Wednesday, April 15, 2015

GOP: The Party of Hopeless Causes

Judging by its furious reaction to President Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba and its position on other major policy issues, the GOP ought to consider replacing the elephant on its logo with an image of St. Jude, the Roman Catholic patron of hopeless causes.

With regard to Cuba nearly all the presidential candidates and party elders reflexively reprised Cold War chants: "Allowing a brutal dictator to attend (the Summit of the Americas held in Panama last week) undermines the future of democracy in the region," intoned Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in an opinion column in the National Review. And so on and so forth from Texas Sen. Attila the Cruz, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, among others.

Was he a closeted Republican?
What year is this again? 1960? 1972? Or 2015? Right now Cuba does not represent any conceivable threat to the U.S. and while its government is no one's idea of Jeffersonian democracy, it's no more offensive than that of the Saudis or the mainland Chinese, whom we count among our dearest and closest trading partners.

Think of George W. walking around the Crawford ranch in 2005 holding hands with the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah as if he were a visiting uncle—or President Obama bowing to the same guy while visiting his palace in 2009. What's the apoplexy with Obama and Raúl Castro exchanging a stony handshake?

Only Sen. Rand Paul begged to differ. "The 50-year-old embargo just hasn't worked," he said. "If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working."

But that was during a radio interview last December. By now Paul probably has changed him mind, just as he flipped on reducing military spending. He wanted to cut it but now wants to increase it.

Even allowing that Republicans wouldn't give Obama any slack even if he discovered the key to controlled nuclear fusion, and that we're entering that dismal period of pre-primary pandering and bloviation, continuing the U.S. economic and diplomatic war against Cuba makes no political or factual sense.

About two-thirds of all Americans favor lifting the embargo; so do, by a narrow majority, Cuban-Americans in South Florida; so do all nations in Latin America; and so do all the countries in the United Nations except for Israel and the U.S.

Indeed, the embargo went into effect when I was twelve years old and living in Cuba. I'm now sixty-seven retired from a career in the U.S. and living in Mexico.

Fidel was Cuba's  jefe máximo when the embargo went into effect. His brother Raúl has since inherited the scepter. If such glacial dynastic change is your idea of progress, then the embargo is a resounding success. Otherwise it's time to try something new.

Instead, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he favors a "tightening" of the embargo against Cuba, which is like tightening the noose on a guy that's been hanging from a tree for fifty-five years and just refuses to give up.

Marriage equality for gays and lesbians is another ship that has left the dock but that the GOP keeps trying to bring back, most recently through state laws called "religious freedom restoration acts." Such sham laws supposedly protect God-fearing bakers, pizzeria owners and other vendors from having to serve gay couples—as if any self-respecting gay couple would serve pizza at their wedding reception.

Not at my wedding reception. 
Most recently enacted in Indiana the laws were said to echo the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act approved unanimously by Congress in 1993, to protect Native Americans who smoked peyote during religious ceremonies.

But in reality the Indiana law was at best redundant and at worst a consolation prize to the local evangelical "base" of the GOP, restless by the seemingly imminent, though hardly certain, ratification of marriage equality by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.

Indiana came under a furious backlash from corporations, civil rights groups, newspapers and the public, which recognized the law in Indiana for what it was: An attempt to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians. This is another hopeless cause Republicans ought to abandon.

Indeed Republicans should give up on hopeless causes. But that's a habit that's damn hard to kick: They would have to come up with original and constructive ideas. That would be tougher still, especially during a primary season when pledging support for the same old causes is the safest way to get the presidential nomination.

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