For all of conservatism’s many negatives, “truth in advertising” isn’t one of them. To its credit, conservatism will tell you right up front what it’s all about and what it wants our collective future to be: our past It’s right there in conservatism’s name — conservatives want to CONSERVE. Fair enough. Conserving the environment is good. Conserving tradition can be good. It can be rotten too. It’s situational. One thing we know conservatives can’t and definitely don’t want to conserve though is the future. Fortunately for them, as the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s the one time frame we can’t conserve. Just as well. The future is the one time frame conservatives want to avoid — by conserving as much of the past that remains in the present as they possibly can — and then locking that version of the present into a kind of stasis,. If conservatism could have its way — which is what they’re trying to do now — America would become a one-party state: theirs. This permanent minority rule wouldn’t just hold us in the present, it would in fact begin to regress us back into the 50’s — an era conservatism and the current version of the Republican Party think of as the “the white man’s golden age“. That’s 1850 we’re talking about!
In America, conservatism is old, Christian white men desperate to maintain what had been a hegemonic hold on power born of a great idea poorly executed. “All men are created equal” needed a rewrite it never got — and diversity — in order to fully live up to its E Pluribus Unum potential. That’s always been the dynamic tension at the heart of the American experiment. Though white people articulated the great idea, everyone other than white people are far better at realizing the great idea’s “E Pluribus Unum” potential. That’s because they are the “Pluribus”. Racism bubbles to the surface when one group thinks it’s superior to another group (as white people do toward Black people and brown people and Asian people and everyone else who isn’t white like them). The reason people from all over the world latched onto E Pluribus Unum is the same reason white Christian men thought “All men are created equal” was just fine as written — and as intended.
The white men who founded America and intended to hold all political power for themselves were actively defining the box they intended America to be. “All men” meant them. White, Christian men intended that white, Christian men would be America’s perpetual stakeholder pool. White, Christian, land-owning men more specifically. No E Pluribus Unum in sight. That’s where “originalism” comes from.
Consider “originalism”. Consider how we get a thing like “originalism”. It’s white, Christian men saying “Well, since we thought of the great idea, we’re the ones who should always get to run it how we like it!” Originalism insists, that America must always be exactly how the white men who invented it intended it to be. Any other version of America, says originalism, is an aberration, E Pluribus Unum be damned.
“Originalism” is “the box” with a tired, old bow on it.
The reason conservatives (and therefore Republicans) can’t run on the strength of their ideas is simple. They have none. Their new idea is to turn America back into how it was. That’s why Republicans have to resort to suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering. It’s why they’re corrupt. They’re so desperate to hold onto power that they even co-conspired with a hostile foreign government actively engaged in cyber war with us. Think about that! Conservatism saw more common purpose with Putin (and now with the coronavirus) than it did or does with other Americans. That, to bring it around, is because all those “other Americans” aren’t “them”.
By its nature, conservatism cannot innovate its way out of our problems; that’s because the act of innovating itself threatens conservatism. How can there be new ideas when the old suffice? If new ideas work to solve our problems, it means old ideas can’t or don’t. Any problem conservatism can’t solve poses a threat to conservatism itself because the only way out is through innovation — doing it differently than before. And, most likely, doing it better, too.
Two words conservatives hate are “new” and “improved” because “old” and “how it was” is how they like it.
If not for the Electoral College’s artificial hold on the presidency — if we actually just elected our POTUS via popular vote — it’s likely a Republican would never win the presidency ever again. Future Democrats would run up even bigger margins than Joe Biden’s 7 million vote cushion. Ah, but the EC is another old, artificial, racist governing structure trying to keep “All men are created equal” from turning into “E Pluribus Unum”. Just like the structure of the Senate — another example of white power tilting the playing field toward itself.
Conservatism’s answer to virtually all of our massive problems is the same: do nothing (as if doing nothing was a cheaper option) regardless of whether the problem is climate change, racism, corruption or treason. Even among conservative Democrats, there’s a latent desire to just “kiss and make up” — to go full bi-partisan kumbaya with the very same bad actors trying to destroy the American republican from within. Doing nothing is invariably the most expensive option of all.
If we do nothing to save our democracy, it will go away. If we do nothing to save our environment, it will become uninhabitable. If we do nothing to save human decency, indecency will eventually come for us.
Solving these problems demands, first, acknowledging them. White America is balking at the whole idea of walking in the door to marriage counseling. They don’t want the marriage between them and everyone else to endure — at least, not the way everyone else imagines the relationship. Like I said, it turns out that everyone BUT white people seem to have a knack for democracy. Black Americans have such a solid grasp of it — and why it matters — that they have endured three hundred plus years of brutality by the white people with the great idea in order to manifest the great idea in ways white people would never have thought of — because they were always in power.
When people keep putting obstacles in your way, problem-solving around them becomes second nature. Joe Biden’s administration could write a few volumes on the topic. Afghanistan could fill a whole library. The pandemic could fill a zip code full of nothing but libraries. The conservative response to Afghanistan was “get greedy”. Its response to climate change is deny it’s happening. It’s response to voting rights is restrict them as much as possible because — as Donald Trump himself put it, “when too many people vote, it’s bad for Republicans”. Yeah — exactly.
Politics in America make little sense because too much of our “common wisdom” thinks everyone does everything for entirely political reasons completely divorced from any desire to actually govern. That “common wisdom” is deeply cynical and deeply conservative — as all “common wisdom” is, coming, as it does, from either long held knowledge or just long held traditions pretending to be knowledge. I don’t know if American politics have always been this cynical (I suspect it has been) but the presence of cynicism also marks the presence of a very real divide. The much LARGER group — on the other side of that divide? They aren’t cynical. They don’t think the worst of everyone. They absolutely experience the same intense gravity from the same tribal pull but, having lived in a diverse culture, they recognize that E Pluribus Unum is the cure for all that. Out of many, one.
