Thirty years ago the new conservative movement was ushered in with the presidency of Ronald Reagan that signaled the fight to change the nature of American government from a pseudo-democracy to a full-fledged oligarchy. This conservative movement desired to return to pre-New Deal thinking where a few wealthy industrialists held most of the wealth and political power, and working Americans were fortunate to have employment to provide for their families. The New Deal changed all that by providing old-age security, decent working conditions, organized labor, and the opportunity to fare better than the previous generation.
Conservatives have tried various tactics to eliminate New Deal programs, and since Reagan, have chipped away at democracy by transferring power from the people to wealthy industrialists and financiers. It has taken thirty years, but Republicans emboldened by hatred for a Black president, have made their final assault in Congress and statehouses around the country to relegate working Americans to little more than slave status.
It is not that Republicans haven’t tried to transfer wealth and power to corporations and the rich; they just didn’t have the public’s animus in place to use as a wedge between the government and working people. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 provided the wedge Republicans needed to separate the goodness inherent in most people from the dark, racist inclinations of many Americans. The suspicious nature of groups like teabaggers and hard-line conservatives was easy to manipulate as long as Republicans could perpetuate the myth that an African-American interloper stole the presidency and illegally occupied a place reserved for white Christian males.
Ronald Reagan fostered suspicion and contempt for the government during his first inaugural address where he related his belief that, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Republicans have used the small government is better to great effect since Reagan, but have reaped huge rewards since President Obama’s first days in office. For two years, Republicans effectively brought the government to a halt by obstructing legislation, judicial appointments, and even a nuclear arms treaty for the sole purpose of besmirching the record and reputation of the president. However, it was the president’s New Deal-like health care reform law that Republicans used to paint him as a socialist who was eliminating Americans’ ability to choose their own health care. The hate-mongers in the Republican Party parlayed hatred for a Socialist African-American president into sweeping victories in the 2010 midterm elections, and beginning in January began an unprecedented assault on the American people.
It is no exaggeration that the New Deal that gave Americans a quality life is being eliminated by Republicans in Congress and governor’s mansions around the country. The Republican majority in the House is leaving no social program untouched and recently voted to end Medicare and Medicaid in favor of a privatization scheme replete with a voucher system that leaves seniors inadequately covered. Despite the fact that the Social Security Trust doesn’t impact the nation’s budget, Republicans have their sights set on the $2.6 trillion surplus to hand over to Wall Street investors. Although there is beginning to be some push back by Americans shocked that Republicans are destroying Medicare to give tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, there is still a racist element that is so distrustful of a Black president that they are giving their tepid support to white legislators regardless that they are ending a program the racists benefit from.
During George W. Bush’s presidency when the House and Senate were firmly in Republican control, voters rejected GOP efforts to privatize Social Security before the legislature could even bring the matter up for a vote. Republicans knew the popular program dating back to the New Deal was off-limits and quickly distanced themselves from a white president who was attempting to carry out a primary conservative goal. The Republicans had not yet found the divisive issue needed to engender suspicion of the government that Reagan provoked during his tenure as president. In 2009, everything changed and Republicans used suspicion and racial hatred to convince a large segment of the populace that government under the control of a Black president was an entity to despise and rebel against regardless the consequences. After three months of a Republican controlled House of Representatives, the consequences are evident and New Deal-era programs are in jeopardy of being eliminated once and for all.
For 80 years conservatives have attempted to eliminate worker’s rights, Social Security, programs for the poor, and organized labor that are products of the New Deal. The American people though, benefited from the social programs and safety nets and were hard-pressed to vote for politicians who dared touch the government programs nearly everyone agreed were necessary to maintain an equitable societal standard. Opportunistic Republicans perpetuated the myth that President Obama is illegitimate based on his race just long enough to gain control of the House so they could deal a death blow to New Deal programs.
It is an incredibly sad commentary that in 2011, in the richest country the world has ever known, a hate-filled segment of the population has given conservatives what they have coveted for 80 years. Conservatives and their advocates in the Republican Party have never changed their goal of power in the hands of a few extremely wealthy corporations and families. It is a given that Republicans oppose taxes for the rich, regulations on commerce, and social programs for the rest of America, and it’s in their genetics to have contempt for working Americans and adoration for wealthy industrialists. Americans have always had a sense of fairness and charity for their fellow citizens who were in need or had paid into the system so they could have a semblance of security in their old age. And yet, the fairness and charity has been trumped by racial tensions and Republicans were swift to seize the initiative and use the tendencies to separate the people from the government. Once Republicans depicted the president as an enemy of the people, it was easy to portray themselves as champions of traditional America who would reestablish proper leadership in government.
The American people are beginning to realize that under Republican rule, government really is the problem just as Reagan said. If Barack Obama was white, Republicans would never stand a chance at destroying New Deal programs that have been successful for 80 years. But the president is not white and although he revealed a couple of days ago that he is indeed an American citizen, for many Americans he is still illegitimate because he is Black. The president should not have catered to birthers and released his birth certificate because it changes nothing. Republicans have mined the race-inspired birther movement to great effect and successfully began dismantling the New Deal with the assistance of bigots in the tea party. Republicans took advantage of racist sentiments and an economy they destroyed, and like a perfect storm, are wreaking havoc on America. It is a grievous time for America and one can only hope there is a happy ending to this nightmare scenario. One thing is certain, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would despair at the New Deal’s demise, but Reagan would cheer that his party finally made government an enemy of the people with unwavering support of racists and bigots. It is a tragic narrative that will have decent Americans mourning for a lifetime that hate and prejudice were the cause of irreversible pain and despair; but that is the legacy Republicans planned for America all along.