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Sunday, October 23, 2011

When the Democrats became Republicans and the Republicans Became Democrats

Wiki Answers

When did republicans become democrats and democrats become republicans?

In the course of our national historical development the United States of America has in many ways exhibited the diverse traits of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The struggle between our two "selves" came most profoundly into focus a mere 85 years after the founding of this democracy "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal"-- when we found ourselves "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure". This Civil War had been precipitated when the author of those words, Abraham Lincoln, was elected first Republican President of the United States in the fall of 1860, and the southern bloc of slave states, which voted primarily Democratic, refused to accept this result, and instead claimed the right to secede from the Union the following spring. South Carolina, convinced that "a lady's sewing thimble will hold all the blood that will be shed" in any armed conflict with the Union (James McPherson, 'Battle Cry of Freedom'), was not only the first southern state to secede, but the first to commence hostilities as well when it fired upon the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor after it refused to surrender, and the ensuing four years of Civil War would in fact claim nearly 700,000 lives on both sides.

Today the heartland of Lincoln's electoral base then-- the densely populated northeastern states which were to make up the bulk of the Union forces, also called the North in the war-- votes staunchly Democratic. Amazingly, the states which formed the Confederacy, also known in the war as the South, contain most of the hardcore base of the current GOP, which began as Lincoln's very own Republican Party. For a physical analogy to this astonishing "turn" of events, try this experiment-- hold a magnifying lens close to your eye and gaze through it at an object across the room. No amount of effort will put the object in focus, but at least it will appear right-side-up. Now slowly move the lens away from your eye, while keeping the same object in view, and suddenly you will lose sight of it in a chaos of blur and color; continue moving the lens until your arm is near fully extended, locate the object again if you can in the field of the lens, and somehow it has emerged from the confusion, somewhat larger and still unfocused but now has completely flipped upside down! And, with a good lens and a long enough arm, the inverted object can in fact be brought into clear focus, though it will remain upside down.

Just as there are complex laws of optics and mathematics to explain this physical phenomenon, so there is a complex, convoluted-- and indeed doubly convex-- history which explains how the Republicans became Democrats and the Democrats became Republicans between the end of the Civil War and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement a hundred years later in the 1950s and 60s. Remarkably, this process is still holding the rudder of our entire ship of state a full century and a half after that Civil War ended-- and that war was in large part itself a struggle over what this nation had really meant and stood for since the foundations of the Constitution in the late 18th century. So the only explanation which makes any sense at all as to why this astonishing and crucial cross-current of American history has been left so un-studied by our academics, so un-discussed on our street corners, and so un-taught in our schools is that ideologists in both parties have good reason to be embarrassed by certain aspects of this "flip-flop" and the process whereby the parties became what they are today. Nevertheless, this process will be seen as the crucial binding "thread", the unlocking "key", which must be understood if we are to follow the many political, economic, and social twists and turns which have occurred in this nation along the way.

What follows, therefore, is an attempt at as brief a synopsis as possible of that blurry, occasionally shameful and embarrassing, often confusing, certainly bipolar and perhaps even somewhat schizophrenic century of US history-- and to bring the present into clearer focus.

On the one hand-- by day if you will-- America was born a child of The Enlightenment, and was in some ways like a brilliant, experimental scientist. As Lincoln himself observed in the brief oratorial masterpiece which he delivered following the tide-turning Battle of Gettysburg during the war, our founders had conceived this nation and dedicated it to certain Enlightenment beliefs and propositions, and the Civil War in which such bloody battles as Gettysburg were being fought was "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure". For the first time in history, the foundations had been laid for the development of modern liberal democracy-- "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", as Lincoln described it. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are still among the finest examples of political theory ever composed. Contained therein are the premises that all men are to be treated equally before the law, and that under this law they are to be endowed with such inalienable rights as life (and all life entails as well as the right to the means of self defense), liberty (freedom of speech and of conscience, due process before juries of our peers, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, habeas corpus), and the pursuit of happiness (as well as the privacy and freedom to pursue it)-- but without the right to usurp the rights of others.

By night, on the other hand, the United States sometimes more closely resembled the hideously transformed Mr. Hyde-- for centuries allowing a form of vile feudalism to fester here, which utilized other humans as chattel property and draft animals based solely on the color of their skin, while at the same time using gunpowder and steel to wage what can only be described as genocide against the original Stone Age hunter/gatherer inhabitants of this continent, who were themselves armed only with carved wooden shafts fitted with chipped points of flint. And besides that, from time to time we have waged war against other nations or propped-up/imposed oppressive and brutal homegrown dictators for such purposes as controlling or even annexing their national territory or resources for our own strategic use and profit, as well.

The fact that some of the men who wrote our founding documents also owned slaves and killed natives for their land, or that our subsequent practice has not always lived up to our lofty ideals, will forever remain as black spots on our nation's history. But before throwing dirt on those founding documents themselves and the promises they hold, remember-- the US was born out of European Feudalism, not set on Earth by some Federation of Intergalactic Peacelovers from the planet Utopia. The European conquest was never intended to be anything less than colonial rape of a new world which had at first been mistaken for the rich lands of China and India, for the benefit of kings, bishops, and lords in England, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Portugal. History is a real function of human lives, human actions, human experiences, and evolving material economic conditions-- not idealistic fantasy or romantic fiction. You cannot change the past, nor force the future to come any faster than it will. This nation was born a child of it's times-- and those times were bloody, wracked by absolutism, worldwide feudalism, and ideological dictatorships of every kind-- and all of these things were present here and at the same time opposed here, from the very beginning.

