The Relentless Demand For “Bi-Partisanship” Comes From The Same Cynical Place As “Both Sides Do It”

When we get to a safe enough place in this horror story we’re living through — where we don’t have to sweat it every day whether or not American democracy itself will survive — we owe it to ourselves to take a good, long, very hard look at American journalism and the multiple ways it both hastened and abetted the rise and rule of Donald Trump. Trump himself has always made it part of his mantra that everybody does what he does — he just admits it and profits from it. Except, of course, as with all things Trump, it’s flat out untrue. Trump’s peculiar genius — such as it is — is his ability to liberate so many other peoples’ worst instincts. Trump does what he does and (so far) gets away with it. When the GOP finally stopped resisting Trump — having been compromised by Trump and Russia — they settled comfortably into the same expectation: that whatever truly awful thing they did (treason, say), just by refusing to acknowledge any sort of truth whatsoever, they’d get away with having done the truly awful thing. In this case, treason.

We need to know where “both sides do it” came from. What right wing think tank farted out that bit of rubbish then set about promulgating it? How insulting and wrong can four otherwise innocuous words be? “Both sides do it” asserts right off the bat that both sides are the same since whatever “it” is, both sides DO it and they do it the exact same amount representing the exact same amount of people. Is it charity? Are both sides equally charitable? Or is it corruption? Are both sides equally corrupt? Not by a long shot, they’re not. That’s because each side (in America’s binary system) comes from an entirely different place. One side will always favor profits over people (which makes them more corruptible) while the other will always favor people over profits. One will always ache to live in the past — where their group dominated all the others and they held virtually every last bit of real political power. The other — filled with those the first group dominated against their will — approaches governing itself from a completely different place.

They approach governing to begin with. They see governing as an essential function in a free society — a dirty job that someone has to do. But, when you have a vision of the future — an idealized version of how Life could be and should be — you’re far harder to corrupt. You’re pursuing a “dream” that requires a number of like-minded people for whom money will always come in a distant second to what actual human beings need. Every time we allow any industry to oversee itself, we get a fresh lesson in why greed kills. Take Boeing who, over time, exerted enough political muscle via years and years of lobbying and donating (mostly) to Republican political campaigns, that they were allowed to oversee the safety protocols of their 737-MAXX jets all by themselves. And lo-and-behold! Boeing cut safety corners. They broke the law repeatedly. They destroyed their own integrity; they did that — to themselves!

It’s ludicrous to say that a progressive and a conservative do things for the same reason. Yes, sure — both want to see their way become “our” way. That’s not the question — but “both sides do it” ends its insights into human behavior right there. Want to “win” the political argument? So does the other side which means “you’re just like them!” Oy!

That is where all similarities end. Oh, right — are Democrats 100% accurate and honest ALL the time? Hell, no! Thank goodness we got THAT out of the way! But, in the current environment (let’s worry about the past later) Democrats are being far, FAR more accurate and honest in what they’re saying (about pretty much everything) than virtually any Republican you care to talk about. Only two Republicans are taking part in the January 6 Commission. That’s awesome. And sad. That means pretty much every other Republican is willing to keep The Big Lie afloat. They were willing to let their constituents die — maskless and unvaccinated — until the public relations became too hard to maintain. Both sides do not do that. One side would not EVER do that.

Democrats could never march in lock step the way Republicans do. It’s just not in our nature. We see a bunch of brown-shirts marching in goose-step together and we run the other way — mostly because the brown shirts are hunting us. But also because we just don’t have that “brown shirt” gene in our makeup. Democrats are still every bit how Will Rogers described us when he said of himself “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” That’s because Democrats come from such different places. Our pasts are all different but, ironically, the future we aspire to is remarkably similar — one where our children can thrive and prosper along with their community and the nation and the world as a whole. E Pluribus Unum describes the Democratic Party.

It does NOT describe the Republican Party. Not anymore.

The GOP has become the Trump Party and the Trump Party is simply the Republican Party given its bucket list and allowed to go hog wild, being hogs. The biggest thing in that bucket is permanent minority rule. Democracy has always been a long term problem for Republicans — especially if America continued to invite new people to join the experiment. The more new people from new places there are in positions of power, the conservative thinking goes, the fewer white people there will be occupying those same positions. Hegemony doesn’t make itself happen, ya know.

Republicans, being conservatives, are entirely about CONSERVING what was. If they could magically stop the world from progressing, or blockade the future, they’d do it. After all, what does any conservative want to “conserve” if not the past? To conservative thinking, the present is the past’s final line of defensive. Surrender to the future and the past becomes a museum piece. Conservatives know — once they’re beaten, they’re beaten for good. The past will never grow back like a crab’s claw. They, conservatives, will have to soldier on claw-less.

Only one side aspires to the brightest future possible for the most people. Only one side wants every eligible American to vote. Only one side wants every child to have guaranteed pre-k education — and a good public education all the way up through community college or a public university or a trade school. Only one side sees health CARE as a right for all rather than seeing health insurance as a privilege for the few.

