Conservatism's Attacks On Progress

Conservatives had been at their game for over 100 years; a leopard can't change its spots.

A couple of things to keep in mind as you read this. When I say "conservatives," that generally refers to modern-day Republicans, but in the past, before the two political parties changed clothes over civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s, a lot of Democrats from the South were in the rock-solid center of American conservative politics and all the bigotry that implied. So, what have the conservatives/Republicans done for our country besides causing pain and suffering? Not much.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, we saw the rise of the "Robber Barons," men like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Sage, Gould, and others who amassed large fortunes by making deals with politicians and generally fighting against any form of unions and improvements for workers, and they were, by and large, conservatives.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, the failures of Republican Presidents Harding (1921-23), Coolidge (1923-29), and Hoover (1929-33) to plan and regulate banking, stocks, bonds, and the basic U.S. economy led to the Great Depression and the market crash of 1929.

In 1932, FDR was elected in a landslide and, in his first 100 days, pushed through a series of dramatic economic programs known as the New Deal that began to turn the tide and bring us back to employment and prosperity, much as Obama had to do in 2008/2009 after the GOP lax financial controls brought on another major recession.

In 1934, conservatives formed an opposition to FDR's plans, and businessmen (typically conservative) began organizing against labor unions.

1936, most publishers favored conservatives and backed Republican Alf Landon for President; FDR carried 46 of 48 states in the House and Senate.; the working class had had enough of conservative government/economics.

1937: Conservatives, Republicans north and Democrats south, block most new liberal proposals for the next twenty-five years until the 1960s.

1939, Republican Senator Robert Taft leads conservative opposition to liberal policies. He opposes the New Deal, entry into WWII, NATO, and sending troops to Korea.

Through the 1940s and 50s, the conservatives continued to fight against civil rights, worker's rights, and women's rights. In 1952, Eisenhower, perhaps the last moderate Republican, was elected president.

In 1958, the U.S. was again mired in a deep recession brought on in part by conservative economics and their efforts to fight unions. Businessman Robert W. Welch, Jr, and twelve others found the John Birch Society, an anti-communist advocacy group with chapters across the country. Welch used an elaborate control system to keep a tight rein on each branch. Its principal activities were circulating petitions and supporting the local police. The Society became a favorite target of attack from the left and was disowned by many prominent conservatives of the day.

The 1960s turned out to be one of the most challenging decades in our history and yielded some of the most remarkable social changes in our history. John F. Kennedy was elected president and then was assassinated in 1963. His V.P. Lyndon Johnson takes over and shepherds our nation through the mess that is Viet Nam, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. There are demonstrations and riots over the war, civil rights, women's rights, and a host of liberal issues. The conservative's answer to that? More police with batons to beat the crap out of demonstrators.

1963, Governor of Alabama, Democrat George Wallace, one of the last of the racist Southern Democrats fighting against the rights of African Americans, electrifies the white South by proclaiming "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"
1967, A generational rift opens as leftist students espouse Marxism, sexual freedom, marijuana, rock music, and long hair that outrages the older generation. Elite colleges and universities come under heavy pressure from students and the conservatives (but not the smaller state schools and community colleges that generally remain calm).

1968, Nixon is elected president. The Democratic Party splits into five factions over issues of Vietnam, race, and attacks from the New Left. Libertarian economists, especially Milton Friedman and Walter Oi, lead the intellectual charge against the draft. Nixon abolished it as the Vietnam War ended in 1973. Young Americans for Freedom splits into competing, irreconcilable factions. The libertarians, influenced by Ayn Rand, split from the traditionalists and formed the Society for Individual Liberty.

1970, Twenty-eight National Guard soldiers fired approximately 67 rounds for 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis; students at the Ohio University were protesting the Viet Nam war. After students fought with police, Republican Governor James Rhodes called in the National Guard. Students Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, and Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, died on the scene. At the same time, William Knox Schroeder, 19, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital in nearby Ravenna shortly afterward.

1973, Nixon's Republican Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigns amid accusations and investigations of bribery.

1974, Republican President Richard Nixon resigns his office in the midst of impeachment proceedings in the House and Senate.

1980, The decade is marked by the rise of the Christian Right and the Reagan Revolution. A priority of Reagan's administration is the rollback of Soviet communism in Latin America, Africa, and worldwide. Reagan based his economic policy, dubbed "Reaganomics," on supply-side economics.

1981, Reagan promoted "supply-side economics," arguing that tax cuts would stimulate the economy, which suffers high unemployment and high inflation (called "stagflation"). Reagan formed a coalition in Congress with conservative Democrats and passed his major tax cuts and increases in defense spending. He fails to cut welfare spending.

1986, Congress enacted the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the second of the "Reagan Tax Cuts." The act simplifies the tax code, reduces the marginal income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans from 50% to 28%, and increases the marginal tax rate on the lowest-earning taxpayers from 10% to 15%.

1987, Black Monday is the name commonly given to the global, sudden, severe, and largely unexpected stock market crash on October 19, 1987. Reagan gave us tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the working class, record budget deficits, and deregulation of industry and banking, leading to a host of miseries and growing government spending.

1988, G.H.W. Bush is elected. Conservative think tanks 1990-97 mobilize to challenge the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. They challenge the scientific evidence, argue that global warming will have benefits, and warn that proposed solutions would do more harm than good.

This post has gone on long enough. The point here is that conservatives, whether robed in Democrat or Republican clothing, have constantly fought change, social justice, and civil rights. When they have engaged in economics, it has generally led to disaster and the most significant stock market crashes in history.

They haven't changed their tune or ideology in over a century, and they won't change today or tomorrow no matter what they may tell you in the next six months leading up to the 2022 elections, or again in 2024. The American voter needs to understand this is a lifelong struggle for democracy and stop thinking that we have two choices in an election.

We have but one option if we believe in the working class, fairness, freedom, civil rights, women's rights, and addressing the largest problems facing today's society and the world, and that is to put progressives in office from dog catcher to president. It sure as hell isn't the modern Republican Party unless you're a card-carrying member of The Proud Boys or QAnon.