The original Cancel Culture: How Republicans have been hard at work nullifying America for decades
Republicans are all about canceling things: you could call it GOP Cancel Culture. Most recently, for example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to cancel the First Amendment, requiring university teachers and students to register their political perspectives with the state.
He has, in his rush to run for president in 2024, achieved a pinnacle of success, a victory of sorts, within the newest iteration of Republican Cancel Culture. As Max Boot documented in a brilliant op-ed in the Washington Post, DeSantis has cancelled or tried to cancel:
- Private business’ and local governments’ ability to protect people with mask or vaccine mandates
- LGBTQ people in Florida with his “Don’t Say Gay” law
- Disney’s tax breaks because they dared criticize him on behalf of their LGBTQ employees and customers
- State funding for the Tampa Bay Rays training camp because they called for gun safety in the state
- The true history of race in this country
- Our nation’s Founders’ arguments for the separation of church and state
- Voting rights in Florida – now enforced by his new “election police”
- Public demonstrations he doesn’t approve of
But DeSantis is new to the game: Republicans have been hard at work cancelling America for decades now.
When the Democrats put legislation together to rescue America in Biden’s first year, every single Republican in both the House and the Senate used every procedural move they could to cancel it – including forcing a public reading of the bill and, in the end, every single one of them voted to cancel it.
And now they are trying to cancel our memory of their opposition: Senator Roger Wicker was one of dozens of Republicans to tweet out a brag on how the COVID Rescue legislation will help his constituents … even though he trash-talked it and voted to cancel it.
But that was just the beginning.
Republicans have been trying to cancel the minimum wage ever since it was enacted in the 1930s; more recently they’ve successfully canceled every attempt to increase that wage for well over a decade.
Republicans have done their best to cancel American’s health care, from multiple lawsuits going all the way to the Supreme Court to cancel Obamacare, to a dozen Red states, to this day, cancelling Medicaid for their lowest-paid working people.
Along those same lines, Republicans have fought to cancel unions ever since the 1920s. In the 1940s they passed the Taft Hartley Act over President Harry Truman’s veto, which gave individual states the right to cancel unions; nearly every Red state in the union has now taken them up on this, crashing union membership in America from about a third of all workers in 1980 to fewer than 6% of the private workforce today.
Republicans have worked hard to cancel educational opportunity for Americans, from elementary school through college. While Republican President Dwight Eisenhower built brand-new schools all across the United States in the 1950s, everything changed when Reagan came into office in 1981.
He appointed Bill “You could abort every Black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down” Bennett as his Education Secretary and you can draw straight line from there to Betsy DeVos trying to cancel public schools all across America and replace them with for-profit private academies.
“Conservatives” have also succeeded, over the time from the 1890s when America first started having public schools to this day, in cancelling any semblance of honest Black history. And now that schools are starting to use the brilliant 1619 work first published by The New York Times, they’re trying to cancel that, too.
Republicans have been working since 1980 to cancel a woman’s right to choose an abortion, and have even fought, in hundreds of legislative and legal cases, to cancel a woman’s right to use birth control.
Republican State Representative Bryan Slayton introduced into the Texas legislature a law laying the death penalty on any woman who gets an abortion; more are on the way in other states, now that 6 Republicans on the Supreme Court have thrown the issues to the states.
Slayton did not specify whether women should be killed by firing squad, hanging, or lethal injection, but when I asked a Republican candidate at CPAC some years ago which technique should be used to execute women who get an abortion, he simply said, “That’s up to the states.”
Along those lines, Republicans have been trying to cancel the workplace, political, and social rights of women for a-year-short-of-a-century. The Equal Rights Amendment simply says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
It was written by Alice Paul in 1923, and finally passed Congress on March 22, 1972, but still had to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. Republicans in state after state fought it for decade after decade until it finally passed that threshold in 2020; Republicans then successfully argued before a federal judge that he must cancel the ERA because, they said, too much time had passed and Congress needs to start all over again.
Republicans have been trying to cancel your right to clean air since the 1970s when the Environmental Protection Agency came into law after Congress ignored Richard Nixon’s threatened 1970 veto. Every Republican administration since then has done everything they could to weaken it and six Republicans on the Supreme Court just cancelled their ability to regulate CO2.
Similarly, in 1972, Richard Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act, although Congress overrode his attempt to cancel our right to clean water. In 2017, Donald Trump was quite proud that the first consequential piece of legislation he signed was a resolution that allowed coal mining companies to dump their waste directly into rivers, flooding the water supplies of downriver cities with toxic mercury, cadmium and other substances that are neurologically destructive to children, cancelling kids’ right to grow up healthy.
Pretty much every Republican legislator alive today has spent most of their careers trying to cancel the right of LGBTQ Americans to get married or even enjoy intimacy with their partners. At the state level, there have been hundreds of attempts that go beyond even that, trying to cancel adoptions and foster parenting. According to Republican Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court will get about cancelling those rights this fall and next spring.
Republicans used intentional policy – refusing to mandate masks, and public statements like “it’s just like the flu” to give the U.S. the highest COVID infection and death rates in the developed world, cancelling the lives of over a million of us while countries like Taiwan and South Korea have seen only dozens or a few hundred deaths.
They are even trying to get average Americans to cancel getting the COVID vaccine, presumably to help President Biden “fail” at containing the epidemic. As Parker Beauregard wrote at Blue State Conservative, “I draw the line at shots for chicken pox, shingles, flu, HPV, and now COVID. Statistically speaking, none of these viruses are going to be my undoing, and the risk of injecting unknown substances into my body to impart potentially helpful immunization doesn’t stack up against my body’s God-given and nature-made defense mechanisms.”
And multiple Red states worked to cancel the lives of thousands of their own citizens by eliminating mask mandates and forcing restaurant and bar owners to become their own “mask police,” which became an absolute customer service nightmare for any business that wanted to protect its employees or customers.
In Oklahoma, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wants to cancel the lives of Black Lives Matter and other protesters. They passed a bill that would decriminalize killing protesters by driving a car into a crowd if the driver/killer was “fearful” about the crowd.
This is just the latest variation on the Florida GOP’s “Stand Your Ground” law that gave Republican hero and white supremacist superstar George Zimmerman the right to cancel Trayvon Martin’s life because he was Black and therefore “looked threatening” to Zimmerman.
Perhaps most troubling, the GOP is all about canceling your vote. At least if you’re poor, Black, Hispanic, a college student, or a Social Security voter. The Brennan Center documents how:
“As of January 14, legislators in at least 27 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills with restrictive [voting] provisions.”
Meanwhile, Republican appointees on the Supreme Court let Republican Secretaries of State cancel the voter registrations of over 20 million Americans in the last dozen years and let them reduce the number of voting machines and voting locations, particularly in Black, Hispanic and working-class neighborhoods, to cancel their right to quickly vote.
And, of course, Republicans in Georgia passed a law to cancel citizens’ right to receive a bottle of water or slice of pizza while standing in those now-guaranteed-to-be obscenely long lines.
Hell, they even tried to cancel American democracy itself on January 6th.
And they are now working on cancelling the outcome of the 2024 election by having the Supreme Court pre-rig the next presidential election. It turns out that America actually does have an issue with “cancel culture.” Our problem is that the media has been focusing on the wrong one.
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as GOP “Cancel Culture” is Hard at Work Cancelling America
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