Black Americans Understand America’s Promise More Than White Americans Ever Have

The whole American franchise – our experiment in human self government – rests upon one thing: the vote. That’s where the self-government starts. If you screw with the vote, you’re screwing with the whole concept of self-government. If you stop some people from voting because of their race or creed in favor of others (because of their race or creed), you’ve veered away from democracy entirely. Instead of trying to win those votes via the retail politics “marketplace of ideas”, you’re blowing up the marketplace. Though America sold itself as a diverse democracy, it didn’t actually check off the necessary boxes to BE that thing until 1965 when we passed the Voting Rights Act which (finally!) put teeth into the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution and made it practical (a mere 95 years being ratified!) White Americans have always had the luxury of taking their right to vote for granted. Well, white, MALE Americans, that is… We need to look our origin story squarely in the face and allow for the fact that the white, Christian, land-owning MEN who founded America – while having a brilliant idea (self-government), got some of it terribly, terribly wrong.

The white, Christian, land-owning men who composed America’s founding documents were not perfect. They made mistakes as all humans do. They knew that the Constitution they’d fought over was imperfect. They built mechanisms for revision and renewal into the system they’d invented. The Constitution could be amended. In their minds, remember, no one was going to be a full time politician. Our founders envisioned citizens going to DC and spending a few years doing their civic duty before returning to their private lives while new citizens stepped forwards. Power, apparently, was more of an aphrodisiac than our founders anticipated. Hey, like I said – they weren’t perfect.

An even better example of how imperfect our founders were? They wrote “All men are created equal” but didn’t mean it. Well, they meant it in a way: white, Christian, land-owning men are equal.

The best example of all that our founders screwed up a great idea by compromising with a terrible idea? They cut a deal with slavery. In their defense, they found themselves between a rock and a hard place. If the Constitution had outlawed slavery, the Southern economy would have collapsed immediately because it was based almost entirely on stolen labor. The South relied on paying zero for all the intense labor it took to produce its three principle cash crops: tobacco, sugar cane and cotton. The whole point of making slaves do that work is that the slave masters and plantation owners got the work product for free – minus whatever it cost to house, clothe and feed their slaves (the cost of doing business). If slavery had never been on the table – and the South had been forced by circumstances to pay a fair market rate for all that labor? There wouldn’t have been a South.

Maybe there would have been a worker’s dream state…

Not only does a slave NOT get paid for the sweat of their brow, they don’t get to accumulate the wealth they’d get to accumulate because of that work. It’s a double whammy. But, we have to understand the impact this has on both sides of the equation. On one side, the white side, they get the full benefit of the American franchise – the vote plus unlimited economic potential. On the slave’s side you get to watch the American franchise work because of your free labor and lack of the vote. “If only I could get the vote,” this person thinks, “I might be able to conquer the unfair circumstances limiting me”. To the person who’s never had the rights the American experiment promised, getting those rights and keeping them are everything.

Citizenship without its benefits is not citizenship. But then, citizenship doesn’t just come with “benies”… it comes with responsibilities, too. One of those responsibilities is to see that the American franchise works the way it’s supposed to (not necessarily the way some of our racist founders drew it up). This means working constantly to see that every American eligible to vote gets the opportunity to vote. It also means that every single legitimately cast vote gets counted.

When you see your struggle through a long term lens, you expect there are going to be ups and downs. It’s a marathon v a sprint. You understand that you will win some fights and lose some – and some of those losses will hurt. But, if you gave up the struggle at every single downturn, you’d give up the struggle. That is exactly what white people do! White people have no idea what Black people and brown people and Asian people and LGBTQ people and everyone not white, Christian and male have had to endure from white people just to get where they are. Non-white people are never fighting other non-white people to get the rights due them. We’re always fighting WHITE PEOPLE.

Racist white America understands the American franchise as their white birthright. They think their whiteness is what makes America exceptional. They couldn’t be more wrong. James Madison insisted we put “E Pluribus Unum” on our Great Seal. Madison had a complicated relationship w slavery; while he opposed it, he also compromised with it constantly. But, he did understand that America’s greatness – its real potential – lay in its diversity. “Out of many, one”. That is American Exceptionalism.

The American ideal is worth fighting for – not the way the founders did it (by getting it wrong because “racism”) – but the way the ideal has been maintained in the Black American imagination. Black women especially have borne the torch of this country’s democratic greatness even as they bore the brunt of its most racist cruelty. You can practically hear the American Ideal beating inside magnificent American patriots like Kamala Harris, Stacy Abrams, Val Dennings and Maxine Waters (among others). In their entire lives they have never taken a single one of their rights for granted because, unlike with white Americans, Black Americans have always known that their rights could be taken away just like that. As they have been.

Having to fight for a thing makes it precious. Never having to fight for a thing causes one to take it for granted. That’s why our news media approaches the struggle for civil rights and for the vote with such painful cynicism. It’s their whiteness shining through. The instant Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin made it clear they think a racist parliamentarian device – the filibuster – is more important that the vote, they expressed 1) their racism, 2) their corruption and 3) their whiteness. When the press pointed at those obstacles as insurmountable for the Democrats and proof that what they wanted could NEVER work, they were expressing THEIR whiteness – and their perspective-free inclination to give up at the slightest sign of resistance.

If there had not been a lot of money riding on American independence – “taxation without representation” is, first, a question of what one’s money buys in a political system – it’s possible America would never have happened. Independence didn’t just mean freedom to Americans, it meant the potential to acquire great wealth.

Of course, if you see other Americans through a lens of slavery (or just plain Republican racism), you’re terrified of those other Americans acquiring wealth and political power that comes with accumulated wealth. You dream of white hegemony. Of white people having all the political power and most of the money. That is a dead end street. The America white supremacists dream of isn’t a dynamic, world-beating country that can innovate its way out of any problem facing it. Conservatism fears innovation because innovation spurs change – and change is anathema to conservatives (who want to CONSERVE not so much what is, but what WAS). The America that racist white people want is NOT America.

It is however a first rate shithole country.

