Monday, May 06, 2019

Democratic Party and the GOP - A Sad and Sadder Legacy

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made a law during Lyndon Johnson's administration in part because a high percentage of Republicans in the house and senate supported it. In fact a higher percentage of Republicans supported the law than did Democrats.

This was a time when the GOP still had the historical memory of being the party of Lincoln and the Democratic party included a significant number of white Southern Democrats who were opposed to civil rights.

This was about to change very quickly.

Four weeks after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made law the GOP nominated Barry Goldwater as their presidential candidate. Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His failed 1964 presidential bid resulted in him carrying his home state of Arizona, and five states in the deep south - thanks to support from white southern Democrats.

The GOP, beginning with Nixon in 1968, took advantage of the disenchantment of southern white racist Democrats with the Democratic party, by using the Southern Strategy. This strategy of appealing to racism resulted in a shift of racist white Democrats from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

Goldwater played another key role in the GOP since his failed presidential campaign served as a springboard for Ronald Reagan to become a national political figure.

John McCain, praised Goldwater as the man who "transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan."

Lee Atwater a member of the Reagan administration had this to say about the Southern Strategy -

"Y'all don't quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger". By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this", is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger". So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone."

Lee Atwater was also an advisor to George H.W. Bush and the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Near the end of his life he converted to Catholicism and repented for his wrongdoings. This would be a sad event from history if the GOP would have followed Lee Atwater's lead in recognizing, admitting and asking for forgiveness for these moral failures. Since the GOP of Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh etal. never could admit these moral failures by the GOP we are left with a frightened and frightening wannabe fascist and racist in the White House who is the "head" (or some other body part) of the Republican Party.

It seems rather silly perhaps, to be digging up the history of the GOP given the existential threats to humanity present today. It would be silly if the failure of the GOP to confront reality hadn't contributed to how we got to where we are today - a democracy teetering and a planet burning.

In the 1980's Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels, installed by Jimmy Carter at the White House, rolled back the CAFE standards for improving vehicle gas mileage and appointed Neil Gorsuch's mother to dismantle the EPA. In more recent memory Donald Trump called climate change a Chinese hoax, rolled back CAFE standards, and appointed a fellow grifter to dismantle the EPA.

You may wonder where those solar panels Jimmy Carter installed are today? According to Scientific American magazine one is in the -
"Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China. Huang Ming, chairman of Himin Solar Energy Group Co., the largest manufacturer of such solar hot water heaters in the world, accepted the donation for permanent display there on August 5. After all, companies like his in China now produce some 80 percent of the solar water heaters used in the world today."
Our tweeter in chief would perhaps call that SAD! It's possible the climate change conspiracy he discovered is that China conspired to eat our lunch when it came to developing green energy - e.g. building 80% of solar water heaters used in the world today. I'd say it shows how the GOP (with the help of plenty of Democrats and probably every citizen of the USA to some extent) could help degrade a planet using faith, combined with short sighted greed, to reach certainty - without considering reality.

This wasn't a GOP-only show though. Bill Clinton did nothing to improve CAFE standards and performed a speech / photo-op at Stone Mountain Georgia correctional facility in 1990 that was as cynical and covertly racist as Reagan's 1980 performance in Neshoba County Mississippi.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted into law on July 2, 1964. 

One month prior to the law being enacted, in June of 1964 three civil rights activists, Michael Schwerner, age 24; James Chaney, age 22; and Andrew Goodman, age 20 were murdered in Neshoba County Mississippi.

From the Wikipedia description -
"The three men had traveled from Meridian, Mississippi, to the community of Longdale to talk with congregation members at a church that had been burned. The trio was thereafter arrested following a traffic stop outside Philadelphia, Mississippi for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men's bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried."
On August 3, 1980 Ronald Reagan showed up at the Neshoba County Mississippi fairgrounds to give a speech in which he invoked among other things "states rights". What he meant by this is debatable - but given his adviser Lee Atwater's comments on "states rights" it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to see that he was making an appeal to racists to support his election.

Shortly before his death Lee Atwater apologized to Michael Dukakis for instrumenting the infamous Willie Horton smear campaign against Dukakis, during George H.W. Bush's presidential run in 1988.

In a February 1991 Life Magazine interview Lee Atwater said this -

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The 1980s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

Rather than listening to what Lee Atwater said, the GOP mythologized Ronald Reagan and instituted a few more decades of using race, guns, religion, gender rights, sexual orientation and a woman's right to choose - to divide the population to further the economic and radical ideological goals of the .1% who own that party.

This absolute and absolutely corrupt power is what is so frightening about the GOP of today - they know if their "base" ever figures out what they did to them...their party will go the way of the Whigs and the No-Nothings. I imagine many former Republican's who have left the party would be happy to see the current iteration of that party consigned to the dustbin of history.

