Just when you think the political roiling inside the Beltway may settle down, moving Congress to actually get to work on the country’s issues, another distraction comes along. Last week’s was the Republican response by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to President Obama’s State of the Union message.
I’ve been following with interest the GOP’s re-shuffle on immigration reform. Translated, that means, how the heck are we gonna capture the Latino vote?
So they trotted out Rubio, a Cuban-American. (Forgive me, but I’m immature enough to still be chortling over Rubio’s water-gaffe. But hey, anyone’s liable to get thirsty beneath the bright lights of the national spotlight.)
A more serious plaint is Rubio’s use of those religious code words so beloved by the GOP: He felt “blessed” to represent his state in the U.S. Senate, later noting that “God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas….”
I’ve grown cynical over the GOP’s habit of dragging God into our political discourse. It smacks of a desire to which we humans are prone: to appear righteous in the public eye.
Jesus had sharp words on the matter. In Matthew 6:1 and 5, He cautions the leaders of the day, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them…. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”
Republicans today would do well to let God infuse their thoughts and prayers privately and let their public actions speak for themselves as God-like (or not). For why is it that God-mongering Republican politicians all too often foster policies that undermine the transcendent biblical value of social justice?
This question resonates with women of many political and religious persuasions. It’s true that we want politicians to stop demonizing our constitutional right to privacy, to make our reproductive choices. The issue should never, ever have been politicized. And still, the GOP leadership wonders why Latinos, whom they presume to be predominantly Roman Catholic and thus must be anti-choice, tend to vote Democratic.
Possibly because Republican policy makers speak more to that church’s hierarchy and lobbyists than to workaday Latinos, many of whom, it turns out, do use birth control, which enables them to better afford to raise the children they do have. And still, the attacks keep coming.
Last week, Wisconsin Republicans announced a forthcoming bill that would force the women of that state to undergo an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. Locally, there’s cause for concern in the recent affiliation of Hoag Hospital with St. Joseph Health, given that the latter is Catholic and the hospitals plan to keep their faith missions. How will the affiliation affect the range of reproductive choice for the women of Orange County?
But women’s political concerns go beyond family planning. As salon.com commented regarding President Obama’s State of the Union message, “For women, a critical voting bloc who helped deliver his second term, the president checked off many important boxes.”
Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act; increasing the minimum wage (nearly two thirds of such workers are female) and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act; comprehensive preschool education; support for alternative energy; addressing climate change; and a studied response to our culture of gun violence – all policies that foster social justice and environmental sanity.
To become relevant to the 21st century, the GOP must end its fantastical pursuit of finding better words for its message. That’s style over substance. People discern the difference. Nor is it sufficient to showcase Sen. Marco Rubio as the answer to its demographic woes. The GOP must take a deeper look at the extremism of its platform on all manner of issues. It must reexamine its religious values in the clear light of the biblical imperative for social justice. Meanwhile its rigidity on reproductive rights has proven a deal-breaker for many women in this country. We demanded better advocacy, and in President Obama we have it.