King Midas with his daughter (drawing by Walter Crane from “A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls” [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons)

Does the GOP have the Midas Touch?

Guest Author
Guest Author

Let us recall a cautionary tale in Greek mythology.

Midas, a king of Phrygia, was known for his foolishness and greed.

According to the myth, Midas rescued the wandering Silenus, companion of the god Dionysus. For his kind treatment of Silenus, Midas was rewarded by Dionysus with a wish. The king wished that all he touched might turn to gold – but when his food became gold and he nearly starved to death as a result, he realized his error. Dionysus then granted him release by having him bathe in the Pactolus River. When he returned home, everything he had touched had become normal again.

Midas hugged his daughter happily and decided to share his great fortune with his people. From then on, Midas became a better person, generous and grateful for all the goods of his life.

Moral?

Using racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, greed, and death as “gold” currency,

while promoting and defending the greed of billionaires,

leads to widespread poverty, pollution, ignorance, and death,

regardless of the nation it’s done in.

Noel Casler, a political comedian, asks, “How come everything the Republican Party stands for involves people dying?”

He goes on to note the GOP supports the deadly “gold” currencies of assault weapons, opposition to masks and vaccines, opposition to saving the environment, and an all-out war on education and healthcare.

Casler’s question deserves a serious answer.

Republican-controlled “Red” states have higher rates of:

  • Spousal abuse
  • Obesity
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Abortion
  • Homicide and suicide
  • Infant mortality
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Contaminated air and water
  • Opiate addiction
  • Covid deaths and unvaccinated people
  • Child poverty
  • Homelessness

(Sources: Third Way, Pew Research, and Georgetown Public Policy)

Is there something in the GOP’s core beliefs that inevitably leads to these outcomes?

These sad outcomes are the direct result of policies promoting greed, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and death that the GOP has been using to raise billions of dollars to win elections. When you promote and protect the greed and “gold” of billionaires, you get policies that cause poverty, pollution, ignorance, and death – regardless of the nation where the policies are applied.

It’s happening in India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Hungary.

How did it happen here in America and in a “red state” like Kentucky?

Perhaps the most prolific “gold nugget” is racism. The GOP first openly embraced this “gold” in 1964 when the party’s presidential candidate that year, Barry Goldwater, proudly refused to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And Ronald Reagan gave a keynote speech at the Republican National Convention to that effect.

It was a huge shift for the party of Lincoln, and when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he told Bill Moyers, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.”

The “gold” in white supremacy became an official part of GOP ideology in the 1960s, leading directly to Richard Nixon’s explicitly racist 1968 “Southern Strategy” which prompted many southern Democrats to switch to the Republican party.

It was replicated by Ronald Reagan speaking about the states’ rights “gold nugget” at his first campaign speech near the scene of the murder civil rights workers in Mississippi. This was followed by George HW Bush’s Willie Horton ad campaign, and Donald Trump’s rants about Mexican rapists and people from what he called “sh^*hole countries.”

A second “gold nugget” that filled out the list above happened in 1980, when the GOP warmed up to religious grifters and rich, greedy white people.

Like the Midas story and the golden food threatening to starve the people, prior to the 1988 election year, George HW Bush and his wife Barbara were big advocates for Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. And Ronald Reagan, as governor of California, had signed the nation’s most liberal abortion law and was an outspoken supporter of Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood.

Similarly, the white evangelical movement prior to 1980 was largely supportive of abortion rights. But they were furious when the Supreme Court banned preacher-led school prayer, and again in the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter pulled the tax exemptions of segregated schools run by white evangelicals.

As their policies continue to starve America, will Republicans, like King Midas, see the evil of their ways?

Republicans are moving closer to the starvation of every part of our lives, from banning books, to banning school curricula on Black history (under guise of racist bans of “critical race theory”), to banning transgender girls and women from school sports, to banning discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.

They are telling us their goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut, where the Supreme Court ruled in 1965  that married people had the right to use contraception, along with the cases that relied on its reasoning, in the hope that it enables them to ban abortion, curtail access to birth control, ban marriage equality, and even criminalize being gay.

In Kentucky, the following bills have been promoted by the GOP this legislative session – gifts to racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and the greedy wealthy class, while at the same time starving the most vulnerable:

HB 3 – the omnibus anti-abortion bill
HB 7 – the attack on the safety net
HB 8 – the “let’s get rid of the income tax, starve the budget” bill
HB 9 – charter school funding, pillaging public schools
SB 1 – de-power School Based Decision-Making councils
SB 167 – attack on library boards giving a green light to ban books
SB 88 – General Assembly call itself into session
SB 93 – religious belief vax exemption
SB 83 – trans athlete ban
SB 63 – limit open records
SB 138 – “Teaching American Principles Act” dictating what can and cannot be taught in history classes

As Midas became a better person, generous and grateful for all goods of his life after seeing his greed almost destroy his kingdom, will Republicans finally see the evils of their policies and rid themselves of the yoke of far-right wing-nuts who are using “fool’s gold” to con about 30% of our citizenry?

It’s time for us to stand against the GOP’s “Midas touch” agenda, which is starving all of us of the best we can be.

--30--

Written by John James Alexander, a pseudonym for a long-time Kentucky educator.


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