Please, let’s be straight up here (like it was a question): only one side in this “conversation” we’re having about America’s future sees diversity as a threat to their hegemony. White people have held political power (and, hence, da money) from the get-go. That’s not because the great idea they spun said that’s how it was supposed to be (the great idea says, literally “all men are created equal” and not “all men who look exactly like us”), that’s because the MEN who crafted these founding documents were flawed (of course they were flawed — they were the male of the human species!). They came from a Northern European culture that mistook the advantages their pathogens gave them as cultural superiority. It wasn’t Christian virtue that laid low the heathens of North America, it was small pox. Thus is cynicism born.
The very idea of “E Pluribus Unum” makes “originalism” bullshit. Originalism is itself a pathogen. It’s the racist mis-step at America’s founding given a deceptive branding. Think about what originalism is really insisting — that how America IS should reflect only what its white, Christian, male founding FATHERS were thinking when they drafted our founding documents. We must accept their world and their world view warts as our world view regardless of any or all changes to our knowledge or thinking caused by our subsequent history. We must accept that this country’s founders understood the “Pluribus” of E Pluribus Unum to be exclusively white people. Originalism is an attempt to excuse and justify racism. It is pure cynicism (as racism is).
But, our news media — lacking perspective — doesn’t see originalism as racism. They see originalism (as they see racism) as a legitimate opinion even if (in the case of racism), it’s an opinion the racist insists isn’t his. It may be an opinion journalists pooh-pooh as offensive — but, considering that their measure of a racist is whether or not a racist owns his racism — that’s really all the current journalistic culture thinks racism is — an unfortunate opinion about other people that good people shouldn’t have. “Common wisdom” therefore says you can ask someone “Hey, are YOU a racist?” and whatever their answer is — that’s the truth we should all accept about them. They would know if they’re a racist, right? And they’d be honest about it!
This is how cynicism “thinks”. From the inside. It’s a rabbit hole constructed entirely of bullshit. And all bullshit is ultimately toxic.
Outside that cynical rabbit hole filled with “common wisdom” and bullshit, that’s where the rest of us live. We watch our news media report on that rabbit hole like IT was reality. We watch them constantly get our story wrong because they’re not reporting our reality.
As with most cynicism, a nugget of truth gets colored all one way. Americans do not vote en masse in mid-term elections the way they do in presidential elections. Except when they DO vote en masse in mid-terms as Americans did in 2018. They also vote en masse — contrary to “common wisdom” — in special elections like the one in Georgia that put two Democrats in the Senate. Our news media really didn’t see that coming because they — being cynical — thought the worst of Georgia’s electorate. When our news media tells us what terrible voters we are, we tend to behave like terrible voters. When they tell us we’re good voters, well — they’re usually behind that curve.
Why did Americans lose their civic pride? Why did Americans stop educating themselves about their own government when their form of government DEMANDS their participation — and therefore their education in HOW to self-govern? Self governing still doesn’t come naturally to human beings. It’s something we have to work at — hard. But you have to keep reminding yourself of all the steps it takes. It’s not unlike playing tennis. Want to have a good ground stroke? It’s all about the fundamentals regardless of the ball coming at you. If all you do is react to the ball — rather than attack it fundamentally, the will will own you. Your ground stroke will be late and it will suck.
Ah, but the “common wisdom” — even though it heard Bannon and reported on Bannon and even talked about Bannon in their talking head discussions — says this is “just how it is!” Of course certain Republicans think like this and, when in power, of course they do everything they can to manifest their craziness in our reality. Can you feel the cynicism?
Through nearly a year of Trump’s candidacy, four years of his presidency and, now, nearly nine months of his post-presidency, our news media has treated this abomination as if it was normal. As perverse and outlandish as Trumpian pronouncements could be, our news media — rather than saying “Hey, that’s really perverse and outlandish — I’m digging in my heels right here!”, shrugged their shoulders and willingly moved on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “Pussy grabbing” – and then to “But, her emails!” because THAT, suddenly, became the story. As we know, there was zero “there” there. And it’s not as if our news media rushed back to their previous outrage to defend either Mexicans or women or any American.
A lot of “common wisdom” stays that way not because it’s wise but because people keep repeating it. “Common wisdom” doesn’t know what to do with people being woke because “common wisdom” — being conservative — cannot tolerate wokeness; all new information threatens the old information’s validity. If some of that “old information” is “white guys are superior to everyone else and therefore deserve to govern and have all the money”, well, you can see how those believing it would be mightily threatened by those who don’t. That, in a nutshell, is America’s dilemma. The rich white, Christian men are unwilling to share power or money. Like Charlton Heston’s gun, it will have to be plucked from their cold, dead fingers. Metaphorically speaking, of course
From the moment our news media finally agreed that Joe Biden fairly and squarely beat Trump — while taking back the Senate — they’ve pointed to the “common wisdom” that off year elections are always catastrophic for the newly elected president. Yes, that’s based on plenty of history. But none of that history is remotely like now.
That’s another of “common wisdom’s” blind spots — the assumption that nothing ever changes. That we live in a constant whose circumstances repeat endlessly. That is the world conservatives dream of. It’s the world they want to bamboozle us all into thinking “is”. It isn’t. Human beings evolve and change and adapt. And they get woke, too.
The moment Trump became potus, America changed. Rather, change was forced upon America and either we were going to accept that change — a right wing power grab aided by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in a cyber war against us — or we were going to reject it. This is the stone cold realpolitik reality. A fearful white minority is trying to hold onto power forever via permanent minority rule. Elements of this fearful mindset have been actively suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering elections for a generation at least, the point being to deny the diverse majority its rightful vote and voice.
