For those of you who believe that there is little difference between the two political parties, I submit that one party is generally on the side of civil rights, social justice and issues that benefit ordinary Americans, while the other continually finds itself on the wrong side of history. In my lifetime, the decisions of GOP strategists and leaders have ranged from those that have been economically disastrous to those that have been blatantly unconstitutional to some that have bordered on outright treason. Yet, through a combination of propaganda, cunning politics, and the failings of Democratic leadership, the GOP has consistently gathered enough support to reshape America into a semi-theocratic oligarchy.
Following are just a few such decisions.
National Prayer Breakfast – Begun in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration as the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, the event has turned into a day-long series of Christian-themed events organized by The Fellowship Foundation. Contrary to the Constitution, the day’s events show a clear preference for Christianity and have bridged the separation of church and state.
Nixon’s Interference with Vietnam Peace Talks – Transcripts of FBI wiretaps from 1968 revealed that then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon ordered his liaison Anna Chennault to persuade the South Vietnam government to refuse a cease-fire brokered by LBJ. Nixon’s action not only violated the Logan Act. It led to the deaths of an additional 20,000 US soldiers and the wounding of 100,000 more. In addition, more than a million more Vietnamese were killed.
Watergate – During his campaign for re-election in 1972, Nixon created a “plumbers unit” to interfere with the campaigns of his Democratic opponents. Aside from its dirty tricks, Nixon hoped the unit might also stop any leaks that could potentially damage him. Only when the plumbers were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee, did Nixon finally pay for his attempts to subvert our democratic elections.
Southern Strategy – Beginning in the early seventies, following the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the GOP made a concerted effort to reach out to racist Southern Democrats. Led by Republican strategist, Lee Atwater, the party began inserting dog whistle-style terms into their campaign speeches to appeal to southerners. References to states’ rights, welfare queens, and school busing let them know that the GOP was on their side without resorting to less socially acceptable terms that would label them as racist. In one of the greatest ironies of all time, the strategy helped the Party of Lincoln to turn the South red and allowed the former slave states to make good on their post-Civil War vow that the South would rise again.
NRA Legislation – Beginning in 1977, the National Rifle Association abandoned its original mission of promoting marksmanship and gun safety. That was replaced with a new mission to help gun manufacturers generate more sales. The NRA then conspired with the GOP to introduce legislation that would obliterate gun control laws, allowing the sale of new, more lethal weaponry. It has also used fear – fear of the government, fear of minorities and fear of the “other” – to relax conceal and carry gun laws. At the same time, the NRA pushed legislation that would ban the tracking of gun violence. It even introduced legislation to prevent physicians from talking to parents about gun safety.
Firing of PATCO Members – By firing the striking air traffic controllers who complained of high levels of stress and long hours, Reagan’s actions essentially marked the beginning of the end for labor unions. Despite all of the good that labor unions have done for American workers by increasing wages, benefits and workplace safety, thanks to Reagan, they are still under assault to this day.
Pharmaceutical Advertising – Before 1981 and the Reagan administration’s disdain for government interference into “free markets,” an FDA regulation prevented pharmaceutical companies from marketing their products directly to consumers. The agency’s decision to drop the regulation as a result of pressure from Republicans led to an avalanche of ads asking viewers to “ask your doctors about (INSERT DRUG NAME HERE)”. This not only flooded the airwaves with boring and confusing commercials. It put pressure on doctors to prescribe the drugs. And it almost certainly led to higher drug prices.
Repeal of Fairness Doctrine – By repealing the Fairness Doctrine, which required the holders of broadcast licenses to high standards of honest and balanced reporting, the FCC flung open the doors to partisan broadcast news media. Within a year of its repeal in 1987, 92 percent of all talk radio was dominated by right-wing ideologues. Soon after, the Fox News Channel became a mouthpiece for conservative Republicans. Worse, the decision allowed politicians to question the credibility of news media for their own gain.
Gingrich Doctrine – The former Speaker of the House’s fondness for European-style parliamentary politics led him to superimpose the concept of a unified voting bloc onto our system of two-party politics. He required GOP congressmen to toe the party line or face the threat of a GOP-backed opponent in their primaries. More than any other single act, it created the “party over country” attitude and extreme divisiveness that we see today.
Deregulation of Banks and Savings & Loans – President Reagan led the charge to deregulate banks and other financial institutions. The deregulation resulted in the undermining of usury laws, an explosion in interest rates, a blurring of the distinction between commercial and savings banks, the ensuing S&L crisis and, eventually, the banking collapse of 2008.
Gore v Bush – When the conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled that the voting recount in Florida could not continue, it not only gave the White House to George W. Bush despite Al Gore’s majority in the popular vote. It emboldened the GOP to replicate the voter suppression methods used by Florida in 2000. GOP-controlled states have since gone to more extreme lengths to sway elections – purging voter rolls, gerrymandering, requiring specific forms of voter IDs that are difficult for certain segments of the electorate to obtain, reducing early voting hours, and reducing the number of polling places in precincts that lean heavily Democratic.
Bush Tax Cuts – Faced with a budget surplus created during the Clinton administration, the George W. Bush administration decided to push for a series of “temporary” tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 that mostly benefited the rich. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the cuts added approximately $5.6 trillion to the national debt. That means the Bush tax cuts are responsible for more than one-quarter of the entire national debt as of the end of 2017.
Bush’s Pre-Emptive Invasion of Iraq – The Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, based on what it perceived to be a potential threat to US security, represented a huge change in US policy. Never before had the US invaded another country without having first been attacked. The decision, which was made based on false pretenses, embroiled our military in a lengthy conflict and eventually led to the creation of ISIS, aka the Islamic State.
Torture Memos – When Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo authored a set of legal memoranda stating that enhanced education methods were legal, he unleashed the CIA and the Pentagon to torture Iraqis and other combatants. When the torture was revealed by a series of photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison, it created a national embarrassment and damaged the US’s reputation throughout the world. It also inspired terrorists and helped them to recruit as never before.
Citizens United v FEC – The conservative majority of the Supreme Court ruled that money equaled free speech in the Buckley v Valeo case. A short time later, in Citizens United v FEC, the Court ruled that corporations had the same rights as individuals, especially in regard to contributing to political candidates. The result of the two decisions was to unleash nearly unlimited sums of election campaign money. Using Political Action Committees and non-profit corporations, campaign donors are now free to contribute large sums to political candidates while remaining anonymous.
End of Net Neutrality – By voting to end Net Neutrality, the GOP-controlled FCC announced an end to the Internet as we know it. It will allow Internet service providers to choose winners and losers by charging websites and users differently based on content, application, method of communication or download speeds. And like the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, the decision could dramatically change politics.
GOP Tax Scam – Portrayed as tax “reform,” the Trump tax cuts of 2017 are a massive giveaway to large corporations, the very wealthy and developers like Trump himself. In effect, the cuts will redistribute wealth upward to those who least need it and, in the process, add $1-2 trillion to the national debt. Hidden in the bill are measures that will lead to large cuts to Medicare, oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife and Recreational area and the repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate that will cause as many as 13 million Americans to lose access to health care.
Trump Administration – It is now clear that Russia interfered with the 2016 election in order to elect Trump. It is also clear that Trump appointments to lead various government agencies are intended to damage the agencies themselves. Combined with Trump’s attacks on the media, it appears that the administration has embarked on a strategy to undermine the institutions that are critical to our democracy. And, if it is proven that there was coordination with the Russians, Americans may never again be able to trust the outcomes of our elections.