I have been reading Andrew Levine’s “Do Elections Make Any Difference?” in Counterpunch. He takes a good deal of his premise from Arthur Schlesinger Jr’s Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference?, whether or not voting for Kennedy or Nixon in 1960 would make any difference. A book that tried to make the proposition that Kennedy needed to win for a myriad of reasons, some valid – so not so much.
Going from there to the Reagan years and how the as the republicans have gone off the the scale to right, the democrats have never been that far behind.
Evangelicals who lived in the South were Democrats and so were Catholics in immigrant communities in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. Most of the former would become Republicans once blacks got the vote, and many of the latter would become Reagan Democrats. At the time, though, these constituencies still voted in accord with their economic interests, and there were many New Dealers within them.
However, it is plain in retrospect that the seeds of conflict between economic and social liberals were already in place. That conflict would erupt full-blown in the Reagan years; it has blighted our politics ever since.
Indeed racism and bigotry was always front and center in the north, though not as in your face belligerent. However one must take into account the history of slavery in this country and how it has always played a very large part in our political and social and economic make up. The plantation system that existed in this country was based entirely on White Male superiority. And attacking slavery was also attacking White Male superiority.
Not only that, those who owned plantations and to an extent those who were just underneath, did not have to do any physical work what so ever. Slaves did it all ! For over 200 years this had been the normal way for southern elites to be elites. I would say even more so than the northern bankers and merchants. Like Wall Street today, slave owners dominated American politics. A little know fact is that is that Slavery was a major bone of contention between the Colonies and England. Not only that but the British and French and Spanish would teach their slaves to read and write and speak proper English, French or Spanish. Where in, in the colonies is forbidden to teach slaves.
One of the first protests against the enslavement of Africans came from German and Dutch Quakers in Pennsylvania in 1688. One of the most significant milestones in the campaign to abolish slavery throughout the world occurred in England in 1772, with British judge Lord Mansfield, whose opinion in Somersett’s Case was widely taken to have held that slavery was illegal in England. This judgement also laid down the principle that slavery contracted in other jurisdictions (such as the American colonies) could not be enforced in England. In 1777, Vermont became the first portion of what would become the United States to abolish slavery (at the time Vermont was an independent nation). In 1794, under the Jacobins, Revolutionary France abolished slavery.[2 – Wikipedia
This White Male superiority also lead to a belief of White Male entitlement, that they expect and deserve to be treated differently, that they are entitled to their wealth and possessions. So it should come as not surprise that the unions, socialism and communism that was taking over the northern cities in the 1920s and 1930 was almost entirely absent in the south. Some of the strongest anti-communists came from the south. For all of this ran counter to the southern White Male plantation attitude that predominated the south. As it looked to them the same as the reconstruction era instigated by the republican dominated north of the time.
The south lay in ruins for decades. Farms, plantations and factories were destroyed. The economy was in depression. On top of that blacks in the south under radical reconstruction were given land and special treatment in government. Given this, the southern White Male hated, despised and – in more than a few cases – could not stand the sight of a black man. The southern Evangelical church, being the main meeting place for people, was instrumental in helping to maintain this attitude. And the republican party for a very long time represented an anti-south IE anti-White Male supremacy.
It is hard to believe nowadays but, on social issues, Republicans in 1960 were no worse than Democrats. With the South already shaky and with their Catholic working class base, Democrats knew they had to watch their step. Republican liberals and “moderates” felt less constrained.
Their base, in those days, was generally more enlightened and better educated than their rival’s. Some of their constituents, women especially, were favorably disposed towards women’s equality, birth control, and even abortion rights. On civil rights, Republicans were generally decent too, though they were seldom ardent; it was not in their nature.
But these republicans were mostly northern republicans and remnants of progressive wing of Teddy Roosevelt. Just listen to a speech my Wendell Willkie some time. Such a person would never even make it into the democratic party these days.
The democratic party was always pro business and even at the outbreak of the civil war a number of democratic areas up north wished to align themselves with the south. The republicans, having ousted Teddy Roosevelt and his progressives and now embracing business, were ripe to be taken over completely by Wall Street after FDR and his New Deal – which many despised. With southern blacks now in the democratic camp thanks to FDR, another thorn in the side of the south. Then LBJ signed the civil rights acts, giving southern blacks the vote. The south went solidly republican.
Nowadays, social liberals are all Democrats; in the Republican Party, the species has gone extinct. However, on the traditional axes of political contestation, both parties have moved far to the right, and there is hardly a sliver of light between them.
They are both dedicated to free market theology; they both worship at the altar of private property. In a word, they are on the same side in the class struggle.
All centering around White Male superiority as one can see. The current republican party despises non-whites and the democrats just like their voting block.
That the two parties were on the same page was even clearer in the days when Schlesinger was drumming up support for his Prince. Then, more than now, it was conceded by all that a substantial degree of regulation was a good thing – not just for the general population, but for (most) capitalists too. FDR had triumphed over Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
However views that appeal to economic elites seldom disappear, no matter how thoroughly they are repudiated; at most, they live on underground until conditions are right for them to burst forth again. Our Reaganite Presidents and our bought and paid for legislators have made the conditions right. Accordingly, in this on-going Bush-Obama era, the repressed has returned with a vengeance.
Driven by ideology or greed or both, capitalism’s class warriors made useful idiots of the GOP’s lunatic fringe. It worked for a while, but the monster they concocted may by now be beyond their control.
The GOP’s lunatic fringe as he says, is made up us frustrated white males and White Male superiority plays so well into the slave holder mentality of the past as well as the anti-union sentiments past and present. And their Evangelical Christian rhetoric is just the same old segregationist dressed up in religious garb. With a FOX news host insisting that both Santa and Jesus were white. You really cannot separate economic, religious and racial bigotry. They are all intertwined. They are all part of White Male supremacy. Which both parties embrace.
Both parties love servitude. The difference – if one can call it that – is in how they treat their slaves.