The times, they surely did change…
Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “The times, they are a-changing” was popular during a dynamic political era, a period when grassroots movements—civil rights, Black Power, Chicano, American Indian, anti-war, women’s liberation, etc.—were emerging. These movements profoundly changed the political-social landscape and culture of the country.
Indeed, many things were a-changing in the 1960s. One was the Republican Party. The Republican Party of the early 1960s and today’s Republican Party are worlds apart. For example, in the early 1960s there were such people as liberal Republicans.
“Liberal Republicans” no oxymoron once…
Through the 1930s to the 1960s there was a faction of the Republican Party who held moderate to liberal views on domestic and cultural issues. This faction of the party was known as the “Liberal Republicans,” or Rockefeller Republicans, after Nelson Rockefeller, one of its most high-profile leaders. They saw environmentalism, health care, and higher education as positive things. Although they were at home among the Wall Street crowd and were pro-business, they believed that regulation of business was necessary. They supported labor unions. The Liberal Republicans favored balanced budgets and did not hesitate to promote raising taxes in order to achieve them;
Besides Rockefeller, and his brother Winthrop, Governor of Arkansas, some of the high-profile Liberal Republicans included Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer, Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott, Illinois Senator Charles H. Percy, Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, New York Senator Jacob Javits, and Massachusetts Senator Edward W. Brooke, the nation’s first African-American U.S. Senator elected by popular vote. In fact, in the 1960s, Brooke was one of the major champions of civil rights and lobbied his Republican colleagues to support the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, which the Democratic Southerners in Congress vehemently opposed.
The conservatives in the party, led by Barry Goldwater of Arizona, vehemently fought the liberal Republicans. The 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater as the Republican presidential standard bearer signaled the demise of the Liberal/Rockefeller Republicans.
The high-jacking of the Republican Party…
In the days of the Liberal Republicans, the Republican Party operated from a standpoint of ideology coupled with some semblance of a moral compass. Today’s Republican Party has no ideology. It is driven by hate, by racism, by xenophobia, by plain mean-spiritedness exemplified by Donald Trump, who led the racist “birther” campaign against President Obama and who built his campaign on the racist lie that Mexicans are rapists, murderers, and thieves.
A full discussion of the racist undertones of today’s Republican Party is beyond the scope of this blog. But the following examples are illustrative:
The White House recently unveiled the Trump budget, which calls for deep cuts to programs that help people in meaningful ways. Besides cutting $616 billion from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provide health insurance for millions of poor families, Trump’s budget cuts food stamps by $191 billion, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (formerly known as Aid to Dependent Children) program by $22 billion.
The cuts to food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are predicated on the racist “Welfare Queen” stereotype formulated and promulgated by Ronald Reagan. In a discussion of the welfare system, then-President Reagan described a Chicago “Welfare Queen” —all the dog whistles indicated she was black. This “Queen” lived in public housing and tooled around town in a shiny Cadillac she purchased by ripping off the government for $150,000 by using something like 80 aliases, 30 addresses, a bunch of social security cards, and several dead husbands. Journalists scoured Chicago in search of this brazen thief. But they never found her. That’s because she did not exist—Reagan had made the story up.
Sadly, the stereotype remains alive and well. Never mind that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, more whites than blacks or Latinos receive food stamps and that blacks are not the majority of people “on welfare,” i.e., receiving aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The percentage of whites and blacks receiving such aid is about equal. But polls show that the stereotype that “welfare” benefits mostly blacks persists.
A second example focuses on Trump’s and the Republicans’ obsession with building a wall—couched in the context of “national security”—on the southern U.S. border. This obsession is based on several lies about Mexicans that have a racial dimension to them. One is Trump’s assertion that Mexicans are rapists, murderers, and thieves. Another lie is that undocumented workers pay no taxes but mooch off of the American taxpayers by getting on welfare and using other public social services. And yet another lie is that undocumented workers take away jobs from Americans.
To reply at length to the rapists, murderers, and thieves libel would dignify Trump and his racist rhetoric. I will only say that there is nothing undignified or criminal about men and women who often risk their lives in order to come here to work so as to support their families. The “national security” line is also nonsense. There is not a single instance of terrorists coming into the U.S. via the southern border.
The foreign terrorists who have come into our country have done so via the northern border or have flown in. And, of course, homegrown, white American terrorists like Tim McVeigh did not come into the U.S. through any border. A study by the New America Foundation found that since 9/11, white right-wing terrorists have killed about twice as many Americans in homegrown attacks than have foreigner terrorists.
A favorite canard of the anti-immigrant (read: anti-Mexican) crowd is that undocumented workers don’t pay taxes and are on welfare and use other public services and thus are a huge burden on American taxpayers. Study after study has shown that rather than take money from Americans, undocumented workers donate money to the American economy and thus to Americans. These workers pay billions of dollars in state and federal taxes, but because of their status they do not claim tax refunds. A recent (2013) study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy found that each year every single U.S. state collects millions from tax payments made by immigrants. Undocumented workers also contribute billions to Social Security, but due to their legal status, these workers will not be able to collect SS benefits. These tax and SS payments amount to outright donations to the country’s economy. Moreover, undocumented workers pay billions of dollars in local and state sales taxes when they purchase appliances, furniture, clothes and other goods. Due to their status, undocumented workers do not qualify for public services such as food stamps and “welfare,” etc. Thus, they are not a drain on these services.
Yet another falsehood to which Trump and his minions are addicted is that “them Mexicans” take away jobs from Americans. This is easily refuted by a simple eyeball test. Drive by the fields where stoop labor in 12-hour shifts for less-than-minimum-wage pay is performed. I guarantee you’ll see no line of Americans (white or otherwise) clamoring to be hired. Nor is there a single instance of white folks suing growers for “reverse discrimination” for not allowing them the opportunity to be exploited shamelessly. Truth be told, undocumented workers create jobs. Their purchasing power is in the billions. They patronize not only chain stores but also local small businesses, allowing them to thrive, which generates jobs.
And it’s not all about money: as is well documented, thousands upon thousands of Mexicans crossed the border to volunteer to fight in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and many have fought and/or are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them were killed, wounded or maimed fighting under our flag and saving American lives. Where are the “moochers” in this bunch?
Republicans: Take back your Party!
I acknowledge that not every Republican is a racist and that not every Republican subscribes to the mean-spirited campaign being waged by Republican policy makers, from Trump on down. But the facts are clear: that campaign is being carried out in the name of all Republicans, and Democrats and Independents can’t stop it. Only Republicans can. The decent Republicans need to get their party back by standing up to the racists, to the xenophobes, to those who begrudge feeding disabled seniors and hungry children, to those who have hijacked their party.
Just as previous generations changed the politics of their time—e.g., the young people who confronted the Democratic Party in 1968, precipitating fundamental changes—so can the current generation. All people have to do is revert back to the values they were brought up in and with and consult the holy books they claim to follow. If they do that, I’m pretty sure they’ll come across the blueprint for decency and principled action. c/s
Copyright 2017 by Salomon Baldenegro. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org Crowd photo and photo of farm workers copyrighted by Barrio Dog productions, Inc. All other photos in the public domain.