When I was born in the glow of the post WW II years there was a much smaller difference between our two political parties. Gone, but not forgotten, were the anti-Roosevelt, anti-New Deal Republicans. The war had taken Depression boys and girls and plunged them into a great and uniting war that would be remembered fondly ever after as the “Good War.” Everyone (who was white) was now an equal, political affiliation be damned.
The differences between the parties were subtle as I grew up. I took pride in not being a Democrat stuck with the solid South’s Keep the N’s down politics. Not that Republicans were that fanatical about sticking up for black citizen’s rights. They had already established a long record of diffidence about extending Lincoln’s magnanimity and fighting to enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that their radical forebears in Congress had passed. By the Gilded Age, (the 1890’s) a time not unlike our own, Republicans shrugged their shoulders and decided that nobody could do anything about the South anyway. What followed was a mostly cozy fifty years of going along to get along and get along without helping black America. Black America suffered terribly.
This very cool graphic begins in the 1950’s when America had two political parties ruling Congress with congressman who didn’t hate each other.
But the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s brought about big social changes. the Fifties saw the birth of a new Civil Rights Era ignited by African Americans and President Lyndon Johnson going turncoat on the South leading to black citizens finally being guaranteed the right to vote in the South. That prompted southerners to break away into a Dixiecrat Party that couldn’t go anywhere and, by the sixties through the eighties, a flood of southern democrats. They took over the GOP like parasites taking over an ant’s brain and forced it to rely on the Solid South’s old habit of suppressing black voters. The current Supreme Court is the realization of that long standing policy.
As the Republicans began to morph they pointed to the Democrats with their young anti-war converts and accused Democrats of being the party of single-interest issues. Pro woman, Pro black, Pro Gay, pro environment etc., meaning the party of division. What you can see in this graphic is that in the early years of 1980’s, the Reagan Years, the two parties began to drift farther and farther apart. The nation wasn’t yet at the point where a boy and girl with different political inclinations would find it impossible to marry but those day were coming.
The Republicans who had accused the Democrats of putting single interests above the nation helped expand new hot button separatists to promote gun ownership, fight abortion, curtail immigration and keep sexual “deviance” illegal.
After Reagan, in the 90’s, Republican Reagan worshipers conveniently forgot his exhortation to keep the GOP a party of the “Big Tent.” Instead the party’s hacks and purists found it convenient to whip up their single interest factions to go out and punish wishy-washy moderates like me (AKA RINO’s – Republicans in Name Only). It made no difference how many generations their families had been affiliated with the party. Treated now as apostates they had to defer to their new Republican masters who were descended from families that had hated Abraham Lincoln. And in one lamentable irony these new southern-led, ex-Democrat, Republicans would taunt Democrats for being the party of Slavery.
For a decade or two, even as these take-over artists demonized closeted, moderate congressman, Moderates remained until new blue-collar converts, who had lost jobs to the Republicans push for Free Trade, turned on them under Donald Trump. The Republican Party, once a champion of “the rule of law,” is now weighing whether to turn on the Constitution to save their tweeting President or act honorably which could cost them control of the elective branches of the Federal Government. (The Supreme Court is their’s until the Arctic melts)
This question was settled for me in Junior High when I read John Kennedy’s slim history “Profiles in Courage.” Sadly, courage has not been a big part of the Republican Party for a long time. It may have died with John McCain.