Republicans & The Best Stateroom On The Titanic

Sane people can never quite grok how someone will always show up to place a million to one bet on something preposterous on the pure hope that “it could happen”. Those bets never pay off and are never going to. Republicans keep betting that the Titanic – having already hit the iceberg and begun taking on water – isn’t going to sink. They think they’re all Molly Brown – except Molly’s floating away on a lifeboat while they’re sinking into the cold, icy deep. The Republicans are pirates who believe in magic. They’re white guys deluded by their own whiteness; they think because white people imposed their racist will on Europe once – which they failed at horribly, remember – that they can do it again here… with the same results? That’s the whole kicker to white supremacists worshipping Hitler. He’s the literal poster boy for what happens when you let white people’s id run amok. Sure, you get to kill millions of people you hate and (briefly) take over the world. But, then the majority finally imposes its will – and your “thousand year Reich” comes up a little short.

There’s no prettying up what’s about to happen here. It is going to be ugly and violent because of what’s at stake: white hegemony. Literally.

America is on its way to being a white minority nation. Nothing’s going to stop that. Not even the Republican Party attempting to impose permanent minority rule upon the rest of us. The Republican’s racist brain trust – Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn, the Mercers, Charles Koch, Sean Hannity – believes it can pull a “Packer Sweep” and flatten the rest of us into submission as they end American democracy on their own say-so. They believe that what happened in Nazi Germany can happen here. They hope like hell it IS happening here.

But, the GOP is absolutely wrong about that. Their power grab is doomed to fail. Here’s why.

America simply isn’t like any other country – least of all, like Germany at the moment fascism took hold of it. What we think of as “Germans” and “Germany” is a relatively recent invention. The modern political states of Europe are each the product of two thousand years plus of evolution that slowly changed Huns, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians,, Lombards, Saxons and Franks (among others) into Germans, French, Italians, Belgians, Spaniards and English people (among others). The Europeans’ pathogens cleared the way for white people to conquer North, South and Central America with a modicum of effort. White northern Europeans especially stepped onto American shores utterly convinced of their superiority. The Americas are still suffering for that delusion.

The whole rest of the world then, in essence, saw America for the blank slate of potential it always was. While virtually every other human society had been around or evolving in place for a millennium at least, the society that filled up the pathogen-emptied America was made up of all those other human societies. No one – not even the Pilgrims – came here looking for any sort of religious freedom. The Pilgrims found their religious freedom in the Netherlands after they left England. They came to America looking for money – because living lives of religious freedom was expensive. My point: America was always seen as a place for opportunity. For reinvention. Where, if one was willing to put in the hard work, regardless of who you are, regardless of where you’re from, you too can achieve your dreams (so long as that doesn’t infringe on someone else achieving their dreams).

White people may think they “invented” America, but they didn’t. The best we can say for the country’s founders is that these rich, Christian, land-owning men had a great idea in their heads – inspired by the French Enlightenment – that people didn’t need kings to govern them, that they could govern themselves. To that end our founders wrote “All men are created equal”. But, being fallible – and being especially fallible cos “men” – they didn’t get the execution of this great idea one hundred percent right. For starters, they didn’t actually mean “all men” are created equal. They only meant that men like them were equal. In their eyes. They also meant that ONLY men could be their equals. Women need not apply or vote. Some of the founders though understood America, understood what made America worth founding, the republic worth keeping. James Madison insisted that “E Pluribus Unum” be our Great Seal.

“From many one”. That is how America happened. It is precisely what makes America exceptional.

It’s the thing Republicans are hell bent on steering America away from. They will fail. It is inevitable. Hitler relied on both the enthusiasm and physical violence of his followers and the silent, tacit approval of everyone else. There may have been plenty of “Good Germans” who didn’t “like” what Hitler was doing. They didn’t try to stop him either. End of the day? They were more “German” than “good”. Hitler relied on that “German-ness”. The Republicans also are relying on a cohesive “white” response to their power grab. Republicans are relying on enough white people to coalesce around the idea of permanent white hegemony to cow the rest of us into permanent acceptance of same.

I wish them luck with that.

For the Republicans to accomplish their goal, they would have to get the REST of the white people to go along PLUS Black people, brown people, Asian people, LGBTQ people, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. We’ll all have to agree to go along to get along. We’ll have to resist seeing common purpose in a common foe. We’ll have to stop ourselves from reacting to each new outrage with mounting contempt for the evil that thinks it can abuse us and get away with it.

IF the Republicans succeed at stealing our democracy out from under us – the only way it can happen – it will be a long, ugly, violent process to get it back. But we will because, at that point, what choice will the rest of us have? Trust me when I say this – as a child of the Holocaust: never again.

The Republicans think their whiteness is a talisman. They couldn’t be more wrong.

America Doesn’t Have A Health CARE System, It Has A Health INSURANCE System; It Ain’t The Same Thing!

Fact: when anyone walks in the door of America’s “health care system”, the first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”. From the point of view of a for-profit health care system (an oxymoron’s oxymoron which we’ll get to shortly), that’s great. It’s the perfect question. From every other point of view though – medical, economic, moral – it’s despicable. It violates the whole idea of health care because it thinks health care is a privilege one can buy as much of as one likes – if one has the money. No other industrialized nation treats health care the way America does – as a commodity for those who can afford it. In fact, in America, we don’t even think of our health care from the point of view of our health care, we think of it from the point of view of view of “how we’re going to pay for it” first! Because if we can’t pay for it somehow – via a relationship between our insurance company and the medical facilities and practitioners THEY have relationships with (minus our co-pays and deductibles) – then we ain’t getting it. The emphasis here is entirely on the wrong syllable!

How the hell did we get here (where no other country went)? There’s an answer. It starts with patriotism and ends in naked greed. How very American. No, I take that back. That’s how America has become because of corruption. Let’s be frank: because of corrupt white people.

You have to have power and/or money to begin with in order to be corrupt. In America, white, Christian, land-owning men began with all the money and all the power. For their various reasons, these men chose to split the colonies from England, forming a new nation based upon “French enlightened” ideals of self-government. For some, like James Madison, ideals mattered above all else. For everyone invested in the slave economy? It was about money (democracy better not get in its way). Money corrupts like nothing else. Even power itself will succumb to money. Greed really is the most evil of human evils (with racism, bigotry and misogyny forcing a call at the wire). When America made a deal with slavery, we were making a deal with greed.

