Context And Clarity

One of the great virtues of Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters from an American” is her ability as a historian to “connect the dots” and provide context to the news of the day. That context often strips away the non-essentials that can confuse us, and provides the clarity so often missing from the reporting that follows our daily headlines.

A recent letter was triggered by Rick Scott’s angry op-ed excoriating the reaction of what he sneeringly called “woke” corporations to the Georgia election bill. Here’s where the history operates to clarify the moment in which we find ourselves:

The ideological faction that is currently in control of the Republican Party grew out of opposition to the active government both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War II. But since Americans actually liked business regulation, a social safety net, and infrastructure projects, those Movement Conservatives who wanted to take the government back to the 1920s got little traction until 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education decision enabled them to harness racism to their cause. With federal government efforts to end segregation in the public schools, businessmen who hated government regulation warned voters that their tax dollars were being used to give Black Americans extra benefits. It was socialism, they said, and it would encourage Black people to step out of their place.

This formula worked. Businessmen determined to cut the government bankrolled Movement Conservative candidates, and people determined not to let their tax dollars go to Black or Brown people voted for them. In 1986, Grover Norquist, a former economist for the Chamber of Commerce, brought together business people, evangelicals, and social conservatives. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” Norquist explained, “but these groups can provide the votes.”

Richardson points out that the racist and sexist language was initially understated. That allowed supporters–including corporations concerned about their images– to wink at it.  But that was before Trump and his attack on “political correctness”–i.e., civility–brought the racism and sexism out into the open.

In the wake of Georgia’s effort to suppress minority votes and the corporate response, several observers have suggested that we are on the cusp of a realignment that would sever the longstanding relationship between  the GOP and the corporations that have previously supported and funded it. After all, they reason, Republicans may deny the reality of demographic change, but businesses cannot and will not. Corporate America has increasing numbers of minority employees–even in management–and vastly increasing numbers of minority customers. Unlike the GOP, they don’t live in an alternate reality.

It would be very satisfying if Corporate America deserted the Republican Party, but as both Paul Ogden and Richardson point out, small donors are increasingly able to replace any monies that corporations might withhold from GOP candidates.

There is a truism in politics to the effect that voters are more motivated by what they are against than by what they are for. Stirring up anger and bias are, unfortunately, timeless tactics for getting out the vote. With the niceties of “political correctness” stripped away, the departure of most moderates from the party, and the dwindling need to placate corporate and business supporters, today’s GOP is putting all of its electoral eggs in the racism basket.

And as we saw in 2020, there’s a depressingly substantial portion of the electorate responsive to that appeal.


  1. It sounds like the Koch Party has a new name – Movement Conservatism. LOL

    Oh well, whatever it’s called, it’s still primarily funded by corporate oligarchs. The bright stars attracting individual dollars get money for their outrageous behaviors — not because they are bucking the Oligarchy. It’s funny, in 2016, the “media” called the Tea Party Movement populism, but you peel away all the social nonsense used by the oligarchy to manipulate voters, it was the Ayn Rand Libertarian types or “Taxed Enough Already.”

    The Koch brothers learned how to rebrand and rebrand and used dark channels for the network of money and bill proposal. They own around 23-26 states which give them control of the Senate as well.

    So, you’ve got the Wall Street Oligarchy & MIC against inherited wealth oligarchy. Neither of these groups represents the best interests of the people or the planet we populate.

    It’s also why you see more young people referring to themselves as socialists or communists in the USA. It’s like the pre-Civil War days with a few advanced twists.

  2. If only anybody in America understood the definitions of either socialist or communist we might be able to end the BS. There are no true communists, except in cloistered convents, and there are no true socialists. There are a few authoritarian regimes that pretend to socialism, but they don’t return the profit to the people, they keep it for themselves. We might call them kings, if they didn’t hold sham elections every so often.

  3. “Corporate America has increasing numbers of minority employees–even in management–and vastly increasing numbers of minority customers. Unlike the GOP, they don’t live in an alternate reality.”

    Question; when Corporate America receives their increased tax rates, will those minority employees in all levels be the “last hired, first fired” to maintain their huge profit margin and CEO salaries? Like the GOP; they live in the “Follow the money” reality.

    What is going to happen to the GOP “alternate reality” in government with the spectre of Trump’s FIRST impeachment back in the news? Full “Context And Clarity” were provided in the Ukraine scandal during investigation and the hearings but ignored…until now. Just as the numerous warnings about Russian interference were ignored and the connection to the Ukraine denied. Question; can a president’s pardons be reversed?

