The Republican Party is destroying the American people, and they are doing this in service to their rich and powerful financiers. These are the oligarchs who, like Bernie Sanders has said over and over again, have “bought” the political process through a system of legal bribery.
The power of the party, though, comes from the people. The GOP’s ability to strip healthcare, wage war, exacerbate poverty, dictate women’s health, and prop up the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, is vested in them by the public. This is how political power works—especially in a system of elected representatives.
If it were true that the Republican Party is so destructive to its own citizens, and the world over, how do they keep winning elections? Republicans control Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, and the majority of states.
The Republican Party has been winning because, aside from voter suppression, gerrymandering, and a lame opposition party that offers no significant alternative, they have successfully rested themselves on a comfortable bed of lies and false promises. The Republican Party has deceptively convinced half the US population that they are the party of morality, “liberty,” effective politics, and correct economics.
If we take a sober look at the Republican Party’s actions, though, the lies melt away. Over the course of several decades, the Republican Party has done virtually the opposite of what their rhetoric has promised. Now, in the present, the Trump administration has yanked the curtain. The lies and propaganda are out in the open, waiting to be seen by all.
The core of the party
During the 2016 primary cycle, one of the Republican debates took place at the Ronald Reagan library in California. During the debate, the Republican presidential candidates on stage couldn’t help themselves from salivating all over Ronald Reagan’s legacy. The Republican candidates would reference him over and over in the debate, almost to the point of parody, taking for granted that Reagan was what US governance should be. This is the American political ideal, they seemed to say—-and we will finish what he started.
It’s not a coincidence that they acted this way. The modern Republican Party has strong roots in the Reagan era. The Republican Party of 2017 is more extreme than the Reagan administration, but the modern Republican Party still looks to Reagan-era politics as a blueprint.
The Reagan administration, in tandem with the Thatcher administration in the UK, declared war on labor and the left. In their offensive effort, they deliberately broke unions, slashed tax rates on corporations and the wealthy (“Reagan cut top marginal tax rates on the rich from 74 percent to 38 percent”), initiated a long-term deregulation of the financial sector, and seared the argument for privatization into public discourse.
In order to support this movement, key groups and individuals (like the Koch Brothers) created “think tanks,” infiltrated education institutions, and utilized media to manufacture consent among the public. Here’s what they wanted us to believe: the private sector is good, the public sector is bad. If you work really hard, you will get what you deserve. Government should be used minimally—-in service of those at the top (the “job creators”), not the bottom (the “entitled”). When the rich are well-off, all is as it should be, and that is the American way. Or in the UK, popularized by Thatcher: “There is no alternative” (to neoliberalism).
While the Democratic Party in the United States would become complicit in this “neoliberal” agenda, and fail to stop its advance, the Republicans got the ball rolling. Now, the result of forty years of neoliberalism has been the destruction of American society. And in the name of American exceptionalism, we would see more war around the world, and the degradation of our planet’s climate and ecosystem. What should we have expected from Reagan and Thatcher’s tenet that the “public good” is a myth?
Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics is a lie. In hindsight, much research and analysis have made this clear. What this economic ideology leads to is an expanding gulf between the rich and the poor, and less and less in-between.
The reality of climate change, and its significant threat to humankind, was concealed for decades to churn a profit. Now, we find ourselves in a seemingly-impossible situation: If we are to mitigate mass climate disaster and human tragedy of epic proportions, we will have to act on a scale unseen since the mobilization for WWII (at least). There are plans to address this problem, on a large scale. But Republicans refuse to even recognize that there is a problem— despite the vast majority of scientists who do (and the remaining dissenters who are likely mistaken).
The Republican Party doesn’t recognize the problem because the political system is corrupt. Billionaires and corporations buy candidates, write legislation (see especially: ALEC), and corrupt the election process. Look at Donald Trump’s cabinet, but also don’t forget to look at Barack Obama’s cabinet. While Trump’s cabinet is worse—the swamp fully realized—there’s been a striking similarity between the folks who have surrounded both Trump and Obama. Both presidents placed Wall Street, billionaires, and major corporations at the governing table, while effectively shutting out the rest of us.
Look at how little even the Democratic Congress is fighting for “The People’s Platform,” a basic set of policies that would seem to be a no-brainer for the common good, and would pass immediately in a “democratic” society. And, of course, if the Democratic Party won’t even touch the People’s Platform with a 10-foot pole, the Republicans don’t even have it in their field of view.
Republicans are set on regulating women’s bodies. They want to destroy social security, a program which is overwhelmingly favored by the American public (probably because it has greatly reduced poverty among seniors). The recently passed Republican budget is simply a giveaway to the rich; there is no other honest way to see it. And in return, critical social programs will be cut by over a trillion dollars.
We will not forget the months-long drama in which the Republican Party shamelessly attempted to strip healthcare from tens of millions of people, and raise insurance premiums for everyone else. The simple end goal was for the rich to get richer, and for the powerful to maintain their iron grip on the working population. It is all done, of course, under the notion of “choice” and “freedom.”
The sober reality is that the Republican Party—a handful of people in government, and the wealthy and powerful who pull their strings—are destroying our society. Consumed by greed and ignorance, they have no shame in our destruction. But here is the silver lining: This cannot be maintained. There may have been a plan, or many plans, but these people are not strategic geniuses, and their ideology is not unassailable. Rather, it rests on a house of cards. The Republican Party is guided more by whims and simple tricks than a grand, coordinated, invulnerable plan. Their foolish hubris, and clear destructive momentum can be used against them.
Returning the favor
The Democratic Party should be fundamentally reformed and/or replaced entirely by a real left party. There’s no doubt about that. But we can also count on this fact: The Republican Party is extremely dangerous, and must be defeated. The reason we fight to reform or replace the Democratic Party is so that we can have a real vehicle to defeat the extreme right—and turn this into a real democracy—not a battle of partisanship, but an ongoing, honest conversation on how to improve the world for all.
It seems that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or at least, there could be if we seize on it. The pendulum has swung very far, and in the wake of #Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Sanders campaign, #NoDAPL, and other movements, it is now on its way back.
As activists and organizers, we are in a position to catalyze the return. The Democratic Party is historically weak. But the Republican Party, too, is ripe for collapse. In a follow-up article, I will discuss how to flip the party on its head: all we have to do is destabilize the base. In part, you see, they’ve already done it for us.