As plenty of Americans learned anew during their Christmas celebrations, arguing with Republicans, conservatives, authoritarians or Trumpists is guaranteed to be one hundred percent fruitless and unsatisfying. It’s a rock solid guarantee that nothing productive will come from any such conversation. While the progressive wing of the family throws down receipt after receipt to back up their claims, the conservatives won’t because they don’t have anything except their feelings. Even if they were inclined to argue facts, Republicans still can’t because most of the facts argue against them. For Republicans, feelings rule everything.
People with good arguments make good arguments. People with bad arguments try to disrupt the proceedings because what’s their choice? Part of that disruption involves taking over the argument and turning it away from anything productive. No Republican argument can win on its merits since, by design, it has none. What, for instance, is any Republican’s argument against getting vaccinated (other than a 6 year old boy’s idiotic take on freedom being “you’re not the boss of me”).
The Big Lie is a rabbit hole of epic proportions. Every time a Republican insists the Big Lie is true, our news media feels compelled to jump right into the rabbit hole alongside the Republican. But, even though the journalist will deny the lie even as they leap the fact that, once again they’ve had to leap into the rabbit hole to begin with means that The Big Lie has done its job. It means it still exists and still stands as one of two possible choices for “what happened”. Any acknowledgement of the rabbit hole in any way empowers it. That’s why the only good answer to “The Big Lie” is a guffawed “Oh, shut up!” And then you move on to real business.
Really – try it out! And trust me on this – the more derisive the guffaw, the sharper and meaner the “Oh, shut up!”, the more crestfallen your Republican pal will be. Their whole spiel relies on you jumping into the rabbit hole and waving your arms helplessly as you fall. They don’t have a counter move planned for when you don’t jump. Laughing sarcastically in their faces ends the game right there.
Another way to shut down any Republican talking point: “Back that up or it’s bullshit”. There’s no hemming or hawing about it. No niceties. Just a direct look from your eyes to theirs (if they’ll meet yours) and a terse “Back it up”. The only thing backing up will be them – as they prepare to flee. Backing things up is not how Republicans roll. And if a Republican can’t roll you, then they’re rolling – out of wherever you are.
Until and unless our news media stops chasing every Republican down every rabbit hole, our news media will be complicit in undermining American democracy. They’ll insist they’re neutral – just giving each side the chance to speak its truth. But not every argument is really about two versions of the truth. Some arguments are about the truth arguing with bullshit. Just because bullshit makes a case doesn’t mean that case is worth making. And, if the case is bullshit, it’s not worth anything. Giving credence to bullshit and lies puts them on equal par with the truth – and it devalues the truth in the process.
Before long, we can’t tell if we’re inside a Republican rabbit hole or not. It’s all the same – lies and the truth, real and nonsense. Once they have us there?
Ask me where I stand politically and I’ll tell you: I’m a Progressive. “Progress” perfectly describes what I want for my family, my community, my city, my state, my country and my whole world. I want them all to progress into the future the best way possible so that as many people as possible benefit, thrive and succeed. Yeah, I truly do believe that a rising tide will indeed float every single boat. That’s what I want. That’s what your average Progressive wants. Now, ask a conservative what they want and the world they’ll describe doesn’t look like the future. It looks exactly like the past. Or, more precisely, they’ll describe a world caught in amber where as much of the past as possible is frozen in place in the present. That is exactly what conservatives want to conserve: the past or whatever is left of it. If it was possible to literally halt progress and, instead, regress us collectively into the past, many (if not most) conservatives would absolutely do it.
What does a white supremacist want to conserve? What does a yahoo waving a Confederate flag want to conserve? What does Mitch McConnell want to conserve? What does Charles Koch or the Mercers want to conserve? What does Vladimir Putin want to conserve?
“Originalism” perfectly captures the entire conservative “ethic” in one, neat, bite-sized corruption McNugget. The concept is simple. America can only ever be what the white, Christian, land-and-slave-owning men who drew up its founding documents thought it could be at that time. Originalists (like Antonin Scalia) insist that we must accept that flawed version of “All men are created equal” where “All men” only referred to white men like them and only men. Fortunately the more progressive-minded founders reframed America’s founding principle in the Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. See how one way of thinking tugs us backward while the other propels us forward?
Why did our founders cut a deal with slavery? Because money. Take slavery’s stolen labor off the table and the Confederacy never rises. Maybe America never happens period. After all, slavery, to a degree, helped cash flow our Revolution. We’re still dealing with this Devil’s bargain. We compromised with evil except evil never actually compromises with us; all that happens is we become a little more evil. Or a lot more evil. The impulse to enslave is the same impulse to get anyone to work for nothing (or next-to-nothing). Good bosses recognize that good workers are worth more than bad workers because of what motivates them. Slaves don’t want to be there no matter how hard you whip them. But then, the whole point of a slave and slavery is pure, brute economics.
Want to know why conservatives hate the BBB? Because its core concept wants to empower virtually everyone. The whole point is to go as far as possible to actually level the American playing field so that, for once, everyone has the exact same shot at attaining the American Dream. That won’t just be good for them as individuals, it will be good for everyone. If it means rich people won’t be quite as rich, I can live with that. So can they.
The reason conservatives bristle at the thought of Critical Race Theory is because of that first word: “critical”. Conservatives and conservatism cannot stand up to criticism or critical thinking. They want to make slavery a museum display and nothing more as if the moment the Civil War stopped, all of slavery’s harm magically stopped. How ironic that such devoted Christians (conservatives cling to their Christianity almost as tightly as they cling to their guns) find contrition so objectionable. But then, conservatives don’t believe in a Jesus who preaches “Do unto others”, they believe in a church that commands “Do as I say — or else!”