Only white people could possibly look at the current political landscape and think “do nothing”. Literally every other group is more keenly aware than ever of the threat white people pose to them and to the very notion of America. But, alas, that sentiment, true as it is, flies in the face of the “common wisdom” that says 2022 is an off year election so therefore give it to the Republicans because that’s how it always is.
In fact, cynical. To report such a story — as the Washington Post did a year later, its reporter having heard the RECORDING of the meeting — and not follow up until the question gets answered: why did everyone in that room of GOP leaders agree to keep this terrible information “in the family” rather than call the FBI to report it? Want to know how every Republican in the room could persist and how our news media could report it and not become laser focused on getting to the bottom of it? Cynicism.
If our news media were doing the job imagined for them in the Constitution, they’d be We The People’s final line of defense against unbridled political power. They wouldn’t be political power’s propagandist of choice. That’s what access journalism (the brand practiced too often during the Trump years) creates: news compromised by the access required to get that “news”. It becomes “sales” instead.
I dare the news media to point at one positive benefit voting Republican could do for anyone except for indulging their hatefulness and ignorance. Would voting Republican in Florida or Texas or South Dakota alleviate the pandemic’s onslaught on those mask and vaccination mandate-free states? No, in fact, continuing to vote Republican will exacerbate this tragedy. Yet, cynically, our news media insists that — because 2022 is a mid-term election, Americans will “naturally” pull the lever for Republicans because “we need something different!” or “the other party is more motivated”. True, Trumpanistas may feel motivated — but that’s only if they’re not dying from COVID-19 as more and more now are. To assert — because “common wisdom” — that stupid, sick Americans will show up en masse while healthy, woke Americans won’t is to mis-read the landscape even worse than the news media did in 2018. If you go back and look at the “video tape” of 2018, our news media were determined that Donald Trump was going to win that night big.
He did not. In fact, the exact opposite happened, “common wisdom” notwithstanding.
In the “common wisdom’s” defense, it’s easy to keep in your pocket, even easier to pull out and put down on the table. No one ever was called out because they went with the common wisdom. Until now. There’s a terrible “come to Jesus” moment in our news media’s future. We The People will absolutely prevent the Republican Party from destroying American democracy because doing that is in our best interest while succumbing to the GOP’s authoritarian power grab isn’t. Life’s really that simple. While, sure, fascism overcame even the “good Germans” as it took over Germany, Germany was almost entirely homogenous. Everyone succumbing to Hitler’s totalitarianism was German going back a thousand years. Going along to get along with the tribe was hard-wired. Fascism didn’t work as successfully in France because the French — after a thousand years of becoming French — don’t act the same way.
America presents an entirely different set of circumstances especially since the majority of Americans are NOT part of the same tribe, or even the same culture. Our culture is still very much in its formative stages in large part because something like America — where all these cultures come together, some blending, others not — has never happened before in human history. E Pluribus Unum never happened before. And E Pluribus Unum is what’s now woke and waking up more and more.
Our news media doesn’t see it because they still don’t see us. They’re corporate, most of them, don’t forget. They step on set having been educated in a corporate way of thinking (“both sides do it”) and relying on playing the corporate game to keep the money flowing. They’re invested in the “common wisdom” without even knowing it. And, so, they report what (maybe) was as if it was what “is”.
Cynicism cannot tolerate perspective just like perspective cannot tolerate cynicism. Americans cannot tolerate Republicanism the way our bodies cannot tolerate the coronavirus. Like that deadly virus, Republicanism’s goal is to invade a citizen’s soul like a virus invades their cells, turning them into it. The cure is simple: vaccination. Up here in the political sphere, that manifests as information. Perspective. Why would anyone vote for Republicans when voting for them produces nothing good (not even for them)?
They wouldn’t. A news media with perspective would report it that way.
The lack of literal accuracy aside (a third v a third v a third), that is how authoritarianism ultimately works. A minority of the population declares war on another minority of the population and uses the rest of the population to achieve that goal. In a place like Germany, that was easy to accomplish since the authoritarian minority — Hitler and his acolytes — were going after a genuine minority (and an isolated minority at that) — the Jews. The rest of Germany had zero investment or interest in protecting Jews from the authoritarian minority since, in the eyes of those Germans, the Jews were outsiders anyway. Screw em! Hitler’s brown shirts also were aided in their rise by the general nature of the German character. That “character” was forged over the course of a thousand or so years by the various Germanic tribes — the same ones that brought down Rome — slowly melting together (with a few localized idiosyncrasies) into the nationality we recognize as “German”. The same thing happened across the border in France. Since the end of WWII, Italy has had 66 governments (that’s one every 1.14 years); that’s because Italy is still less a country than a contrived federation of city-states — the same city-states they’ve been for 1500 years; only fascism could hold the federation together). Back in Germany, that thousand years of fusing together produced a “German tribe” with certain distinct and distinctive attributes — like a willingness to go along with the group because it’s the group.
America hasn’t been around anywhere near long enough for that complex process to happen — for a coming together of disparate local tribes to form a true national character. Never mind judging America for what it was or is — that’s like judging a little kid’s future based on what that little kid (precocious as it is) has accomplished so far. It’s premature actually. My suspicion is America is still the diamond before the pressure of the surrounding rocks turns a bunch of carbon into valuable crystals. We’re still a great idea poorly executed. What else can one call “All men are created equal” when “all men” only includes white, Christian, land-owning MEN. Oh, right — we call it “originalism”.
The crisis we’re in flows directly from white panic and rage. Having built the entire southern economy on the back of slave labor, the whites getting rich off that economy were not going to surrender their claim to power just because Lee surrendered their army at Appomattox. The Confederate Army may have shuffled off into history, Confederate ardor, as we know, did not. And Confederate ardor is pure, unadulterated racism. This has always been the wellspring from which undemocratic and anti-democratic ideas flowed — the desire to keep America white (like it “used to be”).
