THURAVIL: Republicans use society-oriented attitudes when convenient
Opinions Column: Sip on Your Chai
As if the country didn’t have enough problems in dealing with incompetence and discrimination within our federal administration, the United States is also currently facing a deadly onslaught of natural disasters. Hurricanes, floods, wildfires and heatwaves are sweeping across the country, but visibly, the most affected regions are in the southern, coastal areas, nearly demolished by the forces of Hurricanes Harvey (Texas) and Irma (Florida, the Caribbean and the Southeastern U.S.). As more and more Americans lose power, water, shelter and supplies, people from around the country and the world put aside their differences to assist those in need by sending required items and personal monetary donations. Large corporations have also jumped in, donating millions of dollars to hurricane relief. Numerous mosques are offering shelter and refuge to those affected by flooding in Houston. Many will argue that this moment in history, where millions of unrelated people come together to help and better society, is beautiful and representative of what it means to be American.
Harvey relief funding turned into a political spat instead of being a unanimous agreement to help victims of a natural tragedy. Lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who opposed aid for Hurricane Sandy in 2005, now came forward appealing to Congress for Harvey relief packages. When one’s political ideology and beliefs are in stark contrast to what they’re asking to get done, it’s bound to ruffle some feathers. What is more frustrating is that asking for help from society, in this case, via the national budget, is something that Republicans have held in hard opposition to their platform. Fiscal conservatives see social help as something akin to freeloading, as though the basis of society depends upon something other than, well, the members of that society themselves. Help for Harvey and Irma comes from members of society who work, pay taxes and fund the national budget from which the aid packages are derived. With the midterm elections coming up, it almost seems as though that the Republican representatives and senators who previously opposed Sandy relief but are currently asking for Harvey relief are doing so for personal benefit — to appear dedicated to the safety and well-being of their constituents only to regain their seat of power in 2018.
Some may argue that crisis and human suffering may have appealed to the aforementioned lawmakers, but their history presents evidence that argues differently. In July, during the debates over healthcare repeal and reform, Republicans in the Senate backed a bill introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that essentially stripped the Affordable Care Act (ACA) down to the bare minimum to pass as healthcare legislation. Throughout the numerous talks, amendments and interviews, it was clear that the bill was intended not to benevolently give the American people a “choice” in healthcare. The ACA was reduced to nearly nothing and would increase premiums and make healthcare virtually inaccessible to those of lower economic classes, some of whom belong in the bill sponsors’ constituencies. This wasn’t of any concern to them, clearly, as they proceeded to push and amend the bill until it was finally struck down. There was no demonstrated empathy for those who needed affordable public healthcare. Some lawmakers even chose to skip out on their town halls altogether in fear of opposition. Back then, reelection was not as much of a matter as it is now. Those standing for reelection are slowly considering the consequences of their lack of concern, and it shows in the harried and rushed way that funding for Harvey and Irma was and is going to be secured.
Now, asking for help seems like a spectacular idea. It garners sympathy, it demonstrates emotion and concern and most importantly, it shows constituents that their representatives care about them to some extent, which is paramount to seeming like the people’s candidate in a reelection race and building a credible history in helping the community. Those tracking the actions of these representatives, though, may soon realize that there is a better, more efficient and much more far-reaching way of ensuring that the community is always there to help in times of need — electing candidates whose entire platforms are society-based and involve a public, affordable option of basic necessities such as health, education and minimum wage. Progressivism is the way to go if we want to see constructive action taking place to better our communities, which, in turn, will better us individually.
Neeharika Thuravil is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science and astrophysics. Her column, "Sip on Your Chai," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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