Origins Of The Republican Party’s Implosion (Or Explosion)

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I’m not a political scholar who has been studying the matter for decades at Harvard. (Though, I do like to occasionally play one on TV the internet.) I’m definitely not proclaiming this to be a definitive story on the deep origins of the Republican Party’s current implosion (or explosion, depending on how you interpret the show). In fact, I’m guessing there are numerous origins, and each one could probably warrant a book or series of books. But I think there are some interesting factors at play that I wanted to highlight, because they do relate in indirect but critical ways to climate change and cleantech.

Republican Party Implosion/Explosion/Civil War

First of all, I should probably make explicit what the implosion/explosion I’m referencing is.

Donald Trump yelling
Donald Trump.

Obviously, it involves Donald Trump, but this is not something that one lone wolf has done. At the beginning of the GOP primaries, political experts (including engaged citizens) basically saw Donald Trump’s run for president as a joke. Honestly, I think Donald largely considered it a stunt, an attempt to get in front of the camera a little more, and a venue for venting/ranting about things that annoy him. I think he was genuinely shocked at how well he was doing early on in the primaries. “Can you believe this? I can’t believe this. Can you believe how well things are going?,” Trump said to Joe Scarborough when he was gaining serious momentum in December. For sure, much of the nation was shocked, and became even more shocked as time went on and he became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

In the process of this shocking win, of course, Donald Trump verbally bashed and bullied several of his Republican competitors, others in the Republican Party, some of the conservative media, and pretty much everyone else in the country. Many establishment Republican politicians and major donors have been unwilling to support Trump, have attempted their own bashing and bullying of The Donald, and continue to do so even though it is clear he is the party’s nominee for president. For some reason, they can’t seem to get over things like…

  • proposals to ban Muslims from entering the country and to carpet bomb the Islamic State … (a wait, the latter was from Ted Cruz, who is nearly as despised by establishment Republicans, but never mind that side note for now);
  • claims that he will somehow make Mexico pay for a gigantic, “beautiful” wall along its border with the US, despite the fact that most Americans think the idea of such a wall is ridiculous, and the former president of Mexico has been much more blunt that it’s not happening;
  • debate terminology like “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” etc.
  • claims that an Indiana-born judge overseeing class action lawsuits against him is obviously biased since he is of Mexican descent (and Trump has the wall plans noted above).

Republican Party

This craziness alone has led many to announce a civil war within the party, a potential destruction of the party, and near anarchy for the Grand Old Party. Though, the GOP is still holding together by a few threads.

Trying to hold the party together, and also in some cases because they actually support Trump’s views and approach, numerous prominent Republicans have endorsed Trump, provided supportive statements, and joined his campaign team. But the situation seems to be getting shakier by the day. Some top Republican Congressmen have now said that they will not comment on Trump for the remainder of the election season … or will at least try not to. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been a bit more apologetic and supportive of Trump than others, didn’t take it that far, but his last statement on The Donald was simply: “I’m not going to be commenting on the presidential candidates today.”

But several prominent people in the GOP are not turning a blind eye to what they see as reckless, immoral, and extremely dangerous comments from Trump. As one of the latest examples, Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush and assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, has said that he will vote for Clinton rather than Trump. He will be joined by several other political elites and common Janes in the Grand Old Party.

So, that’s the premise, in a nutshell. But how did we get here?



Roy Cohn
Roy Cohn.

Interestingly, one of the most influential people in Trump’s life, one of his mentors, was apparently Joseph McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn. The article linked there (check it out!) gives some insight into how Trump developed his coarse and bullying business style. Here’s one short segment:

Roy Cohn, the lurking legal hit man for red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy, whose reign of televised intimidation in the 1950s has become synonymous with demagoguery, fear-mongering and character assassination. In the formative years of Donald Trump’s career, when he went from a rich kid working for his real estate-developing father to a top-line dealmaker in his own right, Cohn was one of the most powerful influences and helpful contacts in Trump’s life.

Over a 13-year-period, ending shortly before Cohn’s death in 1986, Cohn brought his say-anything, win-at-all-costs style to all of Trump’s most notable legal and business deals. Interviews with people who knew both men at the time say the relationship ran deeper than that—that Cohn’s philosophy shaped the real estate mogul’s worldview and the belligerent public persona visible in Trump’s presidential campaign.

But the Trump side of the equation isn’t really the important side. He’s just the icing on the cake after decades of work making the batter and baking the cake.

The communist witch-hunts that occurred with the infamous McCarthy were quite powerful fear-mongering that brought political power to some of the key people who led them. It’s unclear how that played into development of political strategy years later, but it is well know that around the time of Richard Nixon’s rise to leadership, the Republican Party expanded that aggressive approach and targeted broad and consistent fear-mongering about “others” to Southern white people. Unfortunately, the cynical and divisive approach worked.

Ronald Reagan carried on the approach, and expanded its breadth and depth, and you’d have to be completely oblivious to not see it in use by the Republican Party and its media arms today.

Even leaving aside rhetoric, though, it would be hard to honestly deny that the Republican party is anti-minorities, focused on helping the rich rather than the poor, and still by and large intent on putting the Southern strategy into policy action. Some examples:

  • social welfare programs that help the poor are constantly under attack by Republican policymakers
  • policies to continue addressing systemic and widespread racism and sexism are routinely opposed by Republican policymakers (with the assumption being that we no longer have systemic and widespread racism and sexism)
  • low taxes for the rich are practically sacred and one of the most protected topics when it comes time to balance the budget
  • while not absolute, large factions of the Republican are very anti-immigrant and continuously propose disruptive deportation and community raids.

The “Problem”

The thing is, many Republicans aren’t actually anti-minority and pro-billionaire racists who don’t want to help the poorest people in our nation, don’t want the country to be more egalitarian, and don’t want to keep the USA the immigrant-friendly nation that made it into the global leader in many political and economic senses.

