A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party

Summary: Understanding the roots of our dysfunctional political system requires shining a harsh light on the institutions that run the system. This post looks at the Grand Old Party, born fighting against slavery — and a sad history in the 20th Century.

Jefferson on class war

Contents

  1. The GOP’s great betrayal
  2. Look at the present
  3. The GOP’s war on public health
  4. For More Information
  5. Tom Tomorrow explains the Class War

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(1)  The GOP’s great betrayal

The great betrayal in modern American history is the Republican Party giving a home to the South’s racists after the enactment of the great Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s — a straightforward accommodation of evil in exchange for political power. Selling their souls for 30 pieces of silver, instead of allowing the South’s racists to either accept this progress or marginalize themselves with a pariah third party.

But this is consistent with the GOP’s behavior before and since. To understand their inimical role shaping America, let’s take a brief look at our history. Perhaps the reform of America should start with the part most needing reform: conservatives, heal thyselves.

(2)  Starting with the present: the GOP at work today

Look at the present. Today they are threatening to shutdown the Federal government, perhaps forcing a default and ruining a two-century long clear credit record (one of the finest in history). Even clearer is their advocacy for cutting the food stamp program while boosting subsidies for agri-corps. As explained in “Republicans: We Were Too Nice to the Hungry, But We’ve Fixed That“, Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine, 20 September 2013 — Excerpt:

Republicans hate domestic spending, but their hatred is not completely indiscriminate. Some programs offend them more, and others less. The general pattern is that social programs offend Republicans to the degree that they benefit the poor, sick, or otherwise unfortunate. The struggle over the farm bill is not the biggest policy dispute in American politics, but it is the one that most clearly reveals the priorities and ideological identity of the contemporary GOP.

The farm bill traditionally combines agriculture subsidies (which hands out subsidies to people on the arbitrary basis that the business they own produces food as opposed to some other goods or services) with food stamps (which hands out subsidies to people on the highly nonarbitrary basis that they’re poor enough to likely have trouble scraping together regular meals). Conservative Republicans revolted against the normally automatic passage, insisting that the cuts to food stamps — $20 billion — did not slice deeply enough. Last night the House rectified its failure by cutting food stamps by $40 billion.

The putative rationale for the food-stamp cuts is that eligibility standards have loosened, or that it encourages sloth. Jonathan Cohn makes quick work of these claims, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities makes long, detailed work of them. Click on those links if you want a blow-by-blow refutation. The upshot is that food stamps are a meager subsidy, of less than $1.40 per meal, for people either stuck in very low paid jobs or unable to find work at all. Their cost has increased because the recession has increased the supply of poor, desperate people.

Class War if we fight back

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CNN reported last night that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican supporter of the bill, received a daily meal allowance of $127.41, or 91 times the average daily food-stamp benefit. Lucas is also notable as a recipient of the agriculture subsidies his committee doles out: He and his wife have collected more than $40,000 worth.

… It’s the juxtaposition of the two programs that so clearly exposes the party’s agenda. Anti-government ideology can justify even the most vicious cuts to the safety net. It can’t justify the massive socialist scheme that is agriculture policy. And, to be fair, conservative intellectuals generally don’t justify agriculture socialism. But the Republican Party certainly does. The ultraconservative Republican Study Committee recently banned the Heritage Foundation from its meetings because Heritage denounced the GOP’s farm subsidies. There is a grim hilarity here: Republicans punished Heritage for its one technocratically sane position.

…It’s not baffling, nor is the notion that the Republican Party protects the class interests of the rich a “stereotype.” It’s an analysis that persuasively explains the facts.

Indeed, it’s the only analysis that persuasively explains the facts. I’d prefer to abolish agriculture subsidies completely while keeping in place (or boosting) food rations for the poor. A libertarian might want to abolish both programs, a socialist might want to keep both. I’d disagree but attribute the disagreement to philosophical differences. What possible basis can be found to justify preserving subsidies for affluent farmers while cutting them for the poor? What explanation offers itself other than the party’s commitment to waging class war?

Who won the Class War?

