A funny thing happened on America's journey into the 21st Century to greater freedom and prosperity for all, a colossal train wreck otherwise known as the election of Ronald Reagan. Unlike the 60s being ushered in by a young vibrant and dynamic president promoting equality for all, the 80s was ushered in with an old president prone to taking naps promoting trickle-down (feel free to read that as piss on me economics) economics caring only for the rich.1 No wonder the decade of the 80s became called the decade of greed. Just as the age difference of the two presidents was in sharp contrast so were the policies of each as well as the times. One was a progressive belief that America could provide for all of its citizens; the other didn't give a damn for the unfortunate and chose to implement regressive policy. One chose to unite all Americans the other promoted class warfare. One promoted civil rights for all, the other tried to dismantle civil rights.
Not only were the two decades ushered in by major differences in policy, but the general outlook of Americans had also changed greatly. As a nation, we entered the 60s with a can-do attitude, unlike the 80s we were a nation of self-doubting Thomases, full of doubt and guilt. Americans entered the decade of the 60s full of hope for a better future, two cars in every garage, unlike the 80s where many saw only a more dismal future with many giving up hope of ever owning their own home. One saw the greatest technological achievement of man, with Americans walking on the surface of the moon the other saw the space program going up in smoke with the explosion of the Challenger.
One was a decade of rebirth and growth the other was a decade of decline and decay. One saw the highest standard of living achieved for the American workers the other saw the standard of living falling for the vast majority of workers. The 60s saw the birth of the grass-root environmental movement, the 80s gave birth to the extremist group, Wise Use led and backed by multinational corporations hell-bent on destroying and plundering the environment. One saw the investment in and building of new plants and equipment the other defined investing as leverage buyouts financed by junk bonds that built nothing. One saw us building the infrastructure like the interstate highway system the other saw reports of bridges that were unsafe and the decay of the infrastructure.
One saw the baby boomers coming of age, a generation of activists for a large part the other saw the generation X coming of age a generation of pathetic whiners in a large part.2 One is a decade mistaken thought of as a violent decade, the 60s when in actual fact the 80s were a far more violent decade. These are just a few of the stark contrasts between the two decades. But even more important one was the bold implementation of new policies named the New Frontier and the Great Society; the other was merely a reaction to the former being too ashamed of itself to even give itself a name.
The first thing to understand about the 80s was it was a decade of reaction to the 60s. Just as a reaction to the Civil War era came to dominate the country for decades afterward, the sixties have come to dominate the country well into the 1990s. As the Civil War, the decade of the 60s saw the nation divided on the issues of the day. No time since the Civil war has the nation been as divided as it was during the 60s. Nor does this reaction to the 1960s appear to be abating anytime soon.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the Civil war and the 60s have both exerted so much influence in the following decades was there were no clear victories or closure. Unlike the New Deal era in which VJ Day provided the victory and the closure, there was no closure and no victory following the Civil War. Yes, the war was over and the slaves were free but to what extent did their freedom extend? Closure to that issue only came with the shameful decision of "Separate But Equal" in 1896, thirty years later. Likewise, there has been no clear victory from the 1960s; civil rights and the feminist issues are both still in a state of flux as are the meaning and lessons from Vietnam.
It is the opinion of this writer that closure will only come with the passage of some landmark legislation or court decision. Unless we can confront the hard-right soon, the decision is likely to be as shameful as the "Separate But Equal" ruling. This then would placate the hard right but leave the true resolution of the problem to future generations. At the moment the nation is simply too polarized to embrace an honorable solution. The only hopeful signs that we may eventually come to an honorable solution has been the loss of elections by members of the hard-right giving way to more moderate voices.
Robert Reich, an economist made the statement that the New Deal liberalism was held together by the shared experiences of overcoming the depression and the war. Stated simply it was the politics of "we" not of "us and them". Kennedy and Johnson were the last Presidents to understand that. In speeches of both the telltale sign of "we" appears. Starting with the election of Nixon politics started to be centered on the "us Vs them". Certainly, Nixon considered the anti-war movement to be part of "them" and the "us" part was the silent majority. This style of confrontational politics was continued under Reagan and Bush.
This writer was living in the Portland, Oregon area at the time of the 1994 elections. The Republicans gained control of the statehouse that year. The house had previously established a memorial award in the name of Frank Roberts for those that had performed exemplary public service. Roberts had been a lifelong public servant and a Democratic legislator. He was well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle, his wife Barbara was then governor. The Democrats asked for the award to be granted in the following legislative session, however, in a raucous, mean-spirited move they refuse to even consider the award. The award could have been granted to anyone, it was entirely a bipartisan award, the Republican temper tantrum that year not only was a disservice to the people of Oregon it was dragging the name of a good man through the mud.
Eventually, this confrontational style of politics culminated in the impeachment of Clinton over a lousy blow job. Now, how's that for high crimes and misdemeanors. Only two of the articles of impeachment were passed along a razor-thin party-line margin to the Senate the other two were even too much for some members of the Republican Party. What is even more remarkable about this is that following the 1998 elections and the historic losses of the Republicans have been the lack of leadership in the house. First Newt resigns his seat and the speaker's position and runs off to hide under a rock. Then the new speaker designates, Livingston does the same on the day the vote for impeachment was taken. Yet this is the party that claimed they could run the country better than Clinton could. Perhaps they need some practice on how to run their own party before we allow them a shot at running the country and stop acting like a bunch of pious hypocrites. Both Newt and Livingston were outed in sexual escapades of their own by investigative reporters.
