KATIE ZERR: Disrespect is not a way to sway voters


By their own admission, Republican party officials understand there is a disconnect with their party and a majority of Americans.

After the November election, the airwaves have been filled with talking points about how the party needs to recognize the changes in this country and be more appealing to all groups.

It is amazing that in 2012 this is still an issue. It can’t be a surprise that the makeup of our country is changing; and whether a person likes the change or not, there is little chance wealthy white men are going to be in the majority ever again.

For all of the talk about changes within the party and doing what is right for the country and not a choice few, the party has yet again stepped into the limelight because of a power struggle within.

The tug-of-war between the ultra-conservatives and those who are not so conservative has be highlighted in the past few days, not only in the talks over the fiscal cliff, but other issues as well.

One of the most confounding moves by that far right happened on Tuesday. Led by Republican opposition, the Senate rejected a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled that is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

With former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole present on the Senate floor in a wheelchair to show support for the treaty, 38 Republicans cast “no” votes.  The 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens.

Citing cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society, Republicans warned that the treaty could pose a threat to U.S. national sovereignty.

These Republicans stood firm on their resolve despite the support of the treaty by some of the GOP’s prominent veterans, including the 89-year-old Dole, who was disabled during World War II; Sen. John McCain, who also suffered disabling injuries in Vietnam; Sen. Dick Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee; and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Eight Republicans voted to approve the treaty.

The treaty also was widely backed by the disabled community and veterans groups.

Democrat Senator John Kerry seemed confounded by the vote, saying the treaty really isn’t controversial and that what it says is very simple. It is a statement against the discrimination of the disabled.  He simplified it by saying the treaty states that other countries have to do what the United States did 22 years ago when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress.

In a statement after the vote, Kerry said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.”

And despite the fact that a recent poll shows the public still appears ready to place blame for the impasse on congressional Republicans over the White House by a nearly 2-1 margin, Conservatives have warned Republican lawmakers not to accept any deal on the so-called fiscal cliff.

The Republicans claim they have learned lessons from the November election, but it looks like it will be the same problems within the party again this Congressional session.

This is not the manner in which a party wins over those who are looking for alternatives to the Democrat way in Washington. Conservatives need to have a voice, but using senseless propaganda to take this stand against the international treaty is not a good way to win over those looking to join the Republican ranks.

Disrespecting disabled veterans is not a good tool to use in wooing voters.


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