Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 1”

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Note to readers: This week’s post on our ‘Discord and Dissension’ project ended up being too long for a single post, and so it will be presented in two parts. This is the first part, the second will follow this afternoon. It seems we have a lot to say, and this is likely to happen from time to time. 😉

As my good friend Jill over at Filosofa’s Word pointed out in her excellent intro to this project last Friday, Wake Up America! 2020 is here, and if you thought 2016 was bad, buckle up your seat belts. Campaign 2020 promises to be one of the most divisive in history. As we speak, the current president of the United States is about to go on trial in the Senate for two articles of impeachment.

And he’s not happy about it.

But beyond the current chaos in Washington, our political system is as dysfunctional as ever. The focus of our project is not just to diagnose the problem, but to offer up some solutions as to what we can do to change it for the better. Those at the top are doing just fine. How can we make sure all of the people benefit? Jill and I both know it’s not going to be easy. Let’s face it, change never is.

The stakes are high, however. Whether it’s climate change, gun control, or health care, why is it that the people never seem to get what they want? When did gridlock become the norm? When did the marriage of our two-party system begin its slow descent into irreconcilable differences?

To answer those critical questions, we must look at some of the significant defining moments over the last nearly six decades to get a better understanding. To treat or cure a problem, it helps if you know the history.

How did we get here?

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Initially proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, he was unable to get the legislation passed due to a filibuster in the Senate. However, Lyndon Johnson was able to push it through in 1964, only a few months after the tragic assassination of Kennedy.

The historic and sweeping anti-discrimination bill was bi-partisan, with several Republicans voting in favor. However, a significant change was about to occur. In those days, Southern Democrats, also called Dixiecrats, vehemently fought against the bill. President Johnson was well aware of the troubled waters ahead and famously predicted that the Democrats would “lose the South for generations.”

He was spot-on. The realignment occurred over several years, but what was once a stable block for the Democrats, became dominated by Republicans. The ideological and geographical transformation of that region still holds today, although demographic shifts are slowly beginning to change the area again.

We began to see the battle lines of the future, though. In due time, the Democratic Party began to identify more with people of color and the coasts, while the Republican Party became more aligned with rural America.

Watergate and Nixon’s resignation

The Watergate affair and subsequent investigation captivated Americans from 1972-1974. Once it was revealed that a taping system existed in the White House, President Richard Nixon was in big trouble. Until that point, he still had the support of the Republican Party. Eventually, that support fractured, and Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Regardless of Nixon’s conduct, many Republicans blamed the Democrats for overreacting to Nixon’s misdeeds. Some never forgave the Democrats for impeaching Nixon. They would get their revenge nearly 25 years later.

Buckley v. Valeo 1976

After Watergate, Congress embarked on a series of reforms aimed at regulating our campaign finance system. However, the Supreme Court changed everything in 1976 with its decision in the Buckley v. Valeo case. At its core, the decision asserted that congressional limits on campaign spending represented an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

The decision also eliminated spending limits on wealthy individuals who paid for their campaigns.

While the Court still left intact governments’ ability to require spending limits of presidential candidates who accepted federal funds, the floodgates were now officially opened. It would pave the way for even more radical Supreme Court campaign finance decisions–thirty-plus years in the future.

Newt Gingrich and Clinton’s Impeachment

Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 and had a rough first two years. The result was the Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress in 1994 for the first time in decades. New Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took over and ushered in a new era of incivility in politics.

Gingrich’s combative and confrontational style resulted in two partial government shutdowns, for which he and his party were subsequently blamed. Clinton handily won reelection in 1996, but Republicans finally got their chance to even the score from the Nixon years. They impeached Clinton in 1998 for lying about a consensual affair with a White House intern.

The impeachment was widely considered partisan by the public, and Clinton left office with high approval ratings. But the partisan vitriol was only getting worse.

Fox News

When he was a media consultant to Richard Nixon, Roger Ailes talked of wanting to start a conservative television network. In his mind, Nixon wouldn’t have resigned if there had been an alternative right-wing outlet willing to defend him. He got his wish in 1996 when he and media mogul Rupert Murdoch founded Fox News.

We see the fruit of Ailes, and his prognostication in real-time as President Trump benefits from favorable treatment by the network as his impeachment trial in the Senate is imminent. While Clinton ultimately survived his impeachment trial, Fox News, even though in its infancy, began it’s a slow ascent to the top of cable news ratings.

As the nineties drew to a close, it was clear that our politics would never be the same. A President was impeached and acquitted; we saw the rise and fall of a combative Speaker of the House; and, a conservative television network began it’s partisan rise to the top. Soon, the nation would experience an election like no other.

