It all started with an idea… a plan to woo disaffected southern, white Democrats who were incensed over the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960′s. An idea, from the Republican Party, to polarize ethnic voting to capture the southern states, a traditionally Democratic stronghold.
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats. – Kevin Phillips, Nixon strategist, from a 1970 New York Times interview.
In 1968, Nixon would win the election, although segregationist Governor George Wallace would win most of the south, proving that racist pandering to disaffected conservative white Democrats, or Dixiecrats, could be, and was, a viable election strategy.
Nixon would not need it in 1972, blowing out George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter would win the south in 1976. It wouldn’t be until 1980 that the Southern Strategy would return in full force.
Ronald Reagan, after winning the nomination, would make his infamous “state’s rights” speech near Philadaelphia, Mississippi, the site of the murders of 3 civil rights workers. The incident would eventually be retold in the movie Mississippi Burning.
As the 1980′s began, blatant racist speech became the surest way to public ignominy. To maintain the southern strategy, new, less obvious language had to be developed. Hence, the birth of the ‘welfare queen’.
Throughout American history, non-whites, and some ethnic whites, have been stigmatized as out of control breeders, looking to “taking over America by out-breeding white people (read: WASPs).” Historically, African-Americans have been the target of this slur with Hispanics joining them in recent years.
So, when Reagan, and other Republicans, began talking about “welfare queens”, focusing on female welfare recipients engaged in behavior counter-productive to eventual financial independence such as having illegitimate children, using AFDC money to buy drugs, or showing little desire to work, the implication is an ugly historical American racist stereotype.
With the unholy marriage of the Republican Party and the Christian Right, consummated in the 1980′s between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell. For the next 10 years, the Moral Majority would play a significant role in solidifying the relationship between the Evangelical Christian Right and the Republican Party.
At the foundation, their message was one of victimhood. The country was changing, and “they” (anyone not a a Evangelical Republican) were out to ‘destroy this country’s moral fiber’, ‘eliminate this country’s Christian heritage’, and ‘bring about God’s wrath on America’.
As the Moral Majority folded in 1989, conservative talk radio began to take up the mantle of America’s #1 victim. The market exploded in 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton, who was called everything from rapist to murderer by conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. Talk radio filled a void left by the dissolution of the Moral Majority and, in the effort to garner the highest ratings, the more bombastic, the more ridiculous the speech, the more popular it became.
Talk radio, with its nationwide reach through syndication, was also a major political organizing force. Hosts began urging their listeners to run for local offices, taking over city councils and school boards, in order to “protect America from the godless liberals, the feminists, and the gays.”
As the ratings and money grew, so did their influence on the Republican Party. Newt Gingrich, architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution, made Limbaugh an honorary member of Congress in 1994. By then, Limbaugh’s reach became legendary, as his show was broadcast on 659 radio stations and 225 television stations.
Talk radio’s listeners obeyed. They ran for small local offices and won. They began to dominate school boards, making school prayer and ‘under God’ in the pledge campaign issues. They were able to tap into the basest of human emotions, fear, and manipulate that fear into a constant state of victimization.
They managed to steer the Republican party further and further to the right, focusing on wedge issues, such as abortion, at the expense of everything else. During Clinton’s term, the GOP made it their goal to cripple a sitting President by subjecting him to endless investigations, some based on the wildest of conspiracy theories, that had little to no chance of being successful except for distracting the President, and most of the country, from their meticulous dismantling of almost every New Deal era regulation… particularly in the financial sector. The GOP even held an impeachment circus over Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Some of the GOP members of Congress were even so bold to charge Clinton as a serious adulterer with no moral integrity as they brought their mistresses to witness the proceedings.
election installation of George W Bush in 2001, the religious right was back on top. Then came 9/11, and the full blown descent into Christian Fascism. Criticism of Bush or his policies would not be tolerated. Any criticism was equated with anti-Americanism (a tactic left over from the Vietnam War days) or outright support for terrorists.
Mind you, these condemnations weren’t limited to foreign policy. Condemnation of ANY policy was considered to be an act of Treason.
Something else was happening. Those who followed Limbaugh’s orders had moved their way up from Local to State offices and were beginning to populate Federal offices as well.
The crazy had become an epidemic, too. In the truest sense of Idiot America, anti-intellectualism had become all the rage and intelligence had become something to degrade. People like David Barton, the favorite faux-historian of the Christian Right, became a fixture in historical debates even though he was not a historian. The history of the Founding Fathers had been revised to paint them as modern-day Evangelical Christians. The melding of free market fundamentalism and horrible Christian theology has created the “Free Market Jesus” idol worshiped by the Evangelical Right.
While the GOP powers that be placated this rabidly anti-intellectual demographic, they continued to dismantle any New Deal era regulation, label the Democrats as big spenders as they spent this country into bankruptcy, and ushered in a new age of empire with Pax Americana.
When the bubble burst, they were quick to mobilize their fangirls into blaming “them” for all their ills… and like good sheeple, they did.
Facts be damned, they were the victims and everyone who was different was made into the scapegoat.
The poor, minorities, and immigrants were heavily targeted as the reason for the economic collapse… as they always have been throughout American history… while the power brokers and monied interests continued to reap windfall profits from everyone else’s misery.
This was especially egregious when one understands the housing bubble was caused by speculation, unregulated derivative trading, predatory lending, and banks trading junk mortgages like trading cards…. and not from some middle class family buying too much house.
Then the worst happened.
In 2008, a Democrat regained the White House. Not just any Democrat, but a black Democrat.
Everything the crazy wing of the GOP had been indoctrinated to fear became embodied with the election of Barack Obama.
Couple this with the continuing economic decline and it was a recipe for full on whack-job-a-palooza. This explains how the Tea Party rose to prominence.
Not content to learn the lesson of the previous decades, the GOP actively courted this new-found ultra-crazy faction and welcomed them into the fold. This time, though, the cost will be high.
The Tea Party rapidly infused the GOP with strict ideological rigidity and anti-intellectual fervor that traditional Republicans could not control. Any Republican who stepped out of line with the Tea Party agenda was immediately labeled a RINO, Republican In Name Only, and declared persona non-grata for daring to step off the reservation.
Their ideological rigidity and ultra-conservative religiosity is matched only by groups like the Taliban.
The last four years has seen Republicans in Congress openly call the President a communist, a socialist, a marxist, a muslim, and anti-American. Sitting members of Congress have embraced the newest racist ideology, birtherism, and a substantial portion of American Republicans honestly believe the President was not born an American citizen.
My question is…where is the GOP leadership amidst all the crazy?
Truth is, they’re nowhere to be found. Aside from issuing some lukewarm condemnations of the most outrageous behavior, they’ve accepted, both tacitly and overtly, the whackadoodle faction into their arms.
The staunch anti-intellectualism has created an alternate reality where history began in January 2009, and none of the actions or policies the GOP had been responsible for over the last 15 years had any effect on where the world is now.
The Tea Party claims that taxes are too high… despite them being the lowest in 50 years. They’re rabidly islamophobic and unabashedly Christian exclusivists and dominionists. Primarily white and evangelical they are the indoctrinated victims cultivated over a steady 30 year diet of fear, suspicion, and conspiracy.
All of this has happened before…and all of this will happen again.
150 years ago, another US political party, born in opposition to a President’s policies, underwent a meteoric rise and even more epic collapse.
Beset by nativism and evangelical religious fundamentalism, the Whigs tore themselves apart over the issue of slavery.
Ultimately, however, the Whigs are best understood as an American major party trying to be many things to many men, ready to abandon one deeply held ‘conviction’ for another in the drive for political power. – HistoryChannel
Today’s Tea Party led GOP is the same. Eager to sell out their convictions (like embracing Mitt Romney despite calling Mormonism a “cult” for decades) in the pursuit of power.
When President Obama is reelected in two weeks, the combination of conspiracy, ignorance, anti-intellectualism, and racism may be enough to destroy the GOP from within.
In this case, the village may need to be destroyed in order to save it.