At its bottom line, slavery is stolen labor. The whole point of having a slave is to have their work product for free (minus whatever it costs to clothe, house and feed the slave). The entire Southern economy relied upon cotton, sugar cane and tobacco – three labor intensive agricultural products requiring massive amounts of labor to get from tillage to planting to harvesting to prepping for market. The South did all that by paying zero for labor. Imagine if, instead, the South had been forced to pay a fair market rate for all the labor it got for free (now without having to bother with the costs of food, clothing and housing). The South would never have risen the way it did – on the back of all that slave labor. Perhaps, in the Confederacy’s place, a worker’s paradise would have arisen.

A democratic socialist can dream, can’t he?

America, don’t forget, was founded on ideals, not a budget. As a nation, we have truly soared when we’ve lived by our ideals. We’ve stumbled, fallen and struggled to find our feet again every time we’ve chased a buck instead. Our current health care conundrum began during World War Two. In order to funnel every dollar possible into the war effort, the federal government froze everyone’s salary. That hamstrung businesses trying to keep good employees (who might want to stray to a company where the frozen pay for their job was higher) or lure new ones. Large companies (with a bit of cash on hand) offered “Hospital Insurance” as an incentive. Hospital insurance wasn’t full health insurance, it would only cover an employee in the event they were hospitalized. But, at the time, that must have been incentive enough. Plenty of American workers took that deal.

Then the war ended. But the hospital insurance didn’t. It began morphing into full on health insurance (not the care itself, the payment mechanism – the insurance). On the one hand, it meant a large group of Americans now had something they didn’t before the war – a way to PAY FOR their health care. Or, part of it anyway.

The big companies that kept employer-provided health coverage going hated administering their employees health coverage. It put them into businesses they didn’t want to be in: insurance and health care. Seeing and seizing a giant business opportunity, the health insurance industry spawned itself into being. Now, let’s be clear about who and what our health insurance companies are and aren’t. Every time we discuss health care in America, a bunch of nitwits will haul out the “Americans love their coverage!” argument as if it held water. It does not.

Americans love the health care providers they trust. Insurance companies stand between Americans and those providers – behaving as the thing they are: GATEKEEPERS. Americans will stop loving any company that cuts them off from the health care they need and want. So long as the gatekeepers say yes, sure – Americans love their insurance! But the second some bean counter in an office somewhere decides that the procedure a paying customer wants or needs is superfluous? That love is gone.

Nobody loves their health insurance. Nobody loves the terror we all feel when we even contemplate getting sick because we can never be one hundred percent sure our insurance carrier will cover it. And, as we all know, if you walk in the door of any health c are provider without that insurance card? You’re going to pay retail-retail for whatever goods or services you get. Ten bucks for a Tylenol tab worth pennies, for instance.

How is it hospitals do that – flagrantly charge stupid sums for everything? That’s because they’re not public concerns, they’re private. They’re corporate – owned by companies motivated by profit. Profit, of course, is the whole point of capitalism. It’s what drives innovation: beyond just the problem solving itself, there’s the lure of reaping the rewards of one’s good ideas and hard work. But some services need to stand outside the world of profit because the service they provide is incompatible with profit. Health CARE, for instance.

A corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders (its preferred shareholders, not its common stock shareholders) to make every dollar it can. They have no such responsibility to “patients”. From a purely budgetary point of view, patients represent dollars OUT and every dollar out is a dollar less profit for the corporation. From the corporation’s perspective, they’re meeting their obligation by turning you down for the procedure you need.

The health insurance industry sees universal single payer as a death sentence. If the government is handling all those claims, it means the health insurance companies aren’t. From a hospital’s point of view, if the government runs and manages its budget then no one’s going to make huge profits from running it.

Let’s get something straight. America’s health care is a serious business that must be peopled by our very best and brightest. `We want them to be well compensated. We want their expertise and professionalism rewarded. But, they’re not gods. The work they do needs to be part of something larger and holistic both for us as individuals and for us as a nation. In Sweden, say, if you have a health issue, you walk in the door of a health care facility and, for a very affordable (to most people) co-pay ($10ish), you get fixed. You get the thing you needed.

The co-pay comes later. It’s not the trigger for treatment.

America’s health care debacle is what happens when the inmates take over the asylum. It’s what happens when greed and stupidity design health care instead of health care designing it. America’s health care system also is what happens when racism and bigotry have a hand in the design specs.

It’s not a coincidence that the same folks who want Americans paying through the nose for their health care are the same folks who want only white people to vote. Could the irony be any sweeter that those same white people are the ones still dying in droves from COVID-19 because they refuse the health care they need – that’s available to them for free?

Republicans Have Achieved “Peak Magical Thinking”

The Republican Party could run a master class on magical thinking. That’s a measure of their absolute expertise on the subject – from imagining it to propagating it to accepting it. In essence and in fact, magical thinking is a safe space for tender, snowflakey feelings. Facts are anathema. They simply don’t get along with the magic. Facts keep trying to burst magic’s gossamer bubble. At its core, magical thinking rests upon a wide beam of fear. Fear of death. Fear of Black people. Fear of Jews. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. The need for magical thinking makes sense on a certain level. It provides the perception of security. Sheer faith in a story being true is all one needs to “make it” true. When that story answers the question “What happens after I die?” in a way that satisfies (regardless of its veracity), magical thinking has just claimed another adherent. And reality just got a little harder to sustain.

Magical thinking has turned the GOP into a perverse joke. They’re like characters in a Monty Python sketch racing for the ledge just to prove they’ll do anything if “an authority” tells them to. That authority can be a politician or a businessman. But the “real” magical thinking authority flows from religion, the Mother of Magical Thinking.

It’s no coincidence that Trump looked for and found fellow travelers in the evangelicals. Evangelicals are magical thinking on steroids. Virtually everything they think begins as magical thinking – whether it’s stuff they believe or only pretend to. It takes zero magical thinking to “Do unto others” or “Turn the other cheek”. It takes being in touch with your humanity. It takes having real courage and the courage of your convictions. Jesus didn’t invent Christianity. Paul did. Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew preaching Jewish messages to other Jews. While Jews do have their mythologies and magical thinking, the magical thinking doesn’t wag the dog the way it does in the other Abrahamic religions. Any Jew’s goal – per her religion’s admonitions – is to make the world a better place just for having been in it. Christianity on the other hand is built upon a complex bargain. If you believe in Jesus the exact way the church tells you to, like Jesus, you too can defeat death and live forever in a beautiful place called “Heaven” with everyone you love.