The Right Wing’s money — the Kochs, the Mercers and the rest of their ilk — turns up its nose at such overt racism. They’d never sport a Confederate flag. But they sure do love the Confederacy’s ideals. And the Confederacy’s whiteness. Our founders were racists who sacrificed their higher ideals because they thought one could negotiate with racists and racism. You can’t. Racism automatically won because racism NEVER compromises — especially when it’s riding a cash cow. As the Reagan era — that “shining, racist g city on a hill” — ended with a whimper, the right wing money saw demographic doom ahead. The GOP had finally evolved from the Party Of Lincoln into the exclusively white, Southern-Strategy-Dixiecrat Party. That party, per the recent census, is shrinking. That is, it’s membership pool is shrinking.
What’s a white’s only political party to do in a country that’s diversifying as rapidly as America was and is? If you’re white guys, you do what white guys have historically done back in the white homeland, Europe: you turn fascist. You circle the white wagons around your whiteness and you count on everyone else’s whiteness to pull most of the white population together defensively. It always works.
But, the white guys in America have a problem the white guys in Europe never had: a majority population who ISN’T them. That doesn’t have their collective history. That has zero interest in white guys behaving like bullies, monsters and fascists. In other words, the very “third” the authoritarian Republican third is counting on to do their dirty work simply doesn’t exist in America. Instead of a a sea of compliant white people dully staring back at them, America’s authoritarians see diversity. They see the thing that really and truly makes America EXCEPTIONAL. The thing that never happened in any country in the world before in human history: a gathering of tribes to form a single nation: E Pluribus Unum.
Out of many, one.
E Pluribus Unum was the ingredient missing from all previous authoritarian power grabs. It made the power grab not only possible but likely to succeed. Add that ingredient to the GOP’s power grab and their likelihood of success plunges because there’ll be no minority to stand by silently while the GOP bullies all those other minorities. And all those minorities the Republicans are counting on quietly bullying into submission? They’ve banded together — into a majority! Because that is how democracy works.
If the Republicans do somehow bludgeon their way back into power, they’ll have a massive insurrection of their own to fend off — a democratic insurrection dedicated to wiping out their authoritarian (wet) dream state. And the authoritarians, armed to the teeth, can’t take a whole lot of comfort in being armed to the teeth. This is America. Everyone is armed to the teeth right along with them. And the Right Wing better not count on having America’s professional soldier class in their corner.
These are terrifying times — no argument. But we can project ahead based both on history and how it is on the ground right here in reality. It’s already too late for white male hegemony to succeed long term in America. It was too late at the country’s founding. The majority’s wokeness cannot be un-woked. Every other group now grasps what the radical whites are up to and we will never, ever go along with it.
As I said, America’s diversity is its exceptionalism. It’s also our saving grace, too.
Winston Churchill put it this way: “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” It’s damned hard to pull off. Mind you, Churchill spoke those words about democracy sucking immediately after he LOST AN ELECTION. That’s the hard part about democracy — the peaceful transfer of power when opposing politics replace each other. The instinct to refuse and hold onto power runs deep — far deeper than the learned ability to hand power to people we hate because, this time, THEY won the election. That’s the constant challenge to political power — to hear the Will Of The People and to understand it as such. In a democratic republic like ours, political power is supposed to serve our needs, the needs of We The People. We’ve designed a system that, while it bows to the will of the majority, still it protects the minority. That’s what bit Churchill in the ass. The majority will rule. But, on the other hand, while Churchill lost an election, the majority didn’t get to kill him just because he lost. Democracies don’t work that way.
The whole reason we’re experiencing this crisis in America is because white people refuse to share power with others. The right wing money saw a generation ago that a diversifying America would spell the end of white hegemony. The more political power and money flowed into non-white hands, the sooner those non-white hands would expect power and money — not for themselves but as part of the commonweal. What scared the crap out of rich, white, Christian America was the idea that Black, brown, Asian, female, LGBTQ Americans would step onto a level playing field each day. White America has always believed — wrongly — that life is a zero sum game. If some non-white person is getting something, that’s because something therefore is being taken away from a white person. Those thinking this false premise can’t imagine a rising tide floating all boats because they’re so deep into every man (like them) being entirely for themselves.
Republicans launched an all out assault on our right to vote because, they know, that’s where our power lies and where THE power lies. In the vote. If the Republican money thought they could have done this any differently — if they could have taken shortcuts — they absolutely would have. It’s democracy that’s caused them to take the long road to their authoritarian dream state. Consider how incredibly short-sighted the Republicans and conservatives are being (not exactly a rare occurrence). What do Republicans think they’ll ultimately accomplish AFTER they’ve fully broken our democracy?
Have they considered that this will finish off what’s left of the middle class? If Republicans could finish up this wet dream of theirs and actually accomplish a state of permanent minority rule, here are a few things that would happen: America would break apart. The dynamic parts of the country (the blue states) have zero desire to hobbled (as they have been all along) by red states who couldn’t invent a fart if their lives depended on it. Take away our representation and feelings of “no taxation without representation” will erupt. You know damned well that permanent minority rule will benefit the rich guys to the detriment of everyone else.
Our allies were all thrilled to have Joe Biden in the White House. For starters, he’s not a traitor. Every single country but ours is hip to the fact that a Russian intelligence asset has been sitting in the Oval Office, doing Russia’s bidding. As the DoJ prosecutes more and more of the January 6 insurrectionists, they’ll penetrate the veil separating the foot soldiers from the inside planners. Never mind what happened on January 6, what happened on January third, fourth and fifth? That’s when the planning happened. That’s when the planning meetings took place at Trump’s hotel near the White House and INSIDE the White House. Planning, you say? Inside the White House… Hmmmmm… wouldn’t that make this whole thing a conspiracy — and an inside job at that?
