It Started with Reagan

Trump is capitalizing off of decades of government-bashing from American conservatives.

“Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.” The great conservative hero Ronald Reagan muttered these famous words at his first inaugural address in 1981. And who can forget another famous quote from Reagan: “The ten most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

Mr. Reagan was pretty famous for his witty and folksy sayings over the years but these particular quotes foreshadowed a darker and even diabolical intent that would come to represent the modern Republican Party. Whether he intended to or not, Mr. Reagan, through these sentiments, spurred an unprecedented attack on government that has continued unabated for nearly 4 decades. And it’s getting much worse.

When you attack something over and over and use the same talking points, the public begins to take the words seriously. How often have we heard about ‘big’ government? How often have we heard that the government can’t do anything right? We see and hear it every day: Republicans on television or on the radio bashing our government, letting all who will listen know that they are doing everything in their power to limit government intrusion into our lives.

But this unlimited attack on our institutions and system of government has led us down a path to certain destruction if we sit back and do nothing about it. The corruption. The pay to play. The quid pro quo. The dismantling of the administrative state. All are hallmarks of the modern day Republican Party and if the Democrats want to take back the Congress in 2018, they better get on the ethical soapbox and let the American people know which party represents them and what party represents the wealthy and powerful.

It’s really not that hard for Democrats to point these things out. Over the last several years we’ve seen alarming examples of just how broadly the Republicans are beholden to corporations and influential special interests, rather than the American people and the Constitution. How about the NRA? In 1994, the Democrats passed the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Republican President George W. Bush did not renew the ban and the expiration continues to this day even though wide majorities of the American people would like to see it back in place. We’ve seen mass shooting after mass shooting. Nothing gets done. The NRA speaks and the Republican Party listens.

How about the Great Recession of 2008? The Dodd-Frank Act was passed in response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Since the day it went into law, the banking industry has tried to fight it or weaken it with a vengeance. And now, with all three branches of government in their hands, the Republicans have been doing just that. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to protect the public from unscrupulous lenders and an offshoot of Dodd-Frank, is in serious jeopardy as the agency is being starved of funds and its leadership decimated.

How about Net Neutrality? Most Americans want a free an independent internet where data is treated equally by all providers. The Democrats are with the American people on this. The Republicans again side with the powerful internet provider companies.

On and on it goes. Just this past week, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin announced that the administration would no longer enforce disclosure requirements of certain tax-exempt organizations to the IRS. This would include politically active groups like (you guessed it)…the NRA. Mnuchin also has suggested weakening sanctions against a specific Russian corporation, which ironically comes on the heels of Trump’s recent disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin.

And we must not forget the borderline treasonous activities of the House Republicans who have stonewalled and excoriated the Mueller investigation. Just when we need checks and balances of the highest order, the party in charge is not only missing in action, but taking steps to ensure that indeed no checks are brought to bear. Are they loyal to the American people and the Constitution or are they loyal to Trump and big money?

It’s hard to know whether Mr. Reagan would have approved of the current makeup of the Republican Party. But it’s not a stretch to think he would have been terrified, especially given the character makeup of the man who currently resides in the White House.

But clearly some of the blame for Trumpism should go to Mr. Reagan himself. His bashing of all things government-related veered the party down this road. They are now firmly entrenched as the party of money…the party of power… the party of corruption…and the party of Trump.

A nearly four decade long assault on our government and its institutions has now reached a plateau that even Mr. Reagan could not have imagined. I’ve heard many on the left say that Democrats need more to run on than just complete opposition to Trump. And I can’t disagree. But ignoring the vast corruption, pay to play, and borderline un-American actions of this Republican Party is not an option.

The Democratic Party needs to become the only logical choice for those who fear what they see happening in the halls of Congress and the White House. It’s time to not only be the party of the ‘people’ but also the party of ethics and good governance. Ethics and good governance. Sounds like a good campaign slogan to me.

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