CORRUPTION WATCH-With the passing of former President George H. W. Bush (Bush 41), the nation pauses. The country unites in remembering 41's decency and humanity.
Not only do we follow the maxim not to speak ill of the dead, but the death of Bush 41 lends itself to “a kinder, gentler America.”
Bromides Aside, Tributes to Bush 41 are Attacks on Trump
Trump should not be surprised at the overwhelming trashing he is taking in the guise of praise for 41. Each time a TV commentator refers to 41's calls for a more cooperative and helpful America, he or she is jabbing at Trump who as recently as July 5, 2018, mocked 41's “A Thousand Points of Light.”
The Situation is Far More Complex
While most of the country would welcome less rancor in public life, how we deteriorated to this point is complicated. Trump is not merely an uncouth lout who attacks people willy-nilly. If that were all of it, the Right Wing would not love him. The Right Wing champions Trump because he uses his verbal attacks to promote group rights, e.g. Nationalism, by which people know Trump means White America.
Ironically, GOP bird calls for right wing group rights may have played a decisive role in Bush 41's losing the 1992 election to Clinton. The GOP was busily recruiting the group of White Fundamentalist Christians for their base and integral to this strategy was anti-Gay bigotry. A group rights agenda may be advanced by prejudice against one group in order to pander to another group. Whether or not the impact of the Gay issue actually changed enough votes to make Bush 41 a one-term President, there is no doubt it dragged his position farther to the right than he would have otherwise gone.
GOP Pushed Gays into the Democratic Party
Since the GOP had no use for the individual inalienable rights for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in their pandering to the group rights of Fundamentalist Christians to have their religious views on abortion, prayer in schools, Gays, Supreme Court Justices enacted into law, the GOP had no room for disliked minorities. Since it had become both unfashionable and often illegal to discriminate against Blacks, the GOP had a dilemma with the demise of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991 -- the Republicans had no out-group to hate. In a nation which thrives on dichotomy of Good vs Evil, Saved vs Damned, Right vs Wrong, the GOP were desperate to have a new “evil empire” to attack. While Gays were not exactly an empire, the Fundamentalists certainly feared and hated them.
The Dems Aggravate the Group Rights Nightmare
Since the Democrats had adopted their own left leaning group rights strategy as far back as President Johnson’s Great Society, they quickly jumped on the group rights bandwagon with their calls for “Equality.” Inherent in the word Equality is group rights since the word implies two groups. Those on one side of the = sign are equal to those on the other side. Not only is Equality not an inalienable or a constitutional right, it is nonsensical. Gays are not defined by another group. As it turns out the individuals we lumped together as Gays were quite diverse. Soon we had Lesbians who thought “Gay” male oriented; we had bisexuals; then we realized we had transsexuals, and now the situation is further confused with individuals who have gender identity situations. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy provided the constitutional resolution for all Americans in his opinion in Lawrence v Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003) -- the right to individual liberty.
While Lawrence protected Gay individuals on the basis of the inalienable and constitutional right of Liberty, neither the GOP nor the Democrats could tolerate the decision. The GOP needed to continue its Gay bashing to satisfy its religious Fundamentalists and the Dems wanted all Gays to march under the group rights banner of Equality.
The Rise of Corruptionism
Life is very complicated. At the same time the group rights battles were an undercurrent in American life, corruptionism was steadily advancing. Corruptionism, with the “ism” at the end, did not affect Bush 41. There had been vigorous prosecutions in the aftermath of the Savings & Loan scandals of the 1980s (Google William K. Black for a history) and being a crook was not yet a position of great prestige.
Bill Clinton was instrumental in the rise of Corruptionism, although it not likely he foresaw where his actions would lead. In “ending welfare as we know it,” Clinton forged a working relationship with the GOP on economic policy and this bipartisanship morphed from ending welfare for the poor to providing welfare for the uber-wealthy with the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the legalizing of credit default swamps in 1999 and 2000. As Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND 1992-2011) warned in 2000, such largess to Wall Street would crash the economy.
Corruptionism’s Ironic Twist
The dismantling of too much of the safety net for the poor and the blindness to Wall Street frauds, left the nation vulnerable to the Crash of 2008 and the regressive economics which followed. While Wall Street criminals did fine, Main Street was decimated. The crash had nothing to do with risk-taking but was 100% based on Wall Street criminal fraud in the home mortgage market (again Google William K. Black). The 2008 Crash and the subsequent long recession made the nation receptive to the nationalist ranting of an angry man-child.
Group Rights and Corruptionism Gave Us Donald Trump
We tend to forget how little shifts can have huge impacts. Suppose the GOP in 1992 had not gone hog wide in its anti-gayness crusade and Bush 41 had won re-election? Would we have repealed Glass-Steagall and avoided the Crash of 2008?
One thing is certain: our ignorance of the impacts of group rights and corruptionism will be devastating. A pause to call for civility will not counteract their effect on our lives.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.