DeSantis, Deep Fakes, and Dark Money
That vast right-wing conspiracy we try so hard to pretend away just won’t let us. Trump throws his hat in the ring for the 2024 presidential race, because evidently Ron DeSantis is too liberal? One county in Arizona is apparently holding up the entire 2022 certification, because, well, we prize states’ rights so much that they now extend to counties? And Marjorie Taylor Greene is calling for a Civil War because, well, the mass shootings of liberals aren’t keeping pace with red state citizen deaths from Covid, diabetes, and opioids?
In just nine days, a former football player at the University of Virginia killed three players for unknown reasons, a right wingnut killed at least five people and injured 17 at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado, and a nut of unknown political persuasion killed seven co-workers at a Virginia Wal-Mart.
2022 is officially the biggest year yet for mass killings in the U.S. – many of which were conducted by Trumpists – most were inspired by the right-wing media echo chamber -- and all of which were sociologically enabled by the impunity created by a deadly combination of unaccountable power, dark money, neoliberal and Christofascist ideologies, and a concerned but ultimately acquiescent majority of American citizens.
In response, Biden announces his plans to drive a ban on assault weapons, a futile gesture that has already been declared dead on arrival by Senate Democrats.
Globally, the Ukraine war (a just and noble cause to be sure) lurches on because there’s so much money in it for U.S. arms manufacturers and contractors that Republicans are forced to support it even though their inclinations are to support Putin. Iran is supporting it wholesale while brutalizing its citizens who seek basic human rights. Multiple European governments and the U.S. Soccer Federation have taken bold stands in support of Iranian democrats. As usual, Biden is waiting to see which way the wind blows before he does anything meaningful, primarily because there’s no money or votes in taking a stand, but also because we wouldn’t want to mess up the interminable – and most likely doomed -- negotiations over restricting Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
And with the nation and world in turmoil, incoming House Speaker McCarthy announces he’s going to prioritize the House’s efforts on -- an investigation of Hunter Biden’s laptop!
The mainstream press – hot off an historic flail in predicting the 2022 election results, continues its fine form by declaring that the election both reflects -- and will continue to drive -- a continuation of a structurally induced, historically inevitable political gridlock, and in so doing, they remove any last reason for the people to hold our politicians accountable. “It’s not us – we’re victims too!” So, keep sending those campaign contributions – most of us run again in two years and your freedoms are at stake!
And all this appears random – appears as some late stage humanity dissolution of order, and a near-continuous upending of all that we thought we knew – brought on by the inevitable grinding gears of history.
But while the individual events appear to be totally random, and the trends appear to be inevitable, global, and uncontrollable – these perceptions are erroneous, and the result of a very powerful “Deep Fake.” They are being deliberately driven by a long-term Republican strategy whose aim is to make us feel helpless and just give the fuck up.
But those of us who take a structured analytical view of events – and this number is slowly increasing -- are onto them. Our long-running political intelligence analysis indicates that the events we note here are the stochastic results of a strategic Line of Effort on the part of the right’s ecosystem to de-stabilize the left and increase their own power as a result.
In support of our hypothesis, let’s examine just one piece of the deep fake – the so-called “political gridlock.” Multiple historical analyzes reveal that the U.S. has been similarly divided politically throughout its history. In fact, this is the inevitable outcome of a two-party system.
Everything we have accomplished as a nation – and we have been the driving force for good globally since the first World War – has been accomplished despite the discord, divide and gridlock. The Affordable Care Act, multiple Biden political victories, the Civil Rights Act, winning the Cold War and essentially making Communism meaningless, putting people on the moon, defeating fascism – none of these were easy but they all got done by theoretically less enlightened – and no less divided -- people than now populate the country.
What is the real problem, then, that constrains the liberal agenda and looks so much like gridlock? Structurally, it is the combination of the enormous amount of effort required to make positive change happen anywhere and anytime, the lack of care and gumption on the part of most Americans, the increasing power of the Republican Plutocrat ecosystem, and the cowardice of the mainstream and liberal press, that has created a vicious cycle that makes it appear that it is impossible to get things done.