(3)  The GOP’s war on public health

The GOP’s role as vanguard of the class war has deep roots in American history, appearing in accounts of our past on a wide range of subjects. Such as in this history of America’s public health programs: “The Doctor Who Made a Revolution“, Helen Epstein, New York Review of Books, 26 September 2013 — Excerpts:

It was in the 1890s that Sara Josephine Baker decided to become a doctor. … By the time Baker retired from the New York City Health Department in 1923, she was famous across the nation for saving the lives of 90,000 inner-city children. The public health measures she implemented, many still in use today, have saved the lives of millions more worldwide.

Opposing public health services

… Articles about Baker’s lifesaving campaigns appeared in newspapers from Oklahoma to Michigan to California. In the late 1910s, she and other reformers drafted a bill to create a nationwide network of home-visiting programs and maternal and child health clinics modeled on the programs in New York. But the American Medical Association (AMA) — backed by powerful Republicans averse to spending money on social welfare — claimed the program was tantamount to Bolshevism. Baker was in Washington the day a young New England doctor explained the AMA’s position to a congressional committee:

“We oppose this bill because, if you are going to save the lives of all these women and children at public expense, what inducement will there be for young men to study medicine?” Senator Sheppard, the chairman, stiffened and leaned forward: “Perhaps I didn’t understand you correctly,” he said: “You surely don’t mean that you want women and children to die unnecessarily or live in constant danger of sickness so there will be something for young doctors to do?” “Why not?” said the New England doctor, who did at least have the courage to admit the issue: “That’s the will of God, isn’t it?”

Effects of the public health services revolution

… The enormous declines in child mortality that Baker helped bring about are frequently attributed to improved nutrition and a general improvement in working and living conditions, and to the availability of vaccines and antibiotics.

However, demographers who have studied the subject in detail have concluded that it had little to do with any of these things. Most vaccines and antibiotics weren’t available until after World War II and the “general uplift” in nutrition and living conditions occurred at the end of the 19th C, decades before the mortality decline. This may have set the stage for the drop in the death rate that followed, but the survival of babies didn’t substantially improve until safer milk supplies became widely available and, even more crucially, campaigns like Baker’s had helped women understand germs and how to avoid them, so that they could provide better care for their children.

Child Care

… In 1971, a group of Washington officials and their allies in the civil rights movement drafted the Comprehensive Child Care and Development Act, which would have created a nationwide system of high-quality day-care, preschool, and home-visiting programs that resembled the national system of child health programs envisioned by Baker and other reformers fifty years earlier. It passed both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support, but right-wing Republicans, using language similar to that used to quash the mother and baby care programs, pressured President Nixon to veto it.

As described in the excellent forthcoming documentary series The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of the Nation, Nixon’s adviser Pat Buchanan encouraged conservative journalists to write commentaries with headlines such as “Child Development Act — To Sovietize Our Youth,” which Buchanan would then present to Nixon in his morning press digest, as if it represented mainstream conservative opinion.Even though polls suggested that most Americans supported the bill, large numbers of letters denouncing it—some even comparing it to the Hitler Youth programs—poured into the White House.

Edward Zigler, head of Nixon’s Office of Child Development and one of the main architects of the bill, read through many of them. Most seemed to him to be form letters, and he suspected that the campaign had been orchestrated by a small number of conservative opponents. Nevertheless, the president got the message and vetoed the bill. This campaign gave rise to the “Family Values” movement, which has since attempted to thwart just about every legislative proposal to support American families. Today, nearly every other industrialized nation on earth provides some form of guaranteed support to families with young children. That America still does not is considered by many to be a national disgrace.

The infection of socialism has a hold on one part of America

… In some respects, contemporary America is not all that different. It turns out that there is one group of Americans that receives high-quality government-subsidized child-care services, including day care, preschool, home-visiting programs, and health care: the US military. Unlike the Soviet version, these comprehensive programs aren’t designed to create obedient little soldiers. Instead, they use a play-oriented approach to help bring out children’s individual cognitive and social capacity.

This may help explain why military children score higher on reading and mathematics tests than public school children, and why the black/white achievement gap is much lower in military families than it is in the general population. Since the military child-care program was created in 1989, the government has repeatedly declined requests to fund an in-depth evaluation, perhaps because if the effects were known, all Americans would demand these programs for their children too.

