Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.
I have been on many forums and argued about the virtues of liberalism compared to conservativism, but I wanted to find out why the GOP currently has taken over all aspects of both the federal government and 32 of the state’s governments. After much research and analysis, I found, political ideologies and movements are created and shaped by specific individuals who have been able to coalesce groups of like-minded people or influence others to join their groups. The remainder of this discussion is about those people and how they have taken the conservative movement from disarray in the '60s to where it is today. The story begins with President Johnson.
President Johnson's Great Society
After JFK was assassinated, LBJ became president. During his first term, he instituted many liberal policies, including The Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty, all in the name of creating a Great Society. After the Civil Rights Act passed, many of The Southern Democrats left the democratic party and joined the ranks of the Southern Republican Dixiecrats.
Barry Goldwater's Manifesto
After Barry Goldwater lost the race for president against LBJ, Goldwater wrote a book called the Conscience of a Conservative. It is important to understand, that at this time Goldwater saw that the conservative party was in a state of disarray and had many competing factions. In his book, Goldwater outlines the tenets of what he thought an organized and formidable conservative party should look like. It just so happens, I just read his book and it gave me the impetus to write this article. The following are quotes from each chapter that encapsulate his principles
- Chapter 1: The Conscience of a Conservative – "Conservatives should look upon politics as achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the social order."
- Chapter 2: The perils of Power – "My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do damage to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose."
- Chapter 3: States’ Rights – "Nothing could so far advance the cause of freedom as for state officials throughout the land to assert their rightful claims to lost state power; and for the federal government to withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction which the Constitution reserved to the states."
- Chapter 4: And Civil Rights – "Let us, through persuasion and education, see, to improve institutions we deem defective. But let us in doing so, respect the orderly process of the law. Any other course enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom."
- Chapter 5: Freedom for the farmer – "Farmers have a more intimate knowledge than most of us of the consequences of unlimited government power, and so it would seem, a greater interest than most in returning agriculture to freedom and economic sanity."
- Chapter 6: Freedom for Labor – "Let us henceforth make war on all monopolies – whether corporate or union. The enemy of freedom is unrestrained power, and the champions of freedom will fight against the concentration of power wherever they find it."
- Chapter 7: Taxes and Spending – "By reducing taxes and spending, we will not only return to the individual the means with which he can assert his freedom and dignity but also guarantee to the nation the economic strength that will always be its ultimate defense against foreign foes."
- Chapter 8: Welfare State – "The material and spiritual sides of man are intertwined. It is impossible for the State to assume responsibility for one without intruding on the essential nature of the other. If we take from a man the personal responsibility for caring for his material needs, we take from him also the will and the opportunity to be free."
- Chapter 9: Some Notes on Education – "We will not rush to the federal treasury with requests for money. We will focus attention of our local community and make sure that our schools private and public are performing the job the Nation has the right to expect of them."
The Distortion of Goldwater’s Manifesto
Even as a liberal, I feel that most of Goldwater’s principles are reasonable. However at that time, there were others who wanted the conservative party to have much broader, sustained political power.
One of these people was Paul Wyerich who was a chief strategist for Goldwater during his 1964 campaign. To expand the base, his idea was to recruit Evangelical Christians, who were corporate polluters, and who were angry about the environmental laws that were passed after Earth Day. Wyerich saw this as an opportunity to form an alliance between big business and the ideological zealots of the Christian Right. He created the Heritage Foundation to serve that purpose.
He brought a preacher named Jerry Falwell into the fold who launched the Moral Majority in 1979. He then began recruiting foot soldiers for “moral issues.” Pat Robinson also launched the Christian Coalition around the same time which bolstered the Christian Right-wing movement, even further.
Source: Paul Wyerich, wikipedia
The Fairness Doctrine
The Fairness doctrine had been in effect since 1949 and was a policy that required the holders of radio and TV broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC's view—honest, equitable, and balanced. A bill was brought before congress to codify the doctrine, but there were those who thought the doctrine was in violation of free speech. In 1987, the Fairness Doctrine was vetoed by Reagan and was never made into law.
Until this day, there are those who believe the veto of The Fairness Doctrine opened the door for conservative talk radio and television. Of course, there are also those who believe it did not have any bearing on the launching of conservative news media.
