Tag:George W. Bush

How Did We Get Here? The GOP’s 70-Year Love Affair with Authoritarian Demagogues

One of the most common misperceptions about the Republican Party is that it really wasn’t that bad until crazy far-right voters put Donald Trump into the Oval Office. That is not only a lie, it’s a dangerous rewriting of history that serves the purposes of a GOP that is starting to come to grips with the vision of their party after Trump is removed from power. Short version: if Trump loses in November, they plan to pretend that they had nothing to do with his career of catastrophic decisions and actions — hell, they barely knew the guy — and to go right back to the racism, misogyny, and insane economic policies they have pursued since most all of us have been alive. It’s on us not to let them do that. One of the best weapons in our arsenal is information. When you know your history, you are less likely to repeat it. Strap in. I’m going to take you on a brief history of Republican demagoguery. Skip down if you already know all this. “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy The transformation of the GOP into an authoritarian, anti-democratic, anti-Constitutional party began in 1950, when GOP Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Nazi) told an audience that he had a list of “known Communists” working in the Truman State Department. No, he didn’t. It was a demagogue move, similar to the huge number of lies told by Trump (“Obama spied on my campaign!” No, he didn’t.) McCarthy is quoted as saying: The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department. Well, that wouldn’t be hard to check. What did the Secretary of State have to say about it? Where’s the list? Let’s check those State Department employee’s backgrounds. The truth was, only 65 of the purported Communists on that list were still in the State Department at the time of McCarthy’s bloviating, and their background checks came back commie-free. McCarthy was a lying bastard. He had no idea who was actually a “Communist.” He lied about his brief and inglorious term as a district judge before running for the Senate. He lied about his war record to get elected. He smeared his Democratic opponent to get into the Senate. Sound familiar? A political party with a shred of integrity wouldn’t have let McCarthy get away with any of it. The party leaders would have shut him down immediately. But, even in the 1950s, this is the GOP we’re talking about. Already, that party had become fascinated with far-right, venom-spitting demagogues. So the party pushed him to the forefront, and for a few giddy years McCarthy, along with cohorts Roy Cohn (Trump’s first political mentor), Richard Nixon, and others, helped engulf the nation in a vicious roil of anti-Communist and anti-homosexual sentiment and repression. But by 1954, media figures like Edward R. Murrow and Leroy Gore, who started a “Joe Must Go!” recall movement, along with outraged U.S. Army officers, tanked McCarthy. The Senate censured him, the GOP turned its back on him, and McCarthy finished his Senate career in a sinkhole of irrelevancy. In […]

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