Slavers, don’t forget, pointed to the Bible as a justification for slavery. But then, the Bible is just originalism’s founding document.
As the conservative feel good vibes of Reaganism waned, the conservative money saw catastrophe on the horizon. America was diversifying at such a rapid pace that “thinkers” like Newt Gingrich grasped how perilous white conservatism’s grip on long term power already was. When Gingrich declared his culture war on the Democrats, he was declaring that war on actual Americans — all those diverse, not-white-like-Newty Americans who would soon enough usurp political power forever. That scared Newt and every conservative like him. The thought of losing power (of even having to share it!) was unacceptable. It made them feel bad and those “bad feelings” are behind literally every move conservatives had made since.
Gerrymandering isn’t meant to represent the majority’s will, it’s meant to circumvent it — to give the minority undue power and influence over the majority. And, if it’s done right? Gerrymandering will make that minority rule permanent. Just in case, conservatives also rely heavily on voter and voting suppression. Donald Trump himself said it out loud: when more people vote, Republicans lose. The presence of Donald Trump caused the GOP to step up its game however. Or, more accurately, Trump’s presence kompromised the entire GOP into submission. Though the Republicans may have resisted Trump at first (the Marco Rubio-backing Washington Free Beacon paid for the original oppo research on Trump that led to the Steele Dossier), Trump’s corruption became their corruption. A month before nominating Trump to be their candidate in 2016, the Republican leadership acknowledged amongst themselves that Trump was owned outright by Vladimir Putin.
Once you cross the line into treason? There’s no going back. What happened in that room was absolute treason and everything awful that’s happened to and in America since has flowed from that moment of treachery.
Maybe I need to tweak what it is that American conservatives want to conserve. The past they want to conserve is one where they aren’t serving a life term in a federal prison for committing treason. In that context, it ain’t hard to get what any conservative might want to “conserve”.
Both sides don’t have a “Newt Gingrich” on their bench (or in their past). Only the Republicans do. Remember Newtie (“The Man Who Broke [American] Politics”? Back when Bill Clinton was POTUS, Newt served as 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives and drove the “Impeach Bill Clinton Cos A Blow Job” train as hard as he could and for all that blow job was worth. Time Magazine made Gingrich their “Man of the Year in 1995, Gingrich, while Speaker (third in line to the presidency), “…he encouraged his fellow Republicans to refer to Democrats as ‘traitors’.” That’s “traitors” for wanting America to pursue a Progressive path instead of the conservative one Newt preferred. That is sooooooooo right wing — to declare all opposition “traitors”. They’ve been doing that since Viet Nam and Joe McCarthy. Calling other Americans traitors because they think differently — that’s how Right Wing Culture works. It must be — because that’s how it says it works.
But then, white culture isn’t about seeking any truths or trying to make America as fair as possible for as many Americans as possible. It’s about maintaining white culture’s hegemony. White culture is terrified of losing its grip on American political power (and thus the bulk of American wealth). Being staunch believers that all life is a zero sum game (if a Black person gets something from the political system, it’s because a white person lost something), white culture can’t imagine sharing political power; to them, that’s exactly the same as losing it completely.
Like Charlton Heston’s rifle, We The People will have to pry political power from white America’s cold, desiccating fingers. I, for one, am down for that fight.
Progressives have one, clear (and clearly stated) goal for America: make it live up to its ideals. Not just “E Pluribus Unum” — we’re doing well with that one. It’s “All men are created equal” that’s giving us conniptions. For starters, the white, Christian, land-owning men who either wrote it or stood by it didn’t mean it. You can’t honestly claim “All men are created equal” when, at the same time, you permit slavery within your borders (where slaves are only three-fifths of a white person). Slavery, at its most bottom line, is labor theft.
The whole point of enslaving someone is to get their work product for free (minus the cost of housing, feeding and clothing the slave). Take stolen labor off the table — in other words, if the agrarian Southern States had been forced to pay all the labor that sowed and harvested their cotton, tobacco and sugar cane a fair market wage, they would never have risen to the economic heights they did (though they might have become a worker’s paradise). The impetus to pay people as little as possible for their work is no different from wanting to enslave people. That is what corrupt, greedy scumbags like Newt think is “democracy”.
Progressives, as their name says, want to see America progress into the future. Conservatives, as their name says, want to conserve. But, what do they want to conserve? Simple: as much of the past as still remains in the present. But, if they could really have their way? Conservatives would regress us collectively back to the past idealized inside their heads. In that past, white people had all the power and all the money. Everyone else was subservient to them. That’s the America conservatism really longs for — it’s why they gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters. Democracy itself poses the most imminent threat to conservatism and conservative values (such as they are).
Both sides did not declare a “culture war” on other Americans because both sides don’t see a “culture war”. Progressives are just trying to live their lives — and enjoy the exact same freedoms, benefits and responsibilities that every other American enjoys. Conservatives, on the other hand, have made limiting voting rights for everyone not them the entire thrust of their efforts. And, if they can’t stop Americans from voting — or stop votes from being counted — they’ll simply toss the results they don’t like (the ones where they lose, of course). That ain’t democracy.
It is fascism. Fascism needs to declare culture war against everyone else because that is its culture. To be at war with every other culture. Maybe white people are on to something. Of all the American tribes, the white tribe is the only one to oppress all the other tribes. If anything binds the rest of us to each other, it’s the fact that we’ve all been bullied by white people or white culture.
