By Nicholas Brehl and Damian Hardeen
When asked if he would support the 2016 Republican nominee for president, former Republican candidate John Kasich replied, “I just can’t do it.”
Yet, many Republicans did support Donald Trump -Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to name a few. Interestingly, the first two were 2016 presidential candidates themselves. But John Kasich is not alone. Many Republicans refused to openly support the Don, including former presidential candidates like Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush (though they did not endorse Hillary Clinton, either). One Republican, former member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and ex-CIA agent Evan McMullin, went so far as to break ties with the Republican Party to run an independent campaign against Trump, and, is now the leader of the conservative anti-Trump group, called “Stand Up Republic.”
So what happened to this once unified party that stood lock-step with each other in unwavering opposition to Barack Obama? You know it. You’ve seen it unfold. But, for accountability purposes, it is important to remember that Donald Trump hijacked this party and many members willingly went along with it.
Spreading the Disease
Republican officials had a dilemma: Stand in support of its nominee, or refrain from supporting a candidate with grossly radicalized and un-American policies. In reacting to this bind, some Republicans faced more pressure than others. Consider Mitt Romney, who has been minimally involved in politics since his presidential run in 2008. Anyone lose a Mitt? He received relatively little blowback for his decision to not support Trump. Likewise, a handful of former Republican presidential candidates, who took a pledge to support the nominee for president, felt morally compelled to break that promise. But perhaps the biggest elephant in the room was what it meant for the party to endorse Donald Trump’s radical agenda, which imposed an ugly mutation to the new Republican Party.
For future elections, it will be important for all Americans to remember those individuals, and their media outlets (Fox News®, Limbaugh, etc.), that supported this train wreck and sold out the integrity of a nation in order to seize political control. Even MSNBC® and CNN® were guilty of normalizing Trump’s audacious actions and perpetuated false equivalencies between Clinton and Trump, to a certain degree, and for what? Ratings? We get it and we disapprove. Better still, we will remember.
Reaganomics and Deregulation: A Vote for Instability
Reagan supported massive tax cuts for the rich, vast military spending, and cuts to programs that aid the struggling class. His supply-side, or “trickle-down” economic theories were later referred to as “Voodoo Economics” by his Vice President and former rival George H.W. Bush. Since then, Republicans have continued to try to strip away the measures that protect Americans from the greedy practices that the wealthy often and historically embrace in order to turn a buck. Somehow, they’ve convinced their constituents (with cleverly guised misinformation) that these regulations are bad for them, when, in fact, they have proven to be beneficial.
Here are a few examples of the effects of deregulation. In 1987 Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine, a law that required news outlets to present important topics, like politics, in an unbiased manner. The effects of the repeal resulted in radicalized echo-chambers and created a home for heavily biased or out-rightly false media to overtake credible sources. Hence, the mess we’re in today.
The Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act which allowed states to be able to suppress the vote, particularly affecting minority communities who tend to vote Democrat.
Here are a few other forms of regulations that the government has enforced:
Food and drug safety, Americans with Disabilities Act, environmental protection laws, occupational safety, labor laws that block the exploitation of workers, anti-trust laws enabling fair business competition, anti-discrimination laws, building codes, construction standards, transportation standards, Fair Housing Act, numerous civil liberties acts, upholding the need for various professional licenses (making sure your doctor is, indeed, a doctor, making sure your pilot is, indeed, a pilot) – the list goes on and on. Simply put, regulations promote for safety and trust within the public and in consumer spending –which is great for businesses. If you had to second guess if the food that you’re about to eat has met strict safety regulations, you’d be far less inclined to buy it. You’d probably be less inclined to go outside. How would that impact the economy?
Post Lincoln, Pre Reagan Republicanism
Notwithstanding Richard Nixon (to whom much has been written), classic Republicanism tried to build an identity around supporting policies that promoted fiscal responsibility and “pragmatic” solutions to universal problems such as healthcare and the environment. Their plans for solving environmental issues included taxes and caps on carbon emissions, while Democrats supported regulatory measures. The Republican solution for providing healthcare included plans like the one later issued in Massachusetts and signed into law by Mitt Romney; a law that Obamacare was later based off of, while Democrats often supported a single-payer system.
Republicans, like Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York and Vice President under Ford, supported replacing welfare with a negative income tax, which, they argued, would eliminate the bureaucratic costs of the system and put money directly into the hands of recipients in need. During the time of Rockefeller, shortly after the Democratic Party began supporting Civil Rights legislation and Republicans began winning support from formerly-democratic southern states, pragmatist Republicans (like Rockefeller) formed a separate wing of the party called Rockefeller Republicans, who were considered moderates and liberals for their time. During one of his presidential bids, an aide to Rockefeller said he needed more support from fellow eastern establishment Republicans. Rockefeller responded, saying, “You’re looking at it buddy. I’m all that’s left.”