It would be hard to argue that any people, nation, or empire in the long history of Mankind can put itself forward as completely blameless and pure either in terms of how its "many" have been treated by its "few", or how any "outgroup" has been treated by its ruling "ingroup". This is an issue having to do with human nature which far exceeds the scope of the question at hand, the answering of which will already involve more side-issues than many will find themselves able to entertain. Suffice it to say that the United States has been no exception to this rule. Racial, sexual, political, and economic contradictions have existed-- and continue to exist-- side-by-side here as they have existed elsewhere in human societies, the only argument can be as to degree. But since by all accounts the US-- especially since our participation in the two great World Wars of the last century and the long Cold War with totalitarianism in Soviet Russia-- has historically put itself forward as the leader among democracies, we have been held to a higher standard, as indeed we should be.

And so it is, that as our nation now stands at the doorstep of a new century, one in which our species must face and defeat many great challenges if it is to remain viable, it is all the more necessary when sorting out these contradictions in our historical practice versus our political theory that the evolution of the political landscape in the United States be understood, because it is on the political battleground where the future of those theories will be won or lost.

There was a struggle here from the outset, in fact, between those who had a vision of a future without kings and bishops under a government of, by, and for the people and those who desired to maintain the status quo of lords and serfs (or masters and slaves) for the purpose of economic exploitation to benefit a hereditary ruling class. Americans still suffer from this struggle. Today the top 2% of the US population controls upwards of 80% of the national wealth, with the vast middle and working classes continuing a decades-long slide back in the direction of servitude since WWII as their incomes decline and they struggle to stay afloat in a shrinking service sector economy because family farming and domestic manufacturing no longer remain viable economic alternatives. But while our crimes and weaknesses cannot be denied nor excused, neither can our strengths and contributions for the good be dismissed. These contradictions in our national soul were not solved by our 'Revolution' and the outward break with monarchy. They came closer to being decided at great cost in our horrific and bloody 'Civil War'. Yet we fell short even there, when victory was so tantalizingly close, because the well-entrenched class culture of racial aristocracy, which we ignored and forgave in the aftermath of war instead of rooting it out once and for all, remained in the body of our nation like a cancer, where it has bided its time, metastasizing as cancer almost always does, ready to spring forth at the first opportunity with renewed fury and sicken the nation once again nearly unto death, as it is now most assuredly doing.

Today the southern-dominated, Christian fundamentalist-controlled Republican Party represents a rogue coalition of classists, religionists, corporate/collectivists, and racists operating under the guise of "returning" America to the state in which they claim it was always meant to have been-- just as antebellum southern Democrats repeatedly justified their "peculiar institution" of slavery as "the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization" (Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, Cornerstone Speech, 1861) during those years between the American Revolution and Lincoln's election when they did indeed control the reins of national government and those of half the states, but also the greater part of the economic base. The Republican Party represents now the same forces which the Confederacy represented then, which the Democrats represented then, and have in mind the same political, economic, and social goals-- the servitude of the many for the enrichment of the few. Much has been made in the last several election cycles about the growing divide between blue Democrats and red Republicans here in these United States. But now it will be seen that blue and red should actually be blue and grey, the colors of the respective uniforms worn by North and South in that bloody Civil War 150 years ago.

Just look at a Civil War map and then the map of the past several decades of election results by state. You will see that east of the Mississippi this is the case. The southern heart of the old rebel fortress has once again taken over the direction of the nation, and with their rigid ideological extremism and racist, class-based, and totalitarian policies, are driving us once more to the brink of national disaster. If America is going to avoid total collapse, whether politically and/or economically, as well as escape the violent throes of revolution or invasion, it will be necessary for some political opposition here to ideologically separate the historically distinct Mountain West/Great Plains red Republican states from the old Confederate red Republican (and formerly grey Democratic) state machinery politically, while at the same time appealing to the many millions of conscientious and patriotic citizens across the South who reject latter day racism and classism, in order to create a national, Constitutional, and democratic majority throughout the land-- whereby those grand, foundational ideals of our great foundational documents can have a chance of finally prevailing, ensuring that, as Lincoln hoped, our experimental form of democracy "shall not perish from the earth".

This is not to say that such a thing can be achieved by the Democratic Party as it stands today, for clearly that party has more than its share of fatal contradictions. At worst, it has actually been an accomplice to what the Republicans have done socially and economically since the 1960s; at best it has been powerless to do anything at all to stop them. But in point of fact, the Democratic Party has far more than its share of figurative skeletons in its historical closet. And so it is imperative, that before any Constitutional restitution can be accomplished in the United States by any party or coalition of parties, this complex process whereby northern, pro-Union, Republican populations came to call themselves Democrats, and southern, pro-Confederate, Democratic populations came to call themselves Republicans must first be traced in detail and-- most importantly-- brought into the light of day. Any and all attempts at shortcutting this understanding will be doomed as exercises in futility.

It is widely known that the region of the United States west of the Mississippi which mostly entered the Union as a number of different states during and after the Civil War, has long played a crucial role in the economic development of our nation. But what is less well-understood is the important role played by the region not only in the Civil War itself, but even more importantly the role the region played in these bizarre post-Civil War political reconfigurations which America has undergone as well. And so it is logical to begin there in unravelling this long and complicated process. For there is now, and always has been a profound historical, cultural, and philosophical gulf between the Republican red (formerly Union blue) Mountain West/Great Plains states and the Republican red (formerly Confederate grey) old South as broad as the one which existed in the Civil War between the sections of South and the North themselves east of the Mississippi, where nearly all the actual fighting in the war had taken place. How then have these various western states come to be united today under one political banner with their former enemies, while becoming enemies of the political banner flown by their former allies?

