During this week's much-anticipated charade called the Republican National Convention, a parade of speakers - everyone from New Jersey's bully Gov. Chris Christie to presidential and vice presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan - took their turns conning the American public just as they have been doing for years.
It's politically and historically correct to refer to the United States as "the greatest nation on earth." The words come easy. But America's greatness is on trial this political season. In its quest for complete control of the country, the Republican Party, its surrogates and their financial sugar daddies are picking apart the elements of our greatness through a campaign of lies, dollar avalanches and voter suppression.
They cannot win this election touting genuinely constructive policies because they don't have any. Instead, they continually resort to destruction. Destroy Medicare, destroy Medicaid, destroy tax fairness, destroy the president's oft-proposed jobs programs, destroy the president himself. Most ignominiously, destroy the right to vote for registered voters where Democratic sentiment prevails. Can't win the battle of ideas? Well, then, just keep your opponents away from the polls.
Their campaign no longer settles for innuendo or half-truths. They now use crafted lies.
Romney and his surrogates incessantly repeat the contemptible falsehood that President Barack Obama removed work requirements for welfare recipients. He didn't. The lie, repeated at many Ryan and Romney appearances, is spread unashamedly in a swath of heavily financed dishonest ads despite being proved demonstrably false.
Candidates Romney, Ryan and their surrogates, who have vowed to replace Medicare with a voucher program, blatantly lie that Obama has "stolen" $716 billion from Medicare. In truth, Obama's revisions reduce Medicare spending by lowering payments to providers. There are zero cuts to beneficiaries. Coincidentally, the recent House-passed measure to repeal the current health care law would inflate the budget deficit by $109 billion over the next 10 years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
The campaign pushes the falsehood that Obama is responsible for a Wisconsin GM plant ceasing production in December 2008, which is when George W. Bush was president.
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse tacitly acknowledged their campaign's dishonesty. "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," he told an ABC News panel.
The power of these lies is magnified by hordes of financial backing from the likes of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove's American Crossroads, etc., spigots opened by the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision.
Then there's voter suppression. The Republican Party is intentionally subverting an American principle that has grown over the centuries: the expansion of voting rights. The Civil War, the 19th Amendment, the 1965 Voting Rights Act were all part of that constitutional ideal "to form a more perfect union" that contributes to American greatness.
Last year, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott tried to purge 2,600 names from voter rolls, claiming they were fraudulently registered. The purge would primarily affect minorities and seniors, important Democratic constituencies. The Orlando Sentinel reported, "notwithstanding the concerns of Scott and Republican legislators, state records show that voter fraud simply hasn't been a problem for the past decade."
Ohio's Republican Secretary of State has engineered the suspension of early voting during nights and weekends, a strategy designed to curtail voting among urban minorities whose early voting in 2008 contributed to that state going Democratic. on Friday, a federal court ruled that the state must restore three days of early voting before Election Day.
Pennsylvania's Republican legislature enacted a strict new voter photo ID law that potentially disenfranchises over 750,000 registered voters in the predominantly Democratic areas of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. There have been no cited cases of fraud that the law is designed to correct. The state's House majority leader acknowledged the political purpose of the law when he boasted that its enactment would "allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." The law that claims to combat voter fraud is itself a gigantic fraud that's clearly designed to disenfranchise primarily minorities and seniors who will have difficulty procuring the new IDs.
This widespread Republican abridgment of citizens' voting rights is a reprehensible blot on our national character. Must the concept of America's greatness be relegated to resting on its laurels? What made this nation great is not the subordination of our people to a tiny minority of aristocratic overlords. We ejected that idea when our nation was born in the late 18th century. America's greatness rings true by retaining political and personal integrity and constantly striving for expanding citizen participation in the growth and defense of our unique democratic experiment. If we abandon those attributes, we abandon our greatness.
- Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities.