Moore, Trump put local Republicans at severe risk

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

As we head into the 2018 election season, we see that the two major political parties find themselves at crossroads, with one party seemingly finding its roots after years of wandering and pandering and another so lost, to as be unrecognizable from just a few years ago.

For Democrats, heading into 2018 with a wind at their back — and locally, the biggest series of wins in party history — it seems like a party that had been co-opted by corporate America has found its roots, grabbing back the mantle of populism (thanks to a giant assist from Republicans), blue-collar workers, the middle class, minorities and so on. Basically, everyone but rich white folks.

Democrats will likely continue excessive naval gazing — as is their wont — but seem to have found a foundation in embracing the old-time ethos of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson of lifting up and protecting the least of our citizens to build a stronger, fairer America. A new generation of leaders seems to be emerging — more and more quickly would be better – that better represents America.

They’re also backstopped by organized labor, which seems to be finally making a comeback after four decades of erosion (which, with some validity, they point to as the beginning of the assault on the middle class). Unions are again beginning to get toe holds in places where they had previously been shut out — and at the same time seem to be working to stem the tide of rank and file members voting for Republicans such as Donald Trump, such votes being a key factor in Trump winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the 2016 elections.

They appear to be raising more money and looking to put more resources into the 2018 election cycle. We’ll see how effective that is, but it is worth watching.

Meanwhile, there’s the Republican Party.

Just a few years ago, the GOP stood for fiscal conservatism, social conservatism and family values.

Now? Not so much.

If the early 2000s — between the George W. Bush tax cuts and the Medicaid expansion — didn’t convince you that Republicans lacked fiscal discipline, the current tax bill rushed through Congress has to seal the deal. The legislation will add about $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, according to estimates — although growth in the economy could cut that by $500 billion.

Republicans claim — and history both in 1983 and 2002 suggests otherwise — the tax cuts, mostly focused on corporations and wealthy individuals will spark massive economic growth, something most economists see as something between unlikely and ridiculous.

And while Republicans and President Trump have argued this is a middle class tax cut, a handful of GOP elected officials have been more forthcoming.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told The Washington Post this week that his party had not been entirely honest: the bill is really a corporate tax cut.

All of the polling around the issue seems to suggest the voting public sees the bill the same way: as a sap to corporate America (which, by the way, pays an effective rate of about 19% — as unlike you and I, most companies have entire departments dedicated to reducing their tax burden).

I don’t know about you, but I typically pay a higher percentage than that, so its hard to feel a lot of sympathy for companies pulling in record profits, sitting on cash, paying exorbitant executive compensation, buying back stock — basically doing everything but adding facilities, hiring more people or giving their workers raises. Most folks — with some justification, based on comments from various GOP elected officials who have said as much — see the bill a a big gift to the donor class, the rich folks and companies that bankroll the Republican Party, at the expense of the average person.

Protestors stage a sit in at U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello’s West Chester office this week. Photo courtesy Nathaniel Smith.

Not surprising, local congressmen — all of whom supported the House version of the bill — are feeling the heat from folks. Just Thursday, a group opposed to the bill, staged a sit in at U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello’s office in West Chester. U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-7) and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-16) are also getting negative feedback from voters on the bill.

And maybe if that were the biggest transgression — and these comments from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seem to signal that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are coming, despite claims from some local elected officials that they wouldn’t happen, which will up the ante quite a bit — maybe the Republican Party could easily weather the storm.

But there’s so much more. First, when it comes to the bill, some elected officials have been a bit brazen with their “screw the poor” attitudes. Like say, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley is quoted as saying in The Des Moines Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” Or college tuition, or food for their families — unimportant stuff like that.

Folks, that’s the “Let ‘em eat cake” comment of this cycle — and one that will be branded on Republicans far and wide — especially here in Chester County.

And yes, even our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey did his level best to make the bill appear to be little more than an early Christmas present for the donor base. He tried — and thankfully, failed,  to push through an exemption for a small college — Hillsdale College — in Michigan on a new tax on school endowments.

Aside from the fact that it just happens to be the alma mater of Chris Chocola, President of the Club For Growth (of rich people’s bank accounts) and has ties to Education Secretary Betsy De Vos, the school is in Michigan, not Pennsylvania.

Maybe one could look favorably on Toomey on working to fight for a school in the commonwealth — UPenn or some such — but oddly fighting for one school in another state screams “gift for the donor class.”

And you can find similar examples of selling out to donors from Big Pharma, the financial services industry and Internet companies such as Comcast and Verizon.

Too many of the GOP policy initiatives of late are driven by who writes checks.

In fairness, that sort of thing is kind of in the DNA of the Republican Party since the Grant Administration. And it always worked out fine. Always. No, really. Trust us.

But officials of the party now are so brazen, they no longer pretend their actions are about the people — just the rich folks who write checks. And doings like cutting funds for homeless vets — reversed after an uproar — doesn’t really put the GOP on Team America.

And yet — that’s not the existential threat to the party. In fact, one could argue it’s worked on and off fore more than a century.

But there is, well, a moral cancer in the party.

Under backdrop of having supported a presidential candidate with enough baggage for his own cruise ship — at least 16 women accusing him of sexual assault/harassment, possible obstruction of justice, potential collusion with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election, bankruptcies, allegations of fraud and so on — the moral bar of the GOP has fallen to new lows.

Basically it’s reached the level of supporting any Republican — no matter how despicable — over any Democrat.

Which brings us to Roy Moore, the next U.S. Senator from Alabama.

I’ve lost count of how many credible allegations of sexual misconduct — including minors — have been lodged against Moore.

