by David Simington
We Dems will not be able to figure out what to do in the age of The Trump unless we figure out how we arrived at where we are.
Apparently the leaders of the national Democratic Party have not realized a simple truth. In these times, thinking about and discussing political issues do not count nearly as much as manipulating and controlling politically laden emotions. The political, power-seeking operatives who have slowly taken over the Republican Party have used the process of identifying, stimulating, and manipulating politically laden emotions to gain and maintain pure political power, political power whose only goal is to gain and maintain more pure political power.
It is possible to see the election of Trump as the result of fifty years of Republican pernicious insight and destructive intelligence. The pernicious insight and the application of a destructive analytical intelligence were driven by the desire of the early leaders of the Modern Republican Party, led by Richard Nixon, to fulfill in themselves a deep need to feel politically powerful. Intuitively or consciously, most likely with some combination of intuition and reason, they figured out that an effective way to satisfy their need was to organize resistance to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation of the 1960’s.
They gave the name “Southern Strategy” to their plans. The energy pushing the evolution of the Southern Strategy was the energy that words produce in human brains. The leaders of the Modern Republican Party figured out, as had many other people in the history of human politics, that words could react with the emotional forces in human minds and initiate a flow of specifically identified, powerful, politically laden emotions.
A workshop of verbal blacksmiths was organized by the MRP. The task of the word-smiths was to understand that in the context of American political life, specific words and phrases had the power to stimulate, and to initiate the flow of, the politically laden emotional energy latent in racism, fire-powered patriotism, and rigid religious conviction.
The verbal blacksmiths were charged with the task of coming up with words and phrases that seemed to be reasonable references to American political life, but were in fact intended to be words that would stimulate and energize destructive, politically laden emotions. The first product of the efforts of the verbal blacksmiths was “silent majority”. “Silent majority” can be perceived as an apparently reasonable phrase that describes a quiet group of people. “Silent majority” can also can be perceived as a pernicious linguistic device created to unite the vast pool of resisters to Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation, and to make the resisters feel a kinship with each other. “Silent majority” was followed by “neighborhood schools”, “no school busing”, “law and order”, and derision of “affirmative action” and “liberal”.
The word-smiths produced “cut taxes”, perhaps the most successful of their debilitating linguistic devices. The power of “cut taxes” still flows strongly in many American political minds. In many conversations, “cut taxes” has meant: “I am sick and tired of paying taxes to support people who are lazy and don’t want to work and want to stay home and have children that I will have to support, or sit on the stoop and get drunk or stoned and let me pay their bills, and they are mostly not white.”
“Cut taxes” was apparently unrelated to resistance to Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation, but in reality, “cut taxes” was, and is, inextricably linked with resistance to those legislative actions. “Cut taxes” not only fed, and feeds, resistance to Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation; the politically emotional resonance of the phrase “cut taxes” echoed, and still reverberates, in the minds of many voters. The emotional resonance has dulled politically rational mental currents, and has allowed the basic re-writing of the social/economic contract between the members of the American society. Taxes were cut, but not the taxes paid by the vast majority of Americans whose economic success was not astronomical, but only above average, or moderate, or less than average. A lot of people seemed not to notice or to care, until recently, when Bernie Sanders began to speak about the portion of “cut taxes” that has had such a fundamentally negative effect on what had seemed to be the basic social/economic contract between the members of the American society. The concept of “cut taxes” penetrated deeply into the politically emotional minds of people whose taxes were not cut. The economic untruth that taxes were being cut for the vast majority of Americans may have been, and may still be, a sustaining emotional satisfaction in the minds of many American voters who have been caught up in the linguistic assault on American minds carried out by the Modern Republican Party. Many American minds have been dulled to the point where they cannot perceive what is truth and what is untruth.
Words can be powerful, penetrating assaults on the thought pathways in human minds. Words matter, a lot.
The leaders of the MRP realized quickly that simply releasing the political energy in the well of American racism would not inject enough power into their drive to give to themselves an unprecedented degree of pure political power in the United States. They came to the conclusion that they needed to identify other wells of politically laden emotions that they could tap into. They determined that fire-powered patriotism offered another well of politically laden emotions that they could tap into, and release more of the politically emotional power that they had released when they tapped into American racism.