This is divisionist politics at its worst, even the opinion polls show that the American voters do not favor impeachment by almost a three-to-one margin contrasted to the almost universal call for the impeachment of Nixon. In fact, the Republicans have set a dubious record of sorts following the impeachment vote of the House, the majority of voters, 59% now disapproves of the Republican Party. Yes, they even had to have one more article of impeachment than what Nixon faced. It's not the type of politics that the voters want. The voters want closure for many of the issues from the sixties. There is no better example of this than Jesse Jackson's triumphal march across Wisconsin in 1988. Yes, Jackson lost the primary there, but the people there reached out and embraced him conveying a sense of trying to heal the racial wounds of the nation even in the small rural white towns.
Doinne goes on to argue that Jackson's defense of the common people was what united white and blacks in Wisconsin. That Jackson saw the whites of modest means as victims of racism just as blacks were. Jackson argued that racism is not the sin of the white masses but rather the tool of choice of white elites to divide the nature coalition of the common man.86 Throughout this chapter we will show how the Republican Party has used this tool to gain and maintain power. And make no mistake about it; it is a tool of the fascist. It is a reactionary tool. Just as the hard-right was trying to turn back the clock after the Civil War to slavery times the right-wing extremists today are trying to reset the clock back to the 1950s to a time before the civil rights and feminist movement had achieved gains.
One of the themes of Reagan's campaign was the return of the hostages in Iran, Iran had already gone fascist replacing the Shah with a religious theocracy. How then did a small backward nation dare to take embassy personnel of the U.S. prisoners? Before answering that question we must first explore the root causes. We'll briefly look at the historic events stemming from the 60s that exerted so much influence on the 80s to provide a backdrop to the 80s. From this backdrop, we can then gain a better understanding of the root causes of the events leading to the rise in fascism in America and also the world. Hitler used a divisionist policy to gain control of Germany; he blamed the Jews. In America, the hard-right uses the same tactic to gain control. Their extremist platform simply is not appealing to the vast number of voters so they must rely on dividing the country. They pit blacks against whites, rich against poor, employers against employees, environmentalists against capitalists, the retired against workers, the young against the old, and the educated against the uneducated.
This writer attributes the following events and movements from the 60s as the most influential in the following decades. They are still exerting powerful influences well into the 1990s both globally and domestically, roughly listed in their order of importance. Note the majority of these reasons are connected in more than a casual way to Vietnam.
1. The loss of the Vietnam War and the end of U.S. hegemony.
2. The shift in wealth to the Mideast after the formation of OPEC.
3. Rise of Japan and Germany as economic powerhouses.
4. The rebirth of fundamental religion worldwide.
5. The resignation of Nixon.
6. The passage of civil rights legislation.
7. The sexual revolution of the 60s.
9. The decline of unions.
10. The change in party leadership of the Republicans and Democrats
This writer can think of no single event or policy from the 60s; that exerts more lingering effects domestically and internationally than the defeat of the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Face it we lost the war. I don't care that Nixon called it peace with dignity, we lost the war. As much as the simple loss of this war caused trouble domestically and internationally, denying the simple fact generated even more trouble. We blamed the military leaders for the loss. We blamed the loss on the draft. We blamed the political leaders for the loss. We blamed the loss on the high rate of drug use by our forces. We blamed the war protestors for the loss. We made excuses claiming that we had beaten the enemy in the Tet offensive. This damn war spanned the administrations of five presidents from Truman's covert aid to the French in Indochina to Nixon's expansion of the war into neighboring Cambodia. No one has yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel. We won't see that light at the end of the tunnel until as a nation we put aside our pride and face up to the fact that we lost the war and quit using it as a damn excuse.
Nor should any of the veterans that served during Nam misread this as an attempt to blame them or in any way distract from their honorable service to this country. The soldiers of Vietnam were honorable men that fought for what they believed in. Likewise, this writer places none of the blame on the anti-war protestors and like the soldiers, the protestors were people fighting for what they believed. Rather you should be reading this as an attack on those directly responsible. This writer does not put the blame on any of the presidents except those that are noted. As for the presidents they were essentially powerless to stop the ever-deepening quagmire of Vietnam. Nixon and Johnson both could have probably withdrawn from Vietnam and survived politically as by that time public opinion was shifting against the war and they both deserve some of the blame. But let's give LBJ credit where credit is due, he chose not to seek reelection and further divide the country, an honorable action no matter what side of the fence you are standing. Nor do I place any of the blame on the reasons listed above.
It is now known with certainty that Nixon actively worked to stall the Paris peace negations of LBJ. Using Anna Chennault, the widow of a WWII general, Nixon persuaded South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu to sabotage the Paris peace talks since Nixon would give him a better deal than Johnson would. When a wiretap revealed the Chennault channel to Johnson, Humphrey refused to capitalize on the information fearing it would provoke a national crisis.74 Here is the first example of how the hard-right used the war to divide the nation for partisan gain and to hell with an honorable peace and what is best for the nation. We likewise note the statesman character of Humphrey in setting aside personal and partisan gain for the betterment of the nation.
No, this writer places the blame and there is plenty to go around on the right-wing extremists and their rabid fear of communism, they were the ones that successfully created the rabid anti-communism paranoia in this country. We were right to oppose communism. But to what limits was this opposition to communism healthy before becoming harmful? Just as there is a fine line between a social drinker an alcoholic there is a fine line in opposing communism in the name of patriotism before the opposition becomes an unhealthy phobia. The old adage "Better Dead than Red" is just one example of the inflammatory rhetoric of those times. Pursuing the fight against the enemy until it divides the country or to the brink of widespread dissention is not patriotism. And yes, Nam did just that.
