Back in the 30s. FDR and the Democrats put together a coalition of labor, immigrants, minorities, and liberals. It worked nicely for a while, but success unraveled the stitching and eventually old immigrants got unhappy with new immigrants who hadn’t paid their dues (and were of darker hues), labor wasn’t happy about competition from upstarts who did not know their place and who were challenging the old immigrant neighborhoods built on the prosperity of unionized labor (think Gran Torino), the minorities decided it was time to push for a big chair at the grown-ups’ table, the liberals grew grumpy that their good intentions and tolerant attitude toward the less wealthy and less educated had grown thin with the objects of their well-intended concern, and the television set intruded into the comfortable mythologies that kept the coalition going.
So by the 60s, upstart young people, college-educated whipper-snappers, uppity Blacks, immigrants from countries the old folks had never heard of, workers who shunned the controls of unions, all lost interest in maintaining the myths that stitched the old coalition together. Prosperity and the draft for an unpopular war operated to give us a bunch of ungrateful types who didn’t know the value of a dollar and needed another Depression to set them straight.
A lot of these people got siphoned off to the Republican Party who, with a wink, offered to control the street thugs threatening the very lives of folks in Wyoming and, while they were at, to halt the free hand-outs to people too lazy to get a job.
Others benefitted from the prosperity but felt a malaise which drove them to megachurches which promised community and easy salvation. Dropping their old ways and fearful their children would pick up their old ways, they agitated for a society free of temptation and sin, both warmly embraced by the new Christians in their youth (and the embrace continued for some of the high-profile leaders of the movement).
Before long, those who pulled the levers of society saw an opportunity to overthrow the strangle-hold of the Liberals (now capitalized) and Democrats so they could take the lid off the money-making machinery of corporations and financial markets. By focusing the energies of the resentful old-timers who remembered when you could shop all over town and never see a Black and the hopes for a purer society on the part of those who really knew what sin was and feared their kids falling into it, these manipulators found a way to garner votes that would put their people in power and allow them to set the rules to their benefit.
So they gave us a war on drugs, a war on gays, and, eventually, a real war – two of them, in fact. By now, the 90s, these manipulators had enlisted the help of a group of intellectuals loosely labeled Neo-Conservatives, Neocons. They were a different sort and as a loose-knit group had shifted from far Left politics in the days of the Great Depression to a kind of Cold War Liberalism and finally to a home in the GOP on the right where they introduced a higher-quality attack on society’s “undesireables” by railing against affirmative action, set-asides, quotas, and “reverse discrimination”. No more Bubba with his ax-handle in his hand backed by a nod from the Sheriff; now we could wrap ourselves in the cloak of True Compassion for the poor and the minorities and still keep the world safe for, not White culture, but for Western Culture. Interestingly, when you consider the beliefs of the religious groups joining this Republican coalition, many Jews, children and grandchildren of immigrant paretns, got on board.
This latter evolution of the coalition is the most illustrative of how contradictory the values and purposes of its constitutent parts are. Most of the Southern Evangelicals who make up the so-called ’base’ of the Republican Party coalition grew up hating Jews as Christ-killers. In fact, anyone who is not Evangelical is considered non-Christian. Without success have I inveighed against the use of the word “Christian” to refer to people who are not Catholics, as in, “Some Christian kids went to the Catholic Church to see what it was like.” And now Jews are their allies?
So how long would it take before formerly liberal New York Jews from immigrant backgrounds would find relations with their new-found allies in the Southern Christian Right a bit strained? How long before working-class people would find their interests not quite jibing with those of the corporate manipulators who set up the credit card, insurance, real estate, pharmaceutical and god knows what else scams? How long before good Christians would get tired of taking their kids to the emergency room for routine or simple health issues b/c they could not afford to have a regular doctor or clinical visits. What would it take to convince teachers who jumped on the Contract for America bandwagon that the high-fliers had absolutely no interest in schools unless they turned out automatons for their cubicle jungles? At what point would striving families getting socked with impossible tuition debt even at community colleges begin to see that the patriotic, god-fearing, 100% American politicians defending them against foreigners and undeserving minorities had no interest in seeing their kids get an education and had no interest even in seeing them keep their jobs?
Finally, in 2008, Americans in large numbers began to see the Republican Party for the sham it had become. Evangelicals saw that gay marriage and abortions were distractors from the hand in their pocket. They realized that calls for low taxes could not stand against a national debt acquired in order to fulfill Neocon dreams of world conquest. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps was finally correctly interpreted as, “If you can’t cheat your way to a multimillion dollar income, your kids will go to deteriorating schools, your job will go to China, your health care will be in the hands of swamped ER staff, your retirement will be “handled” by shysters and con-men, and your religious services will be conducted by men who have more in common with gays than you thought”.
One thing that hasn’t got a lot of play is just how many of those folks fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan would be there if they had had a reasonable chance at an education and a job? The topic is off-limits b/c one can be accused of not respecting the honor and patriotism of those serving. But with the suicides, the shoddy war materiel, the multiple and extended tours of duty, and so forth, more and more people are beginning to wonder if the manipulators don’t see their kids as fodder. As these wars continue, there appears to be a growing realization concerning this game: don’t criticize military action b/c you’ll be dishonoring the troops. A trick successful up to this point, but as Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh mentally decompensate in full view, there are fewer voices to shout “Unamerican!” That may be why Sarah Palin resigned as governer: to have more time to shout, “Unamerican”. I wonder how many of the GOP coalition will listen or even hear?