July 29, 2021

Seeds of Sedition

By Glenn

The January 6 attack on American Democracy grew from seeds planted 40 years earlier.  In the 1980s conservative activists created incendiary rhetoric to attack our government.  Since the New Deal, conservatives had lost to a wave of progressive legislation. 

Back the Blue Except for the Coup

The Federal Government improved the lives of seniors with Social Security and Medicare.  It improved the lives of women and minorities with Civil Rights legislation.  The Federal Government improved the lives of millions of Americans by cleaning the air and the water.

All of this progress was, and is, popular.  Conservatives couldn’t attack them head on.  They created a mythical beast—“The Government.”  In 1980 Ronald Reagan highlighted federal deficits and wasteful spending.  Reagan then turned around, cut taxes on investors and raised taxes on wage earners. 

Reagononics created even larger deficits. During the 1988 Republican primary, Grover Norquist used his newly organized Americans for Tax Reform to extract a “No New Taxes Pledge” from candidates.

This pledge put moderate Republicans in a box.  To secure their right flank in a primary, they not only pledged no new taxes, they also pledged to cut taxes.  Unfortunately, these tax cuts never trickled down.  They only made government revenues drop.  For men like Norquist this was the goal.

The goal became known as Starve the Beast. “The idea is that if revenues are unilaterally reduced, this reduction will lead to a higher budget deficit, which will force legislators to enact spending cuts.”

Across America, citizens experienced reduced public services.  Veteran faced long wait time at VA hospitals.  Teachers waited years between pay raises.  Seniors saw Social Security benefits taxed as income.

You know who didn’t suffer?  Millionaires and Billionaires.  They experienced record prosperity as investment taxes plummeted and stock prices soared.

For conservative politicians, this change was the big win.   They rewarded their donors and kept their voters distracted with dramatic stories of crime, abortion and religion.  Conservative politicians escalated their explosive rhetorical attacks on the government.

These attacks were amplified by Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy and Fox News.  The culmination of this anti-government hysteria reached a crescendo in 1995.  Anti-government terrorist Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City Bombing should have been a wake up call.  Conservative politicians, however, couldn’t retreat.  They needed anti-government hatred to reverse progressive reforms.  Was the January 6 riot the end of this terrorism?  Was it a new beginning?

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