I do not understand.
Everyone knows that how a story is told influences the depth and veracity of how the climax or punch line or moral is understood. The story of the election of the current Republican nominee, a person unfit on many levels to lead and govern, begins or at least has a worthy starting point in 1980. Yet the media is completely ignoring this story in favor of a narrative that seems to begin out of nowhere in 2015.
I do not understand why the media does not tell this story as it needs to be told if we are to recover as a nation from the current trajectory toward fragmentation.
Let’s put faces on this story because memory requires human faces.
In 1964 James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (top to bottom) were murdered by a contingent of people representing the local KKK, Neshoba County Sheriff’s Offices, and the Philadelphia (Mississippi) Police Department. The three were part of the “Freedom Summer” campaign registering African-Americans to vote. They were shot and their bodies stuffed in graves dug in an earthen dam.
In August, 1980 Ronald Reagan left Detroit, Michigan immediately after the Republican nominating convention and made a beeline for Neshoba County Mississippi where he delivered his first speech. “I believe in States’ Rights,” he declared.
If you don’t know the history, “States’ Rights” is an argument rooted in the Confederacy of the Civil War, and was the rallying cry of segregationist politicians like Strom Thurman and George Wallace. “I believe in States’ Rights,” declared to a white crowd at the very place that “Civil Rights” marked as an infamous and brutal violation of humanity, was neither accidental nor innocent. It was a raw, blatant, living icon of race baiting and what would come to be known as the politics of cultural wedge issues.
Exploiting cultural wedge issues, if not begun by the Reagan campaign and National Republican Committee, was turned into a high art form by the campaign of 1980.
With funding and strategic support, the Republicans National Committee also enabled the sudden explosion of Jerry Farwell’s Moral Majority that mobilized millions of conservative Christians with fear-mongering and the inciting of anxiety around abortion, sex education, Creationism (which Reagan explicitly endorsed to be taught alongside Evolution), and the propaganda myth of the Welfare Cheat in which millions of urban African-Americans were supposedly milking tax dollars away from the hard working white middle class. There were also issues of international concern, especially fear of the Soviet Union and Iran, but that was not the sole practice of Republicans.
The point is that having no shame about exploiting the worst flaws in our national character in order to win, take power and hold power, has a natural progression and consequence and we are seeing it with the nomination of Donald Trump. Republicans and the media are scratching their heads trying to figure out how ‘this terrible thing happened’ but it is not a mystery nor should they be surprised.
If it continues, on either side, it will lead us into a more comprehensive and violent fragmentation than has already taken place. If the political parties do not stop intentionally exploiting hatred, fear, and division we will see far darker and more horrendous consequences.
There is always fear and bigotry, but true leadership brings people together in spite of their fears and across their prejudices to unite toward a common struggle and goal. It is possible to unite us across our differences but not if the leadership of our national parties are more driven by a lust for power and control than for the common good.