From the lowest common denominator down
The unbound political ambition we see in the likes of Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, …, reminds those of us old enough to remember of Richard Nixon. It was but a small step from Nixon’s whatever it takes ambition-driven politics to appealing to the lowest common denominator. A step he took; the first Presidential Candidate to do so in a while. FDR, HST, DDE, JFK, and LBJ; none of them did. But, from Nixon on, all Republican Presidents have. Appealing to the lowest common denominator has become the Republican Party’s political stock and trade.
Back then, the lowest common denominator was seen as being those who got their news, if they consumed any news at all, from the National Enquirer, People, Entertainment, …, the Sports Page; that great swath of the public who were ill informed and poorly educated. Nothing wrong with that. Some of them were racist, bigots; so was much of the rest of the Nation. This, the racism and bigotry, was something the Nation together was working on. We are after all a democracy; and, in the main, other some of their Archie Bunker tendencies, they were good, honest, hard-working people. But things were changing for them, for the whole of the working class. They may not have understood what was happening, (Who did?), but they could and did sense it. The factories with the good-paying jobs were beginning to close. They were having to compete harder for the remaining jobs, maybe take less pay. More and more, the husband and wife both needed to work to support a household. Worse, their children’s future wasn’t as bright as their own had been.
But where those presidents listed before Nixon had sought to lift up, inspire the people, make the Nation and the World a better place; Nixon and all the Republican Presidents since him have pandered to the ignorance of the ill informed and poorly educated in order to get their votes; accorded credence to their beliefs, including racism and bigotry. In doing so, they brought these people, and the Nation, down, not up; backward, not forward.
This pandering played a most significant role in the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency. But, rather than being a savior to this mostly working-class, Reagan immediately went after the unions, Black Americans, and the Environmental Protection Act. The very same unions that had done more to build America than anything else. Black Americans who had suffered so long and had only of late truly gotten the vote. The EPA that was cleaning up our air and water. Where LBJ had sought to ease the plight of the displaced and downtrodden, Reagan would denigrate them, and make it more difficult for them. The lowest common denominator whites fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. They cheered when Reagan denigrated the educated, the intelligentsia. Instead of lifting the masses up, Reagan would bring the eggheads and elites down. Reagan pandered to the Christian Right, a racist, bigoted, group that was notoriously anti-science, anti-progress. Reagan said that Global Warming was a hoax; took those goddamned solar panels off the roof, and began drilling anywhere and everywhere for oil. By the end of the Reagan administration, the Republican Party was in the main made up of a Venn Diagram of the lowest common denominator, the emerging Christian Right, and former Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats.
George H. W. Bush voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act when he was yet a moderate Republican Congressman from Texas, nee Connecticut Brahman. In 1988, he ran the infamous Willy Horton ad in his campaign for President; taking the Nation backward, not forward. In 1988, George H. W. Bush, too, pandered to the Christian Right; a racist, bigoted, group that was notoriously anti-science, anti-fact, anti progress. The Nation had gone backward; so had he.
In 2000, George W. Bush ran, above all else, as a Born Again Christian bent on cleaning out the amoral swamp of Washington, of the Clinton Legacy. After he was elected, while he was still busy rolling up his sleeves for the TV Cameras, 21 Saudi Arabian Citizens hijacked then flew commercial airliners into the two Towers of the world Trade Center in NYC, and one into the Pentagon. Bush immediately blamed Saddam Hussein and declared war on Iraq and Afghanistan. George W. Bush was our first, well maybe second after Reagan, truly lowest common denominator President.
By the 1953, the National Enquirer, originally modeled on William Randolph Hearst’s Newspapers, and after having been at one time Mafia owned, had morphed into something more akin the British Tabloids; tabloids that came to be owned in 1969 by one Rupert Murdoch (yes, that very same Rupert Murdoch). Sensationalist headlines with little or no regard for the truth, for the facts; this was the National Enquirer of the 1970s and 80s.
By the late 1980s, right-wing radio talk show hosts spewing garbage, such as Rush Limbaugh, began coming out of the woodwork to share in the lucre of pandering to, hustling, these groups that now populated the Venn Diagram that was the Republican Party. These right-wing radio talk show hosts were at first assistants to, enablers of, the New Republican Party. Later, some, like Limbaugh, were to become a power unto themselves. The race to the bottom was on.
In 1996, Roger Ailes, with funding from Rupert Murdoch, founded Fox News with the intent of it becoming the voice of the Republican Right. By this time, the right-wing of the Party was the majority; little was left of the Grand Old Party of the 1970s. Fox News was soon to be seen and heard pandering to ignorance, racism, and bigotry in every coffee shop, and McDonald’s across America’s heartland and South. Heard and seen spouting right-wing dogma, racism, and bigotry; denigrating all democrats and moderates; impeding progress by any means. Fox news served as the propaganda outlet for this new Republican Party. And, it seems that instead of being ready to enter the 21st Century, a whole lot of Americans, were ready and willing to be lead back to the 1950s.
In his 1969 memo to then President Nixon, Ailes had explained that most Americans were too lazy to think; that they would be completely happy to sit in front of their TVs and let someone tell them what to think. By 2000, Fox News was the voice of the far-right; was doing the thinking for the lowest common denominator, and, giving voice to both the Christian Right, and the former Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats, now Republican, politicians. By 2000, any Democrat running against a Republican would also be running against Fox News.