I’ve got bad news for America’s feckless fascists. Oh, they are every bit as dangerous as they seem. They’re every bit as prone to violence because — well, have you heard their “words”? But, a homogenous nation like Germany (mostly made up of Germans and the descendants of Germans going back a millennium) fell in line because even the “good Germans” were more German than good. It would have been “un-German” to stop what the “less good” Germans were doing (to groups — Jews, Roma people, gay men — that Germans hated anyway). But, here in America, white people are a shrinking majority (they’re 57% of non-Latino white people). Ironically, that “white people” includes Jews and other tribes that hard core white people DON’T think of as “white”. All the other tribes, for all their differences, have one big thing in common: they’ve all been bullied relentlessly by white people.
When a white minority, bent on seizing political power it does not have looks to the rest of America to march in goose step alongside them? They won’t find “Good Germans” staring back at them. They’ll find the rest of America with its diverse faces filling with rage — at them. It won’t be fun. It will be messy and violent. But the truth is, diverse America will not be cowed by white America no matter how violent they get. Hell, it’s America, isn’t it? Everyone has guns!
If history teaches one thing (that conservatives never learn), it’s that history moves on regardless of how much they try to stop it. They’re sand castles convinced they can resist the incoming tide. The tide will win. And fascism in America will lose if it ever gets the chance to subjugate us. My money’s on the DoJ coming through and prosecuting not just Donald Trump but pretty much the entire Republican Party for plotting against We The People. Prosecution is the only way to stop these people.
Prosecution and bankrupting them. Hey, at the end of the day, every conservative’s most vulnerable organ is their wallet. Hit them hard enough and often enough there? They’ll give up.
Everyone is born with the same amount of integrity: one hundred percent. As we drop from the womb, we haven’t betrayed any principles yet, haven’t gotten lazy when intellectually challenged, haven’t let anyone down. If we “say” we’re hungry that’s what we mean. If we say we’ve pooped or peed ourselves, we have! If we’re sad or lonely or happy as a clam, we’ll broadcast that fact as loudly and clearly as we can. We are as honest as we’re ever going to be. Then we go out into the world and one of the first things we learn how to do is be less honest. Part of that’s just what it takes to get through a day filled with different kinds of relationships. A certain amount of truthiness goes with being human and living in a human society. But, there is a line. People who take on “important jobs”, work that could genuinely mean life or death to others (airline pilots, physicians, police officers for instance) can be less than honest with their romantic partners, but we need them to be totally honest with their passengers, patients or perps. Would you allow a surgeon with questionable integrity to slice into you?
Integrity is like a balloon made of platinum. As solid as it seems, it’s easily punctured. And once punctured. it’s irreparable. If Donald Trump had a radical change of heart (and character — let’s pretend okay?) and suddenly (on the inside) became absolutely honest, would we believe him? Certainly not. And, ironically, the more Trump pled his newfound honesty, the more dishonest we’d be sure he was. That’s what happens when you bust a cap in your integrity. It dies. And the world’s perception of you solidifies: you are a liar. If Trump could keep up the act, not just insisting he was honest but actually being that way, perhaps in a few years, our skepticism would begin to subside. To the degree that one’s integrity can be repaired, the process moves as slowly as nerve regeneration in humans. Glaciers can beat it in a foot race.
And yet, our news media regularly restores the broken integrity of the very least deserving. Richard Nixon was a criminal — full stop. At the very least, Watergate should have fixed Nixon in our collective understanding as a man with zero integrity. Of course Nixon himself would want to restore his integrity — or bamboozle others into thinking he (somehow) still had some integrity to trade on. Why would our news media want to help him though? Better question: why would our news media want to put ITS integrity on the line for someone their own reporting established had none? I don’t think it’s because our journalists don’t have integrity, I think it’s because they simply don’t know (or maybe even care) what it is.
“Both sides do it” brand journalism conflates skepticism with cynicism. Suddenly everyone becomes a variation on a theme : the lust for political power. Regardless of what they actually do or say, so goes the thinking, their motives are all exactly the same. From this vantage point, NO ONE has integrity. How can they when (per the journalist doing the reporting) everyone’s hedging or gaming everyone else? This simply isn’t the case. Progressives don’t want what conservatives want; they don’t want to live in a past where white, Christian men had all the power and money — the very thing conservatives want to conserve. Progressives will tell you openly that they want a rising tide to float every possible boat. Conservatives, on the other hand, will lie to you about just about everything because, they know, if they told America the truth about them — about their motives — they’d be in jail already.
When our news media gets up on its hind legs and insists that Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy or Mark Meadows or Devin Nunes or Bill Barr or Mike Pence or Chuck Grassley or Susan Collins or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Brett Kavanaugh or Steve Bannon or Ted Cruz or anyone in the Trump clan is an “honest actor”, they’re committing journalistic malpractice. They’re labeling criminals as honest then demanding why Democrats won’t negotiate with them. But, even when our news media reports actual acts of treason — based on hard evidence they themselves have vetted — they refuse to connect the dots their reporting suggests do connect.
No one in the room questioned these accusations of Trumpian criminality. No one doubted that they were possible. And no one insisted they they should — per their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution — call the FBI to warn them. The total amount of integrity in that room by the time the conversation finished? Absolute zero.
Has anyone in the news media gone back to revisit these shocking accusations — and the even more shocking acceptance of them? To be fair, yeah — a few intrepid reporters have questioned Kevin McCarthy about “There’s two people I think Putin pays”. Kevin insisted he was just joking — and that (as always) ends the discussion even though it’s demonstrable that Kevin McCarthy (like Donald Trump) has no sense of humor. Bullies, as an absolute rule, NEVER have a sense of humor. It’s part of why they’re bullies. Oh, sure — bullies can laugh. But bullies (think Donald Trump) never laugh with others (except other bullies), they always laugh AT others. See the difference?
