As an American historian, I am aware of the patterns of social change that have occurred in the past. Since the 1900s, there have been several shifts in American society where the old ways were replaced by newer thoughts, theories, or norms. Some of these things were great strides in improving the nation while others have not had the expected or promised outcome. Right now, our nation is in the middle of such a transition. Some people point to the inauguration of President Barack H. Obama as the start of this transition, but in all fairness, the shift began long before he was nominated as the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2008 election.
Tag Archives: Progressives
Over the past six years I have questioned the Republican Party’s national leadership. It began with the nomination of Senator John McCain as the party’s nominee for President of the United States. Yes, Senator McCain is a national hero and served his nation during a time of war when that particular war was extremely unpopular. Yes, Senator McCain is a former prisoner of war and is someone to be honored. Yes, he has served in the Senate for a number of years and no doubt possesses an understanding of the legislative processes of our national government. Yet with all those “qualifications” heralded by the Republican National Committee establishment he was unable to defeat the most inexperienced president the United States has had in modern times.
In the mid-term elections of 2011 something exciting happened within the halls of Congress – conservative candidates selected by a growing grassroots movement were sworn into their respective positions in the House and Senate. These candidates were not hand selected by the establishment within the Republican and in some cases, did not have the financial backing of the vast financial resources of the Republican Party. Listening to the political commentary originating from the party establishment, it was obvious that they did not believe true conservatism had a chance at winning elections. The establishment pointed to “grassroots” candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and others as being politically too weak to win elections and even gloated when she lost, highlighting that the Republican National Committee alone knew how to pick candidates that would be able to beat Democrats. They ignored grass-roots selected and elected members of Congress such as Representatives Ted Cruz, Sandy Adams, Dianne Black, Bill Cassidy, Jeff Duncan and thirteen others that brought with them a mandate directly from the people and not from the Republican establishment.
Karl Rove, Reince Priebus, and other career politicians that are the core leadership of the GOP establishment have moved the Republican Party away from its traditional political base and with no debate, have shifted to a platform that appears to be a Democratic Party Lite version. Gone from the national GOP platform are the demands for smaller national government, less taxes, development of domestic energy sources, pro-life (both from an abortion and euthanasia stand) and determination to bring industry back to the nation. In its place is a new agenda that is more progressive with the only real difference between it and the Democratic Party platform is who would be in charge of implementing the numerous progressive ideas. The party establishment appears to support the concept of a larger, more intrusive national government (among these supporters was President George W. Bush), the acceptance of higher personal and corporate taxes, a commitment to maintaining a bloated national government, an unwillingness to address welfare reform, and immigration reform that appears to offer everything as a means to gain votes. The Republican Party, under the leadership and influence of Karl Rove, appears to be interested in being in control of a progressive agenda instead of being opposed to it.
The upcoming midterm election should be a sure-win for the Republican Party; however, the party bosses have declared war on the Tea Party – the part of the Republican Party that allowed the ascension of Congressman John Boehner to Speaker of the House. The establishment, however, has already indicated that grassroots Tea Party candidates could cost the Republican Party the control of the House and more than likely assure that the Senate remains in the hands of the Democrats. Instead of having an honest dialogue to address the concerns of the Tea Party movement, the GOP establishment sees them as a political threat. In a recent article on Breitbart, it was noted that political contributions to the GOP establishment Super PACs amounted to nearly $7 million with contributions to Super PACs lead by Karl Rove bringing in another $6.1 million. The top three major conservative PACs were able to raise a combined total of nearly $20 million; a smaller conservative Tea-Party PAC, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, was able to raise roughly $6.4 million, eclipsing the financial contributions of the three Rove-oriented Super PACs.
The fear mongering being used for the sole purpose of building the party establishment war chest shows how out of touch the national party leadership is with its base. Over the past few election cycles, the base of the Republican Party has asked for a national discussion on conservative real world solutions to problems faced by the nation. The conservative base has wanted the Obama administration to answer the tough questions on Fast and Furious, the Benghazi attack, the IRS scandal, the apparent racial double standards of the Department of Justice, the icy diplomatic relations with Great Britain and Israel, behind closed-door agreements with China, Russia, and the apparent decline in prominence in America’s role in the United Nations. Instead of holding an honest dialogue, the conservative base has been painted as out of touch with mainstream society and has been accused of being radical by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party establishment. By demonizing the conservative base, the establishment hoped to win the support of moderates under the premise that Republicans need the moderates to win elections.
