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Trumpism: How the Minority of Ignorant Cretins are Defeating the Best of Us
Four Hundred Years of Lies, Fifty Years of Brilliant Strategy, One Human Rally Point
Dear Readers: This issue details how the Republican minority imposes its will on the majority. And questions whether the majority has lost the will to fight.
Some Things are Still Worth Fighting For – Democracy, Your Family, and Your Honor are Three
Now that I’ve had a few days to digest, let me be the first to say the one-year anniversary of the January 6 Insurrection proceeded pretty much as I expected: a few speeches, the cast of Hamilton singing a song, some both-siderism from the morning news shows, and little in the way of consequences for the coup plotters. Empty symbolism, corporate malaise, Republican gaslighting. Happy J6, everyone!
Shockingly, it was Joe Biden’s speech that disappointed me least of all the week’s somber reflections and empty gestures, seeing as how the Commander in Chief (mostly) dispensed with his usual schtick of prevailing on the nonexistent shame and better nature of the Grand Old Party. Biden tossed all malarkey to the side and called the current threat exactly how he sees it: A dagger at the neck of democracy. Biden laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Former Occupant of the White House and the wider fascist Republican Party, stopping short of calling them fascists, of course. Maybe he’s saving that for the midterm push. Or the State of the Union.
Ilhan Omar may have won the day for me, as far as elected Democrats go. Unlike Joe, she calls a fascist a fascist, so points there. And perhaps as importantly, she contextualizes the rise of the current fascist threat as the nearly inevitable product of a socioeconomic system that fails so many millions of people daily in fulfilling their basic needs. Speaking in an op-ed, the Minnesota Representative said:
“Donald Trump was not elected in a vacuum. Inequality, endless wars, and the corruption of unaccountable elites are all common precursors to either violent revolutions or dramatic expansions of democracy.”
Virulent white nationalism courses through America from stem to stern, never extirpated. Fascism and authoritarianism thrive in ignorance, thrive in inequality, thrive through the shortcomings of a socioeconomic system that puts corporate profits above all else, including human welfare and the life of the planet. Of course, we were going to end up precisely where we are, dagger held at the neck.
How do We Move That Dagger, anyway?
As with any problem, first thing you must do is accurately describe the problem. Frankly, to my somewhat pleasant surprise, as a country, we are closer to ‘we have a problem here’ than we’ve ever been as regards the threat to democracy. Two thirds of Americans think democracy is under threat, though MORE Republicans feel that way than Democrats. Of course, the Republican poll respondents believing democracy under assault evince a completely inaccurate understanding of the threat, seeing as how they are themselves the dagger.
What the threat is, and what exactly to do about, now there’s where things get complicated for the terminally obtuse.
You don’t have to look very hard to find examples of wish-washy, prevaricating nonsense about how to hold the coup plotters accountable… or not.
The nice thing about being employed as a card-carrying member of the commentariat is that much like coup plotters, there’s little in the way of accountability for your actions, especially if you’re higher up the food chain. If you’re at the tippy top, anything goes! You can be as wrong as you want to be, as often as you like, for as long as you like, and the NYT and WAPO and whoever else are more than happy to keep printing up your pablum. Especially if you lean conservative.
So, pardon me if the same people who said Trump was going to leave peacefully and called the rest of us who forecast it correctly as alarmists are now saying the way forward is through appeasement and caution. The people who wrote pieces condoning torture, who rah-rahed the run up to the Iraq War, the people who said Trump would tack to the center when he took office, the people who invited on climate denialists for decades to ‘balance’ out the screaming into the void of the scientists, the people who have been wrong about almost everything now want to seem wise by urging ‘caution,’ ‘evenhandedness’ and ‘patience.’
Bullshit. There’s no time to wait, and if ever there was a population less deserving of ‘evenhandedness’ than the right-wing goons holding the dagger at all our necks, I’m not sure I’ve met ‘em in my lifetime.
We need fire and fury, both in rhetoric and in action.
The across-the-board caving from these tough talkers when they face vaccine mandates for employment shows us that sticks work with this crowd, carrots don’t. They only understand power. And let’s be clear, there are fewer of them than us. We have power in numbers. We have the power of truth. Justice. Righteousness. Whatever you wanna call it, they’re wrong, we’re right, and we shouldn’t be afraid to put them in their place.