First, it must be established from the outset that racism existed everywhere in the US prior to the Civil War-- north, south, east and west. And racism has continued to exist everywhere in the US even up to the present day. Jim Crow laws had in fact originated in the North before the Civil War, and spread into Dixie only afterwards, becoming more draconian in the process of refilling the empty toolbox of racial oppression left there by the legal emancipation of the slaves. Second, it must be established from the outset that the North did not fight the Civil War to free the slaves. It fought the war to preserve the Union from disintegrating under the force of the secessionist movement and the rise of the Confederacy-- which did fight the war to ensure the rights of southern states to continue practicing slavery in perpetuity unfettered by federal regulation, and freed from federal taxation. But even as early as 1860, while blacks certainly did not enjoy full civil rights anywhere in the North, and were universally treated as second-class citizens, in many of the more enlightened constituencies they did have recourse to the courts and legal representation, and in some cases were even allowed to vote, though usually the property requirements to do so ruled out all but a small minority. Yet contrast this with the widespread and extra-judicial use of lynchings and torture to enforce terrified obedience across the South following the war and up to and including the 1960s, and in some ways it is almost as if two nations continued to exist in America side by side under one flag.

Take the proud, formerly Union-Blue "Free State" of Kansas for instance, which was in fact largely settled by "Yankees", and was the region not only where the first blows were struck for abolition and freedom in the 1850s, but which joined the Union just weeks prior to the Civil War's onset. Everyone knows about Kansan John Brown, who led an armed raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, with a force of whites and blacks in hopes of fomenting slave rebellions across the south and was hanged for it just a year before the war began. In the years after the war many thousands of emancipated slaves moved to Kansas and took up farming right alongside the many Union veterans who had helped bring about their freedom. A number of historic towns in the state, such as Nicodemus, continue to celebrate this history. But this is not to say that the state was devoid of racism-- not by a long shot. Even in Lawrence, Kansas, which prides itself as first amongst the free towns of that state, and which in fact was burned to the ground and over two hundred men and boys killed in 1863 by pro-Confederate forces from Missouri-- three black men were lynched from the Kansas River bridge not two decades after the end of the war itself. And today Kansas' dying small towns, hemorrhaging Main Streets and landless family farmers vote in lock-step with those former slave states against whom it's ancestors sacrificed the highest per capita number of soldiers of any Union state in the war. And for what? To allow the takeover of US politics and economic policy by the CEO/corporatocracy, the dangers of so doing were bluntly pointed out by the first and only Republican president elected from Kansas-- former WWII Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower-- when he explicitly warned the nation of the great threat posed by the military/industrial complex as he left office in 1960?

Yet in spite of his warning, when Reagan's Republican party opened our democracy to the highest bidder in the 1980s, this same military/industrial complex gladly stepped in, and with the tacit support of the American electorate, opened the floodgates of these ensuing three decades of wholesale economic rape and pillage of our nation. Joined by an increasingly corrupt, greedy and trans-national financial sector ever in search of the lowest costs and highest profits, these special economic interests have methodically and successfully set about outsourcing our once world-class industrial base to cheap Chinese manufacturing, selling our family farm-based agricultural sector-- which had formed the backbone of our nation for 200 years-- to agribusiness, and continues to completely undermine not only our future national economic viability but the habitability of the planet itself by further increasing our now exponentially-growing addiction to Mideast oil.

That they have succeeded in doing all this while at the same time convincing increasingly large percentages of the American electorate to believe in a large number of illogical "truths" is really quite astonishing. Among the millions of Republican faithful it is anathema, for instance, to challenge certain basic "facts" about America-- that for instance increasing taxes on the rich, or continuing to allow "parisitic" public employee unions to exist, or even increasing the minimum wage by a few pennies per hour will all ruin the economy by making it harder for corporations to create jobs, when the top 2% of the US population already owns more than 80% of the wealth and the reality that such a huge, military/industrial, multi-national corporation as General Electric, for instance, which made $14.2 billion in profits in 2010 not only paid zero taxes but actually received a $3.2 billion tax benefit.

Thomas Frank did a pretty good job in his book 'What's the matter with Kansas?' of showing how illogical it is for Kansans (and the rest of working class, Red-state America for that matter-- north and south, east and west) to be Red staters at all considering how progressive those Kansans in particular used to be-- from leading the nation in the fight against the spread of slavery in the 1850s to the various agrarian-populist movements which thrived there and throughout the west in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These movements in effect represented the last major alliance of agriculture and industrial labor to fight against the capitalist-collectivist economics and resulting exploitation of the lower classes by the trusts and monopolies of the Robber Barons, the predecessors of today's CEO/corporatocracy. However, Frank's central thesis-- that these Red-state folks have in effect merely been duped by the Republican propaganda machine which every election cycle trots out the same old hysterics about traditional values in order to frighten such voters into casting ballots against their own economic self interests answers only one part of the problem. Indeed, this machine does exist, and it does work. But for the full answer, the entire period of US history from before the Civil War up to the present day must be examined, because the roots of this seeming paradox reach much more deeply into the American consciousness than merely to the struggles of the Progressive Era or the post-1960 Southern Strategy of the Republican Party-- which in reality were the middle and end stages of a much longer political and econmic process.

Because, until recently, mid-westerners had never expressed the same degree of general hatred associated with the culture of violence, entrenched in racism, which raged historically and now rages openly again across significant populations in the South, and is spreading elsewhere. True, the increasing exploitation of illegal Latin American labor to drive down wages at all levels of the American economy by the corporatocracy has successfully been cloaked during the last two decades through fanning the flames of an increasing resentment among the increasingly impoverished remnants of the American working and middle classes into a smokescreen of racist resentment towards illegals by many in the hardest-hit manufacturing and agricultural areas outside the south, diverting attention away from the CEO class which has, over the last several decades, sold the entire nation down the river-- legal citizen and illegal immigrant alike-- to the bottomless pit of economic expropriation and servitude in the bowels of the Global Economy.

