First of Two Parts
BY VERN TURNER
It may seem like a stretch, but today’s Democratic Party agenda and platform looks very much like that of the Republican Party’s platform from 1956. That was when Dwight Eisenhower was president – you know, the iconic Republican who only decided to become a Republican after he retired from the Army and who was the hero in defeating Nazi Germany.
The question remains, however, how it is possible that what was once Republican and conservative can now be Democrat and liberal?
Eisenhower’s letter to his brother Milton in 1954 flayed anyone who tried to work against labor unions, for example, but then a subsequent Republican president, Ronald Reagan, attacked unions with all vigor. What happened?
The history of post-war politics helps explain this shift beginning with Ike’s final speech in 1960. Many, many writers and pundits, including yours truly, have cited this speech for its poignancy and current affairs validity. He warned this country about the vagaries of war and against allowing the military-industrial complex to dictate policy, both foreign and domestic.
Sadly, tragically, his warnings went glimmering in our assumed role of world policemen against the dreaded communist bogeyman. But what a boon to corporate America it was/is to lead the league in weapons development and sales, both foreign and domestic.
Today, for example, remembering that we are just now finishing our longest military engagements, our military consumes more petroleum products than the entire rest of our domestic society.
To those of us who perceive logic and ironies, this fact drives the Orwellian continuum between wars in and against oil-producing countries and the military’s gaping maw of consumption of this oil for the purpose of killing our enemies, both real and perceived as well as foreign and domestic – if we include the sale of military equipment to our police forces.
OK, so our current president has decided that cops on the beat looking like they just stepped off a plane from Ramadi was just too over-the-top for national harmony. The Republicans of today, however, are screaming that doing this weakens our resolve against terrorism. They are all lusting after another war, this time with Iran. Why?
Well, those F-15s we sold them might be used against us as we continue to sanction Iran for supplying terrorists with men and materiel in other parts of the middle east.
Poor Ike. He must be spinning in his grave. Poor us. We not only ignored his warnings about the MIC dictating policy, but we also ignored the 1956 GOP platform calling for investment in our own people instead of depositing trillions of dollars, billions of tons of metal, and millions of gallons of blood in other countries.
The Eisenhower era cut top bracket taxes from the 90% of the war years down to about 55% in 1956. Try selling 55% to today’s Republicans.
Oh, and our unemployment was down to about 3%. The middle/consumer classes exploded and created the largest business boom in our history up to that point. Labor unions constituted over 50% of the workforce. This was before Medicare, Medicaid and the welfare of the poor.
Mind the ’56 party platform and you’ll find mention of welfare programs for those who cannot help themselves. Furthermore, the GOP promoted investments into public education at all levels, knowing that those investments would pay off. They did. Big time.
Perhaps equally important in understanding the changes in the GOP, we must consider President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Civil Rights and the virtual overnight switch of Southern Democrats to the waiting arms of the Republican Party.
The Republicans, needing southern votes to get Richard Nixon elected, embraced the anti-Civil Rights movement and its proponents while intimidating black voters. This was known as “playing the race card.”
It was almost like the old Confederacy was born again. The Old South has been virtually all Republican since then. It’s still the race thing politically there, and to a lesser extent, socially.
What this illustrates is the drift/lurch to the right by the Republicans [driven by Citizens United-fueled corporate donation racket] and how the Democrats have been dragged along with them such that they are now very much like Eisenhower-era Republicans.
What is really sad is that so few of today’s Republican voters who lived through the Eisenhower years have noticed that they’ve been conned and lied to for 60 years, yet still vote Republican. When will they realize that their responsible party has left them holding an empty ideological bag and using fear, racism and losing economic strategies [Trickle Down] to keep them interested?
People! You’re not that old. Think! Do what Ike wanted. He was the last Republican president who showed interest in all the people of America, not just the richest among them. To the younger generations who only know about Eisenhower from the history books, do a little research into that time to gain perspective of how far right this country has drifted.
As I suggested in my latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, this drift will spell disaster of Civil War proportions if it is allowed to go to the fascist extremes suggested by the Tea Party.
If there are those who want to return to sane times, perhaps creating a hybrid of the Eisenhower years and platform and the most practical aspects of the modern Democrat platform of 2012. I will examine the comparisons in more detail in Part II.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.