Frank Luntz and The Republican Play Book
Frank Luntz is a republican strategist, pollster, and word smith who has developed a republican playbook that has been published each year since 1990. The book is an essentially “Say this, not that” strategy for republicans to move their electorate emotionally. Luntz believes the key to motivating people is by using words that move them emotionally. He has developed this into a fine art, by interviewing groups and seeing what words move them towards the republican agenda and away from the democratic agenda.
Luntz served as Newt Gingrich's pollster in the mid-1990s for the Contract with America. During that time, he helped Gingrich produce GOPAC, a memo that encouraged Republicans to "speak like Newt" by describing Democrats and Democratic policies using words such as "corrupt," "devour," "greed," "hypocrisy," "liberal," "sick," and "traitors." Below is a sampling of words from his playbook
Source: Frank Luntz, conservative Language.com
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ALEC ( The American Legislative Exchange Council)
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a national policy organization that was co-founded by Paul Weyrich (Does the name sound familiar?), Henry Hyde, who later became a U.S. congressman, and Lou Barnett, who later became national political director of Ronald Reagan. Its purpose is to provide a forum for state legislators, corporations, and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange state-level public policy issues. ALEC members, including state legislators and corporate representatives, meet in secret task forces on specific issue areas (i.e., environment and energy, worker’s rights, etc.) and collaborate to write model legislation. Once the task force completes a model bill it is approved by the ALEC membership and governing board. Once bills clear those hurdles, they become official ALEC “model policies,” which are disseminated to state legislators and further are presented to congress. In some sense, it is a case of the "tail wagging the dog." Here is a sampling of the types of bills that are passed on to state legislatures:
- Stand Your Ground laws
- Voter identification
- Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act
- Criminal sentencing and prison management
- Energy and the environment
- Telecommunications and information technology
- Health care
- Privatization of Education
Below is a comparison of a model bill submitted to the State of Wisconsin. Notice to the right is the ALEC bill and to the left is the state of Wisconsin bill. They are essentially identical. The only thing that is different is the letter head and the capitalization of the word "Department."
Source: Bill Moyers, ALEC
The Tea Party
CNBC's Rick Santelli is widely credited with launching the grassroots movement. While standing on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19, 2009, he unleashed what can only be called a rant against the Obama Administration's proposal to help homeowners facing foreclosure refinance their mortgages.
"Do we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages?" he asked. "This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" He went on to suggest that he would organize a Chicago Tea Party in July, where capitalists would dump "some derivative securities into Lake Michigan." The video of his tirade became a YouTube hit, and the movement was born. Within weeks, Tea Party protests were sprouting up all over the country. The Tea Party name, a clear reference to the American colonists' dumping of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes imposed by King George, stands as an acronym as well: Taxed Enough Already.
By the 2014 midterm elections, several prominent Republicans had grown wary of the Tea Party's divisive, ideological agenda. The Chamber of Commerce poured about $7 million into the campaigns of establishment candidates. In Mississippi, the National Republican Senatorial Committee campaigned against the Tea Party's Chris McDaniel, who was challenging Senator Thad Cochran. The strategy worked; not a single Tea Party candidate made it past the primary elections.
However, many members of the Tea Party became notable congressmen. According to a calculation on an NBC blog in the 2010 mid-terms, of the candidates that were backed by a Tea Party group, or identified themselves as a Tea Party member, 50% were elected to the Senate and 31% to the House.
The House Freedom Caucus
The House Freedom Caucus is a spin-off from the Tea Party and serves as a voting bloc within the house republican party structure. They were instrumental in getting former Speaker of the House, John Boehner to resign and for Paul Ryan to become the new Speaker.
The origins of the caucus lie at the mid-January 2015 Republican congressional retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nine conservative active Republican members of the House began planning a new Congressional caucus separate from the Republican Study Committee and apart from the House Republican Conference. The group ultimately became the nine founding members and the first board of directors for the new caucus consisting of Republican Representatives:
- Scott Garrett of New Jersey,
- Jim Jordan of Ohio,
- John Fleming of Louisiana,
- Matt Salmon of Arizona,
- Justin Amash of Michigan,
- Raúl Labrador of Idaho,
- Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina,
- Ron DeSantis of Florida and
- Mark Meadows of North Carolina.
Cambridge Analytica was founded by Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and was primarily funded by Robert Mercer, a behind the scenes funding source of Trump's campaign.
Cambridge Analytica (CA) was a data mining operation that used used quizzes to glean profile information from 80 million Facebook users. The operation used an algorithm called OCEAN to determine the following five personality factors.
