The goals of the conservatives in the Republican Party have not changed much in the past 40 years: cut taxes, reduce those troublesome regulations businesses must deal with, roll up the social safety net for the freeloaders, squash organized labor, and support the traditional family — even when it means women must bend to the will of over-moralistic religionists and LGBT folk have no right to a family.
Many Republicans claim their party is dying; being taken over by a radical new “Trumpism.” Yet this ”old” GOP & the “Party of Trump” have a lot in common despite Mr Trump’s so-called populism. He ranted about Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street during the campaign but his proclamations and signing of Republican bills have removed much of the protections put in place to prevent the financial barons taking advantage of “regular folk” — and removing protections meant to prevent another financial meltdown.
Trump’s, and “old Repubs’,” catering to the 1% is only a fraction of the anti-populist actions of the current administration. The Washington Post has compiled an extensive list ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/08/24/what-trump-has-undone/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.caa455fe3322 ). But the conservative agenda is not the only aspect of so-called mainstream Republicanism Trump has inflicted upon the country. He has also blown off the door on a 50-year skeleton in the GOP closet.
“In the letter written on vice presidential stationary, Nixon explained to a North Carolina woman his reason for supporting school integration with a much broader endorsement of treating everyone equally.
‘Basically, I believe in working for full opportunity for all our citizens, regardless of race, creed, or ancestry,’ he wrote on September 29, 1959. —From the Washington Examiner
Nixon advisor Kevin Phillips in 1970: “.. Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans…”
That skeleton was racism. While Nixon seemed to express a belief that it was even against American interests (“…Nixon also expressed a concern that if the U.S. was viewed as “racists,” most of the world would back the Communists and ‘leave us disastrously isolated in a hostile world.’” —Washington Examiner), Republican animosity towards African-Americans was well-ingrained:
Civil rights advocates were invited to join the Republican Convention in 1960. But it was a dishonest overture. From Ben Fountain in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/05/trump-reagan-nixon-republican-party-racism :
“Goldwater delegates berated and shook their fists at the press, and African American delegates were ‘shoved, pushed, spat on and cursed with a liberal sprinkling of racial epithets.’ Something new and nasty was afoot; Republicans were acting like a bunch of Dixiecrats. One black delegate had his suit jacket set on fire. The southern caucus at the convention named its hotel headquarters “Fort Sumter” after the starting point of the civil war. Jackie Robinson spent several “unbelievable hours” on the convention floor, and summed up his experience thus: ‘I now believe I know how it felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.’”
Nixon, himself, came out of that closet once he was in the White House:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” —Vox, quoting story by Dan Baum: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/2016/3/22/11278760/war-on-drugs-racism-nixon
Tricky Dick used racial fear to help support his ill-chosen “War on Drugs.” He could demonize enemies by feeding into what was seen as an ingrained apprehension. So much for racism being against American interests. The infamous Nixon tapes show his previous anti-racist tracts were a political front. Jews, blacks and Italians were targets of his ranting on several of the recordings.
Ten years later, Lee Atwater, who had been one of the architects in the “southern strategy,” was an operative in the Reagan White House. He had favored buzz words like “forced busing” as substitutes for the taboo “N word” in working to turn Dixiecrats into Republicans. It was not a fluke that Reagan’s first major speech as a nominee was at the Neshoba County fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi. In his campaign he polished Atwater’s buzz words into what we now call “dog whistles.”
Reagan filled his policy speeches with dog whistles to that GOP skeleton. In pleas for supporting his conservative dislike of the social safety net and his voodoo economics, he brought up the spectre of the “welfare queen.” Never mind that African-Americans didn’t dominate the welfare rolls, those hearing the whistle knew who he meant. Every conservative call for welfare reform refers to that false meme.
Reagan eagerly adopted right wing evangelicals into the Republican fold as honored members. Feeling their power wane after the 1950s (when they managed to get God included in the Pledge of Allegiance), Reagan rewarded their support by including LGBT community in his quiet whistling. HIV/AIDS was called GRID by the moralists who saw it as a sinner’s deserved punishment. That straights were also caught up in their god’s judgement was easily ignored.
The Republican discrimination war openly targeted “takers” who weren’t just non-whites on welfare but now included the 99% Romney so disparaged. Since, generally, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans, part of the GOP’s 50-state-strategy was gaining control of state governments so districts could be gerrymandered to ensure federal power. And while they had state legislatures in hand, they could further disenfranchise Democratic voters, including most African-Americans, by making voting more difficult. They vaguely tried guarding the closet door by cloaking the racial aspect in supposed election viability. After all, no one likes voter fraud. Trump has continued pandering to fears of voting irregularities. In doing so, he again reneges on his populism con since those who are most affected by the Republican voter ID laws are the working folk for whom he claims to champion.
Those “mainstream” Republicans can no longer hide their skeleton. The main difference between them and Trump (paradoxically considering Mr Trump’s aversion to veracity) is honesty — about racism anyway. Discrimination lies at the core of virtually every social law brought up by Republicans and every one of them has a moralistic &/or racist basis. While some of the more seasoned of the GOP’s pols still try to claim reasonable grounds for these laws, the closet door is wide open. And anyone who is not a well-to-do White male Protestant is in the crosshairs.
Trump rails against immigrant rapists and violent “animals,” and the Repub Congress fight against rational immigration reform and support the wall to keep them out. No one mentions building a wall along the northern border — Latinos don’t cross that one.
Trump sees “fine people” among the white supremacists and the rest of his party make lame admonishments against their actions while never bothering to admonish Trump and his blatant acceptance of their racist core.
The supremacists claim the same brand of discriminatory “Christianity” as right wing evangelicals so they suffer no rancor from the religionists who cling to the adulterous Trump. The hypocritical moralists overlook Trump’s blatant misogyny because he panders to their own desires to have total control over women, especially where reproductive rights are concerned.
Black football players protest police violence against minority communities with a gesture offered by a veteran: kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Trump uses it to fire up his racist base by ignoring the point of the protest and claiming the players are being unpatriotic and disparaging the military. The rest of the GOP happily jumps on the bandwagon. After all, Black Lives don’t Matter.
To quote again from Ben Fountain’s article: “Cut taxes and regulation, roll up the social safety net, squash organized labor to nil. It’s worked out wonderfully for the job creators. While the true believers in the base were fighting the Kenyan in the White House over prayer in the schools and immigration and the hetero sanctity of marriage, tidal waves of money have been flowing upstream to their bosses.”
As long as Trump continues to line the right pockets and fire up the discriminatory base that Republicans have counted on for so long, they hedge and rationalize and try to cloak their skeleton in the closet with patriotic colors but it can’t be hidden in the closet any longer. Sunlight is bleaching its bones.
In researching to flesh out my argument, I ran across Ben Fountain’s article in The Guardian. I recommend reading it. (Better written than mine.)