Ending the Class War

(4)  For More Information

(a)  About American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. Posts about Obama, his administration and policies
  4. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness

(b)  Posts about the Republican Party:

  1. Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
  2. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  3. Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
  4. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
  5. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  6. The key to modern American politics:  the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
  7. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  8. Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
  9. The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012

(c)  The Great Betrayal: racism on the Right:

(5)  Tom Tomorrow explains the Class War

See Tom Tomorrow’s website!

Class War by Tom Tomorrow

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31 thoughts on “A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party

  1. And you wish to Reform this country? The idea to me is almost sheer folly.

    I went to a Fund Raiser a few years back for John Boehner. Private affair, in the castle of a very wealthy gent here in my city….most of the common folk, (those with a net of say $10 M) mingled with the guys and gals with the jets to snack on the goodies but when the Show began the seating was arranged by what you paid to just get directions to the Castle.

    I would fail in any effort to describe the rancor and vitriol that spewed from the mouths of the Speaker and attendees towards the Unwashed we are forced to deal with and live with. That was the entire theme of the evening.

    Many years I have the fortune to hunt birds in Ne, SD and KS. Wandering the private fields of the great independent Farms; dining with owners and their extended families—Thanksgiving, oh yes.
    Prayers.

    And I am schooled continually about the great Individuality at the heart of America! How the Country is being destroyed by the slothful ness and socialism of the Dole! How great these self-made people are in comparison to the cheaters and takers in the Urban jungle!

    See, everybody in America is one Lottery Ticket, one Farm Bill, one Jackpot in “Vegas” and one great break away from being Rich! Real wealth is beyond the imagination of even a Cardiologist … and it all stands on the backs of these fools who dream.

    And you want to Reform these deeply embedded dissonances? I’ll be around. This I want to see.

    Breton

    1. “His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.”
      ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Or, There And Back Again

  2. There’s a big difference, if the government buys food, food is material thing, it actually exists. Plutocrat’s wealth mainly is in paper assets, it doesn’t exist in the same way, so pumping money by the fed is without cost, and can increase this “wealth” but it goes away when the pumping stops.

    1. Dashiki,

      That’s a powerful point!

      I think it is now quite widely agreed that the largest effect of QE3 was to boost asset prices. It is still unknown how much unwinding QE3 (shrinking the Fed balance sheet) will reverse that gain.

      Much depends on this answer.

    2. Ah yes. QE to Infinity!

      But now we can see the joy in Common America as a result thereof.

      Home Prices.
      The hope for a majority of commoners.
      They begin to rise….
      And again the House Flippers and Real Estate Agents swarm the neighborhoods to extract a little bit of “wealth” from their fellow citizens.
      While the Real $$$ garners big cash.

      You are only a bit correct about Paper Wealth.
      Not all Financial Wealth is “paper” and the Fees extracted, the profits gained and the tax treatment of that and say, a carried interest gets converted to big piles of cash and equivalents.

      When you venture into the middlelands of wealth you will be humbled, saddened and shocked.

      Carry on

      Breton

  3. FM,

    Once in a while I read something which repeats facts that I know. But the reading reveals (with clarity) the true meaning of the facts. As well as the relevance of the past to our current time.

    This is what you have done for us in this powerful post.

    The only thing I would add is that subsidies for big oil can probably be added to the list of industries that Republicans hypocritically favor.

    And… I would love to know the name of the “young New England doctor” who invoked the will of God to deny life to the poor 100 years ago. (On behalf of the AMA.) That doctor would feel at home in the company of today’s libertarian/populist (Republican) small thinkers.

    Ken C.

  4. Fabius Maximus,

    While I hold no particular brief for the GOP, why don’t you hold the Democrats to the same standard?

    I refer to their harboring a large number of Black racists, Latino racists, and Jewish racists?

    1. Highlander,

      (1) Jewish racists? Do you mean anti-Palestinian? If do, the GOP supports Israel’s oppressive policies as — probably more — strongly than does the Democratic Party.

      (2). Racism is a deeply rooted feature of people. Of all races. As such there are racists in both parties. But I see far less institutional support for racism today in the Dem Party than the GOP.