So it is easy to see how, in light of all these twists and turns, one might lose sight of an ironic, but extremely important fact-- that the only reason Kansas and the other formerly anti-Confederate Red states west of the Mississippi embrace southern Republicans today and repeatedly vote with them against their own economic interests is because of the legacy of Abe Lincoln himself, the Civil War that was fought to overturn his election, the growing effects of lingering myths and active historical revisionism on the part of the neo-Confederate movement, and what I call the 'Great American Political Flip-Flop-- How Republicans became Democrats, and Democrats became Republicans'.

This is how it happened: The Catholic church and the feudal Lords had an iron lock on a gravy train in Europe for 1000 years before the Protestant Reformation brought the entire process to a crisis. The Crusades, The Inquisition, and bloody religious conflicts like The Thirty Years War had cost hundreds of thousands of lives across Europe and vast sums of gold. The radical Protestants rejected kings as well as bishops, and when the kings and bishops figured out they couldn't burn them all at the stake and couldn't torture them all into submission they launched programs which sent the most troublesome of them to the recently discovered 'New World' to burn off all that energy in cutting down forests, planting settlements, and fighting Indians-- leaving the lords of church and state in control of old Europe, where they would remain in one degree of power or another until two world wars brought about by that very system crushed the entire continent and much of the world under the weight of its own contradictions in the first half of the 20th century.

In Anglo-Saxon America, two paths were hewn from the land. In the North, where the rocky ground and temperate climate were not conducive to large plantations and slavery anyway, and where by historical accident and poor navigation the anti-hierarchical Puritans and Pilgrims had first landed, many small farms and towns began to spread through the wilderness of New England. These Puritan and Presbyterian "Yankees" with their Calvinist work ethic (and consumption ethic as well) believed that every Christian man was equal before God (which excepted of course the heathen Indians). If Man didn't need a priest/pope to make faith work, then why did he need a king/lord to make politics work?

The New Englanders established independent, non-centralized churches, where preachers were elected by the congregations, and where in principle every believer had just as much say as any other, with the Bible as final arbiter of truth. In the South, settled by less radical folks more interested in riches than religious freedom, the centralized, hierarchical Anglican/Episcopalian/Catholic churches retained great power in different regions and wielded strong influence. Most southern colonies had 'state' churches in fact, which had to be conformed to-- unlike Rhode Island and Pennsylvania for instance, and it is no coincidence that nearly all Red state, Republican-supporting, authoritarian/fundamentalist, establishmentarian/Dominionist televangelists speak their Christian heresies and Constitutional contradictions with pronounced southern accents to this very day.

Essentially, the New World at this time was reiterating-- along sectional lines, North and South-- the same struggle that had consumed the larger part of the 17th century in England between the Republican Commonwealth of the Puritan "Roundheads" led by Oliver Cromwell and the Anglican/Catholic Monarchists, or "Cavaliers" who supported re-establishing the Stuart line on the throne-- or what amounted in both lands to the playing out of the death throes of feudalism, and the birth pangs or first, faltering steps of the modern age and elected, representative democracy. In England, of course, the Monarchists won, but the power of Parliament was greatly increased, so that following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 subsequent British monarchs were said to reign, but not rule. And the Church of England became once again the official state religion of the British Empire, where it still remains today.

Radical Protestantism survived in full health in New England however, where near constant upheavals and splits over old and new doctrines roiled the churches with new denominations appearing and disappearing through the years. Nevertheless these core ideas of religious freedom gradually translated into political and economic thought as well. Officials, Magistrates and militia leaders were elected in the North, and a broad and deep class of free farmers, small business owners, and artisans grew there and thrived. Schools and other infrastructure were built and maintained with fair and equitable taxes-- including on the wealthy, who were reminded of Christ's command to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's"-- in line with putting into practice the English concept of the Commonwealth, wherein "common" wealth was used for the "common" good-- defense, general welfare, education, transportation-- with political power in the hands of the "common" man who mostly makes the wealth with his hands, not just for the aristocrats who extract it from those hands and own it in their banks or in their estates.

In the South, the pattern of Old World feudalism quickly began to take root instead. A small minority of hereditary, landed Lords owned most of the land, just like in Europe, and political and economic power there was manifested through land-- and slaves. The planter-class aristocracy used slaves to clear and work the land, just like the European aristocracy used serfs. They built huge, castle-like mansions and manor houses to live in, just like European aristocrats. They ruled the land like a House of Lords, desiring to live like the dukes, barons, counts and even kings back in jolly old Europe. But whereas even Medieval serfs had some standing at law, as well as being protected to some degree by the church, and were often allowed to claim their freedom if they could escape their lord for a year and a day-- this Southern feudalism used chattel slavery instead, where humans were considered mere property, devoid of souls, and relentlessly hunted down with no statute of limitations on their crime of being human property, as the Dred Scott decision by the US Supreme Court proved beyond a shadow of a doubt in 1857, a mere four years before the outbreak of the Civil War.

This Planter class opposed taxes as an article of faith, laughing at those who advocated education for the dirty and filthy poor-- white or black-- or even roads, railroads, canals, hospitals, or public schools and universities for that matter. They shunned industrial production, and marginalized the small farmer and businessman who were barely able to eke out an existence. If they could get their slave-processed agricultural commodities to the nearest river, they could make obscene amounts of money selling them to urbanizing, industrializing Europe and New England. That is all that mattered (forget common-wealth-- it was all "theirs", just as it is today). So the South lagged behind the North in every way-- in infrastructure, technology, education, and freedom-- just as the entire nation is now lagging behind the rest of the industrialized democracies of the world today. This lagging would cost the short-sighted rebels dearly under the harsh conditions of attrition which were to characterize the coming Civil War, and it is costing our entire nation dearly today-- in fact may lead to the extinction of our form of government if something is not done to change the direction in which we are once again heading.

