Remember when Republicans were liberal? Well, I doubt it... Lincoln was president, then... and with exception to certain policies during the 1950s, that was the ONLY time that they were liberal. Understanding American politics is infinitely easier if you think "conservative" versus "liberal" rather than trying to make sense of any particular party label. This is because Democrats (Southern, Northern, Dixiecrat, etc) have changed their ideologies and agenda consistently... from conservative to liberal and vice versa... whatever it takes to remain in power. Still, Republicans have had a consistent conservative, anti-democratic, and corporatist agenda that began well before 1900, even though they might have originally begun otherwise for a couple of decades.
The modern Democrats have existed only since the 1940s and, truly, after 1964. Any attempt to identify or condemn this party on the basis of their past associations or ideologies is anachronistic and ridiculous... they have performed a complete turnaround. On the other hand, the original Republican Party performed an ideological switch also... only much earlier. Yes, it began as a progressive party that became conservative before the turn of the twentieth century and firmly conservative or corporatist before the Great Depression... essentially, they and their corporate sponsors betrayed their former followers and charges, African-Americans, the poor, and the disadvantaged of America and were ultimately responsible for the financial crash in 1929 AND for the latest one of 2008. A group of corporate leaders, in the Business Plot, even tried to take over the United States government in 1933 when Franklin D. Roosevelt tried desperately to revive America's economy after Republicans destroyed it! They lost power and wanted it back... by the way, they were never tried for treason, much less a parking ticket!
Since 1890, they have taken on every despicable ideological mantra in order to maintain their consist goal of greed and they consistently attempt to sell their anti-democratic views to all Americans. Abraham Lincoln would have been appalled by today's GOP and the Koch brothers... could this be why "Tea Party" ideology includes a definitive hatred of Lincoln (much like their neo-confederate brothers and sisters with a hatred of "Black Rule"), like the Council of Conservative Citizens, even while other Republicans still falsely and proudly claim his abolitionist beginnings?
Welcome to the Republican Party's true and schizophrenic history...the rhetoric will astound you!
The Republican Party began in 1854 and Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president. It began as a liberal party that strongly encouraged abolition of the slave trade and freedom for African-Americans, thus Lincoln's opposition to the South during the Civil War. Republicans dominated in the northern states and opposed the slave plantations of the South. Finally, after the Civil War, and three new amendments to the Constitution, we could begin the process for true freedom for Americans. We still had a long way to go, for women, gays, and other minorities still did not have their unalienable rights, but we were working on it. This was a proud moment for America, to be rid of the horrible scourge and stain of chattel slavery on our new nation, supposedly conceived in liberty and freedom almost a century earlier.
What were early Republicans like?
Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, free men", which had been coined by Salmon P. Chase, a Senator from Ohio (and future Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the United States). "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to plantation system whereby slaveowners could buy up all the good farm land, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party strived to contain the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the slave power and the expansion of freedom. Source
This was a time for every American to realize the American Dream, whatever your color or religion. Small businessmen across the country started businesses, made profits, paid taxes, and equally supported the union.
But, don't smile yet... like today, Republicans of the 19th century would reverse their own progressive advances... dark days were coming... unless, of course, you were rich!
Reconstruction ended early in the South and Southern legislators prematurely returned to Congress after the rules were amended to make it easier. Lincoln's Southern Vice President, Andrew Johnson, favored his Southern brethren and the South never completed Reconstruction... they never have. Over 600,000 people died to end slavery and the perpetrators of that horrible crime never paid for it. Black statesmen were drummed out of Congress and every Southern state's legislatures. The Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow became silent rules in the South to put the African-Americans back "in their place" once again.
With national focus now away from slavery, the Republican Party took the credit for the pseudo-accomplishment, forgot about, and lost sight of the original goal. Republicans slowly began to change, to morph themselves into a new party that was no longer concerned with the plight of the African-American, but strictly business. Out of greed, Republicans began to favor corporate business over small business... the larger and quicker buck. In time, Robber Barons dominated the business world, corporate taxes dropped from 90% to 35% and the poor, white and black, were slaved in factories across the country. The color of your skin no longer mattered to Republicans like it still did to Southerners, driven by profits alone until the Great Depression resulted from the overzealous business practices of corporate greed.
Corporations had long been understood to be bad for our democracy. It wasn't like we had no warning from many presidents and statesmen since the American Revolution...
Thomas Jefferson wrote "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." He saw the greed and corruption inherent in the corporate mindset, already present in his time, indeed in all times.
It was James Madison who said, "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by…corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses."
Andrew Jackson recognized the danger as well, saying "In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."
Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, said "I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion -- the only sure foundation and safeguard of republican government -- would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities."
American statesmen tried to tell us that corporations had always been the greatest evil to American society, but we never listened...
Nevertheless, by 1890 the Republicans had firmly betrayed their former liberal base and agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers, suffering because of corporate favoritism.
The African-American became a whisper in the wind with no political power and no political champion for their rights. And, they were joined by other minorities and the poor.
Teddy Roosevelt tried to save Republicans...
