Hardly anyone seems to have noticed, but a major realignment of American political parties is almost complete.
Perhaps more than a few people have noticed, but if so they're keeping their observations pretty much to themselves. Could be that some folks simply don't want to believe what they see?
Another possible reason for the silence is that the new alignment all but entirely freezes out very large segments of the American population, a fact that gives politicians and power brokers powerful reasons for trying to keep anyone from noticing.
Progressives are shut out by design.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation magazine, observed on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC Television Wednesday night (March 31, 2010) that “everybody in Washington hates liberals.” Democrats, he added, “believe with Rahm Emanuel that they can do what they want and liberals have to keep voting for them because they have nowhere else to go.”
The theme of that brief discussion between Maddow and Hayes was that “everybody in Washington” is busy doing the work of the rich and powerful, and liberals, who keep demanding that other things happen, are an annoying, if ineffective, impediment to such work.
Hayes is far from the first person to make such observations.
But old-line conservatives also are marginalized and some have been pushed out. Conservatives and the nice, polite folks I think of as carriage liberals have no choice but to step out into the cold with the outspoken progressives or go on doing what they've been doing for years now – giving their money and their votes to people who despise them and routinely screw them over.
One needn't belong to the Guild of Seers and Prognosticators to recognize that they'll go on playing sucker for quite a while yet, probably until they are no longer needed by those who exploit them. It's hard to accept that you've been conned, harder still to realize there is no place for you in the political life of this America.
Progressives, to be clear, are left entirely without a functioning party, with only a bare, literal handful of spokesmen in Congress and no more, if that, in most state legislatures or even on city councils and school boards. Nobody wants them, except for any campaign contributions they might stupidly hand over, and nobody pays them any heed.
Genuine conservatives, as opposed to right-wing activists and dupes, are only marginally better off. There are more conservatives than true liberals in Congress and other legislative bodies these days, but those people are so intimidated and cowardly they rarely say or try to do anything that might actually benefit the public, which means their presence is useless. Anyway, the extreme right is shoving them off the cliff now, just as progressives were launched into the ether by the “New Democrats” in the early 1990s. Many of those still in Congress are electing not to run again.
A two-minute history:
Democrats were mostly liberals –- what we now call progressives -- at least from the presidential years of Franklin Roosevelt until the right began to get a firmer hold on both parties in the 1980s. Maybe the 1970s. Dixiecrats –- the racist, Deep South element of the Democratic Party -– raised a lot of hell and prevented black Americans, especially, and working Americans from making all the progress they should have made up into the 1960s, but they couldn't prevent many progressive economic and humanitarian programs from being established, nor did they push policies that benefited the rich at the expense of the average working American.
Republicans through most of my life, which began in the mid 1930s, were “pro-business” and tended to want to slow or stop programs and policies that strengthened those who worked for a living. Some, but not all, were adamantly against Social Security and Medicare and other “safety net” programs.
At the same time many Republicans had generally humane views of how the country should work –- or, at least, Republicans in progressive states such as Minnesota had such views. There were some throwbacks to the Gilded Age, of course; there were people such as Prescott Bush and the rest of the very rich, very right wing crowd that tried to stage a coup against Roosevelt, and others who fought with all the power they could muster against civil rights for anyone who was not white and male.
And, organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and (at least through the 1950s) the National Association of Manufacturers, always fought to reinstate rule of the United States by a plutocracy. But the majority of Republicans were humane conservatives right up to the point that Ronald Reagan took the presidency and sold a new, harsher form of government to a by then mostly ignorant and self-focused public.
But during the 1950s, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, top U.S. and allied general of World War II, ran a mostly benign administration and warned eloquently of the growth of the “military-industrial complex.”
By the time we got Reagan, the lyrics of the new National Anthem had become “Me, Me, Me,” the sole important goal of the Republican' Party's chief supporters was “more,” and greed had become the country's major defining characteristic.
Not everyone bought it, of course, but the attitudes were sold hard by major media and the people who controlled the bulk of the country's wealth. Most Americans thought it was great.
A bit later we got another Republican, George H.W. Bush, son of Prescott, who started a little war and helped greatly to ramp up corporate influence in government as well as continuing to promote the belief that greed is good.