Since then, Kevin’s reported-upon statement has sat in the Trump-Russia evidence room, gathering dust. That’s a reflection of our news media’s integrity or lack thereof.
I’m old enough to remember how connecting Trump to Russia only ever got you rolling eyes in response. Same goes for describing Trump and the GOP as authoritarians and fascists. As we stand here today, those who correctly spotted the GOP’s authoritarian and fascist leanings were right: they still have their integrity on the subject. Those who shrugged off what the Republicans were/are doing? I’m not sure I’d ask their advice on a lunch order any more. I wouldn’t trust their taste as I wouldn’t trust they were telling me the truth. It’s not just Republicans whose integrity has been destroyed by Trumpism. Silence in the face of this attack is tacit complicity.
Anyone complicit in this coup d’etat blew up their integrity a long time ago.
When Trump openly told his four underlings NOT to cooperate with the January 6 Truth Commission, he openly committed a crime. Citizen Trump doesn’t have the authority President Trump had to say such a thing without criminal liability. It’s not a question whether or not Trump did this thing — he deliberately broadcast it as part of his strategy. That doesn’t legitimize it. It should, instead, make prosecuting this bloated orange pirate a thousand times easier. But, that would demand that our news media stop reporting Trump as a politician and start reporting him as what he is: a stone cold criminal in the middle of a treasonous crime spree.
I wish it were possible to buy our news media some integrity. Hell, they need it so desperately, I’d even steal it for them.
Remember back in the olden days — during the 2016 election — when progressives were universally viewed as crackpots? Remember when universal basic income was understood to be a pipe dream that could never work in the real world? Remember when universal, single-payer health CARE and free pre-k and community college for all were things that other countries did but that Americans (being rugged individuals) would never tolerate or want so why bother thinking about them? Remember when America simply took for granted that most Americans didn’t care about voting in anything but presidential elections (where, even then, only half of America reliably voted)? Remember when progressives rolled their eyes at the very thought of Joe Biden being president? Funny how Life changes, yeah? It’s now the Progressives who have hoisted Joe Biden and his agenda — mostly the Progressives’ agenda — onto their backs and set themselves on a forced march from which they will not be deterred because they know: tens of millions of Americans are counting on them to do the right thing. Meanwhile, all around them, chaos rules. The similarity to a schoolyard is downright shocking. Good thing there are adults here to supervise.
Rugged individuals couldn’t care less about governing. They have it in their heads that no one should have the power to govern them — or regulate them — or even tell them “no”. They’ve got a ten year old boy’s idea of freedom: “You’re not the boss of me!” Being little boys without the brain structures to comprehend the consequences of their actions, they don’t understand that freedom isn’t even remotely free — and can’t be. Freedom comes with great bennies but also great responsibilities. It’s a package deal however. That’s what people on the right either forget or ignore. They want their rights but couldn’t give a flaming fig if you get yours. What that really means is they don’t care about rights period. They want what they want and they intend to take it.
In our current argument, the Progressives, the Democratic Party and the majority of Americans are being held hostage by two things: the Republican Party (a given) and the Democratic Party’s “moderate wing”.
The Republican Party is now so far gone that Liz Cheney is considered a heretic. If not for our news media’s rabid insistence that Republicans are all still “honest actors”, we might already be miles further down this story’s tortured road. The majority of Republicans now insist that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump (the ultimate enfant terrible because he’s also a traitor). They know for a fact that this is bullshit but insist it’s true anyway. Adult behavior, that is not. Adult behavior in the GOP could have reasserted itself — should have asserted itself — before they nominated Trump. They had the perfect out to remove him from their midst; and they could have looked damned patriotic while doing it.
The Republicans know for a fact that but for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have become president. Take Russia out of the 2016 equation and Donald Trump doesn’t get past the primaries. He never gets into the game to begin with and why would he? The last thing on earth a crook wants is undue attention on where his money came from. When the Trumps realized that connecting their money to Russia (as Junior did here) was a bad idea, they stopped talking about it. They never stopped taking the money though. Our news media have worn divots into their scalps from scratching their heads so hard as they ponder “what is Trump’s hold over the Republican Party?” Sure, sure — Trump’s base can play havoc come primary time. Are Republicans that craven that hanging onto a job “trumps” their integrity? Oh, look — in the woods — there’s a pile of bear shit!
Republicans aren’t just politically craven, they’re outright criminal. Our news media — and the moderate wing of the Democratic Party — have softened those criminal edges into a “political point of view”. That’s what circumventing the Will Of The People in a democratic republic is: criminal. It’s an attempt to subvert the Peoples’ will toward some other entity’s will. That is completely against the law — a thing Progressives have always recognized but, at long last, are getting to shout from the rooftops. A political party dedicated to ending American democracy (against the will of the majority) is not a political party, it’s a criminal enterprise. Their actions aren’t political, they’re criminal acts for a political purpose but criminal acts above all. Bottom line: the Republicans are now criminals. Their agenda is a criminal agenda and their end game (the end of the greatest experiment ever in human self-government) a betrayal. They represent racism, misogyny, bigotry and permanent (white) minority rule. I’ll sum it up for us: evil.
What the Republican Party stands for is evil.
So, why do moderate Democrats want to compromise with them? Do moderate Democrats — that’s what Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are in theory — actually believe that Democrats should negotiate with people out to destroy the very democracy we’re talking about? What would the compromise with such a point of view be? We sell “part” of our democracy down the river? We sell out some Americans to the benefit of other Americans? We float some boats but not all boats?
