Why America Needs the GOP—Just Not This GOP
Texas School Shootings Highlight What’s Wrong with the Republican Party
On May 19, I wrote “What Lessons Have We Learned from the Buffalo Shooting?” which concluded with: “What lessons have we learned from the Buffalo shootings? None. Stay tuned for the next mass shooting of people with crosshairs already on their backs.”
And now here we are. Eleven days later. At a Texas elementary school. In those 11 days, there were 17 mass shootings. Those shootings accounted for 43 dead and 89 wounded.
Just for context: in the first five months of 2022, there have been 214 mass shootings (four or more people shot in the same place) in the U.S. So far this year, 17,300 people have been killed by guns.
I’ve been taking notes for this article for three months. The plan was just a general analysis of the GOP we need versus the GOP we have. But the Texas school shootings, so soon after the Buffalo shootings, lit a fire under me and this is the result.
I don’t want to rehash what I’ve already said in my previous article about predictable shootings and predictable targets, but I do want to address the bigger picture of what power we individuals have to change things. Because who else will?
If I Were President
I always imagined that if I were President of the United States, I would follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and appoint a cabinet made up of the best minds of the major parties. In forming his famous “Team of Rivals” cabinet, Lincoln deliberately included his political opponents because he considered them the best minds of the time and the best chance to unify the country during the Civil War. It wasn’t just a brilliant political strategy, it was the right thing to do.
It was the American thing to do.
Although I like to think that I arrive at my opinions by weighing the evidence and then choosing the solution based on the greatest good for the greatest number, I’m well aware that there may be biases in my thinking. That’s why I like to read arguments by informed, intelligent, and articulate opponents to my opinions. Sometimes they force me to come up with better reasons, sometimes they even change my mind. Even though I don’t agree with pretty much everything the Republican Party stands for, I have to admit that they are necessary counterpoints to keep me from lazy thinking and acting too quickly without careful consideration. As long as I know I have them expressing a thoughtful, well-supported counterargument, I’m obliged to work harder to support my own opinions. I always start with the assumption, what if I’m wrong and my opponent is right?
I also like to think that the Democratic Party works the same way for them. As long as we both operate in good faith, with respect for the opposition’s patriotic motivations to help the country before party and before self, we are on the same team.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way things work today. And we’re all suffering because of it.
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Trump Turns GOP into Cult
No leader should be so arrogant—or so foolish—to believe they have all the answers, that their opinion is always the right one, or that their decision is always the best one. They should never assume that they always stand on the moral high ground. That kind of megalomania and distorted perception is what happens when one surrounds themselves with simpering sycophants rather than intelligent patriots. That’s when you end up with Trump. And the Trump-pox infecting the Republican Party.
The problem is that Trump and his cult-like followers represent the current GOP. Gone is the Republican Party that, though I strongly disagreed with most their policies, still had men and women of integrity and intelligence. Like John McCain.
For me, the moment the GOP lost all moral integrity was in 2015 when Trump said of John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” McCain was a former Navy pilot who spent five and half years in a North Vietnamese prison, two of them in solitary confinement. He refused an early release until his fellow prisoners were also released. Trump, on the other hand, as his former attorney testified, made up a fake injury to avoid the draft.
At the time, I thought for certain the Republican Party would stand up and reject this horrible character assassination of a man of unquestioned character and integrity by a well-known grifter. Instead, they cowered, they genuflected, they cheered him on. The GOP had descended into the slime, led by Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump—the Four Hucksters of the Apocalypse.
Since then, they’ve only gotten worse. Trump has turned his party into a Manson-like cult who, with his encouragement, attacked the Capitol Building, looted, caused deaths, and chanted about hanging the Vice-President (to which Trump reportedly agreed that maybe Pence should be hanged). They smeared feces instead of blood, but surely it was Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter just the same.
If this year has proven anything, it’s that the GOP has cramped up while swimming in the moral and political ocean and in its panic is willing to drown any nearby swimmers as they flail.
States they control have become anti-Gomorrah gulags, walled citadels of self-righteous ignorance. Bow down to our religious views or seek shelter elsewhere—which is the opposite of the U.S. Constitution. The party that wants government out of our lives when it comes to guns is tapeworming government into every other aspect: autonomy over our bodies, our sexual lives, our education, our entertainment. They proclaim their support for freedom, but almost every law they pass restricts freedom.
But when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable—children—they stand over the tiny coffins mumbling about thoughts and prayers while clutching their guns to their chests puffed out with faux-patriotic furor.
