The Republican Party has become nasty

The Grand Old Party (GOP) dominated national elections for 72 years following Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. That period included the golden age of progressive politics under Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft. But by the 1920s the Republican Party lost its progressive thrust and became the party of “no” that elected Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, who preached austerity in the midst of the Great Depression. The Democratic candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, won the 1932 election.

The GOP emerged from WWII no longer the dominant political party. It had to wait 20 years to reenter the White House, and then only because its candidate was a non-partisan national war hero, Ike Eisenhower. John Kennedy, a young, relatively unknown, inexperienced politician recaptured the presidency in 1960.

Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon won the 1968 election with a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam war and a “law and order” platform. He learned from the Barry Goldwater and George Wallace campaigns of 1964 there was a strong reactionary sentiment in the former slave-holding states to the cultural revolutions of the early 1960s. Nixon implemented his “southern strategy” of “dog whistle”, “law and order” and “silent majority” racism that caused massive shifts in party loyalties in the south in the 1968 election. By far the nastiest trick was to conspire with South Vietnam’s leader to delay the peace agreement President Johnson was negotiating until after the election. Nixon’s “plan” to end the war led to seven more years of war and an additional 22,000 American deaths.

Starting in 1974, the extremist billionaire Koch brothers discovered they could get taxpayers to subsidize their right-wing views using “charities” to distribute their reactionary, self-serving propaganda. Stalwarts of the Republican Party still regularly assemble for “political strip-tease” contests in front of the billionaires and their equally wealthy buddies such as Sheldon Adelson, to compete for funding. The politicians sell out their integrity to these billionaires for astonishingly little money in view of its worth to the buyers. As the decades have passed the Republican Party has become infamous for its deeply embedded corruption in money matters.

Ronald Regan came to office to cut the high income tax rates that took too much of his earning from movie acting. Republicans had to find a way to reduce tax rates radically without sending public debt spiraling out of sight. To find more “fiscal space” to reduce income taxes it decided to raise Social Security and Medicare taxes far beyond what was need meet the “pay as you go” costs of the program. Alan Greenspan reported to Congress these regressive and unnecessary taxes were needed to “save” Social Security and Medicare.

Now the Republican Party is hoisted by its own petard. The Trust Fund is expected to peak at $3 trillion by 2021. Having created the fiction of the “trust fund” it now wants to renege and forget all about it using it for future needs. Again they need “fiscal space” to further cut taxes. In 2005, George W Bush said “Some in our country think that Social Security is a trust fund — in other words, there’s a pile of money being accumulated. That’s simply not true.” So reneging on the trust fund is a way to tax the middle class workers to transfer wealth to the rich via tax cuts. This is a cruel way to tax and causes a further shift toward income inequality.

Newt Gingrich became the speaker of the US House of Representatives when Republicans won control in 1994. It was Gingrich who introduced the “scorched earth”, “take no prisoners”, hyper-partisan approach of the Republican Party. He led the Republicans like an over-the-top football coach that thought beating the Democrats was the only thing that mattered. It was not enough that laws would benefit the nation: if they were sponsored by Democrats, these laws had to be defeated. Only Republican-sponsored laws deserved support. This was the period in the US when politics became so divisive and a “race to the bottom”.

Then there was George W Bush’s presidency. His administration used “photo ops” as a basic tactic of ruling. He only needed to “fool enough of the people enough of the time” to win elections. He added arrogance to the Republicans’ virtues. He and his team of “Vulcans” wanted to use the post cold war dominance of the United States in adventurous ways. The problem was they wanted the authority without taking responsibility for the outcome. The Bush administration threw away US power with both hands by its arrogance with its allies in toppling both the Afghan and the Iraq governments with no intention or capacity to clean up the messes they caused. The extent of accountability for the disastrous aftermath in both cases was a cynical shrug and “stuff happens” attitude.

Republican obstructionism, partisanship and irresponsibility reached new heights during the Obama administration. After Republicans gained a majority in both houses of Congress in 2010, it deepened its “scorched earth” party of “no” credentials. It shut down the US Government, harmed US creditworthiness by threatening to default on US debt payments and ignored the post-2008 economic emergency of the worst financial panic and economic recession for 80 years. This was the Congress that authorized trillions to save the banks, but nothing for middle class housing relief. It cut off unemployment insurance benefits when unemployment was sky high.

The Republican majority in state houses pursued gerrymandering and voter suppression in Republican controlled states. Of course Democrat controlled states gerrymandered as well. But 80% of the impact of gerrymandering in creating safe congressional districts favors Republicans.

Now we have Donald Trump as president. He is unprecedented in his rash and unethical behavior. The majority of elected Republican senators and representatives seem fully compliant with his misbehavior. Again Republicans are willing to adopt partisan stances even when there is real harm to the US as a nation.