GOP must embrace changing America
RHONDA SWAN, Florida Voices"I don't know why," Gov. Rick Scott said recently, "anyone is not a Republican."
Published: December 29, 2012
Published: December 29, 2012
Has he looked in the mirror lately?
His is the face of a party that puts politics over people, caters to the rich, kicks the poor when they're down and forces their religion on the rest of us.
Florida's Republican lawmakers scream limited government but forced women seeking abortions to have unnecessary ultrasounds. They worship free enterprise but want taxpayers to fund private schools. They tout the U.S. Constitution then legislate school prayer.
They refused federal cash to implement the Affordable Care Act, but accepted money for abstinence-only education that's done nothing to reduce teen pregnancy or abortions.
They slashed $1.3 billion from K-12 education. They then restored $1 billion of that to help boost Scott's approval rating – it hasn't worked so far - but also took $300 million from higher education.
The GOP-dominated Legislature has given $2.5 billion in tax breaks to corporations, yet made it harder for the unemployed to collect needed benefits.
Legislators forced people in need of state aid during the worst economy since the Great Depression to take drug tests as a prerequisite. And they put thousands of state employees out of work.
Mitt Romney dissed the 47 percent at a fundraiser in Florida because he expected it to play well here. Is it any wonder given how the state's Republican leaders have treated Florida's 47 percent?
Romney got a bad rap for saying out loud what many Republican elected officials believe. They prove it in Tallahassee and in statehouses across the country with the laws they enact.
Instead of widening their tent by advocating policies that would appeal to African Americans, Latinos, women and young people, Florida's Republican lawmakers passed a law designed to keep minorities who traditionally vote Democrat from the polls.
It was an epic failure.
President Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win Florida twice in nearly seven decades. Republicans lost their super majority in the Legislature and their chance at picking up Democrat Bill Nelson's Senate seat. They also lost U.S. Rep. Allen West's House seat.
The GOP is the party of Christian values, except for those tenets that obligate Christians to clothe the poor, feed the hungry and take care of the sick. They also aren't too keen on the Scripture that says, "judge not." Or the one that commands the faithful to love their neighbors.
That doesn't play well in today's America.
The fact that Scott doesn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to be a Republican is exactly what's wrong with the Republican Party. Its leaders lack the vision to see that while Florida and the rest of the country is on fast forward, the GOP is stuck on pause.
The governor's approval rating isn't 39 percent for nothing.
It isn't only that the nation is becoming browner, it's becoming more inclusive. Tea party hysteria and Capitol Hill gridlock aside, we are recognizing more and more our sameness. That we really are all in this together.
The politics of division and class warfare - welfare applicants are presumed to be on drugs and the unemployed lazy - are becoming irrelevant.
We aren't there yet, but we're certainly on our way.
Maine, Maryland and Washington approved gay marriage in November, bringing to nine the number of states that have legalized same-sex marriages. Civil rights should not be decided at the ballot box. Still, those referenda show we are moving closer to true equality for all.
Only four years ago, Florida and California enshrined discrimination against gays in their state constitutions by prohibiting the recognition of any marriage not between a man and a woman.
What a difference four years makes.
Except in the Republican Party.
During the four years since the nation elected its first African American president, Republicans, Florida's lawmakers included, doubled down on policies that alienated African Americans, Latinos, women and gays. That, Gov. Scott, is why someone wouldn't be Republican.
If the GOP doesn't evolve and accept the realities of the present, the party is going to be a relic of the past.
Rhonda Swan is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post and author of Dancing to the Rhythm of My Soul: A Sister's Guide for Transforming Madness into Gladness. She can be reached at email@example.com.