To fully appreciate the anti-red hysteria of the early 60s one needs to have lived through this era. This writer has done so, he can remember the duck and cover drills in schools, like a slab of a Formica desk, was going to protect anyone from a nuclear blast. I can remember taking the 7th grade final in science, in which three-fourths of the questions were related to civil defense. One needs to remember the frantic rush to establish and build civil defense shelters. But we continued building bombs until we could nuke the whole Soviet nation sixty times over. The fools were not content with just destroying a nation they wanted to shake the ashes as well. It didn't matter a twit to these fools if we had destroyed the whole damn planet in an all out nuclear exchange as long as someone remained to claim the ashes for capitalism. In such an exchange the lucky ones would have been at ground zero, the survivors would have cursed the fools for their ideological war until they died a horrendous death from radiation poisoning, starvation, or disease.
I can remember with an amusing grin the anti-red propaganda stories, that were required reading in schools. Does anyone remember Animal Farm? In short, the war drums were beating loudly. Not a single voice was raised for sanity to do so would have been unwise if not unhealthy. Kennedy was criticized unjustly for the failure of the Bay of Pigs, for his failure to use force during the Cuban Missile crisis, for his policy of detente with the Soviets. He even had to use the FBI to shut down an illegal CIA training camp for Cuban gorillas. The CIA actively tried to sabotage his policy of dente by plotting to blow up Soviet ships in Cuba harbors. How did the CIA become so out of control that it openly defied the President?
After all, didn't Khrushchev beat the podium with his shoe at the UN claiming he was going to bury us? Does anyone remember Khrushchev and Nixon's kitchen debate? Amazing that they couldn't find more pressing subjects to debate than kitchen appliances. Had not to Tail Gunner Joe found communist moles in the government a few short years before by waving and ever-changing lists of names in front of the media? All the domestic politics were cloaked in the anti-red hysteria. The bill to construct the interstate highway system was passed because it was needed for national defense. The space program was launched to beat the Russians to the moon least they launch an attack from there. Parts of the farm program were justified in setting aside a store of grains so we could overcome and survive a nuclear attack.
John Birchers and others were distributing lists of the communist plot to take over the country. Those lists blamed the decline in morals as part of the communist plot. These lists circulated in the late fifties and early sixties and had already blamed the yet non-existent sexual revolution as part of a communist plot to subvert America. They likewise blamed the banning of forced school pray as part of the plot. Yes this writer can remember being forced to pray to a God that he neither accepted nor believed in, he didn't like it then and he detests it even more today. This writer can even remember being told after the Kennedy half a dollar was released that the initials of the designer located under the bust were proof that Kennedy was a communist, in the crazed minds of the hard-right they looked like a hammer and sickle. This was not patriotism; it was nothing short of a phobia perpetrated on the American public by a bunch of paranoid raving loons. But who were these paranoid loons and what was their motivation?
In case there is anyone that questions that Eisenhower was essentially powerless to stop the ever-deepening commitment to Vietnaely the people that could stand up and expose corporate America for what it really was. There were calls at the time throughout the nation for the impeachment of Earl Warren as a communist extending all the way into the early 60s. The Birchers even promoted a writing contest for school pupils, the winner would be chosen on who could give the best reasons for the impeachment of Warren; they likewise had billboards throughout the south primarily, calling for his impeachment. An outgrowth of their influence was the non-recognition of China until 1971 and then only Nixon a politician with a reputation for hard-on communism dared to recognize China. There were several groups that actively opposed communist China most notable was the Committee of One Million. Remember that two tiny islands about thirty miles off the coast of Mainland China were an issue in the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates. Instead as a nation, we clung to the absurd policy of recognizing only the tiny nation of Formosa as the government in exile of China. But few writers are willing to look or acknowledge the power that a few extremists backed by corporate America have in directing nation policy or public attitudes.
There is one additional group to blame for the involvement in Vietnam that the press likewise has overlooked. That would be the multinational oil companies. As a teen coming of age during the 60s, I can organizations of hard-right corporate leaders and their close association with both retired and active military personnel, who supported hard right causes and extreme measures may have been the object behind Eisenhower's cryptic warning of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address8. Besides the large number of former military officers members of the ACS included the heads of many corporations: Sears, Motorola, U.S. Steel, GE, and Illinois Central Railroad. Others involved in the Birchers included the Koch and Hunt both heads of oil companies.
Let's note here that the American Security Council had roots from three racial and anti-Semitic, pro-Hitler groups from the 1930s according to Alan J. Weberman. The groups were America First Committee, American Vigilante Intelligence Federation, and the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies. Weberman also claims that William Regnery was a co-founder of the ACS. This is the same Regnery that owns Regnery Press that has been responsible for many of the anti-Clinton books. Lets note also the similarity in behavior that borders on treason of the hard right in their effort to impeach Clinton and the early 1960s hard right's distrust of elected and appointed officials. Needless to say, the factual content of the books from Regnery is more fictional than truthful.