By the same token, only one side has sided with Russia in their cyber war against us. Only one side has made it part of their brand to obstruct justice every which way they can. Only one side has made it their mission to restrict voting to only themselves.

When they adopted “both sides do it” as their mantra, America’s news media closed its eyes to perspective. Skepticism (which belongs in every journalist’s utility belt) demands that a journalist question everything until they’re satisfied with the answers given. Not satisfied? Keep asking. Skepticism is naturally neutral. It doesn’t assert that “both sides do it” because, a good skeptic should be skeptical of something so sweeping and broad. A skeptic assumes that everyone has their reasons for doing what they do; the trick is finding those reasons.

A cynic on the other hand isn’t searching for anything other than affirmation that their shallow view of things is valid (or valid enough for their liking). In a cynic’s view, proportionality is irrelevant. Bernie Madoff stole billions. Jean Valjean stole bread. A skeptic would point to their differences as to why this is a stupid comparison. A cynic (the Republican Party and most of our news media) would say “they’re both thieves so therefore ‘both sides do it’.” If you’re capable of thinking Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are thieving birds of a feather, you’re also capable of equating a Republican gerrymandering a Congressional district because he can’t win any other way with a Democrat running IN a gerrymandered district having to get three times the voter turnout to overcome the Republican’s entirely artificial advantage. Our news media regularly looks at these two very DIFFERENT things as “the same thing”.

It’s slowly dawning on our news media how completely the Republican Party’s been playing them. Why, even the dean of “both sides do it” brand journalism — Chuck Todd — has admitted that the Fourth Estate was regularly played by the Republican Party. Good on Chuck for doing the “Mea Culpa”. But it’s way, waaaaaaaaaay too late now. The harm’s been done; the democracy-hating horses are out of the barn and galloping toward the horizon.

I stopped watching Chuck eons ago but I bet Chuck still turns from a segment about how Republicans are behaving like pirates to one where he’s asking “why won’t Democrats negotiate with Republicans?” (meaning “why won’t the Democrats give Republicans every single thing they want?”) That, to Chuck — to our news media in general — is what “bi-partisan” means: giving the Republican pirates whatever they want.

That, ultimately, is what Republicans want our democracy to do for them: give them whatever they want. Enrich them. Enrich their friends. And keep them in power forever.

Progressives and democrats want no such thing. Never have and never will.

Only a cynical journalist would dare suggest otherwise.

Why Change Is Anathema To Conservatives

I take conservatives at their word. They call themselves “conservatives” because their mission can best be summed up with that word: conservatives want to CONSERVE. Nothing is more important to a conservative than “what is” except for “what was“. What “was” really is the target — the past is what any conservative wants to conserve or as much of the past that still remains in the present. If they could suspend time and capture this moment in amber — and then force the rest of the world to live inside that frozen amber — that would make them supremely happy. White supremely happy. That’s the part of our human past conservatives point to with pride — when the descendants of white Northern Europeans ran America with zero interference from Black or brown people and also women. The Confederacy remains a high water mark in white culture TO white culture. In fact, I bet that if there was some way to put a “Bring Back Slavery” referendum on the ballot in some crazy Republican-run state, some Republican would do it, knowing that every other Republican now thought he was a god.

By its very nature, conservatism resists change at all costs. Whatever change it agrees to, it agrees to gradually and unwillingly. Conservatives know that change doesn’t just happen. It begins, often, with curiosity in the face of a problem: “Why are things the way they are (broken) — and what can we do to fix them or make them work better?” Conservatism will organically assert that the old way still works (“If it ain’t broke, don’t ‘fix’ it”) when, in fact, the old way NEVER worked for a significant portion of the population — the part that wasn’t rich, white and Christian. What conservatives mean is “If it ain’t broke for US, we have zero intention of letting YOU ‘fix it’.” All change, conservatives understand, begins with “new information”. Add “new information” to any environment and the environment instantly changes. Immediately, the old environment is gone — transformed into something, well, “new” because of that new information.

That terror has always been behind the conservative refusal to ever go along with sex education for kids. Right off the bat, the conservative assumption was that a young person armed with information about sex and their own sexuality would do the obvious: use it to start having informed sex. Or, worse, a young person armed with good information about human sexuality might go to the worst possible extreme. They’ll come out of the closet or confess to masturbating or, worst of all, find a modicum of happiness and contentment within their own skins. That’s the hold moral authority (usually in the form of a religious institution) has over many of us: they get to tell US what happiness is rather than each of us seeking the happiness that best suits us.

The last thing conservativism wants from those under its thumb is any sort of independent thinking. That’s ironic considering how married conservatives are to their notion that THEY are the “independent thinkers”. But, independent thinking and conservatism are mutually exclusive propositions. The commercial interests that started the American experiment — before the French Enlightenment had a chance to temper some of that exploitative thinking into at least the notion that “All men are created equal” — were conservative in their thinking. They didn’t see this continent as a place where everyone might be free, they saw it as a place where THEY might be free — at everyone else’s expense. Good thing the rest of the world grasped the magnificence of America’s founding concepts — the Black people the white people enslaved especially. Even better that they tolerated white people expropriating this magnificent idea for themselves as long as they did without surrendering. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

What’s changing — what’s making conservatives rise up in full grievance kabuki makeup — is that at long last America is beginning to realize the greatness of its ideals. That will not require a single white person losing what they have. In fact, it will make what they have even better. As more people — across the full spectrum of e pluiribus unum — benefit and prosper, the more fully EVERYONE will. Oh, the richest of the rich might not make quite as much as they used to — but then again, they might — because there will be exponentially more customers out there with money in their pockets.

