Sat, Jun

Jackson Confirmation Hearing Proves GOP Has No Interest in Making America a Better Place


CONFIRMATION HEARING - It’s somewhere between comical and tragic watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Lindsey Graham throws his trademark hissy fit and storms out, John Cornyn tries to sound erudite and fails, Marsha Blackburn outs herself as a fanatic, Ted Cruz thinks Black judges should vet children’s books about racism, and Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton just end up making fools of themselves. 

But none of them really care.  None of the Republicans do. 

And I don’t mean that as the frame for a polemic. This is intended as a serious analysis of what’s happened to the GOP over the past 40 years, which informed their behavior in that committee meeting yesterday.

In 1976 (Buckley) and 1978 (Bellotti) the Supreme Court legalized political bribery, unleashing a flood of cash for the Reagan campaign of 1980. Most Democrats at that time were still funded mostly by the unions, so they weren’t paying such attention to the possibility of dark money.

As I lay out in The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of Americathe Court doubled down on those decisions in 2010, blowing up over 100 federal and state laws that regulated money in politics in Citizens United.

It opened a door the GOP and a handful of Democrats were eager to rush through.

The entire Republican Party has since sold itself out to rightwing billionaires and giant corporations and as long as they have that support — and the billions of dollars to carpet-bomb their states with advertising every election — they don’t give a rat’s ass about the things they’re pretending to be so very, very concerned about.

Every one of those Republican senators had two simple goals for the hearings.

The first was to smear the Democratic nominee in a way that will guarantee that—over the next 24-hour news cycle—the name “Judge Jackson” will repeatedly occur in the same headline or sentence as “child porn,” “Critical Race Theory,” or “terrorists from Gitmo.”

The second was to craft a short soundbite of their own performance art that Fox “News” and other hard-right media can play on a loop. White Republicans dressing down a Black woman? Perfect for conservative hate media.

Even if they make fools of themselves, they all know that the first dictum of public relations—taught to them by Donald Trump himself, who candidly and correctly credited it to PT Barnum—is: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.  Just spell my name right.”

This is happening because the Republican Party is no longer interested in governing. They’ve become the mouthpiece for a faction of business and great wealth, and beyond that have no commitment to rebuilding or improving this country in any meaningful way.

There’s a reason the GOP refuses to publish a party platform or legislative agenda: they don’t have one, beyond doing anything they can to increase corporate profits (regardless of the harm to consumers, competition, or the planet) and to keep taxes low on their morbidly rich donors. And to winning the so-called “culture wars.”

Hell, they’ve been telling us that for years. 

“Deregulation, cut taxes, small government” is the GOP mantra. Meanwhile, the culture war keeps their base in a constant state of frothing-at-the mouth.

Deregulation and cutting taxes is all they have, and it doesn’t sell today like it did back in the 1980s when they waved it around as a “new idea.”  So they’ve stopped even pretending that they care about actually doing the people’s business.

Of course, there’s all the sturm and drang about race, porn, drugs, religion, and gender identity.  But that’s just to keep the rubes showing up at the ballot box. 

These multimillionaire Republican senators, funded by their billionaire pals, don’t have a second thought for any of those “issues.”  As the Republican Study Committee pointed out, “winning” the “culture wars” is the real agenda to get angry white racists to turn out for GOP candidates so they can stay in power and continue to do the bidding of the wealthy.

And in that, they don’t care how many gay or trans kids commit suicide because of their demagoguery; they don’t care how many red-state teenage girls get pregnant because they never learned about human reproduction or lack access to birth control; they don’t care how many kids will die by gunshot today.

Species going extinct? Wilding weather destroying another thousand homes? Childhood cancers exploding? People crushed by medical bills and losing their homes?

They don’t want to hear about it.

The struggles of average working people are meaningless to them, as are the crises of people struggling with medical or educational debt that literally doesn’t exist in any other developed nation.

Those are all just numbers to them, and they don’t much pay attention to numbers. It doesn’t even matter to them that the fear-laden and hateful version of authoritarian “Christianity” they preach would be rejected by Jesus. 

They’re happy to ignore the fact that the United States—apparently on advice from “Beerbong” Brett Kavanaugh when he was working for George W. Bush (the Trump administration refused to release the papers)—tortured and murdered numerous innocent people at Gitmo, some still there.  

Their absurd “concern” that white children will be “scarred for life” by discovering that a small minority of white people were once brutal slaveholders is pure theater. As is their proclaimed worry that kids reading about the holocaust or a novel that describes the Black or LGBTQ+ experience in America will twist young minds. 

It’s all theater to distract us from their real work of increasing the poisons in our air and water to jack up the profits of their obscene overlords.  The more hate they can create among Americans the better: it boosts their social media presence because of algorithms designed to keep us in a state of perpetual outrage.

Seriously. They have no real interest in governing or making America a better place for anybody to live, other than the morbidly rich.

Proof: Name one single piece of legislation since 1980 that has been proposed by Republicans, passed a Republican-controlled Congress, and been signed into law by a Republican President that primarily helps working or poor Americans more than it does fat-cats on Wall Street, polluting industries, or billionaire industrialists. 

You can’t do it. I’ve been asking this question for 19 years on my radio/TV show and I can tell you right now: you can’t name a single one.

Sure, they’ll wrap a tiny carrot for average folks inside a big box with a pony for the billionaires, like they did with the Reagan, Bush, and Trump tax cuts. 

But primarily benefit America’s working people or the poor, or strengthen our democracy?  Forgetaboutit.

(Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" (2020); "The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America" (2019); and more than 25 other books in print. This article was featured in Common Dreams.)