Back in the 1950s, a Republican president, Eisenhower, could see how a interstate freeway network would be good for the country, so he started to build one, using borrowed money funded by a petrol (gasoline) tax. A Republican! In fact, in retrospect the post war decades in the United States were a golden age of high growth and low unemployment, of progress and equality (Eisenhower, again, at Little Rock.) What's gone wrong since?
The Right believes that poverty is a personality defect. Billionaires with practically uncountable wealth, who control press and TV stations, are greedy for even more wealth. And the Right has spent millions funding "think" tanks which spread lies about global warming and its causes. What's changed from the 1950s? Well, back then, there was the alternative offered by communism and socialism. But after the fall of the Soviet Union and China's conversion to state capitalism, the Right stopped worrying. They have come to believe that their policies can be as far right as they want (witness Donald Trump), because the Left no longer presents a threat. Indeed, in Anglo countries, the Left has feebly trailed behind the Right to adopt more and more neo-liberal policies. But neo-liberalism has failed: economic growth no longer delivers greater prosperity for everyone, but only for the top 10% and the top 1%. The Left is helpless in the face of right-wing triumphs because it has deserted its own base: the poor and the lower-middle class. It thinks it can win by identity politics, but the Right is far better at that because it is far more unscrupulous and dishonest. The Right has no problem with dog-whistling and racism, while we on the Left think that sort of behaviour immoral. Because we won't stoop to the sort of unprincipled politics of the Right, we will continue to struggle to win unless we start lifting the living standards of the bottom 50%.
In each US economic recovery since WW2, the percentage of the increase in real GDP going towards the top decile of income earners has risen. In the most recent recovery (since the GFC) 110% of the rise in real GDP accrued to the top 10%. The remaining 90% were worse off, even as real GDP rose. In the UK, real incomes have fallen even as real GDP per capita has risen. In Australia, the same pattern is emerging.
The Republicans in the US, the so-called "Liberals" in Australia and the Conservative Party in the UK want to cut taxes (for the rich and companies, naturally), and welfare for the poor (of course). They want to cut the minimum wage, they want to eviscerate public health provision, they want to destroy decent public schooling, they want to offshore production, they want to destroy the whole post-war consensus which helped lift millions out of poverty and deprivation. Just so their mates can buy a bigger yacht or another house or another $2000 suit. Income inequality is now worse than it was in the "gilded" age before WW1.
And to distract ordinary ppl from what is happening, they confect enemies: Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, the EU, gays, "leftists", environmentalists, you name it, anybody but them and their policies.
I have no compunction about blaming the Right for what they are doing to our society. But the Left is to blame too: the Right will go on winning elections until we start helping those who have lost out because of neo-liberalism and globalisation. The Left must ask itself why working class Americans, Brits, or Australians vote for for right-wing parties which will only make them worse off. And the answer is because once they had an alternative, because the Left represented their interests. Now it no longer does.
The Rich Get Richer
Happy Days are here again
The "S" word
Trickle-down economics is a nightmare
Lessons from history
America is rotting at the core
What would Keynes do?
The failure of American capitalism