When I think of what it is conservatives want to conserve, I almost feel sorry for them. They’re a sad, old spider protecting a wretched, old web, unaware that the future will eat them regardless. They might go kicking and screaming into that good night, but they’re going.

That’s the weirdest part: it doesn’t have to be. But change is so impossible for conservatives to accept that they’ll even blow a massive hole in their own foot to try and resist it. Then, still unsatisfied, they’ll turn that same weapon on themselves.

At The End Of The Day, It’s ALL About TREASON

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.

Though the GOP hated Trump and wanted anyone but him to be their candidate — they even KNEW that Russia owned him before they nominated him — when the moment of truth came, they went through with nominating Trump instead of calling the FBI on him. “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump, swear to God!” said current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy as he entered a room of GOP leaders back in 2016. No one seemed especially startled by McCarthy’s pronouncement. No one balked. No one called the FBI. Instead, the entire GOP leadership agreed with then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan. The subject of Donald Trump’s vulnerability to compromise by a hostile foreign government was not going to leave that room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Speaker Ryan.

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…

The GOP Is A Party Of Bullies

Bullies: A ‘Class’ Photo

Bullies and bullying are a universal evil.  If bullying ended at the schoolyard gate, that would be bad enough but, as we all know, bullying doesn’t stop there.  The whole schoolyard follows us through life — with bullies getting to be bullies forever like Hook-ified versions of Peter Pan.  Donald Trump is the worst kind of schoolyard bully.  He’s the kind who never gets his well manicured, teeny-tiny hands dirty.  He gets other people to get THEIR hands dirty on Donald’s behalf.    That’s why, even though they despised Trump as he tore through their primary in 2016, the Republicans, deep down, not only admired Trump, they aspired to be him.  Not just a bully, an uber-bully.  And, let’s not forget, when the Republicans made Trump their nominee in 2016, they did it KNOWING that Trump was owned outright by ANOTHER mega-bully, Vladimir PutinCurrent GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said so out loud a month before the nominating convention to a roomful of the Republican leadership.

Let’s stay in that room a few moments longer.  A person the whole room TRUSTS has just entered and announced that he suspects their presidential nominee is OWNED by the head of state of a hostile foreign government.  That really happened.  Yet no one IN that room seemed surprised — or overly bothered by its sheer illegality.  Or — worse yet — by the implications of nominating a person to the presidency who could be EVEN REMOTELY compromised by, of all countries, RUSSIA!  Let’s assume (for argument’s sake) that everyone in the room understood just HOW illegal this would be.  We’re talking treason.  Stone cold treason.  And yet, STILL, no one in the room objected to the direction they were all heading: toward nominating a foreign intelligence asset to be president.  What could possibly cause people to go there?  This isn’t just some cold political calculation, this is crawling into bed and snuggling up with a country we’ve been at war with (one way or another) for 100 years — ever since the Communists took control and turned Old Russia into the Soviet Union.

People who like authoritarians also like bullies.  They have no use for democracy because democracy is entirely unpredictable while authoritarianism isn’t.  They prefer leadership that tells rather than asks its constituency what’s going to happen.  They prefer it that politicians pick their electorate rather than the other — proper — way around.  Conservatism, by its nature, fosters bullying.  Most of us exist in a world that, while aspiring to equality and equity and all those good things, fails considerably.  We maintain those aspirations however; we demand them now.  We won’t rest until the playing field is certifiably level.  Conservatism on the other hand relies on the playing field remaining exactly as it is.  THAT is what conservatism wants to conserve — the status quo — and the status quo favors white people over everyone else.

Bullies then are the status quo’s “enforcers”.  While the rest of us recoil whenever we hear bullying, bullies hear a clarion call to bully more.  If people are complaining about being bullied, that can only mean a bully is succeeding somewhere at his objective.  By the same token, you really can’t bully people into progress.  It’s too vague a target.  Its goal is too antithetical to bullying; if you had to bully to get there, you can’t get there!

It’s like “cheating to win”.  If you cheat to win, then by the rules, you did not “win”.  How can one “win” without following the rules?  This is an argument America needs to have with itself if it wants to remain a democratic republic.  Either the rule of law is or it isn’t.  We’ve experimented with following it half-way and we very nearly went under.  We’re still in treacherous waters.  Cheating cannot be just another “campaign tactic” that campaigns run when their ideas aren’t selling.  The moment anyone steps outside the rules in order to win, both they and their “win” (if they succeeded in cheating) must be voided.  The cheater’s win is wiped off the books, the cheater gets prosecuted and everyone who helped the cheater cheat gets punished as well and — like the cheater — banned from ever participating in an American election ever again (except as a voter so long as they’re not actively doing time).  

