Now that the Republican tax bill has exposed the class warfare that underlies the party’s motivations, we’ve heard Democrats criticize the premises of Reaganomics. Lost in the din of Democratic politicians righteously denouncing this latest Republican tax scam is the often facilitating role many Democrats have played in enabling the class warfare in the first place.
Down the memory hole today is the fact that during the 1980s about 50 Democratic representatives in the House routinely crossed party lines to vote for Ronald Reagan’s plutocratic agenda. Had Democrats stood by their labor union base and challenged Reagan instead of capitulating Reaganomics might’ve been snuffed out at its conception. Instead, they played nice with the Republicans and then sat back and watched while the working people they supposedly represented took it on the chin.
Throughout the 1990s the Republicans pushed trade deals that undermined labor unions, crime bills that unfairly incarcerated low-income people, welfare bills that stripped vital services from women and children, and the deregulation of Wall Street that ultimately led to the 2008 mortgage collapse.
And the Democrats played nice.
In the presidential election of 2000, there was strong evidence of voter suppression in Florida (where the brother of the Republican candidate was the governor) followed by a ruling by five Republican members of the Supreme Court handing the presidency to the GOP. And the Democrats played nice.
The new Republican president wasted no time stacking the federal bench with right-wing extremists, giving away $400 billion to Big Pharma, and launching an illegal war of aggression against Iraq. And the Democrats played nice.
In 2010, five Republicans on the Supreme Court ruled in the case Citizens United v. FEC to open the floodgates of corporate money in U.S. political campaigns, increasing astronomically the power of money in our politics. And the Democrats played nice.
Following the 2010 census, Republicans used their power at the state level to gerrymander the House of Representatives to give their party a permanent majority, and passed new state laws designed to suppress Democratic voting rights. And the Democrats played nice.
From 2009 to 2015, the Republicans in the U.S. Senate abused the filibuster more than any other time in U.S. history, requiring 60 votes even to pass routine measures. Senate Republicans also for the first time blocked a vote and denied even a hearing for an imminently qualified Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic president. And the Democrats played nice.
The Republicans ridiculed the first African-American president, questioned his birthplace and his motives, and used all manner of dog whistle racist appeals to smear him and fuel a neo-Confederate backlash. The Republicans tapped into a wellspring of white ethno-nationalism, riled up its ranks with hate-filled messages, and nominated an unqualified and unmoored reality TV show celebrity to run for president. There was evidence known to the government that the Republicans were being helped by a foreign power in the 2016 election. And the Democrats played nice.
The Republicans wasted no time in appointing corporate hacks to cabinet posts and attempting to destroy the signature achievement of the first African-American president, the Affordable Care Act, through an arcane parliamentary procedure called “reconciliation” that requires only 50 votes (plus the Vice President) to pass legislation and was never intended to be used for such a sweeping purpose as rewriting the laws that govern one-sixth of the U.S. economy. (Good thing progressives protested in the streets and in the halls of Congress and stood up to the Republican scheme to throw millions of people off health care.)
And the Republicans are employing the same “reconciliation” procedure to rewrite the nation’s entire tax code with the clear aim of robbing from the poor and working class and giving to the rich and corporations. They’ve cunningly tucked deep inside the 1,000-page bill a number of bombs that will go off later that will hit working people hard so they can blame Democrats. They also launched a naked power grab using the tax code to victimize Democratic states. The Republican president has pandered to white supremacists, re-tweeted videos from a British Nazi group, threatened nuclear war, and appointed a commission with the sole aim of suppressing the Democratic vote in 2018 and 2020.
The Democratic National Committee is currently debating whether the progressive wing of the party will have greater power or be once again pushed aside in favor of those who still want to play nice.
And fearing they might come off as too “populist” or “angry” or too willing to engage in “class warfare,” the Democratic leaders might vote among their ranks to continue to play nice.