GOP Response to Texas School Shootings Says It All
The GOP’s pre-fab talking points insure that the mass shootings will continue. They know it. They just don’t care. They get too much money from the gun lobbies and too many votes from people afraid their guns will be taken away—even though almost no one is proposing that. Their reasoning goes something like this: First, the FDA passes rules to prevent contamination of food in factories, next they come to your home and take away your corn dogs and Doritos. Huh?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the poster boy for current GOP it’s-not-us-it’s-them rhetoric. His response to the massacre of 21 children and teachers in his home state was to blame the number of schoolhouse doors. Cruz, who received $442,000 in contributions from the gun lobbies, more than anyone else, argued, “Have one door into and out of the school, and have ... armed police officers at that door.” (FYI: Trump said the same thing at the NRA convention a few days after the shootings.) Except most experts agree that such a plan wouldn’t work. According to Bill Avera, chief of police and emergency manager for the Jacksonville Independent School District in East Texas and a board member of the Texas School Safety Center, “It is not feasible to think we’re going to ever get to the point where we have one door in and one door out.” Just checking students in would take hours, not to mention safety and fire hazards. Plus, many schools have multiple buildings that students use throughout the day. And there is the cost. Texas ranks 40th in the country in per-pupil spending, not even reimbursing teachers for the personal money they spend on supplies. Now, suddenly they care? Not if you look at their track record.
Following the 2018 shooting in Santa Fe High School near Houston that killed 10 and wounded 13, Texas passed a law to “harden” schools from external threats. Unfortunately, that was a lot of sound and fury signifying almost nothing. Lots of schools didn’t receive enough money and teachers didn’t want to carry guns into their classrooms. A 2019 survey of teachers showed 95.3% didn’t think teachers should have guns. Worse, after reviewing 18 years of school security measures, experts found no evidence that these measures prevent violence.
Uvalde schools already had plans to prevent violence, including four police officers and four support counselors, as well as software for monitoring social media for threats and software to screen school visitors. There were also 20 armed officers—“good guys with guns”—in the hallway waiting while the shootings continued.
There have been 21 mass shootings in Texas in 2022. Texas has the highest number of gun deaths in the U.S. (though not the highest rate). What has the Republican Party, which dominates Texas politics, actually done to effectively address the problem? What has Ted Cruz done to actually prevent more carnage? The only thing they do is what their gun-lobby bosses tell them to do: Assure everyone guns are not to blame.
They brag about American exceptionalism as a smoke screen for not doing their jobs. They Built That Wall alright—the wall between sworn responsibility and legitimate action. Between empty patriotic rhetoric and deadly reality.
I’m a gun owner. I have collected Old West guns. But I’m not oblivious to facts. According to the Rand Corporation, states with the fewest guns have the lowest rate of gun deaths. Another study found that states with weaker gun control laws have the highest rates of gun homicides. These facts should inform what action to take. If only…
What’s Next for the GOP—or What Should Be Next
Is there any hope that those Republicans who believe in the Constitution, show personal integrity, and possess basic reasoning skills will gain control of the GOP? Let’s check in on the current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia, former pro-football player Herschel Walker and his suggestion for fixing the mass shooting problem: “Cain killed Abel…What about getting a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that looking at social media.” The U.S. Senate!!
Our kids are safe in his hands.
This is the party that still undermines our democracy by denying election results. Polls show that 71% believe the 2020 election was not legitimate, while a third don’t trust elections at all. This head-scratching opinion is held despite the fact that there is no evidence of voter fraud. Yet, they try to rig future elections by restricting voting access for the poor and minorities and by preaching the Great Replacement Theory encourage fear of People of Color and immigrants that leads to violence.
This is the party that is running Trump-endorsed Jacky Eubanks in Michigan, who admitted she would vote to make birth control illegal. Her reasoning: “I think people would actually be more likely to wait until marriage, to practice chastity, which is incredibly important.” Well, 95% of Americans have had sex before marriage, yet she, as a Republican, wants to legislate to prevent that.
I’m not saying the Democrats are saviors or that they don’t have their share of bad-faith actors (Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for example). But the majority do strive to act in good faith and have made effort to compromise. That’s why they often don’t appeal to those seeking blustering authoritarian rulers.
Americans mistakenly think that voting a balance of parties will achieve forced compromise. They think if they vote in a Democrat for President, they should vote in a Republican Congress and vice versa. That doesn’t work. It just insures the usual deadlock and gridlock.
It’s not the party that is at fault, it’s the individuals the GOP is electing. Because the Republican Party, fearing shrinking numbers of members, has filled its ranks with a collective of right-wing fringe groups unable and unwilling to think logically, legislatures across the country have been filling up with the worst exploiters who know they just have to run ads with them shooting a gun to get elected. Hyperbole? Nope. More than 100 GOP ads for the mid-term elections feature candidates shooting guns. Ted Cruz isn’t stupid, he’s the incarnation of Evil, stepping over the slaughtered bodies of children in order to pocket his payoff from gun lobbies to declare the cause of the carnage is “too many doors.” Never one to miss a paying gig, Cruz also appeared at the NRA convention to further blame the shootings on things like video games, declining church attendance, and social media.
I want the Republican Party to reclaim its rightful role as representative of conservative values. We need their input. For that to happen, we first need to exorcize the current GOP of its demons. We can’t keep waiting for them to do what is right and then get mad when they don’t because they’ve already proven they don’t have the backbone to do anything to jeopardize their jobs or lobbyist income.
If we want the country to heal the divisiveness, if we want the country to take real steps to protect our children, if we want the country to regain its place as a symbol of political integrity, then we have to stop wringing our hands with helpless outrage over and over, take charge ourselves, and finally get rid of the empty shells of soulless GOP con-artists that are running in 2022.
That, at least, will be a start.