Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Bigotry of the Literal Mind

Leave it to the great Lionel Trilling to bring clarity where once there was confusion. I have the complete works of Trilling on my bookshelves and regularly dip into them, not only for his insights into literature but, more importantly, for his insights on society. I even have the book, Why Trilling Matters, by Adam Kirsch, but I can save you the trouble with one sentence. Trilling matters because he didn’t believe in literature for literature’s sake; he believed in literature as one of the most important ways to understand our own morality, not just individual but social morality. One example of this comes in the title of an essay by his most influential professor, John Erskine. The title of the essay was, “The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent.” We see the startling effects of this today, as a large swath of proudly anti-intellectual voters regularly participate in the very immoral act of trying to elect immoral leaders to the highest offices in the land. And so their very lack of intelligence directly affects the rest of the populace in a decidedly negative way. Morality, unlike personal integrity, is a social construct because it has to do with the effect of people’s actions on others. Intellect is absolutely vital to this, precisely because it is our rational mind that allows us to comprehend the negative effects we can have on others through our actions, and hopefully avoid them. The fiercely ignorant, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea that they are willingly destroying themselves and utterly clueless that they are taking the rest of us with them in the process.

What Trilling taught me today, however, is not about the ignorance of the political right, but the ignorance of the political left. For years I have struggled to understand what writer and professor John McWhorter has described as the religion of Wokeness. The reason he puts it in those terms is because Woke ideology is founded on dogma rather than intellect. Dogma is something to be followed, adhered to unquestioningly, just like the sacred texts and teachings in a religion. So, as far as that goes, the greater part of the paradox of Wokeism can be thus understood by the fact that it is just as anti-intellectual as the MAGA right. That much I knew already, but it still didn’t explain why that was the case. And that in itself is another troubling aspect of society today, primarily in the media but increasingly infecting academia and all of American letters. I used to tell my students when I was teaching that the only question that matters is “why.” The reason for that is a “why” question forces the responder to begin with the word “because,” and therefore must always be followed by an explanation—requiring the responder to understand what it is they’re talking about in order to explain it. But with increasing frequently, writers of books and articles today do not have the intellectual capacity to explain anything, so instead they choose not to. Most writing today is primarily descriptive, which means that it is also primarily meaningless. Without explaining why something is the way it is, the mere fact that it is the way it is means relatively little.

So that’s the question that has haunted me about Woke ideology: why? Why would those on the left, liberals, who I take for granted believe in social equity, be so unflinchingly critical of other liberals, for absolutely idiotic reasons? It makes no sense. To begin at the beginning it’s important to realize that America’s public education system is primarily to blame. I witnessed firsthand the fact that the vast majority of teachers in classrooms have no interest in analysis or explanation—the “why” questions—but instead fall back almost exclusively on “what” questions, that is, recall of facts, identification, and description. The simple reason for this is that they themselves were never taught to analyze in school, so they obviously can’t teach it. The bitter irony, however, is that the reason public school classrooms wound up operating in this manner is because that’s exactly what they were designed to do. For the past hundred and fifty years, public education has been living up to its original intent of churning out good workers: wage-slaves who do not think, who do not question, and therefore are incapable of explaining why they are in the downtrodden position they find themselves in. They have been taught to believe in the most destructive of all American myths, the unquestioned good of Capitalism and the social-Darwinian pseudo-science of competition as the guiding principles of society. So given that context it really shouldn’t be a surprise that people indoctrinated by religion and public education are incapable of thinking for themselves, because they have been trained not to. And in the case of Woke, just as with MAGA, that is what everything else follows from.

The reality is, the dogma coming out of the Woke movement today is nothing new. It really began in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, when it became painfully obvious to almost everyone that it was the Republican policies of unrestrained capitalism that were to blame for the financial disaster that had befallen the United States and the rest of the world. At the time, people who continued to espouse making the rich even richer seemed especially abstruse and almost anti-American, in that it was not a leap at all to see that doing thus would simply punish suffering Americans even more. Following this idea was an offshoot that would regain momentum in a much broader social context eighty years later, and that was the belief that anyone working in a public sphere, be it Congress, a corporate CEO, or celebrity, has an obligation to society to voice only accepted liberal beliefs or they risk betraying society and becoming a de facto enemy to the liberal cause. Fortunately in the 1930s there was so much overwhelming political support for the New Deal, that the idea was never politically divisive the way it is today. There were still Republicans who tried to fight the New Deal, but by and large they were not politically successful. In the depths of the Depression, there were not a lot of politicians who had the temerity to deny outright the federal government’s obligation to help he citizens of the country through the worst economic crisis in history. Where this idea did manage to stay alive, though, was in literary criticism.

