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  • Writer's pictureDavid M. Rubin


Credit President Joe Biden for putting on the table the reasonable question: "What are Republicans for?"

The chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, Drew McKissick, rose to the bait in a commentary he provided to the Post and Courier on January 23. To my eyes, he revealed a lot more than he intended about the poverty of ideas in his party.

McKissick began by stating that in politics, "ideas matter." I expected him to discuss those "ideas." Instead, he devoted fully half of his commentary to listing the election victories his party achieved in 2020. The message? Republicans are "for" winning elections to achieve power. No kidding. What political party doesn't want to win elections?

But this response avoids Biden's question. What do Republicans want to achieve for society with their power?

To this, McKissick offered three responses. The first and by far the most significant for him, based on the space he devoted to it, is election "reform." McKissick made the baseless claim that changes to election law in 2020 making it easier to vote during COVID-19 were signs of fraud perpetrated on the electorate. He provided no evidence, of course, because there is none. It's just stale, discredited, Trumpian "big lie" propaganda.

Undeterred, McKissick wrote that because of this fraud South Carolina Republicans intend to reduce the number of people who can vote absentee; extend voter ID requirements to mail-in absentee ballots; undertake a "thorough cleaning of voter rolls"; and require the State Election Commission "to conduct randomly selected precinct audits after every election."

McKissick didn't have to state his obvious goal: purge as many Democratic voters as possible under the false flag of cleaning up fraud.

In the final three paragraphs of this witless commentary, McKissick briefly identified two other Republican legislative goals.

He wants to create education "savings accounts" for parents to permit school choice. This is code for abandoning public education in favor of state support for private education. This has been the de facto position toward public education of most White South Carolina politicians since Reconstruction. Spending tax money to educate Black children has never been popular in the Palmetto State.

He wants parents "to be involved with their child's education," but what does "involving parents" mean? Are parents supposed to replace what trained superintendents, principals, and teachers are hired to do? Are they supposed to dictate curriculum? Precisely which parents does McKissick want to involve? No doubt only those who agree with Republican views.

The phrase "involving parents" is empty of meaning, except as a Republican bumper sticker slogan.

The preferred Republican curriculum clearly revolves around what NOT to teach in public schools. It means NOT teaching about slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. Not teaching about the failures of Reconstruction. Not teaching about the efforts over decades to limit Black voter participation. Not teaching about the imposition of Jim Crow laws. Not teaching about the Lost Cause pathology. Not teaching how and why the solid Democratic South became Republican in the 1970s. And not teaching anything that might make White students reflect on their historic role in the enduring racial problems in the United States. Such ideas might make White students uncomfortable, and why would we want to do that?

Last, McKissick urged support for law enforcement officers as they fight the "scourge of drugs in our communities." This endless war on drugs has been going on longer than McKissick has been alive. But don't look for any new thinking from him about how to win it. It's just another Republican bumper sticker slogan.

So this is the empty answer from McKissick on what Republicans are for: making it harder to vote; making it harder for teachers to teach the truth about race relations; and sticking it to low-level drug dealers.

What McKissick also reveals is that Republicans don't want to touch such problems as climate change, income inequality, tax policy, energy policy, immigration reform, foreign policy, community policing, or anything else of importance.

Let's be even clearer than President Biden in answering the question: "What are Republicans for?" As McKissick proves, the answer is: NOTHING, other than their own lust to grab and hold power for its own sake.

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