    “There is a truism in politics to the effect that voters are more motivated by what they are against than by what they are for.” There is also a duality to be found in this motivation; there is still no clarity to explain the more than SEVENTY MILLION voters who wanted to keep Trump in the White House as they continue those small donations while trying to pay Corporate America’s soaring prices on health care, goods and service. Will the 2022 election “connect the dots” and the “Context And Clarity” of the current GOP emerge to show any loss of Corporate America’s support? Will we maintain the slim Democratic majority, increase it or will the minority of McConnell and the GOP return to power? If so; will it matter in the long run where the donations came from? With President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and the new administration I feel hopeful but I do not yet feel safe.

  4. I wish things were so simple! 1957 – Little Rock – the elite/business interests – whose children went to separate upper-middle class public schools – manipulated the poorer white people, whose children went to Central High School – “you are better…” message to working class white people, similar – recent unionization effort of Amazon workers in Bessemer, AL.
    Add to this patriarchal leaning – often Evangelical – people – Abortion, Gay/Trans, Immigrants – tied in people in much of the country that is not Big City – and less on both Coasts. Add in people who make $300-400,000 + who may actually profit from – Republican tax policies.
    Add in – the increasing – robotization movement in the U.S. – together with seeking the cheapest labor abroad – Coupled with Fear – Fear – Fear – Racism the biggest, but not only fear, Anne Braden was a “communist” – Joe Biden is a “socialist” – as long as a goodly percentage of white people are convinced – one has a potentially winning set of messages – Particularly when Democrats – are Not Strategic – focused on – the issues of the Moment – not seeing how they are being – “out-foxed”. MSNBC and CNN – don’t – go deeply into such issues – there is Not Profit – in such insights. Will the Dems’ – win out? No – idea – but it’s no Slam Dunk.

  5. The only reason the GOP can hope this little donors keep pouring in the money is that they are keeping them whipped up with fear and anger and rage, and they are doing it quite successfully with the whole right wing propaganda machine. Bi-partisanship is gone because one whole party is no longer rooted in reality and has no actual policies other than generate fear and outrage among their supporters.

    I guess today’s message is that to run a successful businesses you have to operate in the real world and are more rooted in reality than a lot of individuals.

  6. The hope I find in all of this is that as the veneer is stripped away and it becomes more and more apparent the the motivation for the far-right is white supremacy, most of us will turn away and the political power will diminish. If this is actually an appealing approach to living, we are collectively doomed.

  7. Peggy, indeed! I have often, myself, thought, upon hearing, even recently, when someone complains about “Socialism,” that he/she has no real idea about what that is.
    Businesses living in the real world: Might there be a whiff of a chance that capitalism will save itself from conservative nonsense?

  8. Sen. Tim Scott could be well advised to read Heather Cox Richardson. I would hope he does not believe he is a “self made” man. I am certain he did not overcome the obstacles of racism by himself.

    When Martin Luther King marched he knew he could be assasinated, he marched anyway. Sen. Tim Scott stands on his shoulders.

    When Lyndon B Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, he knew that southern democrats would leave the party. He signed it anyway. The violent riots that occured after Martin Luther King’s assasination made it clear to him and others in the government that people of color would no longer tolerate Jim Crow laws.

    Trump is a glaring symptom of what is wrong with the GOP. He has created a brand for the people who feel existentially threatened by the growing diversity of America. Even Barbie dolls now reflect that diversity.

    The GOP has failed repeatedly to diversify its base. So now they resort to fear mongering to try and maintain their power and white supremacist beliefs.

    May the fearless in America who are open to diversity find powerful ways to defeat those who are afraid. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power,we will have peace.” Jimi Hendrix.

  9. I had to laugh when I heard and read about members of the GOP being angry about the MLB moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta and some Mega-Corporations reacting negatively to Georgia’s and other states trying to make voting more difficult and complex.

    Essentially the GOP said told corporate America stay out of politics in the sense of social issues. Corporate America will not abandon the GOP, they will continue to lobby the GOP and spread all the goodies that accrue to those who walk the Corporate Walk.

    The GOP will stick with it’s Fear Mongering of trying to energize the unholy trinity of Christian Militants, racists and Rambo Wannabes. These people are hopeless in sense of turning them to the Middle, let alone the Left.

