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Political Rant: How We Got Here

FB political rant for the morning — as we contemplate the EC voting taking place as I write. It’s an effort to answer a question oft-asked these days: How the fuck did we get here?

The Republicans began taking power some thirty to forty years ago. The initial strategy was hatched by Lee Atwater and colleagues. Atwater was a brilliant if unscrupulous political operative. He started politically agnostic. He became a Republican simply because he grew up in the south and realized he couldn’t gain power as a Democrat. He was Karl Rove’s mentor. Look him up.

The strategy focused on systematically working at the lowest levels of government: school boards, fire commissioners, planning commissions, land-use and development committees. Very few folks run for these seats and with a bit of push from the party they got their people in. Those who showed a nose for government got tapped and groomed for the next levels: city councils, county councils. The more effective (or more popular) then ran for state legislatures.

They boosted their appeal to the electorate by reaching out to racists in the south, to evangelicals by staking out socially conservative positions on gender, marriage and abortion, to business-oriented voters by emphasizing lower taxes and campaigning vigorously against unions to the point where they succeeded in getting non-union workers voting to diminish the impact of the very organizations that could better their lot. Toss in a dollop of hatred for “elitists” and intellectual (especially scientists) and you have a heady brew.

It worked. Once they had control of a state they pushed their agenda, with ALEC writing prospective bills. And critically, they were in charge of redistricting after each census. With a little practice they became masters at gerrymandering.

During all this the Democratic party did essentially nothing to counter it, acting as though people would vote in their best interest. They knew that the country’s best interests were to be found in liberal policy and assumed they would win with sound economic and social positions — and counting on solid backing from minorities. But people do not vote in their best interest — obviously.

So now we are where we are. It’s a strange place — in a country whose citizenry, as virtually every poll taken in the past half-century shows, supports progressive positions on minimum wage, the environment, equal pay, parental leave, education, Social Security, health care, tax codes, business regulations, voting and gender rights, etc., etc. And what is this electorate doing? Watching helplessly as these policies get whittled away by a party dominated by bigots and oligarchs.

As Thom Hartmann put it: There are only three kinds of Republicans left. The wealthy, those with sufficient power and influence to have been bought by the wealthy and the duped. This last group is large and diverse and was created by policies put in place decades ago.

The election this year was special in several interesting ways. Most significantly “the duped” turned out to be a larger slice of the electorate than most politically savvy observers thought. Too large. They elected someone truly pathological. The center may not hold.

We are in very deep shit, deeper than most people realize. I don’t know how to turn it around. The primary hope I see on the horizon is a shift in demographics. Old white (duped) dudes are dying off. The millennial generation has more liberal and open values but they need to get active and they need to vote.

Or maybe the Trump administration will implode. Fasten seats belts.

When he knew he was dying, Atwater apologized for what he’d done and what he began . Too little, too late. As an old friend put it, just live an ethical life and you won’t have to apologize for anything.

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