something something bullshit Cherokee legend fabricated out of whole cloth by Billy Graham
So it's like this: The Republican Party and the Democratic Party were, at one point, about economic issues. Democrats have always favored more centralization and welfare while Republicans have always favored more free-market capitalism. The Republican Party was also traditionally the party of the northern states while the Democratic Party was the party of the southern states - Abraham Lincoln, Republican, fought the Civil War in order to retain the southern states, who seceded in order to protect their slavery-based economy.
Then desegregation happened. Or, more specifically, Americans fought in two world wars and began building a globe-spanning colonial empire where inner-city white folx from Boston ended up in foxholes next to black sharecroppers from Alabama. Cars happened and interstate transportation became trivial rather than epic. Industrialization happened and skilled labor replaced unskilled labor. All equalizing forces where civil protections for skilled labor became a necessity, and that meant unions, and that meant a middle class, and that meant that slowly but surely, the Democrats had the unionized, mechanized northern states as well as the fought-to-the-death-for-slavery south.
It's worth noting that Dwight Eisenhower - The man who warned against the military-industrial complex - was a Republican. A Republican who, in this day and age, would be a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat. But then Kennedy beat Nixon, and then Johnson took over after Kennedy was shot, and it's the 60s and all the poor people are killing villagers in Vietnam and all the rich kids are marching and the signature issue is civil rights and the Republicans went another way.
Important to note: the Republican platform had, until then, been an economic platform, the power of free enterprise, the minimization of taxation, etc. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican and he started the National Parks. But the Southern Strategy recognized that Southern racists would rather vote racist than Democrat and gave them a new home in the Republican Party.
So. The party that had previously been about economics was suddenly about racism. And they won in '68. Then Watergate happened and the Republican Party was in shambles so they doubled down again on Jesus:
So what you've got is a party of two wolves:
- the economic, freedom/liberty/determinism wolf that feels that people should have the right to make their way in the world without dealing with an overarching, repressive government apparatus
- the religious, racist, god/guns/gay oppression wolf that feels that life was better in the antebellum south when men were men, blacks were niggers and women were barefoot and pregnant
...and as you might imagine, those two wolves don't live in one mind unless that mind is mentally ill. BUT the rich minority - "the one percent" - aren't going to win any elections where they need the fifty percent. So they throw out these populist sops that appeal to small-minded racists and the untraveled hinterlands that have about the same idea of an "immigrant" as they do of a "martian." And as the Internet advances, and as global communication becomes more and more trivial, and as the importance of the church and community center diminishes, and as the kids flee the failing rural economies destroyed by the very policies of the Republican Party to live in the Democratic cities, the wolf that is fed is the wolf that hates.
American representative democracy is a peculiar beast. We have representatives based on districts (you get two Senators no matter how many people are in your state) and on population (you get however many Representatives give you an equal representation in that part of government). This means that a large, empty state wields disproportionate power: Let's say California has more than ten percent of the population of the United States (it does). California gets 53 representatives of the 435 in the house. Poor, tiny North Dakota only gets one! But California has more than ten percent of the population of the United States and it gets two senators (out of 100). Poor, tiny North Dakota also gets two. So California, with its giant cities, outsized economy and 38 million residents, gets one government representative per 710,000 people. North Dakota? One for every 252,000.
North Dakota has three times the representation of California. And damn near every kid with a little ambition, with a little skill, with a little desire to see the world is going to leave North Dakota as soon as he humanly can...
...and go to the big city, which is a lot more liberal-leaning, and which gets represented at the national level one third as much as his redneck parents in North Dakota.
And it's rough in North Dakota. And it's been getting worse. And whenever things get bad in the Hinterlands, things get conservative and mean which means the person who appeals best to that meanness is going to be the one elected to represent that district.
They feed the wolf that hates.
Fundamentally, the system self-selects for diminished representation of anyone with the ability to flee Republican policies. More than that, the system self-selects for the increased representation of anyone who is motivated more by hatred and fear than thoughtful policy. And because the districts are so tightly controlled to ensure re-election by like-minded people, most politicians aren't afraid of a sane challenge from the middle, they're afraid of a crazier challenge from the fringe. And so the wolf is fed some more.
The Republican Party, as it currently stands, is a purebred gentleman's sporting dog that has been fed a steady diet of gunpowder and kittens for the past fifty years. It is an evolutionary dead end, a mean, biting thing of anger, rage, and libertarian economic policy. It is the product of its environment, and that environment is the dual wasteland of unrestrained free-market capitalism and unrestrained pentecostal racism. And we are at end-stage, and those who started the creature on this astounding point in history would not recognize what it has become but those who have stood by its side all along the way are not yet ready to admit they have created a monster.
And here we are.