Time for a new  ‘Good Neighbor Policy’

Some early voting is already underway in the 2022 elections. By all accounts, turnout is remarkably high, the partisan divide remarkably deep.

The days when both parties were broad coalitions of liberals, moderates and conservatives are long gone. The partisan sorting-out began when Republicans responded to the civil rights movement by seeking to capture the white vote in the South.

Now, Trump’s successful efforts to purge or intimidate politicians who objected to his behavior have deepened the divide.

Of course, candidates in both parties often labor to blur the differences on key issues in the general election. Republicans, for example, ardently oppose abortion.

Yet in many campaigns, candidates who loudly supported banning abortions without exception in the primaries now claim to support exceptions of one sort or another in the general.

Similarly, campaign rhetoric and ads often distort or even smear opponents. Republicans call Democrats “socialists,” claim they want to defund the police, let murderers loose on the streets, open the borders, “replace” white voters and take away all guns.

The charges are so extreme they disprove themselves, but they rouse various parts of the party’s base. No one should be fooled. The real contrasts are clear and stark.

Middle-up economics

For example: On the economy. Republicans believe in trickle-down economics – tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, spending cuts for social services, and deregulation, particularly on protections for consumers and the environment.

They oppose unions and raising the minimum wage. Democrats believe in middle-up economics. They want to empower workers to organize and raise the minimum wage.

Under President Biden, they passed measures to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure, investments to regain our edge in research and development, incentives to keep high-tech and alternative energy innovation here at home.

They seek to pay for these things by raising taxes on the rich and on corporations.

On abortion, Republicans oppose abortion, and seek at the state and national level to restrict it as much as possible. Democrats favor a woman’s right over her own body and oppose the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned that right.

On crime, Republicans oppose police reform. They tout gun rights and oppose gun control. Democrats favor reforming police, even if it requires more funding for training and more staffing.

Democrats favor stronger gun control, while not challenging the right to own a gun.

On immigration, Republicans, since Trump, favor building the wall, block citizenship for the Dreamers, and oppose comprehensive immigration reform.

Democrats oppose the wall, support legal immigration, want the border enforced but higher legal immigration quotas, and support citizenship for the Dreamers who have grown up here.

On Social Security and Medicare, Republicans seek to rollback both – either by raising the age of eligibility or privatizing or limiting benefits. They are now talking about using a fight over the debt ceiling to force cutbacks.

Democrats strongly support Social Security and Medicare and want to secure them by lifting the lid on payroll taxes enjoyed by the rich. They voted to empower Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs; the Republicans opposed doing so.

On the right to vote, a majority of Republican candidates support Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. They oppose renewing the Voting Rights Act that Republican judges on the Supreme Court have disemboweled.

They have made voting and registration more difficult in states they control. They oppose limits on dark money or on big money in our politics. Democrats favor the Voting Rights Act.

They want to make registration and voting more accessible and seek ways to limit big money while encouraging small donations in elections. They obviously reject the Big Lie.

Central issues

On climate change, Republicans largely stand with the fossil fuel industry, a leading source of campaign funds. Most no longer deny that climate change is real, but oppose doing much about it, and urge expanding production of oil and gas.

Democrats have passed the first major legislation to support renewable energy and energy efficiency and support international efforts to meet the threat of catastrophic climate change.

On inflation, Republicans blame Biden, denouncing the stimulus plan that aided families during the pandemic.

Democrats blame the supply chain problems that came as the COVID economy reopened, the war in Ukraine that disrupts gas and food markets, droughts in China and the Midwest that impact food production, and, most of all, the record profits pocketed by corporate monopolies taking advantage of the crisis.

So, they passed incentives to move jobs home, to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency, to lower the cost of drugs, and to break up monopolies.

They sought to sustain the child tax credit to help working families with the cost of child care, paid for by taxing the record profits pocketed by the corporations. Republicans voted no.

You can add to this list. You can quibble with my language or phrasing. But clearly, the parties are increasingly united internally – and sharply divided from one another on central issues. This election offers a choice in direction. And now voters will decide which way we go.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is president and CEO of the Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition.

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