And let’s keep in mind, this is the guy who was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, not once, but twice for a failure to respect the rule of law — once ignoring a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to remove the Ten Commandments from his court, another time for ordering state officials not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in direct opposition to another U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Also, in recent days, comments by Moore back in September about America not being great since the days of slavery (his argument is that family unity was better — except of course for slave families who were often ripped apart by being sold) is just another domino. This has to be particularly galling for local Republicans who take deserved pride in Chester County’s history as a hotbed of abolitionists — some of he earliest Republicans — and the Underground Railroad.

So, in summary: we have a guy who think’s he’s above the law, looks back with fondness for the slavery era and is an alleged child molester.

And yet — including many Republicans who think the allegations have merit — it’s not enough to keep them from supporting Moore, including the Republican National Committee and President Trump. God forbid Democrat Doug Jones — a former prosecutor who seems to have little in the way of black marks on his public record — get elected to the U.S. Senate.

Better then, to send someone to Congress who disrespects the U.S. Constitution and is an alleged child molester.

Which brings us to State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) who spewed a homophobic rant against fellow State Rep. Matt Bradford (D-70) who committed the egregious sin of touching Metcalfe’s forearm, seeking to make a point during a committee hearing.

“Representative Bradford, look, I’m a heterosexual,” Metcalfe interrupted, as seen on a video that has now gone viral. “I have a wife, I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might. But stop touching me all the time.”

“Like, if you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle that might like it,” he told Bradford, who represents a Norristown area district, “I don’t.”

Many saw those comments as profoundly insulting and homophobic.

Metcalfe has repeatedly sparred with State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) an openly gay man — and used invective against gay citizens many see as well beyond the pale but not unusual these days. From Indiana to North Carolina, Republicans have waged a social war against gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.

And then, Thursday, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the President would be just fine with businesses hanging up signs saying they don’t serve LGBT customers.

What’s next? Agreeing with signs that say: “No Irish or dogs allowed?” And yes, those signs did exist for my ancestors in New York City in the 1850s.

Folks, that’s what your Republican Party has become.

A party of discrimination and hatred.

A party that is bought and sold by the rich and corporate interests.

A party that tolerates a president who arguably put the interests of Russia ahead of those of the United States in order to get elected.

A party that supports a candidate who ignores the rule of law and is an alleged child molester.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you — and the outcome of the Nov. 2017 elections should have been a wake up call.

I don’t say this out of meanness — but out of sadness. America needs two healthy, functioning political parties, to serve as a check on excess. Without a viable Republican opposition, the Democrats will go off the rails (see any time between 1974 and 1980). Arguably, the current GOP meltdown is the result of the Democrats losing their way — even while holding the White House — and failing to offer a credible opposition to the GOP.

As voters, though, you have the final say. If local Republicans feel this is not their party, they have to take action.

First, run — if you feel strongly that your party has been hijacked, run for office. It’s the best way to make you voice heard.

Second, vote. If you don’t vote for those who enable such behavior by keeping silent, or worse, endorsing such action, they won’t continue to hold office. If you must, write in a candidate who shares your values. But show up and make your voice heard.

Third, elect county committee people who represent your values. Much of the local party structure has been taken over by folks with extreme positions, out of synch with the more moderate positions held by most Chester County Republicans.

It is your party, take it back.

Again, I say this because this is a tipping point. If Republicans don’t make massive changes, they will permanently lose control of local and county-wide politics. Legislative seats that have been Republican since the time of Lincoln will become Democratic. Democrats will redraw the next legislative and Congressional districts — unless the courts intervene and force true neutral districts to be drawn — and those Democratic drawn districts will be just as awful as those drawn by Republicans.

Or you can do nothing and watch the Republican Party become a permanent minority party.

It’s your party, your choice.

***

When it comes to the varying sexual harassment/abuse/assault claims, we have to hold our public officials to a higher standard.

When Hollywood — which traditionally has been the worst in terms of covering this sort of thing up — and the media have a better record than our elected officials, we have a problem.

So let’s be clear: Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) — who “retired” Tuesday, needed to go. Ditto for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) who quit Thursday after dozens of his colleagues called for his ouster, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and anyone else who paid out a settlement (with taxpayer dollars), should go, too. My thoughts on Roy Moore and Donald Trump are clear as noted above.

If or when — and you know it’s going to be “when,” especially with rumblings of a big expose due any day now in a major Pennsylvania newspaper — similar allegations come out for state legislators, it’s the same deal: get out. Now.

There’s no room for this sort of behavior in public life any more — women aren’t objects (or men, either, as there are a few women and gay men who have been equally aggressive with male staffers/journalists).

Granted, we need to grow the heck up when it comes to sexuality as a people — Europeans laugh at our combination of puritanism and out of control (and often uninformed) sexuality — but that’s a column for another day.

This is about power and its abuse. It is intolerable.

***

Well, good ol’ Gov. Ed has waded into the Lt. Governor race and endorsed John Fetterman — which should be the kiss of death for the Braddock mayor. Fetterman’s whole anti-establishment argument is kind of screwed up when you have the backing of the ultimate party insider and a guy who never met a deal he couldn’t renege on. As a party elder, he seems to think that he gets to pick the nominee — and picked Fetterman.

If you’re more about democracy (small d), that kind of makes pretty much anyone else your best choice.

***

This will be a wrap for 2017 — after a bit of downtime in an undisclosed location (assume palm trees, adult beverages and a delightful lack of sock wearing will be involved) — we’ll be back with all new columns in 2018.

From all of us, happy holidays!

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