      (3). As you will see from the links in the last section, I have been quite critical of the Dems — esp the Obama Administration.

      They have many similarities, which is perhaps the worst underlying problem (about which I have written extensively).

      But the magnitude of the GOP policy disfunctionality today is IMO far larger than the Dems.

  5. Suppose “Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican supporter of the bill, received a daily meal allowance of $127.41” and the average food stamp allowance per meal is about $1.40 per meal. Then, assuming three meals per day, we get that Lucas’s daily meal allowance is 127.41/( 3 * 1.40) or “only” about 30 times what people on food stamps get, rather than the 91 times higher that you said.

    Chris

    1. Christopher,

      Thank you for catching that. It is a rare and powerful habit to check the math while reading. If more Americans did that this would be a better place. As it is you, and those like you, do a valuable public service.

      That was from a quote by Jonathan Chait (not by me). He confused the daily meal allowance with the allowance for each meal.

  6. In your All Knowing Article you forgot to mention a Most Important FACT~”Not 1 Single Democrat voted Yes to End Slavery”.

    As can be noted in today’s Modern World. Democrats are Still Pro-Slavery. Controlling untold Millions of Blacks whose Vote they sought and got in exchange for an Obamaphone and all the Junk Food they can Eat! Sadly Black Americans just cant evolve as those same Democrats they Voted for and Keep in Office have yielded nothing more than Lip Service when it comes down to the Economic Viability of the Black Race. Black Youth Unemployment in the United States has left the Youth in America with no other Option but to Succumb to the Golden Tales of Rap Musics promises. Bitches,Bling,Drugs and Murder. With over 72% of all black children born to Unwed Mothers. The Black Family has all but been destroyed.

    You trash Republicans who are caught in a crossroad~ Save our Country and make cut’s to programs that our fledgling GDP can barely contend with and face Backlash from people like you? Or simply continue to allow people to live off the Sweat and Hard work of Taxpayers?

    Obviously you are Pro-Welfare like most All Democrats so you too play a role in the Demise of Black America’s footprint in History.

    1. “In your All Knowing Article”

      What an odd opening. My comment references specific facts. You make large wild — totally unsupported — statements. Looks to me like you are the one writing as “all knowing”.

      “you forgot to mention a Most Important FACT~”Not 1 Single Democrat voted Yes to End Slavery”.”

      What a weird statement. Why are actions a century and a half ago more important than deeds done in our own time? Are you alleging some kind of original sin infecting the Democrats — and that the mid-19C actions of the GOP provides an indulgence for their recent betrayal of those actions and principles.

  7. Exactly what Betrayals do you speak of? The one where Dear Leader promised to cut our National Debt while he and his Family spent over $1 Billion on Vacations? Or the Betrayal that No One is allowed to Tour the White House due to Budget Cuts? Or is it that Betrayal of Lower Fuel Prices that have never been lowered since Obama took Office? Or do you speak of the Betrayal of over 57,000 Manufacturing Facilities in America now gone with many having went overseas where they can treat workers any way they wish? The truest Betrayal of All is the Fact that Last Week..The President of the United States waived a Federal Law which allowed him to not only Finance Al Qaeda Terrorists yet ship them all the Death via Arms&Ammo that they can carry on their Camels! By your Support of Barack Hussein Obama…You also are a TRAITOR! Stick that in your Democratic Crack Pipe and Smoke Up!

    1. Sherry ,

      The betrayal I refer to is obvious to all, and your comparing it to cuts in White House tours is crazy.

      The large per cent increases in the Federal debt were under GOP administrations, and totally unnecessary. The increase during the a Great Recession was appropriate, and occurred in all the major developed nations.

      Please attempt to make a coherent arguement. This is not a rant-friendly zone.

  8. FM! What HYPROCISY! YOUR article mentions the HISTORY of the Republicans, but when the history of the Dems is brought into the discussion, well then poo-poo WE don’t want to mention THEIR past (original sin indeed). And 150 years ago! You really were trying desperately to separate the democrats from their deeds. It was as RECENT as the 1960’s that Democratic governors, mayors and police chiefs where setting attack dogs on black protestors, or hosing them down with high pressure water cannons. Citizens who wanted no more that to attend school or eat at public restaurants, and this was on the TV for all nation to see. Again your ‘math skills’ fail you. So much for ‘honest’ journalist…

    1. (1). I am the only one citing facts here. You are the one pretending to be “All Knowing”, making big claims without support.