However, tied to ideology regarding fiscal conservatism, Christian religion, or decentralization of government, there are many in the party, and in party leadership, who are willing to overlook the Republican policy agenda they don’t like, and are even willing to vote in line with the party agenda (against their own common sense) simply because that’s what’s expected of them (I’m restraining myself to keep from going on a tangent about tribalism, freedom of thought, and idiotic voting behavior in Congress). But everyone has their limits. Donald Trump’s explicit and genuinely dangerous xenophobia is making many of these Republicans realize that the Southern strategy is for real, and has even expanded significantly as “fear of others” (especially people with browner skin) has been promoted, and promoted, and promoted by Republican media and politicians for decades.

So, you are left with 1) the people who actually think Donald Trump’s paranoid xenophobia is logical, 2) the people who don’t actually care about it, as long as it doesn’t harm their or their party’s chances at greater political power, and 3) the people who are appalled to discover what their political partners really think and want to do.

Where will things go from here? Will those who are tired of the hate-mongering finally jump ship, and force Republican Party leadership to change course if the party is to remain competitive on the national level? Will those who support the hate-mongering destroy the party if it tries to move beyond extreme prejudice and fear? Will group #3 simply give in and guiltily support politicians like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the racist, anti-poor, pro-rich policies they demand? I think people like early presidential candidate Lindsay Graham are wondering this nearly 24/7.


Yes, this does all come around to cleantech, in a huge way.

Political contributions from the coal industry. Note that dark and light red are for money sent to Republican and conservative groups, respectively.
oil gas
Political contributions from the oil & gas industry. Note that dark and light red are for money sent to Republican and conservative groups, respectively.

One key reason the Republican Party has consistently opposed strong climate action and cleantech deployment is that fossil fuel industries (oil & gas and coal) heavily support Republicans by tossing them millions and millions of dollars every year. The strikingly unbalanced charts above should demonstrate that well enough. But I wouldn’t say that’s the only key reason.

Global warming and climate change are, again, mostly harmful to “others.” Yes, there is also tremendous harm on the doorstep of everyone alive today, but not many people understand that, and pretty much everyone can get the idea that global warming and climate change threaten future generations much more than us. Additionally, those living in developing countries, countries with extreme climates, island countries, etc., are the ones most vulnerable.

With compassion for “others” weakened to a corn kernel, if that, the call to action to help stop global warming falls (to some degree or another) on deaf ears.

With the underlying desire for “society to remain as it is,” global warming is also an extremely scary affront on people concerned about change. While that can stimulate action, it can also give people knee-jerk denial. And the idea that we need to transform our energy, transportation, and agricultural systems in order to address the problem just hits the other knee.

Cleantech isn’t just another tech transition that is exciting to early adopters, too abstract to the mainstream, and scary to tech-adoption laggards. Cleantech is massively changing economic and other societal structures as it moves humans, for the first time since we discovered fire, away from greater and greater burning of limited resources.

I think that, for these reasons, along with the inherent corruption of hundreds of millions of pollution dollars trying to weigh the scales in favor of Republicans, many Republican policymakers have been willing and even eager to go against the clean energy and clean transport preferences of their constituents and support pollution over cleantech. As with the other moral issues mentioned above, however, one wonders how long that can actually last.

Image credits: Gage Skidmore via / CC BY-SA; DonkeyHotey via DIYlovin / CC BY-SARedSpruce / no known copyright.

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108 thoughts on “Origins Of The Republican Party’s Implosion (Or Explosion)

  • Good bless you, Zachary.

  • A very detailed and thorough study. Seemingly accurate from my point of view. The Christian and conservative groups are doing a power grab and are using the Republican party to achieve those goals. The “Seven Mountains” idealists (look it up — Ted Cruz is one of them) are trying to make the United States a Christian nation — one governed by the Bible. (If you think the US was founded as a Christian nation, do some research. You’ll be surprised.)

    I, for one, do not want the US governed by the Bible. I’ve read the Bible and I don’t like how it dictates punishment, and neither should a majority of Americans. Oh, you committed adultery? You’re going to be killed. Oh, you stole something? Your hand is going to be cut off. Oh, you blasphemed? Death. Oh, you didn’t keep the Sabbath holy? Death. You’re divorced and remarried? Death.

    Does that sound familiar? Yup, Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia follow those kinds of laws because (get ready to have your mind blown) Christianity and Islam are both Abrahamic religions… it’s the same God that both worship. The Koran and the Torah and the Old Testament of the Bible are eerily similar.

    • “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” — Isaac Asimov

      “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” Thomas Paine, who inspired the American revolution through his book, “Common Sense.”

    • It is reductive to consider the Bible as only the ten commandments. I would consider reading the New Testament and many other parts of the Bible. It was the only document at the time speaking of forgiveness and unconditional love. It is also a document that most of the world’s greatest stories and writers have drawn from or were based upon.

      Consider that a large percentage of the despots of history have been trying to use social machinations/engineering (schooling, deism, secularism, propaganda) to remove or deemphasize religion in order to undermine individual culture and liberty. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the extreme Jacobins, more.

      The sad thing is that you’ve replaced religious social institutions (most having something useful to teach humanity) with a tight grip with secular social institutions (schools and corporations, that are most certainly sociopathic). Both that have undermined liberty. The latter is worse.

      • Doctrinaire religions are much much worse than secular institutions — because a doctrinaire religion attempts to control people’s MINDS. Most versions of Christianity claim that you sin merely by having “wrong thoughts” — thoughtcrime! The Catholic church actually punished thoughtcrime for centuries, and the Saudis still do.

        I’ll take the Jacobins any day over that.

        I’m fine with religion which allows freedom of thought. Historically, Christianity *does not*.

      • ” I would consider reading the New Testament and many other parts of the Bible.”

        Ted Cruz and his ilk don’t read that part. Seriously, those guys are dangerous. They are often referred to as “Dominionists” . . . . look it up.

      • …I’m compelled to add to my comment above.
        Bible use is often conflated and used selectively. A politician is the best example of offender who picks and chooses text, often out of context all seemingly to reprove a self-righteous opinion/position…, believing he/she has truly said something important to humanity…, like we didn’t already understand well before they started.
        Any man or woman unable to describe their position and profundity of reason using common language in consideration of all of humanity is not worth a moment of my time…, since they didn’t have a clue from the beginning and still lack insight.

