Republicans Deceiving Us (and other ho-hum developments)
By Mark Pontoni | Nov. 3, 2018
Keeping track of issues in a complex society can be an exhausting task. With over 300 million Americans living under the authority of nearly countless levels of government, it is not hard to imagine why many citizens sit out voting…even in those rare places where Republicans aren’t trying to obstruct our rights to get to the polls. Recent actions in Republican controlled states to make it harder to vote are even more obnoxious than the President they are trying to protect. And he’s pretty damn obnoxious. It is pretty clear that the Republican leadership and its funders have decided that the GOP cannot win on the merits of its men or its policies, so it must restrict access to the polls by those who would rightfully boot them out of office. It’s like a football team trailing by 8 points in the final minute of a game finding a way to change the value of a touchdown from 6 to 9 points. Sounds like cheating. And it is.
More importantly, however, Republicans have, for many years, done their best to reframe our views on various institutions in order to demonize the very institutions which deserve our respect and support. Those institutions, which are committed to advocating on behalf of the poor and the powerless, have been made to look like enemies of the country, as greedy opponents of free enterprise, and as obscurers of the truth. These are views absurdly out of whack with how important the ACLU, trial lawyers, and the press are for those who cannot compete in our society because of the unlevel playing field we call modern America.
When you say “ACLU” in polite company, many people bristle. They know they are supposed to hate the ACLU because…because…because…well, actually they have no idea why they are supposed to hate them. They just do. Republicans have done such a great job demonizing this essential and heroic group, that millions of Americans, who benefit daily from the ACLU’s efforts, see it as “un-American” or “anti-American.” If you spend just five minutes on the ACLU’s website, you can see how vital to YOUR life the ACLU has been.
From all the way back at their inception when the ACLU fought the government’s attempts to arrest any American who had the audacity to criticize the government, through many critical suits to defend free speech, assembly, and privacy, YOUR life would be much worse off in a country without the ACLU. And it’s not just “liberal” free speech they protect. One of their most famous cases involved protecting the rights of Nazis to demonstrate in Skokie, Illinois. (With as much support as Trump gets from modern day Nazis, you’d have to believe the ACLU would be raking in donations from Trump supporters.)
If you think people bristle at name “ACLU”, try saying something positive about trial lawyers. During a recent debate between Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette, Schuette accused Whitmer of being in the pockets of Michigan trial lawyers. The way he spit out the words “trial lawyers” made me think that he had just swallowed a mouthful of rotting worms. Everyone hates trial lawyers. Didn’t they help that lowlife woman whose legs and genitals were severely burned steal millions of dollars from McDonalds? All they do is clog up the court system with frivolous lawsuits filed by people trying to get rich quick, right? If you’re a Republican who depends upon funding from large corporations, of course that’s what you would think. If you’re the average American whose life is often at risk because of irresponsible corporate behavior, you’d probably think the opposite.
Protecting consumers, the environment, and civil liberties make our country better. Trial lawyers have brought suits which have led to the banning of nearly 1000 unsafe toys which were killing or maiming our children. Exxon fought the efforts of trial lawyers for over 20 years in an attempt to avoid cleaning up that massive oil spill in Alaska. General Motors decided some years ago that is was far cheaper to pay for the estimated 500 deaths that would be caused by exploding gas tanks rather than fix the gas tank defect for $8 per car. It was trial lawyers who held them to account. Almost all lawsuits filed in this country are by corporations suing each other, yet it’s only lawsuits filed on behalf of people who were killed or injured by irresponsible corporate behavior that get our wrath. Why? Drug companies. Oil companies. Insurance companies. \This a virtual Hall of Fame of Republican donors … and the very groups who have most to lose when YOU are protected from their irresponsible behavior.
But don’t trial lawyers donate a lot of money to Democrats? Yes. Yes they do. And that should tell you a lot about which party cares about your interests above the interests of large corporations who simply cannot police their own irresponsible actions. And it should also tell you why Republicans have spent so many resources to demonize trial lawyers.
And then there’s the press. There’s not enough room in this column to detail the GOP’s planned and aggressive attacks on our most important defender of liberties. This is a bit ironic because they have so greatly benefitted from the First Amendment which has rightly prevented the shutdown of Fox News whose stories are rated by Politifact as “True” only 10% of the time. Let that sink in. It’s only the news that riles up our fake president that gets labeled fake. Reporters attacked verbally and physically. Female reporters talked to like they were 5 year olds. False claims about the accuracy and dedication of hard working journalists. Calling the free press the “enemy of the people.” This is Trump’s legacy with the one institution that can keep the government honest.
So the next time you hear disparaging comments about “the ACLU,” “trial lawyers,” and “the press”, pause a moment and reflect how much worse off YOU would be in the absence of these institutions. Then stand up for them, just as they have been standing up for you.
(Full disclosure: My son works for the Michigan Association for Justice, a group which supports the interests of trial lawyers.)