Revelatur Newsletter - April 5, 2021
The Republican Anti-American Onslaught Continues Unabated
Welcome back readers! In this newsletter we explore the right’s sophisticated and largely successful long-term strategy to launder non-American, anti-democratic principles and bad character traits; rendering them quasi-legitimate by encasing them in a protected packaging of political positions that the left accepts as prima facie legitimate. In the first piece -- Bad Is as Bad Does, we point out a systems effect -- in this case a vicious cycle creating a race to the bottom -- involving core Republican voter values, the type of officials the Republican Party is generating, what passes for Republican policy, and Republican behavior both personal and “official.” In Wrong is Not an Ideology, we detail the specific place this laundering plays in overall Republican strategy, why the left falls for it, and what we can do to counter this effective Republican effort.
Bad is as Bad Does
Scum in public, scum in private; seems as good an adage as any to describe the current state of the Republican Party and the right in general. When scandals featuring sanctimonious Republicans break across the public consciousness, we should do well to remember that the manner with which these people comport themselves in interpersonal relationships cannot in any meaningful way be extricated from their public personas; these people are selfish greedy assholes, whether on the House floor or just inside the house.
Donald Trump, ex-president, still polling as Republican’s top pick for another go at the Presidency, is of course the perfect exemplar of the moral decay that permeates the party, his administration a frenzy of hate and graft and lies and sexual assault and corruption and self-dealing and ignorance and grotesquery that will hopefully stand as the high-water mark for the rise of the swamp waters. It should come as no shock then, that his perpetually grinning acolyte from the Sunshine State now finds himself embroiled in scandal: Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, stands accused of sexual trafficking in minors.
The Republican leadership, it should be noted, has not unified in a clarion call for Gaetz’ resignation. And why should they? The party has moved beyond the morality of mere mortals, so warped is their cynical positioning that while the removal of children’s books featuring blatantly racist imagery warrants a multi-channel all-hands-on-deck weeks-at-a time response, a party member’s criminal activity warrants a shrug, and only when prompted. Those shrugs don’t come unprovoked, hell they haven’t seen the story you’re talking about they’ll have to look into it and get back to you and let’s wait until all the facts come out.
It’s not your imagination that while the Democrats are far from perfect and obviously as a giant apparatus full of flawed human beings they will of course make mistakes -- the Republican party spews endless scandals: campaign donations gone missing; interns harassed; insider trading; and sexual assault claims. Amorality and indifference manifest in policymaking, too, the GOP’s only firm legislative commitment of course being tax breaks and voting against anything that would actually help people. COVID Relief? No Republicans voted for it. Opposing infrastructure spending? Of course. Trying to stop people from voting? Aiding and abetting an insurrection against the government of the United States?
Once you remove the floor, all you have left are the worms. With what the Republican Party currently represents, you have to be scum to sign up. There’s not much more to it than that. The reason we’re seeing more rarified crap artists like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn is they, like other scums, like other worms, are perfectly comfortable squirming around in the muck.
Also, notably, worms are invertebrates.
The Republicans’ unparalleled and mostly untrammeled unctuousness is greased through our collective gullets by a mainstream media whose steadfast dedication to a failed conception of objectivity gives credence to the incredible, succor to the insufferable. Every time a Sunday Show hosts a Republican who supported the insurrection yet is not asked a single question about it, a new Republican Q-anon adherent springs forth from the mud ready to slime onto the stage. The “both sides are equally deserving of serious discussion” shortcomings of our collective approach to the Republican Party are examined in great detail in the other article in this newsletter, so I won’t bludgeon you needlessly by repeating the argument, but allow me just one more tap with the mallet: we don’t have to pretend they’re not scums. In fact, pretending the Republican Party isn’t an amoral cesspool of criminals and crackpots is a significant factor in the their continued ascendency.
I can’t tell you how mystified I am by those who proudly proclaim they can put ‘politics’ to the side and maintain friendships with people from ‘the other side’ when that side so proudly stands for racism, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, white nationalism, illiberalism, and the refutation of any and all principles beyond power and greed and tax cuts.