        The voice of God is the quiet voice within us all. Psychologists call the voice schema today. This voice has been called many things thru time – mostly this conscience has been ignored…

    • The first five(5) books of the Old Testament are the Jewish Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Islamic Noble Quran also includes teachings of the Prophet Jesus and includes reference to the Virgin Mary to exemplify motherhood and long-suffering strength.

      The Old and New Testaments and the Quran contain examples of life’s paradox’s and dilemma’s that vex the human condition. However to believe clusters of short recollections of observations are the answer to life’ complexity is reductive. Each of the books are God’s answer to man’s questions/pleas asked of God to help relieve the vexations of men and were written by men (I’m not being sexist here this is simply an observation). To believe God stopped listening and responding to men and women since 70 years after the death of Jesus (earliest written text) is reductionist…

  • I wonder. This is a very interesting story, in conjunction with one I just heard on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” An excerpt:

    “Well, David Daley, welcome to FRESH AIR. You know, it’s interesting that Republican control of Congress kind of feels like an ironclad reality of politics these days. But, you know, you remind us that in the election of 2008, when Barack Obama took the White House, the congressional picture was very different. Remind us of that election and where the Republican Party stood not so long ago.

    DAVID DALEY: If you go back and watch the tapes from election night, the smartest minds in the Republican Party are despairing on television. They are trying to understand where all the Republican voters went. The Republicans realized that they were staring down a demographic tidal wave, that the nature of the electorate was changing and the Democrats were talking about a coalition of the ascendant and looking at a decade of changing politics. The Democrats took a super majority in the Senate – we forget – and how quickly it all changed.

    DAVIES: Right. The Democrats then had a 60-plus-seat majority in the House of Representatives. And you write about a Republican strategist named Chris Jankowski. Tell us about him and what he saw as a way back.

    DALEY: Chris Jankowski is one of the brightest strategists in the Republican Party. And what he saw was how the Republicans could make their way back state-by-state. Jankowski runs something called the Republican State Leadership Committee. And he has a eureka moment in 2009 when he realizes that the following year is a year that ends in zero and that elections at the end of a decade reverberate across the course of the next decade because of the redistricting which follows every census.

    And Jankowski has got connections in statehouses across the country. And he realizes that if they can raise enough money that they can go in state-by-state and do battle – not on the presidential level but in specific statehouse and state Senate districts around the country – redo the maps in the following year if they’re able to win, and they’ve built themselves a firewall for the next 10 years.”

    The whole interview is here:

    To me, the implication is that the underlying health of the GOP is not good. They look strong because of Jankowski’s ‘firewall’ strategy,which has brought them power during this decade. But their political heft belies a lack of real electoral support. And Democratic strategists won’t be fooled the same way this time out.

    It’s true that in the general public, Democratic affiliation leads by about 9 percentage points–though there’s also disaffection with the Democrats, and identification as an independent has grown considerably:

    Perhaps it’s not fanciful to link the extremely low approval ratings of Congressional performance to this reality, as well:

    I don’t think that you have to be a Democratic partisan to see 40+ ‘symbolic’ votes to repeal Obamacare as a massive waste of time, for example.

    Bottom line: if all this is correct, then GOP leaders are right to be wringing their hands.

    • Both party’s have been gerrymandering their respective states for years. What changed is many traditional Democrat states in the south turned from the Democrats to the Republican party. The Democrats did the same in many northeastern and western states. If you don’t believe me look up the congressional districts in the state of Maryland. They went from 4R/4D in their congressional districts to 2R/6D after the 1990/2000 redistricting. Then after the 2010 redistricting they were able to push it to 1R/7D. A major change in a state that saw Republican elected official rise is local, county and state offices.

      • Yes, gerrymandering is not new, nor is it limited to one party. According to Daley, however, ‘what changed’ was that information technology enabled a highly efficient ‘moneyball’ approach that was new–by specifically targeting certain state-level campaigns, Jankowski’s team was able to ensure GOP control of selected state legislatures, cheaply and efficiently, with the specific aim of enabling large-scale gerrymandering at a crucial time.

        The changing affiliation in Southern states was largely complete by 2008. (I live in Atlanta, so this is part of my daily reality.) Moreover, the states that were affected by the Jankowski strategy were mostly northern tier–Ohio, for instance.

  • “… the underlying desire for “society to stay the way it is …” ”
    Really? From a transatlantic distance, I’m not convinced. Surveys indicate that in rich countries, a majority are pretty satisfied with their lives. There is a large constituency everywhere for conservatism in the sense of leaving things alone. Trumpism is different. It brings together people who are very unhappy with the way things are: uppity women, gays, blacks, Latinos, etc. They are not conservative but reactionary. In the USA, the imaginary ideal past is Eisenhower’s 1950s.

    • GOP lawmakers are more of who I was targeting there, and they are largely well off and happy to have society keep looking the way it is.

      However, also with regard to the people Trump has tapped into, I think the issue is people wanting things to stay the same or revert backwards to another time … this being born out of the changes they’ve already been through. Many people have a hard time with change, but it seems Republicans are particularly on that side of the equation.

      • I have quite a few Democratic friends who are “well-off and happy” and are functionally oblivious to income inequality and climate change.

  • GOP should look at Canada as an example 🙂 After the last elections the Conservatives went from hero to zero, mostly because of the policies and arrogance of their leader…

    • You forgot that the US actually hasn’t got a working voting system. Al Gore had hundreds of thousands more votes than Bush for example. Their system of not counting every vote makes the GOP focussing on gerrymandering and not the people. All they need are some gullible idiots and carefully crafted voting districts.

      • True, but there are solutions to these problems, but for some reason the Dems won’t push them. (Why? Who knows.)

        The National Popular Vote bill creates an interstate compact between the states passing it, and it becomes effective after having been passed by enough states to comprise at least 270 Electoral College votes, the minimum number needed to elect the president. Good news: it has already been passed by 11 states comprising 165 electoral votes, 61% of the 270 needed!

        The substance of the bill is simple: the states passing the bill agree to cast all their electoral votes for the candidate receiving the vote of the majority of all Americans. Perfectly legal and constitutional.

