The last straw

The last straw

“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”– Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural address.

Many observers believe that Trump has caused the moral demise of the GOP. He clearly has helped, especially in regard to evangelicals, but he didn’t start the downhill slide. Nixon and Reagan deserve the honor for that initiating that move.

Over the last several decades, the Republican Party has gone from a party that supported civil rights and social security to the party that wants government out of the way so that corporate America and the wealthy can rule. There are no longer many moderates left in the party, much less a liberal Rockefeller wing.

In 1935, only 15% of Republican House members voted against the creation of Social Security; only 20% of GOP Senators did. In recent years, President Bush (43), former Speaker Ryan and other GOP leaders wanted to do away with Social Security as we know it.

I moved to rural Georgia in 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act passed. An astounding 80% of House Republicans voted for it, versus only 60% of Democrats. The Senate was the same story with 82% of GOP Senators in support versus a little over 2/3rds of Democrats. The GOP showed similar support for the Voting Rights Act (82% in the House and 94% in the Senate).

In 2013, a Supreme Court dominated by anti-government GOP appointees gutted the Voting Rights Act. The GOP has not supported efforts to correct abuses, but instead has actively engaged in voter suppression.

In 1965, 50% of GOP House members voted to create Medicare, as did 41% of Republican Senators. Senator Jacob Javits(R-NY) introduced legislation in 1070 to expand it in to all ages. Now, there is no Republican leader willing to stand up for its expansion, even for those 55-64.

Along the way, the GOP base has also changed dramatically. Millennials are significantly more likely to be Democrats versus Republicans (Pew, 2-19).

A Pew survey (2-19) shows that only 54% of Republicans now believe that the deficit is a major problem, down from 82% in the Obama years. Meanwhile, the annual deficit has grown every year since 2015, going from $438 billion to a projected $984 billion in 2019. Fiscal conservatives just stare in wonder.

So, how did this change in the GOP come about, was it accidental? No. The rightward turn of the GOP was a draconian Nixonian tactic known as the “Southern Strategy,” devised by Lee Atwater and others. Per Atwater (1981): “By 1968 you can’t say “n****r” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

In his 1980 campaign, Reagan gave a speech near Philadelphia, MS where three civil rights workers had been murdered just 16 years before. His speech was widely publicized due to Reagan saying things like: “I believe in states’ rights”. Clearly, this event was a successful attempt to let the right-wing reactionary forces know that he was on their side.

Which brings me to our current President. Trump let the Charlottesville white supremacists know how he felt: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” His remarks were not surprising in that he has a long history of documented racism going back 40 years.

The GOP has had a long-held belief in limited government and the balance of powers. That is why in 2014 Mitch McConnell stated about Obama’s immigration executive orders: “It may serve him politically in the short term. But he knows that it will make an already-broken system even more broken, and he knows that this is not how democracy is supposed to work.”

I agreed with McConnell at the time regarding executive power (but not on immigration). It’s Congress’ role to fix a broken immigration system.

But McConnell has determined that there is no longer a Republican Party. There is a ReTrumpican Party that will blindly follow this President down the road to unconstitutional authoritarianism, as shown by the GOP reticence to overturn the unconstitutional wall executive order.

Recently, it has come out that Barbara Bush no longer considered herself a Republican. Although I’m a former Chair of the Jasper County Republican Party, I’ve been voting for Democrats on the state and national level for some time. For me, this latest GOP spinelessness is the proverbial last straw. As of this column, I am now a former Republican.


Image Credit: The last straw photo taken by Rinblad (; Crater in Arizona desert made by crash of the GOP elephant is a composite created for using an aerial view of Arizona Crater by Shane Torgerson via and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license and just a tiny piece of the aerial view of the elephant (in the crater) by Tim Fitzharris via (promotional use).

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.