In an essay by Lionel Trilling entitled “Hemingway and his Critics,” written in 1938, the professor bemoaned the fact that this idea had taken root in literary circles and as a result it began causing authors to write in a specific way in order to prove their liberal credentials, rather than as their inspiration dictated. For Hemingway, as far as Trilling could tell, this had been a disaster as the self-conscious abandoning of his decidedly anti-liberal themes and symbols in his recent work had led to an inadvertent undermining of the power that had made him a great artist in the first place. Instead of simply being an artist, and creating works of art, Trilling now sensed that Hemingway was trying to write “as Hemingway,” the man, rather than ignoring critics and embracing the separation that had always, and will always, divide the creator from the created.

          One feels that Hemingway would never have thrown himself into his new and inferior work if the
          necessity had not been put upon him to justify himself before this magisterial conception of literature.
          Devoted to literalness, the critical tradition of the Left took Hemingway’s symbols for his intention,
          saw in his stories only cruelty or violence or a calculated indifference, and turned upon him a barrage
          of high-mindedness—that liberal-radical high-mindedness that is increasingly taking the place of
          thought among the “progressive professional and middle-class forces” and that now, under the name
          of “good will,” shuts out half the world. (Trilling 1980, 127)

The problem for liberal critics was that in his early work Hemingway told the truth, but by the end of the 1930s critics didn’t want to hear that anymore. Liberal-radical criticism only wanted to hear the truth as they saw it, an ideal of what should be rather than what was still left to overcome. And Trilling duly called them out, stating quite assertively, “what should have been always obvious is that Hemingway is a writer who, when he writes as an “artist,” is passionately and aggressively concerned with truth and even with social truth” (Trilling 1980, 127). When Trilling says these critics were “devoted to literalness,” what he meant was this: in writing about the social ills of the day, those critics could only see the truth as an endorsement of the status quo, rather than the reverse. What they lost the ability to do was understand that only by exposing the unvarnished truth in a context—in this case literary—in which that truth is believed in and acted upon by its characters, can that truth be seen in all its ugliness, can it be truly understood for the detrimental impact it is actually having on society. And this is the same misunderstanding that society is faced with today in the Woke movement, but infinitely worse as it has infected political discourse to the point where many on the left are so literal-minded that they have become utterly unable to grapple with the truth and, even more crucially, understand why it’s so incredibly important.

In providing an example to prove his point, Trilling made the genius move of citing Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While it is the perfect example, it certainly didn’t come out of thin air, as Trilling cites Hemingway’s oft-quoted remark that all of American literature comes from Huckleberry Finn. Of course Hemingway never explained what he meant by that, and left it up to us to figure out why. What’s so frustrating is that no one, it seems, in the last hundred and forty years since its publication, has really understood the actual importance of Huckleberry Finn—perhaps not even Hemingway. It even seems clear that Trilling himself really didn’t know, not fully anyway. To be honest, Trilling had any number of things wrong over the years, but that’s not finally the point, because his message was never ultimately about literature in a vacuum. Trilling, as a teacher—not of literature, but through literature—was one of the greatest in all of U.S. history. Again, going back to public education, the fact that so many people over the decades have failed to understand the significance of Twain’s novel should not come as a surprise. Readers, critics, teachers, students, and especially blacks, have all been baffled for nearly a century and a half as to what the novel really does.

But let’s first begin with Trilling, as a way of understanding how the reading of the story of Huck Finn could go so terribly wrong. What Trilling does understand is that, “Huck’s prose is a sort of moral symbol” (Trilling 1980, 127). Why the qualifier, however, I have no idea, because Twain’s novel is entirely a moral symbol, the whole thing, which is the primary reason it has confused readers for so long. And Trilling is symbolic of this confusion himself, as he compares Woodrow Wilson to the Widow Douglas: “the pious, the respectable, the morally plausible.” It’s the final phrase, moral plausibility, that is crucial here, but unfortunately Trilling goes completely off the rails at that point, declaring that the novel is “the prose of the free man seeing the world as it really is.” No, no, no, no, no! That is not what Huck Finn is about. Huck is not a free man, even when he is out on the river! With only one exception, everything he sees along his journey is a reflection of who he already is, a slave to what Arthur Miller so eloquently called “the moral fashion of the day.” Huck believes that slavery is right, that blacks are inferior, and that Jim should be returned to his owner—throughout the entire trip. And that’s the whole point. Huck is supposed to be racist.

