Will the GOP’s Divide and Conquer Continue?

I don’t think anyone can dispute that GOP candidates for president have exploited the primeval forces driving humankind from its earliest moments on this Earth, those of fear and angst. Even government is posed as a threat, at all levels, but especially at the national level. In Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural address in 1981, he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” More recently, the “Jade Helm” U.S. military exercises in Texas were seen as a cover for a military takeover among some conservatives.

The Republican Party attacks on government since Reagan’s comments escalated. All attacks happen to feed into an agenda of privatizing public services. The Bush administration, except for the military, had great antipathy toward government, and proved it with crony appointments to important offices, including Homeland Security, FEMA, and the Justice Department. George Bush even nominated his personal lawyer to the Supreme Court with no experience in constitutional law, primarily because of her loyalty to him.

Even on the contemporary political front, with a shrill and unremitting clamor, the frontrunner, Donald Trump, seems to purposely draw out basic prejudices of the GOP base in re-invoking threats and augmenting any grudging resentments. From the incompetence of government, “rapist immigrants,” and black dissenters to a perceived Islamic threat in America, his range of targets is wide.

Most other GOP candidates have felt competitively obligated to follow suit, to greater or lesser degrees. Thus they have joined in a chorus of ill will against all things their shared GOP ideology tends to malign, if not hate: Planned Parenthood, Islamic threats (everywhere), Black Lives Matter, big government, and the gun-regulation culture – just for starts. Most have been brandished as symbols for basic beliefs, against abortion, for unconstrained gun ownership, against society’s takers, all generally signifying the “other.”

Everyday talking points, images, and rhetoric have served to maintain the poisoned well, thus embellishing the fear and loathing through images and references that rhetoric teaches conservative legions, including the conditioned Fox News watchers. Fox is the basic partisan source that dispenses conservative agendas, all rife with fear and anger.

Among the stricken Americans are the sane, the resentful, the angry, the unemployed, the marginally insane, and even the well-to-do, although the latter go along for benefits the conservative movement provides. Most have in common the pre-ordained beliefs that decades of hate radio and Fox News have instilled through rote learning.

Carly Fiorina at the 2nd GOP Republican debate portrayed the most effective inflammatory attack on Planned Parenthood, falsely suggesting Planned Parenthood involvement in selling fetal tissue, painting this fabricated scene:

A fully-formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, and its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We must keep it alive to harvest its brain.’

Robert Dear, perhaps one of the disturbed, was the attacker at the Colorado Planned Parenthood health clinic. After allegedly killing three innocent people, during his arrest he uttered, “no more baby parts.” This is certainly the image that Fiorina portrayed at the Republican debate, as well as words suggested by other foes of Planned Parenthood, the same image proposed by countless conservative operatives on television news channels and radio since Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Besides two civilians, one of the dead was a city police officer responding to reports of shots fired at the clinic. He was the father of two children and an elder at a local church. Nine other people were injured, including five police officers.

Since Roe vs. Wade, one of the primary GOP targets is abortion or anything related to it, this time Planned Parenthood. Indeed, over the last four decades, there have been 8 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons and thousands of criminal activities.

Black Lives Matter and American Muslims have also suffered a steady barrage of criticism by conservative media, characterizing them as possible terrorists or law-breaking hooligans. Last Monday, gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the FBI reports an upturn in threats on mosques and Muslims in the United States.

Donald Trump’s words and actions designate such people as targets. For example, he says Muslim-Americans should be tracked, and undocumented workers rounded up. Said of a Black Lives Matter protester at his rally, “maybe he deserved to be roughed up.” A few months ago, when a man arrested for beating a homeless Latin man told police “Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported,” Trump said “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

We live in a highly polarized society, where each side of the estranged population is divided by a rhetoric often designed by a conservative agenda to inflame emotions that lead to voting Republican. In addition, actions or inactions, especially among Republican legislators, often fail to curb domestic or even foreign violence, in the form of terrorism, war, climate change, or conflict. Sometimes this division leads to death and injury.

Inaction on the part of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate is one current example. Over seven months ago, President Obama nominated Adam Szubin, an expert on cutting off Islamic extremist funding, to the Treasury Department’s position of undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. Senate committees lauded his qualifications last July, but have refused to bring his appointment to a vote.

Meanwhile ISIS continues to raise and transfer money for their terrorist activities. The question we might well pose, “Would the recent terrorist attacks have been possible if Szubin had been free to cut off extremist funding?” Would over 120 innocent people in Paris be alive today if the Senate had approved a very capable Adam Szubin to this position? What about the downing of the Russian airline, killing 224 passengers?

The upcoming conference in Paris on climate change comes with global attention drawn toward terrorism. Will Republicans finally do all that they can for Obama to succeed in fighting terrorism and will they commit regulatory resources for the fight against climate change? Both must be done through big government action, something Republicans have maligned by some 40 years.

Functioning governments and common efforts are not in the Republican array of governing. Division is more of their strong point, including obstructing and shutting down government. Is a mindset of working together, and using government in the effort even possible for Republicans? Or will it be more of the same: the age-old divide and conquer?

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.