It’s hard to understand how the Germans, one of the world’s most cultured, educated, religious people, could let themselves be hypnotized and duped by a madman like Adolf Hitler. But we experienced a similar phenomenon here when Southern evangelicals and fundamentalists were seduced and taken over by the Republican Party.
Founded in 1854 by abolitionist Whigs and disaffected Democrats as the party of freedom, from the profit of graft and corruption during the Civil War and Reconstruction, the GOP quickly became the party of wealth and privilege. But this narrow constituency couldn‘t command the majority needed to win elections. Therefore, Republicans have had to attract other frequently disparate groups by convincing them they had interests in common. The Southern evangelical-fundamentalists, a zealous but unsophisticated and auto-suggestive group, were a natural for exploitation. Republican strategists convinced Southern middle and working-class voters to cut their own economic throats by pressing such emotional issues as school prayer, abortion and gay rights. But after nearly 40 years, Republicans have delivered absolutely zilch on any of these issues.
Although he would not take an open anti-civil rights stand, Goldwater started the seduction in 1964 by saying he doubted the constitutionality of certain civil rights legislation. He took several Southern states that year. Nixon incorporated this theme into his “Southern strategy” in 1968, and by 1980, the once solid Democratic South was solidly Republican. The defection began when Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a character with his own rather ambiguous ideas on race relations, switched parties. But all this change did was to make honest men of Southern Democrats who had been voting with the Republicans all along.
While Washington is always one continuing soap opera, there have been three major scandals that have rocked the very foundations of our republic: the Credit Mobilier shortly after the Civil War in which several Congressmen were convicted, the Teapot Dome affair during the 1920s which included a cabinet member’s suicide and Watergate, which led to our only presidential resignation. All three of these scandals occurred during Republican administrations, the party claiming a franchise on honesty, integrity and family values.
I rest my case.
George B. Reed Jr., Fort Oglethorpe