Mar. 19, 2015 By Jack Jodell.
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“The Republican Party is made up of three kinds of people: billionaires, bullies, and suckers.”
– Thom Hartmann –
I have long been very critical of the current Republican Party, and I will remain so until they are either voted out of office, or have totally rid themselves of the very heavy and oppressive reactionary baggage they have carried in their ranks since 2009 called the Tea Party. Because so many of today’s “Teapublicans” are so ignorant of history and distrust both fact and education so much, they are dumbfounded when confronted with the very true fact that the Republican Party was formed in 1854 as a PROGRESSIVE party – yes, a LIBERAL party – to replace their benign and ineffective predecessors, the Whigs, and to oppose the then-conservative party (which favored slavery) known as the Democratic Party. Because Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President and basically saved the Union and ended slavery during the Civil War, Republicans are justified in expressing their pride that he was a Republican. Yet I am disgusted when I hear very conservative modern Republicans boasting about Lincoln, for the practices and policies they currently support are far, far different from much of what was espoused by Lincoln.
The Civil War had a tremendously disruptive effect upon the United States. It ravished the defeated American South by destroying its agrarian economy and the old social order which accompanied it. Slavery, which guaranteed steady, dirt-cheap labor for farmers, was no more, and the former slaves, overwhelmingly uneducated and poorly trained, were simply left dangling helplessly, with no special education or vocational training being set in place for them. Finding scant opportunity in the defeated Confederacy, they fled in droves to the more urban North, settling in ghettoes and working (if they could find any job at all) for a mere pittance. The Reconstruction period, lasting from 1865 – roughly 1877, was politically devastating to the old white southern power brokers, nearly all of them Democrats and forbidden to hold office. Northern radical Republicans, known as Carpetbaggers, swooped down on the South, grabbing many political offices and inflicting a new brand of corruption on the helpless southern population. Many of the old conservative Democrats, disenfranchised by the newly dominant Republican Party, refused to ever vote for any Republican henceforth. This remained true until long after these conservatives had been granted voting privileges again. And so swas born the Solid (Democratic) South, a pattern which persisted largely from 1877 – 1964,
During the mid-1870s until the beginning of the 1900s, the Republican Party gradually became more conservative. Due to the growing support it gained from newly emerging industrialists (who dominated major industries like coal, steel, railroads, and especially banking and finance), the party became corrupted by big money. This was the era of the Robber Barons, in which a tiny wealthy elite wielded extraordinary economic power, setting up monopolies and exploitation of workers reigned supreme. In fact, any attempts by workers to better their lot were put down with brutal force. Corporations became more and more powerful, and ebegan to exert a regrettable influence over our Supreme Court. Workers were forced to work long hours at pitifully low wages, and were often victimized by shoddy and unsafe working conditions. Young children were forced to work long hours too, which deprived them of education and often resulted in permanent physical injury. This conservative and Robber Baron-domination of the Republican Party continyed unchecked until a brief period in the early 20th century, during the administrations of Republicans Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and into the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson. But by the end of Taft’s administration, and certainly by the end of Wilson’s presidency, the conservatives had regained firm control over the GOP, and drove that party as well as the entire country into deep economic peril and near oblivion with its ridiculous laissez faire libertarian economic policies which led to the horrible Great Depression of the `1930s.
The Republicans were deservedly kept completely out of power throughout the 1930s and well into the 1940s, and lost presidential elections 5 straight times in a row. Their deliberate neglect and exploitation of the American worker and their failure to rein in the excesses of Wall Street plunged our economy into the terrible Great Depression, and it took the re-emergence of energized peogressive Democrats under Franklin Roosevelt’s ingenious New Deal programs to set the economy right again. Voters began to see these new social safety met programs which were created as being actually very beneficial to them and were NOT, as bitter unrepentant conservative Republicans claimed, elements of evil socialism! Social Security, disability, the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, workmens’ compensation, general assistance, and, later on, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and AFDC proved to be a very valuable boon to those who were elderly, infirm, or disadvantaged due to lack of available work. These programs, plus the legalization of labor unions, created a large middle class in this country which became the envy of the rest of the world. Over time, many Republicans came to see the value of this middle class, as well as the programs which supported it. Even the first Republican President elected in 20 years, Dwight Eisenhower, abandoned many of the old conservative tenets and pursued a much more moderate course, putting huge amounts of federal funds into the construction of the national interstate highway system and also in to public education, so as to help us win the space race. Corporate taxes remained much higher than today during this period and the income tax rate for the highest earners was fixed at 91%! The country prospered as never before. Republicans cast off many of their old guard ultra-conservative crackpots and rode the wave of this new prosperity for many years. And thanks to progressive legislation like the Glass-Steagall Act which reined in speculation on Wall Street, the country enjoyed the longest streak of prosperity it had ever known.
By the end of the 1960s, inflation began to rear its ugly head due to an overheating of the economy caused by our participation in a bery long and corrupt Vietnam War, the emergence of expanded social programs, and the rising cost of oil due to the formation of OPEC. Republican President Richard Nixon began scaling back social spending as soon as he entered the White House in 1969. Aided by a newly-emerging reactionary conservative movement, an assault on labor unions began which has carried through to our present day. Wages began to stagnate in the mid 1970s, and, with the beginning of supply side (“trickle down”) economics begun under the administration of arch-conservative Ronald Reagan in 1981 (and greatly accelerated under George W. Bush in 2002), taxes on the top incomes were slashed and the burden of taxation fell from the corporations onto the backs of the shrinking middle class and the poor. Corporations grew more powerful, corrupt, and domineering both politically and economically, and have now nearly destroyed our once-thriving middle class. Thanks to the dreadfully short-sighted Reagan and the emergence of a new, malignant, corrupt and reactionary Tea Party-infested Republican Party, much of the New Deal safety net has been dismantled, aid to (and respect for) public education has seriously declined, and a wealth disparity unseen in more than 85 years has developed and is accelerating. This sorry situation is not progress. In many ways, it is un-American!
Corporatists are now seemingly everywhere in government – they all but own the Republicans and are heavily dominant in the Democratic Party. Regular working people seemingly mo longer have a voice in government. Progressives like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Keith Ellison, Alan Grayson, and Jan Schakowsky seem marginalized, and that is not at all good, and must be changed!
Modern Republicans are indeed backward-looking, science-denying, labor and education-hating, thoroughly bought-out by corporate interests, and are increasingly addicted to power rather than true public service. They are no longer orudent or wise, and instead seem to be making impulsive, rather than carefully thought out judgments as they formulate and try to implement their flawed policy measures. They are reckless and rash, as strongly evidenced by their recent attempt to sabotage the President’s nuclear weapons negotiations with Iran. In that case, their priority seemed to be making the President appear weak or powerless, and they obviously didn’t even consider the negative impact they were having on relations with our most major global trading partners. They have become pro-war and cater to the needs of the military / industrial complex, all the while neglecting the very real needs of their fellow citizens. They gave tremendous tax breaks to the upper 1% who don’t need them, and are trying to force the 99% MAJORITY into accepting a de facto austerity budget. The people of Greece have overwhelmingly voted against an austerity budget, and it is high time we Americans did likewise! As such, we must recognize that the Tea Party-infested reactionary Republican Party is unfit to govern and MUST be removed from office at the ballot box in 2016. They are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on frivolous investigations and petty, seditious letters, and MUST be replaced with PROGRESSIVES at the very earliest opportunity!
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