But, our news media — always happy to oblige bullshit and give it maximum credence — insists that cheating to win IS just “another way to ‘win’ election” in America. 

This simply cannot be.  It’s a lie no country can live and survive — like saying “All men are created equal” out of one side of your mouth while bidding on slaves out the other side.  Holding two contrary thoughts in your head is one thing.  Having a country that tries to live them is, we keep learning, a recipe for disaster.  It leads to Civil War.  It leads to a country that STILL nurtures white supremacy even as it demonstrates the remarkable advantages and benefits of e pluribus unum.  America’s exceptionalism — and it really does exist — is its diversity.  Nowhere before among humans had a country formed (countries being relatively novel things) that, rather than being made up of one extensive national tribe was made up of ALL the various national tribes, all trying to make a go of it TOGETHER, not in their home countries but there — IN AMERICA. E pluribus unum — out of many, ONE.

In order to succeed as part of the many, one must be open-minded to who the “many” are and what each group’s particular habits are.  This is not an exact science.  There is no “book” on how to do it, we ARE the book.  We’re writing it in real time.  Because that’s how reality works. 

Bullies don’t care for reality.  Outside the schoolyard, justice lurks.  The really talented bullies bring the schoolyard with them wherever they go.  By sucking others into their schoolyard, they expand their schoolyard and thus their environment for bullying.  To his credit, Trump has a remarkable ability to expand his schoolyard.  Also to his credit, being a lesser bully, he recognizes that Vlad Putin is a class of bully he will never be.  Ah, but a bully like Trump can dream, can’t he?

Trump didn’t just admire every dictator on the planet, he wanted to be them.  As we’re now learning, toward the end of his presidency, Trump really and truly wanted to declare martial law.  He wanted to use the military (which, oh, the irony, the Republicans have now turned on) to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.  The ultimate act of bullying in a democratic society — the complete denial of the society’s right to govern itself.  THEY will govern.  They and their pals.

Bullies are especially good at screaming about being bullied when justice finally gets ahold of them. 

This is something the bullied need to learn about bullies.  They rely on our fairness.  They count on our sympathy.  Their goal is to NEVER take responsibility for what they’ve done — another kind of bullying.  In the same way, rapists behave like rapists in everything they do.  Inside their heads, they feel entitled to be anywhere they want — including inside your most personal space.  Rapists are just bullies with their dicks in their hands.  If they had any capacity to empathize, they would not be bullies to begin with.  We cannot appeal to their humanity as they have none.  What we can “appeal to” however is their wallet.  Heartless and soulless as every racist is, their wallet pumps with vital “life blood” — money.  Threaten even the hardiest racist’s wallet and he, too, will melt into a puddle of pure white Jello. 

At that meeting a month before the GOP nominated Trump in 2016, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan corralled the room quickly.  Whatever unease some might have felt at the prospect of a hostile foreign government having a viable hold on a future POTUS, they agreed with Ryan’s admonition for them all to keep this secret — that none of them questioned — a secret among them.  “That’s how we  know we’re family,” said SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE Paul Ryan.

Know what kind of “families” talk like that?  Know what those families are “famous for”?  Hint-hint: it starts with the letter “B”.

 

Dear America: Can We PLEASE Stop Coddling Corruption?

I will never forget that feeling of dread that kicked in the instant that Donald Trump was declared the winner of election 2016. It wasn’t just losing an election. This felt different from just losing an election. It felt different, in fact, from Antonin Scalia stepping outside all precedent to MAKE George W. Bush president. That, if we’re honest with ourselves, was incredibly corrupt. Scalia inserted himself between We The People and our choice — the majority’s choice — in order to send America in the direction HE wanted us to go instead of the one WE wanted to go in. That is the essence of corruption. Corruption authored “Bush v Gore”. We paid the price. We’re still paying it and will continue to pay it into the future because that’s what happens when corruption “wins”. But, the fact is,, corruption doesn’t have to win. At any and every point along corruption’s route, we can stop it.

In a sense, America opened shop already corrupt. Well, the white, Christian men who founded America aspired to a great idea that “All men are created equal” but could not overcome their own misguided, misinformed tribal prejudices. They corrupted this grand idea by making it exclusive. By “All men”, they meant them. Just them. And yet — at the same time, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (the slave-owning outlier here) were insisting that “E Pluribus Unum” become our national motto. Out of many, one.

The “many” are hard to corrupt. The “one”, on the other hand…

All corruption begins with the getting of money. Modern humans lived for two hundred thousand years as hunter-gatherers, accumulating nothing. There wasn’t much to be greedy over. The agricultural revolution bound us to the land. Its output had value both to the community and the individual growing what the community needed. Supply and demand were invented. The natural hierarchies that evolved over the course of our hunter-gatherer years became monetized — literally. Work evolved from being a strictly communal enterprise (hunting, gathering, child-rearing) into being “an enterprise”. Who “owned” the land that was being farmed? Who “owned” that farmed output? After a while, bartering couldn’t keep up — especially as the scale increased. As cities grew (grew more populated), so too did the need for another form of equity that people could trade in place of straight good-for-goods swaps. Enter money.

