My Mother Was Right…

As I used to tell my own children, you should always listen to your mother.

My sister and I were the products of a politically “mixed marriage.” Mother was a Republican and Dad was a Democrat, and they often ended up casting votes that cancelled each other out. There was a limit to our mother’s political conservatism, however–she was deeply suspicious of what she called the “fringe Right,” the Birchers and others who were then seen by the broad majority of the party as kooks and crazies.

Mother didn’t live long enough to see those kooks and crazies complete their takeover of the Republican Party and chase out the more moderate folks we used to lump together as “country club Republicans”– some who were philosophical conservatives and others whose business interests had turned them into anti-tax, “trickle-down” true believers.

Everything my mother thought about what was then the far-Right “fringe” has turned out to be correct. Only worse.

I was reminded of her long-ago criticisms when I read a recent article in Talking Points Memo. (Apologies if this is one of the articles behind the paywall for subscribers only.) The article began:

Whiplash-inducing breaks from long-held party positions have become the norm in today’s Republican Party.

From former president Donald Trump to emerging voices such as Senator J.D. Vance, presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, and North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson, a wave of politicians and activists have signaled an abandonment of Republican orthodoxy on issues that once defined the party.

The party of free trade has become protectionist. The party of Cold Warriors has increasingly backed Russia and opposed aiding Ukraine. The party of less government has grown conflicted about where it stands on Social Security and Medicare.

How can not just a party, but its voters, suddenly change direction on so many bedrock issues?

Or have they?

Ben Bradford, who wrote the column, hosts a podcast series called “Landslide.” He proceeded to answer his own question,  asserting that the current Republican Party does not, in fact, represent a change or reversal of course–rather, in his opinion, it represents an evolution. “What seems like a shift on fundamental issues” he says, “is the latest expression of the same underlying force that has propelled voters for nearly half a century.”

Bradford takes readers back fifty years, to the mid-1970s and the “New Right,” reminding us of their opposition to a “range of the era’s social and cultural changes: school integration, new textbooks, gun laws, the women’s rights movement, gay and lesbian rights, and — eventually — abortion.”

New Right organizations included Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and the NRA’s further-right cousin, the Gun Owners of America. It also included many of the same conservative groups that push policy positions and drive national debates today: the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the National Right-to-Life Committee, to name just a handful. These groups shared many of the same founders. Harper’s Magazine described their organizational charts as “an octopus shaking hands with itself.”

Two things that were “new” about the New Right were direct-mail fundraising and–especially– culture war.

The New Right was organized around social and cultural backlash. It created a link between activists working for seemingly unrelated causes–for example, opponents of abortion and opponents of gun laws. Howard Phillips described the goal of the New Right as “organizing discontent.” At a time when the major political parties were still trying to downplay hot-button social and cultural issues, the New Right created a coalition based upon voters’ backlash to culture change.

The article argues that it was a tactic that changed the nature of American conservatism.

Bradford goes on to document how the New Right saved Ronald Reagan’s campaign–a campaign animated by a backlash against a changing culture.

The message of a better past endangered by a changing culture would not feel out of place coming from Republican candidates today. And, the issues they emphasize — opposing the contents of textbooks, the use of race in school admissions, and transgender rights, among others — are the modern descendants of those 50 years ago.

As my mother would have added, that “backlash” coalition wasn’t just angry about social change; it was also a hotbed of bigotry–it was racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic. If it ever gained power, she warned us, Americans who weren’t straight White Christians would be endangered.

Well, they’ve gained power– and proved her point.


    Rather than just becoming backwoods Amish-like to revert back in time, they decided to take over everybody’s lives no matter what deceit and tactics they had to use to do it; or whether those tactics were legal or harmful not only to others, but also to US citizens held hostage in Iran to get Regan elected. We’re putting the breaks on as fast and hard as we can. But is it possible to avoid destructive devastation at the intersection of majority Democratic Republic and minority Fascist Authoritarianism? The deception is mindboggling! I appreciate commentaries of Sheila Kennedy, and a wide variety of other online resources as well, spreading reason while pointing out so much hypocrisy the extremists of the right wing have been touting as “the voice of reason” all these years. My mother was Republican, and dad was Democratic too. When I was too young to recognize what my dad saw in Nixon that mom and I didn’t, I talked her into voting for Nixon when she was considering not voting for Nixon. She didn’t live long enough to see how bad that decision was. I thought it was horrible how things turned out then. Now, the horribleness of it all that has developed to full promotion of fascism is astounding. The involvement of politicians and pseudo-politicians in high and low offices reflects how other countries became ruled by authoritarian dictators. The US has been able to knock it down before. If it’s able to knock it down now I think we’ll have a multiplied times greater America than we’ve already had before. The country flows in waves of increasing and decreasing authoritarian apologists. Those waves seem to push ever-heightening waves of representative Democratic values of We ALL The People by majority. I’m looking forward to the highest truly representative waves in world history bringing out the best in everyone in a country, that has been heavily pushed forward far into the future, that we didn’t think would be possible before the current turbulence.