Yes, this writer believes that a large part of the cold war was due to the rants coming from the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address. If there is one single point that is outstanding about the Eisenhower administration it was his failure to lead. He deferred decision on issue after issue hoping for the best. Was he beginning to see the danger of his lack of leadership? This was Ike's last public address as President, obviously he would only include issues that he felt were important. He certainly was well aware that it would be part of his legacy. Was he beginning to see that the Cold War was nothing but a cover to transfer the wealth of the masses to the few elite? Was he beginning to see the dangers of absolute corporatism that has become the privileged child of the Republican Party today? Folks he didn't include that warning for no reason, he sensed that it was a real and imminent threat to democracy. Eisenhower was anything but an alarmist.
Yes, he later tried to modify his statement somewhat. But this is proof of nothing. If anything it raises another disturbing question. Was he powerless to stop it? Ridiculous you say? No, it would not be the first time that the President of the United States learnt that corporate leaders had more power than the President as the following example shows.
On February 27, 1942 Thurman Arnold, head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, armed with documents under his arm and followed with a team of aides marched into 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Following him was Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Knox and Sectary of the Army, Henry Stimson. Arnold laid down the charges of Standard Oil's continue favoritism of Hitler in rubber deals and patent arrangements. Taking pains to ensure they understood that he had the proof outlining that the Rockefellers, Teagle and Farish had acted against the interest of America. At the end Arnold coolly proposed a $1.5 million fine and a consent decree by which Standard would turn over to the government all patents that Frank Howard had picked up in Holland. Farish rejected the proposal on the spot. He pointed out that the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force depended on oil from Standard. In other words he blackmailed the government on the spot. To settle the issue Farish proposed a fine of $50,000 spread out over a list of corporations so long that no one would be forced to pay more than $600. Arnold, Stimsom and Knox realized that they were powerless against corporate America.
Nor is that view of the rabid anti communists hardly extreme, the public allowed Tail Gunner Joe to run amuck in the early 50s. Its even more damning considering that many of the victims of Tail Gunner Joe were labor leaders and people from the media. These were precisely the people that could stand up and expose corporate America for what it really was. There were calls at the time through out the nation for the impeachment of Earl Warren as a communist extending all the way into the early 60s. The Birchers even promoted a writing contest for school pupils, the winner would be chosen on who could give the best reasons for the impeachment of Warren; they likewise had billboards through out the south primarily, calling for his impeachment. An outgrowth of their influence was the non-recognition of China until 1971 and then only Nixon a politician with a reputation for hard on communism dared to recognize China. There was several groups that actively opposed communist China most notable was the Committeeof One Million. Remember that two tiny islands about thirty miles off the coast of Mainland China were an issue in the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates. Instead as a nation we clung to the absurd policy of recognizing only the tiny nation of Formosa as the government in exile of China. But few writers are willing to look or acknowledge the power that a few extremists backed by corporate America have in directing nation policy or public attitudes.
There is one additional group to blame for the involvement in Vietnam that the press likewise has overlooked. That would be the multinational oil companies. As a teen coming of age during the 60s, I can recall spots on the evening newscasts of reporters interviewing a company commander. The commander would explain that presently he was guarding the oil company's exploration efforts in the sector that they had just cleared and secured. Once the company had finished, they would then clear another area that the company wanted to explore next. The key here is the oil companies determined what areas to clear next, what a hell of a way to fight communism.
The one single event that triggered my opposition forever on the war was the newscasts covering the evacuation of American civilians from Vietnam. The reporters mechanically named each person being evacuated and there position or job title as they boarded the flights out. Approximately half of those civilians were employees of oil companies. They were not the gophers that punched holes in the ground but instead they were VPs of various divisions within the companies or they were high ranking system engineers. Not exactly the type of civilians you would except to be vacationing in the center of a civil war, when they are the same types that think they are dying over a paper cut. In short the gophers had found what these muckrakers wanted. As final proof of this, once the Paris Peace Accord was signed one of the first diplomatic efforts North Vietnam undertook was to ask for membership in OPEC. Their request for membership was denied. Presently the oil companies are actively exploring off the coast of Vietnam. The media has never explored this involvement of corporate interest in Vietnam during our involvement. There is more than one book waiting for a writer that is willing to explore the topic; the oil companies were not alone there. But it does illustrate the conservative bias in the media, a bias that can kill stories by neglect.
Major General Smedly D. Butler was one of the most decorated soldiers from WWI, he strongly supported the Bonus Marchers. Perhaps he summed up the corporate welfare aspects of U. S. military involvement better than anyone. Here is a quote of him summing up his military career in his retirement.
"There isn't a trick In the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" (to point out enemies), its "muscle men" (to destroy enemies), its "brain guys," (to plan war preparations) and a "Big Boss," (super-nationalistic capitalism).
I Was a "Racketeer"
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service as a member of our country's most agile military force -- the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism."
Only one of the five presidents had the courage to face the truth during the war. That was Jack Kennedy, he issued a withdrawal of forces totaling about ten percent of the total force in Vietnam in October 1963. His plan called for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of the 1965. As the following quote taken from the report of the McNamara-Taylor mission to South Vietnam, this was point two in the document.
"A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential function now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time."3
Additionally, National Security Agency Memo number 263 issued on October 5, 1963 called for the withdrawal of 1000, of the 16,000 U.S. forces in Vietnam.4 Unfortunately Kennedy was assassinated shortly after withdrawing the first group. There still are those that dispute Kennedy's planned withdrawal even in light of these documents. But Kennedy had already showed his independence and wiliness to disagree with the advice given to him by his military advisors in the Cuban missile crisis. If he had followed the advice of his military advisors at the time of bombing the sites, it would have most likely have led to an all out nuclear war. As documents from the former USSR show that over twenty nuclear warheads were already in Cuba at the time.13 He had already learned from experience that the CIA had lied to him about the Bay of Pigs invasion and had threaten to break the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them in the wind. He was a president that was pragmatic in his approach after once setting course. Thus the doubt is unjustified, as it seems clear he had set course on an American withdrawal of forces. Some writers have gone on to claim that the JFK assassination was due to the withdrawal.