I understand if you disagree with someone over which Ghostbusters is the best, great, okay, fine, if you like the sequel better that’s a bit weird but it doesn’t say much about your value set. Supporting a party whose titular leader is Donald J. Trump? I’m supposed to just put all that ugliness to the side and grill hot dogs with an individual who co-signs all this?
Naturally one might find themselves asking how one major political party got to be so completionist in their dedication to doing wrong; what might be further inclined to ask the most important question -- why?
At its simplest, the Republican Party in its current incarnation has no policy goals, has no ideology, save for preserving and expanding the material acquisitions of a tiny coterie of plutocrats, and the pursuit of this aim above all else, has over time led to the necessity of shedding any tethers to conventional morality. That is to say, if your only unifying principle is helping rich people stay rich; you’re not going to be in the majority. And if you want to pursue contra-majoritarian legislation, you can’t work within the confines of a democratic system. And if you therefore have to break the rules in one arena on an ongoing basis to maintain power, one thing leads to another, and eventually you find that the simplest way to pursue your policy preferences is to deny that right and wrong even exist. That’s how you end up with Gaetz and Greene.
This begs the further question as to why people who aren’t billionaires support Republicans. The vast preponderance of Republican voters do not own Wal-Mart, and I have to admit I still can’t fully internalize the death cult like dedication to going against your own self-interest, though I’ll hazard an overarching theory, in sketch form.
Neoliberal capitalism has failed people. Now I know, the people who stormed the Capital tended to be small business owners and therefore not exactly the Lumpenproletariat, but in a way this doesn’t fully counter the main points. A socioeconomic system built on the lie that material gain is the most important aim around which we should all arrange our energies is sure to generate dysfunction. Hyper-accelerate this process, remove most of the social safety net, shred public education, mix in social media, and you’re going to end up with a lot of unhappy, selfish, ignorant people.
They’re just there for the taking, and Republicans are more than happy to gin them up on fake controversy and mobilize them to agitate for the narrow interests of the plutocrats while thinking they’re taking part in some sort life affirming movement...or whatever it is they think MAGA is.
All of this is to say our response to vertically integrated shitinesss must also counter on all terrain, full spectrum resistance, full stop. In your personal life, of course, this is a simple enough endeavor: there is no sense in treating with kid gloves the insensitivity of your friends/family/associates from ‘the other side.’ If they have joined forces with irredeemable crypto-fascists, the time for pleasantries has passed. Tell them they’re wrong. It’s more likely to work if you do so in a one on one scenario in which you play on your longstanding personal connections, but point is, don’t cede the ground, don’t let anyone labor under any illusions about what you are okay with.
I’m going to leave off here, and we’ll look to the concrete details of this ecosystem, and the appropriate response, in our next piece.
“Wrong” is not an Ideology
We’ve noticed a terrifying trend -- the ability of the American right to successfully advocate for and defend “wrong” under cover of political ideology. There are multiple things going on here, but we’re not going to tease them all out here in favor of getting to the heart of the matter. We will however, as befits this systems challenge, deliberately trace the connections between this trend, the strategy that animates it, the tactics used to execute and camouflage it, and the resulting effects on the left and American society.
One aspect we must bring out is the long-term right tactic of “laundering” “wrong” through its so-called “conservative think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute. It’s the specific role of thinks tanks in the Republican ecosystem to render bad, selfish, and flat out wrong policy into plausible sounding positions. They do this because if they can successfully cross the blood-brain barrier from morally wrong to political ideology -- they win. They get the automatic support of 40% of American voters regardless of the heinousness of the underlying intent and ultimate outcomes and effects. If an idea can be effectively positioned as political ideology, it will gain the endorsement of the tribe. But the truly insidious effect is that it buys protection from the mainstream press as well -- wedded as they are to the myth of American democracy, the political imperative of a two-party system, and the sanctity of “bothsidesism.”
But worse than that -- the long-term laundering effort was only the softening up phase of the strategy; a “shaping of the battlespace” as they say in the military. Because now the right doesn’t even bother in most cases to “put lipstick on a pig” or launder “wrong,” they skip that step and simply justify anything and everything as a political position. Based on the system dynamic known as path dependence, the laundering “middleware” is now no longer necessary, and people keep responding on the manner they have been accustomed to as if it were still there.