“Liberty” and “freedom” were taken down from their shelves and given a new, useful purpose and life. “Support our troops” entered into the mainstream of American English. More recently, “war on terror” has become a rallying cry.
Soon after the end of the Vietnam War, news reports began to regularly announce the weakness of the American military establishment. News reports told over and over again of the weakness of the American military establishment in the light of the alleged strength of the Russian “communist” military establishment. The news reports impressed on voters the need to spend extensive amounts of the American financial treasure to make the American military establishment stronger and stronger. Reports of the alleged weaknesses of the American military establishment continue.
The verbal stimulation of fire-powered patriotism was accompanied by other, non-verbal means of releasing the politically emotional energy in fire-powered patriotism. MRP leaders began to ostentatiously wear lapel pins that were images of the American flag, the Stars and Stripes. American flags appeared on many vehicles that belched poisonous exhaust. Even trucks transporting cesspool effluent were used to display the American flag.
At the same time, the leaders of the Modern Republican Party realized that the National Rifle Association could become part of “fire-powered” patriotism. Cries in support of the “second amendment” started to fly through the political air. MRP leaders used the NRA as a means of increasing awareness of crime in the United States. Rational political thinking processes were disturbed as the level of anti-crime paranoia, and the level of racism, were simultaneously raised.
An utterly irrational paranoia spread into many minds, a paranoia that made the national government a lurking, hungry monster waiting to devour unsuspecting American citizens. Stimulated paranoia emanating from crime, and stimulated paranoia emanating from fear of the national government, combined with the political emotions in racism. Each stimulus strengthened the other.
The leaders of the Modern Republican Party determined that they needed a third well that they could tap into, and increase the power of their Southern Strategy campaign to cause the flow of politically laden emotions. The third well was rigid religious conviction. The word-smiths of the Modern Republican Party gave a new, politically emotional, sonority to “family values”, “prayer in schools”, “right to life”, “traditional marriage”, and “compassionate conservative”. There was very little public attention paid to the assertion that the most segregated hour of the week in the United States was Sunday morning between 11:00 A. M. and noon, the hour which had become the traditional hour for American “Christian” worship.
The power of “racism” invigorated every atom of the noxious political creation known as the Southern Strategy.
Little by little, the emotionally stimulating, politically laden words of the Southern Strategy were consciously introduced into the bloodstream of the American political system. The drug-like political shots in the arm have been the core of the pernicious effort to undermine the politically emotional minds, and the political life, of the United States of America. The shots have satisfied deep, politically emotional needs in the minds of many Americans. The satisfaction created by the identification and manipulation of deeply seated political emotions has replaced the satisfaction created by the rational efforts to understand and meet the practical needs that have existed in the American community. Little by little, over fifty years, cell by cell, the slow-acting, quietly destructive effects of the Southern Strategy have infiltrated the rational thinking systems of many American voters. Donald John Trump said that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and randomly shoot someone, and many bystanders would vote for him even if they knew that he was the shooter. He was right.
People whose minds have been infiltrated and corrupted by the Southern Strategy have become elected representatives of the Modern Republican Party at the local level of government, and the state level, and the national level. The conscious disabling of the rational thinking processes of many Americans has allowed these representatives to increase the political strength of the Modern Republican Party as they have engaged in well-known, traditional political tactics, especially gerrymandering, and reducing the number of people who vote.
Even minds that might be called “intelligent” are not immune to the cumulative politically emotional effects of the Southern Strategy. “Intelligent” minds are capable of expressing their apparently reasonable and logical conclusions using vocabulary that seems sophisticated and impressive. Fundamentally, the apparently reasonable and logical conclusions reached by the “intelligent” minds are simply the result of the “intelligent” minds finding “reasons” to sustain the emotionally-based conclusions flowing in the “intelligent” minds. The Supreme Court was purposely corrupted with “intelligent” minds that had been dulled by the verbal/emotional assault on the United States known as the Southern Strategy. Voting Rights were weakened as a result of the induced dulling of the minds of some of the members of the Supreme Court. “Intelligent” minds created the “Citizens United” decision, somehow without perceiving that they were extending a gigantic invitation to corrupt politics with the corrosive powers of money. The legal standing of gerrymandering efforts will soon be determined by the human beings who are the Supreme Court. In a sense, the Southern Strategy is an equal opportunity strategy. Anyone can be affected by the pernicious molecule, and suffer from its effects, even minds that might be called “intelligent”.