Did the lost of this war to a third rate agrarian country lead to the massive uprising of communism willing to do battle with the U.S. as the war mongers predicted? Undoubtedly it embolden and inspired some, but there was no massive uprising. Yes, there were a few nations where socialism or communism was leading revolutions. But repressive right wing dictators led these nations for the most part. So these revolutions were more about freedom than a rise of communism. The only objections to these revolutions were from the American corporations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The many covert operations in Central and South America that the CIA conducted for American corporations serve as prime examples. The USSR was invited rather unceremoniously to leave Egypt. Cuba became bogged down in their own version of Vietnam in Angola. Likewise, the USSR became bogged down in Afghanistan. In short about the only ground that was ceded to the communist was in Southeast Asia.
Did it lead to a massive defection of U.S. allies questioning our will and commitment that the war hawks predicted? No, I can think of no ally that defected, with the possible exception of France. But then France has always exhibited a mean streak of independent thinking and actions. Remember it was the U.S. that offered sanctuary to both the Shah of Iran and Marcos of the Philippines, two despots that we had shamefully supported in the past. The granting of permission for the Shah to enter this country was the single most important event that triggered the taking of the U.S. embassy hostages. President Carter could have refused to admit the Shah justifying it by the Shah's human rights abuse but instead chose the humane option of allowing the ailing Shah to die in comfort in the U.S.
Did it lead to the end of U.S. hegemony? Not hardly, some people are now claiming in 1998 that the U.S. is the only world superpower. I would view that as a little premature and a dangerous thought, all Russia needs to regain its superpower status is a strong leader.
What it has led to is the division of the American public. Instead of seeking closure of the wound it still remains a festering sore. Jimmy Carter in a vain attempt to seek closure issued a general pardon to the draft dodgers. But the far right elements do not want closure of this wound; they actively seek means to open it, keep it festering and infect it. By keeping the American people divided, it's easier for them to gain control of the issues and obtain power. Take for instance the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, they detailed our involvement in Vietnam from the very beginning until the day they were written and the past mistakes made. Any president following the release of these papers was then aware of the tragic mistake of continuing on the course of escalation. Nixon had the opportunity to do the right thing and pull out but he chose instead to use the Pentagon papers for personal political gain as the following quote shows:
The rise of religious fundamentalists in the U.S. can be traced back to the 1964 Goldwater campaign for president. Yes, fundamentalist goes further back than the Goldwater campaign and in other sections, we briefly explore those links to the past, but here the writer is referring to the religious right leadership of the current Republican party of the 1980-1990s. And those roots are firmly grounded in the Goldwater presidential bid of 1964. In another chapter, we will explore the members of what constitutes the religious right and their issues more fully. In another chapter, we'll look at the Identity of religion and the reconstructionists. But here we are only going to look at the origins of the religious right and how it evolved into a political force. For now, look at the similarities of the 1964 and 1992 Republican conventions, Schafly spoke at both arguing that liberals were destroying America. Goldwater targeted a deterioration of family and moral values; Bush targeted traditional values. Yet even as the hard right has failed to get over the loss of Goldwater, they still served the voters the same reheated hash with a few sprigs of fresh garnish to the voters again in 1992 only to complain about Bush losing.
From time to time in the late 60s and early 70s articles would appear in the popular media about the decline or death of religion. But this was a time for the base building of religious right. So what did those reporters miss at the time? Like any other institution or belief, the people coming of age during that time traditional religion was questioned. Mainstream churches did see a decline in church membership during that time. This is fully evident in the church attendance figures in the table below:
1955............... 49 percent
It should be noted here that church membership peaked in the 1950s prior to the 50s church membership ran at roughly 45% or so. Thus much of the decline in church membership during the 60s was more of a return to normal than a decline, although the fall below 45 percent was a real decline. These numbers give the writer pause in today's claim of the religious right that twenty percent of the population identifies itself as members of the religious right. If only forty percent of the people are attending the church that means half of those would be a member of the religious right. This writer finds that absurd either that or many that identify themselves as such have no idea as to what constitutes the religious right.
Some explored Eastern religions, as did the Beatles. But many more became involved in the fundamentalist movement. Anyone on campus at the time can testify to the aggressiveness of the Campus Crusaders. The term "Jesus Freak" became part of the lexicon. However, the vast majority of the young people simply became indifferent to religion and remain so today. The tele-preachers for the most part were fundamentalists and reached the shut-ins and elderly further depriving traditional churches of members. Quoting from Religions of America:
"But most major 'liberal' Protestant denominations either lost members or did not gain any significant number compared to 1970. The United Methodist Church for instance, which in 1965 reached a high of 11.1 million members, now reports 10.7 million. The Episcopal Church, which had more than 3,400,000 members in 1964-1967, dropped to 3,286,000. Similar patterns are seen in the American Lutheran Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, the United Presbyterians, and others. Statistics show increases of 2-5% percent (during a comparable period) for Southern Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Christian Reformed Church and various small Pentecostal groups."48
Some of the tele-preachers like Robertson and Falwell with their 700 Club and Moral Majority was able to attract additional followers from mainstream churches. Thus the fundamentalists gained a greater voice in the religious community at the expense of traditional churches.