All that big talk, but when push comes to shove, if these fuckers face actual consequences, they change their behavior. I suspect it’s because deep down they know they’re full of shit and they’re looking for a face-saving way out, but I haven’t been able to hook any of them up to a lie detector (yet) to confirm my suspicion about their full of shit-ness.
Just these past few days, the Department of Justice announced a new task force committed to domestic terrorism. Jim Jordan immediately criticized the announcement, not surprising given his open commitment to the cause of the vast preponderance of U.S. based terrorists (white nationalism).
One can only hope the DOJ goes after the people who tried to kill members of Congress with the same fervor they go after people organizing social justice protests.
In reality, though, the militias and terrorism and street violence are only part of the problem. The Republican Party is wholeheartedly committed to the overthrow of democracy. They’re lizard brain devious enough to know that open political violence is riskier than legal means of disenfranchisement/illiberalism, hence the effort to pass voter restrictions, to take over local elections. They are enthusiastic backers of the Big Lie and propagating Small and Medium Lies all over the place to lay the groundwork for 2022, when they declare themselves winners wherever they please, regardless of what the voters actually want.
The long-standing structural advantages of the Senate and the Electoral College aren’t enough for these democracy-haters, they want to go full bore authoritarian. And for the most part, they’re getting away with it.
If we’re going to dodge the dagger, we have to muster the courage to hold the coup plotters accountable and remind people exactly what’s at stake if the Republicans aren’t stopped. Democrats should hold regular press conferences. How is it that the Republican Party is led by an open coup plotter, and they are still able to control the narrative?
Passing voter protections is obviously critical. Democrats will have to figure out how to neutralize extremists Manchin and Sinema. At the very least, as with everything else, let’s just talk straight about what the problem is. They’re corrupt. It’s not much more complicated than that, so stop with the needless agonizing. Manchin drives a Maserati, owns a yacht, makes money from coal, and receives big bucks from dirty energy companies. Do we really need to read a million more pieces dissecting what he’s thinking? He’s thinking he doesn’t give a fuck about you, your functioning democracy, or your habitable planet. Sinema, same deal.
Democrats should pursue every remedy, including the 14th amendment, to expel any elected official who aided and abetted the insurrection. Jim Jordan, MTG, Boebert, Hawley. All the coup plotters. Including that miserable piece of shit, Ted Cruz. Every single member of the House who voted against certification.
North Carolina voters are pursuing just such a remedy against Madison Cawthorn.
And for those of us who aren’t members of Congress, we can’t sit this one out.
Joe Biden called on We the People to join the fight. And as annoyed as I was, and still am, that the people in the most power to do something about these problems have also been the least helpful, there’s something to be said for taking matters into our own hands. That Margaret Meade quote gets thrown around a lot. I’d modify it slightly and say rarely is it a small group. The most powerful forces are when we mobilize as many people as humanly possible. It’s time to do so again.
Mass movements are the most powerful tool at our disposal. Here at Revelatur, we’ve proposed a coalition of individuals and organizations united around a single cause: stopping the fascist takeover of the United States. If you want to talk about it, drop us a line.
We the People are ready.
Republicans Build Perfect Political “Gain-of-Function” Machine; Dems are “Shocked” By It
As we’ve spoken to in several earlier analyses, including our 2021 Year End piece, there is a sickness in the American soul that is introduced into the body politic – or worsened dramatically - by the political theology known as neoliberalism. The sickness finds ready hosts weakened by multiple myths about the nation and its rugged, independent, entrepreneurial citizens unduly burdened by Government and free riding “Brown People.” The result, a prevailing belief that any way one gets rich and/or famous is ok - legal or not, moral or not, helpful to others or not. This is why Trump, other plutocrats and Republican leaders pay no price for transgressions – they are accountable to no external norms -- because how they got where they are has been rendered acceptable, even enviable, to many Americans.
Those of us who try hard to do good, play by the rules, pay our taxes, etc., have thusly to a large degree been chumped. By holding ourselves accountable to norms – voluntarily – when surrounded by self-serving ass clowns, we put ourselves and our descendants at a decided disadvantage. This is not culturally sustainable and addressing it in the right way while preserving democracy is the big challenge facing liberals, Democrats, and progressives. Alas, we are not, collectively, rising to the challenge.
At the same time, this moral rot leads to a thinking rot, so that even privileged Republicans (and, admittedly, some Dems) convince themselves that they are the victims instead of perpetrators. Once you accept all the “wink wink,” “nod nod” necessary to prop up our current system you are morally compromised and easily aggrieved. Thus, the double lie that R’s all believe - the U.S. has a good (the best!) system whose only flaw is that too many undeserving people are “free riding” on it.