Further proof that gridlock is just a mirage is at hand. It can’t have escaped your notice that plutocrats are working through the gridlock just fine. They got their tax bill through with a minimum of fuss, they packed the Supreme Court with a minimum of pushback. They have successfully prevented action to restrict arms sales, they’ve kept 13 states from expanding Medicare, they’ve all but killed trade unions (we assess that the recent union gains are a blip on the radar) and are working on their plans to water down and eventually eliminate Social Security and Medicare. The policies backed by big and dark money -- but favored by only an infinitesimally small percentage of American plutocrats and their useful idiots -- walk right through the apparent gridlock and get enacted in record time.
In the final analysis, the U.S. is a hyper-capitalist country in which only money really matters. To wit: “the wage gap between chief executives and workers at some of the US companies with the lowest-paid staff grew even wider last year, with CEOs making an average of $10.6m, while the median worker received $23,968.
A study of 300 top US companies released by the Institute for Policy Studies on Tuesday found the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670-to-1 (meaning the average CEO received $670 in compensation for every $1 the worker received). The ratio was up from 604-to-1 in 2020. At more than a third of the companies surveyed, IPS found that median worker pay did not keep pace with inflation;” The Guardian; “Wage gap between CEOs and US workers jumped to 670-to-1 last year, study finds;” June 7, 2022.
We have entered a new Gilded Age in which the most objective measure of aggregate economic inequality – the Gini Index, shows the gap to be the worst in over fifty years. Yet every policy the right pushes moves these numbers in the wrong direction – and we just throw our hands up and say we’ll get ‘em in the next election!
The right’s sociopolitical bread and circus act has, as one objective, hiding this huge money shift. But another of its targets is to take the starch out of the justice movements – and both aspects are working for them. Perhaps the three most momentous U.S. justice movements: Black Lives Matter; March For Our Lives/Women’s Reproductive Rights; and Police reform – have utterly failed to translate discontent and momentum into any meaningful movement forward, although they have prevented rights erosion and blunted the right’s more egregious efforts, in some circumstances.
So what? To make this more tangible, let’s focus on a current tactic stemming from the long-term strategy. “DeSantis vs. Trump” is the battle the plutocrats want us to focus on, both to syphon energy and attention from current issues, and to prevent a moderate Republican from gaining any traction in the race. They hope we’ll accept their strategic positioning that DeSantis is the lesser of only two possible evils. But we don’t have to accept this; the choice of Republican presidential candidate is not “off limits” to Democrats and independents or uninfluenceable by them, as they’d have us believe.
Let’s get real, DeSantis is big, big money – he spent about $100 million in the recent Gov campaign, or 500% of what an entire party spends in a national election in Great Britain — for all candidates combined!
But Trump has an even bigger war chest – and controls the Republican Party apparatus through his ability to raise funds, the size of his base, and the party chairman being his man. It is in the interests of the right, and thus a tactic of its strategy, to make it appear that these two are frontrunners, if not the only two people with a chance to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
But they are essentially the same person from the standpoint of national impact, both because they share numerous traits, but also because they are both puppets suspended from the same plutocrat money strings -- and can thus only act according to the laws of puppet physics.
The issues DeSantis focuses on in Florida are approved by the money people and the idealogues – thus they point the way towards his real agenda should he become President. He will not move to the center because, why would he? He just needs to find the right grievances and to buy a few swing states to get elected, as Trump did with help from Russia, Facebook, and Twitter in 2016.
Here is a deeper dive into how simple it can be for a Republican to win the Presidency in 2024:
“The results of this month’s (November 2022) election point toward a 2024 presidential contest that will likely be decided by a tiny sliver of voters in a rapidly shrinking list of swing states realistically within reach for either party.
With only a few exceptions, this year’s results showed each side further consolidating its hold over the states that already lean in its direction. And in 2024 that will likely leave control of the White House in the hands of a very small number of states that are themselves divided almost exactly in half between the parties – a list that looks even smaller after this month’s outcomes.
