I have had this analogy rolling in my mind for a long time. Last night I mentioned it to a friend and he thought it was a quite fitting analogy. My thought is this: for a long time, Republicans have engaged in a war while Democrats have continued with tactics from the past of campaigning during campaign season and trying to govern all other times.
It seems to me that since the infamous Lewis Powell Memorandum written in 1971, all factions of the Republican Party have been mustered into a type of army that is attacking constantly at all sections of our government and social life to slowly attempt to mold America into someone’s version of a right wing radical paradise. They have also used any and all tools at their disposal, especially the manipulation of the Christian religion.
For those of us who were alive before the Powell Memorandum, you can probably remember when campaigns took place mostly during a campaign season. This was loosely defined as at least during the election year. Other times both parties would go about the serious business of governing with only a partial eye to re-election. And at least in the post Great Depression era, most governing was geared toward what was best for the society as a whole, not just how one sector could profit massively from government.
With Powell as a guide, conservatives focused on not only taking over government but also in changing the scope of government and the public discourse on government. As I mentioned to my friend last night, what is the first thing revolutionaries take over when they depose a government? His answer was right on the money: the TV and radio stations. As we look at the rise of what is known now as “movement conservatives” we see that once Ronald Reagan became President, much of the government controls on media were greatly relaxed or dropped. Media consolidated under corporate umbrellas and pro-business, pro-conservative slants on news became the norm
A second front that a revolution deals with is the religious communities. If they can’t work with them, then the revolution will try to shut them down. In this case we have some of both. Those religious institutions that would cooperate were rewarded. Their followers were given a message that folded in nicely with that of the Republican Party. Pastors often stepped over the line of endorsing candidates but were never threatened with losing their tax exemptions. Those religions that did not fold in with the Republican Party were harassed via the media with various charges of lack of proper fealty to the government.
So in 1971 we had the start of an ideological movement. With the election of Ronald Reagan, many of the restrictions that inhibited the growth of the movement were removed. With a media that was slowly evolving to being very friendly to Republicans and a religious community that tied everlasting life to voting Republican, the party became extremely aggressive, attacking any opposition. One of their great victories comes in 1994 with the election of the Newt Gingerich led “Republican revolution”.
In the years leading up to this victory, the old norms of campaigning during the campaign season and governing at other times was abandoned by Republicans, but not by Democrats. Every act of governing also became attached to the next campaign. Messages to the masses were sent through the mass media and through the pulpits. For Republicans, the campaign became a daily war to be waged on all fronts.
As Republicans grew in power on the national front, they extended their reach down into the state legislatures, county boards, school boards and city councils of the country. While Democrats usually did not look anything below state legislature as a place to contend for seats, Republicans saw the local boards and councils as great way to extend control.
And with all that came the day to day assault on previous government actions at all levels that had created a solid middle class and a stability in society seldom seen in history. With the breaking down of norms that had created a society headed to more and more equality, the vultures have been able to capitalize and create one of the most unequal societies on earth in just a short space of time.
So we are now at a situation where the Republican Party views the contest for governance as a war to be fought on all fronts daily, often with incredible propaganda as their main weapon which is disseminated through some of the most trusted institutions in the country: the media and the pulpit.
Meanwhile, Democrats cling to a bygone era where politicians were elected by the people based on their stands on issues, usually only responding to the never ending Republican attacks. Democrats fight in the manner of the line battle of long ago. Republicans are motivated by ideology and money to fight in any manner they believe will win with no regard for morality. And they care not about governing, but only to keep government away from their enterprises so they can engage in whatever pursuit they wish, no matter how ugly, with impunity.