I remember the political gut punches. They were moments that I could not believe were happening in America. They ran contrary to the idea of America that I had been raised with. But they also defied logic and reason.
While America had been rocked by riots and assassinations when I was a kid, the first big political development in America that shocked me was the election of Ronald Reagan. He was a boob, a Hollywood actor, not even a very good one. At the time, just out of college, I did not really understand the darker forces that were behind his election—the racism and greed, the anti-government ideology that was really just a formula to enable the richest among us to make more and the most racist states to chart their own course.
Reagan, of course, offered a benign face to these changes. When the GOP was taken over by the hard right in the 1990s by men like Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, and the “Contract with America” turned into a scorched-earth campaign that deliberately left Washington dysfunctional (because an inert government is the next best thing to no government at all), it was a shock all over again. The extremism of the GOP was getting worse and worse, the nation’s divisions growing deeper and deeper.