Money itself has never been “the root of all evil”. It’s THE WORSHIP of money. The compulsion to acquire wealth beyond all real need. Greed is a mania. The greedy become convinced that money will protect them from all of Life’s hardships and challenges. To a degree, the greedy are right. Having money gives one options that NOT having money doesn’t. I say this from experience, having been both comfortable and bankrupt.

My family probably wouldn’t have gone through a bankruptcy following the 2008 financial meltdown if we’d been forced to sell our house instead refinancing it to the point where keeping it was beyond our reach. Each of those refi’s was based on a lie — that we could afford to pay the escalating mortgage. But, corruption starts with a lie. Our financial system was lying (because it was corrupt) and rather than look at my situation honestly (which is what I should have done), I bought into the “hope” that “somehow”, I would turn my situation around and make everything whole. I wasn’t being greedy so much as being stupid. I knew damned well I was lying on those forms. I was going along with the corruption because (I thought — wrongly) that it was benefiting me. In the end, it did not. My participation in this corruption did far more long term harm to me personally (and to my family) than any sort of short term good.

But, that’s if I’m being honest with myself.

The first step toward releasing corruption’s hold on us collectively is to acknowledge its hold on us personally. No one has to run to the FBI to confess anything. We just have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we grant that corruption has touched us personally, it gets easier to see it touching other people — and how those other people either are being victimized by corruption or are becoming victimizers. The eaters versus the eaten. Some people take to corruption naturally like ducks to water or Republicans to bullshit. At corruptions heart is the rubbish notion that any person gets rich because of something they alone have done. The same idea wants us to believe that some families have magical, “royal” blood that makes them and their spawn better. They even get it into their heads that money and power flows to them from the divine.

If that never happened — if a sky deity never actually anointed said family then their assertion that such a thing happened is a lie. Anything that furthers that lie is corrupt. In time, we bake all that corruption of the truth into our cultural architecture. The point is, it’s not shocking that we coddle corruption. We grow up with so much corruption already normalized that it’s a wonder we still know what the truth is.

When Mitch McConnell gets up on his Treason Turtle hind legs — as he did yesterday — to burble about how he “doesn’t believe” all the Republican attempts to restrict voting are racist, he’s lying through his turtle beak. He’s being corrupt. But then, EVERYTHING Mitch McConnell does is corrupt. Literally. The fact that Mitch keeps winning elections in a state where he’s less popular than cancer, suggests that Mitch and corruption know each other well. Yet, instead of sitting in prison, Mitch gets to stand in the way of America’s future. And, instead of marching to Mitch’s front door with torches alight and pitchforks raised, we shrug. “What can we do?” we sigh. “The people of Kentucky elected him.”

But, did they? What if that’s never been the case and the solution to the Mitch McConnell problem has always been a “simple matter” of calling Mitch out for the corrupt criminal he is?

It would help, of course, if our news media would stop coddling people whose corruption they’ve already reported. To treat Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy as honest actors is, in itself, dishonest. But then, our news media — having reported on Trumpian corruption for four plus years STILL refuses to see Trump himself as corrupt as if Trump was an anomaly of honesty surrounded by corruption. They scratch their heads relentlessly as they wonder what binds the GOP to Trump despite the fact that he lost them the White House, the House and the Senate. They blame the base and fear of being primaried — as if was all about the horse race and not the horses doing the racing. It never occurs to our NEWS media to blame the corruption.

The Republican Party, seeing electoral extinction in their near future, hitched their wagon not only to Trump but to Russia. They KNEW before they nominated Trump how completely Vlad Putin owned him. They even talked about it out loud. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said Kevin McCarthy upon entering a room of GOP leaders A MONTH BEFORE NOMINATING TRUMP in 2016, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” In response, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan made everyone present promise to keep what Kevin McCarthy thought a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” he reminded them.

He might as well have added, “That’s how we know we’re all corrupt”.

Everyone in that room accepted the corruption. It’s incumbent on us however to just say “no”.

The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.

A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.

Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.

Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!

This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.

If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.

That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.

And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.

Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.

How To Beat Tribalism? Be Even MORE “Tribal”

Humans are tribal by nature; it’s a survival instinct. Since reproduction is one of our key “primal directives”, our genome has built into it behaviors that give our personal DNA every chance to create a next version of “us”. After our own precious ass, our family’s ass comes next in the pecking order. Then our extended family. Or, for some people, their friend circle. The block they live on. Their neighborhood. The school district they live in. The PTAs at their kids’ schools. The social issues that matter to them. Their city. The football or basketball or soccer or baseball team they love — and every other fan of that team. If you think about it, we form tribes with anything and everything we can — because we’re social creatures and this is what social creatures do.