Trilling’s interpretation of the novel in terms of Hemingway, however, focuses on the lies that politicians like Wilson told the young men of that era, lies that led to their death and destruction in the First World War. Just as Huck had internalized the lies told to him about slavery, similarly the young men at the turn of the twentieth century had gone to war believing in the ideals professed by men like Wilson:

          To the sensitive men who went to war it was not, perhaps, death and destruction that made the
          disorganizing shock. It was perhaps rather that death and destruction went on at the instance and
          to the accompaniment of the fine grave words, of which Woodrow Wilson’s speeches were the
          finest and gravest. Here was the issue of liberal theory; here in the bloated or piecemeal corpse
          was the outcome of the words of humanitarianism and ideals; this was the work of presumably
          careful men of good will, learned men, polite men. (Trilling 1980, 128)

It’s actually quite a fascinating interpretation—as it relates to Hemingway. As it relates to Huckleberry Finn, however, it’s quite wrong. Huck does not change his view of slavery because of what he sees along the trip. What he sees of the world, “as it really is,” only goes to reinforce the ideas he’s been brought up with. His relationship with Jim prior to the trip, immersed as they both were in a slaveholding society, also reinforced his beliefs. What changed Huck was not the world, but spending an extended period with Jim outside of the world.

What pains me the most is how so many black critics and black academics have entirely missed the point of the novel, and still do. Twain’s novel is a work of genius, and not only does all of American literature begin with Huckleberry Finn, but I would go so far as to say it is the peak of American literature, the summit to which many have attempted but only Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has come close to reaching. Sadly, blacks see the novel as inherently racist. They are embarrassed by the character of Jim. He’s uneducated and penniless, a superstitious man who never once questions the institution of slavery. But the thing is, he was written that way on purpose! The whole point of Twain’s novel is that Jim shouldn’t have to be educated, shouldn’t have to have money, shouldn’t have to be intellectual, and shouldn’t have to be a social critic against slavery. He should be respected and treated like a human being because he is a human being, not for the way he behaves. The whole point of Huckleberry Finn is that it’s not Jim’s fault for the way he’s treated. The onus for change is entirely the responsibility of whites. Huck is the one who needs to change, not Jim. And that’s just what Twain does.

It’s no coincidence that the Widow Douglas and her sisters are both Bible thumpers. The Bible is one of the first how-to manuals for owning slaves. It’s a slavery-positive piece of literature. It’s no wonder that God-fearing Southern slave owners we so confident in their conviction that slavery was endorsed by the God of the Bible—because it is! That was the world Huck was brought up in and that’s very much what he believed at the beginning of the story. One of the most powerful scenes in the book then, is when Huck makes the decision that he would rather go to Hell than make Jim go back to his owner. In that instance his own personal integrity became more important than the social conscience he had inherited. Huck makes the decision, for himself, about what is right, rather than listening to what the rest of society believes. And if that means he has to argue his case before God himself in the afterlife, then he’s willing to do it. Finally, the real climax of the novel comes when Huck describes Jim in the only way he knows how. When Jim tells the story of coming out of hiding to help the doctor with the wounded Tom Sawyer, knowing Jim was giving up his chance at freedom but refusing to turn his back on a friend, Huck tells the reader, “I knowed he was white inside, and I reckoned he’d say what he did say.” What Huck expresses in this simple sentence is the very essence of racial equality, that all people are the same inside, no matter what they look like on the outside. All people are the same . . . because they’re all people. In his novel, published in 1884, Mark Twain was able to convey to the entire nation the reality of racial injustice: that whites began it, and whites need to end it. The responsibility for ending racism has nothing to do with the behavior of blacks.

The problem is, this makes absolutely no sense to modern readers. One of the cardinal rules in writing fiction always used to be “show” the reader what’s happening rather than “tell.” But people today do not have the ability to understand what they are being shown, and so without an author telling them what’s going on they are incapable of seeing what an author like Twain is really doing. Just as with Trilling’s literal-minded critics, today's modern critics see only a racist novel, an embarrassing stereotype of a black slave, along with an abused white boy who travels down the river to find freedom. But the physical freedom Huck achieves at the end of the story is absolutely nothing compared to the freedom of thought he achieves in realizing that he has to make up his mind for himself about what is right and wrong, and not go along blindly with what society or the Bible has taught him to believe. Freedom of thought, however, seems to be alien to the radical Woke crowd, who for some unfathomable reason believe that it’s racist for whites to do anything to help blacks—and yet all the time castigate whites for their “unconscious” racist behaviors. The whole exercise is not only dumbfounding, it’s just plain dumb. And does absolutely nothing to solve the problem! The inability of the Woke warriors to think in any way but literally—when it comes to dogma; the dogma itself is wildly fictitious—has turned them into blithering idiots who adhere to nonsensical strictures instead of thinking for themselves. And yet if an uneducated teenager, “so ignorant, and so kind of low-down and ornery,” as Huck describes himself, in the 1840s can figure out how to think for himself, the question for the radical Woke mob becomes, “What’s your excuse?”