The blood libel that’s haunted Jews for almost two thousand years? Pure magical thinking. Even as a story it doesn’t make sense. If God knows all from the start (how magical!) then he knew before magically impregnating Mary with Jesus what Jesus’s fate would be. If, per the church, Jesus’s entire reason to exist is to die for humanity’s sins (caused by Eve in the Garden of Eden), then it’s not a tragedy that Jesus dies, it’s the whole trigger for salvation. And, since Jesus is spiritual rather than flesh, he can never really “die” anyway – so what’s death to Jesus? If Jesus doesn’t get betrayed by Judas (as the story says), and never gets crucified and lives to a ripe, old age and dies in his bed surrounded by loved ones, then no one gets saved. Or, if that’s how it works, it’s kinda lame having an old guy rise from his comfy death bed instead of from a cold, dark cave.

Paul, of course, was trying to align real Jesus (who he never met in person!) with the invented Jesus he needed to make his new religion work. Everyone who actually knew Jesus or heard him preach rejected Paul’s version of Jesus. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus – and his growing bubble of magical thinking – to the Gentiles. Having lived their whole lives in a polytheistic world where the gods didn’t care about them one way or the other, Romans and Greeks were intrigued by monotheism and its “loving God” who wanted to grant humans eternal life – provided they did things his way. All they had to do? Buy, believe and proselytize what this God character was selling. Oh – and don’t forget to kick the living crap out of anyone who doesn’t buy it.

Once you’ve framed your entire worldview from magical thinking’s perspective? All magical thinking is possible including the magical thinking you think is stupid. Imagine though how you look from the non-magical thinking point of view. The irony? Magical thinkers, as a rule, never step outside their magical thinking perspective because that would suggest that theirs isn’t the only way to think. And that would burst the whole gossamer bubble.

What is The Big Lie but “magical thinking on steroids” on steroids? What is the story of Donald Trump – a man genetically predisposed to greed, corruption, incompetence, bigotry, racism, misogyny and lack of character – if not a terrifying tale of magical thinking’s potency? Trump a great businessman and master negotiator? Magical thinking. Trump a patriot? Magical thinking. Trump anything but a criminal? Say it with me: “magical thinking”.

You can’t honestly blame a rat for being a rat. You can’t blame a thief for stealing you blind if you knew he was a thief and opened your pockets to him. You can’t blame a traitor for continuing to betray the nation when all ever gets for doing it is richer. Letting this happen without actively doing something to stop it (because we think good people with power will fix it for us)? Magical thinking, I’m afraid.

Democracy is a contact sport. Self-government is entirely DIY. It’s messy by nature but better for human beings (if our goal for humans is for them to live together peacefully). Though America has yet to live up to its full promise, the more E Pluribus Unum we become, the more we prosper – there’s data that proves it. Take it from a professional writer – there’s nothing wrong with re-writes. Re-writes are where we get the message more right than the first draft got it. “All men are created equal” was good – but it wasn’t exactly perfect. Especially not in the context in which those words were written.

Marx only got it half right. Religion may be the opiate of the people, but magical thinking is its meth amphetamine. People who believe in people want to empower people and make them the future. People who believe in magic want to preserve the magic – even if that means destroying people. There is no future for magical thinking because it’s committed itself to living entirely in the past. As the white, racist Republican Party keeps demonstrating, the belief that a white, racist past trumps a diverse, open-minded, open-hearted future? Pure magical thinking.

Republicans And Mediocrity: It’s A Love Thing

The words “greatness” and “Republicans” only go together so long as one is being sarcastic. If the GOP had in word and deed remained “The Party of Lincoln”, it would have been entirely impossible for them to ever have become the Party Of Trump. The Republicans are not now the Republican Party that Lincoln joined and led. Ironically, the Republicans are now the very people who most opposed Lincoln. Don’t believe me? Ask historian Heather Cox Richardson. Ask for someone who actually believes that democracy demands government of the people, by the people, for the people and I’ll show you a Democrat. But then, Democrats see America’s diversity as a plus. That’s who “the people” are in that equation. Republicans want to limit who those people are to people who look and act exactly like them. Even if Republicans were, to a person, remarkable, after a while, they’d stop being remarkable because “remarkable” itself would stop meaning anything. Not that we have to worry. The last thing on earth Republicans are is “remarkable”. Unless by that we mean “remarkably corrupt”.

Being corrupt is always a kajillion times easier than maintaining one’s integrity because surrendering to greed is so easy in moments of weakness. Americans who continue to identify as “Republicans” have no use for American representative democracy. They have no use for America’s remarkable diversity – the very thing that actually makes America exceptional. Their bottom line is they have no use for a future where they have to share power with all those diverse Americans. Hell, the GOP has no interest in democracy itself because it’s just too unpredictable. Unreliable. If keeping political power at all costs is your end game? Democracy is a loser of a proposition. That’s probably why Republicans work so hard and so relentlessly to destroy it.

The thing we always have to remember about conservatives is that their core impulse is to CONSERVE. To hold onto something that was and may not continue to be for much longer unless they actively do something to keep it alive. It’s not a bizarre way to think. It’s entirely understandable. But, that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to think especially when you live in a diverse world and country like ours.

I take conservatives at their word: they want to conserve. But, if the thing they want to conserve is political power so that the country stays as it was when white, Christian, land-owning men had all the rights, privileges and power, the rest of us simply aren’t going to go along. Not any more. What’s a conservative to do when the marketplace of ideas soundly rejects virtually all the wares they sloppily laid out on their little folding table at the idea marketplace? Conservatives, if they weren’t so defensive, might think about innovating their way out of the problem. But innovation by its very nature threatens conservatives because the very first thing innovation will do is initiate change and, if change threatens you…

Conservatives have a very real problem. How does one make holding onto the past relevant to the present and future? Harder problem: how does one make holding onto the past – when your group held all the power – relevant to the present when all the other groups demand power, too?

Conservatives and conservatism don’t have any ideas to offer. That’s why they gerrymander voter suppress instead. But it’s also why they ran for school boards and other local leadership posts. That was smart of them. They took advantage of democracy’s power while the majority weren’t paying attention to what can happen when a willful minority does such a thing. It still doesn’t make it right. Or genuinely democratic.

