FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Origins of Trump: Reagan, Gingrich and the Rise of the New Right

At first glance, Donald Trump’s political program promises another dose of the deadly Reagan virus. In which case it is probably a good idea to recall what happened back in the day.

One starting point is the Panama Canal treaties negotiated by then president  Jimmy Carter in 1977 and the rise of the New Right. For the youthful, energetic conservative adherents of that era, giving away the canal was the last straw. They couldn’t take it any longer. Time to act. Reagan became the centerpiece of their movement.

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, began churning out policy papers and in the Congress new  faces appeared. Prime among them was Newt Gingrich from Georgia. He was quickly established as leader of a new right back bench in the House.

The Democrats laughed at Gingrich and dismissed him as a nut case. Well, they didn’t laugh for long. Gingrich and his followers spearheaded the New Right take over of the Congress, influenced the Supreme Court, and provided many of the ideas for what  became the Reagan Revolution– most significantly a sort of reverse Keynesian pump priming of the military. Ideas for health care, deregulation, social welfare cuts, and the expansion of guerrilla warfare—a sort of American foreign legion—came to the fore.  Then there was the menacing police state envisioned by Ed Meese.

The Democrats sat back and continued to sneer. They turned their attention to Bill Clinton. He was smart and had come up with a policy called triangulation, which surely would throw the squalid conservatives back into the swamp.

They sat there and happily watched Clinton   weave his magic. Wow!   A   genius at work. Instead of attacking him, Clinton forged  an alliance with Newt Gingrich to pass NAFTA. Two great men saving the nation! And then, can you believe it! Deregulating the banks. Who needs enemies when you have the Democratic party digging its own grave?

So what now?

The Democrats are still a passive lot. It should not be hard for Trump to deflect Democratic interests by attacks on the social programs—health care, abortion, federal  control of education, the wreckage of labor.

The country is in the midst of building a largely white subculture, cloaked in a rhetoric of  white nationalism. Both parties are all for that. The idea is to pick up on nativism and run behind it. It means stop-and-frisk and deportation under loosely drawn immigration rules. Nativism is better than that. It can provide the outlines of an ideology that fills the hole left by anti-communism. Fear of the immigrant runs rampant. As for those who are frightened of white nationalism. Get over it. Have pride in your heritage and your race. Hitler? He’s dead. As Trump might put it, Hitler made some bad mistakes.

As for health care, both parties have adhered to what amounts to a long-standing deal: At all costs avoid anything resembling control of medical costs. Those decision are left to the  insurance industry and its allies in the medical equipment and prescription drug businesses. Here the true goal always has been to use government money to increase profitability and “grow” these companies

Trade will proceed under NAFTA. Clinton may be gone, but Gingrich, a key backer of trade deals, is very much alive. It’s hard to imagine him engaging in over-throwing the very deal he negotiated.

If the electoral college was invented to soothe the slave states of the early United States, block grants can be ramped up to provide a firm financial footing. Of course, under the guise of helping the poor when indeed they will enrich the well to do.

If it amounts to anything, infrastructure spending will come in the form of public-private highways. Imagine the New Jersey turnpike underwritten by the Chinese or Koreans.  Trump’s dream of a great wall already has been transformed into a long fence, and doubtless will give way to drones and electricon devices. With Sessions as Attorney he can round up quantities of Latinos and people from the Middle East under existing criminal statuates, and deport them under flimsy charges.

Best of all, the new world can be topped off by an ideology steeped in historic American nativism. Keeping the foreigners out will no longer be based in a hatred of communism, but an ideology steeped in the fear of terrorism.

More articles by:

James Ridgeway is an investigative reporter in Washington, DC. He co-edits Solitary Watch.

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail