For most of the Republican Party’s lifetime, conservatives weren’t dominant. When it first appeared, the GOP was actually comprised of progressive reformists. Gradually, the Democratic Party took on that mantle, culminating with Franklin Roosevelt and The New Deal. While very popular, a backlash to FDR’s social democratic beliefs was brewing. The declaration of “The Conservative Manifesto” in 1937 signaled their arrival, and starting in the 1950’s things started to change as conservatives within the Republican party began their march toward power. They used the following strategies to take over a party, and then the entire country.
Right wing think tanks and other groups were created and well funded to do research, identify allied judges & politicians and write policy.
Starting in the 1950’s, conservatives to the right of Eisenhower began to organize a sort of shadow government in Washington. A slew of organizations were built in a small amount of time, financed entirely by extremely wealthy benefactors. Among the first was The American Enterprise Institute (1954), the first of many think tanks that would do research that backed up conservative belief with data and statistics. They’d also write well defined policies that candidates could run on and later enact while in office. The John Birch Society (1958) was created during this period, and was less academic and more politically involved. It focused on anti-communism, was against civil rights and advanced a number of conspiracy theories still popular to this day (the push for a one world government being just one example).
The National Review (1955) was a magazine, but functioned more as a gatekeeper for the conservative movement, attempting to undercut the influence of the radical right and John Birch Society, American Conservative Union founded (1964). Both the organization and magazine were founded by William F. Buckley.
In the 1970’s, changes to the law regarding money as constitutionally protected speech saw an explosion in conservative think tanks funded by deep pocketed right wing ideologues.
This is when well known think tanks like The Heritage Foundation (1973) and Cato Institute (1977) were founded. The latter was funded by the Koch family, who would go on to create an entire network of think tanks (Just a few of the more notable examples include: Hudson Institute (1961), Mercatus Center (1980), Heartland Institute (1984), Reason Foundation (1978) and Rockford Institute (1978).
Some would go on to become so influential that they would serve as an instruction on who to appoint to federal positions. The Federalist Society (founded 1982) put its seal of approval on judges who could be counted on for conservative rulings.
They Invested in a right wing media to produce an echo chamber.
Conservatives built their own parallel media structure, and built it to such vast proportions it rivals traditional media. They dominated the partisan magazine marketplace with Human events (1944–2013), American Spectator (1924-), National Review (1955-) and a slew of others. Mainstream magazines like Time, Life and Reader’s Digest even had a slight conservative edge under the ownership of magnate Henry Luce. They also dominated (and continue to dominate) the partisan book market. Some books by merit, but most through groups buying an author’s book in bulk and securing it’s place at the top of influential sales charts.
Conservatives all but took over American talk radio as soon as public airwaves were deregulated in 1987. Traditional TV news is also being taken over by conservatives. The creation of Fox News in 1996 was the only overtly ideologically conservative news of the time. Now TV is a partisan battleground. Through a series of business deals, Fox is the most viewed Cable News Network, and it now has back up. OAN, CNBC, and Fox Business are all conservative networks. Meanwhile 85% of local affiliates are owned and operated by Sinclair-a company that does conservative news.
They remained Largely United under the same ideological banner
Conservatives basically got the rest of the party to unite behind their economic ideology, which they considered to be the most important of all areas. Specifically, they believed in the works of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and FA Hayek. The Republican Party united under a general theory of political economy: The government shouldn’t do much and be shrunk when possible on economic matters. The poor shouldn’t be helped by government programs. The private marketplace is the best means of doing just about everything other than the military. Budgets and taxes should be slashed, and inflation kept low. The commitment to these principles above all else allowed for isolationists and neoconservatives, libertarians and theocrats to be a part of the same party.
They began an assault on the validity of traditional sources of news.
Conservatives en masse attack the news media. A conscious decision was made by conservatives that the news media was inherently liberal and therefore not to be trusted. Constantly calling the news media liberal has been an especially successful tactic. Under a barrage of criticism from conservatives, many newspapers feel obliged to over-cover certain stories detrimental to Democratic causes and officials in an attempt to seem balanced. (Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 is a good example.)
The constant fear of being biased has made many journalists unwilling to call out conservative falsehoods. (Some of this has changed when talking about Trump, but is still the case with other “respectable” conservatives).
The charge that the media is liberal and not to be beleived is often aimed heavily at the two other cable news networks networks. The reality is more nuanced. CNN gave Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Greta and Greta Van Sustern their first shows. MSNBC has 5 hours of broadcasts daily hosted by former Republican Party officials as we speak, and it was also a fairly conservative network until the 2008 election. MSNBC actually gave both Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham their first shows. MSNBC’s Parent Company, NBC Universal employed nearly half of Fox’s current lineup.
They began organizing young people to build the party’s future.
Several organizations got conservative youth into the political pipeline extremely early. Young Americans for Freedom (1969) and a renewed focus on the College Republicans starting in the 1970’s. A more radical group splintered off from the College Republicans in 1972
Conservative Primary Challenges to Establishment politicians
Starting in 2010 and persisting even today, Conservatives began to field the most conservative candidate they could find for any given district and primary challenge sitting elected officials for not being sufficiently conservative.
Since 2010, the Tea Party managed to get 2 House Speakers to retire and defeated a House Majority Leader. They successfully defeated half a dozen Senators in primary challenges. Since 2010 they’ve elected 8 Senators and over 60 Representatives. They now make up much of Trump’s Cabinet. Vice President Pence, Chief of Staff Meadows, Sec. of State Pompeo, UN Sec. Nikki Haley were all former Tea Party Candidates as were 2016 Presidential Candidates Cruz, Rubio and Paul.
Conservatives in the Republican Party targeted the weakest parts of the Democratic coalition and effect got them to switch sides.
Beginning with Barry Goldwater in 1964, Republicans began a “Southern Strategy” where they would target the white conservative racists within the Democratic Party. This part of the coalition had always given Democrats trouble since FDR and a mass exodus occurred after The civil rights movement. This did not come without a price. It alienated black voters who had been competitive and gave Richard Nixon 45% of their vote just 4 years prior.
Since then, two other groups have been picked off by Republicans. Reagan brought evangelical voters that had just elevated Jimmy Carter to the White House in 1976 into the GOP and made them a key part of Republican coalition. More recently, Trump managed to get poorer less educated white voters that had voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and even Barack Obama to vote for the Republican side-sharpening a trend that began in 2014.
Conservatives adopted a strategy of total and complete warfare against their political enemies.
When Republicans got control of the House of Representatives in 1995 they investigated the President and his wife for an absolute litany of supposed scandals. The sheer amount of stuff they had kicked up left many to think the Clinton’s actually had done something wrong, even if they didn’t know what. As a result, both of the Clinton’s trustworthiness took a hit. It took such a hit it lasted for nearly 20 years after leaving office. The residual impact was probably enough to throw both the 2000 and 2016 elections to the Republican candidate. This strategy had the added benefit of driving Clinton’s numbers down so much that instead of governing as a moderate Democrat, he essentially governed as a moderate Republican. Draconian welfare cuts, bank deregulation, austerity, Friedman acolytes running monetary policy, a cruel crime bill and 7 overseas interventions. And all Bill got in return was impeachment.
It’s January 2009. President Obama starts out with a 70%+ approval rating. It’s been just two months since he flipped some states for a Democrat for the first time since 1964. The Republicans are at their lowest point in Congress in a half century. The Republican President is leaving office with approval in the 20’s. For some bizarre reason, Obama has compromised with the GOP, even offered them Cabinet positions. Republicans still vow they will block everything he does and will do everything they can to derail him….and they actually do it. They filibustered and held up literally all the legislation they could.
Obama has done it again. He’s at 60% approval, and he was just elected 3 years earlier. He’s replacing a conservative Supreme Court Justice. He could have chosen a left wing judge. Instead he floats a Republican governor who ultimately declines so Obama goes with a moderate judge to appease conservatives. Republicans break all precedent and don’t even give him a hearing. Later, when a Republican President nominates a judge, Democrats announce they are going to filibuster their choice (as Republicans had done to them on nearly everything for 8 hears). They change the rules to get him on the court. They decide to pass nearly everything with 50 votes so Democrats can’t do anything.
What do they get out of Obama? 800 billion in yearly government spending cuts, NASA privatized, two new war zones, legal justifications for a war on whistleblowers, record deportations, and the Bush tax cuts expanded and made permanent. Well, those things in addition to record Democratic losses and the Trump Presidency.
Republicans vote however the hell they want, regardless of what anyone’s actual opinion is. They passed a tax bill that had less than 30% support. They nearly passed a health care bill that 17% of the public supported. They voted down a gun control bill that had 90% public support with victim’s family’s watching. Nearly all voted to gut social security despite 70% disapproval. They’ve knowingly voted for sexual predators to be put on the Supreme Court twice.
This is not how a party operates when it thinks the other side is reasonable. This not how a party operates when it thinks “everyone is after the same goals”. This isn’t even a party that respects the will of the people if it thinks it’s making the wrong decision. It’s a party so sure of it’s worldview that it believes it is above compromise and has had success in forcing its will on others. It’s a party that isn’t above bullying, treachery and nearly terroristic threats to get what it wants-and it has been extraordinarily effective.