That IS what moderates are demanding — that Democrats (whose agenda the majority supports) should negotiate away things the electorate wants in order to gain… what? The tell that one side is negotiating from bullshit’s point of view is that they talk about a number — like $3.5 trillion — like it wasn’t connected to policies meant to help Americans — the “Of the People, by the People and for the People” Lincoln was talking about. “That number’s too big!” is a bullshit statement because it doesn’t qualify what it means. Too big for what? Too big compared to what? Too big from whose point of view?
Moderates, apparently, see “too big” from the Republican point of view — a criminal point of view that sees government service as a way for the government (tax dollars) to service THEM. Our dumb-as-dirt news media insist that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema represent some “point of view” that has a valid point (and wouldn’t it be swell if some reporter actually pinned either of those two down on whose point of view they’re actually repping here). What point of view could possibly weigh more than the point of view of their constituents? See where I’m going? It’s exactly where Joe & Kyrstan stand — up to their necks in corruption.
In our current political environment, America stands poised at a crossroads. We will go one way or the other. There is no middle ground, no moderation. In one direction lies the authoritarian shithole of Republican wet dreams. In the other is the America as yet unrealized where the exceptionalism promised by E Pluribus Unum (our country’s motto) finally manifests itself in reality. Moderates and centrists will have to pick which of those two roads they want to go down. Spoiler alert: America’s going down the E Pluribus Unum road. As potent a force as fascism is, in the past, it’s succeeded in homogenous cultures like Weimar Germany. Even “good Germans” saw their German-ness as more important than defending Jews (outsiders to German culture).
Here in America though, “American” is a far more recent “invention”. Nothing like the “German” national identity exists in America outside white supremacists — a small minority here. Fascism relies upon a large group’s bonding together despite their moral misgivings — their cultural connections being the glue that binds them. E Pluribus Unum may result in “unum” (together) but the “pluribus” is the big difference between America and Germany. For America to succumb to fascism, all those groups white people have abused would have to agree on some level to let that continue because they don’t want to rock the cultural boat. Trust me on this: that is not going to happen.
The most frustrating aspect of watching cable news is when the cable news people ascribe normal, political motives to whatever the Republicans are doing — whether it’s standing with insurrectionists, openly restricting other Americans’ voting rights or committing treason (which is what Trumpism is). For Republicans, the new normal is whatever new low Trump has achieved. That means that for our news media, whatever Trump’s new low is — no matter how anti-democratic or anti-American — that’s the GOP’s new low too. Trump started nailing new lows the day he declared for the presidency. “Mexicans are rapists” should have been the end of his campaign. If not for “pussy grabbing”, maybe it would have been. But, if not for “But, her emails!”, maybe “pussy grabbing” would have done more to finish what “Mexicans are rapists” started.
We’ll never know the answer to that. What we do know is that the majority of Americans are done with Republican corruption. We’ve been done with it for a long time, but — finally — circumstances have pushed them to such an extreme that they’ve pushed us to an extreme. The 2018 election should have made the point to our news media that ours is now a woke electorate that appreciates American politics for the contact sport it is. Americans standing in line for hours in 2020 should have been a sign (along with the growing number of Americans actually voting) that we are not living in the past when less than half of America voted — and Black, brown, Asian, LGBTQ and women voting for women’s issues weren’t a collective force to be reckoned with.
Our news media reports the past to explain the future because it’s easier than looking at what’s happening in the present. And the present says something entirely different will happen.
Because the American news media began and existed mostly as yet another bastion for white, Christian men, its over-riding view of the world remains a white, Christian male view. To them, that is a level playing field — a field filled with just them. The power shift away from their level playing field to one that’s actually level is happening albeit too slowly for our collective good. That’s why “Mexicans are rapists” and (especially) “pussy grabbing” didn’t end Trump’s presidency. The news room sensibility is still male above all. If it was female, I bet “Mexicans are rapists” would have gotten a much bigger reaction. I know “pussy grabbing” would have ended Trump right there.
And “But, her emails!”? That wouldn’t even have registered.
Republican corruption is white, male and Christian. It serves the needs of white, Christian men — and, at the moment, is driven to give white, Christian men permanent power over American politics and American lives. Keep in mind, if the majority of Americans wanted the same thing? These white, Christian men wouldn’t have to gerrymander, suppress Democratic voters or conspire with Russia in order to win an election. But, alas, the GOP DOES have to gerrymander, suppress Democratic voters and it HAS conspired with Russia in order to make Donald Trump president in 2016.
It cannot possibly get more corrupt than that.
Still, our news media insists that 2022 — being an off year election — whatever happens in every off year election will happen in this off year election because this year is no different than any other year. Except, of course, this year is literally like no other. A few weeks ago, our news media insisted that Larry Elders would soon enough be California’s next governor. The news media insisted that Californians not running around like crazed zombies meant they wouldn’t show up on election day and vote down this anti-democratic horse shit recall election. But, Californians did show up in large numbers and they decisively told the Republican Party to go eff itself. California is deep, deep blue — not for political reasons but because our values are progressive and we vote accordingly.
Progressives have a much harder time being corrupt than conservatives do. That’s because conservatives are trying to hold onto something — the past. They’re trying to hold onto power and money. That is what motivates corruption — a fear of losing money and power. Corruption means to hold onto both forever.
Literally everything on the Republican agenda is corrupt, starting with their criminal determination to ignore the results of election 2020. It is corrupt to say that any election you lose is corrupt. It’s corruption projecting.
