Tag Archives: republican party

Congress did a great thing 50 years ago, but rot from that day has spread and taken root

Summary: 19 June 1964. I believe on this day America took a wrong turn. It was the day we took a large step to closure on the wound opened by the Civil War, another step to atoning for and overcoming the legacy of slavery. The Senate voted to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. But one of the opponents saw this as an opportunity, and we live with the dark results today

Barry Goldwater button


Reflecting the parties geographical, not ideological, foundations, the vote passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act was mixed.

  • Democratic Party: 46–21   (69–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27–06   (82–18%)

But one of those “no” votes was by the GOP candidate for the Presidency, who saw an opportunity to redraw America’s political map and end the  dominant position the Democratic Party had held since the Great Depression. The price was betrayal of the Republican Party’s legacy.

Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) lost the 1964 presidential election, but his campaign reforged a Republican Party with racism as a core element — burned into an alliance with the right-wing social and economic ideologies. The poison took time to spread through the GOP, but by 1980 — amplified by Nixon and Reagan — it helped make conservatism become the dominant political force in America (affecting both parties).

That day 50 years ago could have begun a break with our past. Instead we’re still grappling with our racist legacy from slavery.

Here’s the speech Goldwater gave justifying his betrayal. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) decodes the key phrases he uses to disguise his political logic.

  • “Demagogue” = “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington”
  • “Calm environment” = “an end to sit-ins and Freedom Rides”
  • “Special appeals for special welfare” = “desire by African-Americans to eat at lunch counters and stay at hotels open to others”

The text, from DeLong’s post:

There have been few, if any, occasions when the searching of my conscience and the re-examination of my views of our constitutional system have played a greater part in the determination of my vote than they have on this occasion.

I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, or creed, or on any other basis; not only my words, but more importantly my actions through the years have repeatedly demonstrated the sincerity of my feeling in this regard.

This is fundamentally a matter of the heart. The problems of discrimination can never by cured by laws alone; but I would be the first to agree that laws can help — laws carefully considered and weighed in an atmosphere of dispassion, in the absence of political demagoguery, and in the light of fundamental constitutional principles.

For example, throughout my 12 years as a member of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee, I have repeatedly offered amendments to bills pertaining to labor that would end discrimination in unions, and repeatedly those amendments have been turned down by the very members of both parties who now so vociferously support the present approach to the solution of our problem. Talk is one thing, action is another, and until the members of this body and the people of this country realize this, there will be no real solution to the problem we fact.

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America swings to the Right. The Left loses. How has the Left dug itself into this hole?

Summary: Today we look at one of the defining political trends of our time — America’s movement to the Right. Like most political evolutions in our history, it’s bipartisan. Previous posts have examined how the Right has won. Today and tomorrow we look at how the Left has accomplished this (it didn’t just happen), and how they have responded to this long series of defeats. These are just sketches about vast and complex trends. At the end see links to other posts in this series.


America has been moving to the Right since roughly 1980. Not in all things. The 1% cares about power and money; as a class it does not care who marries who. The US health care system’s decay, and the Right’s indifference to reform, allowed the Left to pass ObamaCare.

But the overall trend has been to the Right. A few examples…

  1. Defunding public colleges.
  2. Cutting taxes on the rich and businesses, shifting the tax burden down (as the GOP is doing in the States today).
  3. Reducing the safety net (e.g., . Reducing the minimum wage (in real terms), Clinton “ending welfare as we know it” in 1996).
  4. Crushing private sector unions.
  5. Deregulation of corporations, especially banks.
  6. Eroding away the 1970s reforms on the military and intelligence agencies.

We can debate the wisdom of these changes (I’m mostly against them all), but let’s leave that debate for another day. How has the Left responded? Today we’ll see how the Left has worked to gain public support — and failed. Tomorrow we’ll examine how they addressed the equally important (in an operational sense) task of maintaining internal cohesion during their long defeat.

The Left fights back

The Left responded its efforts on use of two tactics.

(a)  Legal leverage

The Left used its strength in the Courts to effect public policy measures they could not do through democratic means. Most notably, expansion of environmental protections, plus expanded rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. Although this produced some wins, the long-term effect has been catastrophic for the Left.

The focus on legalistic tactics led to an atrophy of grass-roots organizing, and a loss of legitimacy for the agenda. Legitimacy in the political sense, people’s acceptance of governmental authority. From bussing to abortion to closing logging in the NW to save the spotted owl, court-driven policy measures produce powerful backlashes unless supported with deep measures to gain public support — which step the Left has often skipped. An increasing fraction of the public believes the Left uses anti-democratic (even authoritarian) means to change public policy.

