II. Racism and Reaction
In our times, the Republican Party has always made it a policy to resist change of all kinds, regardless of how high the cost of remaining static. Their agenda is completely negative. They can’t get anything done, because they don’t know what they want to do. They only know what they don’t want to do. This is why their party is failing and they have all been deserted in favor of Donald Trump.
The Republicans have been appealing to a white-voter strategy for a long time now, because the status quo they are desperately defending only suits white men. That poll is the dividends that strategy has reaped for them. Nor have they learned from their mistakes. If you try and discuss it with them, they’ve got an extremely disingenuous defense.
Republicans like to deflect against the accusations of racism and reaction by bringing up Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery. Surely, no member of the Grand Old Party of Lincoln could ever be a racist! Perish the thought!
However, the spirit that animated the forcible ending of slavery has been gone from the Grand Old Party since at least the time of Franklin Roosevelt. Its opposite holds sway there now, and it has for a very long time. In point of fact, every aspect of modern Republican policy is a direct betrayal of President Lincoln and all he stood for.
Furthermore, it’s not just racism.
The living personification of this tendency, Antonin Scalia, died last year. While he was here, he was anti- gay, anti- black, anti- immigrant, anti- everything. The only thing he was for, was the death penalty. And the GOP was so desperate to find someone in that mold to replace him, that they obstructed President Barack Obama’s selection, Merrick Garland, for nearly a year, staking everything on the hope of retaking the White House.
That set the stage for what is certain to be a worsening and miserable tug-of-war, in which it becomes automatic policy on the part of both parties to harass and obstruct the other.
It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that the death of Scalia drove them into a terrible panic, one they resorted to the desperate measure of Trump and the Russians to escape from. They knew full well that without him, it was going to be far harder to stem the rising tides. But why are these changing tides so threatening to them?
Political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein did a study several years ago, attempting to discover why change in America comes so hard. Here is what they concluded.
“The Republican Party has become ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the
inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by
conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy
of its political opposition.”
In other words, the problem in this country is the Republicans.
Mann and Ornstein pointed out that the two parties moved symmetrically apart from the 1960s to the 1980s. Around then, however, the GOP began to shoot rightward, as hard as it could. More and more of them abandoned the sanity that characterizes the center. That tendency has led us to our current situation, in which we’ve become so polarized that half the country would prefer the Russians be in power than the Democrats, as evidenced by the chaos on social media and elsewhere this past year.
The racist and reactionary rightward movement of the GOP has been driven like Ms. Daisy, into this continuous state of worsening polarization. Everywhere the Republicans are in control, is an awful place to live.
The state of Missouri passed a law this year making it more difficult for victims of hate crimes to sue it for damages, leading to a new precedent being set by the NAACP, who issued an actual travel advisory to people of color, people with disabilities, and even women, stating in no uncertain terms that Missouri was no longer a safe place for them to be, and that they will now have to look out for themselves, while traveling through their own country. What a sickening state of affairs.
It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that you can add to that list, anyone with long hair or an unconventional sense of style, and even people with license plates from blue states. The author of this article was once treated very badly by police officers in Arkansas, for no other reason than the California license plates on the vehicle in which he rode. The cop, who right down to his mustache looked like an obese Hitler, made sure that message was clear, along with another: Stay out of town. Do not EVER come back here again.
And while other states in the region may not have passed recent and specific legislation necessitating the issuance of another such advisory, let’s keep it real. The South is the South. We’ve all seen Selma, and we’ve all seen Easy Rider. Be careful.
The U.S. electoral map we’ve come to find familiar, with the Democrats dominating on the East and West Coasts, and the Republicans running shop in the south and center of the country, is recent. In the past few elections, rich states have gone for the Democrats and poor states have voted Republican- a sickening irony, if ever there was one- but even a mere thirty years ago no such pattern existed. And a hundred years ago, things looked different entirely.
The picture above shows the electoral map of 1896, one of the years historians consider pivotal in the timeline of the ideological shift of the GOP. Almost without exception, the states which went Republican in 1896 supported Democrat Al Gore, by the year 2000.
Meanwhile, nearly all the states that went blue in 1896, moved in the other direction. This seems unusual to us. We are used to the idea of liberal Democrats living in the city, and conservative Republicans making their dwellings in more rural areas. This is how it has always been, for millennials, but it used to be exactly the opposite. So the question begs asking. What happened?
In order to shed light on this, we will have to look closely at the turn of the twentieth century, and the circumstances surrounding the coming to power of Theodore Roosevelt. Some of the same changes were taking place then as now, such as large scale immigration from places such as South America, Eastern Europe, and Syria. The manner in which they were handled by this president did a great deal to set the stage for the hundred years that followed, and the modern era. In the next chapter, we will take a closer look at this.