Any day now, a legal bomb could drop on Donald Trump’s head. Georgia could indict him for election interference. New York could indict him for tax evasion and other financial crimes. At any moment, the DoJ could pierce the veil protecting Congress members from indictment for their roles in the January 6 insurrection. Those charges are coming — we all know it. So do those members of Congress. And charges will come shortly thereafter connecting Trump himself to the insurrection’s planning. End of the day? What happened on January 6 depends on what happened during the planning that went on January third, fourth and fifth.
That’s more corruption.
The reason our news media isn’t sick of corruption is that corruption is their meal ticket. You’d think they’d be better at sniffing it out and covering it. Of course, some are — and we as a nation are grateful. It’s all the others who should quit the profession. They’re simply not suited to journalism — or storytelling in general. They think everyone’s corrupt.
We’re not, of course. That’s why corruption is such a problem for those who aren’t corrupt. Not being corrupt, we detest what corruption and the corrupt do to our normal lives.
As goes California, so will go most of America. We used to be deeply red. Now? Republicans can’t get arrested in most of California. They definitely can’t get elected as governor — even under the bizarro-world rules of a California recall election.
To every rule, there’s an exception. Andrew Cuomo is turning into one of those. The last time a prominent Democrat not named Bill Clinton faced charges of sexual impropriety of any sort was Al Franken. If Franken’s transgression had surfaced today instead of when it did, I have to wonder if Franken would resign now because the context has changed so profoundly. While the main accusations deserve scrutiny because of who made them (and why — and there was most definitely a “why” unconnected to the acts themselves), there were other women who said Franken made them feel uncomfortable at various times. If Franken was still in office today, those accusations would all have to be heard and if Franken, assuming old school rules of conduct, did indeed cause anyone to feel uncomfortable then apologies would have to be made of course. And so would a commitment to not ever do it again and an even bigger commitment to use the power of his office to help that effort in any way he could. Democrats, for better or worse, are the party host who can’t help cleaning up before the party’s even over.
It simply is not in any Progressive’s nature to worship a person over policy. We’ll remain loyal to a public servant only so long as they truly serve the public. Democrats may produce charismatic leaders (like Clinton) but we never get lost in their thrall the way Republicans have done with Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. It’s simply not in any progressive Democrat’s character to think a person — even Bill Clinton — can transcend the public they’re elected to serve. But then, diversity all by itself makes anything remotely like Trump worship impossible among progressives or Democrats. Too many cooks in the kitchen with too many strong opinions. Democrats are still the rabble of whom Will Rogers said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. Exactly so. And that’s exactly why Democrats could never march in lock step with each other the way Republicans so happily do.
And yet, if there’s one thing that will get most (you can never say all) Democrats to line up, it’s moral issues. That’s not “moral issues” as Republicans refer to them (coldly and cynically), it’s actual morality — the foundational kind that you either have or don’t and Republicans don’t. Before New York AG Tish James was halfway through her very detailed, very disturbing report on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s consistently sexual behavior toward women, pretty much every Democrat worth anything was demanding that Cuomo resign. Cuomo’s pre-recorded defense did nothing to change that; if anything, Cuomo’s digging in his heels made it worse. He will be impeached if he doesn’t step down. It really isn’t a question.
The GOP is the White Entitlement & Grievance Party. If they could stop time and prevent the future from ever happening, they’d do it. The view the past — when white men were one hundred percent of American political power — with longing. If they could snap their fingers and bring it all back just like “that”, it would already be our new reality. The only bad behavior, in their eyes, is behavior that interferes with their ongoing coup d’etat.
Republicans have zero interest in the rule of law since the rule of law says they can’t do what they’re doing (because it’s illegal). The advantage to acting like a criminal is that you never have to sweat getting the rules right since, in your mind, there are no rules. There’s just whatever you can get away with.
It would be bad enough if Republicans were just behaving like monsters. Alas, they’re so much more than monsters. And considering what Republicans have done and where they’ve been — would you want their corruption anywhere near your mouth?
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.
I don’t judge conservatives because they want to conserve — as their name says. I judge them because they won’t admit WHAT they want to conserve. Considering as you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist, conservatives have zero interest in the future. That’s Progressives’ territory. That’s why I prefer the descriptor “progressive” to “liberal”. Progressive is just more accurate — every fiber of my being wants humankind to progress as quickly as we can into the future (because we’ve made a total hash of the past). Just as “Progressive” neatly describes my overall direction with one word, so, too does “conservative” describe the direction conservatives want to take America. What do conservatives want to conserve? What does any individual conservative want conserved? For them, the present is the perfect place to start. If they could literally take us back to the past — to the idealized time and place in their head that they think of as “perfection” — they absolutely would. Same as a Progressive would whisk us all off to a perfect future of enlightenment and harmony. Like I said: I’m not here to judge (in this blog post). I’m here to understand.
Look, the future is scary. Who knows what’s going to happen? If I take off my “Progressive World View Specs” and put on a pair of borrowed “Conservative World View Specs” (they’re way too tight for my liking), I begin to appreciate the security the past held for some. In our part of the world, Europeans got it into their heads that the brutal lethality of the pathogens they carried with them meant they were morally superior to the indigenous peoples of North America they rolled with relative ease BECAUSE they’d been decimated by European pathogens. Europeans didn’t walk onto a “virgin continent” waiting to be enlightened by them, they entered a graveyard — the ground softened not by their ideas, a little by their superior weapons, but mostly because the pathogen load heading west (smallpox, measles, whooping cough, bubonic plague, malaria, yellow fever, dysentery) was more overwhelming than the pathogen load heading east (syphilis). Europeans carried more than just disease with them though. They brought their monotheistic religion — and their monotheistic religion convinced them that THEIR god was THE god and THEIR god said THEY could do whatever they liked to other people — especially if they believed in other gods or, worse, no god.