        Lastly, gerrymandering would not be possible without single member, winner-take-all districts. Solution: multi-member districts with ranked choice voting. This solution would also make the House of Representatives and state legislatures much more representative of the people. Google “Fixing Congress with Fair Representation Voting” for 6 minute YouTube explanation.

        • I don’t think I heard about this before you brought it up, but sounds great. What organizations/people are championing this? What are the barriers at the moment?

          • Here’s the website for the organization devoted to the
            National Popular Vote bill:


            Unless you are in a state which has already enacted it (like CA), the first thing to do is to enter your zip code and click the “Easy Way to Write Your Legislators.”

            Secondly, get on their mailing list (further down the page).

            IMO Wikipedia has a better explanation of the status of the bill in the various states:


   is the organization devoted to fair representation and ranked choice voting (as well as the NPV). Here’s their YouTube explanation of their plan to make the House of Representatives truly representative:


            The barriers seem to be apathy on the part of the citizenry and ignorance/lack of interest on the part of legislators.

        • ” but for some reason the Dems won’t push them. (Why? Who knows.)”

          They are “well-off and happy”.

          Thanks for info. I was also ignorant and will investigate.

      • The US does not elect the President on a popular vote. We have an electoral college so large population states like CA, TX, FL or NY cannot dominate the process. Having lived in CO, NM, CT, NH for a number of years I understand this issue.

        The fact that one person has more ‘popular votes’ is not a worry to the framers of the constitution. They built a system to provide balance between city and rural. The concern back then was the heavily populated North East would dominate the South. Oddly, the South dominated the Presidential elections in the early years.

        If you look at Florida and Bush v Gore (which is what I think you are talking about) you will see the answer is muddy, both Bush and Gore ‘won’ the state depending on how you counted the ballots.
        In 2001, a consortium of news organizations, assisted by professional statisticians (NORC), examined numerous hypothetical ways of recounting all the Florida ballots. The study was conducted over a period of 10 months.

        Option 1: The consortium examined 175,010 ballots that vote-counting machines had rejected. In each alternative way of recounting the rejected ballots, the number of additional votes for Gore was smaller than the 537-vote lead that state election officials ultimately awarded Bush.

        Option 2: Under the strategy that Al Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida recount — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted by the consortium.

        Option 3: Likewise, if Florida’s 67 counties had carried out the hand recount of disputed ballots ordered by the Florida Supreme Court on December 8, applying the standards that election officials said they would have used, Bush would have emerged the victor by 493 votes.

        Option 4: On the other hand, the study also found that a statewide tally would have resulted in Gore emerging as the victor by 60 to 171 votes, if the official vote-counting standards had not rejected ballots containing overvotes (where a voter marks a candidate’s name and also writes it in). These tallies conducted by the NORC consortium are caveated with the statement: “But no study of this type can accurately recreate Election Day 2000 or predict what might have emerged from individual battles over more than 6 million votes in Florida’s 67 counties.”[61][62]

        Option 5: Florida also received an additional 2,411 overseas ballots after the 7 PM deadline on election day. Florida officials rejected these overseas ballots, mostly from members of the United States Armed Forces. By rejecting those ballots, Florida provided Gore a 202-vote lead in the state.

        Option 6: The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida on December 8, 2000, overturned these rejections and ordered that all federal write-in ballots previously rejected be counted. The effect of these additional overseas ballots provided Bush with a 537-vote lead in the state. The ruling also noted:[63]

        • While all these points about the ballots counted are true, Bush essentially won Florida before the voting ever started. Try searching on “florida 2000 voting purge”… you’ll probably find a very large number of articles on how the Florida Secretary of State managed to throw tens of thousands of valid voters off the rolls by removing anyone whose name even vaguely resembled that of anyone in Florida convicted of a felony. Given how drug laws and other policies disproportionately target African Americans, and the fact that names follow cultural patterns, they ended up taking multiple people off the rolls in order to go after one “felon” (in a large state, it’s easy to find ten or twenty “Willie Johnsons”, for instance).
          From the Bush point of view, getting all the attention on the ballots instead of voter roles was a great strategy. Bad governance, though.

        • The electoral college is an undemocratic scam which needs to be abolished. Period. It has *zero* value, and I say this as someone living in rural New York — it certainly doesn’t help represent rural voters.

          If you counted ALL the ballots by ANY consistent standard, Gore won Florida — that’s what the NORC study showed. Using inconsistent standards caused Bush to win.

          One consistent standard is what the Florida Supreme Court ordered: a single consistent recount. Good for them.

          The US Supreme “Court” proceeded to steal the election, in a blatant coup, by prohibiting the counting of the votes.

          • You are still missing the whole point of the electoral college. The presidential election system was designed to represent the collective will of the states, not that of the national popular vote. In fact, there isn’t even any requirement that the states hold elections at all. Each state can choose their EC reps in pretty much any way they want, and several have in fact used other methods in the past.

            The EC provides less populous states with a greater voice in part by giving candidates a second potential path to victory. Instead of just campaigning in and winning a few large states, one could instead work to win a larger number of smaller states. This means that even the smallest state could potentially provide those pivotal few final votes needed for a candidate to win.

            What this means practically is that in your average election the decision of the electoral college will mirror that of the popular vote, but when the contest is very close, or when there’s a large imbalance across different regions, there is a possibility of them diverging. But in either case we still get what the writers of the constitution intended, which is that the states collectively choose the president, not the people directly.

            For this reason, I personally don’t like the concept of the National Popular Vote bill, as it’s described above at least. It appears that it basically moots the entire concept of the EC by forcing it to always mirror the popular vote. A much better option, in my opinion would be to get every state to do what is already being done in Nebraska and Maine, which is to allocate their EC reps by congressional district, plus two for the state as a whole, rather than using the current winner-take-all approach of the other states. This would allow for a finer grain of popular representation, while still keeping the basic idea of the EC intact.

          • Yes, the Presidential election system with the electoral college as designed is completely undemocratic. I know that. I know it was intended to be undemocratic. It’s a *terrible system and should be abolished*. Just because some elitists in 1787 were extremely hostile to democracy does not mean we should not have democracy. They didn’t want Senators to be elected either, you know — and we *changed that* with the direct-election-of-Senators amendment.

            The basic idea of the Electoral College is an abomination.