  2. As my mother would have added as a conservative? I never argue with anyone older, I might look at policy and discuss things along these lines, but the political parties are being dominated by people wanting to force unrealistic change

  3. John H.? The “political parties” are not being dominated by people trying to force unrealistic change. One party wants to remove the rights and protections of citizens and one does not. Nothing Dems call for is unrealistic or radical. Nothing.

  4. My mom was Republican, and my dad was a Democrat, too. Before my mom got dementia, she was voting for Democrats. She couldn’t stand Fox News or our statehouse Republicans. My dad was a toolmaker, so he voted for Democrats religiously.

    I knew we were in trouble when the Tea Party burst onto the public scene. Locally, they were not allowed in the Republican Party HQs. They were avid Fox News watchers and loved Glenn Beck and his crazy conspiracies. He still pushes them on his followers, but Steve Bannon probably gets more attention now.

    However, I don’t see them as antisemites. At least the ones on X are avid fans of Israel and receive lots of money from the Israeli lobby. They are constantly spouting Israeli propaganda in unison.

    Right now, they are up in a frenzy over our southern border. Fox News must be whipping them up into believing all the immigrants have been let out of prisons. What’s funny is Texas was granted arresting powers over the migrants and immigrants. Once the SCOTUS decision was rendered, Mexican President Obrador said he would not accept them back once they crossed the border into Texas. So, Texas can arrest them, give them a bed to sleep on, and three square meals on the taxpayer dime. Be careful what you wish for!

  5. Me too: Mom a Republican (because her father was staunchly so), and my father a Democrat. My Republican grandfather would be appalled at the current Republicans.
    The saddest thing happened to me last year when a younger woman I know slightly, but admired, stopped by the house to see if I would support her campaign for a local office. When she told me she was a Republican, I was so stunned, I blurted out, “Why??” Her answer was almost a shrug: “My family always has been. It’s a way I honor them.”
    I would think she could better honor her grandparents and be a better role model for her daughters, if she did more thinking for herself.

  6. EVERYTHING REPUBLICANS TOUCH DIES – Beginning with the Nixon lies and the Reagan “revolution”. It’s not complicated. When wealth and power are shunted away from the general public, democracy dies. And here we are.

  7. Vernon,

    WADR, “When wealth and power are shunted away from the general public” – when were they ever not (beginning with the elite founders)???

  8. Lester,

    When Democrats fought the moguls for fair wages, fair hiring practices, anti-discrimination in the work place and a host of other things including the right to organize.

    What does WADR mean? Are you being clever?

  9. With All Due Respect – “fought, yes” and little “stuck”…wealth and power rule here.

  10. All it is, slight of hand!
    When Reagan was standing up there telling everyone how social security was untouchable, that the trust fund continued to hold the money collected over the years, he was lying! Because Ronald Reagan used the social security trust fund as a personal piggy bank to fund his clandestine operations and venture to say, shenanigans with his cohorts.

    What better way to be able to loot the peoples contribution to social security, then to demonize others who might collect it. It also started the onus, well, “we’re running short because all of these displaced people, and, those others who practice every conceivably vile action are just looking to dip into the good people’s fund.” Social security and Medicare and any other social program, could be gradually depleted by claiming it’s rigged for everybody else but the good folks.

    People continuously vote against their own best interests, because they’re followers, they follow the nonsense, they follow the bigotry, They follow the hatred and fear which has been inflamed by those elected political deviants and ne’er do wells. And, over a period of time, as the deviants continue to deviate, the followers continue to follow. Allowing those deviants to loot the piggy bank, and I’m not just referring to the social security trust fund either. They attract other deviants, including the deep pocket lobbyists who are currently driving The deviant deviation from rationality. And that’s another issue, why allow lobbyists? So the elected carpetbaggers can sit at the public slop trough like the pigs they are. This deviant political orgy, isn’t a one-off, it’s been done since the beginning.

  11. Jefferson worried about the tyranny of the majority, at the same time he and the rest of our founding fathers unwittingly gave way too much authority to minorities. I’m sure they never envisioned a time when one side would represent 36% more people and have only a 1% majority margin in the Senate.
    I know there were terrific battles caused by our multiple violations of treaties with the Sioux that influenced the division of the Dakota Territory into North and South Dakota Territories. The Republicans saw an advantage, and as soon as they were back in office, created 2 states. As of 2021 those 2 states represented a total population of 1,670,319. The smallest Democratic leaning state is Rhode Island, with 1.096 million.
    I never like to think of a problem, without offering a solution. I would love to have a study to determine how much land is actually available for settling of people, leaving adequate acreage as habitat for other species. From that, we can make determinations about limits to find an appropriate range for Senate representation. We don’t need to come to a one man/one vote. We do need to minimize the differential to less than 5%. We have to amend the Constitution, so it can’t happen now, but as soon as we can get Amendments, we need to offer one to change the Senate and another to eliminate the Electoral College.