And as bad as that is, the emerging trend is even worse. As you have no doubt noticed with Trump, DeSantis, Cruz, Nunes, Gaetz, Fox News commentators, etc., the political cover thrown over bad policy is now being extended to all actions of political “officials” and ecosystem members regardless if their actions have anything to do with their official jobs! In this manner the statutory rape committed by a member of Congress is not treated by the press -- and in many cases the justice system -- with the same scrutiny that was applied historically or is applied now to ordinary citizens. The qualitative difference is that historically, powerful people were afforded the benefit of the doubt, but ultimately still held accountable to a standard applied to all. Now a subset of them are afforded additional deference and thus protection from accountability by the fact that they are designated as “political,” and thus exempt from the standards applied to the rest of us because the charges are tainted simply by the existence of an opposition political party! Wow, that’s “good work if you can get it” as we said where I grew up! And if you were around then, you might notice that this is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union. Funny how the right calls the left “socialists” while leaching off the American people and “Communist” while adopting every one of their bad habits!
The left doesn’t even think to question the moral, classical liberal, historical or American values that are being transgressed by the right’s actions, they just automatically start fighting back on political grounds. It is in this unconscious capitulation that the right wins, essentially without firing a shot.
If you are already pushing back on this argument with your self-consoling thought that politics was ever thus -- I throw the bullshit flag. Although I freely acknowledge American political imperfections both historical and structural, the right’s strategic work over the last 50 years as captured here is qualitatively different from politics as practiced in the United States over our history. The American right until the 1960s practiced conservatism, which was essentially a brake applied to liberalism in which the political differences were primarily over the optimal pace of change -- not which things should change nor in which direction. Second, democracy as political ideology and system, and America as the world’s first Constitutional Democratic Republic -- are “rights-based,” which at its most simple means the conscious rejection of “wrong” whenever and wherever it is found, and its conscious replacement with both “right” as a moral vector and an enumerated legal “right.” To advocate for “wrong,” as the American right is now doing, is thus both axiomatically and definitionally anti-American and anti-democratic.
How did a bunch of dipshits pull this off? First, their billionaire supporters are assholes, not dipshits. It is “assholes all the way down” in the Republican ecosystem. Unfortunately it is not also “dipshits all the way up.” Second, their dark money buys them the best minds and tools the market has to offer. Third, they’ve taken a page from the authoritarian playbooks of Nazi Germany, Russia, and China -- adopted their best practices if you will. The best of the best practices is to have a strategy -- the American right has one, and the left does not. Why does this matter? “If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s” Alvin Toffler. “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat,” Sun Tzu. “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion,” Lee Bolman. In my experience, these quotes understate the need for strategy. In my analysis, the lack of a cohesive, long-term Democratic strategy borders on the criminal.
The right’s long-term strategy is comprised of multiple complementary lines of effort -- of which the most prominent are: the attempt to replace democracy with authoritarianism; the legitimization of violence, intimidation, intolerance and hatred; and rendering truth irrelevant. Perhaps the least well-known and yet most powerful line of effort though is the creation and continuous strengthening of a wall of impunity. The wall, in true systems fashion, is both cause and effect of the right’s ability to get away with “wrong.” Its ability to get away with wrong serves as a brick in the wall, and the wall protects wrongdoers from accountability -- which in turn weakens the defenses of democracy and justice, and so forth, in a snowballing effect known as a vicious cycle. The wall is the strategic organizing principle underpinning what is known in America by the term “minority rule,” it accelerates the drift towards what we call “managed Democracy,” and if it is not countered swiftly it will be the main force rendering the “last best hope of earth” into what we call a “banana republic,” or what Trump calls a “shithole country.”
