Who’s on the GOP’s Train?

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In school, faced with the sort of problem that begins, “If two trains are approaching Denver from opposite directions, one going 55 mph and the other 65 mph…” my mind tended to drift.

My initial response ran something like this: Who cares? The trains will get there when they get there. What’s important is who are the people on the train? Why are they traveling to Denver? Are those tears in the eyes of that lone woman staring out the window?

When my mathematically minded husband learned about this aspect of my way of thinking, he pointed out that it showed why I majored in English.

But after he stopped laughing, he said, “You know, you have a good point.”

Indeed. The only reason a train goes to Denver is to transport people and/or goods. And while it’s essential that the train arrive there safely and efficiently (thanks, engineers), let us not ignore the people on the train.

This point became clear all over again on a sunny Labor Day afternoon as I read the GOP’s latest platform. Yes, while you were savoring the last rays of summer at the beach or backyard barbecues, I was laboring over the 54-page document known as the “Republican Platform 2012.” I gave it a careful reading, wanting to see what lay behind some of the rhetoric of last week’s Republican National Convention. Here’s what I saw:

Title Page: The sub-title is “We Believe in America.” Well, who doesn’t? Is it only Republicans who “Believe in America?” Given the GOP’s attacks on the President as not quite legitimately American – from the birthers’ strangeness over Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate to Mitt Romney’s charges that this Administration is taking us into European-style socialism, I resist the GOP’s implication that only they truly believe in this country, and the rest of us “unbelievers” can stay off their train.

The Preamble drags God onto the train. We are called to “Reaffirm that our rights come from God…” The Preamble cites George Washington in his first inaugural address: “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” The Preamble closes with, “May God continue to shed his grace on the United States of America.”

I have deep feelings against mixing religion and politics, as did the men who wrote the Constitution. They certainly later disagreed on precisely what they had wrought (as we have ever since), but they were clear on one issue: separation of church and state. As Thomas Jefferson noted in his journal in 1800, “[W]hen the clergy addressed Genl Washington on his departure from the govmt, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Xn [Christian] religion and they thot they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However…the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice.”

The Christian fundamentalism that holds sway over the GOP of 2012 would, I think, be appalling to the Founding Fathers. They understood that faith is best practiced privately, particularly by politicians. Besides, God will go where he will – if you’re a believer, you know that His presence is on every train, everywhere – and may He indeed shed His grace on the people not only of the USA but of the entire world.

The body of the GOP platform begins with the party’s favored subjects of the economy and job creation. What this section fails to note is the utter mess Obama inherited from George W. Bush, a mess created in large part by the very policies the platform calls for – less governmental regulation and historically low tax rates for the very wealthy.

Nor have Republicans created the majority of jobs in this country, despite their claims. Writing last week in the New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof cites a study of employment data from 1953 through 2007: “The Republicans’ claims that they are the great job creators is a fiction. … [A]n average of two million jobs were created per year when a Democrat was president, compared with one million annually when a Republican was president.”

It’s a cruel strategy to raise hopes in people of the return of the American dream when the party’s true desire is to further enrich their already fabulously wealthy special interest donors and hope that some of that wealth trickles down. That’s who’ll be on the GOP express – billionaires like the Koch brothers. Most of the rest of us will be left at the station.

Gee, 800 words flies by when you’re excavating these antediluvian planks on the GOP platform– and I’ve not even begun on “A Sacred Contract: Defense of Marriage”  “The Rule of Law: Legal Immigration” and the “Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life.” Just know there won’t be gays, lesbians, transgenders or bisexuals; amnesty-seeking parents whose children were born in the U.S.; or women who want the government to stay out of their reproductive choices on that train to Denver.

It’s just not my kind of train.

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