      (2). Nor are you very accurate, as I have shown.

      (3) I have been a Republican for over 30 years.

      Last chance. Please make a coherent arguement. This bickering waste’s readers’ time.

    2. John,

      I was responding to the specific point being made about Reconstruction-era votes. You raise a good point about the more recent history. But I don’t understand what you are saying.

      The Democratic Party under LBJ did what they could to atone for that shameful history, by championing the great civil rights legislation — against their own political interests (As the story goes, after signing LBJ said “We have lost the South for a generation.”)

      Why do believe the deeds of the past — before the radical changes in both parties during the 1960s and early 1970s — are more relevant what happened since (up to and including today) when evaluating the current Republican Party?

      That makes no sense to me.

      Nor do I understand the obsessive focus on race by GOP defenders in this thread, which was but one note in the larger pattern described in this post — which was about class.

  9. The GOP is now victorious only in exurban and suburban counties. The “cut food stamps” meme plays well with this non-urban cohort who resent what they perceive as ever increasing transfers from them to recipients in the urban centers. The GOP fans these flames of resentment for obvious reasons. It’s pandering pure and simple, not some deep revelation of the party’s soul.

    1. Peter,

      Do we care about the GOP’s soul? What matters is that they want to cut food stamps and boost subsidies to the rich.

      “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”
      — District Attorney Rachel Dawes, from “Batman Begins”

  10. Democrats are GOP lite today.
    ” On the “corruption among what passes for our elites” front, this story about self-dealing in the privatization of the Postal Service gives an indication of how bad things really are.”
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/09/senator-diane-feinsteins-husband-selling-post-offices-to-cronies-on-the-cheap.html
    Friday, September 20, 2013
    Senator Diane Feinstein’s Husband Selling Post Offices to Cronies on the Cheap

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/going-postal/Content?oid=3713528&showFullText=true
    Going Postal
    The husband of US Senator Dianne Feinstein has been selling post offices to his friends, cheap.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-this-town-loves-going-to-war/

    Why ‘This Town’ Loves Going to War
    The politics of war and peace are a gold mine for Washington’s power players.

    Middle Class and poor have no allies in either party. Both parties have bought into the neoliberalism cool-aid:

    http://potlatch.typepad.com/weblog/2013/08/the-myopia-of-neoliberals-and-their-critics.html
    the myopia of neoliberals (and their critics)
    And so have the British:

    http://potlatch.typepad.com/weblog/2013/04/brezhnev-capitalism.html
    Britain’s Brezhnev-style capitalism

  11. Greater GOP dysfunction may also reflect narrowness of their bases:
    culturally conservative and wealthy. They favor big business over small business also. In fact so does the tax code and even Govt support of small business loans reflects how small business gets the shaft.

  12. sheery nash: “Most Important FACT~’Not 1 Single Democrat voted Yes to End Slavery’……typical Democrat….Cant find the True Facts about His OWN Party!”

    I think Sheery is a troll without realizing it. For the record, 14 Democrats in the House voted for the 13th Amendment which ended slavery. Sheery.. either you’re a troll and don’t care that your most emphatically stated claim is clearly false, or you’ll start to question what other ideas that you “know are true” because they’ve been repeated ad nauseam by right-ring ideologues, but which are provably false.

    The details… Democrats voting end slavery**:

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/38-2/h480

    English, James CT 2nd
    Ganson, John NY 30th
    Baldwin, Augustus MI 5th
    Radford, William NY 10th
    Nelson, Homer NY 12th
    Steele, John NY 13th
    Griswold, John NY 15th
    Odell, Moses NY 3rd
    Herrick, Anson NY 9th
    Hutchins, Wells OH 11th
    Bailey, Joseph PA 15th
    Coffroth, Alexander PA 16th
    McAllister, Archibald PA 17th
    Wheeler, Ezra WI 5th

    ** Ironically, I’m NOT a Democrat, but facts are facts.

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