Our allies rely on our constancy. It’s hard to make alliances with a schizophrenic whose dominant personality right now denies the existence of any other personalities. The whole world now knows better. And the whole world can see the Republican Party doing everything it can to make America a one-party state: theirs.
The rest of the world relies on a dynamic, democratic America. The America that would result from the GOP and Trump getting their way is not an America anyone in the world wants to see except Putin, China, Kim Jong-On and Rudy Giuliani. They do not want to witness the Republican Party stabbing the rest of America in the back. They do not want the America that the Republican Party would shove down America’s throat.
Finally, let’s remember WHO is behind this assault on America’s right to vote — a hostile foreign government that has openly declared cyber war against us. Cyber war IS war. Anyone thinking you need bombs or bullets to win wars anymore is going to lose every war they ever engage in going forward. If Russia were to shut down our power grid today, we’d sue for peace tomorrow if not sooner. Russia especially sees our right to vote as a threat.
Americans, understand, are not themselves asking “should our democracy continue?” For the majority of us, it isn’t a question. It’s only a question to those who can’t make democracy work for them. Perhaps if the GOP emerged from their rabbit hole they’d have better luck winning elections on the strength of their ideas. Or not. Regardless of whether they’re in or out of any particular rabbit hole, their ideas just plain suck.
Our right to vote is a lot of things all at one time. We need to celebrate that fact — and bake it deep into the architecture. More important, we need to protect it way better than we have. And we need to see clearly that what the Republicans are doing to our democracy now isn’t political in nature, it’s criminal (for a political purpose). Their assault on our voting rights isn’t them expressing a political opinion about how America should be. It’s a mugging. An act of rape. Murder in the first degree.
Is our right to vote a matter of national security? You’re damned right it is!
If only our news media could aggregate the story they’re reporting. If only our news media did its due diligence the way Fusion GPS did when they were hired (by Trump-fearing Republicans) to do oppo research on Donald Trump. If only Republicans hadn’t gutted campaign finance laws and made dark money the root of our politics — making it easy for Russia to put money wherever it wanted to. If only so many Republicans — including Mitch McConnell — hadn’t been filling their campaigns’ pockets with Russian cash (as if Russian cash didn’t have huge strings attached to it). If only conservatives weren’t so hell bent on conserving America circa 1850. If only Democrats acted like Republicans and behaved ruthlessly when in power (but then, if Democrats did that, they’d already BE Republicans, so never mind). The most frustrating thing about the mess that we’re in is how preventable it was! At so many points in the story, a rush of patriotism would have stopped what Trump and the GOP were/are doing dead in its tracks. Even a quick hit of journalistic integrity would have done the trick.
But, hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?
At the very center of our story are TWO THINGS: 1) Vladimir Putin’s desire to see a “Greater Russia” returned to its “glory days” (plus a desire to be even richer than he already is) and 2) the Republican Party’s appreciation for the demographic peril it faced and its deeply cynical, anti-democratic response.
Putin’s not some “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” as Winston Churchill described Russia. He’s a highly trained, highly skilled intelligence officer (who was smart enough to navigate and end up running the intelligence service which he used to leverage Boris Yeltsin OUT of the presidency and him INTO it). He’s corrupt to his bone marrow — if only because he has to be just to survive. Putin’s less a “head of state” than a crime boss with a government at his disposal. Aside from petroleum, Russia has ZERO to offer the world’s markets. And, in the pantheon of corruption, nothing corrupts quite like oil. Putin himself has two problems: 1) he needs to destabilize Western democracies because they pose a threat to his dream of a Greater Russia. Putin wants places like the Ukraine to be part of Greater Russia, not NATO. Problem 2) Putin can’t bank his enormous stash o’ cash in Russia because, as he knows, Russian banks are corrupt; that means he MUST “bank” his cash in the West where, if the West took its head out of its ass, it would realize Putin is incredibly vulnerable.
Evil doesn’t pay for itself. Someone has to cash flow it. Literally. Or the people perpetrating the evil will find something better to do with their time. That’s the thing, ya see — most evil is incredibly banal. At least, it starts that way.
Check out the “murderer’s row” of banality that is the current Republican Party (that’s BEEN the GOP for a generation at least). Kevin McCarthy? Matt Gaetz? Jim Jordan? Devin Nunes? Ron DeSantis? Marjorie Taylor Greene? These mediocrities all think white supremacy’s a “thing”.
But, more importantly, check out the Right Wing money and what IT has been up to. The Koch Brothers (back when there were two of them; now it’s only Charles carrying the libertarian flame) and the Mercers understood what was coming. They’re very smart people,. Deeply conservative, too. The thing they wanted most of all to CONSERVE was America how it WAS — back when nobody questioned the idea that white people should run everything (and be the only ones voting). Charles Koch saw demographic extinction in the GOP’s future. America as a white majority country is over with. Take away judicial interference a la Bush v Gore or outright theft (Donald Trump) and the Republicans can’t win the White House ever again. The House of Representatives is too mercurial to control but gerrymandering can greatly undermine the majority’s pro-Democratic will. That left the Senate and the judiciary.
The Senate’s structure mimics the Electoral College’s big nod to racism. Why exactly are there TWO Dakotas while Washington, DC and Puerto Rico can’t get statehood? Is it because there were sooooooo many Dakotans? Let’s be real. The reason there are as many western states as there is is to limit the influence urban areas have over our politics. The west was always deeply conservative. But things change; look at California. This is where Ronald Reagan started his rise. That could not happen today. Hell,, Reagan couldn’t even get elected by Republicans today never mind Democrats.
