How Conservatives Broke Us

Folks all around the world are wondering how so many Americans suddenly went absolutely batshit crazy in just the past few years. They went so crazy that they elected people who were crazier than themselves. Millions of us seemed to simply switch off our sanity the moment Trump announced his 2016 presidential bid. 

The entrenched “law & order, suit & tie” Republican party was no exception. It was a surprisingly easy transition even for them – almost as if they stumbled into their “sweet spot”.

The thing is when we peel back their “sophisticated and rational” veneer, we discover that Republicans (along with their conservative, libertarian, and corporatist benefactors) are the reason we have lost our collective mind. They, using their billions of dollars and endless greed, have spent the last 50+ years engineering their own version of reality for us to live in. 

We were the frog boiling in the billionaires’ pot. It was all around us but we didn’t notice. It was slow, it was effective, and it was planned. 

Sadly, the boiling frog metaphor is all too accurate. These folks have done much to hurt America and its people. Conservatives of all types have been leading us down a path that has been slowly destroying America and literally killing Americans.

Let’s see what’s really underneath their veneer.

The steady stream of blatant and dangerous manipulation from modern conservative voices didn’t just suddenly appear. Decades of messaging and policies from the Right primed us to embrace the hate and bluster of Donald Trump. [maybe move up somehow]

[Buchanan should get his own section]

We can start in the late 1960s when mainstream conservatives hatched a power grab plan that was to be fueled by divisive and anti-government rhetoric. A divide and conquer approach started with their “Southern Strategy” that gently fanned the flames of racism with coded words such as “states’ rights” and “law and order”. [add “segregation”, etc.]  [divisive, patriotic, heritage, overly protective government] [nixon, mcgovern, buchanan] [indicate the Southern strategy continues today]

[need to note that the southern strategy never went away]

Patriotism is another angle that was pursued [at this time]Vietnam War protesters were incorrectly characterized by the Right as lazy hippies, spoiled college kids, and elitists from the Left who were betraying the country and the troops (ironic because Nixon and his operatives purposefully extended the war for political advantage [include the fact most protests were against the government and generals and were largely focused on efforts to “bring our boys home”]

The Reagan era]saw the continuation of the Southern Strategy and introduced an attack on government as conservatives conjured up imagery of countless lazy “Welfare Queens” exploiting an overly generous and wasteful “socialist” government.  They pitted this against a supposedly shrinking number of rugged and righteous individuals who survived only on liberty, Christian values, and their ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.   

While all this rhetoric was slowly taking hold of the American psyche, corporate-funded conservative think tanks were quietly weaving their pro-wealth  “free market”, and “trickle-down economics” ideologies into Republican policies and into our government. For the wealthy, these were policies of their desire and had nothing to do with the common good. Conservatives, led by President Reagan, provided cover for these policies with their rhetoric of “Government IS the problem” and government getting in the way of “free enterprise”.

So their subtle message was: don’t worry about what the corporations and billionaires are doing to you – just blame the government (that we are breaking) and your neighbors and we’ll protect you. Their strategy worked so they stuck to it… and that has led us to the brink…

Imagine how much more effective the Republicans’ early rhetoric would have been if Fox News was around during their early power grab. Now imagine them imagining the same thing. Conservatives knew that mainstream media was too competent at that time for them to have their way with the public – and they wanted to do something about that.

In 1970, aides of President Nixon, including Roger Ailes, conceived, planned, and budgeted for the creation of their own conservative-biased news stories. These stories were primarily for distribution to LOCAL news stations to avoid scrutiny by the major networks. A 318-page memo laid out their plan for unfair and unbalanced disinformation using “our own news” that would provide “a brutal, vicious attack on the opposition.” The plan also revealed their lack of respect for voters and their willingness to manipulate them: “People are lazy, …. With television you just sit — watch — listen. The thinking is done for you.”

(Notice that “thinking” is underlined – that says it all.)

The only thing that kept their “GOP News” from starting up was the Watergate scandal – something they probably would have spun enough to prevent Nixon’s need to resign. We can use the comparison of what Nixon didn’t get away with and what Trump did get away with to understand the devastating impact Fox News has had on truth and the American mind.

