The present state of national political dysfunction is not something Americans have drifted into by chance, or as a result of pressures in the random currents of political developments. No: It is the result of the debilitating visions and destructive search for power carried on by the leaders of the Modern Republican Party (MRP) during the last fifty years. In two previous articles, I wrote about the MRP and its cynical, emotion-based manipulation of racism, religion, and patriotism to gain power. The MRP became the party of Jim Crow, the party of military and civilian guns, and the party of God.
In my previous articles, I posed questions about Frank Luntz. He was the person in charge of the MRP’s verbal gas machine that continues to produce thick clouds of nonsense. He was responsible for linguistic gems like “Southern strategy,” “big government,” “war on terror,” “family values,” and many others that have penetrated and dulled the minds of many Americans. To whom did Luntz submit his linguistic gems? To whom did he report? Who approved his linguistic gems, and who saw to it that the gems became part of the regular vocabulary of the mainstream media? Look to the top of the party, America.
There is virtually no mention in the so-called liberal media of the Orwellian coded language and doublespeak of the MRP. MRP leaders have understood from the beginning of their assault on America, as George Orwell understood in 1984, that words can transform the energy of politically-laden emotions into thought and action. MRP leaders organized a staff of “word wizards” who sought to create words and phrases that would channel and control the latent energy of racism, fire-powered patriotism, and rigid religious belief. These word wizards invented the phrase “Southern strategy” to camouflage the racism, the violence, and the intolerance of the policies that were gestating in the minds of the early MRP leaders. “Southern strategy” spawned many offspring, including “silent majority,” “cut taxes (for the rich),” “family values,” and “big government.”
The MRP said to American voters: “We have given you the words with which you can express your political fears and feelings. Dream the words. Speak the words. Write the words. You know that they describe your, and our, vision of reality.”
The MRP drew on the power of words to change human perception. They realized words could energize politically laden emotions, and at the same time, activate the circuits in the human brain that lead people to accept illusions as reality. “Silent majority,” for example, united people who disapproved of Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation that empowered minorities, while making no overt reference to racism. “Cut taxes” became a phrase with one meaning: Stop funding welfare and supporting “them.” “Family values” was a call to live according to a very strict code of conduct created by so-called Christian leaders, most of whom failed to live by that same code. “Big government” was a call to resist social activism and political intervention that was intended to right injustices, even as the “war” on “big government” facilitated crony capitalism and rampant profiteering.
The shattering success of the MRP’s “Southern strategy” – in its stimulation and stoking of emotion that smothers reason, in its creation of illusions, and in its application of the transforming and transmitting capacities of the modern media machine – has fundamentally disrupted the rational discussion of ideas that is essential to the functioning of a modern democracy. The MRP is, in a word, anti-democratic. Its policies and politics erode the very cement that holds together the rational and reasonable aspects of our nation.
In Alan Turing: The Enigma, Andrew Hodges writes that an essential aspect of Orwell’s 1984 is to display “the capacity of political structure to determine language, and language to determine thought.” Recognizing this, the MRP has poisoned political discourse in America with language that’s intended to suppress rational thought, language whose goal it is to dim the light shed by people who engage in reasonable political thought in the USA.
Don’t believe me? Just watch the Republican presidential “debates.” Welcome to the new dark ages, America.
Matthew Jacobson is a lifelong student of the history of American politics.