The .1% who control the GOP built a propaganda machine as effective as anything Leni Riefenstahl created - they may not compare to her in style, but they make up for it in repetition and reach. The problem they have now is how to control or shut down that machine to ensure a safe landing. No one knows (even Republican's in Congress) how far they will go in undermining our democracy and rule of law to maintain their power.

According to Victor Davis Hanson, who shows up on various Fox programs, writes for the National Review and gives talks on college campuses, Lee Atwater was "a great Republican scrapper". If you can stand it, you can watch Fox News any night, or go to their web page, and see pictures of scary brown people. How many times can they show the video of all those brown people on top of a train? Apparently not enough.

So where does this leave the citizens of the USA?

Who knows? We certainly have a host of issues to work on together and hopefully a side effect of Trumpism is that a majority of U.S. citizens are waking up to the deliberate division of citizens to further the economic goals of the .1% that has been happening for decades. Those citizens must surely realize that opting out of the political process is not an option - for those of us who prefer to not live in a fascist state.


Fascism is a hard term to come to grips with since there have been various fascist states throughout history with differing social, economic and political underpinnings. Three core features of fascism are outlined in Timothy Snyder's book The Road to Unfreedom - Russia, Europe, America -
"The fascism of the 1920's and 1930's, Ilyin's era, had three core features: it celebrated will and violence over reason and law, it proposed a leader with a mystical connection to his people, and it characterized globalization as a conspiracy rather than a set of problems."

On a side note - I think Timothy Snyder's book is an excellent source for understanding what drives Russia's worldview, why they are intent on undermining democracies around the world and how inaccurate much of the coverage of events related to Russia is - in both left and right leaning media.

If we want to understand where we are and how we got here, we need to look at historical events and thinkers who helped shape various world views. An important precursor to today's radical right, and fascism of the Nazi variety, can be found in the thoughts of the 18th century Catholic philosopher Joseph De Maistre. You can find lots of high falutin discussions about Joseph De Maistre in the National Review or various "conservative" - Catholic or otherwise publications.

From my knothole having been raised in the Catholic church I'd say Joseph De Maistre and the monarchical, patriarchal, hierarchical view he espoused lead us both to the sexual abuse scandals of the church, degradation of women, blind obedience to authority and a form of fascism that has been attempting to subvert our democracy for many years...but only now is reaching a tipping point.

This lecture describes how Isaiah Berlin saw De Maistre's worldview being incorporated by fascists in the 20th century, in particular the Nazis, a hundred years after De Maistre articulated it.

From the lecture we learn that De Maistre counted as "subversives" a laundry list of people including: Protestants, deists, atheists, Freemasons, Jews, scientists, democrats, Jacobins, liberals, utilitarians, anti-clericals, egalitarians, perfectiblians, idealists, lawyers, journalists, secular reformers, intellectuals..

We see a similarity in those "enemies" of a 19th century conservative (of some sort) and the "enemies" of the 20th and 21st century conservatives (of some sort).

That lecture is 20 minutes. It's quite enlightening and frightening (to me at least). De Maistre had some ideas that contain some truth but when taken to the extreme or without critical thinking lead to a society ruthlessly controlled by a powerful elite combining the power of church and state in a pursuit of absolutely corrupted power.

I think the lesson here is that radical ideologies from the right or the left have led to human catastrophe throughout history. As we move farther to the right we eventually end up with fascism and as we move farther to the left we end up with some from of dictatorial socialist or communist regime. The problem we have today in the USA is that we have gradually (imperceptibly at times) arrived at or near the fascist end of the spectrum of right wing the answer is to Swing Left.

We can aim at reinstating the government and taxation policies that led to America's success from the post WWII era until the advent of neo-liberalism free-market radical ideologies in the 1980's, or we can aim at incorporating some of those social democratic policies enacted successfully in Scandinavian countries, or takeover the means of production (I prefer a bit more order so I'll vote for one of the first two).

When some people talk about a "centrist" candidate what they mean is they want a candidate that will support the status quo. The status quo for the last few decades has been the failure of the Democratic party to represent the interests of working class people - the traditional base of the Democratic party since FDR. The status quo is a government captured by special interests. The status quo is a dysfunctional government unable (by design) to effectively govern or make policy unless that policy disproportionately benefits the 1% The status quo is spending trillions of dollars on "defense" which in too many cases means paying defense contractors to build systems that are often over budget, late or lacking functionality - and are either not wanted or not needed by the military. The list could go on...and on.

Any attempt to disturb the status quo will be fought tooth and nail with the finest propaganda dark money can buy, or hostile foreign entities are willing to donate. The fight will be more than worth it.


Now for something completely different...addressing the question of what would be a good job for someone who can't write, can't read, but likes to watch TV?