Every so often, one encounters a piece that demands to be savored and shared, not because it offers new facts or startling insights, but because the writing is just superb. Andrew O'Hehir has such a piece in Salon: "The Republican prison experiment: How the right-wing conquest of the GOP altered political reality."
A few excerpts:
It isn’t that I feel some fervent nostalgia for the good old days of moderate Republicanism, although it’s true that the Nixon-era GOP was only microscopically to the right of today’s Democratic Party on most major policy questions – and decidedly to its left on healthcare and social spending. (Which United States president actually proposed a nationwide, single-payer healthcare system? Well, I’ve already given you the answer.) Go back to Dwight Eisenhower, who presided over a more progressive and redistributive tax code than anything seen before or since, and sent federal troops to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, and in relative terms it looks like Lenin and Trotsky trying to out-radical each other. (The top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans in 1960 was 91 percent. Just try to convince your Fox News uncle of that one.)
Among other things, the GOP’s flight to Crazytown has permitted leaders of the Democratic Party to crawl ever more cozily into the pockets of Wall Street bankers and to become ever more intertwined with the national security state — while still proclaiming themselves, in all innocence and with considerable plausibility, to be less noxious than the alternative. So we see millions of well-meaning people getting ginned up to vote for Hillary Clinton, despite the nagging sensation that the political universe in which she represents the best available option is a cruel hoax. Pay attention to that feeling! It’s the reality we have discarded, banging on the door.
Planned Parenthood is constantly and unanimously vilified by today’s Republicans as a Satan-worshiping, baby-killing feminist cult. But in 1970 it was granted federal funding by none other than the guest star of today’s show, President Richard Nixon. Furthermore, here’s what Nixon said at the time: “No American woman should be denied access to family-planning assistance because of her economic condition.”
I know: Mind blown. Read that quote to any of the 97 current Republican candidates for president and watch their heads explode.
Does anyone suppose that the Koch brothers, a pair of globetrotting culture-vultures whose names are carved in marble on the front of every New York fine-arts institution, give a single solitary fuck about all those Megachurch Dad-Pants Yahoo Apoplexy issues at the supposed heart of the supposed Republican ideology? Unless and until it impacts the bottom line, that stuff is just the icing on the delicious cake the Kochs are baking, a rich and eggy batter of soft corporate fascism inside a candy shell of imitation democracy. Can you smell it? It’s in the oven right now.
I stand with those who think that the plot began when William F. Buckley expelled the Birchers from the conservative movement. The Birch wing, now embodied by the Kochs, took over the GOP, while the Buckley wing (having nowhere else to go) took over much, but not all, of the Democratic party. O'Hehir's essay fails only in that it ignores the role played by neoconservatism (the deformed offspring of Commentary magazine), which has established hegemony over the foreign policy of both parties. Despite this omission, his essay is the best piece of writing that the internet has produced within the past week.
I'll add this. One could argue that the turning point election was not Reagan's victory in 1980 but George H.W. Bush's race in 1988. The key issue in that election was, sweartagod, the freakin' Pledge of Allegiance
, which Republicans supposedly favored and Democrats supposedly hated. The Bush victory taught strategists the unimportance of facts, history or logic. Elections are now pure Id.