Loyola Phoenix

OPINION: How the Modern Republican Party Became the Most Destructive Force American History Since the Confederacy

It’s still difficult to imagine the time when the Democratic Party dominated Southern politics. Figures who were raised in the tradition of Confederate statesmen came to dominate Southern politics, and these Democrats, or “Dixiecrats,” were perhaps the earliest incarnations of Right-Wing “populism” in American history: They all promised they would “Make America Great Again.”

They lambasted news reporters as liars, called their political oppositions criminals and stoked racial resentment among the predominantly white populations in order to garner votes. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise these figures, and their voters, were furious when the Democratic leadership began advocating for the Civil Rights Act, and shortly after the passage of the act these Southern Democrats began to look for a new political home.

They would find this home in the Republican Party, and following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a sort of mass exodus occurred among the Dixiecrats to the GOP. They took with them the Confederate way of thinking. Now granted, the “Confederate” way of thinking, the thinking of racial supremacy and the destruction of bureaucracy, had existed long before the Civil War; however, in the 1960’s, whereas the Democrats worked to expel this way of thinking from their party, the Republicans openly embraced them. 

Of course, these Neo-Confederates weren’t as explicit in their message of racial hatred as their predecessors. This new brand of Confederate Republicans used code words to describe their “Us vs. Them” mentality: White Americans were “the Silent Majority;” black Americans became “Welfare Cheats;” Hispanic Americans became “Illegal Aliens.” The stoking of racial hatred hadn’t gone away, neither had the resentment of these Neo-Confederate thinkers against minorities; it was simply wrapped differently.

And it was the indignity felt by white America, after seeing less than a decade of advancement by black Americans following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which allowed this thinking to persist, accumulating into the election of Ronald Reagan. Of course, rarely did Reagan refer to racial categories in his speeches. But he didn’t need to: Using terms such as “Silent Majority” and “Welfare Cheats,” he was able to communicate his message to those who still clung to the Confederate way of thought, a century after the war itself. 

But more than that, Reagan also brought with himself a new innovation to the Neo-Confederate philosophy, the concept that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

In essence, Reagan sought the same goal as Jefferson Davis did 120 years earlier: the dismantling of federal bureaucratic institutions and granting powers to state governments. The difference between Reagan and Davis was not in their goal but in their approach: Reagan worked from within the White House, and raised with him an army of anti-government fanatics who worked for the next decade to bring his vision into fruition under the claim that they were working to “Make America Great Again.” 

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In 2010, the Republican Party, in an attempt to find  salvation after losing the 2008 election, created a creature that it could neither understand nor control. This creature was the reflection of the worst impulses of Ronald Reagan and his Dixiecrats, the most rabid form of the Neo-Confederate thought to date. The contributions of this creature to the Neo-Confederates would  be to expand upon the racial resentments sown in the past.

That creature was the Tea Party.

Of course, the initial intention of the Tea Party’s creators might not necessarily have been to create a racist movement; they may have just simply intended to create a “grassroots movement” to oppose the presidency of Barack Obama. 

But as the movement grew, its alignment with Ronald Reagan’s economic policies also came to align it with Reagan’s racial policies. The movement certainly contained members who simply opposed President Obama’s economic policies, but, by so vehemently opposing the country’s first black president and harkening back to Ronald Reagan, the movement also inherently attracted those who opposed the concept of a black man being in the White House.

Once again, the Tea Party wasn’t explicit in its racial resentment. But for a movement that reminisced of Reagan and his policies, they used his code words as well, such as “Silent Majority” and “Welfare Cheats.” And while not fully explicit, the Tea Party was certainly more open in its racism than the Republicans of the past, reminiscing not of Reagan, but of the Dixiecrats; signs like the ones that read “A Village in Kenya Is Missing Its Idiot: Deport Obama!’’ were a common sight at Tea Party rallies. 

The movement was the reorganization of the Neo-Confederate way of thinking, which was dedicated to destroying U.S. bureaucratic institutions and resented the fact that the country’s chief executive was now an African American man.  

Of course, the issue of President Obama’s place of birth would have a special resonance amongst Republican voters, and the saliency of this issue would allow for new a monster to be born within the Republican Party. This new monster would spearhead the birther movement, and a couple of years later, would peddle conspiracy theories that would prove poisonous to the American public. He would lambast news reporters as liars, call his political oppositions criminals and stroke racial resentment among the America’s predominantly white population in order to garner votes. 

 He would also change the vocabulary of the Neo-Confederate thought: White Americans were now simply “Americans,” and it was only they who retained the rights to that title; black Americans became “Criminals;” Mexican Americans, in particular, would become “Drug Dealers” and “Rapists.” And it would be this monster that would reintroduce the concept of “ends justifying the means” to American politics.

In essence, this monster would be the closest thing to a full rebirth of the Confederacy, and it would born inside the U.S. Government.

That monster? Donald Trump.

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The one thing that is rarely defined by Trump is the meaning behind his infamous motto, “Make America Great Again.” What does “Greatness” exactly entail? 

 A common excuse given to Trump’s voters by Democrats and Republicans is he was born not out of racial resentment, but rather out of anxiety felt by “Middle America,” and for them, voting for Trump was an act of rebellion against the “Elites” who have stolen the rewards owed to them.

But the myth of “Middle America” provides a good cover for the real group which put Trump in White House, and rebirthed the Confederacy: white America as a whole. 

In 2016, 57 percent of white Americans voted for Trump, regardless of income or living condition. 48 percent of white college graduates voted for Trump, compared to the 45 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton. More specifically, 53 percent of white college educated men voted for Trump, compared to the 39 percent who voted for Clinton. Trump actually lost voters who made less than $50 thousand a year, while winning majorities among those who made between $50 thousand and $200 thousand. Simply put, the myth of “Middle America” rising up to support Trump is just that: a myth.

 So perhaps what Trump means by the terms “America” and “Again” is  to again have complete socio-economic dominance by white America. In essence, the election of Trump’s presidency is the embodiment of a white backlash against the indignity thrust upon them by the nation’s first black president. That is the political and legislative agenda of the Trump White House: to undo the Obama presidency.

 Thus, in light of those facts, the full meaning behind the phrase “Make America Great Again” becomes clear: Take America back to a time when it didn’t have a black President, when it didn’t allow for the advancement of minorities, when white America ruled without restraint, and their dominance in the country was not threatened or questioned by multiculturalism.

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The Trump presidency, everything that led to it and perhaps even Trump himself can be pretty well summarized by the first two lines of the de facto national anthem of the Confederate States of America, “Dixie”:

 Oh I wish I was in the Land of Cotton/

Old Times there will not be forgotten

 A vote for Trump, for the Modern Republican Party, is the expression of that wish: to be in the land of cotton, to be in the Confederacy, to be in a land of white dominance. The memory of a time when America reflected that hasn’t been forgotten, it has been passed down from generation to generation for 140 years, from the Confederacy, to the Dixiecrats, to the Republican Party, to the Tea Party, to Donald Trump.

 They haven’t forgotten the old times of their forefathers, and when they loudly proclaim they want to “Make America Great Again,” that is what they mean: They want to Make White America Dominant Again. And in pursuit of that goal, they have demonstrated there’s no price they are unwilling to pay, making the Modern Republican Party the most destructive force in American History since the Confederacy.

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