“Manifest Destiny” was no different from Cortes decimating the Aztecs and Pizarro brutalizing the Incas. “Gold, glory and god”. That was the mandate. Europeans took the Americas with relative ease but not for the reasons they thought or still think. Better and more pathogens. That’s it. That’s the difference.
But, once convinced of their superiority, Europeans would not be dissuaded. Europeans even used their most sacred religious texts — the thing upon which they based their entire civilization — to JUSTIFY enslaving other humans. If bondage and stolen labor were good enough for iron age people, then, damn it, it should be good enough for us! When you cloak your justifications for slavery and personal superiority with the divine, perhaps you can be forgiven for thinking you ARE the “alpha and the omega”. You’ve come to believe your wardrobe is who you are — and you think you’re God.
But for their pathogens, white Europeans might not have had such an easy time dominating the America’s. Their beachheads might have been smaller and less successful even over time. Instead of being easily rolled by the Europeans — who they outnumbered by a lot! — the Aztecs and Incas might have recognized the Europeans for the competitors they were. I bet, given the chance, the Aztecs and Incas might even have learned from the Europeans, found ways to either approximate or steal the Europeans superior war-fighting technology. We’ll never know. When Americans began rolling across North America, their destinies manifested, each mile further west they traveled convinced them that they were truly on a divine mission — new crusaders, if you will, conquering Indians instead of Muslms.
The “All men” that America’s founders thought were “created equal”, were white and they were all men. In their defense, maybe they weren’t quite as ‘enlightened” as they thought. But, that’s the America conservatives want to conserve. That’s the “original version” of America constitutional originalists are thinking of. They believe THAT is the America the rest of us should still be living in. If the founders couldn’t imagine a thing, then we just have to live in an America that laments its founders’ lack of forward-thinking chops. Talk about the tail wagging the dogma! Except that wasn’t how those men thought. They made the document dynamic.
Take away the native peoples who were here for ten thousand years before the Europeans set sail just for argument’s sake (though I bet their traditions would still help us a lot). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans — and then everyone else on the planet — this continent had no “native culture”. That is, European culture was not “native” to this place. Now, when we say, “European culture”, we don’t mean one thing. German culture is not so different from English culture (their royalty’s all related) but very different from Italian culture. It took a thousand years for several of the more prominent tribes of France — the Franks, the Merovingians, the Carolingians — to evolve into what we now think of as “French people”.
Remember how some of the French had no problem collaborating with Germany during WWII? That wasn’t a new behavior, that extreme pragmatism in the face of shifting political tides. In “A Distant Mirror”, her wonderful history of “the calamitous 14th century”, the historian Barbara Tuchman returns repeatedly to the story of Charles de Navarre (10 October 1332 – 1 January 1387), a French knight, in his time called Charles the Bad. He was King of Navarre from 1349–1387 and during those years — as the Hundred Year War raged on, Charles (whose property was in Normandy) saw the English and the French armies go back and forth across his domain repeatedly. The war pitted he French crown against the English crown; both wanted to declare the other’s as theirs. While he could have remained loyal to France the whole time — and simply took his licks (being sacked and burned) each time the English plowed through. Instead, Charles chose to ally with the English BEFORE they got to his land. Suddenly, this French lord couldn’t be more English. He’d welcome them to and through his territory, feeding them, housing them, giving them happy endings if they wanted them.
Then, when the tides changed yet again — and the war’s momentum swung back to the French, Charles would hang out his tricolor as if he’d never taken it down. Why, Charles had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia AND those damned English! Vichy France’s pragmatic survival instincts kicked in at least six hundred years before we realized. That behavior pattern is part of what we think of as “French” behavior in national affairs. Same token — the Swiss and their neutrality are not new either. The Dutch have always been traders. The Germans have always been… well… “German”. The more closely aligned with the Catholic Church a country was — like Spain — the more cruelly dogmatic it became. Franco and the Spanish Inquisition are directly related.
Even the Europeans will tell you how their neighbors are. Especially the Europeans. When those people came here, to America, they all brought their national personalities with them. No such personalities existed here. But, Europeans weren’t the only non North Americans hitting our beaches. Before too long, people from all over the world had “discovered” America — and saw that they, too, could fill this empty canvass with themselves. Who “got here first” is a nonsensical argument since, really, no one was here first. And, as for whose money paid for it? That’s swell, but “ownership” is a concept invented by men to justify their claim that a thing — land, a cave, a woman — was theirs. The concept of “ownership” saves us from having to piss on or lick everything to prove that it’s ours.
Conservatives, if they could, would piss on or lick practically everything (licking it all firstbefore pissing on it, I’m betting). Conservatism hews closely to its “religious values”, don’t forget. They believe in a kind of perfection perverted — an Eden destroyed by a woman. They believe that humanity’s fall from Grace was redeemed by a man-god born of a virgin, sent to die for all of our sins (though, if he doesn’t get betrayed by Judas and doesn’t die for our sins, I’m kinda wondering what that woulda been like but nevermind). Let’s be real. Down deep, there’s no such thing as a “God-fearing conservative”. No truly conservative person fears God.
That’s because most every God-fearing conservative doesn’t believe IN God, he believes he IS God. They won’t put it that way. Instead, they say “I understand what the lord wants from me” or I have a personal relationship with God!” He looks around at others who think they understand God and shakes his head sadly. Poor, misguided fools think God speaks through them, can ya believe it? Even those of us who “think” we understand God need to be set straight by this guy because HIS version of God is THE version of God (no substitutes accepted).
