When the great turn-of-the-twentieth-century labor leader Samuel Gompers was quoted as saying “Reward your friends, punish your enemies,” he was putting forth a practical if somewhat Machiavellian approach to dealing with politicians on behalf of the little guy. Flash forward to 2017, when a healthcare bill known as Graham-Cassidy proposed pretty much the same approach to dealing with blue state voters on behalf of the Grand Old Party. Except the stakes were not merely elected office but rather life itself.
Over the past decade or so, well predating Donald Trump’s taking a brief hiatus from one reality show to start another, Americans have come to accept the new GOP M.O. Even a casual weekend warrior hobbyist in demographics could see the writing on the wall. A U.S. population gradually becoming browner, more urban, more global, more educated, more environmentally concerned, and more accepting of progressive trends like the normalization of gay culture and the legalization of marijuana spelled death by a thousand cuts for the party of states rights, white rights, gun rights, and polluter rights.
The party was apparently over, not with a bang but with a long, painful going out of business sale that would eventually leave the likes of Newt Gingrich and John Boehner in the discount bin at Target. Yet rather than adapt to the evolving cross-section of America or throw in the towel, the Republican Party came up with a new strategy—political chemotherapy.
In classic chemotherapy, cancer cells are killed albeit with a tremendous amount of collateral damage to otherwise healthy cells. In political chemotherapy, opposition voters (metastatic liberals) are eliminated, albeit with collateral damage to democracy. Gerrymandering was stage 1 treatment. Ceaseless redrawing of congressional districts into mangled misshapen puzzle pieces for the sole purpose of lassoing a few dozen lapsed Tea Party members does not actually kill center-left voters, but renders them statistically invisible. Though not a miracle cure for “progressive cancer,” the numbers don’t lie. With something like 45 percent of the voters now controlling something like 55 percent of the vote, this type of political chemotherapy has been shown statistically to be viable in extending the life of the patient
Voter suppression was stage 2. Like gerrymandering, eliminating the Election Assistance Commission, cutting back on Sunday voting, and requiring a driver’s license at the polls suppresses progressive cancer, effectively neutralizing hundreds of thousands of malignant cells and their Birkenstocks. In double-blind clinical trials across the country, voter suppression was found to be 23 percent more effective than waiting for a rainy day and hoping people of color stay home.
Immigration reduction was stage 3. Part one of stage 3 utilized passive treatment in which a travel ban was instituted. While no direct reduction in liberal tumors was projected, passive treatment was intended to hold progressive cancer at bay while further treatments were developed. Part two of stage 3 was active treatment through enhanced deportation and elimination of DACA. Testing proved these treatments to be significantly more effective than the placebo known as building a wall. Although not approved by the FDA, treatment is now being implemented by the DHS.
However, in the face of progressive carcinomas resistant to all other phases of treatment, stage 4, Graham-Cassidy, was conceived as a last resort therapy meant to extend the life of the patient well beyond 2020. The concept was surprisingly simple and straightforward—kill blue state voters. Compared to the Affordable Care Act, federal block grants in California were to be cut by $56 billion. In Alabama, increased by $4 billion. New York, cut by $52 billion. Mississippi, up $6 billion, New Jersey down $5 billion. South Carolina up $5 billion, Oregon down $9 billion. You get the idea.
Though Graham-Cassidy was dead on arrival like left-leaning voters were supposed to be, the bill has nonetheless ushered in an era of radical political chemotherapy. While Republican operatives have contended for many years that dead liberals continue to vote, there is now a general consensus that they rarely do. This realization has opened the think tank door to numerous new and innovative potential stage 4 therapies including progressive internment, selective incarceration, highly selective service, and relaunching the HIV epidemic. Though collateral damage to the democracy itself is likely to reach dangerous new levels and possibly even kill the patient, the GOP has never taken a Hippocratic Oath. The hypocritical one (see Pledge of Allegiance) will do just fine.
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.