When I became a lobbyist in the 1980s, the GOP had a big rush on Senator Al Gore (D-TN) to move across the aisle and join the Republican Party. I know it is hard for many to imagine now, but in the 1980s, Senator Gore was a dying breed in the Democratic Party. He was a Blue Dog, a moderate, which was a palatable term for the word conservative.
Today, we think of Vice President Gore as a far left environmentalist. That is new. I first encountered Congressman Gore in the 80s. He voted against Federal funding for abortions, interstate sales of firearms, and was a strong supporter of the military.
He replaced Senator Howard Baker when Baker vacated his Senate Senate seat and the very year President Reagan swept Tennessee in the 1984 election; Al Gore defeated his GOP rival in the election.
I started lobbying Senator Gore’s office frequently. One day, he pointed to a personal computer in the office, and said, “Can you imagine how it would change society if we could link all these together in people’s homes?” I could not imagine it, or I would be one of the internet billionaires and would not be writing this article right now.
Al Gore was a visionary, and probably still is one. He saw the “Information Superhighway” as a means to educate Americans and make us smarter. Has it done that?
The reviews are mixed. There is one Inconvenient Truth; the internet has made our political divisions worse. In the 1980s, most of Washington partisan machinery were turning our eyes toward negative campaigning. It was so much simpler than running on issues. Issue-based campaigns require thinking. Cynical attacks only involve imagination for hate, and that requires almost no forethought. Few facts are needed and spinning them into simple stereotypes about groups as a whole requires little effort.
Yesterday, I wrote an article outlining a few stereotypes Democrats like to toss around about Republicans that are not necessarily correct. You can read the article here. Today is the second in the two-part series. What is frightening is teaching some of the familiar stereotypes in civics classes reaffirms the inaccuracies. Here are a few examples.
Republicans are hawks, and Democrats are doves. Really? Both parties have their shares of hawks and doves.
In the 1930s, GOP isolationism in the America First movement gave Hitler a two-year head start on World War II. It was not until Pearl Harbor and the death of GOP dovishness the following day before Democrat Franklin Roosevelt could declare war.
As much as we like to try and pin the Vietnam War on Richard Nixon, Democrats Lydon Johnson and John Kennedy were the authors of the conflict, with Dwight Eisenhower sending the first adviser.
This infographic by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is from census data from the US Government, and with more data is available here. As we see, troops in Vietnam reached their zenith in 1968, the final year of President Johnson’s Administration before Republican Richard Nixon began the systematic pull-out of American Forces. In 1974, Republican President Jerry Ford did not retaliate when North Vietnam violated the Paris Peace Accords and invaded South Vietnam.
George W. Bush was very hawkish. “You are with us, or you are against us,” was part of the Bush Doctrine. I would not call Democrat Barack Obama’s policy of killing adversaries with cruise missiles a dovish act. Democrat Bill Clinton correctly engaged the USA in military action in the former Yugoslavia, putting an end to Serbian aggression in the Balkans. The dovish reaction by President George H.W. Bush to the breakup of Yugoslavia emboldened strongman Slobodan Milosovec to carry out war crimes.
I have served three Presidents, two Republicans, and one Democrat. Contrary to partisan claims, and despite our most recent hostilities in Syria, the decision to enter into military action is never a cavalier escapade.
Republicans are the party of big business and billionaires. Once again, this is mainly spin. If there is such a thing as educational malfeasance, teaching this stereotype to students should be a prime example of misinformation.
In the 1930s, the American Labor Movement embraced Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal. Business minded Americans countered by teaming with the GOP. The GOP became the party of business. They courted all business, not big business only.
Traditionally, the GOP agenda focused on the expansion of the economy. A balance existed between the two parties: business expanded thanks to the GOP, and workers had greater participation in the rewards of the expansion thanks to the Democrats.
The GOP is the American Taliban. I am guilty of saying this, and shame on me for engaging in this stereotype. For many years, the GOP ignored social policy. They left that to the Democrats; the GOP was about the money. Then something called social conservatism came into the picture. In a short period, the economic message had to compete with social conservatism for the party’s attention.
Social Conservatives work to maintain traditional social norms. The progressive reforms of the 1960s are a threat to the status quo. Those who are social conservatives want to keep the status quo. Why would they not? They have a good thing going. The problem with movements is they are taken over by extremists. That has happened with Social Conservatism too. What once was a check and balance for the Progressive proposals, was taken over by Fundamentalists Christians who are making their dogma part of the national debate. That movement is what drives the party now, much more than big business.
Next week, I will write about how incorrect the stereotypes are that the Republican Party holds as the truth about the Democrats. Those stereotypes are ingrained in our political lives, and they are not helpful. They only add to the shouting festival on social media and are not productive. In fact, they are counter-productive and prevent our nation back from addressing pressing issues.
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