In a free and open democracy, such as America was meant to be, the natural exchange and competition of ideas is a wholesome and essential part of social life. Citizens come together, hash out the issues, and forge a national dialectic on the anvil of debate. When communication thrives, interconnections between people come together of their own accord. This creates the large-scale social cohesion necessary to run a healthy state.
However, when that communication breaks down, those bonds start dissolving, and with them the prosperity and well-being of both individual and collective. It is our contention that the increasing ideological extremity of the Republican Party has grown increasingly corrosive, and as such has become a serious threat to national stability and harmony.
By the turn of the century, the political parties of America had become like the shells of hermit crabs, repeatedly picked up and sat down again by their varying occupants, the competing ideologies of the early 20th century.
Movements like socialism, anarchism, fascism, and communism were all established by this time. They settled naturally into their places on the political spectrum, and went about the business of fighting for control of humanity’s minds and hearts. The resulting struggles have had tremendous implication for the Republican Party, and for us all.
These days, the parties are more firmly in the hands of the two ideologies then at any other time in history, and in diametric opposition to one another. The result has made a pressure cooker out of our country’s political climate, which recently led to far-right Nazi thugs waving swastika flags around at Charlottesville and murdering our sister Heather Heyer.
The President, at the time, said there were very fine people, waving around those Nazi flags and running down women- but says Colin Kaepernick is a son of a b*tch, over a perfectly nonviolent protest. LeBron James summed it up best on Tweeter this week, when on Sunday athletes nationwide took the knee in solidarity with the controversial quarterback and the protest that has made him famous.
This is all symptomatic of the larger problem, namely, that there is a well-entrenched and organized fascist element in American politics today. It has had control of the Republican Party for a very long time now. Cracks in the GOP defenses were opened gradually by disunity and change, and after World War Two, far more extreme and virulent faction has intermingled with their system and become it. In examining how these changes took place, it will be necessary to examine the foundation-shaking events that led to such massive upheaval, for the Republican Party and for the world.
In political science, realignment theory describes a synthesis of perspectives emanating from history, highlighting the existence and impact of “critical elections” as key factors in shaping the practice of democratic politics. The last two centuries have both seen their fair share, right around their turning. The Republican Party has radicalized increasingly as
President Woodrow Wilson, the beneficiary of the splitting of the Republican Party in 1912, spoke at length about World War One as a war being fought to make the world “safe for democracy”. That war was won, insofar as a war can be won. The war to decide the form that democracy would take was just beginning. This was to prove to be of of the highest significance in the evolution of both American and international politics.
The general tendency in American presidential elections has generally been for one side or the other to win soundly. Extremely close elections like 2016 or 1896 used to be statistically rare. But in recent history, they’ve been the norm. In times of unrest, when the public is highly polarized and inflamed against one another, it seems to be just the opposite.
The 1920’s came to be known as the Republican Decade for the three Republicans who occupied the White House during it: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Harding was corrupt and a fool, and Coolidge was a milquetoast.
Many historians rate Harding as the worst president the country has ever had. It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that the old ratings machine, Donald J. Trump, has finally managed to break a presidential record.
Herbert Hoover had risen to the occasion of large-scale relief work admirably in Europe, toward the end of 1918 when the Spanish Flu was killing men in the tens of millions. Unfortunately for everyone, he proved out of his depth when faced with similar challenges domestically. His short-sighted, laissez-faire policies did little to relieve the poverty and massive national debt that characterized the Great Depression.
Before the 1920’s and 30’s, America was mostly comprised of a loosely-knit network of regional communities, who interacted little and communicated less. During this time, however, it began to consolidate and take on a nationwide flavor. Nothing encourages social cohesion like a terrible outside threat, such as a world war or a Great Depression. Both peace and the economy had been shattered, and things were not improving.
In the 1930’s, the Dust Bowl took place as a result of shortsighted agricultural practices, and rendered much of Middle America uninhabitable, leading to a large-scale migration from states we now think of as being solidly red, to California and other places still fertile.
Traditional beliefs were also facing erosion, from the point of view of many Americans in the 1920’s. This led to a counter- movement known as fundamentalism, which partnered with mass media in the earliest prototypes of televangelism.
This partnership provided a localized and custom-made belief system, capable of justifying anything in the name of God and country. It also provided a way to disseminate these ideas to the rest of the country. Slowly, the American value system began taking shape.
However, this newfound social cohesion was not to work out well for everyone.
