Nasty People

     “A wise prince should, when he has the opportunity, astutely encourage some opposition, in order that he might shine all the brighter once he has vanquished it.”
     Niccolo Machiavelli was advising a hereditary prince, not people seeking votes in a democracy, but we wouldn’t still be reading Machiavelli if he weren’t a smart guy.
     U.S. politicians do not seek votes from people based upon who those people are, but upon who they think they are.
     And Americans, by and large, think of ourselves as fair and honest: plain-spoken, sympathetic to the underdog – to any underdog who, like us, plays fair, by the rules of our peculiar games.
     That’s why I hesitate to offer this advice to the right-wing congressmen who have turned the Republican Party into a coven of spoiled, quarreling brats, but I will offer it: Americans don’t like people who act the way you’re acting.
     Americans like people who play fair – who are fair.
     Let us consider the farm bill the right-wing Republicans have shot down in flames.
     Now, for most Americans, the words “farm bill” are a more effective snoozer than Ambien. But I live in Vermont, and farms are important here. My neighbors are farmers. My next-door neighbor, who has a good, safe, well-paying government job, was raised as a farmer, and wishes he could still be a farmer.
     One way the right-wing killed the farm bill dead in the House was by approving an amendment by a first-termer from North Carolina, which would require food stamp recipients to submit to drug tests.
     Forty-seven million Americans got food stamps last year.
     Forty-seven percent of the food stamp recipients were children – that’s 22.1 million children.
     Eight percent were senior citizens – that’s 3.8 million elderly Americans on food stamps.
     Three-quarters of the households that used food stamps had at least one member with a job.
     I don’t know about you, but I find the notion of making 3.8 million hungry old men and old women pee into jars to get food stamps offensive.
     The notion that the richest nation in the history of the world should let even a fraction of 22 million children go to bed hungry at night, and live hungry, because their parents won’t pee in a jar, is also offensive.
     Congressman Richard Hudson, from North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, is the man who introduced that amendment.
     He poses on his campaign website with a gun in his hands.
     Hudson is 41 years old. He was elected to Congress in 2012. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
     I’d like to see Congressman Hudson make his mother pee in a jar and wait for the test results to come back before she ate a decent meal.
     The cowards and panders who control Hudson’s party today approved his amendment.
     Some people and groups who tend to vote Republican has better sense than that: the North Dakota Catholic Conference, for instance, which represents those radical Dioceses of Fargo and Bismarck.
     The bishops issued a statement that Hudson’s amendment is illegal under the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp act, and that more than one federal court has ruled a drug test for food stamps unconstitutional.
     The bishops point out that Florida tried to make food stamp recipients pee in jars, and before a federal court prohibited it, Florida found that 2.6 percent of food stamp applicants tested positive for drugs, and Florida taxpayers had to pick up the costs of drug tests for the other 97.4 percent.
     Maybe I’m wrong: Maybe my fellow Americans are nastier than I think they are. But I don’t think so.
     I think the Republican Party is devouring itself, like a poisonous snake eating its own tail, by trying to crush any opposition, even within itself, and by kowtowing to nasty knownothings like Hudson.
     And I think my conservative farmer neighbors agree with me.

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