts implemented during
 his first term, which were heavily weighted towards the

 Nor would he be the first leader to try to tip the balance of
 taxation from direct to indirect levies: Margaret Thatcher
 cut income tax and raised value-added tax.

 But the latest proposals would be something else entirely,
 and a sign that the election victory has given Mr. Bush the
 mandate to rip up the rule book and start again when raising

 Mr. Cheney's is not, however, the only voice advising the
 President on this subject.

*  Creationists Rule in Kansas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania

The last time there was a conservative majority on the Kansas
state school board in 1999, they voted to change the science
curriculum and present Darwinian evolution as just one theory
among many to account for the bio-diversity of the planet.

Back then, the move provoked national ridicule, led to a
defeat for the conservatives at the next school board election
and eventually caused their ruling to be reversed.

That, though, was before the conservative tidal wave heralded
by the re-election of President George Bush. Now the
creationists are back in the majority in Kansas and have every
intention of re-opening the debate sometime in the next nine
months, according to local newspapers.

And Charles "it's only a theory!" Darwin appears to be under
siege in other parts of the country too.

In the small town of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, the school board
just voted to introduce a very similar change in biology
teaching. The local schools superintendent, Joni Burgin,
argues the science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive
of just one scientific theory".

More than 300 biology and religious studies teachers have
written to the board to protest, so far without result.

In Dover, Pennsylvania, the school board last week approved
the teaching of a newish twist on creationism called
"intelligent design" - a theory that does not entirely reject
Darwin but says the process of evolution and natural selection
is too complex and too wondrous to have occurred without the
guiding hand of a divine force.

The evolution debate has never entirely gone away in the
American heartland, but until very recently, it was deemed too
ludicrous to make its way into public school rooms.

The notorious Scopes monkey trial in 1925 turned the United
States into a global laughing-stock that has haunted public
administrators ever since.

Two things have now changed, however. First, religious
fundamentalists are succeeding in making their influence felt
on school boards across the nation - everywhere from Colorado
Springs in Colorado, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the rural Midwest
(not only Wisconsin but also Ohio).

Secondly, hardline creationists are now taking a back seat to
the proponents of "intelligent design", or ID, which can be
seen as a paradoxical form of evolution within the creationist

Unlike the cruder, God-made-the-world-in-six-days brigade, ID
proponents are trained scientists with degrees from
respectable universities. They do not so much challenge Darwin
as chip away at him piece by piece.

* South Carolina: Ban Gay Teachers Homosexuals

South Carolina's new senator-elect, Jim DeMint, runs only a
short distance behind Tom Coburn when it comes to extreme

"If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be
teaching in our schools," he said during a televised campaign
debate a month before the election. Two days later, he told a
newspaper reporter he didn't think pregnant single women who
live with their boyfriends should be allowed to teach either.

The comments created a furor and led to Republican aides
begging him to tone down his rhetoric. DeMint agreed not to
repeat them and told subsequent interviewers that the issue
was one for local school boards, not the US Senate. But he
refused to retract his remarks, much less apologize.

He is also an advocate of a flat sales tax in place of income
tax, something that might endear him to certain fiscal
radicals in the new Bush administration.

  Rove: Bush Serious About Gay Marriage Ban
 The Associated Press

 Monday 08 November 2004
Rove says Bush will push for Constitutional amendment banning
gay marriage in second term.

President Bush in his second term "absolutely" would push for
a constitutional amendment that says marriage consists only of
the union of a man and a woman, White House political adviser
Karl Rove said.

Bush believes states can deal with the issue of civil unions
between gay people, an arrangement that if enacted would grant
same-sex partners most or all the rights available to married
couples, Rove said on "Fox News Sunday."

But a national ban on same-sex marriage is the only way to
make sure "activist judges" don't redefine marriage, he said.

As for the Supreme Court, Rove said Bush would nominate only
judges who would "strictly apply the law, strictly interpret
the Constitution" from the bench.

"He views judges as the impartial umpires," Rove said. "They
shouldn't be activist legislators who just happen to wear
robes and never face election, ... (who) feel free to pursue
their own personal or political agenda."

Rove said Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican in line to head
the Senate Judiciary Committee, has assured the president that
he would make certain that all appellate nominees receive a
prompt hearing and reach the Senate floor.

© : t r u t h o u t 2004


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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