During these miserable times, the black community down South was continuously victimized by their white neighbors. America’s first terrorist organization, the hate society known as the Ku Klux Klan had experienced a major revival.
This revival of the Klan generated an organization much stronger and more numerous than the original Confederate veterans who came up with the concept. Many black people living down South decided they had at last had enough. This led to a mass exodus to elsewhere, known as the Great Migration. Before 1915, 90% of African-Americans lived down South. After 1970, a full half of these were gone.
They had always looked to the Party of Lincoln as their hope of legal protection, but times had changed.
In the critical election of 1932, many formerly Republican blacks switched their allegiance to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats.
FDR’s New Deal had largely eroded the Southern wing of Democratic coalition, because a large section of it had traditionally relied upon rural agrarian interests made possible by slavery. For those fine gentlemen, treating black people with human decency was viewed as a diminishing return, not politically or financially expedient. Many of them refused to adapt to the changing reality. Because of that, they were no longer wanted, and they knew it.
These began to find themselves more commonly in agreement with Republicans, in terms of economic issues such as the rejecting of deficit spending or the creation of a social safety net. Little by little, the reactionary elements of the party began defecting to the GOP. This tendency continued all the way through FDR’s four terms and was firmly established by the end of World War Two in 1945.
Meanwhile, the GOP had spent the 1930’s helping the Nazis all they could. This partnership was reciprocal and continued after the war. Perhaps the most famous example is that of Wernher von Braun, the rocket scientist and former SS officer who built America’s first ICBM missiles. Given a new image, that of anti-communist crusader, and the help of his ideological allies in the GOP, von Braun was able to successfully integrate into American civilization. In exactly this way, much of the rest of the fascist network that ranged across Europe back then was successfully was incorporated, imported, and used by us, both at home and abroad. We will take a closer look at this later.
That network is alive and well today, and of the two parties, it has chosen the GOP as its home. This is an empirical fact of life that exists within the American political process. It is not the product of partisan bias. It was no accident, that they were waving Nazi flags in Charlottesville. It is not new, and it is not random. It is deeply entrenched, vicious, and deadly.
George W. Bush’s grandfather, W. Prescott Bush, has been tied to financial institutions used to help finance Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Most of the practitioners of eugenics were Republican, such as Lothrup Stoddard, whose works are of interest for the serious student of this time period, the repugnance of his views notwithstanding.
Charles Lindbergh, another Republican, actually flew to Berlin to meet with Hitler. Back home, he started an organization and gathered many powerful people together to vigorously pursue an isolationist position using a slogan that Donald Trump has repopularized- America First.
Had this policy become official, it would have given Adolf Hitler a completely free hand in Europe. The America First Committee was even against the Lend-Lease act during World War Two, which was our policy of lending material aid to our allies in Europe.
It is all but certain that the Nazis would have won the war in Europe, which would have placed the Axis Powers in control of two-thirds of the world’s resources. We had only a third. It would have been America last.
Fortunately for every living soul on the planet, that is not how it worked out. Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wise, temperate policy led us through that darkest of ages. He ended up being elected to four terms in the White House. People trusted him.
Franklin Roosevelt is unanimously placed near the top of the list of America’s chief executives. He guided the nation through World War Two, in which our participation was official after the cowardly sneak attack that was Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. His domestic policy, known as the New Deal, ended the Great Depression and Prohibition. His policies secured tremendous protections for the people of the future.
Many of the rights and social programs that people take for granted now, were conceived and secured by him. His adaptation of his famous uncle Teddy’s Progressive policies to the Democratic Party platform stands as one of the most crucial realigning factors in the history of both parties, as the Republicans were to take a strong position against them. They have been entrenching that position ever since.
Roosevelt passed away during the final days of the war, and his Vice-President Harry Truman took the reins. Truman had his own style, resolute and unostentatious. He made some rational changes right away. This did not improve the increasingly strained relations between the Southern conservative wing of the Democratic Party and the new progressive wing exemplified by FDR.
The estrangement became more and more pronounced. Civil rights were to become a pressing priority for Democrats, which was to alienate its white conservative wing to the point of affecting their own great migration, one more commonly known as the “white flight”.
Truman’s desegregation of the Armed Forces in particular was a decision that enraged them, and a series of others were to follow, such as when the Supreme Court ruled official prayer in school unconstitutional on June 25, 1962.
The developing value system of the Democratic Party was unified further following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Following this, the partisan realignment of the South was a fait accompli.