White supremacists are no more tribal than anyone else. They just seem that way because they put all their emphasis on being in a limited number of tribes rather than as many as possible. “Jews will not replace us” — the rallying cry and tribal grievance of the Charlottesville Fascists Club — represents a particularly odd bit of tribalism. The whole “replacement culture” thing is bizarre because it assumes that those with the grievance are “replaceable” to begin with. Replaceable how exactly? In their jobs? In their marriages? In their lives? Being replaceable by “others” to whom you are supposedly “superior” is a strange way to think of yourself and your tribe. If your tribe excelled at something then that fact would make your tribe irreplaceable. Why don’t these “white supremacists” excel at anything other than having grievances? Why do THEY think THEY are replaceable?

In a competitive job market — in a competitive, capitalistic system — one MUST compete in order to stay in the game. Every group arriving here (aside from white people) have accepted that fact and worked their asses off to achieve some degree of success (and they’ve had to do that in the face of relentless white resistance). In that sense, EVERYONE is “replaceable” if they don’t continue to contribute to the group’s effort or hold up their end of the social bargain. Ah, but that’s where white privilege asserts itself. White people have gotten it into their heads that, since white men got together and wrote the Constitution – and framed it entirely to their advantage (as the “men” who were created equal”) – that this is set in concrete. That’s the whole point of “originalism” — to falsely assert that the flawed thinking of a group of (French) enlightened racists and misogynists is America’s bottom line. The country can only be exactly how the framers framed it.

Bullshit. The men who imagined this democratic republic made it changeable. They understood that this bold idea would need plenty of room around it to expand. They seemed to grasp, on some level, the incompleteness of their ideation — that “all men” was a bigger tribe than just white men. Congress approved of “E pluribus unum” as America’s motto (they put it on our Great Seal) in 1782. Out of many, one.

Out of many tribes, ONE TRIBE.

White supremacists can’t abide that. They think their TRIBE is replaceable. That, right there, is the problem.

I’m not sure there is a solution to white supremacy. Centuries of thinking one way about themselves versus everyone else has convinced white Europeans that their whiteness makes them superior. No, white people, it does not. White people are a minority of people on earth. If not for the greater lethality of the pathogens that evolved inside white Europeans over a thousand or so years (versus the pathogens evolving inside other human groups scattered across the globe), perhaps even their guns and steel would have faltered when they went exploring. A big piece of white people even thinking they’re “superior” comes from the relative ease with which white Europeans seized the Americas. The European colonizers told themselves their Christian faith — their god Yahweh — made them superior. Again, NO! Smallpox, measles and influenza — introduced into the Americas by European explorers — wiped out 90% OF NATIVE AMERICANS. If not for fleas — which carried the bubonic plague from China to Europe, bubonic plague might not have wiped out half of Europe in the fourteenth century. If not for Europeans and THEIR bugs, Europeans would have faced far more resistance when they landed on these shores.

How do we defeat tribalism? We don’t deny it; we can’t. It’s just too hard-wired into us. Why do you think there are soccer riots? Instead, we go at it, full bore. We make everyone “hyper-tribal” but not in that they see their exclusivity as a tribe. Rather, like two people who love the same song, they forget all their other potential differences and begin with that thing they have in common. Building from there (something as simple as a song), I bet those two people will surprise themselves with all their commonalities. Yes — there are differences. But, now there’s context for the differences.

Those two people might come to blows all the same; they just don’t like each other. But once you start talking together about how and why a song touches you, you will unlock pieces of your soul (such as it is) to that other person.

It’s a lot harder to feel tribally defensive toward someone whose soul you understand.

As Big Business Is Learning — When Your “Customer Base” Is The American Voter, YOU Are The Marketplace’s Bitch

It’s a brave new world for Delta Airlines. And Coca Cola. And Home Depot. And anyone doing business with the state of Georgia while Georgia is being run by democracy-hating traitors. Their problem: the marketplace is the ultimate democracy where people vote with the dollars in their pockets. Popular goods and services get more “votes” than unpopular ones (just like in high school). Even good ideas can die, unloved, if they can’t find (or maintain) their marketplace. Ask Sony about its Betamax video recorder which was technically superior to JVC’s VHS format yet ultimately lost out to in the marketplace. In the marketplace of ideas, JVC won big while Sony lost even bigger. The marketplace made Sony its bitch.

The assumption is, in a crony capitalist system like ours, the money always wins and We The People are only ever its pawn at best. While that is the goal of crony capitalism — to turn the whole country into a kind of glorified “company town” (itself a kind of glorified feudalism) — ironically, the “capitalism” part of the equation is what exposes crony capitalism’s Achilles heel. The whole point of capitalism is to make money dynamic because money didn’t always used to be dynamic like it is today. We take for granted that one can use money to make money but prior to capitialism’s invention, money sat in the same places with the same families forever and ever. Those families — Europe’s royal houses — did not think to “do” anything with their money. Money was land or livestock — or literal gold or silver — with no way to “bank” it. The only way to “grow” money was through direct lending — and lending money was considered unChristian. That’s why Jews got to do it (and be hated for it). Capitalism expanded the “acceptable ways” to both borrow money and profit from borrowing it.

