Once again, the Republican Party is showing that they really don’t care about children. For all their talk about family values — empty and self-righteous talk at that — red states only care about children as pawns in their cruel expression of power.

Fifteen states, all led by Republican governors, have rejected federal money for a summer lunch program. Congress approved a food assistance program designed to assist low-income families during the summers, with $120 for each child to purchase food when school lunches are unavailable. While 35 states, five territories and tribal nations have opted into the program, 15 states — Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming — declined the offer.

All of these states are GOP-controlled, which is not accidental or by chance, a fact that we will explore later. (To be fair, Louisiana, which is currently Republican-led, opted out of the funds when a Democrat was governor.) Roughly half of these states are former confederate states with large Black populations, a long record of treating people poorly and a history of not regarding Black people as human beings. 

This federal program provides $2.5 billion to around 21 million children who would receive free or reduced-cost lunch in school. And yet, these red states are knowingly and willfully depriving the children of their states the opportunity to keep their bellies full and keep from starving in the summer months.

This stance on the part of Republican governors is the ultimate in cruelty, a hatred of government programs to help people and a cold-hearted and cold-blooded demonization of the poor. “COVID-19 is over and Nebraska taxpayers expect that pandemic-era government relief programs will end too,” said Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen. Another governor, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, said COVID-era cash relief programs are unsustainable, and she actually blamed obesity for rejecting the federal funds. “An E.B.T. card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic,” Reynolds said.

It is sad that the GOP has come to this, that this is their worldview and they don’t want to feed hungry children. This is outrageous. But if you’ve been keeping an eye on what the Republican Party has been doing for over the past half-century, you should not be surprised.

Since the 1960s, and most definitely in the Reagan era, the GOP became the anti-government party. The Republicans are not against the government giving tax breaks to the wealthy, intruding in women’s bodies and empowering gun manufacturers, but they are against civil rights and government programs to assist marginalized people, specifically anything that helps Black folks.

After the gains of the Civil Rights Movement and the passage of historic legislation such as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other laws designed to bring about racial and economic justice, Southern, white pro-segregation racists felt some sort of way about Black power. They resented it. Those who are used to white privilege feel oppressed when white supremacy itself is under threat.

Republicans capitalized on white resentment of Black progress through the Southern Strategy. The GOP replaced racial epithets like the n-word with racially coded language, support for tax cuts, states’ rights, smaller government and an end to government programs. As the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater said, “…all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] Blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Just like the project of convincing poor white men to fight for the confederacy in the Civil War — to benefit white slaveowners who relied on free and forced Black labor to build the plantation economy, and rendered White labor useless — the Republican politics of white grievance creates a false sense of white-skin solidarity among white people. Meanwhile, the policies are meant to benefit rich white people. The benefit to poor white people under such policies is they get to keep their Bibles, guns and whiteness, for all its currency and for whatever it’s worth.

As James Baldwin said of white people at the epic debate with conservative William F. Buckley at the University of Cambridge on Feb. 18, 1965: “No matter what disaster overtakes them, they have one enormous knowledge and consolation, which is like a heavenly revelation: at least they are not black. Now I suggest that of all the terrible things that can happen to a human being, that is one of the worst. I suggest that what has happened to white southerners is in some ways, after all, much worse than what has happened to Negroes there.”  

This is how the GOP gained support in the post-civil rights era, by attracting white racist Southern Democrats and bringing them over to the Republican Party with an anti-Black and anti-government message. Get the poor whites to hate government programs because they help Black people, they say with a wink and a nod. And it matters little that poor white people might be affected by cuts to these programs.

Add to that the Republican hatred of food stamps and welfare programs that came with Ronald Reagan, who scapegoated the poor with his racialized “welfare queen” trope to justify cutting the social safety net. According to Reagan, the welfare queen, typically Black, “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare.”

Give the Republicans credit because their hustle has worked. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Yet, the more nuanced and coded race-card and dog-whistle politics of the Republican Party has evolved into the blatant bullhorn of white supremacy in the age of Trump. And it’s still a war on the poor and those with melanin.      

The GOP opposition to anti-hunger programs is part of their shtick, and it exposes their hypocrisy as the so-called party of family values. But Republicans don’t care about children; their only concern is controlling women’s bodies, enabling mass shooters and domestic terrorists, and helping their corporate benefactors so they can get that bag. And if you can judge a nation by how it treats its children, consider that after all those babies were slaughtered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, NRA-funded Republican lawmakers refused to take any action on gun control or the proliferation of assault weapons.

Watching children go hungry is par for the course in red states, the places with the lowest life expectancies, lower levels of health and education, less money, least economic mobility and higher rates of poverty. Red states have the highest infant mortality rates. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rates, and many of the worst states for maternal mortality are red states. These states that have been conditioned to treat human beings like dirt certainly believe in their freedom — the freedom to live in despair, to suffer from hunger, and to die without the oppressive government to help you.   

The GOP doesn’t care about children, and they would have those poor kids starve. And they are doing it now.

This commentary is also posted on TheGrio.com.

David A. Love, JD - Serves

BlackCommentator.com as Executive

Editor. He is a journalist, commentator,

human rights advocate, a Professor at

the Rutgers University School of

Communication and Information based in

Philadelphia, a contributor to Four

Hundred Souls: A Community History of

African America, 1619-2019, The

Washington Post, theGrio,

AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive,

CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and

The Huffington Post. He also blogs at

davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and


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