Literally EVERYTHING the Republican Party has done since that moment has been either in service of treason or an attempt to cover up that treason. Once you lap over into treason, everything you do — except confess — is in furtherance of your treason. And everyone who even SUSPECTS that you’re a traitor is obligated by law to DO something about it other than “fret”. Thoughts and prayers don’t count either. Telling someone. THAT is a citizen’s OBLIGATION.
What the Republican Party has done is truly monstrous. It’s unfathomably awful. It borders on the unthinkable. It’s not hard to grasp why most American journalists haven’t yet grasped the full, unfathomable monstrosity that it is. And yet, there it is! Having had their perspective sucked from them by “both sides do it” journalism, most journalists relentlessly insisted that other than a few details, Republicans and Democrats were exactly alike, both parties doing everything for entirely political reasons. That has NEVER been true. Modern Democrats (we now represent the values the Republican Party claimed when it launched in 1854) are the diverse, hard-to-organize crowd Will Rogers said “wasn’t an ‘organized’ political party” . That’s what diversity does — it’s harder to organize but produces far more exciting, resourceful and just-plain-BETTER problem-solving for our collective problems.
E Pluribus Unum is what makes America great. Conservatism, greed, corruption and racism don’t.
Diversity and progressivism do not threaten America’s future. Treason, on the other hand…
Republicans having to bend democracy to its will is not a new thing. They’ve been doing it ever since it dawned on them that a rapidly diversifying America had already ended their cultural hegemony. You don’t suppress your own voters, right? You suppress the other guy’s — because they won’t vote for you. Political parties gerrymander Congressional districts in order to pick their voters before voters have a chance to pick them. If Republicans thought they could win elections based on the strength of their ideas, they’d happily win that way. But they can’t. So, they do everything they can to circumvent the majority. Until that majority actually does something to stop them, they’ll persist — like the pathogen they are inside our body politic.
If Republicans were pushing America toward some ideological goal, it would be one thing. In the old days, they used to pretend that that’s what they were doing. Travel writer Stuart Stevens has been involved in Republican politics since the early 1990’s. Growing up in Mississippi in the 1960’s, Stevens saw the Democrats as “Good ol’ boy segregationists” which is exactly what the Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats were. That’s why he joined the GOP. But, Nixon’s “southern strategy” incorporated the racist Dixiecrats into the GOP. He finished the swap historian Heather Cox Richardson describes in her excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”. The names “Democrat” and “Republican” are almost meaningless in an historical sense. If you were to read the “Party of Lincoln’s” foundational documents, you’d swear you were reading something the modern Democratic Party put forward.
Understanding that bit of history helps explain modern Republicans and modern Republicanism. As Stevens himself puts it in his book “It Was All A Lie”, Ever since Reagan, Republicans have been deliberately and knowingly pedaling a lie to America — about themselves but also about us. About America. Republicans recognized post Reaganism that their hold on American culture was doomed. The demographics said so. Not just the demographics of who was coming to America, but the demographics of who had been in America for a long time already — and was suddenly realizing the power of their vote. The dirty, dirty secret Stevens gives up: Republicans knew the culture war was lost before they declared it on the rest of America. The whole point of the exercise was to seize power in whatever way they could — and then old onto it for dear life.
Republicans regard the rest of us cynically but their survival instincts aren’t wrong. If they could just tweak those instincts away from unilateralism and toward power-sharing, they might yet survive. Ah, but Republicans are all schoolyard bullies by nature. And there is the fact that they’ve committed treason in order to attain power and retain power. They’ve thrown their lot in with treason; there’ll be no coming back from that. That, absolutely, is one thing both sides don’t do.
The first wrong idea we have to let go of is that Republicans get away with everything. Yes, in the past, they mostly have. But then there was Watergate and Iran-Contra — two episodes where Republican corruption became so overwhelming we finally did something to corral it. So, we DO have it in us to put our foot down and say “Enough!” The second wrong idea we need to disabuse ourselves of is that we can pick and choose what parts of the rule of law to follow. That’s exactly how one breaks the rule of law. For the rule of law to work correctly, it must be applied evenly to everyone or people begin to think the rule of law doesn’t apply to them. That brings us to the third wrong idea — that whatever the rule of law is, it doesn’t apply to us. It absolutely does.
If we started thinking of our situation from the rule of law’s point of view, we’d dismiss the idea of Republicans getting away with any thing completely out of hand. The Universe cannot work that way because the rule of law can’t. That’s how WE The People need to think of the Universe and the rule of law. The rule of law is our arbitrator. And our arbitrator demands satisfaction when anyone stops playing by the rules.
For four years, the Department of Justice was corrupted by a racist, international crime syndicate and its enablers. Republicans are already ruing the fact that Merrick Garland now heads the Department of Justice instead of occupying a SCOTUS seat. Garland’s steadfastness as a level-headed prosecutor has already condemned them. Garland has said out loud that he intends to investigate all the corruption of the past four years because THAT is what the American People demand of their “top cop”. Once Garland’s DoJ begins pulling Republican corruption threads, it won’t take long for the entire Republican Corruption Sweater to fall apart in a massive, stinking, corrupt heap.
The fact is, Donald Trump will NOT get away with this. We have to stop thinking it might not happen. Rather, We The People need to think it can’t NOT happen. That way, were it not to, we’d come at it from the proper place: it should have happened & we still want it to. Were Trump to get away with what he’s done to us, we need to be willing to shut America down until that situation gets rectified. In a sense, we’ll have zero choice. Were Trump to get away with what he’s done, it would mean the American experiment is indeed over. Democracy has lost while treason and corruption have triumphed.
The only way that becomes reality is if we let it.
As we watch our Democratic Republic slowly sink beneath the waves of corruption, let’s play a thought experiment. What if we could “give” Republicans & conservatives the country they want America to be? What if we could arrange so that if you want to live in Trump’s America, you go live in the south. Want to be a Confederacy again? Go ahead.