Three men who worked for the Goldwater campaign and one woman became key players in the formation of the "new right". Richard Viguerie copied the names and addresses of Goldwater donors available from the Library of Congress and launched a direct mail campaign. Howard Phillips founded the Conservative Caucus and supported militarism and South Africa apartheid. Paul Weyrich with financial backing from the Coors family founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973.43 In 1972 Phyllis Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum39.
After the 1968 election President Nixon paid off the emerging new right by appointing Phillips to the Office of Economic Opportunity giving him the mandate to defund the left. His mandate included the dismantling of social programs. While conservatives in congress attempted to gut social programs corporate donors were urged to switch their charitable donations from liberal think tanks and organizations to conservative ones in order to build a network of conservative think tanks and institutions.41 Reagan continued the practice after his election thus leaving us today where the vast number of experts featured on radio and television and many of the newspaper columnists were groomed by these institutions.
Phillips, Weyrich, and Viguerie were all good organizers but lacked broad-based popular appeal. To gain further appeal they first approached the American Independent Party in 1968and George Wallace's presidential bid but were rebuffed. In the mid-1970s Viguerie tapped into resentment over the Supreme Court decisions banning school pray and the legalization of abortion. His efforts proved successful and he was soon urging evangelicals to seek political office. In 1974 and 1975 additional players entered the field, Richard DeVos, chairman of Amway, and Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade entered. The later group published a blueprint for Christians to win elections. Bright went on to found the "I Found It" campaign financed in a large part by millions of dollars from Nelson Bunker Hunt.39, 42 The readers are referred to Roads to Dominion for a complete source of the rise and influence of the religious right on the Republican Party.
Televangelists such as Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson likewise started in the early 1960s time frame and by late 1970, the Christian Broadcasting network turned increasingly political. Pat Robertson founded the 700 Club and made one presidential bid in the primaries on the Republican ticket. The Rev. Moon's Unification Church took a role in the behind-the-scenes development of the new right. Viguerie had raised money for Moon since 1965 but beginning in about 1975 conservatively over $80 million annually began flowing into the coffers of the Unification Church from overseas.39 Moon owns the Washington Times, the paper has been reported to be a black hole for money, it's a financial disaster. The newspaper is biased hard right and has been virulent in its attacks on Clinton. Falwell was hawking the Clinton Chronicles before the reelection of Clinton an absurd set of tapes blaming Clinton for drug smuggling among many other false charges. Likewise, he has been connected to other groups that are involved in trying to bring down Clinton.46
By 1979 Viguerie, Phillips and Weyrich abandoned plans to form their own political party and at the Religious Roundtable founded by Ed McAteer, Falwell was asked to spearhead a national Christian political organization to pressure Republicans on abortion and other social issues. This was the birth of the Moral Majority. In 1980 they supported Reagan in the presidential race. Throughout the 1980s the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition became major factors in federal, state, and local elections. It was in this time period and with Reagan's blessing that many right-wing think tanks and foundations were set up to support conservative causes. Many of these institutes and foundations such as the Rutherford Foundation are religious in nature. Leadership in the 1990s is passing to the more radical such as Pat Robertson, Gary Brauer, Dobson, and Terry Randall. Likewise so are the stances the religious right is taking on the issues. Some members such as Robertson and Dobson, make it clear that nothing short of a religious theocracy is acceptable to them as a government. In fact, Robertson has been caught making the statement that he is going to control the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.85
Likewise, many of the members of the Council for National Policy (CNP) are members of religious rights.40 We will also note here that once again Bunker Hunt was a major source of funds for the start-up of the CNP. Many of the individuals as well as their institutes and foundations played a large role in the attempt to impeach President Clinton. There will be a whole chapter devoted to the CNP later examining their role in policy formation and their individual members. The Rutherford Foundation provided Paula Jones with attorneys in her attempt to sue Clinton. A case that the Judge ruled was without merit. They as a group were primarily responsible for the 1994 Republican takeover of the house and senate.
The 1994 election in a way was a wake-up call for liberals. Liberals have a record of poor voter turnout. The religious right on the other hand has a good record of having their supporters turning out on Election Day. Only about twenty percent of voters will identify themselves as members of the religious right they can have an undue effect on the outcome of an election. Although the voter turnout for the 1998 election was low it was still higher than expected, but the liberals appear to have learned their lesson from 1994 and managed to energize their supporters
They were equally responsible for the Republican losses in the historic 1998 election in which the Republicans lost 5 house seats in the 6th year of Clinton's administration. The last time the party in the White House had gained seats in the 6th year was in 1822. The fallout from the losses in the 1998 election has led to Gingrich resigning his seat in the house and an open battle for house leadership positions. The religious right favors those that are even further to the right than Newt. As this is being written it appears that the religious right faction is prevailing over the more moderate faction of the Republican Party, with Livingston winning the speaker position. But talk of forming their own party is once again resurfacing.
As a group, their appeal appears to have peaked and is in decline. This was seen in the 1998 congressional elections, as those candidates with the greatest appeal to the religious right were the losers. Moderate Republicans retained their seats. Their loss of appeal was evident before the 1998 elections in many local races particularly school board elections. Candidates they had managed to elect to school boards faced almost certain defeat in reelection and first-time candidates that they support to run in the stealth mode, keeping their religious affiliation secret.