When Mitch McConnell announced that, as Trump did in 2020, the GOP would approach 2022 with no agenda to speak of, he was giving himself away. Not hard when you have so few cards in your hand and most of them are severely tainted. What do Republicans believe in other than power for power’s sake? Oh, right – money for money’s sake. That, right there, is the recipe for mediocrity. Belief in nothing. It’s also a recipe for authoritarianism. Authoritarians want everyone to believe that they are the only cure for the very chaos they created. If they hadn’t created the chaos themselves, they wouldn’t have the example of chaos to point at as the reason why they have to “do something” to stop it (aside from just stopping). It’s all kabuki, of course. Performance art performed by artless people.

Grab a handful of Democrats and you’re likely to come away with a super talented hand of people. Val Demmings, Stacy Abrams, AOC, Katie Porter and Elizabeth Warren (just a taste of what the Democrats have on their side) are all dynamic, effective political leaders. They’re smart, well-informed and willing to think outside the box to serve America’s needs and solve its problems. By comparison, the GOP has sexual assault enabler Jim Jordan, statutory rape suspect Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar (a man so bonkers literally everyone else in his family feels compelled to warn the world about him), racist harpies Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and a Senate caucus literally over-brimming with pasty, old white men and their pasty, old corruption.

As those pasty, old white men will tell you, nothing scares or threatens them more than a new idea or a better way of doing things. The Republican love for mediocrity isn’t just laziness at work, it’s necessity. The last thing they ever want is for more and more of the American electorate to realize how dangerous and deluded they are. That’s not going to change no matter what we do – though prosecuting them and putting them behind bars will slow what they’re doing to America.

In a way, Republicans are like a QWERTY keyboard. Designed to be inefficient back when typing machines couldn’t handle an overly efficient typist. The whole point of the QWERTY layout was to force typists to slow down. Not for the typist’s benefit, for the machine’s. Republicans can’t help being equally ass backwards. Inefficiency, greed and corruption are entirely organic to them. So is mediocrity. It fits them like a second skin.

Some Americans (White Ones) Think They’re The “Most Equal” Americans Of All

The white, Christian, land-owning authors of America’s Constitution set us up for failure the moment they penned “All men are created equal” without actually meaning “all men”. They screwed the pooch just as badly (if not worse) by meaning JUST men. So, the fix was in from the start.

America was doomed because while aspiring to government of the people, by the people and for the people, we settled for a government of, by and for only some of the people. Let’s be kind and call it a rookie mistake. The men who wrote up our founding documents had never founded a country before. They were forward-thinking but only up to a point. Still, some did grasp America’s true potential – as when James Madison insisted we put “E Pluribus Unum” on our Great Seal. “Out of many, one” is precisely what makes America exceptional! That’s the thing that had never happened before in the whole history of humans. We created a new country borne of all the old ones, that aspired to give every citizen an equal shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Originalism (conservatism’s wettest wet dream) asserts that whatever those wealthy, white, Christian, land-owning men wrote down? That’s it. That’s the country America must always and can only ever be. Yeah, sure – the Constitution’s framers built in an amendment process (and even tossed in the first ten amendments, calling them “The Bill of Rights”) – but they didn’t foresee how “crazy” some of those amendments would be (like giving the vote to women and Black people). In the Originalist’s mind, America is a long-dead butterfly trapped in amber. Problem is, it isn’t a butterfly; it’s a moth aspiring to butterfly-hood. Nonetheless, originalists want that low-achieving moth revived and celebrated.

Want to stymie any conservative? Ask them directly: “what exactly is it that you want to conserve?” They’ll “hummina-hummina” about freedom and liberty and rugged individualism and how socialism is evil because even they can’t articulate what they want. But, it’s this: conservatives want to conserve the past – or as much of the past that’s still left in the present. Conservatives resist change. Many outright detest change. They want the world to remain as it is right now. If they could have made that happen yesterday – or the day (or century) before? They absolutely would have. American conservatives idealize an America that’s majority white and understands that their whiteness is what binds them together. Diversity – AKA “E Pluribus Unum” – terrifies them because all those “Pluribus” believe they’re equal to white people, a thing a full one third of America cannot tolerate.

In their defense, the white people now insisting on the Big Lie have all lived in the shadow of another “big lie” – the one where America t said “All men are created equal” while knowingly not meaning it. That “big lie” hung over America like a secret we were keeping from ourselves. Slavery, first and foremost, is stolen labor. The slave master gets the slave’s work product for nothing (minus the cost of feeding, clothing and housing the slave). Stolen labor was the basis for almost the entire Confederate economy. If the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane businesses had all had to pay fair wages for the labor they needed to get their product from field to factory? For one thing, there never would have been an American Civil War.

Alas, things didn’t go down that way. Instead, white people dug in their heels. They resisted sharing power with Black people by repeatedly either denying them the vote outright or by making it almost impossible to vote. Denying citizens the right to vote in a democracy is how you destroy the democracy. That assumes, of course, that you want to preserve our democracy.

The simple fact is, the GOP doesn’t want to preserve our democracy because democracy’s just not working out for them. Wanna win in “the marketplace of ideas”? Start by having a few ideas other than “let’s go live in the past”. But then, the past is where conservatives and white people (apparently) lived their best lives ever. Probably because, back then, they were all created equal while the rest of us weren’t.

America’s Love For Guns Is Directly Related To America’s Love for Racism

America isn’t the only country with a racist past. We are however the only (first world) country to have both a racist past and a deep, abiding love for guns and gun culture. America didn’t have to succumb to racism at its birth; that was a choice we made – an economic choice. But for slavery – and the free (because stolen) labor it provided to the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane businesses among others – the South would never have risen to begin with. Or, if they had, it would have been because they’d figured out a way to both make a profit and pay for the labor needed to bring their products to market. Instead, everyone involved succumbed to greed and their worst instincts. Our founders wrote down “All men are created equal” but they meant something else entirely: only white, Christian, land-owning men are equal. Everyone else is there for the white, Christian, land-owning men to exploit.

