I know he’s only a state representative from Oklahoma City, but what Mike Reynolds said is important.
What Reynolds said is important for a very simple reason. It neatly demonstrates just how ridiculously extreme some in the Republican Party have become, and while they’re not all as zealous as Mike Reynolds, some of them are and others are very, very close.
According to the Huffington Post, a particular student in Oklahoma, who earned a 4.39 GPA and a 32 on the ACT, didn’t qualify for a Pell grant and “only received a few scholarships, which won’t cover his tuition bill.” A Democratic lawmaker in Oklahoma, as Democratic lawmakers are wont to do, sought help from his colleagues, saying in an email exchange:
How do we guarantee that students like Austin, who is clearly very much a top student, get an education? These are the ones that will cure cancer, create the next big invention or possibly become a great leader. How do we help these students?
It’s OUR JOB to see this kid get an education. We want our best and brightest to receive an education that lets them reach their full potential. We are failing him.
To which Representative Reynolds responded:
It is not our job to see that anyone gets an education. It is not the responsibility of me, you, or any constituent in my district to pay for his or any other persons [sic] education. Their GPA, ACT, AS[V]AB, determination have nothing to do with who is responsible. Their potential to benefit society is irrelevant.
Now, before anyone is tempted to dismiss this Reynolds character (he is a character) and his outrageous philosophy as an outlier in the pattern of Republican ideological distribution, I urge you to look again at that last line:
Their potential to benefit society is irrelevant.
Benefiting society? Who cares? A smart kid from Oklahoma who can’t afford to go to college means nothing to this particular Republican. He admits that legislation that has the potential to benefit society is irrelevant to his job as a legislator.
But what makes any of us think that anyone’s or anything’s potential to benefit society is relevant to most Republicans in Washington, D.C. and around the country? Where is the evidence to support the claim that Republicans are interested in public policies that benefit society?
There isn’t much evidence, from the obstructionist legislative strategy to defeat President Obama—which included sabotaging the economic recovery—to the strategy of making it harder for people in this democracy to vote—many stood in line for hours, some giving up and going home—to attempting to thwart even the mildest of reforms of our gun laws—look at this:
Those mug shots above include some of the leading lights of the Republican Party, most notably the leader of Republicans in the United States Senate. These legislators not only oppose common-sense gun laws, they don’t even want the legislation to come to a vote. So don’t tell me that a ideologically nutty congressman from Oklahoma City is an outlier in the Republican Party.
And don’t tell me that a Republican legislator, who said that the “potential to benefit society is irrelevant” to him as a lawmaker, is an odd duck in the GOP.
No, no, no. Mike Reynolds from Oklahoma City is very much in the mainstream of the larger Republican Party, and nothing proves it more than the party’s aggressive opposition to gun law reforms, including the proposed ban on assault weapons and monstrous magazines, a federal gun trafficking law, and, the mildest reform of all, loophole-free criminal background checks on gun purchases. All of those proposals have the potential to benefit society.
But society be damned. The Republican Party, as demonstrated by its leadership, has a job to do for the NRA and its clients, the gun manufacturers.