Capitalism also made ideas valuable in a bankable sense. Thomas Edison’s inventions made him rich because he was able to patent them — an idea that recognized the inherent monetary value of good ideas. American democracy — as a salable idea — also has done very, very well. Despite four long years of Trumpism, people still flock to America — or want to because regardless of whatever squalor or hopelessness they live, their one shot out of that lies somewhere within America’s borders (regardless of who’s president). The core concept of America. “All men being equal” was compromised by what the founders meant by “All men”. That was always a terrible mistake, a product of European, male chauvinism.

Fortunately, time and history have begun to save America from itself. The E Pluribus Unum “Good Angel” of our nature has begun to assert itself over the “America Is The White Homeland” bad angel. That bad angel never knew what he was talking about. He still thinks he’s “American Exceptionalism” — well, the money in his pocket that’s always been there. Some of the founders understood that what would ultimately make America exceptional was the fact of its already burgeoning diversity. Nowhere before in the world had a nation formed itself with the promise of self-government. That idea coupled with the willingness of those arriving to work hard as hell to achieve their dreams made America exceptional by filling it with exceptional people from all over the world. That is American Exceptionalism.

For too, too long, all those exceptional people have been muzzled by the white, Christian males who somehow got it into their heads that they were the drivers of the American experiment. Yeah, it’s money that does the talking all right, but it’s not the big money that makes things happen. It’s the little money in every American’s pocket times the number of Americans there are. In American households, how one “votes” that money has been controlled by the household’s women for a while now. The proof? Remember Bill O’Reilly?

O’Reilly used to be Fox News’ cash cow. O’Reilly even survived some serious sexual intimidation allegations to stay at Fox (“Remember the loofah!”). But, at some point, O’Reilly’s sexist behavior achieved a kind of critical mass. The companies that advertised on his show were the canary in that coal mine. The advertisers informed Fox News that their clients — Coca Cola, Ford, Delta Airlines, etc — would no longer advertise on O’Reilly’s show because their customers — Coca Cola, Ford, Delta Airlines, etc — already recognized how much their customers hated O’Reilly and would soon enough stop buying products associated with him out of sheer disgust. Co-branding with Bill O’Reilly became toxic. The house of cards came down in a heartbeat — the 21st Century Fox Board informed O’Reilly he was now an ex-employee.

Big Business has always known who the “boss” is. That’s why they advertise, right? In the “who needs who more?” competition, in time, we can learn to love a competing brand. They can love “other customers” all they like. If those customers don’t buy, so what? Do boycotts work? Hell, yes. So does the threat of a boycott. That’s why the CEO’s of Coca Cola and Delta changed their tune so quickly. While both Coke and Delta have plenty of competition, they both have their market share — the customer base they think of as “theirs”. Take the brand loyalty out of a Coke drinker and you have a Pepsi drinker. Or a Royal Crown fan.

Is Coca Cola: The “Official Soft Drink” of Democracy or of Sedition?

As anyone who’s ever achieved success can tell you — yeah, getting to the mountain top is a job-and-a-half. But, it’s nothing compared to the relentless, quotidian grind of maintaining that success. Big Business craves monopoly because having a monopoly means you don’t have to spend much on marketing or product improvement while maximizing profits. They’d all love to turn America into a giant, feudal “company town”. Good thing some other Americans have a better idea.

Coke and Delta quickly changed their public stance regarding the Republican Party’s blatant attempt to make election theft legal. They felt Bill O’Reilly’s fetid breath on the back of their neck and they didn’t like it one bit.

We The People have considerable power in our hands but only if we use it. Unused power is power that doesn’t exist. It’s the ultimate “put up or shut up”. America’s right wing was so terrified of losing power that they were willing to co-conspire with Russia in order to keep that power. They had long ago given up on keeping power through the strength of their ideas. Aside from them, no one else wants to live in America circa 1850. The majority of Americans keep voting America toward progressivism while its political structures (the Electoral College and the Senate) keep America rooted in the past.

As more voters step from the sidelines and into the electoral game, America (once thought of as “center-right”) becomes increasingly center-left. We’re not actually “becoming” center-left, we’re being REVEALED as center-left. Not the same thing. The big difference between the left and the right has to do with emphasis. Are you “profits over people” or “people over profits”? Conservatives, for the most part, are profit-driven while progressives are people-driven. At the end of the day however, it’s people who drive profits. Take away the people, there’d be no profits.

As we all know, every time we walk into a crowded room (remember those), a game of “Who’s The Bitch” is up and running. Someone in that room is the room’s “bitch” — the one person there who literally everyone else looks down on. We all search that room, hoping like hell we don’t find ourselves staring back as the bitch. But, the painful truth is, it could be us.

Coke and Delta and Home Depot and all those other companies have finally realized that in the current environment, they’re not driving this bus. They’ve made the same old moves — talking “freedom” and “democracy” while paying for politicians bent on destroying them — only to discover too late that those moves don’t fool anyone anymore. Actions, not words, are the receipts. And We The People demand receipts!

