Wanna talk the bitterest of irony? “The Party of Lincoln” isn’t just some “fellow traveler” with slavery. The Republicans are the Bond Villain convinced he can make it rain. The GOP makes no bones about how racist it is. The overwhelming whiteness of its membership isn’t a bug, it’s the whole point. The Right White money — think the Kochs & Mercers — have steered their party toward a visible horizon — permanent minority rule. Between gerrymandering and massive voter suppression tactics, Republicans have created a host of bizarre “looking glass worlds” like Michigan and Pennsylvania where the structure of government has been so perverted that Democrats have to vote in far larger numbers than Republicans (more than twice Republican turnout) just to level the playing field. Can anyone say “poll tax”? Seen as a whole (hell, seen even in parts!), the Republican Party is actively engaged in a project that — had they succeeded (they won’t now) — would have returned America to a country where slavery exists. This time though, it wouldn’t just be Black people in chains. What America did to Black people was a perverse dry run for what the GOP STILL has in mind — the enslavement of everyone not them IN America.
Being Jewish, I know what it’s like to be looked at as if I was a cockroach. What do I mean by that? The first step in legitimizing the idea of genocide in someone’s head is you stop seeing the people you want to genocide as “people”. I use the word “cockroach” because — except from people who study cockroaches — we all understand that visceral feeling produced at the mere idea of “cockroach”. That’s how racists feel about Black people — and brown people and “yellow” people (a color descriptor I honestly do not get) and Jewish people. They are one thing, all the rest of us are quite another. We can be useful. We can even be profitable. But we are always, always, ALWAYS expendable.
At its bottom line, slavery is stolen labor. Forcing people — against their will — to work for free — doing work they do not want to do: slavery. Here in America, cotton and sugar cane became cash crops. Problem: both were labor intensive to farm and harvest. If one had to pay all the laborers a fair wage, one might not make a whole lot of money growing those crops. BUT — if one could get all that expensive labor for FREE, well then — one COULD farm those crops and make a shitload of money. Of course, nothing’s entirely free — one still has to house, clothe and feed slaves. That’s cash out. So — business being just math — one needs to cost-benefit analyze what it costs to have a slave versus the money one can make from that slave. Judging by how slavery proliferated in America — and how vociferously slavers fought to KEEP slavery in America — slavery must have been one rock solid business model.
America justified slavery — to itself — because it was good for business. That’s a stone cold fact. Some Americans even held up their Bibles to back up how righteous it was, too. Slavery was good for business AND sanctified by God. Anyone NOT wanting slavery, was… well — cockroaches come to mind.
As historian Heather Cox Richardson has pointed out in her book “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”, with America, you have to be careful about political labeling. Something strange happened in America — but then, racism makes strange things happen. The Republican Party Abraham Lincoln felt kinship with and joined because it was anti-slavery — has switched places with the party it opposed: the Democrats. Forget labels! Back then, people calling themselves “Southern Democrats” were pro-slavery. When the country split apart to engage in civil war with itself, the Republicans were understood to be anti-slavery and the Democrats pro-slavery.
Woodrow Wilson — one of the most racist presidents we’ve ever had (though we consider him “New Jersey” because he was at Princeton, Wilson was born in Alabama) — was a Democrat. By contrast, one of Wilson’s predecessors — Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican — was progressive in myriad ways (he was an early environmentalist). By the time Warren Harding became POTUS, the Republican Party was no longer the set of ideals the party was founded on. Perversely, they were now officially the party they used to run against.
When Richard Nixon adopted his “southern strategy”, he was simply formalizing what everyone already knew: Republican success in the future needed to tie itself to racism. The longer Republicans could keep racism alive, the longer they could hold onto power. That’s the “southern strategy”. It all hinges on the lingering embers of Confederate sympathy — and we all know what the Confederacy’s founding principle was: SLAVERY. If you get weepy in any way, shape or form when you see a Confederate flag? It means you like slavery.
Now, “liking slavery” is one thing. Doing something about it — like fomenting an insurrection? That’s a whole lot of lines crossed where there’s no going back.
It’s not a coincidence that, historically, southern Democrats (modern Republicans) worked diligently to keep Black people from voting. Hey, remember that “3/5 of a man” idea — it’s because Southerners knew sorta-kinda how many Black slaves they held. If those people were counted as “citizens”, white southerners would soon be shit outta luck and in the minority! Doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, as they say — or a racist to see himself in the minority. The Civil Was was all about keeping slaves slaves.