Their decline is related directly to their extreme positions on social issues. Besides the obvious religious issues such as abortion, vouchers, and school pray they are opposed to unions and welfare. A recent survey of public opinion has shown for certain that concerns over social issues rise and fall with the economy. This has been born out to be true in a study made by the Wirthlin firm, a firm that tracks public opinion on the concern over environmental issues.82 The environmental issues are widely perceived as a liberal cause thus using it as a proxy for liberal social causes is valid. In fact, many of the fundamentalists oppose environmental issues. This writer hardly believes that the religious right misses this point and uses it as a point to attract new members as well as to demonize social causes that would compete with them.
In a survey by Lyman Kellstedt, it is reported that mainstream Protestant denominations have lost an estimated 25% of their members in the last twenty-five years. During the same time period, Kellstedt reports evangelical churches have remained steady at 26% of the population.83 Given the increase in population this represents a large increase in total membership. This increase should not come as a surprise after a closer look at figures from the 60s. First, let's look at the age distribution of church membership in 1971 of those under 29 years of age, in which next to the Catholics at 22% the Baptist was the next largest at 20%.84 Here we are using Baptist as a proxy for the religious right. Since the Baptist is the largest denomination of any group making up the religious right fundamentalist the comparison is fair. Likewise, let's look at the education level of the Baptists:
And finally, let's take a look at the 1971 income distribution of the Baptists in 1971
Thus, the figures show that the Baptists were appealing to more young people of the time in 1971 than any other Protestant religion. Further, the income figures reveal that the majority of the Baptists were in the lower-income groups. Looking at the figures one sees that the lowest one-fourth income group of the total population contains over one-third of all Baptists. Likewise, the education levels reveal the Baptist would have less of a chance to advance economically. Thus the above figures show that the fundamentalists appeal to those that are less educated and from lower-income levels. And during the 1980s the numbers in the lower-income groups increased dramatically due to the inept economic policies of Reagan. Admittedly this is only indirect support between the economy and membership in fundamentalist religious groups, but it is certainly strongly suggestive. Hence, your writer is of the opinion that many of the religious rights recognizes this point and it forms the basis for their opposition to unions and welfare out of self-preservation. Hence it seems reasonable to conclude that the fundamentalist and the Reagan administration reinforced each other in an indirect manner as well as the obvious political support.
For those that was wallowing in defeatism from the signing of the Paris Peace Accords the resignation of Nixon from the office of the president in August of 1974 provided the straw that broke the camel's back. The resignation came only ten short years after the Warren Commission's Report on the Kennedy assassination, a report that even today is widely disbelieved. A crook had tainted the highest office in the nation. Spiro Agnew the former vice president had already been forced to resign from his office for tax fraud. Nixon himself owed over $400,000 in back taxes. We now had a president that had not been elected by the people. Acting President Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon from any further legal actions against him served only to inflame the people further and to assure a Democratic victory in 1976. Watergate had now left the hard-right leaderless.
Nothing except, Vietnam could rival the doubt Americans felt for their country and government following the resignation. Only Vietnam caused more division in the electorate. For the most part the Republican congressmen supported the impeachment process and urged Nixon to resign. But Nixon did not go gracefully; he hung to the office and power like a cougar clinging to its freshly caught prey. He only resigned after being informed by members of his party that there were not enough votes to avoid impeachment.
The mood of the country was glum and disillusioned over the corruption and criminal behavior of Nixon. The resignation did manage to sidestep constitutional issues, however. Many people simply dropped out of the system, others began harboring a strong distrust over government and politicians. The old poster of Nixon with the caption of "Would you buy a used car from this man?" was truer than ever. America had been conned, and the voter began doubting the system. Voter turnout had already began declining, but following Nixon's resignation, the decline accelerated. The decline and low voter turnout is still a problem in the 1990s, with barely 50 percent of the people eligible to vote to vote.
thers began believing that Nixon was just the one to get caught, all politicians do it. They were na´ve and never looked back on Nixon's record as one of the dirtiest campaigners to ever seek office. They forget the Pink Lady in Nixon's first campaign in which he portrayed his opponent as pink right down to her panties. Ah, the time honored Republican strategy of if you can't beat em on the issues demonize em. No, Watergate wasn't just dirty politics it is much more. It represents the lengths to which the hard right will go to attain and then retain power. It should be a grave concern to every voter. Ironically Nixon would have won the election without the Watergate burglary.
But Watergate was not the only dirty trick Nixon used during the 1972 campaign. Nixon also had a hand in sabotaging the primary campaign of Ed Muskie. Nixon wanted desperately to face McGovern in the general election over all other contenders. He established CREEP, the Committee to reelect the President in his reelection bid. CREEP took in over $60 million much of it in violations of campaign funding laws. In the general election Nixon had plants in the press corps following McGovern to sabotage his campaign efforts. One of the plants was none other than Lucianne Goldberg.45 Goldberg is now embroiled in the center of the Clinton impeachment and has close contact with Regency Press. Hillary was right about the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy in all regards except one. The cabal is not that vast, it keeps leading back to a small group of players from the early 1960s, like Regency connection to the ASC. These in turn lead back to the pro Hitler and Nazi groups from the 1930s. The cast of characters and their funding sources remain relatively stable only with the occasional addition of new players and the spin off of new groups from the established ones.
