North Carolina here. You’re in for a rough ride for the next few years. We should know.
Just a few years ago, we were the moderately progressive state known for great beaches, mountain vistas, a world-class university system, and a welcoming environment. Then, in 2012, Republicans took control of both houses of the legislature, the Governor’s Mansion and the Supreme Court. (Sound familiar?) Now, we’re known for HB2, voter suppression laws, and extreme gerrymandering.
The Republicans in Congress are about to get brutal. Everything you think they wouldn’t dare do, they will do. They will strike quickly and broadly. By the time you understand the breadth of their destruction, they’ll be rolling and you’ll be trying to figure out how to respond.
Nothing is sacred. Expect attacks on the social safety net, including Social Security and Medicare. The third rail of American politics now has a short in it. The social contract that we built in the New Deal and Great Society is in tatters.
These aren’t Ronald Reagan Republicans. They’re Cal Coolidge folks. We’re going back to the Roaring Twenties, complete with Robber Barons and massive income inequality.
They’ll flatten the tax rate and shift the burden from the wealthy to the middle class. They’ll cut corporate taxes to almost nothing and eliminate protections that keep workers out of poverty in tough economic times.
Deregulation will be the cry of the day. Forget climate change. They’ll trade hurricanes and droughts for gas and oil profits in a New York minute. Unregulated financial industries will make bankers even richer while costing you more in fees, penalties, and interest.
Proposed social legislation will send tremors through organizations that defend women’s health, equality, and social justice. Various religious freedom bills will defend the rights of socially conservative Christians to discriminate against LGBT people. The rights of fetuses will supersede those of the adults who created them.
Expect an all-out assault on public education. They’ll force some sort of voucher program on public schools across the nation. Religious schools will get a bunch of tax dollars while poor schools will get the shaft. Privatization of our public education system is the end game here.
They’ll try to protect their gains by disenfranchising voters who disagree with them. Look for federal legislation to make voting more difficult, especially for people of color and young folks. They’ll force states to bend to their will on voting restrictions.
Oh, you thought they believe in limited government? How quaint.
No, they want power. And they’ll do what it takes to keep it. The only Amendment that counts for much anymore is the second one.
If you want a hint of what they’ll do, look at the various components of their base. Everybody will get something.
The free-marketeers will get their supply-side tax cuts and deregulation that increases environmental destruction while stripping away workers’ rights. The social conservatives will get restrictions on abortions and anti-LGBT legislation. The populists will get a crackdown on undocumented immigrants that pushes the Fourth Amendment to the breaking point.
Sure, some of their overreach will fail. In North Carolina, two guys tried to institute a state religion. Another one submitted a bill to mint our own currency. They just made us a laughingstock. They won’t be able to kill the Federal Reserve System, though somebody like Louie Gohmert will certainly suggest it.
So, what can you do? Well, you can organize. Look at the Moral Monday protests that energized the base in North Carolina. Build a campaign infrastructure that recruits candidates and supports them. And sue. Much of their legislation will be unconstitutional. Even if the GOP controls the Supreme Court, judicial consciences will come into play. A few judges will surprise you.
Be loud. They’ve empowered racists and they’ll look the other way at religious intolerance. Call them out and shame them. Our Muslim brothers and sisters will likely have an especially difficult time. Stand with them. The world needs to know that there are still people in America who won’t abide bigotry.
And, hey, if all that fails, we’re probably only six or eight years away from another economic collapse. That’s what’s happened the last two times the GOP controlled all three branches of government. Their policies caused the Great Depression in 1929 and the Great Recession in 2008. Lack of oversight and regulation encourages unsustainable corruption and greed.
After that, if you’ve held off authoritarianism, you can elect a responsible government that believes in mitigating the impact of economic hardship on the most vulnerable people in a capitalist society, protects the environment from the most egregious polluters, and stands up for the rights of minorities.
But for now, buckle up. It’s gonna be a rough ride. Welcome to the fray.