Our Past, when Democrats and Republicans talked and worked with one another for the common good regardless of beliefs, was on poignant display at Senator Bob Dole’s funeral.
President Biden gave a moving eulogy for a friend from Kansas, who repped for the other party. Biden praised him while talking about their differences, and made the point that Senator Dole knew how to compromise for the common good, putting country above party. It was good to see Senate Majority and Minority leaders, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell ( R-KY), sitting next to each other. It was appropriate to see Vice President Harris and former veep Pence at the funeral. This was our past. If we don’t act “outside” the box”, it may never come again.
Our Present, could also be seen at the funeral. While former President Bill Clinton was present, former President Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, was missing. Mentioning Donald Trump in the same article as Bob Dole is painful. But Trump represents a present in which he and his minions oppose and criticize everything and anything the Democrats do, regardless of whether it insults their own party or is good for the country. The epitome of this present reality can be seen in the recent debt ceiling compromise that Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell worked out so the country wouldn’t default on its existing debts.
The debt ceiling is not a limit on government spending. It is a limit on the Department of the Treasury’s ability to borrow money to pay the country’s existing debts, previously approved by Congress. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. It was raised 88 times in the 20th and 21st centuries with bipartisan support.
Failure to have raised the debt ceiling would have been catastrophic. The U.S. credit rating would have be downgraded. Interest rates both in the U.S. and around the world would have gone up. Military salaries and social security payments would have stopped.
In our present reality here’s what the former Republican president, and members of his modern Republican party, had to say about the compromise. Trump called Senator McConnell an “Old Crow; a disaster.” He said: “McConnell did not have the guts to play his cards, instead giving our country away, just like he did with the two Senate seats in Georgia and the presidency itself.” (The truth is that the Republicans lost the Georgia Senate seats and the White House because of Trump. Joe Biden is our president not so much because people wanted him, but because the majority of us did not want a second Trump term. And, it was anti-Trump sentiment that galvanized Georgia voters to elect two Democratic senators).
The debt ceiling compromise passed the House with only one Republican vote: Adam Kinzinger’s (R-IL). Marjorie Taylor Green’s (R-GA) response: “Shut it [the country] down”. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said: “[S]adly we cannot rely on Senate Republican leadership for a backbone”. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called those Republicans who voted for the compromise “swamp creatures.”
Only 14 Republican senators voted for the compromise (64-36). According to Mike Rounds (R-SD): “There’s nobody back home that thinks you should cooperate, in red states, with Democrats at all.” Lindsey Graham ( R-SC) said: “I don’t like this … and I won’t forget it … ” He then tried to strip the debt ceiling out of the House-passed bill. John Kennedy (R-LA) tried to pass a bill to prevent the Medicare cuts that would have occurred by defaulting on the debt ceiling.
Our Future, according to Matt Gaetz, if the Republicans take control of the House in 2022, would include lawmakers like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar (AZ) and himself becoming the new faces of the Republican Party. These are all extreme people who support Trump’s “Big Lie.”
Gaetz, who is currently under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking, said he would “go after” the Justice Department if Republicans win back the house. Gosar posted a video of him killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and physically attacking President Biden. Green, who has supported QAnon conspiracies, advocated: violence against leading Democrats and the FBI, along with posting racist, anti-Semitic, and anti Muslim views on Facebook.
It would be a mistake not to take Gaetz’s prediction seriously. None of these actions have been addressed or disciplined by the Republicans. It’s only fair to assume, therefore, the House Republican leadership supports Gaetz, Green, and Gosar — and most recently Boebert’s anti Muslim attack on Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — and would empower them if Republicans take control of the House in 2022.
I realize that I may be whistling in the wind, but the Democrats have to get down in the gutter with a Republican Party on a path to authoritarian rule; Democrats must respond. They can start by launching a campaign that paints Gaetz, Green, Gosar, and Boebert as the face of the party that will dominate if the Democrats lose control in 2022. The Democratic National Committee should contact billionaires and former presidential candidates Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer to fund it.
On a personal level, each of us should contact our representatives and demand that this be done. For those of us in Santa Barbara, Representative Salud Carbajal can be reached at (805) 730-1710.