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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

The great American con: How the GOP convinced America it was on their side

By Theo Miller
News Editor

Does politics seem too brash for you these days? Do you miss the days of bipartisanship? The days when congress worked together to get things done in the interest of the country? Do you feel like the current president may be a tiny bit bad for democracy? 

Well, me too. And yet I am here to tell you to get over it. We aren’t going to be able to go back to that. Why? Simple answer: The Republican Party. 

I’m not framing this as a partisan piece, despite what it may sound like. Realistically, if you support the current leadership, you should be flattered by this article. If you support them, then this story is not an attack piece, but a mythology on how the greatest era of American politics came about—be proud of that. 

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So, a crash course on the fall of America. It comes down to two concepts and three men. Television. Obstructionism. Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich. Mitch McConnell. 

To really understand it, I need to take you back to the 1980s. The Republican party was in shambles after the impeachment of Richard Nixon. The people had no trust in the GOP’s party of corruption, and because of that, Democrats controlled much of the government during the early 80s. 

This is why Ronald Reagan is important. America is, on paper, a representative democracy; in order to control the government, you need to win the hearts and minds of the people. Who better to restore faith in a political party than a movie star running on a platform of easily marketable ideas? Lower taxes. Win the Cold War. Easy. Never mind that the Cold War did not end until years after Reagan’s presidency. Never mind that taxes technically went up. Never mind that the president technically engaged in illegal weapons trade. This was a man who stood up to communism, took a bullet in the chest for it, and survived. Long live the party of Reagan. 

This set the stage phenomenally well for Newt Gingrich going into the 1990s. The 90s meant one thing for him: television. The Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (CSPAN) had 24-hour cameras pointed at the congress floor. Gingrich figured how to weaponize them. If he could convince you that Washington was corrupt and inefficient because of Democratic ‘Big Government,’ and that only someone like him could fix it, there was only one candidate you could vote for.

To hear Norm Ornstein, one of the greatest political analysts of our time, put it, “His idea was to build toward a national election where people were so disgusted by Washington and the way it was operating that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”

It worked. CSPAN provided a prime-time slot for him to broadcast his message, unfiltered, straight into the homes, hearts, and minds of millions of people. Newt and his cohort would often stand and deliver fiery speeches to an empty chamber simply because the cameras were rolling. Newt introduced the name calling. Newt introduced the smear campaigns. Newt introduced obstructionism.

Obstructionism, or the idea that by rallying behind party lines for every decision, allowed Gingrich to make a Democratic congress appear ineffective by not letting any bills pass through the legislature, before using that as fodder to win the election. Once the newly minted (read: GOP-controlled) chambers were instated, the party (or its donors) could speedrun the legislative process for bills they liked and stonewall bills they did not. These tactics are still in use today.

Which brings us to the great Mitch McConnell. If Newt broke the system, Mitch dumped all those broken pieces in a ditch and poured concrete over top. Mitch entered congress as a young idealist. He currently reigns over it with lizard-like posture and no firmly held beliefs—spineless, with one exception. Mitch figured out that money wins elections, not ideas. With that, he now had to figure out who had the money. 

The answer: corporations. The average company not only has more money than the average person, but it also has a deeper vested interest in seeing legislation that helps their business pass through congress. Of course, no congressman is going to come out and say that they are against campaign finance reform, but realistically no one is going to say no to free money. When Mitch took to the stand and struck down reform after reform, everyone in office breathed a silent sigh of relief. Moguls took special notice and decided to thank Mitch for his efforts by donating big to his campaign. Over the next 15 years, he took it to the extreme. Mitch went around to donor after donor, locking up funds from the wealthiest donors, and then locking it out from his constituents unless they held the party line, a tactic pioneered by our old friend Newt.

Of course, all of this is contingent on these people staying in office, and this is where the television long-game comes in again. As I once paraphrased the CEO of KFC by saying, ‘you can market to love and hate, but you cannot market to indifference’. The Fox News Network is by far the most popular ‘news’ channel on air today. Why? Well, if you hold a set of, say, Christian conservative ideals to be your God-given duty to uphold, aren’t you going to do your absolute most to uphold them? The television says that the Democrats are for abortion. I’m against abortion. I should vote Republican. The cycle continues.

But TV ads aren’t cheap, and it’s even less cheap to run your own TV network. The solution? Corporate money. As a candidate, if my reelection hinged on money from coal lobbies, and legislation passed over my desk that would benefit the coal industry, their money will influence my decision. That’s how lobbying works. Corporate money will also buy a pundit to go on at 8:00 every night and wax poetic about how great our leaders are, or how corrupt and vile they are. Business is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.

This is the death of American democracy, where a corporation’s vote is louder than a person’s. Political pundits go on every night and stir up trouble or support. Money keeps flowing behind the scenes. The con was not the election of Donald Trump, although it is certainly ironic that the country decided that a bankrupt billionaire had more in common with the midwestern farmer than an Arkansas college town girl. The con was that the GOP was the ‘party of the people,’ the party of Christian conservative ideals, the one that represented the individual American. 

Neither Mitch nor Newt are devout Christians, both have been involved with extramarital affairs during their time in office. But the conservative brand sells well, so they adopt it. Hypocrisy be damned. Mitch McConnell’s wife works for the Trump administration and is also the daughter of a Taiwanese logistics billionaire with ties back to Chinese central government’s shipbuilding industry. We cannot escape. The GOP is not the People Party. The GOP is the Money Party.

And to answer your burning question, no, I do not think President Trump to blame. He was carefully chosen and has been exceptionally good at his job. Think about it. The louder and more incoherently Mr. Trump yells, the more attention everyone pays to him, and the less people focus on the subtle rollback of things like how much coal dust should be in our water, or how much gas our increasingly large cars should eat.

Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve walked the plank. I honestly do not think we can go back. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it seems like a lot of people feel just fine.

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The great American con: How the GOP convinced America it was on their side