  • Hard to imagine Trump having much impact on the Republican party, which is safely ensconced because of their disgusting and successful machinations of voting districts through gerrymandering. We can’t talk about the “implosion” of the Republican party until they actually start losing seats.

    • Coattails work both ways. Backlash against Trump could bring a lot of down-ticket votes for Democrats.

      • And for “New Breed” Republicans (same as the old breed) , who, while they still don’t believe in any government that actually helps people, can still claim they are different than Trump. How much you wanna bet they actually position themselves to the right of him?

        • That’s the deal, isn’t it?

          “Government is bad. Put me into government and I’ll prove it.”

          Look at the ridiculous government shutdowns. I don’t think Trump would go that route, like Ted Cruz did.

          • The easiest way to understand the GOP is that every single thing they do is in order to make labor cheaper and business more profitable.

            Want cheap labor? – keep them desperate and optionless. No unions, lowest wages, no health care, no education, no rent control, no usury limits, no bankruptcy protection, no jobs programs, no tariffs, no welfare, no Social Security.

          • Describing them as wanting to make business more profitable isn’t even correct, because the GOP attempts to stomp on new and growing businesses, such as those in the solar power and electric car industries. They oppose business when it disrupts the established powers.

            The best way to understand them is to think of the Republican powerbrokers as *aristocrats*. They want the people who are currently rich and powerful to remain rich and powerful, and everyone else to remain not-rich and not-powerful. It’s really that simple.

            One person described the Republican Party leadership’s core belief as “defense of inherited wealth”, and that’s basically right.

  • My take is, that the GOP severly damaged education in the US at least since Ronald Reagan by cutting funding for public schools and making college attendance ever more expensive. The Southern States trailed in education, so fact-free fear mongering worked best on them, but the rest of the country is quickly following, as the GOP is constantly sinking the intellectual level of debate that is actually viable with a great portion of the US population. This downward spiral of cut funding for education, a greater portion of uneducated people, gullible victims of fear-mongering and ever decreasing level of intellectual debate and ever more wreckless GOP leaders (who should hold them accountable while their voters are so stupid?) lead to someone like Trump inevitably.

    • Add to that the fact that we allow corporations to fund and to engage in disinformation campaigns to convince people that what science says is not true. Example: ExxonMobil’s years of financing anthropogenic climate change denial contrary to its own original climate change research.

      Corporations should not have unregulated free speech. The Bill of Rights was intended for living, breathing people, not artificial corporate sociopaths.

      The lowest blow is that we the taxpayers are subsidizing these lies by allowing corporations like ExxonMobil to deduct the costs of their disinformation efforts.

      • It’s very important that we elect a president in November who will appoint judges who turn back the holding that corporations are people.

        • I have heard a lot of Dems talk about appointing S.Ct. justices who will overturn Citizens United, but not the holding that corporations are “persons” under the Constitution.

          • The current Chief Justice appears to be largely in favor of granting corporations more power and privilege.

            I don’t think there will be a “Corporations are/aren’t people” case brought before the Court. But there will be ongoing cases in which the outcome could increase or decrease the power of corporations.

          • The ‘persons’ ruling is very misinterperted.

            The below link from NPR provides a good outline of what it means and how we got to where we are.

            Corporations need standing before the court and protection under the law. The legal world uses words diffrently than most of us use day to day. The way the law defines ‘person’ is fuild based on which court you are in and what is being argued. You cannot get stuck on the word. Its the case law you need to focus on.

            An effort to overturn Citzens United is a fine goal it questions the First Amendment rights of corporations , but you would not want to, overturn 200 years of coroprate case law.

          • Well-said. If corporations didn’t have standing as entities of some sort, how could they enter into legally enforceable contracts? That’s the essence of commercial law; you can’t take that away.

          • The problem is the caselaw which claims that corporations have Constitutional rights. Which they don’t and shouldn’t. This sick caselaw which needs to be repudiated is actually mostly from the 1870s, from the Jim Crow courts.

      • These disinformation campaigns make the disinformation about smoking look like child’s play. Really putting society on the line for … well, for what?

        • Corporate profits.

          We live in a society which allows corporations to put the survival of many species including our own at risk to protect their profitability.

          • Much less so than in the past….

      • My simple description of a corporation:

        An amoral alien entity.

    • Compulsory schools are institutions of social compliance, no more. Their goals are achieving obedience and increasing dependency upon centralized powers: the state and its mega-corporate extensions. Learning anything complex is the antithesis of public schooling (multiple choice questions, a focus on fact memorization not synthesis, “social studies” not history). I see Trumpism or rather extremism as the product of compulsory schooling, which started in the 1870s with Horace Mann trying to apply Prussian social compliance measures to a very well educated, well read (not through schooling) and independent (but not compliant) America, but it took a while and has really hit its stride post-WWII. Now that we have our first couple generations having been thoroughly dumbed down, we are now susceptible to extremism, propaganda, and the subsumption of the individual for the collective, from liberal and conservative camps. We have produced immature, highly consumptive, narcissistic, easily addicted and distracted children with bodies that look like adults. No wonder they would vote for Trump or any other extreme. More centralized schooling is the last thing we need.

      • The Finns have mandatory public education. The results, for many years have been superb. Like any tool, it can be misused. Yes they are a small country. Nevertheless, they are millions.

        What would you propose in its place?

        • Finnish schools would be fine. US schools are not.

          US schools are typically run like prisons, with the priority being to lock the kids up and keep them “off the street”, and with zero real interest in educating them. The priority of the administration, even in the best districts, is on “attendance”, and who cares if anyone learns anything?

          We should have free public education available to everyone. It should not be legal for *parents* to remove children from school. However, making it mandatory for children to go to school has no value — you can’t force a kid to learn if he doesn’t want to. Most kids would still go to school. Those who didn’t could find apprenticeships or do volunteer work or whatever until they decided to go back to school.

    • Cutting education spending! What universe do you live in. In this one education spending is out of control with schools percentage of county budgets growing by leaps and bounds. Just because the NEA is scream because they aren’t get 200% annual raises doesn’t mean we aren’t way overspending on education in this country.

      • Math: USA placed 36th, Science: USA placed 28th, Reading: USA placed 24th.

