If you believe the respectable conservative pundits in the New York Times, the Republican Party is well on its way to learning the lessons of 2012 and setting itself right. David Brooks writes:
Over the past month, the Republican Party has changed far more than I expected.
Exhibit A is supposed to be Tuesday night’s Jack Kemp Foundation banquet, where both Mario Rubio and Paul Ryan spoke. They unveiled no new ideas or policies, but according the NYT columnist Ross Douhat, Rubio
[spoke] frankly about problems that too many Republicans have ignored these last four years — the “opportunity gap” opening between the well educated and the rest, the barriers to upward mobility, the struggles of the poor.
He also used the phrase “middle class” over and over, proving that Republican focus has shifted away from the very rich. And Brooks says
[Paul Ryan] didn’t abandon any of his fundamental beliefs, but he framed those beliefs in a more welcoming way and opened up room for growth and new thinking.
Does anybody remember 2008? Republicans got an even worse drubbing then, so bad that they rebranded the party completely. The extreme Right stopped calling itself “Republican” and became “the Tea Party”. Did any ideas change? Well, no. If anything, the Party just got more extreme. The message was “You know that crazy-ass shit voters rejected in 2008? Well, we really mean it this time.”
The only lasting result of 2008 for Republicans was that George W. Bush became an un-person. He wasn’t at the 2012 convention, he didn’t campaign for anybody — it was like those eight years never happened.
Presumably Mitt Romney will have a similar fate. All those people who told us what a wonderful president he would be and how proud they were to have him on their ticket … they’ll just never speak his name again.
Because the future belongs to the re-re-branded Republican Party of Rubio and Ryan.
Unfortunately, Republicans who don’t work for the NYT seem not to have gotten the message. The Republicans who control state governments, for example, can’t move fast enough to defund contraception, make abortions even harder to get, and break unions.
But the real evidence that nothing has changed came Tuesday in the Senate when 38 Republicans (and zero Democrats) blocked ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty Tuesday.
This is the kind of vote that used to be a bipartisan no-brainer. The point of the CRPD is to bring all countries up to the level of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which President Bush I signed in 1990 after the Senate had passed it 91-6. Since we are the model for the treaty, it would not change American law. By ratifying it, all we would be doing is approving of the world modeling its disabilities policies after ours. Bob Dole came to the Senate in his wheelchair to urge ratification.
Usually somebody makes at least a fig leaf of a rational argument before rejecting something like this. This time nobody did. Instead, a variety of organizations floated “ten problems with the CRPD“. They actually come from Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, but they were reposted by a variety of right-wing special-interest groups as if they were their own talking points. (Here is an identical post from ParentalRights.org.) The gist of the complaint is that the treaty would put the U.N. in charge of all sorts of areas of American life.
- “every home owner would have to make their own home fully accessible to those with disabilities”
- “the legal standard for the number of handicapped spaces required for parking at your church will be established by the UN”
- “Article 7(2) means that the government—acting under UN directives—gets to determine for all children with disabilities what the government thinks is best.”
- “spanking will be banned entirely in the United States”
- “this convention is nothing less than the complete eradication of parental rights regarding the education of children with disabilities.”
The most prominent voice against the CRPD was Rick Santorum, who did his best to make opposition seem reasonable:
CRPD gives too much power to the U.N., and the unelected, unaccountable committee tasked with overseeing its implementation, while taking power and responsibility away from our elected representatives and, more important, from parents and caregivers of disabled persons.
I read the treaty. (It’s boring, but not that difficult.) The committee in question is the Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, described in articles 34-39. The treaty gives the Committee the awesome power to demand that member countries send it reports every two years, and to comment on those reports. In other words, if the Awesome U.N. Committee doesn’t like something about U.S. law, it can say so. That’s it’s whole power. Scary!
Any legislation to implement the treaty would have to be passed by Congress. Any legal challenge based on the treaty would go through American courts. The whole U.N. thing is a complete red herring.
In short, this is Death Panels all over again.
A second layer of paranoia comes from imagining what Congress could do to implement the treaty. The ten-problems document says:
This gives Congress total authority to legislate on all matters regarding disability law—a power that is substantially limited today.
Limited by what, you might ask? In reality, by nothing. Anything Congress could do after ratifying CRPD is stuff it could do now. But if you subscribe to bizarre right-wing constitutional theories that no one else believes, then the fact that no specific line in the Constitution says “Congress shall have the power to make laws concerning disabled persons” means that it can’t.
So how did Congress pass the ADA to begin with? Well, the ADA is unconstitutional under this theory, just like Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.
The truly scary thing is that none of the senators who voted against CRPD had any better arguments than the ones the home-schooling group was passing around. The NYT even made the treaty the subject of its Room For Debate series. They couldn’t get any legitimate people to argue against the treaty, so they were stuck with this guy, who among other ridiculous statements repeated this often-debunked myth:
When many nations (not including the U.S.) ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, they had no way of knowing that the U.N. would declare Mothers Day to be illegal
Where is that supposed to have happened? Belarus. The Monkey Cage explains: A committee similar to the one the CRPD would establish got a report from Belarus, and commented on it, criticizing Belarus for “continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes and by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers’ Day and a Mothers’ Award, which it sees as encouraging women’s traditional roles.” This criticism had no legal effect on Belarus, where Mothers’ Day continues, because these committees don’t have that kind of power.
This is the kind of conspiracy-theory thinking that swayed 38 of the 47 Republican senators.
In short, the lunatics are still in charge of the asylum in the GOP. There are no grown-ups who can tell the kids to go to bed. There are only a handful of grown-ups who will even try to tell the kids to go to bed.
Facts don’t matter. People on the Right believe what they want to believe, and their leaders either give in to them or actively pander to them. Come 2015, a new set of presidential candidates will start campaigning for these crazy people’s votes, and will say whatever folks want to hear. Then they’ll have to take those positions into the 2016 fall election, just like Mitt Romney did.
Nobody has learned anything.