Whither the Elephant

From my History in Politics series:

Where are the Republicans headed? What is their dream of perfection? When they get through with their current shenanigans in Washington and elsewhere, what will the United States of America look like?

One not wholly facetious answer was given in the following manner. How about a country where there are no taxes, no government, and everyone has a gun. And, folks, such an entity is not beyond probability. We have a living example in our own day and age of the GOP nirvana.

Yes, that’s correct. The hard right, especially the Tea Party faction, would turn us into Somalia. No taxes. No government. A populace armed beyond the dreams of the National Rifle Association. And even latter day pirates.

Looking at this amazing revival in the 21st century of the (we thought) suppressed bad ways of the past, we might speculate that many Republicans dream of re-creating the free-wheeling atmosphere of the old Wild West.

Gun slingers everywhere. Trains held up by bandits. Posses. Vigilantes. Every man and woman for themselves (except when you had a barn raising). But that scenario is hardly as pure from the Tea Party mantra point of view as Somalia, USA, would be. Beyond the Mississippi, too much government interference from Washington, D.C. Soldiers – lots of soldiers, paid for by the Feds, manning forts, and the people, damn them, wanted that protection. Also, as legend has it, the publ ic toting of weaponry was not as unfettered as the NRA would have liked it. You had to check your six-shooters at the saloon door. Even non-too-bright cowboys knew that guns and alcohol make for a deadly fix.

Grover Norquist, the GOP’s ultimate anarchist, who’s made a prosperous living by screaming about taxes, has expressed nostalgia for a return to the Gilded Age, when the “robber barons,’ rich on oil and railroads, ruled the roost in the United States. You had to love the Jay Goulds, the Vanderbilts, the J.P. Morgans and their ilk. Pay taxes? Don’t be absurd. These he-men of industry could pour their money untouched into baronial palaces in places like Newport and Bar Harbor and Tuxedo Park. The Federal government let them strut their stuff unhindered…Well, no, that’s not quite accurate. The Federal government of those days in the 19th century gave them the wherewithal – shall we say “stimulus” – to the railroaders, anyway, by the gift of millions of acres of public land, good not only for tracks to run through but for development, as well. The oil boys like Rockefeller, were not long in bringing up out of the ground geysers of petroleum but also striking gold in mining government subsidies.

There’s a true political story that’s always intrigued me. It happened during the Eisenhower years. Remember that Ike, President from 1952 to 1960, was the first Republican in the White House after the FDR-Truman stretch of 20 years. One of the true believers in Ike’s entourage was a young Republican named Carl Hess. He believed devoutly in the GOP dictum that government should be reduced in size and that the unfettered market should determine everything else economically. Hess worked in the Eisenhower Administration for a spell, then abruptly quit. His disillusionment was complete. It was not that his fellow Republicans were working to limit government, he had discovered, but they were working to use their control of government to serve their own private interests. When last seen, Carl Hess was living a hippie life on a houseboat.

Republicans enriching themselves and their buddies. Sound familiar? What we have now in D.C. from the Grand Old Party is a screed that you must cow-tow to the job creators (even if an unholy amount of those jobs are created overseas). To disguise the fact that these so-called job creators, after having received billions in tax reductions and other perks have not created many jobs to date – indeed, earlier on, starting in 2007, either lost or deliberately jettisoned millions of employed workers – the cry is out that we haven’t yet done enough for these holders of the purse. Unless we create more unemployment, more foreclosures, more wage reductions, those “job creators” will not be activated. They are – it can be speculated – waiting for another good old Depression, like in 1929. Beginning signs of the success of their strategy are already appearing: like once middle class kids and their parents living in automobiles, a doubling of applications for government-supplied school meals, crowded food pantries for dispossesed families, pockets of unrest and growing desperation. The Baehners and McConnells and Cantors – the GOP leaders – aim at digging the hole deeper. The labor unions have to be gotten rid of. The money for programs they don’t like – Medicare, Social Security, etc. – must be turned over to market forces, to their cronies and masters, who will make billions from them. They offer only blood, sweat and tears, but it’s not their blood, sweat and tears. It’s for us – the 99% – to suffer.

However, America is stirring. The unfairness of what the GOP has already wrought has touched the public. Our democracy has a history of righting itself when it tilts too far in one direction. President Obama, thank God, has now recognized the nihilism of the utterly unloyal Republican opposition. Years back, when the GOP was totally in power during the 1920’s, they took us down into the depths of the Great Depression. Ever since, they have been working assiduously to undermine the protections that saved us from that cataclysm. This century, so far, a Great Recession has been the fruit of their labors. Time to call a halt.

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