Much as it did with the Buckley decision in 1976, the Supreme Court was about to assert itself into the political process. The whole fabric of our democracy was at stake.

To be continued … 

22 comments

  1. It’s very handy to see things drawn up in order like this. When I look back at the 60’s I see it as a time of great hope and of advances like the Civil Rights Act and trying finally to put an end to the divisive practices that seemed to hold North and South so far apart. But de-segregation doesn’t seem to have helped as much as I’d thought and the colour war seems as strong as ever with the vile KKK still walking around. I hope to see something that gives me hope that things can be turned round without some states leaving the U,S,and setting up a Slaving venture in memory of the one that was taken away from them. They seem to long for their Good Old Days though there really weren’t any.
    A very informative piece, Congratulations both.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, David! Yes, I think we all thought by the end of the 1960s that we had largely put racism behind us and moved on, grown & matured. But, turns out it was just lying dormant, waiting for the right catalyst to bring it back out. It has been nourished and fed by the current occupant of the Oval Office, and I truly dread what another 4 years under his regime would to, not only to the U.S., but globally. Thanks again!
      Cwtch

      Liked by 3 people

    2. True David. Remember how we were told by some on the right that since Obama was elected, it proved that racism was no longer a problem in America? Fat chance of that, right? We HAVE made progress since 1964, but it’s always two steps forward, then another step or two back. It’s tough to eliminate when it’s been such a fabric of our society for so long. You just can’t change some people.
      I think Jill and I have the same hope for a better America, and I know you do as well. First things first….let’s get rid of you know who in D.C!
      Thanks for the compliments David. Really appreciate it.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for this reminder of the history of US politics over my lifetime. Very instructive. I look forward to further posts as you both explore the posibilities for averting disastrer on November 3rd. What happens over there has an impact way beyond the shores of USA.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. We may only reach a handful of people, but … it’s a start. I think that any hope for peace in this world depends on a change in leadership here, for as we’ve seen, the current leadership is mired in greed and corruption, and has nearly brought the world to the brink of war at least once already. Thanks again, Frank!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you Frank, and thanks for the reblog as well!
      Remember how we were called that shiny mansion on the hill by Reagan? Well, that mansion is in deep disrepair, and in need of a massive makeover. There’s much to be done, and averting that possible disaster on the 3rd has never been more important. 4 more years of this man? The mansion will become a smoldering shack, burned to the ground…..Ughhhh. Not if we can help it!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Reblogged this on Frank Parker's author site and commented:
    I have been following Jill Denison’s blog for a while now. She is someone who abhors the Trump administration for what seem to me to be al the correct reasons. She hs now teamed up with another US based blogger to explore options for producing a desirable outcome for the USA presidential election on the day after my 79th birthday.
    Whatever happens over there has profound implications for the rest of the world so I make no apology for sharing their discussion as it evolves and would encourage you, my handful of followers, to contribute via comments and shares.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Many, many thanks! You are so right when you say that what happens on our side of the pond has an effect felt ’round the globe, as has been proven over the last three years. Thanks again for helping us spread the word!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All of these disunifying events have happened as our country has gotten more diversely . multicultural in population. Yet our obsolete Electoral College inhibits that factor to skew the election results in an unrepresentative manner.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s preserving ‘white’ dominance. People who do not like that diversity, will not go down without a fight. We’re seeing it play out every day. Obsolete is a perfect word, as it pertains to the electoral college. Unfortunately, it’s not going away anytime soon.

      Like

  5. Because I love America, I am compelled to respond when I see her being hurt. For the same reason, I am compelled to do my best to help her too. In that vein only I persist. You do not love America. The evidence is in your own words. Like all Americans, our opinions are our own, so only you can decide why these things are true. Only then can you prove to yourself whether or not you do Love America. Lastly, once you know you Love her and what that means then and only then will you stop hurting her and have the ability to help. I wish you luck. But, my hopes are slim because the damage is already great and increasing constantly. Thank You for your consideration. Have a Good Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not quite sure what you’re implying my friend. I do love my country. I want nothing better than to make this place the beacon for democracy that we’ve been for generations. You’re right, our opinions are our own. This project that my friend Jill and I began, is meant to first identify where the ‘rot’ began, then search for solutions to make it better. My hope is that the current administration is nothing but a mere blip on the radar..a severe mistake, that reveals the flaws in our Constitution. We can rectify this mistake. We can do better. That’s our hope in going forward.

    Like

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