Almost daily there is someone expressing in the Media the lament that the political atmosphere in America has become too partisan, too poisonous They will go on to say words to the effect of: with so much shouting at each other, no one hears the others’ viewpoint and nothing gets done. To me this represents The Blissful Ignorance of Bi-Partisan Pundits whose goal in life appears to be tamping down the anger that is rampant on the political scene and pretending as if there is nothing really wrong with people’s lives that can’t be solved by honest discourse.
I must admit whenever I see a talking head on TV, or read a columnist of bi-partisan mediocrity in print media, it makes me angry. The fact that my ire rages listening to someone counseling comity between people, would be funny, were it not for the America I am living in today. The anger afoot in America and from what I can glean in many of the world’s nations, reflects the fact that modern civilization, with all the comforts and conveniences that people like myself enjoy, is but a thin veneer upon the murderous rapaciousness that seems embedded in the human psyche.
Here is the problem as I see it. We humans remain animals, who have developed massive brainpower and mastered the use of a multiplicity of tools, that have allowed us mastery over other species. The “lizard brain” within us all, still sends us messages alerting our predatory instincts to take, fight or flee. Because of our enormous human brainpower, we have evolved mentally and built civilizations based upon cooperative efforts to improve our lives collectively and individually. A big part of that “improvement” has been protection from the dangers of other collectives of humans, who in essence want what we have. Though it takes a wide variety of forms and formats, this collective means of protection is what we call government.
Government exists to keep us safe, to make our polity prosperous and to ensure a continuance of our particular type of civilization. Government binds us together and establishes common purposes. It allows us to have a culture and a common moral compass. Besides our common protection Government oversees our commerce, assists in inculcating in us in how we should interact and sets standards of behavior controlled by levels of punishments for improper behavior. While these statements of mine should be self-evident it seems to me that many today are ignorant of what government is supposed to do and/or define it in self-serving terms. From that ignorance and competing definitions comes the anger and the discord abroad in our country.
As to the ignorance I allude to, we in America have been bombarded for more than 60 years with the notion that Government, particularly our Federal Government is our enemy. This notion of “government as the enemy” is the basis of the “Modern Conservative” Movement. While political conservatism has been a force on the American scene since our founding and was an important strain in imagining our Constitution, its’ modern iteration began in the 1950’s. The two men who gave birth to “Modern Conservatism” were the privileged Ivy Leaguers William A. Rusher and William F. Buckley.
The magazine they founded in the 1950’s, the National Review became both the manifesto and the bible of conservative thought in America. The NR used the Cold War fear of Russian Communism to label Liberalism as subversion. Coming in as their ally by the end of the decade was a group of extremely wealthy, Right Wing racists and anti-semites The John Birch Society, among whose founding members was Fred Koch scion of the Koch Brothers. The National Review, desiring to embed Conservatism into the American Mainstream of acceptable politics, publicly denounced the bigotry of the JBS. In reality though, the NR was also racist and anti-semitic, but couched their prejudice in the more elegant language of Buckley. The common thread among this new American Conservatism was a loathing for the impact and success of FDR’s “New Deal” which had dominated American politics since the 1930’s.
From the perspective of these most Patrician Americans and from the nouveau riche wannabe Patricians like Fred Koch, the “New Deal”, with its focus upon the majority of the people, had displaced them from their rightful positions of power and had unjustly taken too large a portion of their wealth and given it to undeserving people. The “New Deal” and the liberals who supported it filled them with hatred and loathing. Their problem was and remains today, how does one get the support of enough people to work against their own interests, by empowering those whose aim is to spread national largess and unlimited privilege upon one percent of the population, paid for by the remaining 99%? The first great success of this Modern Conservative Movement derived from its’ most monumental defeat.
In 1964 the burgeoning conservative movement of the Republican Party forced through the nomination of their national darling, Sen. Barry Goldwater, by running roughshod over the centrist Republicans of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the party. While LBJ defeated Goldwater in a stupendous landslide by characterizing him as somewhat crazy, these Republican modern conservatives, gloried in their triumph of Party control. It marked the beginning of a national propaganda and public relations movement, bankrolled by the wealthiest and most radically conservative of our “upper classes”. This initiative was a four pronged strategy:
- Define Liberalism as Anti-American
- Re-define Government as the enemy of the people.
- Support oppression of People of Color but never admitting it
- Re-define Fundamentalist Christianity as Politically Conservative.
With the tumult of the Civil Rights Movement, dovetailing with the Vietnam War and the emergence of a youth counterculture, the victory of Richard Nixon in 1968, fueled by his Southern Strategy of capturing Southern bigotry for the Republican Party, began the ascendance of modern conservatism in the Republican Party. The ascendance though was seen as a mixed blessing among this wing of the Party because Nixon was too liberal in the modern sense of today’s conservatism. This movement found their hero in Ronald Reagan and his election in 1980 completed their capture of the Republican Party.
The four pronged attack above, as fostered by among the wealthiest of America’s Billionaire oligarchs is to my mind the poison in politics today. The specific aims of this Movement are directly inimical to the best interests of 99% of the American people and this is political poison. When it comes to government, there will always be arguments about methodology and these arguments are a positive things that can lead to innovations and new ideas. These methodological arguments are the stuff of a political spectrum and are healthy for any society, providing they are not nihilistic calls for oppression or destruction. We’ve seen though in the election of a President with devotion only to his own needs and little regard for the Rule of Law, that a poison can spread through our country and may spiral out of the control of the elements that cohere our nation. After all, Germany in 1932 was a democratic State, among the most civilized and cultured on the planet and yet devolved into among the most disgustingly barbaric nations in history. How similar to the four tactics above, were the poisonous policies of the NAZI Party?