To understand the platform of conservatives, it’s important to understand their unifying factor: the Republican Party. Recall in my previous post how this was shaped by the Democratic presidents leading up to that point. For Republicans, the political platform had revolved around a capitalistic economic ideology predating President Herbert Hoover and tracing its roots back to its very formation.
After the unpopular Whig Party collapsed, the Republican Party rose from its ashes to provide a counter-acting political force. Under Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party represented the Union – the economic juggernaut of America. The victory of the Union over the Confederacy sealed the success of the Republicans over the Democrats such that, when the industrial revolution came, the north – composing the Union and its Republican party – enjoyed the growth of big business. The railway barons ordered a building of a network that crisscrossed the United States but also brought about spite for the Republican Party that favored them over the unions. Since then, the Democratic party has always represented the unions and the Republican party has represented big business.
The failure of the economy under President Hoover led to a drought in Republican power lasting over 50 years. President Eisenhower did not provide Republicans with the true economic power they wanted. The desperate Republican party watched painfully as their candidate Richard Nixon was verbally thrashed in political debate to the Democrat’s rising star, John F. Kennedy. Then disaster struck the Democratic Party in the form of the debacle of the Vietnam War, and the Republican party made its move.
The War on Communism
World War 2 never truly ended until the fall of the Soviet Union. Immediately after Germany surrendered, fighting broke out in Greece between Russian and English forces. With a struggling army, the British could no longer police the world, and the only remaining superpowers with money left were the United States and the USSR. The USA was on a winning streak and delighted in the idea of spreading freedom and democracy throughout the known world while halting the advance of the communistic ideologies that had been loathed since the era of President Hoover.
Every war fought for the next two and a half decades by US forces was in response to the advance of communism. America had initially been united in these efforts, especially considering that a many Americans still remembered World War 2. However, after the Korean War, it was slowly becoming evident that America was facing a new superpower – its former ally, China – and that no one was quite certain how to handle the war. After Eisenhower, America was looking for a leader.
The Democrats had united America by appearing as the new wave, the new future. President Kennedy was young and fresh, stood up to the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was pushing forward the American space program. He was immensely popular. Disaster struck when he was assassinated. The Democratic Party foresaw no trouble looming with Lyndon Johnson, but Americans were already becoming divided over the issue of these wars.
Republicans decided it would be prudent to stand on a platform of representing “true Americans”. And who was that at the time? None other than the working class Americans, war heroes, and – most importantly – the voters. The Republicans effectively stole everything the Democratic Party had, and along with it, they incorporated into their platform the ideologies of the many hard working and/or military Americans most common in the United States.
Before the election, Richard Nixon was spruced up and made to look as vibrant and intelligent as Kennedy in the debates in which Nixon had been embarrassed. The trick worked.
Excited with their seizure of power and wary of a Democratic comeback, the Republicans made a blunder: spy on the DNC at Watergate. They were caught red-handed, leaving President Nixon with two choices: cover up or resign. He tried the former. When that failed, he knew Republican power would crumble if he tried to remain, so to protect the dignity of the party, President Richard Nixon resigned August 9, 1974. Gerald Ford took over, but the American people remained uneasy, leaving enough sway for the next election to go to the Democrat Jimmy Carter.
Many years early, socialists had recognized the importance of controlling the media. President Franklin Roosevelt held “fireside chats” to appease the American people. War films had been used to promote American unity during World War 2, but the tactic had backfired during Vietnam. Nevertheless, the Democrats had maintained control of the mainstream media. And during the Nixon years, it was looking for blood.
The Washington Post drew attention to the Watergate scandal and became an important factor in the eventual conviction of Nixon and his staff. Since then, mainstream news agencies have seen themselves as the discoverers and revealers of the dark secrets of a Republican-run government. However, it has been pointed out that media coverage may have been over the top and was obviously bias. People were already picking sides.
The Republicans made a comeback. Rather than push for a solid, middle-country American, they would take someone from the very heart of the new “liberal” territory: California. An “old Democrat” stepped into the White House, and his name was Ronald Reagan.
The next four presidents – from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush – were nominated by their parties merely to win the tipping of the political teeter-totter. Consequently, the political platforms of each party became relatively moderate while still retaining their socialist and capitalist undertones. The Republicans had just enough favor to win 3 of 4, making them the dominant party and forcing the Democratic Party to perform soul searching.
However, Reagan’s policies and presidency were unique for Republicans. Conservatives still look back on him and hail him as their champion, especially for his role in ending the Cold War and the USSR. His “trickle-down economics” became the conservative model of the economy for many years, not because it was new, but because it was not “Democrat”.
The leadership of President Reagan made him a figurehead that pleased the soon-to-be-loyal constituency and swayed working Americans to believing big-business capitalism – not socialism nor communism – was the best kind of economy.
Ever since President Reagan, “conservative” Americans have been capitalist.
Ironically, the liberal policies under President Reagan – specifically, the globalist economy – led to increased trade with China. Years later, conservatives – concerned with their wealth – have switched favoritism and now hate globalism. But this change of policy was inevitable.
Today, the Republican Party is being reformed and unified by President Trump under the same banner of economics, but instead of a wishy-washy attempt to appease a thin majority, he is the people’s response to the polarized political climate following President Obama.
Having been lackadaisical up through the Bush era, the Republican Party lost control of the general public to the Democratic Party who had finally recovered and found their platform. It was a simple motto: “Change”, but what it meant to Americans was, “Someone who wants to DO something good while in the White House”. President Obama in turn helped the Republicans find their’s… by realizing the political war they were fighting.
And the story goes on… onward to part 7!