This past week may go down in history as the one that presented the starkest contrast ever between Democrats and Republicans, from Obama’s optimistic State of the Union to the nasty GOP debate on Fox News.
It all began on a nice high note: a Tuesday evening SOTU in which President Obama explained why things are actually pretty swell in America right now. Despite all the caterwauling of the Republican candidates, unemployment is low, the deficit has been cut and even high school graduation are occurring more often than when Obama first took office.
On top of that, America has brokered deals to cut off Iran’s access to nuclear weapons and also to reduce the pollution that causes global warming (of course, it may be too late to do anything about the melting icecaps, but at least we can now say, “Well, we tried,” before the world ends).
Oh yeah, and there’s also all that queer liberation stuff we’ve been working on. We can get married. We can serve in the Army. Our bi-national husbands and wives won’t get deported anymore. People with AIDS can enter the country for the first time in years. Hospitals are no longer allowed to refuse visitation to same-sex partners.
Of course, there’s still a lot of work left to be done. Gays can still be fired for being gay in most states, and trans people still face massive inequality. We can’t give blood. Conversion therapy, which amounts to child abuse, is still legal in most states.
But just imagine how much worse things would be if we’d had a republican president for the last eight years! And you don’t have to try to hard to imagine, since the GOP candidates are pretty up-front about how rotten they want to make life for us — not just to roll back the last 8 years of progress, but to bring us back to a dark time when we weren’t even allowed to exist.
Republicans haven’t been shy about explaining how they want to harm LGBTs and their families. Various candidates have said that we shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military; that we shouldn’t be allowed to adopt parents; and of course that we shouldn’t be able to marry the people we love.
But perhaps a bit tellingly, they refused to talk about LGBTs at the Fox News debate on Thursday — or, in fact, at most of the previous debates. It’s clearly an uncomfortable topic for them, particularly the frontrunners, and they do whatever they can to avoid the topic.
Instead, they spent most of the debate refusing Obama’s State of the Union: insisting that the country hasn’t recovered, that things are lousy and that we’re in constant danger. For a bunch of self-described patriots, they sure do have a lot of complaints about America — and it seems like the only thing they like less than America is each other.
Trump and Cruz went on the offensive, with each one saying the nastiest thing he could about his rival — Trump questioned Cruz’s birthplace and whether he’s even allowed to run for President, Cruz called Trump’s birtherism a desperate ploy for sliding poll numbers.
The other candidates could barely keep up with their sparring, though there was a delightfully bitter exchange between Rubio and Cruz: Rubio observed Cruz’s flip-flopping voting record, Cruz accused him of doing too much research, and Rubio countered that the observation wasn’t research — it was just a factual observation of Cruz’s lousy career, in which he has always voted for what’s convenient instead of what was right.
If we’re lucky, the attacks on Cruz will only amplify. Just about all of his colleagues hate him — not just dislike, but actively hate him with a burning intensity. Common consensus in political circles is that he’s smug, sinister, manipulative and uncaring, and so the party now faces a choice: whether to unite around someone they can barely stand, or take their chances with Trump (someone they can stand even less).
Meanwhile the Democrats are having a perfectly fine time doing their best to take care of a country that’s actually doing pretty well, thank you.
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