Friday, September 29, 2023

A Notable Day in Left-Wing Media

After eight long years the left-wing media has finally begun to grasp what has been going on ever since the stupidest man in history descended down the escalator into our lives in an attempt to destroy the United States of America from within. In their defense, however, it wasn’t as if this has been easy to explain. For one thing, it is unprecedented, and without any historical parallels for comparison things are understandably more difficult to comprehend. The closest analogy we’ve had is the Nazi takeover of Germany early in the previous century, but even that has failed to instruct us because the circumstances are so very different today. I’ve been struggling with the same inability to describe this attempted fascist takeover in a way that makes sense of what we’ve all been experiencing. Ironically, it has taken the 2024 Republican debates—possibly the most pointless and insignificant event in U.S. political history—to clear the haze and put the destruction of democracy we’ve been witnessing into relief and allowed the left-wing media to finally grasp—in a way they really hadn’t before—the question that Marvin Gaye put to us fifty years ago: “What’s going on?”

This day of days begins with a preamble, what Keith Olberman has labeled Trump’s numerous Fatwas: calls for his most violent and deranged followers to kill his political and criminal-justice “enemies.” This is criminal behavior, and the direct result of it being left unchecked has made things infinitely worse by allowing him feel that there are no consequences for his actions. Trump believes, justifiably, that this country lacks the political and moral will to do whatever is necessary to save democracy from a demagogue in waiting. And so he behaves accordingly, and we are left to suffer the consequences. From the moment he stepped out of office and was not ushered immediately into a jail cell, the government and justice system in this country has been negligent in its duty to its citizens, and we continue to pay the price. Olberman stated the desperate need to put Trump behind bars in order to stop his calls for political violence and murder this way:

          If it makes us look for a time like a third-world country, or it makes the current president look like
          he is prosecuting a political rival, or if it makes it seem as if one political party is trying to put another
          political party behind bars . . . so be it!  Because what happens if we do not act against Trump now,
          now, now
, is far worse! . . . We continue to head down a road to utter disaster in this country, where
          Trump’s belief that he and everything connected to him is more important than the entirety of the
          lives and welfare of every other citizen of the United States of America, where that belief is going to
          lead to open systemic violence here. And it is his fault. And he must be . . . Well, let me just use his
          words, from that post about Judge Engoron: “This political hack must be stopped.”

Tangential to this, but still decidedly on-brand, is the failed former president’s promise—right out of the dictator playbook—to arrest those in the media who have the temerity to tell the truth about his undemocratic, un-American, unethical and criminal behavior. And yet the sad truth is that the news media has been entirely unwilling to tell the truth about Trump, or call for accountability, as the media itself serves the corporate power structure in this country that Trump is helping to enrich, not the people it purports to serve. MSNBC, which certainly has its flaws, has been the only major news outlet to consistently label Trump’s lies as lies, and to point out the avalanche of attempts by Republicans to normalize his behavior through false equivalences on the left. CNN, which has failed utterly in its attempt to be balanced by refusing to acknowledge the incredible imbalance in what the right-wing is claiming, has by now been fully discredited in the eyes of anyone who can see the truth. And network news has been no better. But beyond that, what uneducated whites in this country are left with, is what I call the Fake-News-Industrial Complex. It’s one thing to call Fox News a propaganda network—which it is, a right-wing disinformation arm of the capitalist oligarchy—but no one until now has been quite as precise as Keith Olberman in explaining exactly how that system really works.

          The extraordinary sweep of right-wing television news networks and streaming services and pod-
          casts and radio and conspiracy theorists and publishers, the whole complex running the gamut from
          Alex Jones to Fox News to [Joe] Rogan . . . is bankrolled by one or more conservative billionaires
          who are delighted if they invest fifty million dollars and get back, ah, buck ninety-seven. Because
          the rest of the money, the other forty-nine million plus has been well-spent buying and creating
          public opinion, and fomenting an environment of stupidity and hate and rage that makes a trans-
          parent, two-bit con man like Trump seem like George Washington . . . The machine is well-oiled
          and perfected. At the fringes the John Solomons and the gateway pundits and people like that,
          make stuff up. And then places like One America News quote them. By the end of the week Fox
          has taken the story, suitably washed, with lots of places they can quote so they don’t have to claim
          they made it up, and Fox is taking that story and devoting seven shows a day to it.

