It used to be ‘The Party of Lincoln.’ Not anymore. There is an old saying that when you’re young you’re a Democrat, and as you age, you become a Republican. There is a simple reason for this — you’ve made it and nobody is going to take your piece of the pie. A superintendent of schools explained it to me during tense teacher salary negotiations: There is a pie and I want it all — you can have your small slice and better be satisfied. If you want more — there is going to be a fight. (For the curious, yes, he was a Republican.)
And that’s the way the cookie crumbles. It is a zero-sum game. The weakest get the crumbs and the strongest get … fat. Sound familiar? It should. It is the way America has operated since the bottom fell out of the economy for workers who manufacture goods in our country — circa the late 1970’s. Then the Reagan ‘Revolution’ sent the problem into overdrive.
Previous to that, the Eisenhower/ Rockefeller Republican Party was fairly mainstream as it oversaw the Baby Boom and the surge of growth for the middle class. They helped lead the infrastructure projects like the interstate highways. They sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas to insure that nine children broke the color barrier. And it was Earl Warren’s Supreme Court that set civil rights in motion with the Brown v. Board decision. (Warren was a Republican, too.)
What changed? Vietnam. LBJ. Civil Rights MLK. Watergate. Nixon. Inflation. Ford. Iran. Carter. And with all that came a heavy dose of cynicism and disappointment. People began to distrust politicians and the government that they led. Some Americans were ripe for a new Republican leader.
Enter Ronald Reagan and the nine words that he claimed terrified Americans, I’m from the government and I’m here to help. Government is the problem he argued. And thus was born the idea that what the government stood for was inherently counterproductive, unfair and Un-American.
What were the facts? Reagan’s nine words were spoken to farmers in 1982 regarding the federal intrusion on their business, primarily food embargoes. He later recanted his nine words when federal intervention became necessary once he became president. (Later, he explained since he was speaking of a specific crisis.1 After all, he made sure the government got…