The Conservatives Punished not by God but by Their Own Racist and Proto-Fascist Ideas
Thank God that the most recent conservative era in American politics seems dead. It was a terrible time for people who love making progress against the ills of racism, sexism, religious bigotry and class bias. The era brought the United States close to the point of fascism. It certainly had its fascist features with the conservatives contempt for many of our basic civil rights.
Conservative Republicans brought about the first Great Depression and have currently brought us painfully close to a second such depression. But this is not the result of a housing crisis or a banking crisis. No, the trouble started as far back as the civil rights era. Ending the apartheid-like rules of racial segregation caused whites to start a massive resistance campaign against people of color. The really critical date is 1964 when so much civil rights legislation was passed. Millions of whites started to change their political party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. And the Republican Party became the party representing those views of whites who felt threatened by people of color. The South used to be Democratic. Because of racism it changed parties to become Republican. It didn't happen overnight, but it was a strong steady trend.
The first president elected by the backlash against civil rights was Richard Nixon. Many whites liked Nixon because they knew he had little enthusiasm for helping the less fortunate, especially the less fortunate of color. But Nixon was never a laissez-faire capitalist. He even said that he was a Keynesian. For as bad as Nixon was he was no ideologue like Ronald Reagan and certainly no proto-fascist like George W. Bush.
The conservative movement was only blunted a little bit by the whole Watergate scandal. Nixon's disgrace and consequent resignation as president would lead to the election of a Democrat as president in the 1972 elections. Jimmy Carter was not a very good president, but at least he slightly slowed the conservative movement. He was like a weak dam trying to hold back massive flood waters of racism, hatred and suspicion.
Carter's ineffectiveness and the increasing move of whites to the Republican Party led to the rise of an ideologue named Ronald Reagan. Reagan made a living giving speeches supporting the conservative ideology. At the time I didn't think the USA was as racist as it actually is and I thought that Reagan would not be elected. I remember all those political models of American checks and balances that preached that the USA would never go beyond just right of center and would avoid flirting with fascist ideas. But Reagan was elected. And it was Reagan who really pushed an ideological point of view of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Upon the basic racism, they brought back and reinforced ideas of laissez-fare capitalism, rejecting the Keynesian policies that say that the government has a key role to play in the economic and political management of the country. These ideologues started pushing the idea that all government is inefficient and downright bad, if not at times evil. This idea of paranoia and suspicion along with racism began to pervade virtually every aspect of the Republican Party.
The great power given to the Republican Party by the whites made the Republicans very bold and they felt they could more openly display their bigoted views of life and politics. Under Reagan they started in a big way with the idea that anyone who had opposed the Vietnam War was unpatriotic if not downright disloyal. I remember being very concerned how far these Reaganites would push this "crackdown" on the liberal-radicals. Was another McCarthy era on its way? And what I noticed was how few liberal voices were heard compared to the era of FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson.
Reaganism wrapped its backward economic ideas in the American flag. Believing their own undemocratic ideology, the Reaganites came to believe that liberals in general were anti-American and disloyal. The gap between conservatives and liberals grew ever larger in the country. The Republicans became more confident of their power and more arrogant in their attitudes. And, of course, they re-elected Reagan.
Reaganism also really started this anti-cabinet movement. In other words, they started the policy of taking those cabinet departments that would ordinarily try to help people of color, as well as others, and negate their basic goals of helping. They deliberately savaged the departments by giving them anti-leaders. It was all so mean-spirited and racist. Along with this anti-government sentiment came the idea that we should not check on capitalism. Let capitalism do its own thing and it will always come out for the best. A very old idea and a very wrong idea. (Reagan was certainly no student of the Age of the Robber Barons or the progressive movement.)
Reagan also started this anti-tax movement. Whites didn't want more taxes because they felt liberals would use the funds to improve the situation for the less fortunate. That would bring them even closer economically, socially and politically to people of color and they don't want that. Of course, if you can never raise taxes that certainly limits what government can do (including even maintenance of infrastructure). But of course that was the goal of the Republicans so there wouldn't be further progress toward less injustice.
Today's conservatives argue that Reagan was a super-great president. But you can never be a really great president pushing for a set of ideas that are racist, backward and immoral. Unless the USA really does become fascist, men who work to weaken moral progress (in terms of race, class and sex) will never ever be great presidents.
George W. H. Bush became the next president. This man was not an ideologue. He even referred to Reagonomics as "voodoo" economics. He didn't cause as much damage as Reagan, but he didn't do much to undo some of the excesses. And the march of the whites to the Republicans continued.
Bill Clinton replaced Bush. Now he really made the Republicans mad. The predominantly-white party's members were absolutely vicious in their treatment of this man. And with all their Republican money they backed elaborate schemes to "get" the president. The attacks dominated the news (summarized in the term White Water) and certainly helped hinder the Democrats' chance to improve government, which was the goal of the Republicans in the first place. Whites did not want a friend of people of color representing them. And, of course, Clinton's problems grew with his problems of pursuing women. Then the Republicans really dropped White Water and went after Clinton as an immoral, perhaps evil person. They even tried to get Clinton thrown out of office through the impeachment process. The Republicans did everything they could to undermine the Democrats and the president, but the Clinton presidency was one of relatively good economic times.
And now we come to the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush. There is something wrong with this man. We would need brain scans and psychiatry to try to figure out what makes George W. Bush always seem to make the wrong decision. He was transformed by 9/11 from a "compassionate" conservative to become a near-fascist. The Republican Party had so much power at that time. They had 37 years of a conservative era that brought them dominance in so many areas, especially the court system. The president was basically given a blank check and most everyone in Congress lined up to support Bush. Bush was not satisfied with one war, in Afghanistan. He wanted to use the power he had to start an additional war in Iraq.
The full idiocy of Reagonomics, of laissez-faire capitalism, came to fruition in the Bush presidency. The ideological belief that capitalism will always right itself in a good direction was proved terribly wrong. (This doctrine actually violates a conservative tenet that man is basically selfish and will always be up to mischief if you don't watch and control him. But I guess, according to Republic thinking, it's o.k. if these men are wealthy men.) Bush created a wave of economic dishonesty and theft. He helped make it possible for crime to flourish by following his party's rigid, ideological economic beliefs. There was so much skullduggery in the economy and Wall Street that a crisis was created. But don't blame George W. H. Bush for this. After all, he was just following the ideology of the Republicans. No the real cause of our current national economic crisis began in the early 1960s with the collapse of the old apartheid-like system of racial segregation and came to full fruition under Bush. (Racism hurts everyone, including Republicans.)
It was inevitable. I devised a political theory of the USA (on this website) that says that the country goes from conservative to liberal and back to conservative eras because in the conservative eras the abuses and injustices finally force the political collapse of the conservative party. Then when the liberals start making a little too much progress in areas like civil rights and economic justice, more of the electorate become scared of the less fortunate (especially people of color) getting too close and the liberal party loses.
Yes, indeed, thank God the latest conservative era has finished. We just barely escaped fascism.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. d.
January 4, 2009
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