HISTORY: Paul Fanlund In Madison Cap Times: How We Got From Nixon To Trump!


Fanlund writes in an op-ed:

“When Roger Ailes died, essays about him ranged from adoring to vilifying. As creator of Fox News, he was perhaps the nation’s most influential political messenger — or propagandist — of the past 50 years.

One aspect of any honest obituary, of course, was his misogyny. Ailes was finally forced out at Fox in 2016 after years of sexual harassing women employees. His 17-year-old son threatened his father’s accusers at the funeral, warning mourners that he wanted “all the people who betrayed my father to know that I’m coming after them, and hell is coming with me.”

But what I found most interesting in immersing myself in analyses of Ailes’ life was how little his craft had to do with liberal versus conservative ideology.

Rather, Ailes was perhaps the master of the dark art of inventing and relentlessly reinforcing hateful caricatures of political opponents — in his case, people of color, bureaucrats, university professors and, of course, the media.

His brilliant execution of that art culminated in Donald Trump.

Ailes, as is widely known, learned from Richard Nixon, for whom he worked as a young television consultant. Nixon launched his political career much earlier by championing “forgotten Americans,” lunch-pail-toting working men whose fortunes, in Nixon’s telling, were stymied by taxes and regulations imposed upon them by far-away elites.

The rest, as they say, is history. Nixon appealed to his “silent majority” to stand against anti-war and civil rights protesters. Democrats opened the floodgates to Republican demagoguery by advancing civil rights. The GOP today has broadened its pool of villains to include Latino and Muslim immigrants.

The 1980s brought jolly Ronald Reagan with his fantastical stories about welfare queens, followed by George H.W. Bush’s law and order and patriotism themes, and so on.

“Individual issues would come and go — acid, amnesty and abortion in 1972, and immigration, political correctness and transgender bathrooms in 2016 — but the attacks on liberals as elite, out of touch and protective of the ‘wrong people’ came from the same playbook,” wrote David Greenberg, a Rutgers professor of history and journalism, in a New York Times op-ed on Ailes.

OK, but why does it always work?

Why are so many — especially older, white, middle-class people — so susceptible to this toxic narrative when it is clear that the trickle-down GOP policies that follow do them so little good?

Maybe, I theorize, it has something to do with how we were all taught.

I’ve talked with many friends about the flag-waving jingoism of our pre-college education, in which our nation was portrayed as perfect, our leaders without fault.

My formal education began when Dwight Eisenhower was president, an era of unfettered national pride. We were a paragon of liberty and justice and never fought in unjust wars. It was as if someone decided that American children could not process the slightest balance or shade of gray.

In this frame, Andrew Jackson was, as Trump likes to say, a glorious “swashbuckler” like himself, not a president who drove Native Americans from their homes, killing thousands in the process. Nor were we ever taught that Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers owned slaves.

It seems the goal was always to convey “American exceptionalism,” or, more bluntly, reinforce a cultish sense of American superiority.”


Fanlund’s entire op-ed, at the above link, is well worth a read!

Lots of folks don’t like it when we put US history in perspective. For example, during the “glory days” of my childhood in the 1950’s millions of African Americans throughout the nation, and particularly in the South, were deprived of the basic rights of US citizenship. This was notwithstanding the clear dictates of the 14th Amendment, which had been added nearly a century earlier.

The US and many state governments merely decided not to enforce the law of the land. So much for all of the “rule of law” and “nation of laws” malarkey purveyed by right wingers today.

Indeed, many southern states enacted discriminatory laws that were directly contrary to the 14th Amendment. And, amazingly, for the majority of the 19th and 20th Centuries, courts of law at all levels were complicit in enforcing these unconstitutional laws and ignoring the14th Amendment!



Paul Fanlund In The Cap Times (Madison, WI): The Demise Of Experts?


“I was in the lobby at the car wash, killing time, when I noticed a birthday card on sale depicting the U.S. Capitol dome with these words: “For a relaxing birthday, take a tip from Congress.” The answer inside was predictable: “Do nothing.”

Yes, to many, politicians are uniformly worthy of scorn. The card brought to mind a passage I had just read in a long essay in the magazine Foreign Affairs.

“Americans have developed increasingly unrealistic expectations of what their political and economic systems can provide,” wrote Tom Nichols, “and this sense of entitlement fuels continual disappointment and anger.

“When people are told that ending poverty or preventing terrorism or stimulating economic growth is a lot harder than it looks, they roll their eyes. Unable to comprehend all the complexity around them, they choose instead to comprehend almost none of it and then sullenly blame elites for seizing control of their lives.”

That’s a tidy if unflattering take on today’s populism: Droves of regular, hard-working taxpayers losing faith in government to address their problems or even operate honestly. It’s a complaint rooted in the Watergate era, one that gained currency and momentum through the years and today has begat President Donald Trump.

Hand-wringing around that trend is not new, but Nichols’ principal theme struck me as even more worrisome under this headline: “How America Lost Faith in Expertise.” Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and adapted his essay from his new book on the same subject titled “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

To illustrate his thesis via anecdote, Nichols described a poll after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 asking respondents to locate Ukraine on a map. Only one in six could, but that didn’t stop those who thought the country was in South America or Australia from being more likely than average to support military intervention. Pause on that: “I don’t know where it is, but let’s send troops.”

Such attitudes are becoming commonplace, Nichols wrote. “It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem.

“The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance — at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy — is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites — and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.”


Read the complete article at the link.