        • Don’t assume spending more money will fix our broken education system that cares more about keeping bad teachers pay checks then actually teaching kids anything. The problems with the US system has nothing to do with money and more to do with the system itself that cares more about keeping the machine running then actually teaching kids anything.

          If you don’t believe me I purpose we move the education budget back to the when the US we doing a much better job in educating the kids adjusted for the same raises they gave people on Social Security for that time frame and then you will see a real cut in education spending.

          • Yeah, looks like it. Maybe it is the whole approach? Multiple choice tests definitely are not a good idea. Maybe too few people are actually going to college and therefore a lot of parents can’t compensate or evaluate the teacher’s work?

          • I am not going to say that multiple choice tests are why the US Education system is falling apart. There is lots of things we can blame for causing the problems. The system is focused of everything but making sure kids have the basic down pat in younger years. Parents don’t really care and go on the attack if their little angel Jonny isn’t getting straight A and if you suggest he is a brat god help you. A school system that is hell bent on beating any individuality out of little Jonny forcing everyone to be the same making the smarter kids learn at the same pace as the dumber ones. We can go on and on with all the problems of the school system.

          • Robert, if you had spent any time in our schools you would know that most teachers work hard to make their students successful.

            Teachers are underpaid for the work they do. Many teachers use part of their salaries to buy supplies for their classrooms. Teachers spending their own money to help feed and clothe their students is certainly not unheard of in poorer school districts.

            Teaching is a damn hard job. One can’t hunker down in their cubicle and surf the web when they’ve got a classroom of students depending on them.

          • My wife is a former teacher. My best friend in life is a Teacher. Teachers are generally not the problem. The system is the problem.

          • “The system”. Right.

            The problem is that we don’t give our students the education they need. We overfill classrooms and cut back on program support.

        • Now show me the dollars in 1900, 1950 per pupil in adjusted dollars? Yes Tennessee isn’t dumping as much money down the rabbit hole as other parts of the US. What I am saying is education bleeds way to much money. Many states are spending more money per student then the avg income per adult. The only reason we aren’t as a nation going bankrupt yet is because as a population we are getting older and older.

          • Look Robert, you’re the one who claimed that our educational spending is out of control. I just gave you the data for your state and for the entire US. In both cases spending per student has been dropping.

            Many states are spending more money per student than the average income per adult? $13,787 friggin’ dollars?

            The country is about to go bankrupt because we spend too much on educating our children?

            Geeze, Louise. That’s totally bizarre.

            This country is in financial difficulties because the wealthiest convinced a bunch of right-wing idiots that our taxes on the rich were too high and that if we cut taxes on the rich then wealth would rain down on the rest of us.

            Zombie Reagan is pissing on us.

          • A problem with the US education system is that too many pupils come from families that are grindingly poor. It’s well-known that children from low-income families do worse in school that children from higher-income families. Other nations that we are comparing ourselves to have a lower proportion of desperately poor children. If other countries’ poor children are compared to our poor children, and their better-off children are compared to similar US children, the US educational system actually looks good.

  • This emphasizes why unconditional, indisputable cost superiority is so important for renewable energy. It will drive a huge wedge between those who are economically and morally rational and those who cling to legacy businesses for purely selfish reasons. And it will continue to be a long journey of repeated communication and education to persuade people of the economic facts because old tapes play for a long time.

  • One quick thought, well maybe two… Jane Mayer wrote an interesting book recently. Its a koch bros expose’ titled “Black Money.” In the book Jane Mayer describes a long history of political purchases and influence attempts/successes dating back to fred koch and the john birch society political advisory/influence and continuing to date with fred’ son’s. Two of the sons have raised nearly $900mil (combined resources from/with 40 associated billionaires) for this years election cycle. This simple fact leads me to wonder how much these guy spend on the odd years)…, buying laws, key figures, think tanks, rabbelrouser’s, scientists, education grants etc etc…

    • Fred was a real piece of work. The Birchers considered Eisenhower to be a commie. Seriously.

    • Yeah, the shit is crazy. I am genuinely interested in covering Congress o closely (in person) that I can hopefully get a better sense of how this money makes it into policy via various specific politicians. Tempting….

      The funny thing this time around is that their money was so useless (one study found that ads attacking Trump had the reverse effect) that a lot of the Big Money guys and girls kept their money in their pockets. Bernie also broke through the money machine to a large extent. Would be nice if future years resulted in money having less influence on elections. But I think these are a couple of rare cases.

  • Oh yeah. My second thought: when I was in high school I remember Websters Dictionary defined “Politics” as “…ideals of social organization.” To my mind this implied a very public discussion or at least in some circles, but I was young and idealistic.
    Today Webster’ describes politics as: “…activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government…, other definitions imply social controls…

    An additional thought, “Problem – Reaction – Solution (PRS)” a perversion of the Hegelian dialectic. Considering a potential use for the PRS example above…, I believe I observe this in politics consistently. Didn’t that ed bearnaise Character once say “never let good problem go to waste.”

    In considering the above it doesn’t take much for me to loose all confidence and respect for politics and especially politicians. I believe I see this strategy in all of the controversy bandied about as mainstream politics since forever.

    • ” it doesn’t take much for me to loose all confidence and respect for politics and especially politicians.”

      Politicians are people, too. Some people are good, some bad. Some people agree with you, some don’t. Some work to improve the lives of all, others work for specific interest groups.

      We should work hard to not paint all elected officials with the same broad brush dipped into the can of “lousy” simply because some are.

    • Wow, what a turn in definition, eh?

      As I noted in a recent comment on one of these articles, I think engagement in politics is a duty in our form of society. That said, I also simply don’t see the masses treating it as such, and so think we are essentially always doomed to some degree of corruption, misrepresentation, and overall lameness of policy. However, I think we do have the capacity to keep it from getting really extreme (well, it’s already really extreme by my standards, but am thinking we can turn things around). But that may still be a bit too idealistic.

      I’m honestly not that optimistic about our society, but we’ll see.