Slaves and slavery were so essential to the Southern economy that the slavers organized patrols to hunt down and capture escaped slaves. Policing in America originated with these “slave patrols” and that “people as property” mentality remains deeply embedded in how America thinks about (and hires) cops. Do we need any more evidence that America’s police departments are over-stocked with racists who see their job more as zoo keeping than protecting and serving? Our founders had the gall to think of slaves (all Black people, really) as “three-fifths of a man” (and that for political reasons!) When a white cop pulls out their weapon and aims it at an unarmed Black person, to them, that Black person is less of a person than they are and that’s why shooting and killing them is so easy.

But then, guns make killing easy because that’s what they’re designed to do: kill. Every gun is engineered from the ground up to send a piece of hot metal flying through the air – at speed – toward a live target, the goal being to kill it. You can’t send a piece of hot metal flying at someone without thinking it could kill them; death is baked into it. To think otherwise is a lie. While people who aspire to responsibly own a death machine might valiantly try to “be responsible”, the fact is, accidents happen. Unintended consequences happen. Children get ahold of their parents’ unsecured weapons all the time here in America. Don’t believe me? Google it, why don’tcha. Then prepare to spend some time reading.

Nancy Lanza was an avid gun owner and – if you’d have asked her – a responsible gun owner, too. That is, she was a responsible gun owner until the morning of December 14, 2012 when her son Adam murdered her with one of her own legally purchased firearms then headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School. The thing is, guns aren’t designed to sit in gun lockers. It’s like how cars aren’t designed to be driven by drunk people. But, when guns get out of their lockers – or drunk people drive – that’s when the tires hit the road – and the drunk driver kills someone. How responsible is a gun owner when their death machine is in their hands – or the hands of others? In America, 329 people are injured by firearms every single day. In 2019, according to UC Davis Health, 39,707 people died because their life intersected with a gun. That’s a hell of a lot of irresponsible gun ownership, no?

The “responsible gun owner” argument is that THEY aren’t like that. THEY are different, ya see. They’re “responsible”. Until they aren’t. Until something unexpected happens as it did yesterday when 15 year old Ethan Crumbley took the semi-automatic 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun his dad had purchased a few days before to school – where Ethan was already in trouble for “concerning classroom behavior”. We don’t know if Ethan’s parents were ever “responsible gun owners”, but they definitely failed that test in the end.

Ya see, that’s the problem for all of us out here who DON’T own death machines. We have to rely on the competence, good intentions and genuine “responsible-ness” of everyone who owns a gun. Gun non-owners won’t know ahead of time which gun owners are failing to be responsible. We never got a head’s up that James Holmes was going to the movies on July 20, 2012 at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Was James ever a responsible gun owner? Don’t know. But, if he ever was, he wasn’t that night when he killed twelve people. 70 others were injured, 58 from gunfire. Same token, we don’t know if Omar Mateen was ever a “responsible gun owner” before he killed 49 people and injured 53 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL which he shot up on June 12, 2016.

While racism itself isn’t behind most of our mass shootings – male dysfunction is – the easy availability of death machines across America makes it easy for every male with personality flaws and anger issues to use a gun as part of their “therapy”. The NRA seems to approve of its members using the second amendment to resolve all disputes. As Kyle Rittenhouse proved, you can even cry “self defense!” when shooting unarmed people because you feel “threatened” by them.

Want to know just how racist America is? Imagine, if you will, what would have happened to AR-15-toting Kyle Rittenhouse if he had been Black instead of privileged white. Think the cops there that night in Kenosha would have waved at Kyle and waved him through? Think all the armed racists there to threaten the Black Lives Matter protestors would have seen Black Kyle as one of their own? Puh-leeze! If Kyle Rittenhouse was black, they would have had to clean up what was left of him with a hose.

America’s gun lovers insist they need guns to protect them from an overzealous government. To call that horse shit is a kindness it doesn’t deserve. It’s right wing bullshit kabuki. It’s a lie. Right wing gun lovers do not fear the government; they just want it out of their way. Right wing gun lovers – almost entirely white – see themselves as surrounded. A diversifying America terrifies them because they refuse to share power. And the people they refuse to share power with is everyone not them – not white. And, to make their point of just how determined they are? They “open carry” their intentions.

No one at a supermarket is going to attack them. No one ever was going to. They gun owner knows that. The point of the exercise isn’t self-defense, it’s intimidation. It’s white people trying to impress everyone else that they – a gun owner – can hurt them bigger and better than the person without the gun can hurt the gun owner. No part of that thinking is even remotely “responsible”. But it is deeply racist.

Not every gun owner is a racist, but – count on it – every racist needs a gun to feel complete. They need a gun to do what they personally can’t – force people they don’t like to do what they want (including die).

A guns is to a racist what a good argument is to anyone else. The gun IS the racist’s argument.

Everyone Has Their Point Of View But Not Every Point Of View “Has A Point”

Does a raging, racist a-hole have a point? We know they have a point of view; they’re happy as hell braying it. But do these guys have a point to make? Do they? Is their racist, ignorant point really one we should take seriously?

Consider the professional criminal. He knows what he’s doing is completely against the law yet breaks the law anyway. The possibility of punishment is just part of the cost of doing criminal business. As the professional criminal — let’s say he’s a car thief with his eyes on your car — deliberately commits a crime (stealing your car) — he has a point of view in this scenario. So do you — now, a car thief’s victim. But the only point the car thief is making here is that your possession can be his. It’s a bully’s way of thinking. Your point of view is a crime victim’s. From the rule of law’s point of view, a wrong has been done you. The rule of law then has a “good point” to make here. Justice must be done. You, the crime victim, also have a “good point”. The injustice was done to you and that injustice needs to be fixed in whatever way we can. As for the perp? He’s the odd man out. The only one here who’s “point” was “bad”. In a court of law? His point describes a criminal.

That’s why criminals never argue the truth — the actual “why they did what they did” because that would equal a confession: “I wanted what wasn’t mine and so I took it.” That is, in fact, a thief’s point. Not their point of view, their point. The core “why” of why they did what they did.

How the hell did we get to a place where any point of view — regardless of how bad (meaning counter productive, incorrect or just plain illegal) — can be held up as being equally valid as a good point of view? The answer’s the same as why our news media used to present climate science and climate denial as equally valid points. Our news media all did that but no one did it with less self awareness and more counter productivity than our TV news media. At some point, when this is far enough in our rearview mirror that democracy can breathe a little more easily, we will have to give the news media its report card. A few will have passed the course with honors. But only a few. The overwhelming majority of American journalists failed America completely because they drank the “both sides do it” Kool Aid.

