Back to the Future … Or Forward Into the Deep, Dark Past

by Moe White –

We’ve all heard the adage, two steps forward, one step back. Unfortunately, the governing philosophy of the Republican Party—in addition to taking, holding, and wielding absolute power over American citizens’ lives—is 10 steps back, no steps forward.

Having observed their behavior since the 1960s, I’ve come to the conclusion that the motivation for much of their malign legislation is to hobble progressive movements so energy that would otherwise be spent making the world a better place will instead have to be expended shoveling up behind the elephants.

Who has time to enact regulations governing pollution control by energy companies, when they have to rush out and try to remove the hog waste that’s just been poured into our water supply? Who can ensure equal rights for minorities and women when even working white men—the GOP’s preferred demographic—can barely make ends meet? Who will rebuild the public schools when all the tax money is given away to Betsy DeVos’s friends for their private, for-profit academies?

A thirty-, forty-, fifty-year plan

Beginning in the 1980s, the Republican Party made it clear that it wanted to move America back to the 1950s: a time before JFK’s New Beginning and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”; before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare, Medicaid, the first consumer protection legislation, and LBJ’s “War on Poverty”; before the upheavals of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the emergence of the liberal left, “hippies” and the free love movement, and demands for fair housing laws, access to jobs and education, and other progressive reforms.

What the GOP loathed was … all of the above, as well as former Republican president and war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower’s insistence on establishing norms for corporate governance, opposition to the “military-industrial complex,” support for Social Security, and attempts to ameliorate the tensions of the Cold War. They longed for a time when middle-class white women cooked and did housework in high heels and pearls, wealthier ones had black maids as “daily help” or white ones as live-ins, and husbands had jobs … and affairs with their secretaries.

The 1980s

Beginning in 1981, under Ronald Reagan, they did their best: eliminating the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule that ensured honest news coverage by broadcasters; minimizing the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Civil Rights Act; upturning corporate law to enable companies and executives to benefit at the expense of working people and the environment; and, in Reagan’s very first major executive action, destroying the air controllers’ union.

The twelve years of massive deregulation under Reagan-Bush led us into two major recessions and a tripling of the national debt, vast increases in military spending, undermining public education, and energizing the movement against equal rights for women and minorities.

The S&L crisis was just one of many scandals brought on by Republican and corporate corruption and deceit, one that caused millions of American citizens to lose their life savings to the greed of unregulated bankers and unscrupulous politicians. In the aftermath of the disastrous 1980s, over 138 administration officials—the largest number in history—were brought under investigation, indictment, or conviction.

In 1993 and ’94, Bill Clinton and his Democratic allies fixed as many of the Reagan-Bush messes as they could, before Newt Gingrich took over Congress. Despite endless partisan investigations and accusations of rape, theft, corruption—even murder!—none of which ever was supported by an iota of evidence, Clinton’s two terms ended with a balanced budget, international peace, advances in civil rights and equal opportunity, and a booming economy.

Bush–Cheney, 2000 – 2008

In retaliation for those Democratic successes, in the 2000s the GOP decided to take the country farther back: not just 30 years this time, but 80. They aimed for the “Roaring ’20s,” a time of unbridled Republican power that allowed the economy to balloon into a giant bubble that burst in 1929 with devastating consequences for the next decade. Pretending that the healthy surpluses bequeathed them by President Clinton were unneeded (the money was paying down decades of debt), and that G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney could wage two Middle-east wars on a credit card, the “Roaring 2000s” echoed the disasters of the 1920s.

Massive tax cuts eliminated the surplus, annual deficits exploded, infrastructure crumbled and collapsed, and the economy tanked—all because Bush-Cheney and the GOP believed that by cutting taxes they could justify being “forced” to privatize Social Security and Medicare and eliminate Medicaid—in other words, wipe out the legacy of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson. By their last months in office, the nation was bleeding 700,000 jobs per month.

Once again, the Democrats, under President Barack Obama, reversed Bush’s Great Recession, saved Social Security, enacted the Affordable Care Act, ended one war in the Middle East, wound down the other, eliminated Osama bin Laden, started rebuilding America’s infrastructure under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and got the nation back on its feet.

Unemployment fell from above 10% to 4.3%; annual deficits were cut in half, from $800 billion to $400 billion; the economy gained an average of 200,000 jobs per month for seven years; and the stock market rebounded from a 7,500-pt. Dow Jones average to 18,000 (though most gains went to the wealthy). Even civil rights improved: the Lily Ledbetter Act promised equal pay for women, the Supreme Court guaranteed equality of marriage rights, and corrupt education loans and slave-labor, for-profit prisons were curtailed, if not eliminated.

Trump and the neo-fascist oligarchs

Since the election upset in 2016, it’s been no surprise that the Trumpian GOP has set its sights even farther back, this time to the Gilded Age of the 1870s-1910. They’ve enacted the tax “reform” scam, begun the sellout and privatization of the national parks and forests, reversed the goals of the Voting Rights Act, and encouraged the re-establishment of the white supremacist movement (the KKK in the 1870s-1950s, now the “Alt-Right” housed in the Oval Office). Two white, radical, anti-civil rights, anti-abortion, pro-executive power corporate “justices” have been elevated to the Supreme Court, and rules and regulations prohibiting vast, monopolistic trusts are being weakened or eliminated.

Not since 1928 has the disparity in income between rich and poor, or rich and middle class, been so great; and as the middle class suffers from unjust tax giveaways, it will begin to disappear altogether.

And that means that the next time the Democrats take power, they won’t just have to rebuild the structures of Obama’s 2000s, or Clinton’s 1990s, or the Great Society of the 1960s, or even FDR’s New Deal: they’ll have to start at the very beginning of Teddy Roosevelt’s Trust Busters, just to bring us back to the 1910s.

Some GOP “principles”

In the eyes of the GOP, the bearing of children is a choice not for women, but for men to make.

Benefits bestowed for the common good—Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance—paid for by the citizens through self-taxation, should be controlled not by those who paid for them but by those who want to subvert them.

OSHA is unnecessary, even if it saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year.

Mine safety regulations are “a drag on the economy,” even when a hundred miners are killed in an explosion and tens of thousands develop black lung disease—because those miners “chose” to take those dangerous jobs.

Education is for those who can afford it, not the masses, and it should be shaped and determined by for-profit corporations rather than citizens.

Clean water and clean air are not the purview of the government or the right of the people who drink and breathe them: let the market decide.

This beyond-minimalist libertarianism is, basically, a Hobbesian view of life: life is, and should be, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” and the devil take the hindmost. That is what today’s GOP believes and has worked diligently to bring about since the Reagan administration. (It is also the life goal of Trump’s Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.)

Here in North Carolina, the governor’s power is being limited almost as it was before the reforms of 1971, which allowed him to run for a second term; and 1996, when a referendum gave him veto power; it was long considered the weakest governor’s office in the nation, which is what the NC GOP wants for our future. That’s why they’re promoting six new amendments to the Constitution, two of which are deliberately designed to cripple the governor’s powers. (See Holder, p. 15)

What’s the solution? Vote. Register and vote, and take a friend, a neighbor, a stranger to the polls, and VOTE!

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