Our modern Red/Blue states are living, ideological fossils of that by-gone age. Color the Red states east of the Mississippi grey instead, and you have nearly redrawn the battle lines from the Civil War-- Union blue vs. Rebel grey. This is no mere coincidence or historical accident. In many ways, we are still fighting that war in our politics today. Certainly, it is clear now that the South never truly gave up, in spite of Lee surrendering his sword at Appomattox, though their antiquated aristocratic system had been soundly trounced by armies of free farmers, shop keepers, artisans and an industrial working class representing the advancing and superior infrastructural engines of the North.

Indeed, instead of conceding defeat when it was dealt to them, many in the south spread whispers of the 'stab in the back' or 'the noble, lost cause', attempting by any and all means to blame their loss on anything but the superior economic, political and cultural realities in the North. The Yankees had been the aggressors, they cried. They had invaded their sovereign lands in a gentleman's squabble over tariffs and state's rights; according to these latter-day apologists the war had nothing to do with slavery, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including these following words, spoken by the future president of the Confederate States of America, on the floor of the US Senate, just one year before the outbreak of war:

"The condition of slavery with us is, in a word, Mr. President, nothing but the form of civil government instituted for a class of people not fit to govern themselves. It is exactly what in every State exists in some form or other. It is just that kind of control which is extended in every northern State over its convicts, its lunatics, its minors, its apprentices. It is but a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves. We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority." (US Senator Jefferson Davis, February 29, 1860)

And, in spite of all propaganda to the contrary, that the war had nothing to do with racism or slavery but everything to do with state's rights and tariffs, less than a decade following the end of the war, as the national will to continue to spend money on Reconstruction in the south wavered, and as soon as federal troops began to be withdrawn accross the region southern racists launched the bloody era of night-riding terror, such as was most notoriously characterized by the Ku Klux Klan (organized by pardoned rebel general Nathan B. Forest). Disguising their identities behind sheets and hoods to terrorize the black population into submission, using fire and the rope to take out on them their rage at having lost the war, members of such organizations set about systematically denying blacks access to economic opportunity and such civil rights as one man one vote, reducing the population nearly again to the status of slaves, and perfecting the process of regularly stealing elections in order to regain and retain local and state power so that they could operate their deviant schemes with impunity for more than a century after their defeat in the Civil War.

While most victorious nations would have seen a good number of such rebel officers shot and a similar percentage of such rebel politicians hanged for treason-- in 1865 this was not Abraham Lincoln's way. Preaching malice towards none, he commanded that the defeated rebels be not molested and instead offered full forgiveness to all, allowing them to return to their homes, encouraging the nation to forgive and begin to heal-- but a conspiratorial circle of assassins left him mortally wounded in treacherous repayment, shooting him to death from behind in Ford's Theater under cover of darkness. And with his death so was his hand removed from the rudder of the ship of peace which emerged from the horrific storm through which he had guided the nation, a peace which he should have overseen and implemented, as he had overseen and implemented the war. Who knows what this nation lost by that dastardly and cowardly deed, what he might have accomplished in his second, third, and fourth terms? Yet with their many treasons forgiven, their right to vote returned, and along with these things the right to hold office, thousands of unrepentant and still racist southerners traitors set, with bloody hands, about re-gaining political and economic power with one ultimate goal in mind-- the replacement of chattel slavery with American apartheid.

Through the spread of Jim Crow laws, the systematization of poverty, the nurturing of ignorance and superstition, and the on-going use of racial terror, the South was all but returned to the social system as it had been before the war. Freed slaves-- their hoped for promise of 40 acres and a mule having been denied-- were returned instead into poverty-stricken share croppers, stripped of the right to vote or even travel, in a region so historically dependent on their unpaid labor for the creation of wealth that it wallowed in backwardness without it for generations, never again able to return to antebellum glory. But like some insidious parasite, these un-reconstructed rebels merely bored into the flesh of the nation-- and waited.

In the North after the Civil War, under Lincoln's successors in the Republican Party-- a party which had been derided as consisting of "filthy operatives (factory workers), greasy mechanics, tight-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists" by a southern demagogue in 1860 (McPherson, 'Battle Cry of Freedom')-- the rise of industry, surging immigration, technological innovation, and the opening of the west to agriculture and mining led to unprecedented wealth creation, urban growth, and upward mobility. But there was a dark side. Union war heroes-- like Sheridan and Custer-- had almost immediately been sent west, and employing the well-honed tactics and industrially-produced weaponry of mass destruction developed over the course of history's first Industrial Total War, began "pacification" programs against the Commanche, Kiowa, Plains Apache, Cheyenne, and Sioux. For the most part, this meant either wiping them out or driving them onto useless tracts of land called reservations-- that is, until something useful was found there, and then someplace even more useless would have to be proferred, with the ratifying "treaty" dangling from the barrel of a gun.

As is usually the case with history's greatest crimes, most of the blood and gore spilled in this relentless process fell away from center stage, in rugged canyons and along the banks of lonely rivers and streams, the old and weak falling on forced marches, or killed by the policies of scorched earth, out of sight and so out of mind. That it mirrored what Britain and Belgium were doing at the same time in Africa, or the French in Indochina, or the Russians in central Asia does not excuse it, but merely contextualizes it. In any case, the vast prairies and mountains of the North American west-- gradually swept empty of man and beast by this inhuman, post Civil War extermination program-- soon lured hundreds of thousands of Union veterans and immigrants from Europe-- who mostly took up the plow-- onto the central plains, while Confederate veterans who first went to Texas and New Mexico, then later to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana mostly took up the lariat and clothing of the Mexican vaquero, pushing cattle north or south to railheads in Kansas, sometimes combining the attitude of vengeful rebel with that of the pistolero/bandito in such outlaw manifestations as the James Gang, among others.