The 2011 midterm elections was the beginning of a war within the Republican Party to see who will control the defining elements of the party. If the establishment is successful in expelling the Tea Party faction from its base, a third-party will form with conservatism at its center. It will become the new opposition party to the Liberal leaning Democratic Party machine and will overtake the Republican Party as espousing the ideals that made this nation great. If the establishment loses and the Tea Party does manage to take control of the Republican Party, the two-party system will remain with the Republican Party again being an opposition party to the Liberal agenda (I doubt this will happen as the leadership seems bent on destroying the party rather than to allow conservatives to win control). Either way, the current party establishment will lose because the base has demonstrated since the 2011 election that if the party leadership will not listen to its conservative base, the base will take its money, its efforts, and its political support somewhere else that will. The Republican Party needs its conservative base more than that base – the Tea Party – needs the establishment.
Today’s political climate is no more hostile than in other times in our nation’s history. As an American historian, I can think of several periods in the life of our country where politics had become toxic and contaminated nearly every aspect of the lives of the citizen. What makes it different is that instead of the political divide being over the clashing viewpoints of domestic and foreign policy and the traditional Democrat versus Republican arguments that Americans have become accustomed to, a new political divide has been forged by the supporters of Mr. Obama: any critique of the President, his policies, or his actions can only be because he is a black president. Choose any issue from foreign policy to domestic energy production and anyone that disagrees with President Obama’s agenda is immediately discredited as a racist that wants to see the president fail.
There is a danger when racial politics are so easily exploited by any political entity within American politics. One thing that American history can teach both Republican and Democratic Party leaders is that playing racial politics is a risky game that no party ever truly masters. In the years immediately after the American Civil War, it appeared that the Republican Party had the vote of black Americans for perpetuity because of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Ku Klux Klan Acts of 1870 and 1871, plus several other legislative acts seemed to add to the support that the Republican Party enjoyed across the nation and in the South. From 1866 to the turn of the century, the Republican Party “waved the bloody shirt” reminding all which party had been the defenders of slavery and traitors to the Union. And the politics of race worked – for a while.
It was not until after the 1930s and the introduction of several New Deal programs that the political tide began to turn for the Democratic Party. By the time of the War on Poverty and the Johnson administration, the black American vote had almost completely left the Republican Party and was now firmly voting for Democratic candidates in local, state, and national elections, just as generations had voted for Republican candidates in the past. Instead of owning up to its racially charged history of open hostility to black Americans, the Democratic Party leadership used the same tactics successfully employed by the Republican Party – open and frequent accusations of being a party entrenched with racism. Now, since 1964, the Democratic Party has counted on votes of black America to retain its political edge, but at a very high price. To maintain itself as being seen as the party that is compassionate to the needs of black America, it now finds itself in a unique place – discrediting those black Americans that dare to disagree with the fundamental issues of the party. In the end, the party that promotes itself as the “party of tolerance” becomes intolerant.
Since the election of 2008, the American mainstream media has carried numerous articles, editorials, and even panel discussions with loyal Obama supporters decrying that the only reason that a portion of the American population does not like the president is because of his race. Even more stunning was a recent interview conducted by David Remnick, of the New Yorker Magazine, with President Obama. During the interview, the president was on record stating:
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
Regardless of the political party affiliation of the president, he is the President of the United States of America. The occupier of that office, regardless of their race, gender, sexual status, or political party is to be the leader of the American people, and as such, should diligently seek ways to unite all Americans behind national goals. To dismiss opposition to any administration with a wave of a hand and conferring the title of “racist” to the opposition does not unite Americans for the common good, nor does it instill feelings of goodwill. While I am sure that there are a few that description may fit, there are many more Americans that are critical of President Obama’s policies based on substance and concept rather than the racial identity of the president. When the “racist” label is applied to those that are genuinely questioning the policies and agenda of the current administration all it does is to silence legitimate critique.