“Both sides do it” insists that journalists be completely “neutral”. It’s not for them to judge anything. If the person in front of them is a cannibal, it’s not for the “both sides do it” journalist to judge the cannibal for being a cannibal or cannibalism in general since, if that’s the cannibal’s thing, it must be valid because every point of view is “valid”. The eater’s point of view has the same “weight” as the to-be-eaten’s. The cannibal’s point is as valid as his dinner’s. In a world where cannibalism was accepted, I guess that would mean something. But, we don’t feel that way about cannibalism. It may have a point of view but we refuse to, um, swallow it.

The press is quite clear on what the Republican Party are doing to America. Between the breaking news (that’s always breaking) and the talking heads with their hair very much on fire, the point gets made over and over again: the Republicans are no longer interested in democracy because democracy is no longer interested in them or their ideas. The Republicans have a political problem on their hands that the Democrats don’t. Having become almost exclusively a white grievance party, the Republican agenda is focused on retaining power that a rapidly diversifying America is actively voting away from them. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is not a political cause, it’s a cultural safe space. It is the real promise of “All men are created equal” (so long as we understand that “all men” means literally “everyone”).

“Both sides do it” journalism insists that since Republicans do everything for political reasons, Democrats must therefore do everything for political reasons, too. So, when a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter’s ability to vote, the thinking goes, both the vote suppressing Republican and the suppressed Democratic voter are BOTH behaving politically. That is utter bullshit. The Republican is openly violating the Democrat’s Constitutional right to vote. They’re committing a literal crime albeit for a political purpose. It’s a crime all the same.

The Democrat here is NOT behaving politically regardless of what “both sides do it:” journalism says. Just like the car thief’s victim isn’t behaving like a criminal when they go to the police, neither is the suppressed democratic voter acting politically when they report the crime being committed against them. But, because our news media assumes both sides do everything for the very same reasons, they fail to see the Republicans’ actions as criminal (since, perversely, the Democrats’ reaction isn’t!) In this instance, they’re flipping “both sides do it” back onto itself. If the Democrats aren’t criminals then neither are the Republicans.

Stone cold fact: not every point of view has a point. Let’s tweak that to “not every point of view has a VALID point”. And, when our news media — towing the “both sides do it” line — gives validity and credence to points of view undeserving of that validity, they empower bullshit and give bullshit the very real potential to completely overwhelm Truth. That’s how you get a Nazi Germany. A North Korea. A Vladimir Putin.

A Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party.

Why Does The Republican Party Always Stand On The Wrong Side Of Everything?

Photos show violent clashes as Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol

Imagine rooting for a pathogen to win because more dead people — even if they’re you — equals “winning” though “winning what” isn’t exactly clear. Why does “owning the libs” mean so much to right wingers, conservatives and Trumpanistas? Why does it mean more than life itself? Is being a raging asshole really that satisfying or is sharing power democratically simply beyond the pale? Apparently that’s a yes to both. I can’t imagine myself walking in lock step with a bunch of other Jewish people while we all shout “White people will not replace us!” the way white supremacists did at Charlottesville shouting about how Jews would not replace them. Replace them? Doing what? Being them? What does that mean? How little do you think of yourself that abstract humans can step in and disappear you so easily? Who the hell even “thinks” like this?

Oh, right… Republicans, Trumpublicans, Trumpanistas and right wingers in general. They never seem to operate from a place of optimism or hope. They don’t view the future expectantly. Rather, they see the future as a place to fear: “beyond here there be dragons!” Those dragons are Black and brown people. Women with political power and the will to use it. LGBTQ people who are simply trying to find a little peace inside their heads, inside their body chemistry. And then there’s the biggest dragon of all: shared political power. That’s like water to the Wicked Witch Of The West. Sharing political power would melt conservatives. Well, it would melt their political power into virtually nothing because, here in America, that conservatism is driven by white hegemony.

What do Republicans — self-avowed “conservatives” — want to “conserve” if not white hegemony? Anything less would, eventually, lead to the very diversity conservatives fear. The conservative game plan therefore is to stretch out that “eventually” for as long a period as possible. If they can — by screwing democracy — turn that “eventually” into “never”? Well, why wouldn’t a conservative choose that — considering the alternative? I’m just saying — the conservative position here isn’t hard to see or hard to understand. If we put ourselves in their shoes and see the world through their terrified eyes, we’d get it. We’d get what they feel, why they feel and how they feel.

That doesn’t mean we’d agree with their feelings however. That’s the problem, ya see. Conservatives are running entirely off their feelings and never about facts. And the one feeling driving the whole crazy shit show is fear. Conservativism is the uber lizard brain on fire. All it can think of is “stop what’s happening by whatever means possible”. “What’s happening” is forward progress.

What’s happening is fairness. What’s happening is America finally starting to live up to its full potential. The white, Christian, land-and-human-owning men who wrote up America’s founding documents had a great idea. That doesn’t mean they executed that great idea correctly. They didn’t. For starters, they didn’t really mean “All men are created equal”, they only meant white, Christian, land-owning men just like them were “equal”. In “Jeopardy”, that would count as an incomplete answer. You lose. America nearly did because white, Christian, land-owning men are not what makes America exceptional. “E Pluribus Unum” makes America exceptional. Out of many, one. THAT is the engine for American greatness. Progressivism fuels that engine because progressivism recognizes that the more Americans participate in this, the greatest experiment ever in human self government, the better the experiment gets.

Conservatism believes the exact opposite to be true: that the less Americans participate, the better. What they mean is “the more that THEY are the ONLY Americans participating in American democracy, the better”.

Spoiler alert: that ain’t how democracy works. It’s how authoritarianism and facism work.

Why do Republicans all stand on the wrong side of history? Because history, in the end, is made up of human progress. As much as conservative white Americans want to believe that THEY are the entire point of democracy, they’re not. Democracy is the point of democracy and the more democracy, the better. We know from experience how skewed democracy (the Electoral College for example or the structure of the US Senate) skews elections away from the will of the majority and toward a willful minority. In fact, we’ve gotten to see all the myriad ways conservatives have built brakes into the system — not because they want to make democracy better but because they want to make democracy less efficient. Less democratic.

