How The Hell Did America Normalize Treason?

So, last night, I attended a fundraiser for Representative Adam Schiff at a friend’s home. Representative Schiff was awesome. He’s great in a room, as we know, and he did not disappoint last night. His message — geared toward fundraising for the 2022 election campaign — was hopeful but realistic. These are extraordinary times — and not in a good way. It will require extraordinary effort to get through this, a thing Rep Schiff believes firmly we can and will do. After Schiff finished speaking, he took questions for about twenty minutes. That’s when I realized how bad things are. Adam Schiff is doing his job and doing it well all things considered. We The People — the other side of the equation at the fundraiser — are failing miserably.

There was considerable money at this fundraiser; the buy in at the top was thousands and thousands of dollars. Even the cheap seats weren’t cheap. Also there was brain power there. Cal Tech was physically nearby. A few Cal Tech-ers were in (outside actually) the house. The questions were all smart, detailed and thoughtful. Great! But none of the questions seemed to grasp the most fundamental question facing America right this second: the outright criminal behavior of the entire Republican Party as they openly attempt to not only subvert democracy but end it.

Think about this — the Republican Party as a whole is actively engaged in various activities (legislating, propagandizing, co-conspiring to obstruct justice) that are, on their face, illegal. Their attempts to curtail voting aren’t just some “opinion” they have about our system of government, it’s an active attempt to deny millions of Americans their RIGHT TO VOTE. That is a violation of their civil rights. In fact, because these laws can’t differentiate between who they’re disenfranchising, these regressive, racist laws therefore have the potential to deny EVERY voter their right to vote. Every one of these “you can vote this way but you can’t vote that way” laws is really demanding that non-white voters guess h ow many imaginary jelly beans are in the imaginary jar inside every Republican’s head. A poll tax is a poll tax is a poll tax.

Hell, normalizing racism is what this country does better than anyone. Our founders may have written “All men are created equal” but most of them did not believe that. Never mind. We’re all here to fix those mistakes. And they are mistakes that demand fixing. Our news media still haven’t figured out that the LAST person you should ever ask “Are you racist?” is a racist. Unless they’re really hard core, they’ll insist that not only aren’t they racist, they’re probably the least racist person they know. That’s exactly how racists think. It’s why the racist is the LAST person you should ever ask “Are you racist?” The only person who really knows that truth? The racist’s victim.

While our system insists that everyone gets their day in court before being convicted, not every crime gets that kind of daylight shined on it. That’s part of our problem — the prevalence of terrible behavior coming from one particular part of the political class. The Republicans have abandoned any and all pretense that they’re into continuing American democracy as it has always been. The GOP’s intent is clear. Unable to win elections on the strength of their ideas, instead they’ve resorted to gerrymandering, voter suppression and outright treason as a means to win and keep winning elections. The whole point of taking power from elected officials and giving it to private actors is to benefit a few individuals over the commonweal.

We have already accepted massive amounts of corruption into our hard costs. There’s a flaw in our thinking that opens that door. It’s the flaw I saw on display last night at the Adam Schiff fundraiser: tacit acceptance of the corrupt status quo. We The People have allowed Republicans to operate corruptly for so long that the Republicans think that corruption is their entitlement. They still think slavery was their entitlement and they’re still insanely angry that we ever freed the slaves. Or, far worse, let them vote.

I marvel at the remarkable grace Black Americans maintain despite how horribly America has always treated them. It’s like this community — in the face of its relentless oppression — saw the inherent rightness of the democratic ideal and committed to doing everything in its power to make it happen no matter how long it took and despite endless white resistance. Those who must constantly fight to keep their rights have a whole different view of their rights than, say, an aggrieved white guy who takes his rights for granted. Hell, white people think they have rights they don’t in fact have. But, when you’ve been the dominant culture forever, when you’ve always been favored, always gotten first dibs on anything of value, always benefitted regardless of what happened to anyone else, you’re apt to assume a kind of “I can do whatever the hell I want!” kind of ‘tude.