We’ll even give the Republicans & Conservatives a “satellite” territory — Wyoming and Idaho. We’ll throw in the remotest parts of Nevada too — so all the multiple-marriage-loving Mormons in the FLDS church can feel at home in this their new country. The Trumpian States Of America.
One caveat though — the whole thing must be walled off. I bet they’d insist, too, because the last thing they’d want is all that nasty diversity outside the wall (that set them off to begin with) infiltrating their lovely White Christian Male Kingdom.
Meanwhile, outside the wall, the Real America will go on. We’ll continue to innovate and research and problem solve using every tool available to us — including the wide knowledge base that comes from so much diversity. Diversity, after all, is what makes America exceptional. Nowhere before in the world’s history had one country become a blending palette for all the world’s cultures. It took a thousand years for the various tribes scattered around France to become French. Same goes for all the tribes scattered around Britain to become British or the German tribes to become German et cetera et cetera.
If European pathogens hadn’t wiped out most of the Native American population before Europeans arrived en masse (they found an empty continent mostly because their germs — having preceded them via the first explorers — had already wiped out literally millions of people), our story might be very different. But diseases did kill the native populations so efficiently that more or less seizing their land became easy.
That newly vacated territory filled with a new-fangled thing called “Americans”.
The Trumpian States Of America will be a very, very, VERY white place. It will celebrate whiteness and being white and staying white forever. It will point to its pure whiteness as proof of its superiority — regardless of the fact that, white as it is, it’s failing horribly in every possible way. Most people of color will flee because who wants to live in a place where you are clearly a second class citizen at best.
Every white person with a double digit IQ will be right behind them.
The white people who stay — who proudly call themselves citizens of this place — won’t be America’s best or brightest. They won’t be our most talented or our best problem solvers. They’ll be sheep — doing what they’re Amertold to do — spouting the shit they’e told to spout. For a while, things will seem normal. The trains won’t run on time because white people don’t need trains. They all have trucks. But the trucks will get to drive wherever the hell they want. Same difference in a Trumpian’s mind.
But then things will start to break down. Mechanical things at first. Good thing lots of good mechanical minds stayed behind in Trump’s America. So the status quo can be maintained — for a while. But Trump’s America won’t play well with others. They’ll pitch obnoxious trade deals that make them a pariah. Because America doesn’t manufacture much anymore, the Trumpian States Of America will have to rely on the rest of America — or foreign countries like China — to get equipment. Being as the Trumpian States of America have little to offer anyone, they’ll be in the typical Trumpian negotiating position — a horrible one.
In time, people outside the wall will simply give up on dealing with the Trumpians. It’s not like they ever pay their bills anyway, right?
Mechanical breakdown is eventually in Trump’s America. I give the electrical grid 5 years max. That’s assuming no one hacks into it and shuts it down before it breaks down. It’s a fact — the Trumpian States Of America will end up living in the dark the exact same way most of North Korea does.
Funny irony? It’ll be Kim Jong-On building North Korean hotel-spas on the shores of Trump’s America rather than the other way around.
Trump’s followers may be dim-witted but they still need their creature comforts. Remember — they’re a jealous lot. They live by their grievances. When the quality of their lives dips below standards even trailer trash demand — they will take to the streets with pitchforks and torches.
Unable to solve its own problems, unable to do anything other than slowly sink into the cess pit they created for themselves, the leadership of Trumplandia will appeal to the rest of us: Help! Give us money! Fix us fast!
Of course, being Trumpanistas, they’ll blame US for THEIR problems.
That’s why we’ll tell them to go screw themselves. Them AND their country. I hope all those Trumpanistas understand. Screw em if they don’t.
Some of the most durable memories from my youth are attached to news events. One of my very first memories was the sadness in the house after JFK was assassinated. I remember watching his funeral cortege move through DC — and John-John’s salute — play on the black & white TV in our living room.
Another enduring memory is watching the Vietnam War play out every night on the TV in our kitchen during dinner.
And then there was the Moon Landing.
In July 1969, I was 10 — spending another summer at sleepaway camp in Maine (I went to an amazing place called Camp Skylemar in Naples, Maine which still exists). The landing took place in the middle of the night but Lee and Herb (the two men who owned Skylemar) set up TVs on the stage in the Rec Hall and set out the chairs as they did for shows and rallies.
My dad was a surgeon — and a plane spotter. We spent hours sitting at the ends of runways watching the planes come and go. The idea of a rocket launch was organically exciting to me. And America was enthralled with the Space Program. Each accomplishment made us genuinely proud to be Americans. We used to feel very proud! The Moon Landing didn’t open my eyes as my eyes were already open. Everyone’s eyes were open — which is why the rec hall was packed in the middle of the night despite the fact that we’d all spent another day playing sports and having a blast.
It was surreal and yet incredibly real. I remember being transfixed — wishing the TV screen were bigger. Wishing the images were clearer, the voices less garbled by the distance they’d traveled. But there were Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — literally walking on the moon and talking about it in semi-real time.
We knew at the time that by witnessing history, we were, in a very small way, becoming part of it. Does human history actually “happen” after all if there are no humans around to witness it?
Back then, the news cycle kept “bankers’ hours”. It respected the sanctity of the weekend and dinner time. In fact, it relied on the sanctity of dinner time — because they knew they were part of it.
In retrospect, the strongest memories I have from the Moon Landing are less the images and more the way the Landing made me feel. How the Moon Landing still makes me feel. Growing up in an anti-Vietnam War house, I wasn’t a homer. My dad served in the Air Force but our values were Progressive. It is possible, you understand, to hold two conflicting points of view. It wasn’t unnatural to despise, say, Richard Nixon & his war policies (most every one of his policies) and yet feel proud of what Americans could accomplish.