It would require an entire history unto itself to document how the largely pro-Union Republican sodbusters fought the largely pro-Confederate Democratic cowboys along barbed-wire fence lines and in the streets and saloons of rail head towns and frontier outposts from Tombstone in the far west to Dodge City, Abilene and Wichita in Kansas, to a large extent carrying on the Civil War for decades after it had officially ended. It is useful to remember that this was actually the case, for it plays a pivotal role in understanding why to this day those farming/ranching states of the Great Plains and Mountain West remain Republican while their Union brethren above the Mason Dixon line east of the Mississippi have become Democrats, such that their descendants now find themselves in political bed with the descendants of the sworn ancestral enemy. Suffice it to note the further ironic fact that both Republican homesteader and Democratic free grazer took root on land which Lincoln's federalist vision had led him to appropriate, and they shipped their products over railroads which he had facilitated building for that purpose, utilizing the latest scientific research collected and made available by his US Department of Agriculture and growing R&D infrastructure-- eventually sending their children to various Land Grant colleges which he had the foresight to sign into existence:

"without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." (Morrill Land-Grant College Act, 1862)

That Lincoln had been willing to launch such massive national programs as these at all during such a desperate, blood-drenched war for the very survival of the Union, the outcome of which was by no means certain at any time, leaves little doubt that these expensive, federally-funded initiatives represented his second line of defense after the actual military campaigns of the war themselves-- in effect an economic second front to guard against any possibility of an economic and cultural victory for the rule of an aristocratic "few" over the democratic "many" in his dreamed-of post-war America. By spreading economic AND political power in the hands of millions of everyday American farmers, workers, and shopkeepers (and providing educational opportunities for their children) instead funneling the bulk of the nation's wealth and power into the hands of a handful of hereditary lords, Lincoln hoped that his beloved Union might have the opportunity to enjoy his much hoped for "rebirth of freedom" after victory over its internal enemies and historical contradictions had once and for all been achieved through so much blood and sorrow.

His willingness to expend such huge quantities not only of mortal flesh, but also of precious capital at such a time is overwhelming evidence of Lincoln's belief that there was no other way to give hope to his dream that, "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth". He did not envision a corporatocracy to rule his beloved Union, though one unfortunately came to pass with his assassination. Nor did he envision the creation of a cradle-to-grave nanny state of bloated bureaucracies and entitlements-- though his hand had signed into existence the United States Department of Agriculture. Most certainly he did not envision an Orwellian police state-- for if he had the door to his balcony compartment at Ford's Theater would have certainly been better guarded on the night of April 14, 1865. No, he was adamant up to that bloody end in his support for a Union made strong and free by an environment of liberty and prosperity which he was convinced would always flow from America's rugged, hard-working common folk (for he was one), small farms (for he had grown up on them), small businesses (for he had run them as a young attorney), and small towns (for he had lived in them most of his life).

Lincoln was convinced, as Jefferson had been before him, that such rural/agricultural environments alone are capable of forging the kinds of men and women with the character a nation needs if conditions are to remain such that self-government "can long endure". A nation "so conceived and so dedicated" requires not the "bad morals" and "bad economics" of "heedless self-interest" (Franklin Delanor Roosevelt), but people willing to give "their lives that that nation might live", and who will pour out "the last full measure of devotion" to its ideals, as so many hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers-- and Lincoln himself-- ultimately did in that Civil War. Furthermore, his domestic policies were clear evidence of his conviction that an educated, well-informed citizenry-- and the institutions which they build and nurture, and which build and nurture them in turn-- must always form the backbone of our free and Constitutional state and produce leaders like himself who need never erect barriers-- either of economic class or military cordon-- between themselves and those in whose names they govern.

It should, therefore, be a cause of utmost concern for all Americans today to see that those small farms, small businesses, and small towns-- along with quality public education and the free press-- are dying before our eyes. And that, not coincidentally, today's skinflint, corporate-controlled Republican Party-- centered as it is on Wall Street and with so much of its electoral power flowing from a narrow band of the political spectrum located mostly in the heartland and diaspora of the revived, risen, and still racially-enraged neo-Confederacy-- hates and opposes the political ideals and democratic economics of the first member of that party to be elected US President as much today as its Democratic ancestors hated him in 1861. Despite its claims to the contrary, the Republican Party of today is in no way a "conservative" party, or-- if it is-- it is a party of "conservatives without conscience" (John Dean, Barry Goldwater) with little regard for the "common good", whose only concern is the "bottom line".

In reality, Lincoln's former party today represents a radically revisionist, activist movement, busily re-writing history along racialist and Christian Dominionist lines, while at the same time enabling and facilitating Economic Globalization's pillaging of the very heart and soul of our nation's real economy-- agriculture and manufacturing-- while loudly claiming to be fighting to preserve them. This has been accomplished, of course, by relying largely on Orwellian euphemism and Madison Avenue psychological warfare techniques to successfully divert the eyes of the people away from the real and corrosive effects of Big Business and its deification of mindlessness consumerism, which has led to "swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism" (Teddy Roosevelt) as well as spelling "ruin in its worst form" (ibid) for our national socioeconomic fabric, something TR and the agrarian/populist inhabitants of Osawatomie, Kansas -- to whom he spoke those words over a century ago in 1910-- were well aware of from their own experiences with the rise of illegal trusts and freedom-killing monopolies in their own day.