It wasn’t until 1996, with the help of cable television and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, that Ailes was able to finally get his Fox News deception machine up and running. Once they had a following, they started to gently groom us. Now they are fully dedicated to dividing us and replacing truth with tribalism. Fox News and conservatives have spent years warping the minds of their followers to the point where they now demand insanity from their favorite news hosts and their politicians.

Fox News was created of, by, and for Conservatives, giving us insight into what conservatism is truly all about – a willingness to harm people and destroy Democracy for their own gain. Leadership based on lies and manipulation will create a void that will be replaced by authoritarians – we are already seeing it.

In the period between the New Deal to the early 1970s, pressure from voters, activists, scientists, and overall human decency was slowly pushing the government to start creating agencies and laws to curtail corporate America’s long-running exploitation of workers, consumers, and the planet. Unfortunately, exploitation was exactly what the business community relied on to keep their profits growing and these initiatives threatened not only those profits but also their power over the filthy masses.

In 1971, The U. S. Chamber of Commerce (a lobbying and advocacy organization for big business) contacted Lewis Powell Jr. to come up with a plan to turn things back in their favor. Powell, an attorney for the tobacco industry battled against the science of tobacco dangers. His instincts for prioritizing profits over life made him just the man for the job. Powell gladly accepted the challenge and came up with a brilliantly evil plan which he laid out in his memo “Attack on American Free Enterprise System” – aka “The Lewis Powell Memo” – aka “The Corporate Blueprint to Dominate Democracy”.

To get us back to the Gilded Age, Powell directed the business community to join forces, share their vast resources and expertise, and spend as much time and money as needed to pull this off. Using this approach, they immediately started forming political organizations, think tanks, and legal groups that slowly and stealthily permeated all levels of government, all types of news media, academia, and certainly the minds of Americans.  The Koch network and the 1000s of political groups aligned with Dark Money today owe their existence and their stunning social engineering successes to the Powell Memo. The wealthiest among us can sway our opinions, beliefs, votes, and actions simply by writing a check or two.

Just as damaging was Powell’s directive for the corporate takeover of the judicial system – he knew this would give the biggest bang for their corruption buck. Since then, conservative organizations and legal groups have been grooming and funneling pro-corporate judges, law clerks, and lawyers into our court system, creating a justice system that favors profits over people. Pretty impressive since corporations did not even exist in America when the Constitution was written. 

Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly, Powell himself was confirmed to the Supreme Court within six months of delivering his memo. Memos show that, under the influence of Justice Powell, the court became comfortable with ignoring precedence and existing laws which started us down the path of corporate dominance by equating money to speech and equating corporations to people, thereby weaponizing the Freedom of Speech against Democracy.  The fox was guarding the hen house. 

Here’s an interesting graphical look at America since 1971…  

At this point, our bipartisan Congress was still functioning. Both sides regularly compromised on policies and got along quite well (even in their personal lives). This appalled the power-hungry Congressman Newt Gingrich who, in the early 1990s, began engineering the dysfunction of Congress. There was always some partisanship in Congress but Gingrich turned it into tribalism.

For Gingrich, politics was not about policies and leadership, it was a war for power – nothing else mattered. He headed up the GOPAC political organization which formalized and distributed his battle plan in training material including a memo called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” which included terminology to demonize and dehumanize Democrats, portraying them as traitors that are out of touch with American values.

Newt’s comfort zone was manipulating the American people. A classic example was when he (or some of his freshman Congressional minions) would regularly castigate Democrats to a completely empty Chamber late at night. It was shown on and distributed to other networks by CSPAN, which was not allowed to show the empty chamber. This allowed him to say whatever he wanted, without rebuttal, to an “attentive” chamber. He was literally acting – and lying to Americans.

His most famous abuse of Americans was his 1996 “Contract with America” which continued the “government is the problem” mantra, but like most things from the Right, it reflected the desires of billionaire donors, which were wrapped in patriotism. The Republicans knew most of these policies would never happen, but they loved the soundbites.

