How Did We Get Here?

Once upon a time, the most distinguishing characteristic between Republicans and Democrats was a difference in opinion on how to solve social problems and improve our nation.

For example, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Robert Dole all agreed to the need for universal healthcare. They simply offered different means of accomplishing it. Indeed, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama was actually based upon ideas by Nixon, Dole and Mitt Romney – all Republicans.

Contrary to current party ideologies, it was a Republican senator who authored the first anti-trust act. It was a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, who most aggressively enforced it to break up large corporate monopolies such as Standard Oil. And contrary to the Republican Party’s conservative heritage, it was Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who created most of our national debt.

Similarly, it was a “liberal” Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who most aggressively controlled revenue and spending resulting in annual budget surpluses.

Unfortunately, the subtle gap between the ideologies has turned into an ever-expanding gulf.

Even as the Democratic Party has moved to the center right, the Republican Party has lept to the way-off-the-map extreme right. Republicans no longer talk about merely limiting government. They now talk about “starving the beast” and declare the government as the enemy. Indeed, they have set their sights on eliminating entire departments and agencies.

They demand an end to the intrusion of government into their lives. At the same time, they want to tell women what they can and cannot do to their own bodies.

They protect the incomes of millionaires and billionaires while rewarding corporations for sending middle class jobs overseas. They rail against class warfare as they continue to redistribute wealth upward. They approve of billionaires paying a lower percentage of their incomes than working people.

They praise the Founding Fathers while denying the very principles they fought for. Though the Founding Fathers declared that “all men are created equal,” Republicans deny equality to gays, blacks, latinos and anyone else who is different. Thanks to Republican appointments to the Supreme Court, corporations now have the rights of people. And since the same Republican-appointed members of the Court ruled that money equals free speech, large corporations have more rights than people.

The differences between the parties are abundantly clear. The question is how on Earth did we ever get here?