Ordinarily, TWiA comes out on Friday, so we can cover the entire week's worth of news. But this special abbreviated edition is coming out on Monday, because tomorrow is election day. Whatever else you do tomorrow, if you haven't voted already, please go vote.
As The Weekly Sift points out, almost nobody agrees entirely with the policies pursued by either political party, and despite the efforts of Greens and Libertarians and a few others, our real choice is between the Democrats and the Republicans.
But even if you don't stand 100% with either party, to not vote does not register as a protest against them. It registers only as apathy, as abdicating one of the few duties citizenship actually demands of adult Americans.
And there are real differences between the parties. Quoting the Sift, "There’s one party with a way-too-small response to global warming, and another that that says climate scientists are part of a global conspiracy; one party that keeps the perpetual war simmering reluctantly, and another that would eagerly boil it over; one party that sells out to Wall Street on certain key issues, and another that is 100% owned and operated by Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry; one party with a half-hearted response to economic inequality, and another working to increase inequality; one party that won’t stand up to the theocrats, and another that stands with them. In the near term, one or the other is going to control the government. Which should it be?
As of this writing, Republicans seem likely to take over the Senate, and they'll obviously hold the House. What would a Republican Senate bring us? It's hard to know for sure what the agenda would be, since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY), who would become Majority Leader, doesn't want to talk about it. But a few things are obvious, including the increasingly erratic Sen. John McCain taking over as chair of the Armed Services Committee. Here are five likely scenarios.
The Senate would become more right-wing with the addition of extremists like Joni Ernst of Iowa, who doesn't think the president has done enough to combat Ebola in America (where there is only one person, out of 300 milllion or so, who has Ebola), frets about Agenda 21 and believes the states have the power to nullify federal law (a question answered by the Civil War, with which she is apparently unfamiliar), and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who has convinced himself that ISIS is working with Mexican drug cartels to attack Arkansas. Sen. Ted Cruz (R/TX) wants a Senate the looks more like the current House--the least functional legislative body in American history. According to the Washington Post, "In an interview at the Hotel Captain Cook here between campaign stops for Sullivan, Cruz made it clear he would push hard for a Republican-led Senate to be as conservative and confrontational as the Republican-led House." Part of what he wants to see is for the Senate to join the House in trying to take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.
Climate change, meanwhile, remains a real area of concern for sane people, if not for most Republican candidates. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its final report in a yearlong process today. They're issuing their most dire warning yet. The New York Times says, "Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year." But other scientists say the IPCC is far too conservative in its estimates, and chances are things will get much worse than they predict.
But Republicans today simply don't believe it's a problem. They used to--during the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain talked a lot about his cap-and-trade proposal. Today, if they talk about it at all, it's to minimize the issue. Rep. Lamar Smith (R/TX) chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and last year he wrote, "Instead of pursuing heavy-handed regulations that imperil U.S. jobs and send jobs (and their emissions) overseas, we should take a step back from the unfounded claims of impending catastrophe and think critically about the challenge before us." This weekend, asked about the new report, he added, "Similar to previous reports, the latest findings appear more political than scientific. People are tired of the re-packaged rhetoric. It’s time to stop fear mongering and focus on an honest dialogue about real options." All 14 Republican Senate candidates oppose the EPA's climate regulations to limit power plant emissions.
Back to The Weekly Sift for a comparison of what rights the two parties are trying to defend.
"Democrats are trying to defend these rights: The right to vote without paying a de facto poll tax or jumping through partisan hoops. The right to marry the person you love. The right to decide for yourself whether to carry a pregnancy to term. The right to be treated fairly by police, even if you are poor or non-white. The right to equal pay, regardless of gender. The right of women to have their health problems taken as seriously by insurance as men’s health problems.
"Republicans are worried about these rights: The right to carry a loaded rifle through the aisles of Target. The right of businessmen to refuse service to people they don’t like. The right of employers to decide what health coverage their employees can have. The right of Christian pharmacists and health-care workers to put their religious beliefs above your care. The right of corporations and billionaires to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns — and to do it anonymously."
Saying that both parties are equally awful is to create a false equivalence. Democrats, at least, base policy on science, on demonstrable facts. Too many people are uninsured, with the result that health care costs have become the single most common reason for personal bankruptcies (and many others die from lack of access to decent care)? Pass the Affordable Care Act. Devastating effects of climate change on the horizon? Let's start to address it now, before it's too late. Recovery too slow? Spend more on infrastructure and other jobs programs to stimulate the economy. Deficit too high? Stop cutting taxes for the rich.
Republicans, meanwhile, continue to want to pursue policies based on mythology, fever dreams, and religion. "Trickle-down" economics has long since been disproven. Austerity measures are crushing Europe's economy; fortunately, John McCain wasn't elected in 2008 so we dodged that bullet to some degree, but at state and local levels, austerity is still hampering recovery, as Kansas demonstrates. They pretend climate change isn't real. They imagine that the problem with gun violence is that there aren't enough guns. They fear-monger about Ebola, and want to cancel all direct flights from the affected African nations, even though there are no flights from those nations, or they advocate the impossible (and undesirable) task of sealing all the borders completely.
Right-wing media complicates things by fueling the fantasies and feeding the fears. There's really no comparison between the lack of truthfulness on the right--as is demonstrated by every survey showing that Fox "News" viewers are the least informed, and the most misinformed, of anyone who gets "news" from any source--and the left. And Fox is one of their most responsible sources. Those whose ideas about our country come from the fringe sites like Breitbart or Glenn Beck or the Heritage Foundation are even less likely to know the truth. The recent Pew survey we wrote about here shows that those on the left are far more likely to consider multiple sources for news, and more mainstream ones that report more honestly and with less partisan bias.
Our bias here at TWiA has always been made clear. We believe in science. We believe that there are knowable facts, and that policy should reflect those facts, rather than attempting to bend facts to fit ideology. Opinions are fine, but opinions grounded in fact carry much more weight with us. As much as we sometimes disagree with Democrats, and feel that they're too beholden to big-money interests, we believe that on balance, they're more likely to pursue policies that help average Americans, and the country as a whole, than Republicans. Therefore, we'd love to see all TWiA readers vote predominantly for Democrats tomorrow.
But regardless of which party you feel represents you the best, mostly, we'd love to see you vote. You're an American. It's your right, and your duty.
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