The results also showed Republicans tightening their grip on Ohio, Iowa, and Florida: though Democrats won all three in both of Barack Obama’s presidential victories, each now appears securely in the GOP’s column for 2024. And the perennial liberal hope of putting a “blue Texas” in play clearly looks like it will be deferred again after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s double-digit victory against an energetic and well-funded opponent (former Rep. Beto O’Rourke) squashed the limited momentum Democrats had built there in the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Each side in an intensely polarized nation of 330 million recognizes that the overall direction of national policy now pivots on the choices of a miniscule number of people living in the tiny patches of contested political ground – white-collar suburbs of Atlanta and Phoenix, working-class Latino neighborhoods in and around Las Vegas and the mid-sized communities of the so-called BOW counties in Wisconsin.” We have got to stop accepting this injustice as an inevitable part of the U.S. political system. It is the result of a compromise an unfortunate 250-year-old political compromise and must be changed, not worked around, or exploited.”
What are DeSantis’ policies and inclinations? Here are some of the most egregious:
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education (known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay”) Law – reads as follows: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." Its actual purposes are to demonize LGBTQ children and turn Florida’s public schools into Christian home-schooling analogs, until of course as President DeSantis can defund all public schools.
Florida’s Individual Freedom (known colloquially as the “Stop-W.O.K.E.”) Act -- “expands Florida’s anti-discrimination laws to prohibit schools and companies from leveling guilt or blame to students and employees based on race or sex, takes aim at lessons over issues like “white privilege” by creating new protections for students and workers, including that a person should not be instructed to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin.” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who recently issued a temporary injunction against the Act, described it as “Orwellian.”
DeSantis discouraged Covid-19 immunization efforts, including signing into law a bill that prohibited businesses, schools, cruise ships, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination. Of course, he went full hypocrite at the same time, distributing the first vaccines to individual citizens and locations that most heavily support him.
DeSantis signed into law House Bill 5 that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest, reducing what had been a 24-week standard in place for almost a half-century.
DeSantis holds no open press conferences or public appearances – he maintains an illegal “keep out” list that is enforced by private goon squads as well as state and local law enforcement entities.
In perhaps his most heartless and cruel act, the Florida Governor recently used taxpayer money to fly unwitting asylum seekers from Texas to Massachusetts to own the libs and garner publicity. Whether or not he ultimately faces legal sanction for this effort, it indicates his nature and points to the types of policy actions he would attempt nationally were he to become President.
What are the impacts of these policies on Floridians?
Here’s the deal in Florida, which is what DeSantis and the plutocrats want to see happen if he becomes President:
“The state doesn’t offer any parental leave beyond the federally required 12 weeks of job security. Its Medicaid income cutoff is downright Draconian—a family’s income must be 30 percent of the federal poverty level, currently $26,500 for a family of four.”
“Florida households receiving SNAP benefits get less than the national average. It’s one of only a handful of states that do not provide extra funding to schools with large populations of students from low-income families. A 2021 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Florida a mediocre 35th in children’s wellbeing—it found that kids in the Sunshine State were substantially less likely than the national average to have parents with secure employment, to have health insurance, and to graduate from high school on time.”
“Mothers in Florida aren’t doing so well, either. Between 2018 and 2020, the state had the second-highest number of maternal deaths in the country, behind only Texas. In 2020, just two-thirds of babies in Florida were born to women receiving adequate prenatal care, compared to three-quarters nationally. Florida’s women lack health insurance at a rate of 16 percent, well above the national average of 11 percent, and more than two-thirds of them experience domestic violence, compared to the national average of about 25 percent;” (Salon, “US ranks last among peer nations for COVID-19 mortality: study; November 22, 2022, Matthew Rosza.
The impact of similar Republican policies at the national level is even more profound:
“American citizens pride themselves for living in a country that most of them believe is superlative — freest, most powerful, most entrepreneurial. Yet despite the spheres where it has high standing, the United States ranks dismally among its peer nations when it comes to deaths from COVID-19. "Dismal" might not be a strong enough adjective, actually: the U.S. ranked dead last among its peer nations, with the most deaths per capita.
