The Republican Party gave no less than a half-dozen different "official" responses to Monday's State of the Union. Rebuttals that ranged from delusional to outright insane, and all gave us a reminder that not only does the GOP not have a single coherent policy outside of their demented obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, but also there really are two Americas, and one is incapable of dealing intelligently with our problems.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the official “official" SOTU response. A shorter version of her speech would be, "Hyperbole. Boot straps. Hyperbole. Bible. Hyperbole. Free markets. Hyperbole. Jesus." Ironically Rodgers decried government “controlling” our healthcare while, of course, ignoring her role in the earlier House vote on controlling women’s uteruses.
While Obama cataloged substantive winners, such as raising the minimum wage, restoring unemployment insurance the GOP let expire for 1.6 million people, fixing the broken immigration system, and renewed investment in public infrastructure, the GOP muttered nothing meaningful about anything. Rand Paul waffled on about how raising the minimum wage would kill the entire fucking cosmos, but when Wolf Blitzer asked him if he opposed raising the minimum wage, he replied, "I'm not sure." Bltizer gave a, "What the fuck?" look and the interview moved on.
In his address, Obama dared Republicans to make the Affordable Care Act their campaign platform for 2014. To paraphrase, "Look, idiots, you've had 47 attempts to repeal it, but it's now the law and it's now working for millions of Americans. And now 65 percent of the country is against repealing it." But as evident by the GOP response, they've taken the bait. So instead of talking about jobs, immigration, the economy, and anything else of substance, the party of know-nothing reactionaries will continue to hammer on about Obamacare, Benghazi, abortions, and gay sex.
In his 2013 SOTU, Obama called for a new jobs program, a raise in the minimum wage, sensible gun control laws, and for the two parties to work together to pass a budget. None of that happened. Not only did the GOP controlled House fail to enact a single bill more important than renaming a public building to the Ronald Reagan Office for the Such and Such, it shut down the entire federal government.
At what point does the party of the South’s failure to deal intelligently with national problems and/or its willingness to intentionally wreck the country, the economy, and civil rights constitute sedition? The last two congresses have been the least productive congresses in U.S. history, and this at a time when action and policy is needed most. Obstruction and nullification were the twin seeds that gave birth to the Civil War. To indulge in hyperbole myself, things are now really that bad.
Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation wrote in a 2009 Daily Beast article: “The battle in Washington is not between liberals and conservatives; it is between the Union and the South. The rest of the country needs to understand…..this [Republican Party] is the party whose spiritual ancestors are the old Southern conservative Democrats, like John. C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis and Strom Thurmond and Orval Faubus.”
The American experience is underpinned by the key phrase of its founding document: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but at this point, this vision is achievable only if the nation were to split in half. Lee Siegel, columnist for the Daily Beast, asked, “If little Czechoslovakia can split itself in two, why can’t we?”
It’s a fun, and paradoxically depressing, exercise to imagine an America without its mostly Southern states. The North could retain “America,” while others have joked the South could rename themselves either the Confederate States of America, or “Smith & Wesson” or “Jim Beam” or some other pro-corporate Southern identity shit.
They could then put immigrants to work on plantations at $1.50 per hour. They could completely put an end to public education, the 40-hour workweek, child labor laws, all the while corporations won't have to worry about things like paying annoying taxes, nor will they need to deal with pesky big government penalizing them for poisoning the water supply, polluting the skies, or intoxicating food. They can have evangelical documentaries, and food shows that celebrate obesity, running 24/7 on their one cable news network. Heck, they can even implement the death penalty for minors, the intellectually handicapped, gays and abortion doctors. With the 10 Commandments carved into the granite of every public building, you now have a Southern nirvana.
On the northern side of this hypothetical border, however, "America" would have universal healthcare, legal same-sex marriage, electric cars, clean skies, no military assault rifles, a livable minimum wage, high tax revenues from a progressive tax structure that underpins massive public investment, strong collective bargaining laws that ensure income equality, and a ban on carbon emissions. “America” would have cities that ranked among the world’s most livable, a high-speed rail network, and also more than one airport ranked in the top 100 as it has today.
In other words, "America" would again look like a first world secular country, a country where it’s probable for an atheist to be elected into public office. A country that was once again able to deal intelligently with real problems - taxes, spending, environment, education, fairness, poverty, and whatever else. You know, the things Obama spoke intelligently about in his State of the Union.
Instead, we are stuck, at least politically, in a 1860s time warp, where half the country is rooted in religious fanaticism, ancient grudges, and demagoguery, while the other half is trying to “move quickly, along scientific and technological lines, into the modern era.” America is two nations pretending to be one. The State of the Union remains divided.