STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As many of my regular readers know, one of my favorite topics over time has been the contemporary Republican Party and where they are taking the country. I was about to do another one of my speculative columns on that subject when all of a sudden, there was North Carolina right in front of me. Highly gerrymandered, it has full Republican control of the Executive and Legislative branches. Indeed, it is so highly gerrymandered that the early 19th century Massachusetts Governor, Elbridge Gerry, after whom the carving up of electoral districts into rather odd shapes to meet political needs was named, would likely be embarrassed to have his name associated with what has taken place down there. (Interestingly enough, Gov. Gerry, was one of only three delegates to the original Constitutional Convention who refused to sign the original document because it did not contain a Bill of Rights.) And so, they can just do it! Thus, if you want to know what a Republican future would look like nationally, just cast your eyes on that state. For them, it's GOP heaven. For the rest of us, well . . . .
This is some of what they are doing:
1. They have enacted a voter suppression campaign with very strict voter ID requirements (to meet the non-existent, Fox"News"Channel-created "voting fraud crisis") plus strict limitations on when and where one can vote, one that has been characterized by Think Progress as the "worst voter suppression bill in the nation."
Think Progress also noted that the NC Governor Pat McCrory said, when asked about some specifics in the bill, said that he hadn't read all of it but would sign it anyway. So we have the new substance of governing presented – narrowing democracy and participation in government, along with a new process for executives – "my party supports it, so I will sign it." At the "signing ceremony" for the bill, which Gov. McCrory circulated through a YouTube video rather than doing a traditional signing ceremony at the Governor's mansion, he noted that voter fraud is very rare but it should be protected against anyway. Funny how he didn't use the same rationale when he slashed state spending on food stamps (and hunger is a lot less rare than voter fraud).
In an article on similar food stamp cuts that will take in Pennsylvania under an all-Republican state government, it was stated that: "Life may get harsher and hungrier for nearly three million people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Nov. 1, when food-stamp benefits will be cut overnight for the first time in U.S. history. It will mean 21 lost meals per month for a family of four --- devastating arithmetic for families already living either on the edge or within the abyss of poverty, according to experts on food stamps, now called SNAP for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."
2. Some specifics from the NC State Democratic Party on the GOP "education" plan include: the firing of over 4,000 teachers and 3,800 teachers assistants; a clear plan for privatizing public education; increases in college tuition and the loss of much financial aid at both the University of North Carolina and community college campuses; ending the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program (similar to Teach for America); abolishing teacher tenure; and providing for no teacher pay raises. I do not have any figures on what will happen to class sizes in North Carolina but I have been told by a senior K-12 educator who follows education developments nationally that in some states facing similar draconian cuts, class size will possibly rise to 50(!)
3. North Carolina now has a set of draconian abortion-rights-destruction laws among the most of that type in the nation.
4. The "Outer Banks" of North Carolina, which face the Atlantic Ocean and bound the famous Pamlico Sound, are a series of low-lying islands that have been on the frontlines confronting hurricanes for as long as there have been hurricanes. Of course, now with global warming/climate change there are going to be more hurricanes, more severe hurricanes, and rising seas levels. Responding to demands of real estate developers working the Outer Banks, last year the North Carolina legislature passed a law prohibiting oceanographers employed in any way by the state, including at the universities, from using the term "rising sea levels" in any publications/research reports. (This one was actually let go by the then-Democratic Governor, Bev Purdue.)
5. Assuming that the Governor signs the bill, North Carolinians with concealed-carry permits will be allowed to take their guns into bars and restaurants, unless the establishment chooses to prohibit them from doing so (except that if someone is "packing" how is the bar/restaurant supposed to know that?). Now let's see. In 50% or so of homicides either the killer or the victim or both are intoxicated. The solution for NC residents? Order in and drink only at home!
6. Finally, earlier this year the legislature passed a bill (subsequently withdrawn) that would have declared North Carolina exempt from the provisions of the Federal Constitution pertaining to the separation of Church and State.
And so, if you want to see what the Republican future will look like, you need look no further than North Carolina. This is what "The 15% Solution" to the GOP problem of rapidly declining popularity among the population as a whole, now being implemented by GOP state governments all over the country, will bring us. We don't have to make this stuff up like I did when I originally published my book "The 15% Solution" back in 1996. What we do have to do is organize a massive nation-wide campaign to aggressively take it on, leading up to the 2016 election. The first order of business? As I have said on a number of occasions, create a Progressive Democratic Party out of what is clearly the wreckage of the present one.
(Photo: Emil Doepler)
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.