The biggest fraud to be perpetrated in American politics--or maybe it is mass self-delusion--is the GOP identifying itself as the party of Lincoln. The modern GOP has strayed so far from what Lincoln professed that it is often quite the obverse of what Lincoln represented. Political scientists and historians who are not totally committed to misrepresenting what the party has become note that the Democratic Party and the Republican switched positions on racial equality and justice for all during the civil rights movement. The Democrats appealed to and won over the descendents of the abolitionists in the north and Republicans moved into Jim Crow territory in the south. Liberalism is castigated by an American conservatism that clings to and foments old prejudices against the minorities, against the poor, and believes in a subservient role for women.
Until I moved to South Dakota, I was a registered Republican. I came from Illinois where there was a political brand that called itself Lincoln Republicans. It embraced the values of Lincoln regarding equality and justice, a right to make fair earnings for one's work and to keep the products of one's own efforts but shared in the maintenance of an equitable system, a government that advanced and carefully monitored the engines of the economy, and a government that protected citizens from predatory practices in the market place and work place. I remained a registered Republican because we had representatives at both the state and federal levels who vigorously served the interests of workers and farmers. However, during the years before I moved to South Dakota, the Republican Party was coming more and more under the influence of the faction that now defines the party. During the height of the civil rights movement I covered a speech by the vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association when he warned his members that if the Democratic support for the civil rights movement was not stopped "these people will take over the country." The report I wrote of the speech was censored. And after I left Illinois, my congressman, who was a schoolmate of mine, and served eight terms in the U.S. House, was defeated in the primary by one of the emerging new conservatives (who was beaten in the general election by a Democrat.) The corporate led faction in the Republican Party had never forgiven the Congressman because he was part of a bipartisan coalition on the House Judiciary Committee that wrote the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
So, the Republican Party has been taken over by the faction that often openly embraces fascism and has changed drastically from anything Lincoln and his cohorts woud conceive. The line advanced by the speakers at the recent CPAC conference is that party has been misperceived and minsunderstood. Jeb Bush summarized the points made by nearly all the speakers:
"Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs, because those voters feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome in our party."The chairman of the Republican National Committee lamented that "The perception that we're the party of the rich continues to grow."
It is preposterous to contend that the message of the party is misunderstood when the contempt and hate speech that pours out from those who speak for the party, such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, constantly demeans, insults, and makes defamatory accusations against immigrants, women, scientists, gays, workers. educators, anyone they wish to include in their litany of hate objects. Their propaganda assault is carried forward by candidates on the campaigns and politicians on the floors of legislatures, and it is then backed up by legislation.
The GOP claims it wants to attract more Latinos and African Americans away from the Democrats while a number of the state legislators have passed laws, and are proposing to, to make it more difficult for minorities to vote by making complex identification requirements that deliberately target minority voters in the effort toof the nation and insist their party has policies that should attract minority voters but that they are misunderstood. The party has the notion that message is all that counts, but they can't seem to see how their actions, the diminish the number of people who will turn out to vote for Democrats. Yet the party spokespeople get up in front of the nation and insist their party has policies that should attract minority voters but that they are misunderstood. The party has the notion that message is all that counts, but they can't seem to see how their actions, their policies, and their words convey a consistent message that is hard to miss.
The Republican Wisconsin governor took away the right of public employees to bargain. A number of other states followed suit. And they did so with great applause from the GOP. And yet they insist that if workers only understood their agenda, they'd happily join the party.
Women who are striving to gain equal opportunity and status with men are dismissed with punitive laws regarding their reproductive rights. Laws designed to protect them from domestic violence and to gain equity in the workplace are consistently and persistently voted down by the Republicans. But, again, the fact that women vote Democratic is said by the GOP to be a misunderstanding of what it has done and will do for women.
The latest assertion that was prominent at CPAC is a denial that the GOP is a party dedicated to looking out for the interests of the very rich. Thirty years when the so-called Reagan Revolution was initiated, one of the first major attacks was on a labor union. Then the gospel of supply-side economics became the scripture of the time, insisting that wealth heaped up on the rich would eventually trickle down to the working class. In that 30 years, wages have stagnated for workers, the upper percentages have taken control of the country's wealth and earnings, the middle class has shrunk and more people join the ranks of poverty each year, and jobs have been systematically and steadily outsourced to low-wage countries. And yet the GOP insists that protecting and adding to the advantages of wealth and power of the rich is not one of its major functions.
Jeb Bush says all the groups of people he mentions feel unwanted. When there is a constant barrage of abusive and insulting language directed at you, when you are held up as the scourge of the world, when a party deliberately lies about your values and insists that you are unAmerican because you have views different from the GOP, the words generate more than a feeling of being unwanted. They inform you that these people intend you ill and they demonstrate and pass laws to inflict that ill.
The message has not been misunderstood or misinterpreted. Despite a press that has bowed to accusations of bias and downplayed the facts of how the message is put into action, a majority of people received it and perceived it accurately.
The message is clear. And we've got it.