He then noted the GOP’s support for assault weapons, opposition to masks and vaccines, opposition to saving the environment, and their all-out war on Obamacare and Medicare-for-All. Casler may have just been flippant, doing the written equivalent of a stand-up routine, but his question deserves a serious answer, so we have to look at the evidence.
It is undeniable that Republican-controlled “red” states in almost every area have higher rates of: domestic violence, obesity, smoking, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, bankruptcy and poverty, homicide and suicide, infant mortality, maternal mortality, forced rape, robbery and aggravated assault, high school dropout, divorce, contaminated air and water, opiate addiction and death, unskilled workers, parasitic infections, income and wealth inequality, COVID deaths and unvaccinated people, federal grants to states (“Red State Welfare”), people living on welfare, child poverty, homelessness, spousal murders, unemployment, deaths due to car accidents and people living with disabilities.
But are all of these things, along with the GOP’s widespread support for Putin, happening because Republicans hate their citizens and revere poverty, death, and disease? Or is there something in the core beliefs and strategies of the GOP that inevitably leads to these results?
It turns out that it is: these terrible results are the direct result of the policies promoting greed and racism that the GOP has used for forty years to gain access to billions of dollars and win elections. Using racism as a political strategy while promoting and defending the greed of the oligarchs always leads to widespread poverty, pollution, ignorance and death, regardless of the country in which it occurs.
We have seen it time and time again around the world: it is happening today in India, the Philippines, Brazil and Hungary, for example. And the GOP has spent the past 40 years marinating in both. Here’s how it went here in America:
The GOP first openly embraced racism in 1964 when the party’s presidential candidate that year, Barry Goldwater, proudly refused to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It was a huge shift for Lincoln’s party, and when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, the South launched a collective “What the hell?!?”
As LBJ told Bill Moyers, “I think we just handed the South over to the Republican Party for a long time.”
Thus, the newly publicly proclaimed belief in white supremacy became an official part of GOP ideology in the 1960s, leading directly to Richard Nixon’s explicitly racist “Southern Strategy” in 1968.
It was later replicated by Reagan speaking ‘states rights’ during his first campaign speech near the scene of the murder of 3 civil rights activists, George H. W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad campaign and Donald Trump’s rants about Mexican rapists and people from what he called “shitty countries”.
But racism alone cannot explain everything. There had to be something else. The second element adopted by the GOP that bridged the rest of the problems occurred in 1980 when it allied itself with religious crooks and greedy wealthy people.
Prior to this election year, George HW Bush and his wife Barbara were strong advocates of Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose abortion. Ronald Reagan, as Governor of California, had signed the most liberal abortion law in the country and was also a strong supporter of Roe vs. Wade and family planning.
Similarly, the white evangelical movement before 1980 was largely supportive of abortion rights. They were furious, however, when the Supreme Court banned preacher-led school prayer and, in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter removed tax exemptions from segregated schools run by white evangelicals.
Jerry Falwell had launched his “moral majority” in 1978 and the uber-Christian Paul Weyrich (co-founder of The Heritage Foundation and the guy who said “I don’t want everybody to vote!”) signed up in the Reagan campaign. .
As Donne Levy writes for George Washington University’s History News Network:
“Weyrich and Falwell realized that the issue of tax exemption based on racial discrimination had limited value, but opposing abortion was a moral issue that transcended racial and religious lines. This was their thinking on the eve of the 1980 elections.”
That year’s election saw the first major merger in American history between a political party and a religious movement largely run by crooks. Republicans began talking about God (the word only appeared in their platform for the second time since the Party was formed in 1856), and preachers and televangelists began openly pushing GOP candidates to the pulpit in defiance of the Nonprofit Corporations Act and the IRS.
The GOP also embraced Falwell’s call for a return to school prayer, hostility to sex education, rejection of women’s rights, affirmation of patriarchy, and open hatred of homosexuality. .
Championing what we would today call the “culture wars,” Republicans fully embraced the anti-science perspective of Falwell and his colleagues, challenging the theory of evolution for the first time and mocking concerns about pollution causing cancer and other diseases.
Within a decade they were even claiming, as Mike Pence wrote in a 2000 op-ed, “Despite political and media hysteria, smoking doesn’t kill.”
As the GOP sank down its religion-induced rabbit hole, its hostility to science was logically accompanied by a hostility to education and educated people. George H.W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh began to speak of “sharp-headed liberals in ivory towers”, openly trashing higher education to bring blue-collar voters into the party.
This was followed by a sustained Republican attack on public education itself by pushing for-profit privatized “charter schools,” an ironic stance as Republican President Dwight Eisenhower had likely done more to advance public education than any president in the 20th century.
Thus was set up the 2020 GOP hostility to Covid masks and quarantines and their 2021 attacks on vaccination. The other big turning point for the GOP in 1980 was Reagan’s open endorsement of the American oligarchs.
Barely four years earlier, in their Buckley vs. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court ruled that when a wealthy person dumped so much money on a politician that that politician pretty much only voted the way the wealthy person wanted, that was no longer bribery but, on the contrary, corruption. “freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment.
In 1978, in a decision written by Lewis Powell (of the famous Powell Memo), the Court extended this right to buy off politicians to American corporations – it was extended to billionaires and international corporations in 2010 by Citizens United.
President Jimmy Carter had stood up for the average person and the rights of working-class people: He even walked from the Capitol to the White House after his inauguration rather than taking a limo. Reagan not only brought back the limo, he transformed his inaugural balls into a lavish celebration of wealth and economic power.
The Democratic Party was still, at that time, mainly financed by the unions; the GOP, however, seized the opportunity presented by the Supreme Court four and two years earlier and put up a “for sale” sign, inviting into the party any wealthy person or corporation who would put in enough money for a candidate Republican can win an election.
The result of all this sad history is that the red states have been turned into sacrifice zones for Reagan’s racial and religious bigotry and the neoliberal economic policies of exalting the rich and shitty against unions that he inflicted on the America.
Television preachers have become multi-millionaires with private jets, their parishioners have slipped deeper and deeper into poverty and addiction, and the ungodly alliance of church and state including Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton we warns is now arguably – behind Great Wealth – the second most powerful political force in America.
Turns out Noel Casler was right, but the story is a bit more detailed than the GOP simply embracing death and disease. These same policies are also making the morbidly rich—from oil barons to televangelists—much richer, and those rich, their businesses, and their churches are reciprocating by pushing back their supporters and redistributing some of their profits to Republican politicians.