Progressive Views: Time for an End to Hate

by Kevin Henning, KCDP Chair
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, July 26, 2019

American flag draped from a fence with razor wire
“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?” by Mike Bitzenhofer is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why have so many become hateful, misogynistic bigots?

The brave servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much make me humble and so appreciative to live in this wonderful country.  It also gives me pause when I see the rancor that exists in Washington and Austin. Hateful language and violence have no place in our communities and the halls of government.  Our elected officials must set an example by demonstrating civility and more nonpartisanship. We have big problems to solve, and working together is the only way to make lasting change.  This rancor also stimulates the worst among us to feel emboldened.

The growth of hate is well documented.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a leading organization fighting hate and extremism.  Congress and law enforcement rely on them to help keep communities safe. SPLC has documented a disturbing increase in hate-based crime over the last three years and are now tracking a record 1020 hate and white supremacist groups across the country.

“Politics above ethics and morality” is the watchword of our current political climate, and nowhere is it more evident than Texas.  Disenfranchising people of color, the weak, and the unfortunate is distasteful to me and should be to all Americans. Efforts here in Texas by Republicans to suppress the vote of people of color continue, with gerrymandering being a principal tool.  Also, overt voter intimidation, voter ID laws, and the recent attempted and misguided voter purge are examples of some of the worst behavior in the nation.

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) June 25 ruling supporting partisan gerrymandering further erodes the voice of the electorate, throwing democracy under the bus.  This may be their most destructive election ruling since Citizens United.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.” 

I just don’t get Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion.  SCOTUS weighs in on all kinds of political activities and should have done so here.  Remember the Citizens United decision. This ruling granted corporations and nonprofits unlimited spending power, making money, not the people, the king in political speech.  It gave the ultra-rich Koch brothers and others like them the ability to drown out the voices of you and me. This dark money must be brought into the daylight. Every dollar spent to influence elections should become public information at a minimum.

Political polarization is thriving. We have seen the Democratic Party move modestly leftward, as the party’s presence in the South has declined. But it still works to solve problems and so is relatively open to compromise.   Unfortunately, the Republican Party has moved dramatically rightward and now represents a radical force that our system of government is not able to contain. Republicans in Washington have implemented strategies designed to disrupt and stymie efforts to govern, including the constant use of the Senate filibuster, repeated government shutdowns, attempts to hold the U.S. economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and the unwillingness to accept Democratic appointments to key positions.

Whatever happened to the party of small government and fiscal restraint?  The deficit will be over $1 trillion dollars this year, up 30% over last year.  The deficit is funding a tax cut for the rich. Debt is growing faster here than anywhere else in the world, beating out Italy for the bottom spot.  Unless policymakers act, the Congressional Budget Office concludes that rising debt could reduce future economic growth and income, crowd out private investment, create constraints for policymakers to respond to unforeseen events, and raise the risk of a fiscal crisis. This dangerous path of federal debt remains a critical issue for our future, and changes to spending and tax policies are necessary to put the nation on a sustainable path.

In closing, I remain hopeful after recently rereading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal of an amazing young person who shared her innermost thoughts and remarkable insights. She tragically died in a concentration camp but left us some remarkable thoughts.  Here are a few of my favorites:

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.

In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.

In sixteen months, we will have a chance to change the dynamics of our current situation.  Time for everyone to step up and make a difference. Time to end hate.

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