      Regarding politicians, I think there are a number of good politicians who are honestly in their position because they want to help people. I’m not sure that’s the majority, but maybe. However, I think many of those politicians have bad ideas for how to help and don’t do good enough research to put us on a better path — rather, they get misinformed and want put us on a worse path, despite their overall goals (“the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and all). But as long as we have the political system we have, I think it’s good to encourage good, thoughtful, research-oriented people to go into office. The quality of our politics rises and falls. Better to do what we can than to ignore the system.

      In any case, this looks like a pretty landmark election, so I hope we get enough people involved and sticking with the process this time around to have more Al Frankens, Elizabeth Warrens, Alan Graysons, Bernie Sanders, etc. in office.

      • You might want to dig a bit deeper to see if you want to keep Grayson on your list….

        • I can only guess you’re referring to some poorly designed attack ads against a Republican competitor. But here are a few lines worth checking out:

          “Grayson received more votes for ‘progressive hero’ from Democracy for America than any other candidate in the country.”

          “David Weigel of Slate magazine called him ‘the most effective member of the House’ and said that he was approaching ‘an unheralded title: The congressman who’s passed more amendments than any of his 434 peers.'”

          “On Glenn Beck’s radio show, Sarah Palin agreed with a co-host’s remark, ‘It’s okay if the Republicans lose every seat in the Senate and the House except for one. As long as that one is Alan Grayson losing.'”

          • “Grayson has been hounded by revelations that he manages hedge funds that use his name in the title , which
            many legal experts say violate congressional ethics rules designed to prevent lawmakers from profiting off their post. Two of those funds are based in the Cayman Islands. Grayson has changed the name of the hedge funds and said he isn’t in violation of the rules because he has no “fiduciary duty” over the funds.”


            ” He’s under a congressional ethics investigation, which in March released a 1,000-page report finding he probably broke the law by using his office to run said hedge fund, which had a presence in the Cayman Islands.”

            ““In Florida, he’s known as kind of a bullying, blustering guy who likes to shout at people,” said state Rep. Kevin Rader, a Murphy supporter. “He’s like a Democratic version of [former Florida Republican congressman] Allen West —
            a my-way-or-the-highway guy who doesn’t live up to the values he preaches.”

          • Hmm, weird. Some of that certainly doesn’t seem to match up.

            “One question on my mind was, ‘Did Harry Reid actually say this, or was this something that was manufactured by his staff?’” Grayson said.

            It seems he’s being attacked for various reasons that I think are not being explicitly stated.

            “His far-left brand is out of place with Florida’s swingy politics. His penchant for controversy doesn’t go over well with many of Florida’s older Democratic voters.”
            — I’m guessing that’s the root matter. And I don’t think it’s good for the Democratic party on the whole, as I basically wrote in my article on 2 recommendations for Hillary. As the next paragraph states:

            “But despite (or perhaps because of) all that, Rep. Alan Grayson (D) is a figure in Florida politics — a perplexing, divisive figure, but a figure nonetheless, and one who may represent a younger, more liberal, anti-establishment wing of the Democratic Party that Florida Democrats can’t live without.”

            But yeah, without a more in-depth study of Alan, I’ll hold back any strong statements on him.

          • Reid has been very clear. He wants Grayson gone. I’ve never seen him be openly opposed to any other Democratic legislator.

          • Yeah, and I love Reid. Just wonder if it’s not due to a misunderstanding. Just as Grayson seemed shocked and wondered the same.

          • Reminds me a bit of “Benghazi! Benghazi!” and “emails!”. Be careful of what you accept as evidence. That said, I’d like to know more why Reid said what he did. But Grayson is definitely “the enemy of my enemy”. The Right hate him.

          • The right absolutely hate him, and that’s not simply because of his personality.

          • Thanks to your comments I just finished reading Wikipedia entry on him. It is truly impressive. Clerked under Scalia and Ginsburg before they went to SC.

            Before getting into government and after he has been very effective, getting many things done I consider extremely positive.

            Curiously, he has worked well with some Republicans: “Grayson has focused on working with Republicans to pass amendments that “appeal to the libertarian streak in the GOP.” He lobbies colleagues personally and in July 2013, David Weigel of Slate magazine called him “the most effective member of the House”

            I am unable to comment on his violation of congressional ethics rules and if true, not something I personally condone.

            His politics have always aligned closely with Sanders’ even though his ethics apparently do not. This might explain some of the hostility from Harry Reed.

          • I’m not fully informed about Grayson’s ethics problems. But I would guess that Reid has information which has not been made public as of this date if the investigation is still in committee. Perhaps there’s no problem.

            I’m just saying that people might want to be a bit cautious about holding him up as someone admired until the hedge fund issue sorted out.

          • If Palin doesn’t like Alan Grayson he must be doing something right. LOL You’ve piqued my curiosity now I’ll have to look.

            Sorry I missed much of the ongoing great discussion comments. Thanks Zach and Bob Wallace, et. al.

            I have to say – I love America. This country, our country is one with an incredible potential for greatness. Where people experience their freedoms daily and contribute to the greater good of a community often. There are good people everywhere, even in American politics today. Got to add, I believe Bernie Sanders is one – President Sanders did a great job in that he appeared from seemingly nowhere according the corporate media and received little recognition from sensationalized media reporting conglomerates. I love my Rep. Chellie Pingree, she gets involved in all the right battles and offers balanced, thoughtful and well researched ideas.

            After we get religion and money dependencies out of politics again, we may hear more from the good people of/in America.

  • Zach – thanks for the thoughtful and well researched article. I’m beginning to appreciate your style and Cleantechnica more. This is definitely filling a deep social void.

    I was thinking – if/when politicians are reluctant to provide legal/social guidance/rule making – send it out to the people in a referendum vote!!! Like that will ever happen.?

    • It happens in California. We will probably legalize the recreational use of marijuana this fall. It’s unlikely legislators would take the risk.

    • Thanks!

      I have just been obsessed following the political news for many months (and off and on for years) and wanted to channel that into good use.