The South may have lost the war but, damn if they didn’t win the peace that followed. The South literally rewrote the narrative. Look at every seceding state’s “Here’s why we’re seceding!” document. Not a single one mentions “states’ rights”. Not a one. But slavery? C’mon now — if you can read, you can see The Truth. The southern states rebelled and left the union over slavery. When the war ended, their desire for slavery did not. Southern sympathy killed Reconstruction dead. America might be a very different country today if Reconstruction had rolled out as intended. Instead, the sons of the Confederacy legitimized their lingering racism by changing the narrative completely. Suddenly, their treason wasn’t about slavery, it was about something fundamental to the American ideal: rights — states’ rights!
Suddenly, traitors like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were being celebrated by America — as heroes FFS! We got it into our heads that a murderous, rebellious battle cry — the “Rebel yell” — was fun, funny, profitable. Oy, America — OY!
The New South just announced itself in Georgia. The Democrats won there because Black people have returned. They will not be bamboozled or cheated out of their rights and their wealth this time. The South will be better for it. It already is.
Make no mistake — Republican racism won’t stop of its own accord. We will have to physically stop it. We will have to remain vigilant. These embers of hate can rekindle just like that. We need to see the Republicans clearly for what they are and what their mission is. When the Biden Administration and the Democrats put forward their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, they arrived at the number by putting pencil to paper and calculating what We The People would NEED. As Joe Biden himself has put it it — we shouldn’t be afraid of spending too much, we should be afraid of spending too little.
And yet — the 10 Republicans who approached Biden with their own proposal didn’t have that problem in mind. They pitched a package one-third as big. We KNOW why Team Biden pitched their number — math. Why did the Republicans pitch the number they pitched? Careful — if you get too close, you’ll find that number smells oddly like shit — because the Republicans pulled it from their asses. There WAS and IS no basis for the Republicans’ number. It’s just a number that’s less than what the Democrats want — and what the Democrats want is to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Americans.
What do the Republicans want? If we had anything like a “news media”, they’d be circling that question like sharks drawn to fresh blood. Surely the GOP has a particular reason for denying so many Americans help. Surely they have some “organizing principle” around which they’re drawing their wagons… They don’t actually. That’s the point. They don’t have a point!
The reason not to give people the relief they need is the same reason you want to keep the minimum wage at — say it together — “slave wages”. People too poor to adequately feed themselves should have just enough energy to work for their next paycheck. Whether they live or die — not relevant — because every one of those cogs is replaceable. Cogs or cockroaches — it’s all the same thing. The closer you can get those working for you to work for nothing — and that is how Republicans would love to have it — the closer you get back to literal slavery.
But, let’s be real — the dynamics of a “company town” are the dynamics of slavery. It’s feudalism. It’s a practice conservative business owners have pined for. Not-so-funny funny thing? The Black Death killed half of Europe. It also killed feudalism. Pandemics can change things on a fundamental level. Bubonic plague created a labor vacuum. Too few workers made work more valuable. Vassals, formerly obligated to till their masters’ fields now had a choice. They “could” do what their masters needed — but they could also tend the fields of the lord next door — because he was willing to pay a cash premium to make sure his crops didn’t rot in his fields before they could be harvested.
The plague empowered workers and economic change by disempowering the slavers. This pandemic’s empowering the perennial political underclass — but also by disempowering slavers.
This time, America could get it right. Because Black people are taking so much more of the political power (power long overdue them!) alongside women in general and other people of color, we have the will to finally level this playing field the way it should have been leveled at the start. Slavery cannot produce greatness of any kind because it automatically disrespects the labor required to produce work. Only by treating labor fairly — paying it what it deserves to be paid — can we achieve the freedom we talk about. Freedom after all isn’t just everyone getting to do whatever the hell they want.
That’s a silly, ten year old’s idea of freedom — “You’re not the boss of me” — you know, “Libertarianism”. Freedom comes with awesome responsibilities. It’s a package deal, sorry. Don’t want the responsibilities? Don’t take the benefits. Part of being free is making sure EVERYONE has the same level of freedom. That requires everyone having the same opportunity. That requires everyone gets the same access to a good education, the same good, comprehensive health CARE (not insurance, care), the same treatment under the law. That takes work and vigilance.
The Republican Party now freely admits: they have no interest in democracy. Not enough people want to vote for their “ideas” (such as they are) to make democracy practical for them. Now, cheating, on the other hand — that’s just necessity now. America simply does not want the Republicans’ vision for America — or for them. Who wants to be a slave?