By JARED THOMPSON – STAFF WRITER
County by county, state by state, voters and nonvoters alike watched on Nov. 4 as Republicans slowly edged out their Democratic opponents to gain a majority of seats in the United States Senate, widened their majority in the United States House of Representatives, and captured many governorships.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, these electoral outcomes no doubt have an impact on you not only as a student, but as an American citizen.
I don’t pretend to be nonpartisan in writing this piece.
My goal is not to suggest ways in which Democrats and Republicans can work together going forward. My goal is instead to lay out why I believe the recent Republican takeover is, quite honestly, an example of voters actually voting against their best interests.
No one can deny the historical significance of having a Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky. Mitch McConnell will no doubt be remembered in the annals of history.
Mitch McConnell is going to work to undo the progress made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Of course, the ACA is controversial legislature that could be refined—I doubt many would disagree. However, McConnell would ask the poorest Eastern Kentuckians to shoulder the burden of paying for private insurance.
In certain countries in Appalachia, the uninsured rate has fallen from as high as 20 percent to as low as 5 percent. This means that these now insured individuals are free to spend larger portions of their incomes at local businesses, on consumer goods, thereby stimulating the economies of many impoverished communities. McConnell would instead cause regression.
Or—perhaps more relevant to students—McConnell’s spearheading of the effort to block a bill sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would allow individuals to refinance the interest rates on their student loans.
Instead of aspiring to make college more affordable for qualified students, McConnell instead suggested at a town hall meeting earlier this year that students look into other options such as for-profit institutions–the same for-profit institutions that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has and is continuing to file lawsuits against for failing to follow consumer protection laws.
Perhaps most frightening is McConnell’s likely picks to chair various Senate committees.
For example, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, is set to become the next Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
That’s right. The same senator who called Global Warming “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state” is set to be one of the most powerful influences over Senate environmental legislation.
The Environmental Protection Agency is definitely on the chopping block too, seeing as Inhofe once compared it to the Gestapo. Hopefully it isn’t out of line to suggest that, in 2014, this shouldn’t be a debate worth entertaining. When 97 percent of published climate researchers would agree that humans are causing significant proportions of global warming, why are we electing Senators who would then give people like Inhofe any sort of influence? Where is the outrage?
The ridiculousness neither begins nor ends in Kentucky.
We can look at the winner of the Florida Governor’s race, Rick Scott, for the next example.
One of the more publicized programs of Scott’s past term was his implementation of a program to drug test welfare applicants in his state. The program operated for roughly three months before being stopped by a U.S. District Judge, but the results weren’t encouraging for Scott.
Florida’s applicants gave positive results at a rate of 2.6 percent, significantly lower than the 8.7 percent rate for the general population that the Department of Health and Human Services found in a 2009 survey.
Not to be bothered by things like human decency or facts, Scott would go on to spend roughly $400,000 of taxpayer money to defend his program before his appeal was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court.
I don’t want to appear as though I’m ranting and raving, but the above examples are only a few talking points in a troubling trend.
Conservatism is a perfectly valid ideology, and this isn’t an indictment of Republican philosophy, but when a man is elected to the Colorado House of Representatives who called gays “unhuman” and who attempted to perform an exorcism on President Barack Obama, everyone should stand up and ask what exactly is going on in our society.
Bipartisanship, in the present political climate, is a constantly lauded attribute, and of course working together to forward the public interest is vital in a democracy. But I think it is worth taking a step back and asking yourself if you as a responsible voter can encourage your legislators to compromise on these things.
Are you willing to let your environment continue to be ravaged and the poor to be dehumanized in the name of cooperation?
If these are the things Democrats are forced to compromise with, is political gridlock not actually preferable to so-called Republican “progress”?
These are the questions we have to keep in mind going forward, and we have to hope that reasonable legislators on both sides of the aisle have the backbone to fight against these absurdities.