The ten generations of Americans accepting and perpetuating myths because it benefits them personally to do so have eroded the deep American spirit and values to the point where we are now. At the same time, the get rich and/or famous neoliberal-capitalism-market imperative distracts people’s attention from what’s going on and causes them to see politics primarily through that occluded lens - so that voting comes down to this: which party looks most likely to enable me to move closer to rich and/or famous; or, to the aggrieved - which party looks most likely to retard the progress of the free riders?
This problem is, unfortunately, not to be solved through policy and legislation - it is first and foremost a commitment and education issue, preceded by honest admission that this is a problem in the first place. We haven’t reached even that stage yet, so the clock to our improved future hasn’t even started ticking yet.
In other words - what we pursue as an ideality now (wealth, fame, power) is the problem, whereas neoliberalism, capitalism and myth would have you believe that it is the solution and only worthy path to a successful life – and that the things like government and Brown People that get in your way are the problem. Democrats and most progressive organizations - facing this dynamic and proposing weak, centrist policies that serve to preserve the status quo are at best “playing for a tie” with our democracy -- instead of going for the win. Therefore participative democracy and establishment of a new, game-changing ideality is seminal.
Republicans use propaganda to sharpen focus on long term, benign or even positive trends such as diversity, turning that into Great Displacement Theory, for instance. Doing so reifies and legitimizes fear. They then amplify and accelerate this fear through network effects. It is precisely this dynamic that is new to American politics, and it is only understood and leveraged by the right. Neoliberalism, love of tech, and American libertarian views of tech intertwine, and we just accept it all as inevitable, uncontrollable, teleologically-determined even.
The epitome of our dysfunction is the “influence industry.” Young kids everywhere, but especially in these United Sates, are now dreaming of cultural breakthroughs, “blowing up,” and market crossovers instead of being ballerinas, sports or military heroes, firemen, EMTs. This shift is not, as we’ve been led to believe, an inevitable outcome of globalism, creative destruction, “the market,” or legitimate aspiration of modern youth. It’s a sickening, gasping, and grasping attempt by well-meaning people to find some sense of validation in a nation without community, character, or civic virtue.
True, as with the influence industry, it’s always been about “access” in America – that is what class systems provide or deny. It’s just that we were supposed to be a classless society – and the cognitive dissonance between all the myths and the reality either causes people to internalize it and get ill, or fully embrace the insanity – both courses are individually logical -- but societally and individually unhealthy.
Access is now mediated by the new money – hedge funds, venture capitalists and private equity, and initial success is amplified by network effects and the reserves of cash waiting to jump on any “monetizable” bandwagon. Everything that can be monetized “should be,” all that can be scaled “must be,” everything that can be “platformed” is – this is the inexorable logic of neoliberalism, late-stage capitalism, the market, pick your term.
When we point out that R’s have no policies and propose no legislation, we miss the main point – it is power they are after, and they’ve unlocked the secret formula to obtaining it with maximum leverage and ROI. This should come as no surprise due to their affinity for business – they’re using the same growth models. It’s antithetical to democracy – but dems lose by repeatedly asking the referees to call the game fairly instead of developing their own winning model.
R’s fear Critical Race Theory and similar because they know from their own strategy that such robust, research-validated concepts with great explanatory and mobilizing power can quickly gain traction in the war of ideas. In effect, they make the political war less asymmetric. Dems should embrace Critical Race Theory instead of shying from it, and they should energetically advance multiple extent theories that cover all topical and potential policy areas – and then they should invest heavily in strategically communicating them. That they don’t is evidence of either paucity of vision or collusion with the status quo – or, more likely – a healthy dose of both.
Here’s the conundrum dems face: If, according to general belief, the neoliberal ideality is intrinsically “good,” how is untrammeled pursuit of it to ever be effectively labeled bad? It isn’t to be. It is the ideality itself that must be countered and replaced with something better in terms of its animating ability. This is the brilliance of neoliberalism – tied so closely to man’s basic instincts of fear and power yet also tied to precepts that seem logical and equitable at first glance – the combination enables usurping of the entire purpose of the American experiment. But now the new model has momentum and a powerful ecosystem behind it, while there is no counterforce at its strategic level – therefore we describe the fight as asymmetrical.
