This monster did not spring up overnight. It has been in the making for at least fifty years, since Goldwater lost his presidential bid, and the Republicans implemented their Southern strategy. The strategy consisted of bringing together an unlikely coalition of business interests and poor Southern religious conservatives. The former represented the interests of the true ruling class, the business people with a direct line to the government, while the latter catered to the poor who were still licking their festering wounds from Civil War losses, resented the broadening civil liberties won by African Americans and felt left behind by the Washington elite.
Hold on, you say, these are really divergent interests. How can there be an actual coalition between these groups who not only have nothing in common, but more likely hold diametrically opposed views on just about everything? Herein lies the brilliance of the crafting of the message (a.k.a. propaganda). While the Republican party already had the Ayn Randian plutocrats in their pockets (or actually the other way around, they were in the pockets of the plutocrats), with their help and resources, they could buy the best propagandists in the nation to spin the web of half-truths that would stir up the volatile wasp nest of white grievances. And while the unifying purpose of the entire undertaking was to seize power in Washington, the key to their populist message was religion. By reframing such issues as reproductive rights, gay relationships and women’s equality as feticide, destruction of marriage and emasculation, all encroachments on religious doctrine and individual freedoms, the message of trickle down economics was easy to sell. And when, during the Reagan era, as predicted, trickle down economics failed to produce jobs and financial benefits to the poor working class, the Republican propaganda machine doubled down on the social issues, promising a return to a better, more Christian time.
For the first four decades, the Republican double-speak continued to work, despite the stubborn refusal by the economic improvements, so astoundingly successful in the upper echelons, to trickle down to the downtrodden masses. Exuberant gerrymandering continued to keep the votes coming, even through the Clinton administration. And so long as there was still strife around abortion, venom about the gay and bickering over women’s rights, the loyalists stayed. But the writing was on the wall — something radical had to be done, and that something had to not just implicate Democratic policies in our economic and social failures, but to assassinate them beyond any hope of resurrection. Cue the Koch brothers stage right.
Since the early ’80s, these billionaire businessmen’s battle cry was “less government.” Their outfit Citizens for a Sound Economy was the seed that sprouted the now robust and exuberant industry of so-called “astroturf activism,” or political action funded by private interests by laundering their money through non-profit organizations. The Tea Party, representing the lunatic fringe of the Republican party, is the inevitable 2002 offspring of the Kochs’ agenda activism, fueled by their dollars to bring their “populist” message to the masses. Their platform rests on the tripod of climate change denial, the debunked theory of trickle down economics and a social agenda poised to slide us back into 17th century.
This is surely an oversimplified history of the ascendance of the extremist fringe within the Republican Party. But regardless of whether its origin lies with the old or new corporate cries for less regulation, it has gained not only the White House, but also the majority in both Congressional chambers.
It should be clear to anyone that the primary purpose of this whole political “revolution” has been not to improve the well-being of the American public, but to liberate the corporate interests from government oversight. Regulatory burdens are severe, there is no question about that, and the government bureaucracy can be crushing. But that expression about the fox in the chicken coop? We are about to live it “bigly.” And while the masses of workers will not feel any economic relief, the social repressions, promised for years, are now on the horizon, as Mike Pence, the ultimate concession to the reactionary social agenda, promotes his willfully ignorant policies against gays, against education and against science, as we the people become collateral damage to the off-the-rails white supremacist Republican party’s quest for power. Congratulations!