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I am a 1956 Republican. Yes, I am. If you look up the 1956 Campaign Platform of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Republican Party, you will find my views, right down the line, with the exceptions of a ridiculously optimistic view of the peaceful benefits of atomic energy and support for private health insurance.
To be sure, there are many current issues for which that platform has no planks and where, if it had, I might disagree. However, to give you an idea how far to the ideological right the Republican Party has drifted in the past fifty years, take a look at these 1956 Republican party planks:
- support for equal pay for equal work based on gender
- increased environmental/wilderness protection
- support of scientific research and development
- federal money for building schools and roads
- vigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws and ending monopolistic business practices
- strengthening and extension of the minimum wage laws
- greater protection for on-the-job worker safety
- expanded federal assistance to unemployed workers
- strengthening of the right of workers to organize unions
- support for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U. S. Constitution
Do you see my problem? As a 1956 Republican, today I have to vote for Democrats to get anywhere close to my political views! In this present Congress, every issue in this list which came up for a vote was opposed by the current Grand Old Party!
The Other Guys
Not that Democrats did a whole lot better. Obama ran for office four years ago promising to strengthen the rights of workers to organize. Almost as soon as he got into office he dropped support for the Federal card-check bill, putting the issue of the survival of workers’ rights on his back burner ever since. Clinton was no better than Obama. He was elected saying he would protect unions from the ravages of “free” trade and then, once he was elected, he became a rabid “free-trader,” signing some execrable trade agreements which left U. S. workers high and dry.
The Results of Intentional Benign Neglect
Fifty thousand factories have closed in the U. S. since that time and a third of the middle class has slid toward or into poverty. The top 400 families in the U.S. now own about half of all U.S. assets. Democrats are as responsible for this dangerous situation as are Republicans. Do Democrats care about workers or the accelerating chasm between the rich and the poor, a condition which the entire of the Biblical story opposes at every level in every biblical time? Perhaps the difference between our major parties is that Democrats are backing into servitude to the corporate elite while the Republicans have run toward it, embracing a 1%-er, a vulture capitalist and an Objectivist devotee of atheist Ayn Rand’s doctrine of selfishness as their Presidential ticket!
The Embarrassing Uncles
In my day – now I really sound like an old fart – people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the likes of Todd Akin did exist in the GOP. They were considered the whacked-out, unwanted minority, the embarrassing crazy uncle at the party. Now they run the party. The Republican Party was not a libertarian party back then. And it was certainly not the pro-empire party, either.
Today my GOP has merged two evils: international imperialism – an expanded military presence all over the globe – with the view that government has no role for good in the lives of its citizens, except in their bedrooms.
And somehow, my ol’ party has convinced most evangelical Christians in the U. S. to think that this combination of legally supported selfishness at home and military imperialism abroad are Christian positions! This is not factual; it is not accurate nor is it true. Imperialism is always the work of the old dragon in the Bible. And God’s law itself has several provisions built right into it to ensure that a holy people share in order to avoid a society made up of only the filthy rich and the desperate poor.
In fact, Jesus brought an end to that failed old covenant and began a new one at the very time when the leadership of Israel had most completely adopted the imperial model as their own. Israel, as vassal to Imperial Rome, had come to mimic the social/economic/political structures and systems of its overlords.
5%/15%/80%: this is the economic (and political and social) structure of every empire. Five per cent own 80% of the wealth; they have 95% of the power, politically and socially. A nervous middle class of 15% exist to serve the 5%. They own about 10% percent of the assets and have about 5% of the power, meaning, virtually none. The are perpetually nervous because if they displease the elite there are many people among the poor who would do anything to replace a disloyal servant of the wealthy.
Then there are the 80% poor. They own 10% of the wealth and have no power. These are “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses,” as Emma Lazarus called them, “the wretched refuse of your teaming shore.” The words on the tablet cradled in the arm the Statue of Liberty describe the 80% of the old aristocratic empire of Europe, those, who, no-matter what they tried to do, could not break their cycle of poverty. Ironically, the U. S. A. boasted that Europe could send them here and they would become a part of one of the only large middle-classes in the history of the whole world!
The Real American Dream
Because we had a system where people could better themselves! For a while it was true after the Revolution of 1776. You could make a decent living as a farmer or a craftsman and there was no real wealthy elite and very few truly poor. For a century people went on believing we were “the land of opportunity.” Why? Because we had free land. But then, by 1880 the land was gone and the jobs were drying up and the hobo was born and the middle class shrank away. We still believed the dream and people even kept coming here but the opportunity became a myth, a Horatio Alger myth.
A New Middle-class Miracle
Until the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society: four Democratic presidents and programs which envisioned the shrinking away of the wealthy elite and of the burgeoning class of the desperate poor to the proportions of the conditions when the nation was young: a large middle class again and room for even more people who could own their own share of the wealth and fully participate in the vision and life of a democratic republic! Because only a large and fairly stable middle class has the leisure to be able to think and debate and be the “high information” voters without which, republican democracy will fail.
Those four Presidencies plus my guy, the more frugal administration of the Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, saw a miracle of biblical proportions occur. The once-vaunted U.S. middle class was restored. In a two-parent household only one person needed to work. The other could raise the kids with the help of a tax-supported system of schools and libraries and other commonly-held civic institutions.
The family had a car and a house. The breadwinner had a safe, good-paying job. He or she had at least two week’s vacation time and earned enough to use it. Why? Because the breadwinner was either a member of a labor union or else just lived in an economy where the threat of unionization was real enough that everyone’s wages were brought up by the agreements which unions had won for 35% of working, middle class people.
The family made enough to put away some money toward retirement, supplemented by Social Security and a bit of money was saved for the kids to start college or trade school. Starting in the late 1930s the U.S. middle class slowly grew again and gained wealth and power again, until the 1970s.
Is the Dream Over?
And since the ’70s, that once great middle class has been assailed and eroded by one hit after another. By the middle of that decade wages versus real dollars began to go down because of inflation and because laws protecting union bargaining rights were eroded or just not enforced.
Soon, the same standard of living required two incomes, then it required second mortgages, a third job and borrowing on credit cards, etc. We know the story. We are living the story. This is our chapter in the story of signposts toward the coming of the kingdom of God, or not.
How Can They?
And in this story, in this election, is anyone telling us the truth?
No one is telling us the whole truth. One side has wholly sold out to the corporate elite which has decided it is not content with half the wealth; they want it all. That side is lying to us with a flood of negative advertising, purchased for them by five corporate Supreme Court justices who care nothing for a hundred years of legal precedent. That side is doing the bidding of the one per cent, period.
The other side is led by a corporate toady who let me know where he really stands about three and one-half years ago when he announced his Attorney General pick: a silk-stocking corporate lawyer who has never defended an actual person in his life; just corporations! When Obama chose Eric Holder as his AG, I knew my hope for a new FDR was over and that all we had was a new Grover Cleveland, another Republican in Democratic clothing.
Which Is Why…
It is hysterical that the whacked-out right-wing nuts on Fox call Obama a socialist! Obama’s policies are to the right of Eisenhower/Nixon! Which is why I am a 1956 Republican.