Because unfortunately, after Lincoln's assassination the Republicans had quickly forgotten their roots as the party of the greasy mechanic, filthy operative, tight-fisted farmer, and moonstruck theorist, and as the gold piled high and blood ran deep, they traded justice and equality for The Gilded Age and the rule of Robber Barons. Lincoln had been the biggest tax-and-spend President in history. He instituted the first, graduated Federal income tax. He created the US Department of Agriculture. He spearheaded the Homestead Act, laid the foundation for the Transcontinental Railroad, signed into law the Land Grant College Act. He improved harbors, canals, and river channels for transportation-- all while at the same time defeating armed insurrection and winning the Civil War. The southern Democrats who, once shown that they were unable to achieve victory either on the battlefield for which they had so bitterly longed, nor with a ballot box open to all which they had so long bitterly feared, instead set about crushing black voting rights, maintaining poor whites in ignorance and poverty, and through opposition to any taxation designated for the alleviation of any such ills, patiently waited for their chance to re-gain the national power they had wielded for so long prior to the Civil War.

Before Lincoln's election in fact, nearly every President had been a slave-owner or come from a slave state. And nearly every Supreme Court Chief Justice, as well as Senate and Congressional leader had come from the South as well. So, after the Grant administration (Republican) gave up on southern Reconstruction and withdrew Federal troops in 1877, when the rest of the nation had grown tired of struggle and turned its attentions elsewhere, these same boll weevils who had worn grey, flown the stars and bars, and waged treasonous war against their own nation and flag, proceeded by hook and by crook to wrap themselves in both that flag and the trappings of patriotism, in order to take over the governments of their southern states once again, regaining their seats in Congress and on the courts, and after waiting more than a century until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, they 'flip-flopped' and become Republicans.

It was during that century, when the American "picture" continued its long, complicated process of "turning upside down", and the entire historical landscape appears to flip politically and geographically-- that the previous analogy of an object being viewed through a magnifying glass that suddenly emerges completely inverted as the glass is moved further away from the eye, should perhaps be replaced by the more apt analogy of a tornado, which roars through a neighborhood, ripping the roofs off of houses, blowing entire buildings off their foundations, and so completely destroying the order that had gone before that not a thing that existed in that previous time is discernable in the chaos that results. For in many ways this period resembles just such a storm.

Fueled by war-time production and Lincoln's economic programs, northern industry began to grow furiously in the years after the war, giving rise to the early labor union movement and the first waves of consumerism. Swollen by the huge numbers of ethnic immigrants pouring through Ellis Island from southern and eastern Europe after 1880, who began their existence on the bottom rung of the new economic ladder, this labor movement found that by supporting the Democratic Party and being supported by it created some degree of counter-weight to the growing economic might of the so-called Robber Barons, mostly Republicans, who with their attempts at achieving monopolies in agricultural commodities and industrial raw materials along with their growing system of largely unregulated factories and hellish working conditions were methodically destroying Lincoln's dream of a rebirth of freedom. Having lost none of its racist underpinnings in the meantime, the Democratic Party embraced this new labor movement in northern industrial cities while insisting on the continued opposition of most early organized labor unions to opening their ranks to black membership, thereby turning and keeping blacks into a permanent, un-represented under-class of cheap labor, North and South, agricultural and industrial-- in many ways really no better off than the slaves they had once been.

After decades of such Republican economic policies succeeded in pushing the country over the brink into the Great Depression after 1929-- a cataclysm nearly repeated more recently by three similar decades of post-Reagan Republican policies which led to the Great Recession of 2008 (in which many economists believe a second Great Depression was only narrowly averted by a massive government bailout of the financial "industry" with an infusion of at least a trillion dollars)-- FDR was elected. Though he had typical racist sentiments himself, as did most white Americans to one degree or another at the time, but especially the leadership and the rank and file pro-segregationist Democratic party in the South-- Roosevelt's wife Eleanor was a social and economic progressive as were growing numbers of Democrats in the North and South as well as increasing numbers within the labor movement, and as the roots of the Civil Rights struggle began to grow, so did demands for many of the other great socio-economic reforms that were enacted during Roosevelt's three terms in office.

Harry S. Truman, who became President after FDR's death in early 1945-- finally and fully de-segregated the armed forces in the years before the Korean War-- and besides opening the floodgates of the Civil Rights movement this also resulted in the so-called Dixiecrat rebellion of southern Democrats against his run for president in 1948, although he was able to win without them, later going down in defeat in 1952, largely due to the intractable Korean War. During both of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's subsequent terms as President the Republican platform became increasingly pro-segregationist in an attempt to court these increasingly disgruntled southern Democrats, even as most northern Democrats began to realize that civil rights were going to have to be enacted in this country-- along with sustained programs to battle poverty, racism, and class disparities in the US-- if we were not to lose all credibility in the world as a bastion of freedom and democracy in our increasingly dangerous hot and cold struggles with the Soviet Union and Red China in varioius hot spots around the world.

And so in 1964, in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and amidst growing racial unrest in America's northern industrial cities and across the South, Kennedy's successor Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the first Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing federal protections for millions of black Americans across the country to begin enjoying the basic rights accorded citizens of the United States, and in reaction millions of southern Democrats became Republicans overnight. Progressive Republicans in the north had already been switching en masse to the Democrats since at least the Great Depression-- many in fact had begun leaving that party as early as the Bull Moose campaign of Teddy Roosevelt in 1910. And many progressive Democrats in the south were beginning to sympathize with the plight of African Americans as well-- who had supported the Republican party during the generations after Lincoln, while suffering horribly under the Democrats and Jim Crow laws when Reconstruction was abandoned, finally leaving the south by the millions seeking better lives and jobs in the north during and after WWI-- all of which set the stage for the two major parties to emerge from this period as nearly the ideological and geographical mirror images of what and where they had been in 1865.