Openness – How open are you to new experiences?
Conscientiousness – How much of a perfectionist are you?
Extroversion – How sociable are you?
Agreeableness – How considerate are you?
Neuroticism – Are you easily upset?
With these five factors, they could micro-target individuals and tailor Trump's campaign messages to fit individual values and belief systems and thus influence the outcome of the election. These messages were not only used in TV and radio campaigns but also with door-to-door canvassers. Untill this day, Trump uses this data in his rallies, especially to the electoral college states' audiences that won him the election.
I believe this is why Trump said he could say, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters." Further, I believe this is why his Evangelical Christian base is willing to look the other way when Trump violates their values and beliefs, because of CA, he knows what they are willing to tolerate in terms of their priorities.
While CA was under investigation for exploitation of Facebook users without their knowledge, a chief coder of CA exposed that part of the operation that used foreign entities to influence the outcome of the election. CA was then summarily shutdown and was declared bankrupt.
If you want to learn more about CA, please read my article. The article details all the players and their roles in CA from inception to shutdown. Even though they are shutdown and bankrupt, I believe it will be resurrected under a different name and different players, but with the same intentions of influencing the outcome of elections.
Mitch McConnell and the Biden Rule
After the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Obama wanted to nominate Merrick Garland as Scalia's replacement. However, Senate Majority Leader McConnel invoked the Biden Rule to prevent that from happening. What McConnell was referring to was a statement that Senator Joe Biden made in 1992 when Bush was president. Biden argued that President George W. Bush should delay filling a Supreme Court vacancy, should one arise, until the presidential election was over, and that it was “essential” that the Senate refuse to confirm a nominee to the court until then.
It is important to understand, there was no vacancy for a Supreme Court Justice at the time of Biden's statement. However, McConnell and the GOP have presented it as a precedent and a standard during the Obama administration. And they are using it as a confirmed law, notwithstanding that it was only a statement made by a senator during the Bush administration.
The irony and hypocrisy is that now Trump is nominating Bret Kavanaugh as a replacement for Justice Kennedy's during a mid-term election year. But according to the republican's and McConnell, it's O.K. because it is not during a presidential election year. Now we will have a Supreme Court that is highly leveraged to the right until well into the foreseeable future.
Fox News was created by ,Rupert Murdoch, an Australian born media mogul, as a foil to the network news outlets. It has a very conservative right wing bent compared to what are called the cable outlets main stream media. It also has a much larger audience than the other outlets.
Both the liberal and conservative outlets create a venue for our confirmation bias. That is, we only watch and believe those things that we can confirm fit our values and belief systems. All one has to do is switch between CNN and Fox news at the same time to verify the differences in the material being presented. More than likely, if you are a conservative, you will discard what you see and hear on CNN. If you are a liberal, you will do the same thing only with Fox news. Although Trump calls the main stream media fake news, it really is not. no more than Fox news is fake news.
Since Trump has become president, there has been a symbiotic relationship between Trump and Hannity, they seem to play off of each other to get their news and present it to the public. There have been times where they both have presented miss-information or simply non-factual news. Regardless if it is true are not, it has contributed to the GOP holding control of the government and dividing the country into two very different political camps.
Conclusion and Summary
This has been a long article, but I believe necessarily so. As one can see, the GOP since the time of LBJ, has been focused on taking over the government. Each of the key individuals in the movement have left their legacy that has contributed to the overall goal of government takeover. And now that Trump has come along, it is just what they needed to put the "icing on the cake."
Here is the cast of players and their contribution to the takeover.
- Barry Goldwater - Conservative Manifesto
- Paul Wyerich - Heritage Foundation and ALEC
- Ronald Reagan - Veto of the Fairness Doctrine
- Frank Luntz - The Republican Playbook
- Rick Santelli - The Tea Party
- Jim Jordan - The House Freedom Caucus
- Steve Bannon - Cambridge Analytica
- Mitch McConnell - The Biden Rule
- Rupert Murdoch - Fox News
- Donald Trump - The Icing on the Cake
I truly believe that liberal democrats don't have the genes to to do what conservatives can accomplish. Conservatives are much better at organizing, following through, and attacking their opposition. Whether this is good for the country or not will have to be seen. As one of Trump's favorite sayings is, "We shall see." Thank you for reading and seeing how this story has unfolded.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Mike Russo