The data comes from a new study published in the medical journal JAMA, which also analyzed state-by-state vaccination and public health data. Alarmingly, researchers noted that if every state in the United States had the same vaccination rates as those states with the highest vaccination rates, more than 100,000 lives would have been saved. The per capita death rate was higher in America than any of those other 20 countries during the delta and omicron waves in 2021 and 2022, with America accumulating 370,298 COVID-19 fatalities in total.
From June 27, 2021, to March 26, 2022, the US would have averted 122,304 deaths if COVID-19 mortality matched that of the 10 most-vaccinated states and 266,700 deaths if US excess all-cause mortality rate matched that of the 10 most-vaccinated states," the authors conclude. "If the US matched the rates of other peer countries, averted deaths would have been substantially higher in most cases (range, 154,622 – 357,899 for COVID-19 mortality; 209,924 – 465,747 for all-cause mortality)."
“If dying young appeals to you, here’s a simple bit of advice: move to a state or county controlled by Republicans.
Long-lived parts of America have generally embraced progressive policies dating back to FDR’s New Deal; the early-death parts of our country most often reflect conservative opposition to everything from the working-class wealth that unionization and higher minimum wages bring, to the availability of healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
Since many conservative policies affect the entire country, consider what happened to the health of our nation in the 1980s with the Reagan Revolution. It’s particularly visible when you compare the outcomes of our healthcare system with other developed countries.
Our World In Data lays it out starkly. Prior to the neoliberal Reagan Revolution — following a bill Nixon signed in 1973 that opened the door for for-profit HMOs — most hospitals and health insurance companies were non-profits. The non-profit Blue Cross/Blue Shield controlled much, perhaps most, of the US health insurance market until that era.
Health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers all morphed from regional and competitive organizations into giant, monopolistic predators.
Their profits exploded and our lifespans collapsed. Every year now, they spread hundreds of millions of dollars around Washington DC and state capitols to prevent regulation and maintain the status quo.
We are, quite literally, the only country in the world with a corrupt Supreme Court that has legalized this kind of a vicious attack on its citizens by a bought-off political party and their morbidly rich donors.
The average American spends more than twice as much on healthcare every year as do the citizens of any other developed country in the world. And, as the Reagan Revolution really bit hard in the 1980s and 1990s, our average lifespans collapsed while corporate healthcare profits exploded.
And it’s not just death by lack of healthcare that skews these statistics: if you’re concerned about being murdered, it’s also a good idea to avoid states run by conservatives. As the centrist Third Way think tank noted last month:
“In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.
“8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.”
It’s true of Red cities as well. Again, from Third Way:
“In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump.”
And don’t even think about having sex in Red states: they generally lead America in sexually transmitted diseases, presumably because most have outlawed teaching sex education in their public schools.
The five states with the highest rates of Chlamydia infections are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Mexico. The highest rates of Gonorrhea are in Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.
Speaking of schools, the states with the lowest educational attainment in the nation are entirely Red states. Ranked from terrible to absolutely worst, they are: Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
In conclusion, “as giddy as Republicans are about “owning the libs,” the citizens they govern pay a tragic price for the sport. They are literally dying as conservative politicians revel in their ability to cut taxes for the rich and suppress wages and healthcare for everybody else, Daily Kos, “If you Want to Die Young - Take the Red Pill;” November 21, 2022, Thom Hartmann.
How do we fight back?
First, we must stop being fooled and manipulated. We must all read more broadly. Yes, I mean books, history, progressive journals, and the output of the right’s think tanks. And we need to think more critically about the information presented to us. One simple method is to use the methodology fact checkers use. How to Fact Check
Second, we have to demand a better Republican Presidential candidate – this can only happen through concerted economic pressure, which is traditionally the weakest piece of progressive efforts because of the easily triggered links to socialism, communism, and freeloading. This would include boycotts, but we also need to make manifest the glutinous plutocrat and corporate freeloading.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, you need to join a justice movement and march with it when called upon. No system ever got changed without the pressure applied by broad movements – and we are no exception to this rule.