In 1901, Republican President McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became President. He attempted to move the Republican Party (GOP) toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt coined the phrase "Square Deal" to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair share under his policies. Source
Roosevelt ignored the plight of African-Americans, but certainly understood the dangers posed by corporations. He said, "I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law." – Theodore Roosevelt, speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, "The New Nationalism" (August 31, 1910)
Frustrated with his party's greed, Teddy Roosevelt broke with Republicans he realized that he could not save them from corporate greed and launched the Bull Moose Party that called for far-reaching progressive reforms. He lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, as the Taft conservatives gained control of the Republican party for decades to come... and continued squeezing out small businesses and lobbying against labor union reforms.
Yes, Southern Democrats began as a racist group, supported by White "citizen's councils" and the Ku Klux Klan...
The story of Southern Democrat Woodrow Wilson is an interesting one to be sure and indicative of the racist ideas that remained in America, especially in the South. He was the first Southerner elected president since 1848 and he moved to resegregate the Federal Civil Service. He presided over the installment of a Confederate monument in 1914 with a direct message for the North:
Not far from many Confederate gravestones at Arlington, however, is an actual engraving of a motto with more bite to it. "Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni," reads an inscription on the Confederate memorial. It's a quote from the epic poem Pharsalia, written by Lucan about the Roman Civil War, and literally translated means, "the victorious cause pleased the gods, but the conquered cause pleased Cato." As Malanowski told me, "You have to know your Latin history to know they're talking about the Roman Civil War, that the dictator Julius Caesar won, and that Cato was pleased with the republicans' sacrifice." With that background in mind the inscription is "a 'fuck you' to the Union. It's that sneaky little Latin phrase essentially saying 'we were right and you were wrong, and we'll always be right and you'll always be wrong.'"
Wilson also demonstrated his Virginia upbringing and Southern prejudices by showing a film in the White House called:
"The Birth of a Nation" (originally called "The Clansman") is a 1915 silent drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. It was released on February 8, 1915. Wilson responded to the film, by vehemently agreeing with it's racist depiction... "All true... all true."
The film chronicles the relationship of two families in Civil War and Reconstruction-era America: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons over the course of several years. It hit a nerve.
The film was a commercial success, but was highly controversial owing to its portrayal of African-American men (played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (whose original founding is dramatized) as a heroic force. There were widespread protests against The Birth of a Nation, and it was banned in several cities. The outcry of racism was so great that Griffith was inspired to produce "Intolerance" the following year. Source
|Raleigh News & Observer (North Carolina) cartoon from September 1898|
The political playing field was quite complex... the Southern Democrat certainly offered no aid to the African-American, virtually re-enslaving former slaves in Jim Crow with no federal pressure to stop them. They were as conservative then as Republicans would become, especially in the radical conservative takeover of North Carolina government following the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot. Northern Democrats may have been more progressive, but held little power in their own party.
Corporate business grew rapidly under Republican favoritism and resulted in a period of short-term prosperity until... the walls of greed came tumbling down... the financial devastation following the Great Depression or Wall Street Crash of 1929 leveled the playing field, exposed Republican's irresponsible fiscal nature, and brought on progressive reforms under a new Democratic president who held little respect for racist ideology.
African-American voters moved into the Democratic Party under Franklin D. Roosevelt who began initiating these sweeping social reforms. The people were angry with Republicans and their corporate friends over their fiscally abhorrent actions that paid no attention to the wishes of the common people.
After Roosevelt took office in 1933, New Deal legislation sailed through Congress at lightning speed. In the 1934 midterm elections, 10 Republican senators went down to defeat, leaving them with only 25 against 71 Democrats. The House of Representatives was split in a similar ratio.
Like the modern GOP...
Republicans in Congress heavily criticized the "Second New Deal" and likened it to class warfare and socialism. The volume of legislation, and the inability of the Republicans to block it, soon elevated the level of opposition to Roosevelt. Conservative Democrats, mostly from the South, joined with Republicans led by Senator Robert Taft to create the conservative coalition, which dominated domestic issues in Congress until 1964. The Republicans recaptured Congress in 1946 after gaining 13 seats in the Senate and 55 seats in the House. Source
Note the keywords, "class warfare" and "socialism" used by Republicans... these words signified "regulation" of their detestable methods... methods that once proved highly profitable to them. They would not stand for that... and those words would be used again... against Barack Obama.
|Jerry Falwell, Founder of the Moral Majority|
Republicans were drowning in low popular opinion from the 1929 crash until 1946... from this time forward, Republicans courted the conservative Southern vote by embracing a Christianized fundamentalism (Moral Majority by 1979) and anti-communism in the Red Scare... again using "white citizen's council" organizations and the John Birch Society, founded partly by Fred Koch, father of the Koch brothers, Charles and David.
Southern fundamentalists insisted on God being used to sell their "states' rights" ideology and Republicans embraced the tactic to recover from their damaged reputation. They used the fear of communist infiltration to redirect American ire... this affected our country's sacred constitutional principles...