Don’t have any receipts? You know how THAT game goes, Big Business, when you don’t have your damned receipt

“E Pluribus Unum” Is What America Was Always Meant To Be — “From Many, One”

“Out of many, one”. That’s what “E pluribus unum” means. It was approved as America’s motto in 1782 as part of the act that created Americia’s Great Seal. “E pluribus unum” and “Novus ordo securum” (new order of the ages) were afixed to it. Together, “out of many, one” and “new order of the ages” was meant to speak toward our ideals.

The problem is we were oppressing some of the “many” we were counting as the “one”. Slavery still haunts America. Maybe the peaceful protests filling America’s streets every day now represents America’s conscience finally (FINALLY!) waking the hell up. We ended the commercial institution of slavery. We never ended the racism that permitted it to even be a consideration as part of a free, democratic country where “All Men Are Created Equal”.

Perhaps the idea this nation’s founders imagined was too big for them to fully grasp. They Euro-centered it in their heads. They didn’t even mean all men when they wrote “all men”. They meant all white men. Some wanted only all property-owning white men. And they certainly didn’t mean any women.

Yeah — great idea, guys — good thing you made the Constitution upgradeable and capable of evolving. Good thing you didn’t put, at the end, “And there will be no changes made to this document, we intended that the law will be how we wrote it in our world with our knowledge base and our technology”. That would have meant we’d still be stuck living in the 18th century.

Originalism is to sound legal reasoning what snot is to caviar. What horse shit is to Truth.

It epitomizes conservative “thinking”. It wants to freeze a moment in time and force us to live in it — because that’s when conservative white power was fully in charge.

Some little boys never learn how to share.

White conservatives would have us all believe that “American Exceptionalism” is rich white guys and their money. E Pluribus Unum says otherwise.

Right now, America doesn’t look terribly exceptional. I take that back. Before America suddenly got woke — at the tragic expense of George Floyd and far too many black Americans to be even remotely acceptable. The protest marches are filled with everything that makes America exceptional. They are American Exceptionalism on the hoof.

Black Lives Matter is a pure expression of American Exceptionalism.

Those protest marches are E Pluribus Unum.

WE Alone Can Fix It

The Big Lie that helped bring us the Age Of Trump flows from that wellspring of bullshit — Libertarianism. “I alone can fix it” is laughably absurd.

But, as much as some of us roared the first time Donald Trump spewed those words, some in the crowd — their ears perked up. They, too, think they alone can fix it, having convinced themselves that Ayn Rand was a genius who saw the rugged individual inside of them that ached to be a Master of His Own Fate.

Ayn Rand died in poverty on the public dole. So much for rugged individualism and “I alone can fix it”. Those are literary conceits — and, in the hands of Ayn Rand, horribly written literary conceits on top of it. I bet she even sucked as a typist.

As we all know about Trump, he couldn’t even “fix” his own election alone. Russia did that for him.

If the Democrats really want to draw a clear distinction between their message and the GOP’s (not that there’s any similarity between the two), they could focus in on the nonsensical Republican belief that “I alone can fix it”. What pretty much every single Democrat is already touting, the Democratic message is “WE alone can fix it”.

If I were running for office — that’s how I’d explain what needs to happen. For starters, we need to stop seeing a president as a fix-all. Great leaders — not fixing anything alone — know how to get the best from everyone around them. Great leaders don’t pilfer from the people supporting them (claiming credit for their ideas), they embrace the ideas — not just giving credit but demonstrating how the more ideas we get from more places, the better and more inclusive our problem-solving will be.

This is a rare moment in modern American history. For all the pride Americans take in the benefits of citizenship, too few accept the responsibilities that also come with being an American especially the responsibility to vote. Suddenly Americans want to vote. Suddenly Americans feel the tug of responsibility.

If the trend lines started in 2018 continue, the American electorate is pretty much woke. We’re paying attention as never before.

Americans, being Americans (with a very short attention span), this won’t last. We’re racing toward a resolution of Trumpism. Too many people who know the Truth are stepping forward now. 2020 will absolutely be a referendum on Trumpism — and it will be turned out utterly and completely. But, in the moments just before Americans revert back to deep-seated apathy, we can change how they think about being an American.

I would tell my fellow Americans that their being “woke” is essential to our health as a republic. Before they revert though, they need to pay attention for a little while longer. How we resolve Trumpism — how we go forward — how we think of “us” — how we think of The Rule Of Law — how we think of the taxes we pay and what we expect that money to do FOR US (not in spite of us) — all of these things need to be on the table.

Especially the last thing — how we pay for fixing us.

Americans view paying taxes the way they view death. A terrible, terrible inevitability. We believe our tax dollars buy us nothing except an army and a lot of useless bureaucrats.

I would attack that idea first. I would remind every American that we are the greatest experiment ever in human SELF-GOVERNMENT. We do this. WE.

If every tax-paying American were given a statement that showed where every penny of their tax dollars went — including things useless and things useful — they might not be happy (not at first), but they’d start to feel a little more in control. At least they’d understand their relationship to the government in practical, day-to-day terms they could actually relate to.

It’s a thought anyway.

America’s motto is not “I alone can fix it”. It’s E Pluribus Unum. From many, one.

That’s our strength. It’s our saving grace, too.