If Republicans could, they’d end the American experiment right here, right now. They have zero interest in being a democratic republic if that means they have no control over it; to them, having a hundred percent control is the only alternative to having less than a hundred percent. It’s all v nothing and they want all.

Those are the stakes. That’s why Republicans are willing to stand alongside a pathogen if the pathogen will help get them what they want: permanent minority rule. By the same token, Republicans are willing to stand alongside treason and traitors to get what they want. That’s what made Vladimir Putin’s bet on the GOP such a sure thing. He understood how craven and corrupt they all were. He understood how hook them all so deeply they’d do whatever he told them to. He understood that he could have them betray America in the open — without America really questioning them. Example: we need to know what promises the “Prostrate Eight” — Senators Richard Shelby (AL.), Steve Daines (MT), John Hoeven (ND), John Neely Kennedy (LA), Jerry Moran (KS.), John Thune (SD) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), plus Rep. Kay Granger (TX.) made over dinner in Moscow July 4, 2018. While the rest of America celebrated our independence from outside interference, what were these traitors promising their Russian masters between the ice cold vodka shots and the caviar?

The GOP isn’t just standing on the wrong side of history. They’re standing on the wrong side of justice. On the wrong side of patriotism. On the wrong side of human decency. On the wrong side of logic and even their own self-interest. On the wrong side of literally everything.

“Originalism” is Racism In A Judicial Robe

I almost admire the conservative ability to wardrobe utter bullcrap as serious legal argument — and get away with it. “Originalism” is one hundred percent pure, unadulterated bullcrap. The tell? It holds this truth to be “self evident” — that “all men are created equal”. Except the white, Christian, land-owning men who wrote and stood by those words didn’t mean them literally. Yes, they meant only men. But, by “men”, they only meant white, Christian, land-owning humans possessing a Y chromosome (a thing they didn’t know existed). While some of America’s founders truly took their inspiration from the French Enlightenment, too many took their inspiration from the Bible — where slavery (and bigamy and child rape and all kinds of awfulness) was accepted. The Bible was used to justify slavery (and miscegeny and genocide). To this day, some of our most fervent Christians (by their description) are also our most fervent racists, misogynists, bigots and fans of genocide. Orginalism sees itself reflected in slavery and it likes what it sees.

Originalism is all about justification — justifying why modern people, despite being modern, are obligated to follow how things were done in the past simply because that’s how they were done in the past! That’s it. That’s conservatism’s entire rationale — what’s wrong with ‘how we did it’ even if ‘how we did it’ excluded, punished, disenfranchised or disadvantaged an increasing percentage of the rapidly diversifying population?

The term was coined in the early 1980’s by then Stanford Law School dean Paul Brest (who was actually critiquing originalism as a way of thinking). Legal minds and scholars were trying to wrestle to the ground “the founders’ original intent” as a “final arbiter” for how to interpret them. Now, let’s be clear up front — the founders did some serious heavy lifting. They articulated something that hadn’t ever been articulated before: what Lincoln would later call “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. But, being fallible humans (being men even more fallible therefore!) America’s founders didn’t get it entirely right. For starters? They screwed the pooch on “All men are created equal”! We The People need to start there. Most people who aren’t white already do.

Originalism appealed to smart guys like Antonin Scalia because they saw in it a way to disguise their own racism. They want us to believe it’s not relevant that the founders lived in a hierarchical world of their own creation. That slavery existed then means, really, that slavery should still exist now. Republicans really and truly do believe that. It’s why they hate the whole idea of a “minimum wage”. A minimum wage means you can’t coerce someone to work for you for free. That is what slavery is after all — stolen labor. A slave owner steals the work product of his slaves (after deducting the costs of housing, clothing and feeding the slave). It must have been profitable because slavery persisted in America for as long as it did.

It took a whole Civil War to actually stop it. Though, looking back, clearly, we only stopped slavery as practiced out in the open. Slavery has endured to this day. It’s what killed Reconstruction dead before it could level the playing field. It’s what motivated every Jim Crow law (now and then). It’s what motivated poll taxes and voting restrictions. It’s what motivates white supremacy and pretty much the entire Republican “agenda” (such as it is). Originalism, don’t forget, made its peace with slavery: it accepted it outright.

And every originalist still does — still accepts, if not slavery itself (so messy!) then slavery’s cousins, nieces, nephews and entire extended family. Anything that forces America to be exactly how it was, or to think how it thought, wears its white supremacist purpose right there on its Klan robe. How much would you like to bet that more than a few conservatives — if given a way — would gladly bring back slavery?

Fortunately for America, some of its founders actually got what America was actually doing — saw its genius and framed that genius correctly: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one has always been the source of America’s genuine exceptionalism. Diversity. Ironically, diversity is originalism’s nemesis.

What more do you need to know about originalism? It excuses white people from ever having to work too hard, from having to compete, or from ever having to take responsibility for their actions. Imagine the chaos that corruption would cause if it slipped on a judicial robe and then legitimized itself. Hey — no need to tax your imagination. Show me an originalist, I’ll show you a racist — even if they present as a perfectly nice lady like Amy Coney Barrett. Institutional racism like theirs never has to sully itself with honesty. The racism embedded in the culture does all their heavy lifting.

Ditto the misogyny.

The RW money — seeing demographic extinction in its future — got proactive. The Mercers, the Kochs et al, put their money on (and into) the Mitch McConnell project to deny President Obama very possible lifetime federal bench seat while cramming through as many of Trump’s lifetime appointments as possible (including Amy Coney Barrett’s shotgun nomination and confirmation in the waning days of Traitor-In-Chief Donald Trump). The RW money represented the very same interests as white supremacy — but with a used car salesman’s disingenuous smile and a proctologist’s cold, fishy handshake. Democracy poses too many problems. It’s too, too unpredictable. That’s why it was always the RW money’s goal to do everything possible to undermine American democracy — it’s the shortest distance between where they are now and permanent minority rule.

If America’s founders had been all or mostly Black, do ya really suppose “originalism” would be a “thing” among white guys today? Of course it wouldn’t! And if Black guys spit back “originalism” every time a white guy demanded to know why he had no rights? This is one more conversation we would not be having.