By 1954, Francis Bellamy's Pledge of Allegiance had been altered with the Christian phrase, "one nation under God" added, in strict violation of the Constitution's prohibition against favoring a state religion. In 1956, "In God We Trust" was added to United States currency, another violation of our first amendment. This tactic worked very well for them and they grew powerful once again... but with an uncompromising fundamentalist financial boss.
And, in the midst of this growing Republican domination of American politics, the Democratic Party identified more and more with minorities, including the African-American, and with the social policies established by FDR. But, the modern arrangement of political identities didn't come into being until after June 1964...
When Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in June 1964, he said "We just gave the South to the Republicans" because he knew that conservative Southern Democrats and Republicans were very much alike and grew more alike every day. Really, the only difference between them was how they felt about Abraham Lincoln.
Civil Rights legislation would seal that bond and became the moment that Republicans became identified firmly with a racist Christian creed that elevated the white male as the dominant poster boy for their party. June 1964 was the moment that Republicans quietly embraced their Southern friends' ideology of "White Rule" in reaction to Civil Rights legislation and vowed to get rid of it.
Republican Barry Goldwater lamented the Christianized metamorphosis of his party (as well as the entire country).
Goldwater, in a heartfelt speech delivered in the U.S. Senate, said, "On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both...
I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism." -- (16 September 1981)
Republicans had been known as the Grand Old Party (GOP), but it was not exactly old... it had re-fabricated itself in the image of its creator... the almighty dollar. Paying lip service to the Christian god gave it the loyalty of the fundamentalist conservative South, despite the fact that Jesus himself would have shunned them all as he did the money changers. This was wholly political and not at all holy.
|Jesse Helms with Ronald Reagan in 1980 Election|
It was just 16 years later that Southern Democrat Jesse Helms abandoned his shrinking party and joined the more popular Republican Party to help Ronald Reagan win the White House in 1980. The deal was cemented in American blood, for corporate tax rates again dropped from 70% to 28%, a new record low, even lower than before the Great Depression of 1929. Federal regulation again disappeared, against the advice of two centuries of American presidents.
"Trickle-Down" Economics devastated our nation... but, Republicans weren't yet satisfied...
In 2001, Republican George W. Bush finished off Americans with two wars in a totalitarian response to a terrorist attack, a response that required a police action, not a major war, much less two! Furthermore, by 2008, just like in 1929, a second short period of prosperity again irresponsibly ended in a recession, or 2nd Great Depression, leaving America heavily in debt and facing near financial ruin.
They did it again... and again, the wealthy Republicans who caused the depression were immune to its affects.
Since before the 20th century began, Republicans have been a literal disease to this country. Whereas, we forget the past... they study it and remember the tactics that work for them. We are now in a period that can only be described as the "New" New Deal...
Democratic president Barack Obama slowly began to reverse Republican policies in 2009. His election shocked the remaining Southern Democrat holdouts, however, who never before realized that an African-American, a man who resembled their former slaves, would ever be president of the United States. For them, this was unthinkable. The old ghost of "Negro Rule" caused those last conservative Southern Democrats to instantly turn Republican in order to firmly collect conservative forces in one party and fight to restore "White Male Rule" to America... to install Mitt Romney as president. They failed... but, just barely.
Today, they fight tooth and nail, no holds barred... race was the factor that changed everything...what else explains their reaction to Barack Obama, who began as a relatively conservative Democratic president? Was he less conservative than Bill Clinton? No... not in 2009. He woke up, took on the mantle of FDR, and rode the progressive wave in his second term...after all, what choice did he have? It was a case of "Damned if you do and damned if you don't." He couldn't change his color...
I wrote this never to imply that any party is beyond corruption, just that Republicans have a longer history of it and more success at it. There is no doubt that they have tried to dismantle every progressive reform developed since FDR... from Glass-Steagall, Social Security, the 40-hr week, minimum wage, women's rights, and voting rights to Obamacare... because these programs ultimately interfere with their profits... corporate profits... not ours. Make no mistake... they still only worship the almighty dollar, not Christ, and certainly not American democracy.
Thus, the newest phase of the ongoing Civil War began... a continuation of a 150-year-old war to restore sanity to America... this time, hopefully, the corporate menace of greed and corruption can be subdued, as Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Van Buren, and many others have long advised. We shall see... 2014 is coming and then, 2016. Will we be able to overcome this threat to democracy... this American tragedy of Republicans? At least, we have shown some recovery, but will not be able to begin real recovery until Republicans are out of the House and off the Supreme Court.
Pay no attention to the rhetoric... the liberal party of Lincoln has long been dead, even if today's Republicans insist on falsely claiming the liberal deed... any such claim is, indeed, false. Still, you can hear it daily on FOX NEWS.
Republicans, with or without the Tea Party (Southern Democrats in disguise), will lie, cheat, and steal money, votes, and whatever else will help them maintain power.
America needs them gone... for good. Maybe then, we can ALL start to realize the American Dream.. not just a few privileged wealthy that have twice financially screwed up the country. They never felt the pain that we did. Never.
Still, a watchful eye must always remain on whatever party gains the power... for absolute power corrupts absolutely. This, the founding fathers knew all too well.