If you thought the Republican Party only tries to appeal to well-off, married, white suburban and rural Christian men, boy are you wrong. The Republican Party tried to appeal only to well-off, white, suburban and rural able-bodied Christian men.
The party further narrowed its ever-narrowing base on Tuesday when 38 senators voted to reject the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Former Sen. Bob Dole, who lost the use of his right arm in World War II, appeared on the Senate floor in a wheelchair, to shame his fellow Republicans into voting “aye.” It was like the scene from The Godfather Part II, when Frankie Pentangeli’s brother appears in a Senate committee room to shame Frankie from breaking the code of omerta and testifying against Michael Corleone.
In this case, though, it didn’t work. The Senate Republicans were shameless. They didn’t listen to Dole or to President George H.W. Bush, another World War II veteran who signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, on which the U.N. Convention was based. Instead, they listened to former Sen. Rick Santorum, who traveled to Washington to warn that the Convention could interfere with the right of parents to home school disabled children. Santorum, whose daughter is disabled, said the treaty would be a “direct assault on us and our family” because it would allow the government to separate disabled children from their parents. But as Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post:
The treaty requires virtually nothing of the United States. It essentially directs the other signatories to update their laws so that they more closely match the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even Lee thought it necessary to preface his opposition with the qualifier that “our concerns with this convention have nothing to do with any lack of concern for the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Their concerns, rather, came from the dark world of U.N. conspiracy theories. The opponents argue that the treaty, like most everything the United Nations does, undermines American sovereignty — in this case via a plot to keep Americans from home-schooling their children and making other decisions about their well-being.
So Tea Party paranoia triumphed over reaching out to a marginalized group. That dynamic pretty much defines the contemporary Republican Party.
Dick Durbin voted yes on the Convention. Mark Kirk -- the senator who would have benefited most from ratification -- was the only senator who did not vote. He’s still recovering from the stroke he suffered in January.