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The Fight for the Great Society: Past is Prologue

April 8, 2011


The Great Society versus Goldwater Anti-New Deal Coalition
Something is afoot in our country. I have been watching for many decades the slow creep of ideological radicalism. When I heard conservative Pat Buchanan say during George W. Bush’s first run for President 10 years ago, ” I don’t know who these people are, but they are not Republicans.” That was a telling moment. What Buchanan was referring to was the infiltration of people who were very much not traditional Republicans, but because the party has traditionally been aligned with business and the wealthier class in America, these ideologues found not only a home, but an easy mark. If the Republican party is a mark, what then is the scam?

In 1964, Barry Goldwater, the Senator from Arizona, was the Republican nominee for President, not former Vice-President Richard Nixon who had been defeated by John F. Kennedy in 1960 and who would go on to become President in 1968. Goldwater was considered a right-wing Republican, but in fact he was a Libertarian. Some characterize him as the father of the conservative movement. That accolade goes to William F. Buckley. But I am telling you — that is the scam. The perception is that the Republican party is the party of conservatives, but there has been a steady infiltration of Goldwater-ideologues who are aligned with Goldwater’s principles and they have emerged this year in full force.

The Patient Journey
It takes patience to effect long term change. What you find is over the course of four decades from 1968-2008 is a gradual but deliberate co-opting of a well-established political party by very wealthy ideologues who are now applying the full force of their influence and resources to press their agenda. This is not some fiction nor a conspiracy theory – this is the real hard scrabble of the politics of power, and we need to pay attention to what has happened and what is unfolding, for as Chris Van Hollen from Maryland said this evening on the Rachel Maddow show, this is just the beginning.

The Message is the Same
Goldwater’s stance will sound eerily familiar to what we are hearing today from the Tea Party: rejection of the New Deal (Social Security), anti-union (Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other Republican held states who have voted recently to strip collective bargaining right from public unions), and anti-welfare (Ryan bill this week to defund Medicare and Medicaid). On top of the rejection of the New Deal is the most important of Goldwater’s goals: to dismantle the New Deal coalition. Republicans use the rhetoric of ‘reform’ to push the agenda — the Tea Party ideologues egg them on to do more, to strike at the heart of the Great Society.

If you are to understand late 20th century politics and how we got from there to here, this is the keystone to the puzzle. What is happening right now is the culmination of years of positioning to methodically dismantle New Deal and Great Society programs — and now this year we are seeing the full frontal assault on the prime target — the New Deal Coalition, which is the heart of the Democrat party. What is the New Deal coalition?

The New Deal Coalition was the alignment of interest groups and voting blocs that supported the New Deal and voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 until the late 1960s. It made the Democratic Party the majority party during that period, losing only to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Franklin D. Roosevelt created a coalition that included the Democratic party, big city machines, labor unions, minorities (racial, ethnic and religious), liberal farm groups, intellectuals, and white Southerners. The coalition fell apart in 1968, but it remains the model that party activists seek to replicate. Source: Wikipedia

Driving a Stake Through the Heart
What the Libertarian Tea Party and Goldwater Republican acolytes want to do is permanently destroy once and for all any hope of the revival of the New Deal coalition. Each area is under attack:

Unions – attacking unions and collective bargaining in States because unions are the most effective at getting out the vote and are the largest contributors to Democrat candidates.

Minorities – Redistricting has been one way to disrupt voting blocks that traditionally vote for Democrats. It’s called, minority vote dilution. Republicans have been pushing redistricting for years in all 50 states. Special attention must be paid to the Voting Rights Act whenever redistricting occurs. Section 2 requires that officials draw plans that do not unfairly dilute minority voting strength* see related below.

Intellectuals – the talking points are circular propaganda that Democrats are elitist and intellectuals who support Democrats are elitist. Liberals are socialists and because they support Democrats, they are socialists. Very clever and effective rhetoric.

White Southern Democrats – they are not nearly as powerful and have generally been supplanted by Republicans. Beginning in the 1960s, the southern cities and suburbs started voting Republican. The white South saw the support northern Democrats gave to the Civil Rights Movement as a direct political assault on their interests and opened the way to protest votes for Barry Goldwater, who in 1964 was the first Republican to carry the deep south. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton lured many of the Southern whites back at the level of Presidential voting, but by 2000 white males in the South were 2-1 Republican and, indeed, formed a major part of the Republican coalition. Since 1968, the South has generally voted for Republicans in presidential elections. Exceptions came in the elections of 1976, when the southern states voted for native southerner Jimmy Carter, and 1992 and 1996, when the Democratic ticket of southerners Bill Clinton and Al Gore achieved a split of the region’s electoral votes. Source: Wikipedia

And the big city machines are all but gone from Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. The death knell came with the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy.

