The Long Lost Values of the Republican Party

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Photograph of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles Meeting, 08/14/1956. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I tell my friends and relatives in Texas that I am an Eisenhower Republican. I have just finished a book, “Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission” by Bret Baier, the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News. I came away from this book convinced that if Eisenhower were alive today, he would be a Democrat. What has changed?

One obvious observation is that Donald Trump is President of the United States and leader of today’s Republican Party that just voted to shut down the US government on the first anniversary of his elevation to office. Much attention is also being given to Michael Wolf’s new book about the Trump White House. While all of the details may not stand up to close scrutiny, the major picture should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Trump’s career. Trump made no secret of his personality or management style while he was running for the office of president.

What has truly surprised me is the reaction of a vast majority of Republican Party leaders and congressmen to his actions as president. Many of these same leaders publically opposed his candicy prior to his nomination. It is clear, however, that now that he is the president and elected leader of their party, they will follow him anywhere.

Why are they doing this? One answer seems to be that they may be placing loyalty to their Republican Tribe over loyalty to the United States, the Constitution or to the majority of the American people. One definition of Fascism “is a form of government which is a type of one-party dictatorship. Fascists are against democracy. They work for a totalitarian one-party state. … Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government.” 

What evidence exists to support this hypothesis? One of the most compelling is the polling data on Trump’s popular support for him and his policies. The research group FiveThirtyEight shows a timeline plot of multiple polling data. As of today, 40% of American voters support his actions and a majority of 56% disapproves. If one assumes that roughly 50% of the voting public consider themselves to be either conservative Independents or Republicans, this would imply that almost 80% of this self-identified group could be classified as either Tribal, or Fascist, or some combination of both. No matter which, Republican politicians must feel that they need these voters to stay in office.

I am a Catholic.  Many of my Catholic friends say they are Republicans because of the Abortion issue.  The Republican Party has played them like a violin for 45 years.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1973, with the Roe v. Wade 7 – 2 ruling, that the decision of a woman fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) and is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. In the United States, we believe in the separation of church and state issues.

Several Republican Presidents and congresses have been in power since 1973 with a number of changes in public law to protect religious objections by medical personnel. The issue of morality and the exact time of the existence of a fetal soul should be left to the theologians and individuals, not to the biochemists and lawyers.

Other evidence of extreme Tribalism (if not Fascism) is the total disregard of the majority of the American public’s view on the new tax law that they have forced on us. The blatant tax revenue transfer from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy, could only be done by a Party that favors one-party rule. The Republican Party leadership knows they represent a numerical minority of the American public. They know they gained power by structuring Gerrymandered political districts and an Electoral College system that was designed to favor states with a small number of voters.

The election of Trump as president did not just invent this Party overnight. Some trace the beginnings of this Party to the Nixon Administration and the development of the Southern Strategy.  This strategy began to consolidate the electorate with Fascist tendencies from the Democratic Party into the Republican Party.

In the Democratic Party, they were often referred to as “Yellow Dog Democrats” (i.e. they would even vote for a “yellow dog” for any elected position if the letter “D” was behind their name).  Ronald Reagan followed this movement with an appeal to the voter to lose faith in the institution of a bi-partisan government, “. Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem.” and place their faith in only the leader, at that time, himself.

In spite of the growth in the national debt due to his mixed-performance economic policies and almost facing impeachment hearings for trading arms for hostages with Iran, Reagan became a hero of the Republican Party.  Trump observed this tendency of the Republican electorate and appealed to their desire for a “strong leader”.  He told them that only “He” and not the incompetent government could solve all of our problems.  He read the Republican voters correctly.

These values are the antitheses of President Eisenhower’s values or of the traditional Republican Party’s values.  As Supreme Allied Commander, he led the combined armies of the United States, Britain and Russia against two Fascist regimes in World War II.  As President: He sent the 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to uphold the “Brown vs. Board of Education” desegregation decision; He worked to unite and lead a bi-partisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats to create the Interstate Highway System; He established NASA to lead us into space; He created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to invest in advanced research that created the Internet. He did all of these actions while holding the marginal tax rates high to pay for good government and to reduce the national debt.

The distinction between mere Tribalism and Fascism can be a fine line.  It is one that the history of the 20th century has told us not to cross. It seems that the Republican Party leadership no longer represents their traditional conservative values.  One year of the Trump administration has succeeded in making Russia and China great again.  Germany and France, who have lived through Fascist regimes, are becoming the leaders of the Free World. Like the 1934 election in Germany, the 2018 election will be a critical decision point in the history of the United States.

George Donohue is a Prof. Emeritus of Systems Engineering at George Mason University and the president of the South County Democratic Club. The opinions expressed are his own and not those of his University or of the South County Democratic Club. He can be contacted at donohuebvp@gmail.com

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