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Burn It All Down
Belligerence in a harrowing age
Recently, Judd Legum, proprietor of the excellent Public Information, interviewed Abraham Josephine Riesman, author of Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America, about Donald Trump’s connection to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
(I haven’t been interested in wrestling (to the extent I ever was) since the early 1970s, when my dad took me to Sunnyside Gardens to see matches featuring Chief Jay Strongbow, Andre the Giant, and Bruno Sammartino.)
As Riesman makes clear, that kind of gritty spectacle continues to exert an influence on the seemingly intransigent supporters of Donald and his toxic brand. Thanks to the first two years of the Trump administration, during which 100% of the federal government was under the control of the Republican Party, and thanks to the willingness (and, in some cases, eagerness) of that party to back a fraud, thief, and traitor, that support has grown well beyond the so-called base.
I don’t know what it is about the lives of those who continue to champion or at least tolerate Donald and this party, but they are drawn to the loud and the wasteful, the dirty, the dark, and the dangerous as long as they themselves feel safe.
They don’t want a leader to look up to; they want somebody on their level, equal to or (preferably) beneath them. Somebody who doesn’t need to descend into the gutter to “fight for them” (hate for them, threaten for them) because he’s already there—and has been living there for all of his adult life.
Donald’s exaggerated displays of confidence and his refusal to play by the rules, continue to draw some people to him while the Republicans (including those who are allegedly in competition with him) continue to leave the field open for him to dominate.
Recently, “Trump or Death” flags started making an appearance. Now, what? What is the end-point of this kind of display? What will the corporate media do when Donald fails to condemn such sentiments and actually embraces the kind of rhetoric that leads to them?
It turns out we already know the answer—they will do nothing. Because that’s exactly what happened when Donald announced General Mark Milley should be put to death. As far as Donald is concerned, his followers should be willing to die or kill for him— he believes he’s worth that level of devotion. As far as the media are concerned, his latest threat is the logical extension of all of his rhetoric that has come before.
Why call it out, then—especially if doing so interferes with the horse race? They need to keep the race between Pres. Biden and Donald close. In order to do that, they obsess about Biden’s age without acknowledging his fitness and accomplishments while normalizing Donald as the Republican front-runner while failing to mention that he’s only three years younger in addition to being a cognitively impaired, fraudulent traitor to the United States.
It’s early days, yet, and, as the saying goes, things will get worse before they get better. Unfortunately, both the media and the Republican Party seem to be doing everything in their power to prevent the “getting better” part. The calculation behind the choices made by each of these groups is related to narrow self-interest. The media are only concerned about what will benefit their bottom line; Republicans only care about what will gain them more power. The irony of the media’s gambit, is that caving to and enabling anti-democratic forces will ultimately be fatal to journalism. The Republican Party, on the other hand, understands that the future of the party is entirely dependent on following the road map Donald left them—never admit you’re wrong, never take responsibility, and never care about the well-being of anybody other than yourself.
There are so many problems facing the United States right now. The impact of those that are beyond our control (the widespread wildfires and flooding, for example) is exacerbated when we deliberately choose to make those things worse which we could improve right now.
We could, for example, solve the epidemic of gun deaths in America, just like every other developed country has. Procedurally it would be quite easy—ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, tax bullets, strengthen loopholes, enact stricter gun laws, institute gun buy-back programs. These are policies that upwards of 70% of Americans want.
The significant minority of people who own the vast majority of guns, however, is represented by 100% of their NRA-beholden politicians, and they won’t allow it.
We could also solve—or at least significantly diminish—child poverty. How do I know that? Because we already have. But then House Republicans decided to trash the policy that improved the lives of millions of children. On the brink of our next government shutdown* (the sixth in a row since 1995 for which House Republicans are responsible), I just can’t get this chart out of my head:
In the event of a shutdown, whether it happens tonight or in November or some other time between now and the 2024 election, “The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will quickly run out of funding and be unable to provide food for children and parents in need. In the case of a prolonged shutdown, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may also be affected.” (For more details about how the shutdown will affect individuals and government programs, Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) office has a good primer.)
*[Let’s be really clear about this, a shutdown will be the deliberate choice of Kevin McCarthy and the most anti-American extremists to whom he’s beholden for his speakership. In other words, McCarthy would rather have millions of children go hungry and millions of adults out of work or working without pay than risk his ill-gotten power.]
What ever happened to collective action for good? I don’t know if you remember this, but when I was a kid, the accumulated actions of human beings since the Industrial Revolution started punching holes in the ozone layer. Cities like Los Angeles were almost constantly shrouded by thick layers of smog. Scientists identified the causes of the problem, took the necessary steps to slow the damage, and ultimately reversed it. Yet, 50 years later, when faced with problems that can be similarly solved—like climate change and COVID pandemic—we can’t get it done because we’re up against a bunch of unreconstructed anti-science, dead-end cultists who apparently believe the only desirable alternative to Donald is death.
It's not that they want to burn it all down in order to get their way—burning it down is what they want.
Elected Republicans at every level of government will assist these nihilists in this effort as long as the immature assholes and wannabe bullies who comprise an alarming percentage of the American electorate continue to keep them in power.
It’s time for those of us who believe in the future of American democracy start to accept the unacceptable—at least in the short term. We need to concede that 1) tens of millions of American adults are beyond reaching either because they don’t care, they’ve checked out, or, hardest of all to swallow, they’re vicious, anti-democratic thugs who want what today’s Republican Party and its de facto leader are selling; 2) the corporate media, by virtue of its lack of journalistic integrity, moral cowardice, and addiction to ratings, is firmly on the side of the fascists; and 3) there is no way to change 1) and 2) in the crucial months leading up to the 2024 election.
While it’s true that almost 12 million more people voted for Donald in 2020 than in 2016, it’s also true that 15 and a half million more people voted for the Democrat in 2020 than in 2016.
So, we run the table. We put out the fire.
N.B. The House just passed a temporary stop-gap measure to fund the government through mid-November with the support of 209 Democrats and 126 Republicans. It includes no funding for Ukraine, a devastating development, so it’s unclear whether the Senate will is pass it. If they do, this will create a whole other set of problems and we’ll likely be back in the same boat in November. As long as the Republicans in the House believe that holding the government hostage and making Americans suffer is their best course of action to retain power, we will always end up here.
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