This is not some conspiracy. This is a well-hewn strategy. Also, many people within the Republican party and followers of the party are simply unaware of what has happened. For twenty-somethings, this is all they have ever known. But for someone in my age range, I have seen the covert ways effectively used to infiltrate the party over the years with carefully backed candidates; and then three years ago the biggest move was made – the founding of the Tea Party. At the center of these developments is David and Charles Koch. The billionaire industrialists and lifelong Libertarians may not be the self-appointed ring leaders, but they are the de facto leaders as they have worked diligently under the radar for many years. Money flows from them like water. They have created numerous front groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works to effect their agenda. Americans for Prosperity has been one of the main lobbying groups involved in Wisconsin politics over the past year. Their brand of politics is winner take all.

The Heart of the Matter
The anti-New Deal Coalition for Goldwater had two prickly points: (i) Goldwater lost his bid for President to Lyndon B. Johnson in a landslide victory; (ii) Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ accomplishments flew in the face of Goldwater principles with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, to support humanists and artists. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, enacted less than 10 months later, chartered the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as a private, non-profit corporation. The establishment of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Environmental legislation enacted included:

* Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments
* Wilderness Act of 1964
* Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966
* National Trails System Act of 1968
* Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968
* Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965
* Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965
* Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965
* National Historic Preservation Act of 1966
* Aircraft Noise Abatement Act of 1968
* National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

The impressive extension of FDR’s New Deal through transformative Great Society legislation, had to have stuck in the craw of Goldwater and those Republicans who believed in his principles.

So, what we are seeing today is payback and retribution by the Kochs who are now old men and want one last great victory. It is an attempt to dismantle some of the greatest legislation ever to be passed for the benefit of the American people, the great masses of America. Can we afford these programs? Hell yes. Give us jobs and we will pay our taxes and enjoy the fruits of our labor through fair government. To have us give over to corporations and the wealthy is to hand over our sovereign rights as citizens to an oligarchy. The fight for the Great Society will be the greatest fight of this generation. We must not fail else we will drive our nation into poverty beyond imagination.

“We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age. This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built, but is by no means complete…. It is…a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 14, 1935

[This law] assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half century ago.. . . [The Social Security Amendments of 1983 are] a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites us as a people.”
— Ronald W. Reagan, April 20, 1983

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was established in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, Paul M. Weyrich, the latter of the Free Congress Foundation. The organization has been semi-secretive (makes knowing its members difficult information to find), has been highly influential, has operated quietly in the United States for decades, and received remarkably little scrutiny from journalists, media or members of the public during that time.[1] Superficially, ALEC’s membership is mostly made up of thousands of state legislators, each of whom pays a nominal membership fee to attend ALEC’s retreats and receive model legislation. ALEC’s corporate contributors pay far more to gain access to legislators and distribute to them corporate-crafted legislation.

Minority Vote Dilution – from Redrawing the Line.org
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is a key provision that applies nationwide. Section 2 protects minority voters from practices and procedures that deprive them of an effective vote because of their race, color, or membership in a particular language minority group. Practices that have the effect of depriving minority voters of an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of choice constitute minority vote dilution. During every redistricting cycle, officials must ensure that they draw plans that do not dilute minority voting strength (or deny it altogether) as they otherwise face liability under the Act.

Special attention must be paid to the Voting Rights Act whenever redistricting occurs. Section 2 requires that officials draw plans that do not unfairly dilute minority voting strength. If officials draw and enact plans that violate Section 2, such plans could be subject to legal challenge. A Section 2 lawsuit can be filed by the Attorney General of the United States, who bears primary enforcement responsibility under the Act, or by private individuals and organizations. Redistricting-related litigation can prove both costly and protracted, preventing the implementation of a final plan for several years. Thus, advocates must be vigilant in demanding adherence to, and officials should make a good-faith effort to comply with, Section 2 of the Voting Act. Entire article, click here

The Great Society – Wikipedia, click here

Goldwater, the John Birch Society and Me by William F. Buckley, 2008, click here

Chris Van Hollen – PBS Interview, click here

The Battle for Social Security Presidential Quotes – click here

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