Charlotte—The most overused and least understood word at the Republican National Convention in Tampa was “reform.”
Historically, a reformer was someone who demanded that action be taken to address the inequity, corruption and neglect of the common good that rendered a potentially commendable system dysfunctional.
True reformers—like Republican Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt—were believers in the American experiment. But they knew that it was an experiment; to function properly it needed to adjust at critical junctures, to improve and to repair so that a broken status quo did not become the norm.
At the Republican convention that nominated two sons of privilege to lead what has become the party of economic royalism, however, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan redefined “reform.” They made it the term not for addressing dysfunction but for extending it.
At a time when the gap between rich and poor has become a chasm, Romney and Ryan propose to create a Bain-capitalist future of leveraged buyouts, shuttered factories and offshored assets. Their “reforms” make a mockery of the Jeffersonian vision of nation of small shopkeepers and small farmers; yes, Americans could still scrape livings out of small shops and small farms, they could “build it,” but they could not shape the government policies that might actually allow them to play a role in discerning the future course of the republic.
The Republican platform, embraced in Tampa not just by wild-eyed social conservative foes of reproductive rights and marriage equality but by Romney and Ryan when they accepted their nominations, outlines a plan for the redistribution of economic power upward—with page after page of proposals for tax and trade policies that benefit the one-tenth of the 1 percent. But it also redistributes political power upward, declaring that the “right” of billionaires to buy election results is every bit as sacrosanct as the right to vote or to speak freely in the public square.
Opposing any limits on the political practices of the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, the platform pledges to “support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain-Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the Disclose Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”