The New Republican
Republicans today are now radicalized compared to what they were in the not-so distant past. Since the election of Ronald Reagan, this country has moved further and further to the right on a march to chase the mythology of laissez faire, or absolute capitalism. It’s a march that would likely take us off a cliff. In our recent past, we were marched to that precipice on more than a few occasions. Remember The Great Depression? How about the economic collapse of 2008-2009? These, and other similar conditions, were a result of unchecked practices. It’s what tends to happen when the wealthy run wild with nothing to stop them. They simply do not magically gain a sense of altruism and look to help the little guy. Instead, they find ways to pay less and make more –at any cost. To be clear, this is not your grandfather’s Republican party.
This is also not politics, it’s philosophy, and, if it wasn’t true, then why are there so many ways for the wealthy to dodge paying their fair share of taxes even though it would help the country and the little guy? The answer is that greed begets greed. If greed wasn’t the driving force behind most money making business decisions, and you believe that the wealthy want to help the rest of us, then why do tax shelters exist if not to stockpile wealth and keep it from the eyes of Uncle Sam?
While the Republican Party has changed dramatically, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign formed the tip of the far-right iceberg. Instead of flirting with bigotry, he embraced it. Instead of implying there was mass voter fraud by saying that any is too much, he brazenly and falsely said that millions voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Instead of advancing the Republican narrative that one is poor because they refuse to work hard enough, he blamed the white man’s problems on minorities and other countries, saying that Mexican immigrants are taking our jobs and pillaging our communities. He continues to infer that Muslims are potential terrorists. He implies that African Americans are responsible for their own problems and that white police officers need to be more authoritative. He has bragged about his own exploits in perpetrating sexual assault.
He then blames the press for calling him out on those issues. It will not work. So, instead of implying that “certain people” need to work harder, he has said that the white man’s problems are not his fault, but that other people are mooching off of his success. In reality, however, it is the corporate culture in America that is undermining our success. They want us to believe that our fellow citizens are to blame for hardships because it deflects attention from their greedy practices that funnels money away from the economy and into their pockets. In fact, this unsavory tactic has been used repeatedly in our history to rile people up –blaming immigrants for America’s woes. It is no coincidence that the most bigoted president in recent history is also the richest we have ever had. Donald Trump is doing precisely what the corporate culture in America wants.
So, while Donald Trump appears antithetical to the Republican ideology at the surface, he could not be expressing it better. The Republican Party used to try to brand itself as the party that cares about finding pragmatic and fiscally responsible solutions. Now, however, they have mutated into a protectionist, nationalist, isolationist monstrosity that many, including John Kasich, do not identify with.
A Wolf in Elephants Clothing
Many conservatives have said that Donald Trump is not a Republican. They maintain that he has hijacked their party and has ushered in an era of such terms like “post-truth” and “alternative facts” and other complete absurdities. In fact, a former Reagan supporter who endorsed Clinton told Donald Trump, “You are no Ronald Reagan” at the Democratic National Convention. However, if it were not for the Hollywood actor turned president, who so eloquently sold his flawed message, Donald Trump would likely not be in the White House today.
Reagan may have promised individuals and states more liberties, but his policies also allowed them the liberty to promote fascism, the far-right antithesis of liberty and democracy. By giving massive tax cuts to the rich, Reagan allowed a dangerous and unprecedented amount of wealth and power to flow into the hands of a privileged few. This resulted in excess. Excess became an addiction. The addiction led to the notion of retaining power by any means, even if what it means is to sell out the 99% for outrageous profits.
It’s odd that Trump supporters stumble to answer one main question: When exactly was America great for their economic class? Ask Trump privately and he’ll tell you. It was the 80s when the wolves of Wall Street reigned supreme, regulations were lax, discrimination was prevalent, and the evidence of excess was everywhere.
You see, men, like Donald Trump, spent their careers buying off those that were supposed to be our representatives, and taking control of news networks. ABC is now owned by Disney, CNN by Time Warner, and Fox News by 20st Century Fox, which is owned by Australian billionaire, Rupert Murdoch. By allowing these news outlets to promote nonsense at will, candidates like Donald Trump, who never would have stood a chance to become the Republican nominee, much less President, were able to spend their wealth to promote their heinous messages. We are doomed to repeat this for as long as measures such as The Fairness Doctrine lay dormant. Media needs accountability because now, Trump Happens.
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