The wall itself is composed of several integrated tactics and objectives, including: seizing permanent vertical and horizontal control of the justice system; normalizing illegal and immoral behavior with its voter base, thereby neutralizing the potential opposing forces of religion and civics; leveraging dark money to delay justice where impunity has yet to be fully established; providing escape hatches for those who have somehow actually been held accountable by “the system,” and inducements for those who need to be convinced to abandon their moral principles; intimidating the left, government officials and progressive organizations through threats, cyber-stalking, lawsuits and bullying; and obscuring the entire line of effort behind a smokescreen of “whataboutism,” projection, lies, propaganda, an eschatology disguised as political ideology, and an ideology of hypocrisy so all-encompassing and surpassing it puts the Pharisees to shame.
The 2020 elections changed none of this. The right’s wall of impunity -- and its ability to get away with wrong -- grows stronger every day, because the strategy and line of effort has created a systems effect called a vicious cycle that the left is not meaningfully addressing through strategy or countermeasures. Worse than that, the right’s strategy is so powerful and insidious that the left has got collective “Stockholm Syndrome” and often willingly strengthens the wall for the right.
In military parlance, and as we continue to point out, we are in an undeclared and asymmetric war encompassing the governance, political, social, cultural and economic domains of actions. In terms of relative combat power -- in war games that calculation is used to determine who wins and loses in battles and campaigns -- the wall of impunity is the right’s center of gravity -- and as such it must be vigorously, strategically and relentlessly attacked with every resource that can be mobilized by the left for this purpose.
Here are some examples of the wall’s impact going on basically unnoticed right now: Congresspersons who supported an armed insurrection still being paid by my tax dollars -- and yours -- and not in jail where you and I would be; delays bringing Trump to trial/account -- civil and legal; the difficulty firing Postmaster General LeJoy -- if Republicans were in charge and he were a Democrat he’d be both fired and on trial already; the lack of outrage and civic action over the insurrection; Biden being blamed for the so-called “Border Crisis;” and police still killing people of color with impunity. Oh, the humanity!
To simply term these things “injustices” and go back to our lattes and 401k monitoring ameliorates the gravity of our situation, and adds concrete to the wall of impunity. These things are actual enemy attacks in an undeclared war, and by refusing to counter them as such the left is appeasing the right as Europe did with Hitler. As unhinged as this might sound to you -- the combined Republican, “right,” conservative and white supremacist ecosystem that acts and/or support the actions detailed here -- in (perhaps unwitting) support of the right’s strategy --must be eliminated as an effective fighting force as was done with Hitler and the German Military. They collectively constitute an armed insurgency that can’t be directly countered through classic force of arms, but that must be countered with all the mechanisms of the state supported by the will of the democratic majority. Even if we immediately begin to act with the resolve missing for fifty years, adopt a powerful energy-animating strategy, and lock arms, it’s going to get much uglier before it gets much better. At best, the 2020 elections could mean that we’ve reached “the end of the beginning” of a national turnaround. At worst, they represent just a blip on the radar of hope that will resolve to nothing in the face of the relentless Republican onslaught.
Is it possible things are even worse than the picture I’ve painted so far? It sure is. To wit: the recent raging discussions in the mainstream press and pundit world suggesting that the left should abandon -- at least temporarily -- critical thinking in its approach to our political problems! Really? It’s not enough to abandon American values and Democratic principles, but we should also be complicit in trying to roll the West back to the pre-Enlightenment Dark Ages? Did we save the world from totalitarianism by winning both World Wars and the Cold War -- and put a man on the moon -- and spawn a global agricultural revolution in our spare time -- by suspending critical thinking? Hell no, the exact opposite. We doubled down. This is what I meant earlier in the piece about the left being its own worst enemy and having Stockholm syndrome. The American right is not any less “wrong” than were the Nazis simply by virtue of being American, and we can no longer give them a pass.
What does a plan for victory -- destroying the wall of impunity and re-establishing a bright line between right and wrong -- look like? Prioritizing the following:
1. Immediately execute countermeasures to the wall of impunity, including deploying a special federal task force and tribunal to go after the January 6 seditionists, all the way up to the money people;
2. Develop a strategy and execute it with alacrity;
3. Create one or more laws criminalizing anti-democratic activity and speech;
4. Re-institute in-depth civics training in schools for grades 1-12.
Ready to go? Get on it! Think this is too hard? Take a long look in the mirror buddy; you’re the problem not the solution.