After I was done talking to him I started to wonder: why do so many fail to see the parallels, and why do the Republicans have so much power in the US when it seems that they are overrun and controlled by religious zealots, xenophobes, and power hungry crackpots? I believe, that much of the reason has to do with how successfully the Republican party has attacked its own people, the American public, and conned them into believing that they are really just the other side of the political coin.
There was indeed a time in the history of the US when that was indeed true. Many people today would be surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln was a republican, given that he held the country together during the Civil War and abolished slavery. Teddy Roosevelt who was instrumental in passing anti-combines legislation that broke up the Rockefeller oil monopoly and fostered improved competition, putting an end to the propagation of robber-baron tycoons that were created during the 1860's, 1870's and 1880's, was also a republican. Now, he also started the Imperialism of the US with the Panama Canal, but at least up to this point, there were only minor ideological differences between the Republican party and the Democratic party.
But then in 1919, the Republicans commenced their long running assault on the rights and freedoms of the American people with Prohibition, which made it illegal to drink and eventually gave rise to an era of gangster violence, with mobsters like Al Capone terrorizing cities like Chicago. It was introduced by a Minnesota Republican by the name of Volstead. The Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, vetoed it, but the Republican controlled House and Senate overturned the veto and made it law. The suffering of the American people during the Great Depression, which also started because of their lax, Laizzez-faire economic policies was indescribable. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt, a democrat, who restored confidence in the banking system, and repealed Prohibition as some of his first acts. He introduced the New Deal, which softened the blow of the depression, and started the process of national recovery, although it would take the Second World War to really lift the country out of the depression for good. It was Roosevelt who established Social Security.
It may have been the Democrats under Harry Truman who established the CIA, with the National Security Act of 1947, but it was the first Republican administration after WWII under Eisenhower that really ramped it up into the covert paramilitary organization that we know it as today. Under Eisenhower's watch:
- The US had the McCarthy witch-hunts in which Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican ruthlessly destroyed the lives of many prominent people by accusing them of un-American activities and being communists. He was eventually censured when it was shown that he had done this without any evidence, but not before he destroyed many dozens, if not hundreds of innocent lives.
- The CIA started covert operations in Vietnam, which was then Indochina, Iran, and South America, to name just a few places. Of course when most people think of Vietnam, they think of Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat. While he may have escalated the war, it was the Republican party that dragged the US into it in the first place.
- The Civil Rights movement had begun, but George Wallace, and Bull O'Connor, and other Southern politicians were openly defying the national laws, and it was only at Little Rock, Arkansas that Eisenhower would send in the National Guard to enforce de-segregation in the schools. It was not until the Democrats re-took power in the 1960's that real progress in Civil Rights was achieved. The act that gave black Americans the right to vote was the work or Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy, both Democrats.
- The Cuban revolution in which Fidel Castro took power took place in 1959.
- The War on Drugs, which targeted the poor and disadvantaged gathered steam. There was never any real attempt made to treat the root causes of drug addiction, such as poverty and lack of opportunity. No, the entire war was focused on prosecuting otherwise law abiding Americans for taking recreational drugs.
- The rise of religious fundamentalism, with powerful figures like Jerry Falwell and others, whose mission it was to end women's rights to abortion, end easy access to contraception, block gay marriage, restrict access to even soft pornography like Playboy and Hustler (the People versus Larry Flint anyone?), gathered traction, and became a very strong presence in the Republican party.
- The Iran-Contra scandal broke in which it became apparent that the US was selling weapons to Iran, which was at war with Iraq, when the US publicly supported Iraq, and then turned around and used the dirty money to train rebels in Nicaragua. This was just some of the shit the CIA was involved in during this time - there was much, much more.
- The Savings and Loan scandal in which almost a third of the Savings & Loan institutions failed or otherwise went bankrupt. It was later revealed that many of these had been technically insolvent for years, but due to lax regulatory oversight, they were allowed to continue operating, so that the losses to Americans when they finally did fail were catastrophic.
- Reaganomics took hold, in which tax cuts were given to the wealthiest echelons of American society. These were done on the stated belief that the benefits would trickle down to the American public. Of course, what really happened was that the concept that with great wealth comes great responsibility and obligation was legislated out of the public milieu.