The Republican Party’s descent into complete madness reached a new depth this week. Whipped up by paranoid delusions of a one-world autocratic UN government, Senate Republicans on Tuesday killed an international treaty designed to help people with disabilities all across the planet.
The UN sponsored Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires signatory nations to provide for their disabled populations in the same way the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act provides for American disabled populations. It would have required absolutely no changes to existing U.S. law since – again – we already passed the Americans with Disabilities Act more than twenty years ago. Ratification of the treaty simply meant the United States, like 126 other nations that have already approved the treaty, is on board with setting standards for the rest of the world to follow when it comes to meeting the needs of the disabled.
We Americans used to pride ourselves in setting moral examples for the rest of the world. Which is why former President George W. Bush first signed the treaty in 2006, and it was re-signed by President Obama in 2009. It just needed to be ratified by the United States Senate.
Former Republican Senator Robert Dole, himself a disabled veteran of World War II and now in a wheelchair, championed the treaty, and was wheeled onto the Senate floor for the vote where he watched Senator John Kerry plead with his colleagues to “not let Senator Bob Dole down.”
Speaking to America’s role as a moral compass in the world, Senator Kerry said, “What we do here in the United States Senate matters – not just to us but to people all across the globe.”
The treaty had bipartisan support, with Republican Senators John McCain, Dick Lugar and John Barrasso behind it, and it received 61 votes in the upper chamber. But treaties require a two-third majority to be ratified, so it fell five votes shy of passing.
Thirty-eight Republican Senators walked right passed Bob Dole - former Republican candidate for President - to cast a “no” vote. Why? Because they want to continue to pander to a paranoid minority of the Republican base that believes the UN is secretly assembling a global government to destroy American sovereignty, throw mothers in The Hague, and condemn their disabled children to death.
For example, days before the vote, Rick Santorum penned an op-ed for the Conservative birther website World Net Daily titled “This Treaty Crushes U.S. Sovereignty,” in which he attacked a specific provision in the treaty (Section 7) that read: “In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” That rather innocuous statement had a far more nefarious meaning to the ever-paranoid Santorum, who wrote, “In the case of our 4-year-old daughter, Bella, who has Trisomy 18, a condition that the medical literature says is ‘incompatible with life,’ would her ‘best interest’ be that she be allowed to die? Some would undoubtedly say so.”
Yes, just like Sarah Palin’s “death panels” hysteria during the Obamacare debate, Santorum was pushing for a “no” vote on the treaty because he either genuinely believed the UN’s one-world government would demand the sacrifice of his 4-year-old daughter, or cynically wanted to scare the hell out of his base to help his fundraising. This argument was echoed by Utah Senator Mike Lee, who led the opposition to the treaty on the floor of the Senate, calling it a “march toward Socialism.”
Other opposing Senators raised concerns that the treaty would prohibit disabled children from being home-schooled if homes aren’t equipped with ramps and retro-fitted to accommodate the disabled. This was a nonsense argument, but, to accommodate the paranoids, the Senate Committee that approved the treaty even included specific language that would bar its use in civil court lawsuits.
Again, not a single U.S. law would have changed if this treaty was ratified by the Senate. In fact, it had the potential to be very beneficial to disabled Americans traveling abroad - people like former Senator Dole - by providing the same accommodations they receive at home in foreign nations as well.
But ultimately, fear clouded rationality. Motivated by this paranoia that the all-powerful United Nations, which actually has very little power, would use its international police forces to not go after tyrants and despots guilty of war crimes, but instead go after Santorum's 4-year-old daughter or a homeschool teacher who hasn’t installed a ramp on her front door, Republicans killed the treaty.
This is an extraordinary teaching moment. In the face of this insanity, we Americans should ask ourselves, "What happens when one of two major political parties in the United States either completely loses its grip on reality, or chooses to pander to a base that has?"
After all, this is the same deranged Republican Party that is currently hyping up another UN one-world government conspiracy known as “Agenda 21.” Despite it simply calling on nations to promote more sustainable development practices, Republicans tell their frightened base that Agenda 21 is a plot by the UN to force Americans out of rural areas and into cities, and even outlaw golf courses. There is absolutely no basis in reality for that fear, but they're all over it anyway.
And this isn’t anything new. Whether it’s the Soviets trying to take over the world, or al-Qaeda trying to take over the world, reality has never played an important role in Republican fear mongering. Or that of their frightened base.
Two recent polls by Public Policy Polling, which was recognized as the most accurate polling service during the 2012 election, capture this disturbing mindset of registered Republicans. Driven by rants that President Obama is a socialist trying to destroy the American way of life, 25% of registered Republicans want their respective states to secede from the union. Here in the real world, President Obama has been very good to corporate America, overseeing the largest increase in corporate profits since 1900. In fact, corporate profits today as a percent of GDP are higher than they’ve ever been before in our nation’s history. So either President Obama is the worst socialist ever, or he’s read a lot more Milton Friedman than Karl Marx.
This irrationality even extends to things that don't even exist.
Another PPP poll found that 49% of registered Republicans believe that the now-defunct community organizing group ACORN stole the election for President Obama this year - even though ACORN hasn't existed for two years. That’s nearly half the Republican Party believing that a group that no longer exists actually does exists and was able to pull off a nationwide election theft.
Between fears of the UN, claims that President Obama is a socialist, ravings about ACORN, the birthers, the tenthers, and the deathers, the Republican Party is begging for psychiatric help. It would be a bit amusing to see what they come up with next, if only Republicans didn’t wield enormous power in our government and hadn't turned the United States House of Representatives, the institution of government closest to “we the people,” into a full-fledged mental asylum.
And with numerous pitfalls on the horizon like the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the debt-limit, the budget battles, the ongoing wars, and so on, Americans should be very concerned about how exactly “balanced” solutions can be found after so many members of the Republican Party have flown over the cuckoo’s nest.
Back in the 1960s, the Firesign Theatre created a candidate named Papoon who ran for President on the campaign slogan: "Not Insane!" It was funny then. It's not funny anymore.
So, a heartfelt plea to the few intelligent and thoughtful Republicans left: it’s up to you to inject sanity back into your Party. Please do it quickly!