But the hard right has never been able to accept defeat gracefully. After JFK defeated Nixon in 1960 they complained and spread rumors of ballot box stuffing. Nixon himself was unwilling to call for a recount. Nor did they accept the lost of Goldwater in 1964, they spread rumors of LBJ bugging Goldwater's headquarters. Even today the hard right refuses to accept defeat. Dornan called for a recount in California blaming his lost on illegal aliens voting in the election. Armed with subpoena powers he ran about California checking all Hispanic names that he claimed to be illegals. In his quest for stupidity he raided a convent of Nuns and a Marine base looking for illegals that had voted.
But the 1964 Goldwater race marked an end of an era for the Republicans and to a lesser extent to the Democrats as well. Although this writer is greater opposed to Goldwater's views, he must give Barry the credit due him. Goldwater was the last of the old right. He was the last of the Republican candidates with integrity. If he supported an issue he did so vigorously, if he opposed an issue he was a formidable foe. But he was willing to stand on the issues alone. He was not someone like Nixon and Reagan, who only sought power and to hell with the virtues of an issue. He was willing to cross partisan lines much to the dismay of the hard right at times speaking out on an issue. Nor was he a crook.
The same cannot be said of Republican leaders that followed. Watergate reveals that the only issue for Nixon was to retain power. The same applies to the election of Reagan. It is now know for sure that Reagan was in possession of the briefing books that Carter used to prepare for the televised debates. Is that an echo from Watergate? Or just how did the Reagan campaign come into the possession of those briefing books if not by breaking in and stealing them or through the use of an inside spy. During the campaign Reagan gave Carter hell over canceling the B1 bomber. Carter had canceled the B1 in favor of the new stealth bomber in an effort to spare taxpayers. Ben Rich head of Lockheed's Skunk Works prepared papers to brief Reagan on the importance of the new stealth technology and the need to keep it secret. Reagan persisted in his relentless attacks.49 Now why would someone professing a strong on defense issue risk revealing new technology by continuing the attacks? Once again the only possible answer is not the issue but the absolute need to gain power.
The other issue in the election of Reagan as president was the October Surprise. This issue is once again taking on new light as more and more individuals come forward. Even some of the embassy hostages have stated that their captors were aware of rescue mission ahead of time. Additionally some of the key members of the Reagan administration were involved in the planning and execution of the failed rescue mission. Some have suggested that these members including Oliver North actively sabotaged the mission. The most believable account of the allegation appears in the scholarly journal, Diplomatic History by Douglas Brinkley.
If these allegations eventually bear fruit, it will only show how dangerously close the U.S. came to full-blown fascism. Certainly this would be nothing short of treason. A point for the reader to muse over here, is if the story by Arafat is indeed true, was that the reason that the Bush administration dropped the long standing American objection to including the PLO in the peace talks?
But the allegation of criminal behavior in the Reagan campaign does not stop here. There are serious allegations of accepting campaign money from Marcos bordering on treason.
"Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins has dropped an important clue to the mystery of whether the Reagan-Bush era started in 1980 with an act of treachery that bordered on treason. But it's a clue the mainstream media has misread completely.
In his new book, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms, Rollins recounted a dinner he had with a top Filipino politician in 1991. Over drinks, the man casually asserted that he had delivered an illegal $10 million cash payment in a suitcase from Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos to Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign."51
What these allegations do show is that indeed Goldwater was the last Republican presidential candidate with honor. It is the opinion of this writer that Reagan was a greater crook than Nixon was, and that future historians will bear witness to that. Indeed these allegations are only the tip of the iceberg and are only connected with the election. In fact even more criminal behavior and scandals will surface in the Reagan administration and will be covered in a later chapter.
The resignation of Nixon is still with us as we near the year 2000. It keeps surfacing in the impeachment attempt of Clinton. Are some of the hard right members still motivated by revenge? And would seek to impeach a president just because his wife served as part of the impeachment proceedings of Nixon. Trying to equate the Watergate burglary and its cover up by the Nixon administration to charges involving sex with an intern is ridiculous. But that is exactly what many members of the hard right currently want you to believe.
Just as we have detailed the change in the Republican party from the old right symbolized by Barry Goldwater to the new right symbolized by Nixon and Reagan; we will detail the changes in the Democratic party and the passing of the old liberals. The change in the Democratic Party is more complex. I'll briefly list four reasons: lack of firsthand experience, successful implementation of policy, failure to mentor, and the anti-war movement.
The 60s saw the pasting of the old liberals, like LBJ, Humphrey, JFK, and many others. These were people that had lived through the Great Depression, they knew from firsthand experience hardships. Humphrey was often fond of telling the story of his wife selling sandwiches on campus during the depression to help pay the bills. This writer places great value on first hand experiences, it is a great motivator. And no doubt many of senators and house representatives have introduce bills to ease the way for others based on their first hand experience.
The second reason of past successes stems directly from the New Deal. The New Deal saw many social programs come into being helping the poor and the elderly. Social Security has to be one of the great success stories. Prior to its implementation the elderly lived in squalid poverty. Presently thanks in a large part to Social Security the elderly is one of the most wealthy groups in the general population. Many other successful policies were implemented. Truman integrated the military; the 60s saw the civil rights act signed into law. JFK signed the equal rights act for women. The minimum wage provided a floor for covered employees. Yes, there was still much to do, but a great deal had already been accomplished leaving many members in the Democratic Party searching for new ideals. In short they had grown fat and lazy.
The failure to mentor young party members was more serious and had lasting effects. Truman acknowledges his mentor when he was first elected to the senate.