  10. America had an admixture of socialism and capitalism before and after FDR. Truth be told, such an admixture is essential to a functioning society. The devil in the details is how much of either ism is to be applied to government and the economy in order to optimize results leading to the common good (or if you are a terminal capitalist – your bottom line).

    Obviously corporate and other workers need sewers, police and fire protection, electricity, water, regulated banking and credit services and many other socialistic services that have nothing to do with hysterical cries from some that communism is next and/or that the government is going to take over private property, the means of production etc. We can and do pick what works out of that ism and the capitalist ism, blend them together into a new ism, and remain open to changes in our new ism as the times require, such as the wholesale changes we may have to make with the advent of AI, the effects of another plague, or whatever may befall us.

    So socialism bad and capitalism good? In isolated context, neither. Let’s keep mixing them up.

  11. The Georgia election bill won’t “suppress” a single vote. Some of the ideas in the bill are very bad such as kicking the Secretary of State off the election commission, and allowing for state takeover of local election boards if they’re designated as underperforming, but most of the other changes are innocuous and some quite good. They have a provision in there about long lines at polls, that require additional equipment when lines get too long and if lines still persist, splitting the precinct. The changes regarding absentee ballots are excellent. (No, they didn’t get rid of no excuse absentee voting.) The “let’s compare signatures” provision has always been a joke which delayed counting the votes and opened the door to bogus challenges. (Not to mention that signatures change over time and poll workers are not trained on handwriting analysis.) Drop boxes for the first time are written into GA law. The no food or drink provision can be offered to voters sounds onerous, but it only applies w/i 150 feet of the polls and was adopted b/c politicians and interest groups were using food and water handouts as an opportunity to campaign to voters in line. Other states, such as New York, has a similar law. (I wouldn’t have voted for the food/water provision simply b/c it was so easy to misrepresent what the change is really about.) Election day polling hours were not cut. Early voting not only was not cut, it is now mandated that it be offered along with weekends, including Sunday, and specific times provided. (Before the law just read “business hours.” Now early voting is mandated for at least 9 am to 5 pm, but it can be extended to to 7 am to 7 pm by the counties.)

    The fact is a lot of the perception of the bill seems to be based on reporting on proposals that didn’t make it in the final bill. Some of the perception though is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the bill by Democrats which is most unfortunate. I get that the impetus for these changes – Trump’s big lie about election fraud – is completely bogus. But in the end the GA bill was not the monster we had all feared and, as I said, it won’t suppress a single vote. I think the D’s would be wise to learn the lesson Chicken Little learned. Other states are considering actual voter suppression (I prefer “voter discouragement”) provisions and the public might well believe them b/c the Democrats so overreacted, and yes lied, about the GA bill.

    I would strongly encourage people to read the actual bill. If you’re not inclined to read nearly pages, here is a summary by CBS News.

  12. To be clear I mean the GA law on not handing out food and water (again, which was used as an excuse to campaign by politicians and interest groups) only applies w/i 150 feet of the voting booths.

  13. The Georgia law was, in some instances, an improvement over the old law BUT was worse than the provisions allowed during the pandemic. Early voting times in the law (9 to 5) are worse than those provided during the last election season and provide no help to those who must work for a living and can’t get time off to vote either early or on election day. More week-end voting helps some but not for those who must work 2 and 3 jobs at minimum wage.

    Folks standing in line for up to 8 hours in Georgia were more in need of water and food the closer they got to the voting booth. If Georgia legislators were concerned about electioneering with water and food, why not just outlaw electioneering with water and food rather than outlawing the water and food themselves? I seriously doubt there was electioneering occurring in those lines. I am unaware of a single case of it. If someone was trading something of value for a vote, that’s already illegal in every state.

    Georgia now may be required to split precincts, but the number of precincts is different than the number of polling places. No one should ever have to stand in line for hours to vote. Georgia has a history of deliberately causing long lines by changing and combining polling places with too little voting machinery in precincts that have ‘too many’ black voters. If Georgia is truly concerned about electioneering in lines of voters, then stop causing the long lines. Problem solved.

    Providing fewer drop boxes than last year also makes no sense. If anything, more drop boxes in well traveled locations should be provided. In any event, I cannot imagine a justification for using fewer drop boxes that were already purchased for the last election and should be used again for the next one.

    Voting by mail is an option but is cumbersome and somewhat confusing with all the small print. Given the mail delays of the Trump administration, timely and reliable delivery also was in doubt. Hopefully the Biden administration will correct the postal problems AND pass legislation to actually encourage voter participation and make us the beacon of democracy to the world once again.

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