Closing Office of Technology Assessment was one way the Contract with America shifted power to the wealthy. The OTA provided Congress with important non-partisan technical information. Unfortunately, science, facts, and data were counter to most policies of Conservatives and corporate America – so Newt and the Republicans made it go away, purposefully making Congress ignorant. As always, they framed it as saving taxpayers from a wasteful and incompetent government. The OTA was replaced by corporate lobbyists.

Tea Party

Fox – 1996 – maybe before tea party – when did they become assholes? Or were they always this bad

Modern day conservative media. Fox, etc. Murdoch (owns multiple outlets). A small number of oligarchs own a large number of media outlets (including conservative radio).

The attack on education – from James Buchanan to today.

On the other hand, conservatives will label anything the government does for the working class as a “handout” or “the start down the road to socialism” and therefore an attack on Democracy. They take this a step further and make it not about policy, but about people, pitting us against each other, claiming that our government is giving “takers” and even “welfare queens” the hard-earned money of patriots. Conservatives have enough money and reach into various news outlets and social media platforms that they can drill into our heads every night just how “bad” some folks in our society are. Fox News is by far the biggest contributor to this and they incessantly attack anyone who is not white and Christian as the reason America is failing. For conservatives, this intersects nicely with the foundation of hate that they had secured through their Southern Strategy.

Another way they justify not paying taxes is to make us despise our government and prioritize the needs and success of business. It started with President Reagan with his “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help”. This messaging has become more aggressive over the years, describing our Government as being in the way of business success, over-regulating, overtaxing, and, of course, taking our personal liberties away. This ultimately degraded to pleas from conservative pundits to “burn it all down” and ”flush it down the drain”. The purpose of all of this is to create an environment where we don’t mind as much when jobs are sent overseas or when wealth-inspired legislation guts the agencies and regulations that protect us or that essential services are privatized (for even more profit).

Even though it started decades ago with the “Southern strategy” and “trickle-down”, all the rhetoric added up and the results are now front and center all across America. We see it with blatant racism, job losses, and extreme economic inequality along with their inevitable growth in our frustration, depression, and inability to see a future. Tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy defund our government, resulting in decreased public service, especially in the areas of education and mental health, and the lack of mental health specialists. 

This is the oldest game in the book – divide us and distract us so we blame our neighbor while the wealthy take all our money and ruin the country. In terms of the damage caused by years of the conservatives’ divisiveness and wealth-concentrating narrative, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

Conservatives and conservative media outlets have been slowly intensifying their manipulative rhetoric over the years. Their efforts resulted in a widening political divide, a deeper distrust of our government, and increases in hate crimes. The more their base embraced this messaging, the more the conservative politicians relied on it, and in many cases were forced to nurture it to remain in the good graces of Fox News – who were now driving much of the conservative narrative.

Republicans pushed things too far until they finally lost control. When you lose control of the monster you created, you get this:

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Republicans have destroyed truth and they are using that accomplishment to destroy our Democracy. Republicans and conservative pundits and media outlets are continuing their “big lie” about the 2020 and 2022  elections. Minimally, the long-term goal is to sow more seeds of doubt about Democracy so that the actual destruction of it becomes acceptable. However, Republicans in states where they control and Trump lost are using the  GOP-perpetuated pile of “alternative facts” to rewrite election laws that will allow Republicans to decide who gets to vote. If that doesn’t work they might be able to simply overturn election results. Just as Conservatives and Republicans have weaponized the Constitution to take over our Democracy, they are now weaponizing election laws to ensure that there is nothing we can do about it…

Anyway, you get the idea, the Republicans are full of shit. They pretend to be the “true patriots” and “one of us” while they torch our health, wealth, future, and Democracy itself, all in the name of the wealthy, corporate America, and their own personal gains. No matter how patriotic they sound, no matter how adeptly they tug at your heartstrings, the conservative movement is about manipulation, exploitation, corruption, obstruction, and destruction – and nothing else. They are not the “law and order” party – they are the “power at any cost” party.  If at the moment, you happen to feel “safe” in their version of Democracy, then you better start paying attention, because history shows that that feeling won’t last.