How did America normalize treason? That’s how. White guys did it to protect their hold on power. They allied with a hostile foreign power to do it, knowing that they were all now compromised. On June 15, 2016, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of GOP muckety-mucks. The meeting was recorded on audio tape and the tape was played — a year later — for a Washington Post reporter who printed a whole transcript of the conversation. As he enters, Kevin says out loud “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump! Swear to God!” Kevin added the “Swear to God” in the face of nervous laughter.

No one in the room suddenly regarded Kevin like he had three heads. No one asked whether Trump would really do such a terrible thing or if he’d already had done it. No one behaved as if an important member of their hierarchy had just told them that their likely nominee to be POTUS was a flat out traitor — compromised by a foreign government we KNEW wanted to undermine us. No one said “Holy shit, Kevin — let’s get the FBI on the phone! This sounds like it could be really, really bad!” Instead, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan (third in line to the presidency) put an end to the conversation, insisting that the subject would not be discussed outside that room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” is how Ryan put it. Literally.

Right there, that room normalized treason. To them, a POTUS guilty of treason was not a problem. That made them ALL guilty of treason. That makes everyone who’s heard this story (on the inside) and did nothing about it is aiding and abetting traitors. That’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. Want to know what the strange hold Trump has over the GOP? That’s it. That’s the hold — even bigger than the fear of being primaried out of a job by a Trumpanista. Getting primaried means losing your job. Being prosecuted for treason? That could get you hung. Literally as capital punishment is still one of the ways America handles those who betray it the way Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party has betrayed America.

For all four years of Trump’s presidency, the GOP obstructed any attempt to investigate Trump’s odd relationship with Russia. That wasn’t just to protect their hold on power (the move they’re making now). That was to deny America the stone cold truth that but for Russia Donald Trump would NEVER have been POTUS. And, but for the Republican Party, that secret would already be prosecuted.

White America’s refusal to share power with non-white Americans lies at the heart of this catastrophe. The hard right was money was so determined to hold onto power that they willingly and knowingly cast their lot in with Russia to get Trump over the finish line. And, once they’d gotten him there — knowing that Russia was instrumental in MAKING Trump POTUS — they refused to divulge that secret because of the consequences that would surely befall them. The Republican Party isn’t just the Trump Party, it’s the Treason Party.

White corruption has been deeply entrenched since the country’s founding. How else can one see the statement “All men are created equal” being made by a country that also legalizes slavery? Great idea, too bad the execution was so awful; hey — leave it to all the non-white people to get the concept right! That’s what needs to happen here. White men need to take a back seat for the time being. They need to let everyone else take over the helm for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say that everyone else will absolutely get governing a democracy right, but it isn’t possible to screw up this amazing experiment in human self-government any more than the white men have. Really and truly, no one could do worse. Anything else would be a verifiable improvement.

The GOP’s partner in crime remains the news media — at least those who drank the “both sides do it” kool aid. Both sides do not and have never conspired with foreign enemies to take over the government after an election as the Republican Party is now doing. We have to assume that everything comes with Russia’s stamp of approval. Let’s be real — even if the Republicans succeeded in turning America from a democracy into an autocracy, Vlad Putin will expect his due. From each and every one of them.

Like the traitors they are and always will be.

The GOP Is Soooooo Pro-Slavery, They’re Actively Trying To Bring It BACK!

Wanna talk the bitterest of irony? “The Party of Lincoln” isn’t just some “fellow traveler” with slavery. The Republicans are the Bond Villain convinced he can make it rain. The GOP makes no bones about how racist it is. The overwhelming whiteness of its membership isn’t a bug, it’s the whole point. The Right White money — think the Kochs & Mercers — have steered their party toward a visible horizon — permanent minority rule. Between gerrymandering and massive voter suppression tactics, Republicans have created a host of bizarre “looking glass worlds” like Michigan and Pennsylvania where the structure of government has been so perverted that Democrats have to vote in far larger numbers than Republicans (more than twice Republican turnout) just to level the playing field. Can anyone say “poll tax”? Seen as a whole (hell, seen even in parts!), the Republican Party is actively engaged in a project that — had they succeeded (they won’t now) — would have returned America to a country where slavery exists. This time though, it wouldn’t just be Black people in chains. What America did to Black people was a perverse dry run for what the GOP STILL has in mind — the enslavement of everyone not them IN America.

