December 11, 2012

At least they had the decency to wait 24 hours.

Last Tuesday, following the international day honoring the disabled, 38 Senate Republicans voted down the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. With former Senate majority leader and disabled WWII veteran Bob Dole silently beseeching them from his wheelchair, Dole’s fellow Republicans railed against “cumbersome regulations” that could threaten American “sovereignty.”

No matter that Democratic Sen. John Kerry patiently and eloquently explained that the treaty would in no way impact U.S. law but merely encourage other countries to adopt our own standards and make life easier for disabled Americans abroad. Or that the treaty — signed by 154 countries and ratified by 126 — was modeled on the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, a bill championed by Dole and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Or that the treaty itself was drawn up by that notorious U.N.-hugger George W. Bush. Or even that eight Republican senators voted to ratify it, including increasingly rabid Obama foreign policy critic John McCain, who listed two dozen supportive veterans organizations before noting that the treaty was about “American leadership in the world.”

But none of that counted, because, according to Rick Santorum and his band of U.N..-bashers, ratification would mean wheeling ourselves, ever so slowly, down the road to serfdom at the feet of “international bureaucrats.” It would outsource American power to Geneva, decimate home schooling and shake the very foundations of society. To say nothing of the forced abortions that, Santorum & Co. suggest, would inevitably result.

What is it about the United Nations that sends the GOP into such a tizzy? That diplomats are encouraged to speak French? The United Nation’s intentions are the best, yet Republicans always assume the worst. They weep for the improbable horrors that could be but shed very few tears for the hardships in the here and now, such those suffered by the 1 billion disabled people worldwide who struggle with patchwork laws and official neglect. As comedian Jon Stewart noted, “Republicans hate the United Nations more than they like helping people in wheelchairs.”

The Republicans’ unreconstructed paranoia about an organization dedicated to global cooperation isn’t new (remember Ron Paul warning of those black helicopters?). No, now it’s just been mainstreamed in the GOP’s circulatory system, another example of the party’s increasingly delusional, and ossified, worldview.

The 2012 Republican Party platform, for instance, declares that the GOP “shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear.” Treaties singled out include the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights (clearly a dangerously lesbian document); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (a ploy to snatch American children away from their parents); the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (no doubt a prelude to “full-scale gun confiscation”); basically anything from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (tree-hugging); and the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (dastardly intentions detailed above).

Then there was last July’s Law of the Sea Treaty, which would have helped the United States expand our energy resources and secure our ships’ freedom of navigation. For those reasons, business leaders and environmentalists, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and even military leaders and former Republican secretaries of state were all on board. But the U.N. bogeyman reared its blue-helmeted head, and the treaty went down to a watery grave.

Taking the crazy cake, though, is the right-wing hysteria over an obscure, nonbinding U.N. resolution known as Agenda 21 ,which suggests that communities adopt sustainable, smart-growth development plans. To Ted Cruz, the tea party’s newly elected Senate darling, Agenda 21 is the “grand scheme” of George Soros to seize American property and abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.” This is, as one New Hampshire state senator noted, “real tinfoil hat material,” and the same could be said for much of the current Republican orthodoxy. In today’s GOP, the fevered fringe has gone mainstream.

Now tea party leader Jim DeMint — who claimed the disability treaty would “sign away our sovereignty” and is best remembered for standing by Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and threatening to block every bill his office hadn’t personally approved — is leaving the Senate helm the Heritage Foundation, a conservative “think tank” whose thinking has tanked of late. DeMint promises “strong leadership in the battle of ideas,” but as this obsession with make-believe U.N. evils sadly illustrates, the Republican “battle of ideas” is but a minor skirmish in their War on Reality.

Those tiny holes in the GOP’s airtight bubble — pierced for a few uncertain days by President Obama’s commanding reelection win — have since been plugged with torn up treaties and fantastical “fiscal cliff” proposals. The conservative kaleidoscope continues to reveal a world where down is up, the solution to more mass shootings is more guns, and wheelchair ramps for the disabled lead to the end of home schooling.

It’s mean, it’s mental — and, frankly, it’s a menace.