It is absolutely possible to be proud of what this country has been (in brilliant flashes) in the past while feeling mortified by what it has become (especially since it’s a reflection of what it always was). Maybe it’s 50 years and some wishful thinking… I felt pride that night both as an American and as a human being. Look what we could do — we.
That’s the big takeaway all these years later — the things that teamwork could produce. The things that teamwork CAN produce. That’s teamwork spelled “DIVERSITY”.
There are times — at the beginnings of wars usually — when one side knows a state of war exists while the other side doesn’t. Pearl Harbor comes to mind.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the residents of Hawaii — Pearl Harbor in particular — slept soundly in their beds, unaware that they were moments away from being bombed, strafed, shot at and in every way attacked. Japan was at war with them. Japan knew it — they, unfortunately for them, did not.
That’s pretty much how the Left has been reacting to the Culture War the republican party declared not just on the Democratic Party but on the majority of Americans, too. We’ve been almost oblivious to it. We’ve heard the war-like chatter in the background but we’ve never taken it seriously. We damned well better — because the war Newt Gingrich talked his side into launching years ago has finally established significant beachheads in American Culture.
Michelle Cottle nails it: “In his zeal to cripple Democrats, Gingrich poisoned the public against the entire American political system. ”
In Newt’s own words: “You have to confront, delay, and undermine and impose failure in order to move the public.”
Newt made it his absolute goal to impose FAILURE on his perceived enemy — everyone who wasn’t HIM. That included the CULTURE in which the rest of us live.
Right Wing Culture is a lot like what Astrophysicist Neil deGrsse Tyson calls the ‘Diminishing God of the Gaps’ — the place you go to when you reach the end of what you ‘know’. Right Wing culture — once thought to be a significant part of American Culture is now understood to be a fringe element at best (and shrinking rapidly). Right Wing Culture is that thing everyone with a sense of humor laughs at.
It is a fact of life that Right Wing Culture has no sense of humor. Oh, it can laugh all right — at other people. Especially if they’re suffering some sort of misfortune. Then they turn hilarious. Right Wing Culture is sanctimonious. It believes it understands the divine; it believes the divine has chosen it to be its representative here on earth. Right Wing Culture is seriously delusional.
Right Wing Culture honestly believes that IT is American Exceptionalism — that its very whiteness and maleness and Christian-ness is exceptional. It’s wrong of course. America’s DIVERSITY is what makes it EXCEPTIONAL. That kind of broad diversity never happened before in one country. It produced remarkable — no, EXCEPTIONAL — results.
White Christian Male culture is the exact opposite of exceptional. Aside from rage and grievance, it can’t point to a single thing it’s added to the conversation. Being weak and having few weapons at its disposal, White Christian Male Culture counts on drawing us near enough to sneak in a dirty low blow to neutralize us.
They’re going to be disappointed this time. A lot more of us are woke now. We’re paying attention.
And — as much as we can — we’re doing the thing that cuts Trumpists & Religionistas & RW Culture Warriors deepest: We’re laughing at them.
Imagine us sweeping into a dressing room for a fitting. How shall we ‘dress’ going forward (through the door of the next election — there, that’s the whole metaphor)?
Turns out we have the whole world’s attention as we twirl in the mirror. They all see us how they see us — like friends and rivals, each with a history and an attitude toward us. Can’t do much about that right now. History is history.
But, as we twirl, we catch our own reflection. And what we see staring back… It confounds us. We know what we are in our heads. Why doesn’t our body look like it?
Welcome to Gerrymandering.
Quick example (drawn from Lawrence Wright’s wonderful piece in the New Yorker from a few months back about the effects of gerrymandering on Texas). Austin, Texas has a largely progressive voter population. And yet — of the SEVEN voting districts into which Austin has been carved, as of the time Wright was writing, only ONE was represented by a Democrat. The rest of Austin’s six — predominantly progressive — districts were represented by conservatives (and in several districts, ARCH conservatives).
The (intended) result — A MAJORITY Progressive voting population is represented as a MINORITY Conservative population — the Will of the People has been completely CIRCUMVENTED. The intended result isn’t just an electoral win for the MINORITY candidate but the creation of a Juggernaut of electoral invincibility that will keep the conservative white, Christian minority in power over a progressive, diverse majority. In heavily gerrymandered districts all over the country, Democrats must, in essence, generate at least twice the voter turnout just to achieve ‘parity’ that overcomes the distorting effect of the gerrymandering.
Because that’s what gerrymandering does (aside from circumvent the will of the people) — it creates a distortion — exactly like dysmorphia — to take root in our brains. The News Media — glomming onto the numbers (like it was our weight expressed down to the atom) — doesn’t see or acknowledge the context that gerrymandering presents, that the numbers, without that context, tell, in fact, a very false narrative about a district that doesn’t exist.
If you’ve ever experienced body dysmorphia — or know someone who has — a dysmorphic’s body image does not match reality. They desperately need a meal but their dysmorphic mind says ‘Go on a diet’. The diet could kill them.
That is us — America. A progressive-by-nature country (that’s what diversity does — it’s why diversity COMES in the first place because progressive places welcome while regressive places turn away) being run by arch conservative people NOT because the progressive population ‘wants’ to be governed that way but because the arch conservative people figured out how to HOLD ONTO POWER despite the fact that they were no longer the majority entitled to hold onto power.
And they did that through GERRYMANDERING.
When America looks in the mirror, it sees THIS —
It sees diversity. It sees every color in the rainbow and every variation on the theme of being human. It sees America staring back at it.
When Conservative America look in that same mirror, this apparently is what it sees staring back —
THEY look like that, yes. They do. And they’re proud of it. But it’s not what WE look like. It’s not what America looks like.
When we start to get healthy again — soon, I hope — we’ll see it.