By 2000, for all intents and purposes, the lowest common denominator, the Christian Right, and the former Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats were the Republican Party, or, perhaps, the three together, formed the lowest common denominator which was now the Republican Party. And, by 2000, they, the three of them, were becoming aware of this. By 2000, the lowest common denominator, the Christian Right, and the former Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats were beginning to feel empowered, and, were emboldened by this feeling of power.
When Facebook, a social media platform, came on line in 2004, Fox News was acting as the platform for, the propaganda arm for, this new Republican Party that it had been so instrumental in shaping. With Facebook, each of the Republican Party’s constituents: the lowest common denominator, the Christian Right, and former Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats, could now have a platform of their own. Facebook, as is its wont, conveniently grouped them for anyone who wished to manipulate them. Tim Cook May Have Just Ended Facebook
To be fair, Facebook provided a platform for any and all; just ask President Barack Obama. On Facebook, the Party’s racism and bigotry hadn’t gone away; both were now, more than ever, ever-present on this new platform.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 sent shock waves through this that was now the Republican Party. A Party whose majority was now replete with racists, bigots, and white supremacists; more than a few of whom were also Evangelical Christians. A party now being represented in the House and Senate by some of the most craven of the most cravenly of politicians.
To be fair, all politicians are craven; Democrats included. The cravenness of this current crop of Republican politicians hasn’t been seen since the early 20th Century.
As an aftershock of Obama’s election to be President; in 2009, a group of these most cravenly of legislators calling themselves the Tea Party was formed up out of what was now the Republican Party. Were they the lowest common denominator’s first legislators? Not really. They were, in fact, funded by the Koch Brothers, and other right-wing, libertarian, groups. The Tea Party was a far-right group of legislators opposed to government (go figure). Especially one lead by the Black Obama, or any Democrat for that matter.
This Obama racial shock wave also spawned such other racist, white supremacist groups as the Three Percenters, and the Oath Keepers. Both are also far-right, anti-government, and pro-gun. For both, former and current military and police make up the majority of their membership. Both are bullies. All these qualities making them bona fide members of, circles on, this Venn Diagram that is now today’s Republican party. Oh, there are no doubt members of the GOP who still consider themselves to be members of this Republican Party. Deniality can take a little getting used to. Though they say it’s not bad once you get used to it.
In January 2015, a group of ultra-conservative House Republicans founded the Freedom Caucus. Among the group’s nine founders were such familiar names as: Mick Mulvaney (yes, that Mick Mulvaney), Jim Jordan, Ron DeSantis, and Mark Meadows (yes that Mark Meadows). They were a small group of ultra-conservative ideologues intent on imposing their will on House Republicans; a tyranny by a minority of like-minded bullies. Never representing more than ten percent of the Nation, they have managed, by any means they can come up with, to tyrannize the Nation until the very present. By very early 2015 it was clear to many that Donald Trump intended to run for President in 2016. In June of 2015, he formally announced his candidacy. Coincidence?
Launched in September of 2016, Proud Boys is a far-right group dedicated to: Chauvinism, Neo-Fascism, White Nationalism, and Trumpism. It just doesn’t get any better.
Stop the Steal is a far-right movement founded by Roger Stone (yes, that Roger Stone) intent on promoting the theory that the 2016 Election was stolen from Donald Trump, in the case Trump lost. Was recreated as a Facebook site in 2020
QAnon, founded in October of 2017, was founded by, and is made up of, nutcases dedicated to the support of Donald Trump.
These: the Freedom Caucus, Proud Boys, Stop the Steal, and QAnon are now themselves circles on the Venn Diagram that is today’s Republican Party. All are part of the lowest common denominator. All are deplorable, detestable, and despicable for the harm they have done the Nation and its Citizens. So, too, the Republican Presidents, and other Republican Party leaders, who have enabled them. Social Media, especially Facebook, has played an out-sized role in facilitating the growth of these groups; too, has done great harm the Nation.
As was to be expected, this pandering to the lowest common denominator, to lowered expectations, was not without consequence. Rather than take the whole of the Nation boldly forward into the 21st Century, these are they who held us back, took us backward. It wasn’t in the interest of the Republican Party to mend their ways, so they didn’t. The Republican Party became the Party of the lowest common denominator. Immediately, upon taking office, after the Carter, Clinton, and Obama Administrations, their Republican successors set about undoing anything that they had done that had moved the Nation forward; anything aspirational. Instead of reaching to the stars, they gave us the likes of Jim Jordan, Mick Mulvaney, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Tommy Tuberville, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert; and, indirectly, Donald Trump.
Of late, we are reaping the harvest of the politics of this pandering. In the House and Senate, we have Republican Politician after Republican Politician who got elected to their office by pandering to this anti-fact, anti-truth, anti-science, anti-democratic lowest common denominator; their ‘base’. When you ‘just know’, ‘just believe’ something, who needs science, the facts, the truth, or democracy? As we are seeing more and more, democracy doesn’t work in a Nation where almost one-half the people choose to choose their own facts, have their own alternate reality. As a consequence of so many of its members being representative of this group of know-nothings, the US Congress is no longer a functioning body. But, who needs democracy when you can get what you want through the Courts? By bullying? Fact is, of late, it is working pretty well for them. Supreme Court Justices, indirectly elected by them and lots of money, in return for their seat on the Court, did give them their gun-rights, their religious freedoms; and, the right to impose some of their beliefs on others; responded to their concerns about who someone has sex with, about what a woman does with her own body.
What happened was that Donald Trump got elected President in 2016. His Presidency has been one hell of a ride; for the Nation, for the World. And, it is far from certain that the ride is over.