Enlightenment scares these people almost as much as Enlightenments do. Conservatives have rooted not just their religious faith but everything they think in the belief that a sky deity loves them and wants them to do his bidding here on earth. How things WERE — that’s what the sky deity wants. And if how things ARE RIGHT NOW is the closest we can get to HOW THINGS WERE then so be it. We’ll take what we can get. We’ll enshrine as much of yesterday into today as we possibly can and turn off the engine.
Unlike conservatives, Progressives aren’t intimidated by the unknown. We’re adaptive by nature. New information isn’t anathema to us, it’s our life blood. And if new voices bring new information or new ways to problem-solve? So much the better! The future is going to happen whether anyone likes it or not. Change is inevitable. It’s only ever a matter of time scale.
What do conservatives want to conserve? Everything you need to know is right there in the pause BEFORE they start to answer. They’re making a list, don’tcha know! They’re thinking about everything from the past that they wish could become permanent. The playing field was not level in that past. It wasn’t meant to be. Only the “equal” “all men” were expected to play, being the only ones qualified to play — by themselves of course.
That’s the America conservatives want to conserve. It’s why they’re always looking backwards, hoping to see the past come alive again. It’s the America they had full control of, before the rest of us realized how little they understood it.
I call myself a “Progressive” (I prefer it to “liberal”) because “progress” perfectly describes how I think we, as a nation, should govern ourselves — always mindful of the future. Conservatives are equally descriptive of themselves. Their thought process pushes them to “conserve” rather than progress. Okay. Fair enough. But, conserve “what”? What is it conservatives feel compelled to “conserve”? It can’t be the future, of course — it doesn’t exist yet. That leaves the present and the past. THAT is what conservatives want to conserve.
Conservatism’s bottom line is to hold onto as much of the past in the present as they can. They know the future is unavoidable — they hate that. If there was a way to stop progressing completely, they’d probably do it. Anything to keep as much of the past alive as possible. Now, ask why?
Conservatism, in America, is the bastion of Male, Christian Whiteness. In the conservative mind, America reached a zenith of a kind during the 1950’s. Still basking in WWII’s triumphant afterglow, America — with Ike at the helm (not that “awful”, pointy-headed socialist Adlai Stevenson) — built highways instead of rail lines because Americans are all rugged individualists who want to go their own way! But, even that golden age of conservatism isn’t really what conservatives aspire to.
That would be the 1850’s.
Republicans love the Electoral College because, by design, it vastly overweighs rural, more conservative voters while vastly under-weighing urban, more progressive voters. The EC was stuck into the Constitution as an accommodation to slavery. It still speaks for slavery every time we try to elect a president. In 1850’s America, “We The People” still referred to White Men and no one else. THAT is the America conservatives wish had been conserved like dinosaur DNA in a Jurassic Park movie.
Conservatives wish they could — as in Jurassic Park — reconstitute the conservatism of old and let it run amok. Part of the “running amok” would involve snatching up progressives and snarfing em like they were popcorn and the movie just started. From the conservative dinosaur perspective, a world free of progressives is a world freed from the threat of new ideas and new ways of thinking. After the idea of black and brown people voting, nothing scares conservatives quite like new thinking.
Think of it this way: if you’re conservative and change threatens you, then anything that causes change also threatens you. That puts “innovation” and innovating things in the “threatening” stack. Innovation will always cause change — that’s the whole point of innovating things — to change them for the better. But if change is off the table then innovation also must be held in check.
If we were talking sexual urges instead of ideas, a conservative would suggest “a cold shower”. They’d never suggest you “rub one out” because — clearly — you need to. That would be admitting, first, that you HAD a sexual urge (that’s verboten). “Abstinence only education”, don’t forget, is a deeply conservative idea. So was “Just say no”, Nancy Reagan’s “Reality, WHAT reality?” answer to “the war on drugs”. I guess Nancy wanted US to have more fortitude where drugs were concerned than SHE apparently did in her youth (she was notoriously talented, in fact) where performing fellatio was concerned. Oh well, never mind — it’s always different when you’re a Republican.
“Just do as I say!” That’s how conservatives have twisted “Do unto others”. In their sanctimonious minds, they’re the saviors of America. They’re the saviors of THEIR America at best. And their America was never THE America. Their America isn’t the exceptional one, OURS is — you know — the diverse America that scares the crap out of White America.
When people are filled with hope, purpose and a strong sense of community, they think expansively. They want to deliver as much equality to as many people across the community as possible because the return on spreading equality far and wide is a stronger, more dynamic — more imaginative — democracy that’s constantly innovating to solve our problems. That’s the core problem with conservative solutions — they were created to solve old problems. While the problems have evolved, the conservative solutions HAVEN’T — and, consequently, end up solving NOTHING (while thinking it has; meanwhile the problem continues).
If all you see in the future is problems, you’ll never see its potential. You’ll never see your own potential. That’s why conservative solutions don’t solve anything; they can’t. At best they can exacerbate. Mitch McConnell’s answer to our pandemic-caused economic collapse is to… what? Make people go back to work so they can continue to get sick and overwhelm the health care system and die — all because GIVING Americans money directly (actually — handing them back THEIR TAX DOLLARS) would prove that Universal Basic Income is a viable, smart idea?
Mitch’s idea of “having an imagination” is calling himself the Angel of Death because he intends to kill all legislation dead.
If we wanted to be generous, we could call the tonnage of Republican and Trumpian lying “imagination”. If only the lies were good enough to say they came from someone’s imagination. These were pulled directly from someone’s bloated orange ass.