Well, here we are in a never-ending cycle of polarization between Left and Right, stronger than anything experienced in the public arena before, even in the Sixties.
Then too, the book of “dirty tricks” Republican campaign praxis, engineered by self-described “Silent Majority” champion Richard M. Nixon, made hay by exploiting class and cultural differences to divide and confuse the electorate.
How does it come that the detestable Nixon –the only U.S. President ever to resign from office in disgrace, let’s not forget– actually looks good in comparison to the ghastly line-up of Rightist idealogues whose unseemly horse-race never leaves center stage in the continuous news feed?
As one who well remembers weathering those fractious times, I’m compelled to admit that old Tricky Dick actually looks good when compared to the contemporary GOP wrecking crew. Something I never, ever thought I’d one day be writing.
I mean, Nixon was a Federalist, after all.
Even he believed in the value of Constitutional government, or appeared to.
You could go so far as to make the case that he, however personally twisted, often did aspire to an ideal.
And this was not an in-name-only governmental structure, in place to endorse the rapacity of industrial power. Nixon set up the EPA.
And until fairly recently, the old collegiality existed in Washington, where across-the-aisle fraternization occurred after hours.
So, what happened?
One monster of ego happened.
One smirking, full-faced Southern White Man happened.
One self-appointed Idea man happened.
I know, nobody can seem to remember what happened seventeen days ago, let alone seventeen years ago– hi, short-attention-span generation!
Why don’t you do a search on, say, “Gingrich” and “GOPAC Memo?”
When Newt and his faction rolled in at the half-time of the Clinton presidency, he openly taught Republican candidates through his political organization, GOPAC, to create a new era– of rancorous incivility.
In the notorious GOPAC Memo, entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” he provided nothing less than a list of words for Democrats to be distributed to Republican candidates.
“Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents,” runs that document.
“Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you.
These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their (sic) record, proposals and their party.”
None of that old-timey “my friends across the aisle” stuff.
Instead– don’t say “Democrat– say traitor.”
Here’s a list of words from the Idea Man, right out of that toxic memo:
abuse of power… anti-(issue)… betray… bizarre… bosses… coercion… collapse(ing)…
“compassion” is not enough… cheat… consequences… corruption… criminal “rights…”
crisis… cynicism… decay… deeper… destroy… destructive… devour… disgrace… endanger…
excuses… failure (fail)… flag-family-child, greed… hypocrisy… impose… ideological…
incompetent… insecure… insensitive… intolerant… jobs… liberal… lie… limit(s)… machine…
mandate(s)… obsolete… pathetic… permissive (attitudes)… patronage… pessimistic… punish
(the poor)… radical… red tape… selfish… self-serving… sensationalists… shallow… shame…
sick… spend(ing)… stagnation… status quo… steal… taxes [of course]… they/them… threaten…
traitors… unionized bureaucracy… urgent(cy)… waste… welfare…
These are not words uttered in the heat of political passion.
This is a deliberate strategy, a calculated tantrum from a bloated ego unwilling to receive any result but its own way.
Human Nature being what it is, you can’t work with colleagues who openly insult you to your face.
The result is… gridlock.
And, if the voters throw up their hands to declare, ‘a plague on both your houses,” all the better. At least nothing will get done.
Remember this when you hear the Republicans piously deploring “partisanship.”