Being Jewish, I know what it’s like to be looked at as if I was a cockroach. What do I mean by that? The first step in legitimizing the idea of genocide in someone’s head is you stop seeing the people you want to genocide as “people”. I use the word “cockroach” because — except from people who study cockroaches — we all understand that visceral feeling produced at the mere idea of “cockroach”. That’s how racists feel about Black people — and brown people and “yellow” people (a color descriptor I honestly do not get) and Jewish people. They are one thing, all the rest of us are quite another. We can be useful. We can even be profitable. But we are always, always, ALWAYS expendable.

At its bottom line, slavery is stolen labor. Forcing people — against their will — to work for free — doing work they do not want to do: slavery. Here in America, cotton and sugar cane became cash crops. Problem: both were labor intensive to farm and harvest. If one had to pay all the laborers a fair wage, one might not make a whole lot of money growing those crops. BUT — if one could get all that expensive labor for FREE, well then — one COULD farm those crops and make a shitload of money. Of course, nothing’s entirely free — one still has to house, clothe and feed slaves. That’s cash out. So — business being just math — one needs to cost-benefit analyze what it costs to have a slave versus the money one can make from that slave. Judging by how slavery proliferated in America — and how vociferously slavers fought to KEEP slavery in America — slavery must have been one rock solid business model.

America justified slavery — to itself — because it was good for business. That’s a stone cold fact. Some Americans even held up their Bibles to back up how righteous it was, too. Slavery was good for business AND sanctified by God. Anyone NOT wanting slavery, was… well — cockroaches come to mind.

As historian Heather Cox Richardson has pointed out in her book “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”, with America, you have to be careful about political labeling. Something strange happened in America — but then, racism makes strange things happen. The Republican Party Abraham Lincoln felt kinship with and joined because it was anti-slavery — has switched places with the party it opposed: the Democrats. Forget labels! Back then, people calling themselves “Southern Democrats” were pro-slavery. When the country split apart to engage in civil war with itself, the Republicans were understood to be anti-slavery and the Democrats pro-slavery.

Woodrow Wilson — one of the most racist presidents we’ve ever had (though we consider him “New Jersey” because he was at Princeton, Wilson was born in Alabama) — was a Democrat. By contrast, one of Wilson’s predecessors — Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican — was progressive in myriad ways (he was an early environmentalist). By the time Warren Harding became POTUS, the Republican Party was no longer the set of ideals the party was founded on. Perversely, they were now officially the party they used to run against.

When Richard Nixon adopted his “southern strategy”, he was simply formalizing what everyone already knew: Republican success in the future needed to tie itself to racism. The longer Republicans could keep racism alive, the longer they could hold onto power. That’s the “southern strategy”. It all hinges on the lingering embers of Confederate sympathy — and we all know what the Confederacy’s founding principle was: SLAVERY. If you get weepy in any way, shape or form when you see a Confederate flag? It means you like slavery.

Now, “liking slavery” is one thing. Doing something about it — like fomenting an insurrection? That’s a whole lot of lines crossed where there’s no going back.

It’s not a coincidence that, historically, southern Democrats (modern Republicans) worked diligently to keep Black people from voting. Hey, remember that “3/5 of a man” idea — it’s because Southerners knew sorta-kinda how many Black slaves they held. If those people were counted as “citizens”, white southerners would soon be shit outta luck and in the minority! Doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, as they say — or a racist to see himself in the minority. The Civil Was was all about keeping slaves slaves.

The South may have lost the war but, damn if they didn’t win the peace that followed. The South literally rewrote the narrative. Look at every seceding state’s “Here’s why we’re seceding!” document. Not a single one mentions “states’ rights”. Not a one. But slavery? C’mon now — if you can read, you can see The Truth. The southern states rebelled and left the union over slavery. When the war ended, their desire for slavery did not. Southern sympathy killed Reconstruction dead. America might be a very different country today if Reconstruction had rolled out as intended. Instead, the sons of the Confederacy legitimized their lingering racism by changing the narrative completely. Suddenly, their treason wasn’t about slavery, it was about something fundamental to the American ideal: rights — states’ rights!

