Fascism, Fear, And Falsehoods
One of the most remarkable propaganda feats of the Republican party is how they consistently run on fear and racism but somehow their resulting election victories get touted as policy wins. Even more remarkable is how the party successfully runs against their own policy failures. It’s been this way for decades.
Ronald Reagan opened his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the murder of civil rights workers in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan. On the policy side, one of Reagan’s criticism of Carter was the rising national debt. Of course, as President, Reagan cut taxes and proceeded to triple the national debt. George W. Bush took an actual budget surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton, passed another tax cut, and basically doubled the national debt, while leaving the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression to be dealt with by Barack Obama. Yet Republicans consistently used the increasing deficit and debt to run against Obama and the Democrats.
Donald Trump won election, with a massive dose of help from James Comey, running on a message largely based on racism and misogyny. Even so, that victory was, at least initially, attributed to his recognition of “economic anxiety” among the electorate. Subsequent research showed that analysis to be entirely false. Nevertheless, despite having raged against the “Obama debt”, Trump and the Republicans again passed another enormous tax cut that is once again exploding the deficit and increasing the debt.
Of course, it should be no surprise that Republicans rail against debt, pass tax cuts that increase it, and then demand that America’s safety net be decimated to fix it. That has been their MO for decades. Paul Ryan has made a career out of it. And it should be no surprise that Republicans are relying on racism and fear as their closing election argument. That, too, has been their MO for decades. What is new about 2016 and this election cycle is just how open the Republican party has become about its racism, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism, as well as the brazenness of the lies regarding their actual policies.
Steve King openly admits that he believes that Jews are funding the mass migration of Muslims and other minorities in order to create a “slow motion cultural suicide” for white Americans and Europeans, a theory known as the Great Replacement among white nationalists. Republican candidates across the country echo this anti-Semitic view, with ads that mix the images of immigrants and minorities with George Soros, claiming, as Trump does, that the Democratic candidate is a pawn of the globalist left. Other GOP ads attempt to tie Democratic candidates to terrorism purely based on the flimsiest of connections. Many of these ads are not from fringe PACs, but from the official arms of the Republican party. Trump himself decries the “globalists” and declares himself a “nationalist”, using the thinly veiled code words of the alt-right.
Trump, of course, likes to mix his racist white nationalism with bald-faced lies. He declared that the “immigrant caravan”, which is still hundreds of miles from the US border and is purely a foil for his racist rants, is filled with MS-13 members and Middle Eastern terrorists. Needless to say, there is no evidence for this and the preponderance of evidence from media actually embedded in this group of refugees indicates it is entirely false. Mike Pence, who will always carry the President’s water when directed, quadrupled down on Trump’s lie, saying “it is inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border…In the last fiscal year we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico’ ― that means from the Middle East region.” That statement is just false and, in fact, Trump’s own State Department admits that there is “no credible information that ANY member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the U.S.”
Lies that stoke racial fear and division are nothing new for the GOP. Neither are lies about their actual policy positions, which are always told to hide the true agenda of cutting taxes and gutting the New Deal safety net. This year, that approach is typified by the lie of virtually every Republican candidate that they want to protect pre-existing conditions, having taken literally dozens of votes over the last eight years to strip those protections away. Candidates like Josh Hawley are part of an ongoing lawsuit to strip those protections away and yet he still has the temerity to say that he is interested in protecting them. The Trump administration just allowed state to introduce new health insurance plans without protections for pre-existing conditions and is also part of the lawsuit designed to gut those protections. Mitch McConnell has openly admitted that Republicans will try to repeal Obamacare and gut entitlements after the elections.
A corollary to the GOP’s pre-existing conditions lie is that Democrats push for Medicare for All will actually reduce regular Medicare coverage. Besides the fact that there is no evidence for that reduction, most Democrats this year are not running on Medicare for All, although virtually every Republican accuses their opponent of supporting it. But it allows the Republicans to pull out that old chestnut, accusing the Democrats of supporting “SOCIALISM!” which, according to the administration, will turn our country into Venezuela.
But what is truly remarkable is how Trump and the GOP are running against their own failures. Running on protecting pre-existing conditions is in its own way an example of this tactic. Trump promised to secure the border but now he claims that it is going to be overrun by criminals and terrorists. Trump and the Republicans passed an enormous tax cut that was supposed to allow families to buy a new car or renovate their kitchen. That was a lie, and Trump has basically admitted as much by just creating a new, even more brazen lie that he will somehow institute a new 10% tax cut for middle class before the election.
The Republican party hasn’t had a new policy idea since Ronald Reagan and supply side economics. Tax cuts and gutting the social safety net are the only policies they actively pursue. Their decades-long cries of “socialism” now fall on deaf ear among the young who are increasingly open to that approach. The GOP is a dying, aging party that can only win elections with lies, fear, racism, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. The real question facing the country is what this increasingly radical minority party will do if and when these tactics stop working.