      Also, am always trying to figure out the best ways to make this site and its reach useful for the country and world. Feedback like this makes me hopeful I’ve taken a good turn. 😀

      • This topic works the thorniest issue of tackling climate change: human will ( or political will) to act. Previously mentioned thoughts: fixing climate change requires 3 things:
        1) Technical feasibility ( these barriers have been removed. – see many Cleantechnica and Solutions Project)
        2) Economic feasibility ( proven and barriers removed. See numerous articles on price advantage of solar, wind, and electric car batteries )
        3) Human / political will. A big part of this barrier is correcting mis-perceptions and outright mid-truths about 1 and 2. Setting the factual record straight and communicating / promoting these facts repeatedly. Then there are the moral issues as well, such as climate change itself, political conflict, concentration of power and wealth, other pollution, etc. these only enhance the case. There are tens of millions of people making a living in the fossil fuel industry around the world to consider. I would not vilify them as individuals, but rather just the output of the industry.

  • Corporations are artificial sociopaths.

    • Corporations are neutral. It’s the people who run them who decide their “character”.

      • I suspect he is referring to the cult of ‘shareholder value’, which is according to its acolytes to supersede any other ethical imperative to which a corporation might be subject. To the extent to which that idea is believed and acted upon in corporate management and governance, corporations would indeed act as sociopaths, responsive to nothing except the identified interests of a narrow group of persons.

        • Before they sold the business Ben & Jerry’s was a corporation.

          Planned Parenthood is a corporation.

          Cleantechnica is owned by Important Media, Inc.

          • And to what extent are/were those corporations driven by the idea that I articulated? And to what extent was it (as you describe it) the character of ‘the people who run them’?

            I didn’t claim that corporations ‘must’ be run according to shareholder value maximization. Just that, if they are, then the result will look like sociopathy, to some degree. It’s not hard to read a list like the one linked below and think of corporations who fit quite considerable numbers of the profile points.


          • I just wanted to get a fact on the table.

            So many talk about ‘evil corporations’, not making a distinction between those who behave in evil ways and those that don’t. They tend to lump all corporations into the ‘evil’ basket without recognizing that some corporations are not bad actors.

            So often we see the same broad brush applied to politicians.

          • Fair enough. And I don’t think there’s a fundamental disagreement here (unless Epicurus wants to weigh in to reinforce the absolute quality of his initial statement.)

          • To the degree that corporations follow the cult of “profit before all”, they’re sociopathic.

            It’s quite possible for a corporation to NOT follow that cult, but it generally requires being *privately held* or family-controlled.

  • Wow, I’m speechless !

  • Back in 2011 I researched the Federal Income Tax to see if it was really in favor of the rich. What I found was that from 1942 until 1981 the average top income tax bracket was 82%. During that time we fought and won WWII, built an interstate highway system, and put a man on the moon. When I looked at 1982 until 2011 I found the average top tax bracket to be 38% and on top of that you had to have taxable income (after all deductions, exemptions, credits) of $379,151 to even fall into that top bracket. During that time we have a crumbling infrastructure, a war that never ends and mountains of debt. Take a look at:

    • I’ve also found that pattern particularly interesting given that one reads that the world is currently literally awash in cash to the tune of $trillions that the wealthy, be they legal entities or persons, are desperate to invest. But god forbid they should be taxed a bit more to replace crumbling infrastructure, fund new energy sources, find fossil fuel free ways to grow food etc. You want to scream; or, in my case, go sailing.

      And according to Piketty, the French economist, this trend of the wealth concentration is only going to get worse, even in the Scandinavian nations.

      • It’ll get worse UNLESS we restore those 80%+ top tax rates. If we do, we’ll fix the problem.

        The question is, how to get a government which will restore those rates?

    • Thanks for doing the research. Most people don’t. I’ve been explaining this history to people one on one for *decades*, but still most Americans don’t realize what changed under Reagan.

      • You are exactly right. It seems almost impossible to get the message out. Reagan has been most revered but few people realize that that was when things changed in favor of the rich.

  • Many (non ff) corporations and businessmen are taking climate change seriously and working together with RMI, DOE, or inter-business initiatives. The moderate Republicans must somehow regroup and become a source for initiatives which offer alternatives to the dogmas of the hard core climate deniers. One of the most pernicious features of recent politics has been the ‘Hastert rule’ which discourages cross-party initiatives. We should be reaching out to these people, accepting that they have many other interests and priorities which differ from ours.

    • “One of the most pernicious features of recent politics has been the ‘Hastert rule’ which discourages cross-party initiatives. We should be reaching out to these people, accepting that they have many other interests and priorities which differ from ours.”
      –Completely agree. Politicians need to stop treating their work as a football game, and get back to the point that it’s about working together to help the country & world.

      • It won’t happen. Most (not all) high-level Republican politicians are bought and paid for by particular wealthy CEOs and their companies (like those coal companies you listed above), and they know who paid for them, and they’re not interested in helping the country or the world.

        They put the priorities of their *class* above the priorities of the country or the world, and they define their class very narrowly. Marx would have understood the dynamic.

        The only way to change this is for grassroots Republicans to recognize that the elected Republicans they’re voting for don’t give a crap about the grassroots Republicans, and to then start voting for a different kind of politician.

  • Thanks Zachary. I had heard the source of contributions were highly correlated with Republicans but your data is striking.

    • Yeah, I was actually shocked when I saw the charts. Will use them some more, for sure….

  • Trump is a symptom not the cause of the GOP’s Civil war. The GOP has lost its way. It says it stands for smaller government but look at what the GOP in Congress is passing. It says it is for consecutive values yet their voting records is almost identical to the Democrats. Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about this sometimes they call it main street vs k street, and a dozen other names. This split between the Rockfeller republicans and the Regan republicans has never be larger and this presidential election is a symptom of that split.

    The only reason the Republicans have any change in this election is because the Democrats picked the worse possible candidate in the history of candidates in Hillary Clinton. I predicate this will be one of the lowest turnout elections we have seen in recent times.

  • Thank you Zachary for using the example of bullying to preserve a special interest’s cause.
    Now let the people understand the net metering battles as a social war as much it is a climate wake up call.
    I often wonder why 2% of solar application in our energy mix has spurred so much concern about the residential rate payers ability to invest in themselves and solar purchasing choice, poses such a threat to the monopolies.
    Can’t have the little guy saving a buck when there are “to big to fail” institutions in need of those taxpayers and rate payers dollars.

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