Suddenly, traitors like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were being celebrated by America — as heroes FFS! We got it into our heads that a murderous, rebellious battle cry — the “Rebel yell” — was fun, funny, profitable. Oy, America — OY!

The New South just announced itself in Georgia. The Democrats won there because Black people have returned. They will not be bamboozled or cheated out of their rights and their wealth this time. The South will be better for it. It already is.

Make no mistake — Republican racism won’t stop of its own accord. We will have to physically stop it. We will have to remain vigilant. These embers of hate can rekindle just like that. We need to see the Republicans clearly for what they are and what their mission is. When the Biden Administration and the Democrats put forward their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, they arrived at the number by putting pencil to paper and calculating what We The People would NEED. As Joe Biden himself has put it it — we shouldn’t be afraid of spending too much, we should be afraid of spending too little.

And yet — the 10 Republicans who approached Biden with their own proposal didn’t have that problem in mind. They pitched a package one-third as big. We KNOW why Team Biden pitched their number — math. Why did the Republicans pitch the number they pitched? Careful — if you get too close, you’ll find that number smells oddly like shit — because the Republicans pulled it from their asses. There WAS and IS no basis for the Republicans’ number. It’s just a number that’s less than what the Democrats want — and what the Democrats want is to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Americans.

What do the Republicans want? If we had anything like a “news media”, they’d be circling that question like sharks drawn to fresh blood. Surely the GOP has a particular reason for denying so many Americans help. Surely they have some “organizing principle” around which they’re drawing their wagons… They don’t actually. That’s the point. They don’t have a point!

The reason not to give people the relief they need is the same reason you want to keep the minimum wage at — say it together — “slave wages”. People too poor to adequately feed themselves should have just enough energy to work for their next paycheck. Whether they live or die — not relevant — because every one of those cogs is replaceable. Cogs or cockroaches — it’s all the same thing. The closer you can get those working for you to work for nothing — and that is how Republicans would love to have it — the closer you get back to literal slavery.

But, let’s be real — the dynamics of a “company town” are the dynamics of slavery. It’s feudalism. It’s a practice conservative business owners have pined for. Not-so-funny funny thing? The Black Death killed half of Europe. It also killed feudalism. Pandemics can change things on a fundamental level. Bubonic plague created a labor vacuum. Too few workers made work more valuable. Vassals, formerly obligated to till their masters’ fields now had a choice. They “could” do what their masters needed — but they could also tend the fields of the lord next door — because he was willing to pay a cash premium to make sure his crops didn’t rot in his fields before they could be harvested.

The plague empowered workers and economic change by disempowering the slavers. This pandemic’s empowering the perennial political underclass — but also by disempowering slavers.

This time, America could get it right. Because Black people are taking so much more of the political power (power long overdue them!) alongside women in general and other people of color, we have the will to finally level this playing field the way it should have been leveled at the start. Slavery cannot produce greatness of any kind because it automatically disrespects the labor required to produce work. Only by treating labor fairly — paying it what it deserves to be paid — can we achieve the freedom we talk about. Freedom after all isn’t just everyone getting to do whatever the hell they want.

That’s a silly, ten year old’s idea of freedom — “You’re not the boss of me” — you know, “Libertarianism”. Freedom comes with awesome responsibilities. It’s a package deal, sorry. Don’t want the responsibilities? Don’t take the benefits. Part of being free is making sure EVERYONE has the same level of freedom. That requires everyone having the same opportunity. That requires everyone gets the same access to a good education, the same good, comprehensive health CARE (not insurance, care), the same treatment under the law. That takes work and vigilance.

The Republican Party now freely admits: they have no interest in democracy. Not enough people want to vote for their “ideas” (such as they are) to make democracy practical for them. Now, cheating, on the other hand — that’s just necessity now. America simply does not want the Republicans’ vision for America — or for them. Who wants to be a slave?