  12. My father and mother were Democrats. My older brother became a business Republican (no taxes, no regulation) sort and my younger brother, a schoolteacher, and I, a lawyer, remained Democrats. My father was a coal miner, a union advocate, and a strong backer of FDR. I followed and continue to follow his example, and have a far better reason to be a Democrat these days than I had even during the Thirties, given the capture of the Republican Party I knew by fascist elements led by political creeps such as Trump, MTG, and assorted “Republican” senators and representatives to the right of Atilla the Hun.

    It is not enough to put down a shadow “party” that doesn’t exist anymore, having been captured by fascist elements who have an interest only in the acquisition and use of power rather than governing. We have serious governing to do what with the rise of fascism worldwide, Ukraine, African famine, Xi, Gaza and other flashpoints of violence as well as domestic issues galore, including NATO-bashing, the environment, and other targets of the Huns.

    In an ideal world we don’t have time to argue with fascists about issues they have no interest in treating, so how do we bring solutions to our problems against such
    a reality? By winning this fall’s election in overwhelming numbers and thus regaining control of our governing apparatus and reinstalling small d over fascist philosophy as our rule and guide. Vote, bring Aunt Mary and Uncle Harold with you to the polls, and if you can, contribute to our candidates for office at both state and federal levels to help get our message out – a worthy donation.

  13. The message I got growing up was to vote for the person, not the party. And throughout my young adulthood I just didn’t vote at all mainly because I didn’t know enough to have opinions about the people running for office.
    By the time I learned enough to form opinions about the people and parties, I could see the direction the Republican Party was taking, pandering to ignorance and bigotry. I still don’t think of myself as a Democrat even though I vote straight blue. If I had to describe myself politically I would say I am a progressive in the sense that I am in favor of continuing the progress we are making toward the fulfillment of the ideals expressed in our founding documents. If I believed the Republican Party was doing that, I would vote red.

  14. It is time to understand that “parties” are more and more about their own power, money and influence. We need people controlling governance at all levels who will steadfastly put “country/constituents over party”. Having tried to find and elect folks like that to the US House for the last 7 years, I can tell you that they are becoming fewer and further between. It is like watching the erosion of our shoreline from climate change; it is the erosion of our democracy. I don’t recall this phrase in our founding “of the Party”.

  15. My parents married in Chicago, when attending “The Second Conference Against War and Fascism,” in 1939. Neither lived to see Nixon’s putrid rise in politics, and Reagan’s acting the part of a president, his best “B” movie.
    The Republican party has long been “…a hotbed of bigotry–it was racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic.” I’m sure that Lincoln would have forsworn them decades ago.
    I believe it was HCR who recently commented on the Tea Party’s having been born out of the shock of that Black fellow was elected. That might have sent more chills down their collective spine than the counter-culture of the ’60’s, which kicked a lot of reactionary fear into action.
    I was a “Pink diaper” baby, and while never a “useful idiot,” as in Stalin’s phrase, am decidedly a liberal.

  16. Mitch D: The Republican and Democratic Parties exchanged philosophical positions in the early 20th Century. Lincoln would have been a Democrat by today’s measurements and I would have been a Republican in his day since Republicans were progressive and anti-slave and Democrats were then pro-slave, rebellious, and old guard.

    When comparing the stands of Democrats and Republicans from times gone past as arguments on contemporary issues it is important to keep this momentous exchange of philosophies in mind, though with the capture of “Republicans” by fascists we now have a new comparison, i. e., Democrats vs. Fascists.

  17. My parents were thoughtful hardworking people, both had served in US army during WWll. That was mom’s first job as a nurse. Dad took advantage of GI bill after the war and went to IU law school. Mom and dad had democratic leanings early on. I remember the first president I voted for was Carter. After Carter’s first term I remember Dad c/o having to pay 40% income tax. He then became a Republican, and Mom followed suit. Why abortion issue was allowed in public arena I don’t know, but that solidified their position since they were Catholics. Dad had worked his way through an engineering degree {Purdue} prior to the war. He was a math guy which helped later on working on big accident cases.
    I always respected their experiences and opinions but politically I was always democrat.
    I always listened when dad would talk about things like protecting the minority from the majority. I think he would be appalled and angry by what these Maga kooks are doing today and use his influence to help bring them down.

  18. Americans who aren’t straight white Christian MALES are endangered, including straight white Christian females. I’ve tired of reading articles and pundits pronouncing that once Trump is defeated, we are out of danger. That is so far from true. The “new right” has not worked this hard to pin their hopes on one man. They will find others to put in his place.

Comments are closed.