I was watching a video from Vanity Fair (link) and it was a great interview with ex-Republicans but I was disappointed that there was very little time spent on the historical roots of how the Republican Party ended up where it is. Sure, they touched on it but it never really went into any depth – it is like when the media talk about how civility has disappeared in politics but they ignore the Willie Horton ads during the 1980s, the conspiracy theories regarding the Clintons and Vince Foster, the rumours spread by the GWB campaign regarding McCain and an illegitimate child by asking a question that instilled distrust of McCain in the minds of primary voters, then there is the Cadillac welfare queen to which there was no evidence, then there was the work that Lee Atwater talked about in this video (link) and then there is the war on drugs by Nixon which was a way to undermine the anti-war hippies and the black liberation movement like the Black Panthers as noted in this article (link)
Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “War on Drugs” in 1971 and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlich man a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Nixon’s invention of the War on Drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the Drug War is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.
So this whole hysteria about the lack of civility is a fig leaf for what the establishment are really pissed off about – not the policies that Trump is doing because they’re quite happy with that as demonstrated by corporations happy to wave the ‘we’re socially aware and inclusive’ then turning around as Tim Cook did and turn up to a Republican fund raiser after 40 years of running on a platform of being anti-LGBT rights not to mention anti-women legislation around reproductive rights. So the complaints but the biggest so-called ‘anti-trumpers’ has nothing to do with the policies but the presentation – if it were a Mitt Romney or a John McCain then the establishment would be happy because there would be a velvet glover over the iron fist – the sweet chaser to go down after the bitter and unpopular medicine that those in the top 1% want passed for their own benefit.
Getting back to the right wing drift – this has been occurring for over 80 years right back to when the modern welfare state (at least in a pretty weak form when compared to other anglophone countries not to mention continental Europe) that was set up by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Ever since the establishment of the modern welfare state in the United States the Republican Party could never accept it in the same way that centre right parties around the world accepted that it is now the reality – that the debate was around the edges on how things could be done better rather than getting rid of such policies in their entirety. The anti-FDR didn’t really start to heat up until the late 1960s with the move of the Dixiecrats from Democrats to Republicans with the dog whistle politics of the southern strategy then add the unholy alliance with the religious right and then there was the ‘Reagan revolution’ that did ZERO during the 1980s as HIV/AIDS rampaged through the LGBT community all whilst white middle America looks back fondly on the very president who allowed a manageable situation to spiral out of control. Then there was the Willie Horton ad – an ad that would never have gain steam if it weren’t for the mainstream media outlets playing it over again over again (Barbra Streisandeffect anyone?) then the super predators by the Clintons to one up the Republicans, then there ‘end of welfare as we know it’ which the unholy alliance between the Republicans and Bill Clinton – all during this time the Republicans moved further to the right and the Democrats followed them.
So this drift to the right and the drift to the extremes isn’t some sort of new creation thanks to Trump but rather Trump threw away the dog whistle and replaced it with a vuvuzela, gone are the code words, the ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ and now it is just up front with it. Where as in the past the Republicans were able to BS around the edge and give themselves plausible deniability in polite company, in the case of Donald Trump there is no filter – what you hear is what he believes and when given the opportunity to walk it back he then doubles down on what he said and says some more. Trump is the Republican Party when what is talked about close doors at fancy dinner parties is bought out into the open and the pretence of politeness is removed. When you hear the mainstream media treat Trump as an aberration what they’re really saying is, “don’t focus on the policy, don’t focus on how Trump’s economic policies are no different than the corporate Democratic side…get angry at how he uses mean words and doesn’t say nice things”. Case in point; Nanacy Pelosi ‘pay-go’ promise (link) which will necessitate one of two choices; reversing the Bush and Trump tax cuts or institute heavy cuts to balance the budget which will put the US into a recession. It appears that where the Republicans go the Democrats are sure to follow under the guise of being ‘moderate’ and ‘bipartisan’ even if the end results are horrific and anything but moderate.