(New York Magazine) -- n the fallout from the Nunes memo (and amid promises of more Nunes memos), the GOP finds itself in opposition to federal institutions of both law enforcement and national security. Isn’t this a radical shift for the party that once presented itself as the champion of law and order and portrayed the Democrats as soft on crime?
It is indeed stunning that the party which routinely trashed the Democrats for championing “criminals’ rights” (a.k.a. civil rights) is now, at its highest levels, vilifying the FBI and the Department of Justice. Of course, the immediate goal in this anti–law enforcement jihad, led by the White House and abetted by congressional stooges like Devin Nunes and Paul Ryan, is to discredit the Mueller investigation before it nails Donald Trump. But to say this cultural shift is a sudden metamorphosis for the GOP, brought on by Trump’s supposed hijacking of the party, is revisionist history. Trump pushed an open door. His assault on Justice and the FBI is merely heightening and exploiting the dangerous anti-government toxins that GOP leaders humored in the Republican base well before he arrived — much as his administration’s overt white supremacism and xenophobia is the apotheosis of a racist Republican strain dating back to Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy.
Let’s not forget that in the 1990s the GOP and its rabid talk-radio auxiliary winked, nodded, and at times endorsed a gun-crazy right-wing militia movement that demonized Justice Department law-enforcement agents as “jack-booted thugs.” (That alt-right movement had more than a little in common with the “fine people” who congregated at Charlottesville.) Newt Gingrich, then House Speaker, went so far as to appoint one of his caucus’s most reckless anti-government radicals, Representative Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, to a congressional gun task force; Chenoweth had floated a bill that would require armed federal agents to seek the permission of local sheriffs to enter their counties when pursuing law enforcement. The GOP retreated from tacit tolerance of the crazies in their ranks only after Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, leaving 168 dead. But only temporarily.
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