The last few weeks of public debate in Harrisburg have been deeply revealing of the different approaches of the two parties.
One of those parties has been trying to bring people in our state together. The other has been trying to divide us. One party has seriously addressed real issues we all care about. The other has been making issues up so they can turn Pennsylvanian against Pennsylvanian.
All Pennsylvanians share some common interests; no matter where we live in the state, what we look like, how rich or poor we are, or what work we do, we want jobs to be created and wages to grow. We want to be able to afford the necessities of life — food, clothing, shelter, health care and transportation to get to work, do errands, and see family and friends.
Our well-being doesn’t just depend on whether we as individuals are educated or can afford housing or child care, but on whether our fellow Pennsylvanians are also educated and able to afford housing and child care so we all can be full participants in our economy, making it possible for businesses to hire the workers they need and our economy to prosper.
And while liberals and conservatives have some disagreements about the best way to attain those goods, anyone who’s not in the foul grip of ideological dogma knows that there is a role for the public sector to play in ensuring that everyone has access to what we all need.
It’s sometimes hard for the state to provide these goods. But with $12 billion to $14 billion in an accumulated surplus, Pennsylvania can do it this year.
So, what is the Republican Party doing to address these public needs now that we have the funds to pay for them?
First, they’re ignoring them. Republican legislators have simply not joined the public debate — they haven’t put forward any public proposals of their own or alternatives to those put forward by the Democrats.
Second, they talk about cutting taxes for corporations, while the vast majority of Pennsylvanians are against it.
And third — and perhaps worst — they have been trying to divide us by ginning up anger and hatred by talking dishonestly about “issues” that are trivial and that no one in the public would care about if not for their lies.
They are passing legislation to stop “inappropriate conversations about sexuality” in our schools even though there is absolutely no evidence that such conversations are taking place.
They are passing legislation to protect against non-existent electoral fraud.
They are holding press conferences saying that our state should follow “divine right,” forgetting the difference between a church and a government.
They are calling for an investigation of the Philadelphia DA even though their own communities are suffering from the same nationwide rise in crime.
They are banning trans-women athletes from high school sports even though there is no evidence that many are participants in interscholastic sports or have a major advantage when doing so.
These actions, and many others, have one purpose and one purpose only: to divide us by making us fearful of one another. They aim at convincing the public that there is real and serious division among us where no such division exists. Frankly, they are aimed at making us hate one another.
But why would a political party do that? Because when we are divided, fearful, and full of hate, we don’t see the common interests we truly have, which leaves them free to ignore the problems they were elected to solve.
Unwilling to join in debates about the common good — and only willing to use an accumulated surplus of funds to help corporations — the Republican Party of Pennsylvania has been trying to make it impossible for Pennsylvanians of good will to have serious conversations about what this budget should look like.
This is how a party that has given up on self-government and democracy behaves. And it is shameful.
Pennsylvanians need to be speaking up today to tell the General Assembly to pass a budget that serves all of us.