Now the real weakness of this strategy appears, as the increased strength of the Right results in more conservative judges at all levels. Judicial activism works just as well for the Right as the Left. Indeed for most of American history the Courts have been a conservative, even reactionary force. We might return to this old normal.

(b)  Gaining strength by sounding alarms


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Stand by for political realignment in America!

Summary:  I’ve long believed that our political system has rapidly accumulating strains, soon to rip the system apart so that new coalitions emerge, centered on new issues — political realignments (see Wikipedia), as has happened before in American history. Not the widely anticipated move to the “middle” (a two-dimensional line), but political reshuffling in multiple dimensions.

Perhaps we now have the first signs of it happening. On the other hand, just as the first Robin doesn’t mean Spring has begun, rising stress does not mean the realignment has begun.

American Extremists

On the Right

The Right, and especially its vanguard — the Tea Party movement — have become servants of the 1%. They’re helping the 1% build the New America described in scores of posts on the FM website. They are one possible future for America.

  1. A belligerent foreign policy, supporting a mad unprofitable empire.
  2. Political divisions between hostile races and religions.
  3. Growing inequality and falling social mobility (e.g., defunding public schools and universities).
  4. Tax burden shifted, as the GOP is doing in the States, from the rich to the middle class.

It’s a common pattern in history. It’s a change from the America-that-once-was. It’s a slow-motion revolution. It might push some into defecting from the Right to a new movement closer to their conservative principles.

Looking to the future, neither the GOP nor its Tea Party faction are all grey-hairs. As shown by this Pew Poll, published 16 October 2013. The Republicans are slightly light on Millennials (born after 1980, so age 18 – 33) and slightly heavy on Boomers. The Tea Party movement is catastrophically light on Millennials and over-weight on Boomers. The cutting edge of society in terms of youth and energy is not with the extreme Right.

Pew Poll of Tea Party Movement

Pew Poll, 16 October 2013

On the Left

There is no equivalent of the Tea Party on the Left. After decades of decay, the Left’s too decrepit to have a broadly political movement; all that remains are single-issue groups. Like the unions and the environmentalists. With an aging membership, and a slow loss of public support.

From an article by Paul Voosen in E&E Publishing, 13 April 2012 (unrelated to this post, which I highly recommend):

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A look into the GOP mind: untethered from reality and drifting in the wind

Summary: Scores of posts have documented the difficulty Americans have seeing the world. Of course this affects both Left and Right. But not equally. The Right has more fully exploited the powerful tools of propaganda developed during the past century, both to motivate the faithful and gain support. Unfortunately decades of shifting the Right’s viewpoint has broken its tether to reality, allowing a slide into delusions. Today we see some evidence of this in the polls.

No rejoicing by the Left, please. Schadenfreude, however natural, should be outweighed by the danger this creates for the Republic, that a large fraction of a major party has lost their bearings.

Alice when the Madness Returns


  1. Poll #1
  2. Poll #2
  3. Poll #3
  4. Other posts about the Right in America
  5. For More Information

Poll #1

Democrats and Republicans differ on conspiracy theory beliefs, a survey by Public Policy Polling (PPP), 2 April 2013.

Q#1: Do you believe global warming is a hoax? — 58% of GOP say “yes”.

Poll: global warming by party

Public Policy Polling, April 2013

For more about Republicans’ views of global warming, see this Gallup report, this Pew Research report. And this Pew Poll:

Poll: global warming, by party

Contrast that with the consensus of climate scientists:

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I. For more about this consensus see these studies.

 PPP Question#8:  Do you believe President Barack Obama is the anti-Christ? — 20% of the GOP say “yes”.

This is a disturbing next step from the “Is Obama not a US citizen” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” questions, whose weirdness we have become accustomed to.

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Look in the polls, as in a mirror, to see America drift to the Right

Summary:  How have the two major parties done in attracting and retaining the public’s confidence and allegiance, from February 2009 to now? The long slow recovery should have boosted the Democratic Party, who have controlled the Executive Branch and the Senate. It hasn’t. In fact the Democrat’s remain locked into the long decline of the Left, which they’ve ridden by following the public’s shift to the Right (Democratic leaders of the 1960’s would be considered radical commies if they ran today). This is interesting since so many Republicans have gone crazy.