Finally, then, a nominal Democrat -– but it was Bill Clinton, who sold out the country's poor through “welfare reform” and otherwise took Republican policies and amplified them. Clinton is known to this day by many people as “the best Republican president since Eisenhower.”
Then came George W. Bush, son of George H.W., grandson of Prescott, who embraced the power of wealth and deliberately and through lies and subterfuge got us into two apparently endless wars. He established the United States in the eyes of he world as a brutal international bully that embraces torture and has no use for rule of law.
Now it's Barack Obama, a Democrat who dealt away any chance at real health care reform and is dealing away any chance for genuine economic reform and everything else that progressives might value. He has put Wall Street men in charge of overseeing Wall Street, bankers as overseers of bankers. Obama is a corporate man all the way.
In plain fact, the Democratic Party is in the hands of people quite considerably to the right of most popular Republicans of Dwight Eisenhower's day.
Some of them, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, who now is busy stripping down the jobs bill, can talk a liberal game while at the same time making end runs for the Corporate Team.
There are many nominal Democrats in Congress such as Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, a corporate player all the way. She's good at the little apple pie issues, taking care of individual kids who've been harmed in some way and legal aliens who are being mistreated by our often out-of-control immigration service, but she almost openly disdains progressives and turns a blind eye to causes such as real health care reform, protecting unions from right wing onslaughts, and reregulation of financial institutions.
Klobuchar made no commitment on health care until it came time to vote for the water-weak bill that passed. She flashed a virtual middle finger at constituents who complained about that. Her response to letters from constituents who demanded she stand for real reform was a long boilerplate letter that was sheer, disdainful gibberish and took no stand at all.
The dozens of Democrats like her in the Senate and the many more in the House work for the corporate elite. They unquestioningly do the bidding of the Israel lobby and the National Rifle Association and other outfits willing to pay large in campaign funds, especially if such groups are capable of getting their mindlessly loyal followers to scream at and threatened politicians who don't automatically do their bidding.
In truth, the Democratic Party should now be called the Corporate Party.
And the Republicans?
If we're to get real, we have to call it what it now unmistakably is: The Fox Party.
More and more pundits, reporters, writers, and long-time political observers –- not all of them from the political left by any means -– are openly stating what should be an obvious fact: The Republican/Fox Party has no internal leadership.
It takes its cues, its positions, its “talking points” not from members of Congress and former members of Republican administrations or from any party organization or collection of Republicans but from outsiders, most especially from the screamers and hatemongers employed by Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, the little would-be tyrant-makers vying to be the next Joseph Goebbels.
In so doing, the Republican Party has adopted an almost openly racist stance and a vehemently anti-labor position. It supports a vendetta against the country's poor, and an abusive position against gays, immigrants and anyone else it can use for hate objects to distract a fearful public from the real agenda: the dismantling of democracy and the establishment of a plutocracy in the United States.
It takes a “screw you” approach to the middle class. Many in the middle class -– confused, very badly educated and made more ignorant by Fox and other, less vicious but entirely vacuous news media -– lap it up and beg for more.
It is one of the biggest displays of masochism in human history, but most of those being beaten down won't realize what's happened until they become aware, too late, that their hides have been flayed from their bones.
The parallels between the United States of 2010 and Italy and Germany of the 1920s are far too great to be dismissed. A relative handful of nasty and even evil people have found ways to make brutal policies and stances seem like simple and reasonable solutions to complex problems.
Most people in this country, with its system of training employees rather than educating citizens, never learned that ideas that can be explained with a slogan, especially when they are sold through hate and the victimizing of some segments of the population, are always designed to benefit a handful at the top and will sooner or later, make everyone else victims.
Until George W. Bush sat in the White House, I never thought to see such a move to fascism again anywhere in the western world, let alone in my own country, but that is where we're heading.
Rational, thinking, humane citizens already are almost locked out of the political system. It seems very likely that the rise of the extreme right will continue at an accelerating pace, growing ever harsher. It's also a sure bet that humane conservatives and, even more, the carriage liberals will continue in denial, rather than engage in any meaningful opposition until the right is in complete control.
We have the Corporate Party and the Fox Party and the public thinks, or pretends, we're still living in the age of Democrats and Republicans.
A shocking number of the sanest people I know are seriously looking at moving out of the country, and on reflection I have to say that may be the smart move.