Make no mistake, folks, a revolution is underway in America, one designed to fundamentally alter the way our nation is governed and by whom it is led.
However, unlike other revolutions in the past, this one is being waged not with the gun or sword, but with the pen and ballot box. Slowly but surely a new generation of ultra-conservative legislators and justices are starting to whittle away at those basic constitutional liberties and safeguards we once thought inviolate.
In addition, many hard-fought gains of the last fifty years, including in the area of civil rights, are in the gunsight of these same officials, including members of our own state government in Raleigh. Cloaked beneath the friendly smiles and handshakes are a group of political and ideological zealots who are slowly but surely working to increase their political power and clout throughout the land.
Their agenda seems clear enough, i.e., to roll back many of the present laws protecting everyday citizens, especially those individuals and groups most vulnerable to exploitation. Despite their insistence that they don’t wish to deny anyone his or her rights, but instead want only to “equalize” the playing field, much of their agenda is clearly aimed at minorities. (The fact that nearly all their members are white should be a tip-off as to where their real priorities rest.)
Closely allied with these more conventional conservatives, in philosophy if not party, are the so-called alt-righters—a loose confederation of disaffected, mostly white men, bound together in a common belief that their power is being steadily stripped away in favor of undeserving minorities and other “special interest” groups.
Alt-righters believe, among other things, that political correctness has gotten way out of hand. As such, according to political historian Nicole Hemmer, “they view (PC) as a threat to their personal liberty. So, they believe saying racist or anti-Semitic things isn’t an act of hate, but an act of freedom.” Once that evil genie is out of the bottle, anything becomes possible.
This same dubious concept of freedom is now being applied to women, gays, and transgendered people, all of whom are viewed as threats to the established (male) order. For decades, the Republican Party took a principled stand against many of these crackpot positions, steadfastly denying their advocates an official role within the party hierarchy.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, that quintessential conservative icon of the 1950s, frequently repudiated them throughout his presidency. This included doing everything he could to diminish the influence of Joseph McCarthy, the disgraced senator from Wisconsin, hailed today by many on the far right as a great American patriot.
However, that was the GOP of yesterday, not today. Today’s Republican leadership, beginning with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, seems willing do nearly anything to appease these groups, now that they have gained a stranglehold on the Republican agenda. In fact, the party’s center has steadily been moving in that direction since the election of Newt “Culture Wars” Gingrich as House Speaker in 1995.
The far/alt-righters saw their stock reach unheard-of heights last November with the election of Donald Trump to the White House. Suddenly, they found themselves in possession of the keys needed to unlock the corridors of national power and begin advancing their insidious agenda in ways they could only dream about before.
Abetted in their efforts by recent GOP-driven political campaign finance reform, as well as the vast private fortunes of men like the Koch Brothers, the path is now clear to begin reforms so radical and sweeping in nature that in time the very character of American government and public life may be transformed as a result.
And guess what? That dream of a better America doesn’t include many of us. It certainly doesn’t include most minorities and immigrants. It doesn’t include women for the most part, and it sure as hell doesn’t include the poor. Most of all, it excludes diversity of opinion, as well as the time honored ability of all Americans, regardless their race or political persuasion, to participate equally in the electoral process (think: NC voter ID law).
To quote New York Times columnist Charles Blow, “Trump-era Republicans have accepted depravity and vitriol as the price they’re willing to pay to have a person willing to fight the people and institutions they distrust and detest. Encouraging violence isn’t disqualifying. Defaming Mexicans and Muslims is not disqualifying…”
Nor, says Blow, are bragging about sexual assault, being a pathological liar, coddling white supremacists, or attacking Gold Star families. To the contrary, he writes, “it is supremely satisfying. The Moral Majority has become the Iniquitous Minority. This Republican Party is the party of Trump and Bannon.”
The question is, will the rest of us soon be made to follow?