Brian Beutler asked a good question, Would Republicans Support the Americans with Disabilities Act Today? When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago yesterday, it was supported by just about everyone. Sure, some business lobbyists claimed that it would cost money and destroy capitalism as we know it. But people liked it and politicians liked it. It passed the Senate 76-8 and by unanimous consent in the House. I don’t think it is surprising. I think most humans understand that it would really suck to be disabled, and so the least that we as a society can do is make it as painless as possible.
But would it pass today? Probably not. Beutler reminded us of the Senate vote on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Bob Dole, Republican icon, then 89 years old and in a wheelchair, came to the Senate for the vote — hoping to sway some votes. But it didn’t work. The treaty was not ratified by the Senate because 38 Republicans stood strong against helping the disabled all over the world. Those 38 Republicans included three current presidential candidates: Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. What brave men they are!
So there is little doubt that if the ADA came up for a vote today, we would hear screams about socialism and how the law would destroy the economy and this was just the first part of the attack on American sovereignty and is that a black helicopter on the horizon! But it brought to mind an argument that I was hearing a lot a few years ago. It was claimed that the Republicans had not, in fact, gotten more extreme. Liberals had been saying that since at least Barry Goldwater. I found that argument pretty compelling. But now I wonder.
It’s probably just a question of expectations. Yes, Ronald Reagan raised taxes seven times — blah, blah, blah. But he also lowered the top tax rate massively compared to where it had been. And he lowered the top tax rate down to 28% — a rate that Bush was forced to raise back up to the still ridiculously low 31%. Yes, Nixon was president while the country looked seriously at a single payer healthcare system. But that was being forced on him by a liberal Congress. The best you can say about him is that he didn’t especially care. And overall, Nixon’s focus was on international matters.
I don’t think that the Republicans are necessarily more ideologically conservative than they used to be. But they are just more crazy — less serious about what they are supposed to do. There is a breakdown of norms. I don’t actually think that Republicans of old cared that much about the disabled. But they knew that all human beings do care about the disabled and the weak more generally, so they supported common sense measures like the ADA. But now, most of them don’t.
And I think I know why from 1994 onward, the Republican Party has lost all touch with humanity: they’ve learned it isn’t necessary. The average American doesn’t pay that much attention to politics. And as much as they do, they assume that the truly vile things that the Republicans say is all for show. “They don’t really think we should let people without insurance die, right?” No, they really do. But given that the mainstream media never calls them out on this, everyone assumes that they don’t. And as a result, one norm after another falls. And the end of this road is fascism. The Republican Party is already pretty far down that road.