Poll by Hart Research Associates
Commissioned by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal
Done 22 – 25 January 2014.

Question #6:

“Now I’m going to read you the names of several public figures and groups and I’d like you to rate your feelings toward each one as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative.”

Compare the results for February 2009 (soon after the inauguration) and January 2014 (% for each answer; the results are similar for December 2008). Political scientists have more sophisticated ways to measure people’s political alignment, but this is the bottom lines for elections.

One party running America

The Democratic Party:

Positive -12, Neutral +4, Negative +9, Don’t know -1

  • Very positive:………….20 vs 10…..10
  • Somewhat positive:….29 vs 27…..02
  • Neutral:………………….18 vs 22…..+04
  • Somewhat negative:…14 vs 20…..+06
  • Very negative:………….17 vs 20…..+03
  • Don’t know:…………….02 vs 01…..-01

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The achilles heel of both political parties, waiting to be exploited by reformers

Summary: The two parties in America stand as invincible barriers to political reform. They own the high ground; they control all the gates. No set of attractive policies will overcome them. Yet they have points of vulnerability exploitable by determined reformers who seek not just better doctrine but also organizational superiority. We can defeat giants, for they act stupid and slowly. Today we discuss one kind of advantage, part of a long series about ways to reform America (see links at the end). Not the fun of slogans and magic policies, but the specifics of building change.


Democrats & Republicans: almost invincible

And every eye
Gazed as before some brother of the sky.
The Odyssey, Book VIII, line 17.


  1. Their weakness
  2. Lessons Learned
  3. For More Information

(1)  Their weakness

Both Democrats and Republicans are “reality-based communities”, with a clear understanding — of each other. Both parties have in themselves the seeds of greatness, but are hobbled by their confidence in their beliefs, their preference for orthodoxy over truth, an unwillingness to hear criticism, and a disinterest in growth.

Epistemic closure” protects the members of each faction from learning. Information comes only from in-group sources, with heterodox thought discouraged by group norms. The Democrats see this clearly in the Republicans. The GOP sees this clearly in the Democrats. So each party understands that the other’s worldview has little credibility.

This is most often described as a problem of the Republicans. But the Democrats are equally afflicted. Perhaps the best-known example: their belief that its portfolio of Treasury bonds funds Social Security. Eminent economists, such as Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) and Paul Krugman confidently state this absurdity. As if a bond is an asset when held by the issuer. Federal government pays social security; it cannot fund one obligation with another obligation. You might as well write an IOU to yourself for a trillion dollars and ask to join the Fortune 500.

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The Republicans are winning, leaders in the building of a New America

Summary: Many people believe the American political system has become some combination of rigid, dysfunctional, perhaps even stupid. All of these are false. The US political system is alive and evolving rapidly, as a New America rises on the ashes of the Republic-that-once-was, built to the designs of its plutocratic stakeholders. That so many remain blind to this reflects the quiet nature of the process, and the skill of its key actors. Today we examine some of the evidence.

GOP sunrise

GOP sunrise, from the “Right Truth” website


After 30 years the shift of America has become obvious, along with the Republicans’ successful leadership. Especially after the events during Obama’s administration (aka Bush Jr’s 3rd and 4th terms).

Many social policies have become more liberal. But few of the 1% care who sleeps with whom, or the details of births and deaths among the proles.

What about the Democratic Party’s excitement over the debt crisis fiasco, and the resulting GOP dip in in the polls?  Even the most successful movement has reverses, often from over-confidence and excessive aggressiveness. Setbacks are not defeat. What matters is how they respond and adapt.

Consider instead the momentum of events, their intellectual and financial resources, their legion of shock troops in local communities, their powerful organizational support structure of think-tanks and advocacy groups. All they lack is skilled strong leadership — to replace their current collection of clowns and poseurs. When they have that missing piece, they can shift to a higher speed.

Let’s look at some articles of the past month, much like the news flow for the past few years. And the past three decades.

(1) Conservative Georgia District Urges G.O.P. to Keep Up the Fight“, New York Times, 6 October 2013 — Read the quotes!

(2) Take Back the House? Democrats Aren’t Even Ahead on Friendly Turf In 2014“, Nate Cohn, The New Republic, 7 October 2013 — Candidate selection is vital, and the GOP has the vital edge in enthusiasm.

(3) The mythical moderates?“, David Karol (Assoc Prof of Politics, U MD; bio here), blog of the Washington Post, 8 October 2013 — The GOP has stronger internal cohesion, giving them an edge in every conflict.

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