Fortunately, the people who never bought into our myths in the first place have less bullshit to peel back, have been much more observant and quicker to react – notice that Black Lives Matter and the Women’s Movement are the vanguard of efforts to protect democracy. If only for their own honor, yet more importantly to save “the last best hope of earth,” their families’ and the planet’s futures -- we need white men to join their brothers and sisters in this most noble of fights.
If you’re up for a bit more of a technical description of the political dynamic, this next section if for you.
What’s being contested now is the voting environment – the economy and legal system having already been long won by the plutocrats – it the last man standing so to speak.
In transactional environments, all competing entities bring their capabilities to bear that they believe will enable them to prevail, a term known as combat power in warfare, competitive advantage in the commercial sector. Each side hopes to be able to bring superior firepower, if you will, to bear at the decisive points in the battlespace through strategy, capability, and tactics.
The problem? Republicans have a secret weapon, so to speak – an amorality that dems do not understand at an actionable level. They also have an organizing principle – impunity – which dems have not even recognized or acknowledged, much less figured out how to counter. And they ruthlessly exploit network effects (Network effects: “a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it,” Oxford).
What enables all this is that they maintain information superiority over the left stemming from a highly-funded, fifty-year effort to understand the American voter and voting environment – an effort recently accelerated by data science and amoral data analysis companies. Dems have nothing like this – their weapons are outdated, they arrive late to every battle and the enemy has moved on to the next battlefield by then, and the fight is not between equals but rather a truly asymmetrical fight in which one side totally controls the environment and the other is just trying to figure out what is going on.
Over time, these soft power advantages have been converted into hard power, structural advantages, such as with the Supreme Court, state legislatures, Electoral College, etc. It took a very long time – from any one person’s perspective – for this conversion to occur, but network effects have accelerated the plutocrats’ timeline, so they are now going for the last piece they don’t totally control – the voter environment. As we’ve seen they are pulling out all the stops – not even making a pretense of equity or fair play as regards voting rights, access, voter certification, etc. Being in control of all the other levers means never having to apologize.
All of these things combine to generate an asymmetric environment in which almost everything dems do, having been anticipated by long-term R strategy, backfires and accelerates the vicious cycle.
Here’s what we mean by asymmetry. In the first graphic, we depict a heavyweight prize fight, capturing the major factors for each boxer that are used to establish the betting line: weight class; previous record; reach; age; weight; height; number of knockouts. Each boxer usually has an advantage in some factors, while being disadvantaged in the others. In such a situation we have sufficient symmetry to call the upcoming fight “fair,” in which case it is “sanctioned” by some ruling body, and legal betting is allowed to occur.
The second graphic is a common comparison of military forces from the Cold War. While the graphic indicates numerical advantages for the Warsaw Pact in most categories because NATO has creditable counterforce in each category, we still consider the battlespace symmetrical.
The last graphic captures the current U.S. voter transactional environment. Notable is that Republicans bring several entirely different, unmatched categories of capability to this fight, so that a head-to-head comparison of political “combat power” is not possible. Each believes that what they bring “should” prevail – enable them to win in direct competitions, or at least enable sufficient equilibrium that sufficient objectives of its stakeholders are achieved to maintain a spirited competition well into the future.
Democrats continue to believe that national demographics favor them, and that this one factor alone is sufficient to maintain equilibrium in the near term and ensure they can prevail long term. They are belatedly realizing that Republican exploitation of structural imbalances of long standing – Electoral College, Senate advantage to smaller, more rural states, monetary support – more than offset potential demographic advantages that themselves have not been effectively exploited by democrats.
The combination of three things: Democrats not directly countering Republican capabilities across the board; Republicans possessing knowledge superiority and unflinching willingness to face the truth internally (granted, they manipulate it externally, but that is a different matter), and Republican amoral use of network effects -- combine, accelerate trends, and generate a vicious cycle that democrats are not attempting to counter strategically. Democrats and Republicans are fighting entirely different wars! Therefore we call this particular fight asymmetric.
Why does this matter? An adversary that has invested 50 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to create this asymmetry is not going to willingly walk away from it. It is not going to become bipartisan, cooperate with its adversary to preserve democracy, or pass legislation inimical to the interests of its financiers. Manchin, Sinema, Pelosi and Biden know this – thus they’re all doing Kabuki theater to entrance, beguile and distract us. We must stop expecting them to act on our behalf, stop outsourcing our responsibility as citizens, stop pretending the cavalry is coming. The cavalry is us.