Republicans have made an art form of trying to turn back the clock. I can’t help but wonder what’s next on their agenda.
How long will it be before Republicans are saying that while government has every right to be in your bedroom, it has no right to be in your mouth? If people want to smoke, they should be able to. If there is any scientific evidence indicating health hazards related to smoking, it probably comes from those wacko leftists who try to hoodwink the American people into believing that something called climate change is actually happening in our very country.
Even if the pseudo-scientists on the left are right and smoking causes health issues, who cares? Such a development would reduce the pressure to raise taxes from the left. If people die younger from cigarette smoking that translates into fewer years in which they will be drawing funds from Social Security and Medicare and thus taxes can be further reduced. Additionally, a disproportionate number of smokers are poor; so the GOP can launch its own “War on Poverty” by encouraging more smoking among those who can least afford it.
Years ago, the intrusive federal government mandated a warning on cigarette packs, “The Surgeon General has determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.” That was just another case of leftists telling the public how to live their lives, particularly what goes in one’s mouth. It’s as insidious as First Lady Michelle Obama suggesting that obesity can be bad for one’s health and children should eat more fruits and vegetables and less sweets.
Many Republicans (and more than a handful of Democrats) prefer to not be confused by the facts. So when Republicans initiate their war on cigarette restrictions, you can befuddle them by reminding them that the first Surgeon General’s warning was signed into law in 1970. Hmmmm; I wonder who was president then who signed the bill? Oh yes, it was Richard Nixon, one-time darling of the Republican Party. Oh, that can’t be true. Someone from the Democratic National Committee must have snuck into the White House and forged his signature.
The idea of Republicans wanting to “lighten up” on cigarette smoking may seem facetious, but can you think of any other area of civil rights, economic security, labor protection, and consumer safety where the GOP has not tried to turn back the clock since the Progressive Era (which by the way began under a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt)?
Contemporary progressives have been slow to learn that conservatives long ago learned that there is no such thing as a victory in advancing human rights. There are only ebbs and flow. Beginning with the progressive era of Theodore Roosevelt; followed by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, we have extended basic liberties and economic opportunities to people who previously had no safety net.
Whether it’s contraceptives, civil rights, or health care, the rights for workers to organize, protection from predators, Republicans ardently try to undo progress that has been made. Not too long ago, progressives thought that the feminist movement reached a solid plateau which while not achieving gender equality, at least had raised the glass ceiling. But Republicans continue to work in obvious and hidden ways to undermine the rights of women.
A frequent target for Republicans is the Environmental Protection Agency. They seem to follow the thinking of Nixon’s Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, who said, “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Of course, this negates the fact it was Nixon himself who in 1970 signed the act authorizing the E.P.A.
It seems that progressives feel that the battles that they won are now engraved in stone and permanently inked in our history textbooks. Conservatives often see yesterday’s battles as just that, a skirmish that is but a part of an ongoing war. They live to fight another day. All too often progressives have been asleep at the switch as conservatives work to undo the progress of the past.
I don’t know what’s next, but as the great philosopher Roseanne Roseannadanna, said, “It’s always something.” It could be cigarette smoking; it could be something else. In any event, progressives need to be vigilant to see how conservatives try to undo the well-earned progress of recent years.