The crucial shift came when Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He carried the South, but failed to win the Presidency. Lyndon Johnson continued to push through civil rights legislation, but warned that it would lose the South for Democrats for a generation, a prediction that proved more than accurate.
These continuing developments ensured that Johnson was the last Democratic president to win a majority of white votes.
At this time, the Republicans began targeting and nurturing these malcontent white voters, encouraging their basest instinct and assuaging their hurt feelings with assurances of racial superiority. This policy has now borne a strange orange fruit named Donald Trump. These people have not done each other any service. Their decline is inevitable, because they have lost the capacity for self-reflection. When people try and make themselves stupider than they already are, they almost always succeed.
The 1950’s, primarily spent under President Dwight Eisenhower, were the last we were to see of anything grand in the Grand Old Party. Eisenhower was a good man and a good president, but he left office with an uneasy feeling. The speech in which he warns America against “undue influence from the military-industrial complex” is more relevant than ever today.
The Pentagon has been the only thing holding order together during the Trump crisis, and we are grateful for it, but caution must be taken. There’s never been this much of a military presence in our civilian government, and the tendency needs careful observation. Great warriors are not always great diplomats, and vice versa. Both are necessary for the maintenance of a healthy America.
Eisenhower’s successor was John F. Kennedy, popularly known as JFK. He was lain low by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet on November 22, 1963. A conspiracy to take his life cannot be proven. What can be proven, is that the Republicans, who ever since have served as the henchmen of military-industrial interests, gained a great deal from the removal of JFK. The GOP intensified and made official the Vietnam War. Kennedy had planned to end it.
Vietnam proved to be one of the bloodiest and most heartbreaking conflicts of the twentieth century. Its ramifications have taken decades to sort out and we are still not finished. Of the 2,709,918 Americans who served in Vietnam, less than 850,000 are estimated to be alive today.
The Vietnam War was used by the Republicans to divide and discredit Democrats. It splintered the liberal consensus. Opposition to the war didn’t unify or define the party, it divided it. Lyndon Johnson’s heart was broken by it, and he refused to seek reelection in 1968. The Democratic nomination was up in the air.
JFK’s brother Robert Kennedy, who had served as his Attorney General, was a strong favorite to win. It looked like a sure thing, until he too was assassinated, shot down by kitchen worker Sirhan Sirhan for reasons that remain a mystery. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated two months and one day earlier, on April 4, 1968. The country was being torn apart.
Lyndon Johnson’s Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, ended up running instead, but he was associated with the war and couldn’t split with LBJ. He received the nomination in spite of not receiving any delegates, because the party machinery chose him. After he lost, he became a scapegoat because of it. The old Tammany Hall method of leaving the Democratic nomination process under the control of the party elite was scrapped. A commission, called the McGovern-Fraser for the men who were heading it up, was assigned the task of creating a more open and democratic system.
Authorities have roundly criticized the reforms they made as having been a mess. It was a badly conceived and chaotic system. It left a tremendous amount of the nominations decision up to a disinterested and uninformed electorate. Rational actors influenced by well-formed policy positions are not what is filling our voting booths. The McGovern-Fraser Commission is one of the key factors behind the rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
One of the Commissioners, George McGovern, ended up being the Democratic Party’s next Presidential candidate. He was the democratically chosen, favorite of the people candidate. He was also the recipient of a terrible slaughter at the hands of Richard Nixon, largely because his system was weak and full of holes.
But it didn’t stop there. It was the days of the Fourth Party System, all over again. Tad Devine, former campaign manager to Bernie Sanders, took steps to fix this by inventing the process of the superdelegate system. Democrats were being taken advantage of. Giving 15% of the party’s power back to its most trusted members was the most sensible thing the Democratic Party ever did. This was evidenced clearly by the first and worst crime of the McGovern-Fraser Commission- that it let Nixon seize and keep power.
The Nixon era was the beginning of the end, for any kind of Republican morality, although they continue to cloak the nakedness of their greed with the fig leaf of the Moral Majority. During this time, the men who ran the Nixon administration made the world a worse place to live in, with all the zeal they could muster. The damage they did paved the way for Trump and the Russians.
A decade before, Harry Truman said succinctly that “Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.” This was the truth, and it had a tremendous amount to do with the setting of the stage for today. In our next chapter, we will be looking closer at the Nixon era, and its relationship with the enduring legacy of fascism.