For years liberals owned the day. The amazing leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression and World War II guided our country through one of the most difficult periods in our history.
People saw the Democratic Party as the party of the people—the poor, the middle class, immigrants, minorities, and the wealthy. The succeeding Democratic presidents demonstrated a similar commitment to all Americans. And more amazing advancements in freedom and opportunity were the result of their leadership.
Importantly, Republicans cooperated with these Democratic presidents. They voiced their opposition at times. They fought against policies they disagreed with. But when it came time to work together and get important legislation passed for all of the country, they were willing to do their part. And many of them contributed their own intelligent and compassionate ideas to the process.
Then, somewhere during the 1970s, social and morality issues began to surface. The Sexual Revolution of the late 60s and early 70s was launched. Feminism was later born. The Vietnam War caused people, especially the young, to question their government openly and forcefully. Abortion was legalized. The Civil Rights Movement carried the day and Black Americans were gradually, thankfully, integrated into the rest of society.
It was during all of these pivotal events that conservatives began to balk and resist and work to undo these incredibly important and progressive changes.
Conservatives felt somehow oppressed, ignored and pushed aside. Their old fashioned values were being threatened and they believed their way of life was as well.
The Religious Right, starting with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, began a concerted effort to link conservative religion with politics. They were determined to take over the political process and move the country, through legislation and by controlling the message of the people, back to an earlier time when all of their very narrow values were tolerated, accepted, and considered the norm.
Fox News saw this demographic as potential dollar signs and they set up an entire media industry to both support and exploit the political clout of the religious right. The money from this venture surpassed all of their expectations and turned Fox into not only a vast money making machine but also the place where conservative politics and religious fundamentalism thrives completely unbridled and uncensored in any responsible way.
Today, we are a society crippled by this hostile division of ideas and values. Progressives still want to honor the intelligent and cooperative leadership of FDR and his vision of a caring, thriving USA open to all of its citizens and working for all of them.
Conservatives and fundamentalists still want to go back. Back to old values and traditional ideas. Back to limited freedoms, censorship of thought and principles, restrictions on immigrants and people of color, and the foisting of the conservative’s very narrow value system upon the entire country, including religious indoctrination and an oppressively fundamentalist Christian influence that will not compromise on anything.
Political conservatives simply want to control the way money flows through giant corporations, the banks, and Wall Street. They are perfectly fine with a divided country and class warfare as long as they are able to profit from deregulation, lowered standards on all industry, and an economy rigged in their favor.
Lincoln once said, “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.”
We have done exactly that in this country. Progressives have forfeited the confidence of conservatives, and conservatives have forfeited the confidence of progressives.
In the process we have all lost each other’s respect and esteem.
The challenge now is not to get that back but to start over with one another and find ways to begin a new work of respect, understanding, openness, and cooperation.
Unless we do, this country we love is doomed to sad, shocking and unprecedented decline.
© 2012 Timothy Moody