Similarly, Republicans west of the Mississippi early on remained loyal to the party during this transition period when eastern Republicans were becoming Democrats mostly because the Democratic party continued to represent to those regions the party of the hated Confederacy until WWI, when this opposition began morphing through various stages-- first as the Democrats came to represent the party of immigrant unionism, painted by the Republican elites as creeping socialism and communism; then becoming the face of urban corruption and graft as the effects of the 18th amendment saw an increase in America's major cities of shocking levels of organized crime and governmental cooptation by criminal syndicates; and finally becoming the boogeyman of full-blown Red hysteria when Roosevelt's programs were framed as Big Government dictatorship along Stalinist lines during the crisis years of the Great Depression-- not much different from the Tea Party movement's contemporary attempts to paint the Democrats as both Communists and Fascists at the same time.

When all of these currents merged with the primal fears unleashed in the aftermath of WWII and the advent of nuclear weaponry, when the rising tide of the Cold War without and McCarthyism within began to lead to a national political dialogue characterized by increasing levels of hysteria and paranoia, these various strands of thought were welded together into the boilerplate by which the unholy marriage between the Military/Industrial Complex centered on Wall Street and the ideological remnants of the old aristocratic South were joined as one, wherein racism could be cloaked as states' rights, reluctance to bear a commensurate share of federal spending could be concealed as noble belief in small government, and oppositon to taxation became a mantra for the promotion of the general welfare a la such absurdities as the Laffer Curve and Trickle Down Economics (which would be called Voodoo Economics in 1980 by soon-to-be Republican President George H. W. Bush), even as the social upheavals of the Civil Rights era and increasing levels of popular opposition to the Vietnam War during the 1960s fueled Richard M. Nixon's paranoid law-and-order anti-communist movement, culminating in his Southern Strategy-engineered Presidential campaign in 1968-- a strategy we are still seeing the Republicans exploiting with excellent results despite its numerous logical contradictions today.

This great national/political party flip-flop is not well understood-- not only because tracing its course is a complicated process that encompasses well over half of our national history-- but also because many aspects of it, a few of which have been outlined here, are embarrassing to both parties. However, if Americans were to understand this process, it could well become the key to turning our nation around. The blue states used to be Republican, the red states used to be Democratic. Only the names have been changed-- not the geography-- and this was not to protect the innocent. Despite the name switch, the philosophies have stayed much the same-- even taking into account the massive levels of industrialization, urbanization, internal and external immigration, and technological transformation which have transpired in the interim. Lincoln, the first Republican President, was a tax-and-spender, a Keynesian before Keynes, who would today probably be ridiculed as a liberal, or probably much worse, by his stalwart successors in the GOP. A believer in government of the people, by the people, and for the people, Lincoln was not afraid to spend money to prime the economic pump of the national economy to help promote growth in the long run-- a thing which is well understood by the average farmer but has become anathema to the elitist Republican leadership of today. The southern Democrats (now Republicans) of Lincoln's day ridiculed his northern Republican party (now Democrats) as being the party of those whose honest work with their own backs and hands brought them home dirty or filthy at night, home from playing small potatoes with their own small businesses, or from grubbing in the dirt on their own small farms, rather than having enjoyed the leisure of being part of a ruling aristocracy, as the Republican elites do.

And in their arrogance, those landed-aristocrats in the 19th century were exactly right. With this enlightened tax and spend policy, Lincoln paved the way for the US economy to enter an era of unprecedented growth and for this nation to become a world superpower, for better or for worse. The southern Planter class of aristocrats is long gone, but the wealthy heirs of the Robber Barons have replaced them just the same. By first coopting, then undercutting, and finally villifying his policies althogether this new wave aristocracy has ensured that Lincoln-hatred in the South has been kept well-nourished-- fooling enough of the people there and elsewhere enough of the time to maintain their slight hold on the reins of political and economic power. But that the South is now the heartland of the Republican base is an irony that even honest old Abe Lincoln would have been hard-pressed to easily explain with a folksey joke.

Yet now, almost a century-and-a-half since his assassination, this new corporatocracy of finance, Wall Street, K Street, and Madison Avenue has taken us again nearly to the brink of economic ruin, by continually exploiting fear and hatred, winning every election by 3 points, claiming in such miniscule margins that they have won sweeping mandates to cut taxes for the rich, reduce federal expenditures, dismantle or privatize programs like Medicare, and undercut any and all social safety nets, all the while obscenely enriching themselves at the rest of society's expense. If our nation is to survive, then these policies have to be stopped, as similar forces were stopped in Lincoln's time. The Democrats of today are far from perfect, and have many serious problems with their own political goals and especially in their understanding of human nature. But whatever the case, it is imperative that some political and economic methodology be discovered which can exploit the deep cultural and philosophical differences which still exist between most people living in the Midwestern Red states-- inhabited by the descendants of those hard-working Republican homesteaders Lincoln sent west over his railroads, equipped with the latest research coming out of his USDA and Land Grant Colleges to increase their yields, and spread national wealth-- so that rebirth of freedom that he so eloquently called for in the wake of that bloody Battle of Gettysburg, the dream of which died with his assassination, can finally come to fruitiion.

The putrid leftovers of feudalism which still slither around the South, on Wall Street, and through the side streets of our nation's capitol would make CEOs kings and their multi-national corporations empires. Similar forces fought against Lincoln's vision once before and lost. Though they killed him, his ideas have lived on. Will we the people allow this new aristocracy of the rich and powerful to consolidate permanent control of our nation? Or can we, as so many great generations before us have done, step forward and seize hold of what has been given us by those who came before, and pass it intact to those who will come after? If not, then the blood of Gettysburg and the other great battles in that Civil War will have been shed in vain, and we will see nothing but the war of all against all in our lifetimes. There are few alternative paths if the light of our Constitution is allowed to finally be extinguished in these days, and our great experiment in government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be allowed to fail, here in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." ~ Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

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