The Modern Republican Party developed a deeper and deeper understanding of the intricacies of the American media machine. The MRP continues to increase its understanding of those intricacies, and to apply their knowledge to increase the pure political power of the Modern Republican Party. It is not possible to believe that Sarah Palin could be in fact, as well as in image, president of the United States. It is not possible to believe that Dan Quayle could be in fact, as well as in image, president of the United States. It is very difficult to determine the extent to which George W. Bush was in fact, as well as in image, president of the United States during the first decade of the twenty-first century. It is very difficult to determine the extent to which Donald Trump is in fact, as well as in image, president of the United States.
The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 did not result from the failure of the Southern Strategy. More likely, the election of President Obama was the result of the charisma of Mr. Obama, national economic distress, and grinding, needless, pointless war. The election of President Obama has turned out to be only a temporary set-back in the drive of the Modern Republican Party to apply the Southern Strategy, and increase the power of the MRP’s efforts to create for itself a regime of pure political power in the United States.
The election of President Barack Obama was followed by the appearance of the so-called “Tea Party”. There is a great desert of information regarding the founding and the growth of the so-called “Tea Party”. One literary oasis in the desert is “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP”. The article, written by Jeff Nesbit, appeared in the April 5, 2016 issue of
The “Tea Party” did not randomly arise from nowhere. The very quick growth of the “Tea Party” did not randomly, and very quickly, create fields of colorful, but poisonous, vegetative political ground cover. A flood of money was unleashed by the Koch brothers, and other mega-rich people like the Mercer family and Sheldon Adelson. The money irrigated the poisonous, vegetative ground cover. The influence of an organization called “Freedom Works”, led by Dick Armey, is apparent to those who have studied the creation and the sudden rise to pernicious importance of the “Tea Party”. Another literary oasis in the desert of information about the creation and growth of the “Tea Party” is “Dark Money: the Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right”, a book by Jane Mayer. Chapter seven of Ms. Mayer’s book is especially enlightening.
The American Democratic Party has not realized that the Modern Republican Party has exponentially raised its level of understanding of American politics, and the level of its ability to apply and use that understanding to manipulate and manage American politics. The MRP has learned to think like people who have studied and understood American political calculus, while the American Democratic Party continues to think in terms of simple political algebra as it tries to influence American politics, and to increase the social and economic well-being of the American nation. It is not clear from the public comments of leaders of the American Democratic Party that they have understood that the American democratic experiment is close to the brink of failing in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, and the accession to power of his administrative support team. It is not likely that we Democrats will be able to set our ship in motion against the tides generated by the Southern Strategy, if we don’t understand how it has happened that our Democratic, and democratic, ship has slowed almost to a halt in an open ocean while storm winds blow under dark and foreboding clouds.
This analysis of the political emergency that we find ourselves in is unusual, and has not appeared in even the remotest backwater of commentary by journalistic, political, and academic analysts. Even if all these words form an unusual sketch of political evolution in the United States over the last fifty years, it may be possible that they might help some of us to understand how we have arrived at where we are politically, and how we can escape the swells and waves that threaten to overwhelm the past and future progress of the American Dream.
The Modern Republican Party has managed, essentially, to replace, in the political minds of many Americans, a deep, perhaps unconscious, satisfaction arising from the steady, if often very slow and imperfect progress, that many Americans have perceived in the areas of economic and social justice. Fundamentally, that satisfaction arose from rational perceptions of the better life that the American community has been creating for itself over centuries. The Modern Republican Party has replaced that fundamentally rational satisfaction with the comfort of politically emotional satisfaction, even if the cost of the comfortable emotional political satisfaction is a halt, even a regression, in the gradual progress that the American nation has been creating over centuries.
A book could probably be filled with thoughts and implications and ramifications regarding the Southern Strategy, and the effects that the Southern Strategy has brought upon our country. All of the words in this essay are only a hint of the iceberg of thoughts that the Southern Strategy is creating.