What has happened to the Republican Party? It used to be called The Grand Old Party, the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, but it has lost its way. Abe and Teddy wouldn’t recognize it today; it’s now referred to by many as The Grand Obstructionist Party.
It goes back to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. It paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement.
Many people, especially in the south, didn’t want the schools integrated and resented the federal government interfering with state and local concerns. To mask an element of racism, they made it a state’s rights issue. They preferred a “separate-but-equal” form of education, even though the education of people of color, especially Blacks, was nowhere equal. The school buildings were dilapidated, textbooks were old and tattered, and the teachers were ill-trained.
At this point the leaders in the South found like-minded people in the Republican Party. People that wanted less federal government regulations, lower taxes, and a return to a more Lassaiz-faire type of economic system. This produced a mass exodus from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Those Republicans that were uncomfortable with the new segregationists consequently joined the Democratic Party and took their anti-segregation views with them.
Some states refused to integrate, closed the public schools, and allowed private schools to operate. The minorities were not allowed in the private schools even if they could afford the tuition, which most could not. Thousands of minority students lost months and even years of their education until integration was forced upon those states.
Meanwhile, billionaires like the Koch brothers were pouring large sums of money to support candidates and think tanks that would support their minimalist form of government. They used voter suppression methods to keep the masses from getting any power and using it to pass legislation that would require more taxes, especially from the wealthy. However, consider former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”
These ultra-conservatives didn’t want government programs such as unemployment compensation, Social Security, and national health care of any kind. They only want a government for protecting their property and defending the country from foreign invasion.
But the Republicans needed more votes to win elections, and found a large block of voters in the religious right. By embracing, sometimes hypocritically, the fundamentalists’ repressive agenda of anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, anti-gay marriage, and put prayer and the Bible back in the public schools, the Republicans have now substantially increased their voter base.
You see it in today’s politics where many evangelicals, fundamentalists and dominionists are now in Congress. They push their agenda, support the tax views of the wealthy plutocrats, support the gun industry and the NRA, and kowtow to Donald Trump. They, along with other Republicans, are constantly obstructing any legislation that benefit the general population if it requires more government spending and taxation.
These people need to be voted out of office lest we continue down the road to become a fascist theocracy.
David Keranen is a retired educator. He is a veteran and a graduate of Michigan State and Cornell universities.