As bad as Fox News was before, it was Trump who really opened the door to a way of talking to the right-wing base that is based not just on inuendo and rumor as it used to be, but on complete lies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Trump’s counter-programming against the most recent Republican debate. The event spurred left-wing podcaster David Pakman to opine, “Failed former president Donald Trump, yesterday engaged in the closest thing I recall he or any American politician doing that is this close to overt Russian- or North Korean-style propaganda.” It seems natural to feel this statement must be hyperbolic in some way, but unfortunately it’s not. Trump was refused an audience with the United Auto Workers, who are presently on strike, and instead was offered a podium before a group of non-union workers at which he pretended to be pro-union, and lied about his support for union workers. But beyond that, he had people in the audience holding up signs reading “Union Members for Trump,” who when questioned later admitted that they weren’t union members at all. The best summation of his blatant deception came from Pod Save America host, Dan Pfeiffer: “Trump doesn’t mention that he was the most anti-worker president in history, who passed a tax cut that most of the benefits went to the rich and encouraged and led to more offshoring of American jobs, who got rid of overtime pay for eight million Americans, costing them more than a billion dollars in wages.” Ask Trump any policy question and he will gush about how great he is, how he has done more than anyone else on the topic, and done it better . . . without giving one, single specific. The reason for that is he can’t, because all of his bluster is a lie.

The question that has haunted me since the Insurrection is, why do his followers believe his lies? But the simple answer is, they don’t. Their agenda—one that Trump offered them, and they accepted—has nothing to do with the truth. And the reason why they don’t care about the truth, is what has led at last to an explanation for the lurch toward fascism that a sizeable portion of the electorate now seems eager to embrace. It was Rachel Maddow, in a post-debate roundtable, who finally articulated what the entirety of the political left has been unable to fathom thus far, a genuine explanation for this inexplicable behavior:

          I feel like what’s happening in this Republican primary, and what’s happening in Republican
          politics right now, is that the Republican party, the Republican base, the Republican electorate,
          has effectively decided that they don’t really want to do politics anymore. And they’re not all that
          interested in what politics is, and governing and political campaigning and policy competition
          and all that stuff. They’re not interested in it. They would prefer to have a strong man, a particular
          strong man who they already know and who they like, and they would prefer to have that . . .
          a strong man who is going to end politics.

That, in a nutshell, explains the desire for fascism. It’s one-party rule for people who are fed up with politics. What’s so fascinating is that they’re not altogether wrong. Politics, as I’ve said many times before, is theater. It’s not real. It’s the outward manifestation of a capitalist control structure that uses wealth and power to manipulate the country from behind a curtain. Just as they do in media, they control the political process through money and influence to essentially purchase the policies they want enacted from their employees in Congress and the White House who are paid to do their bidding. Where the real disconnect comes is that the people can feel it but they don’t have the education and the rational facility to truly understand why they feel that way. They hate politics, but instead of trying to understanding why they hate it in order to do something productive to change it, they would rather destroy it all together.

But where Maddow was able to finally articulate this point, it was Joy Reid who took the idea to its logical conclusion.

          The Republican party exists in a world in which, demographically, six out of the seven last
          presidential elections, they can’t win the popular vote. Because the dispersion of [inclusive]
          communities [and ideas] makes it very hard for them to win through conventional politics . . .
          Voter suppression is the only way; gerrymandering is the only way they can actually get what
          they want because what they want is so unpopular that when you put their ideas through the
          political process, they can’t win . . . So when you think about it, all of politics has enraged a
          certain group of Americans who can not win through politics. So what do you go to? You go
          to autocracy. What do you do when something like forty percent of American adults have
          given up on politics, and say, politics isn’t the answer, give me a strong man who can impose
          my minority position on the rest of you?

And that is the real question. What do we do? Because this is where the parallels with Nazi Germany finally do come into play. There were no politics in Nazi Germany, no political arguments, no debates, no Reichstag intrigue, because they had done away with political parties altogether. With only one party in control of everything the populace never had to be bombarded with political wrangling, and this is what the followers of Trump apparently want, because the result of all that is that Nazi Germany also had no need for elections. But people need to be careful what they wish for, because there are other less savory aspects of fascist rule. Again, on this same post-debate coverage, it was former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele who, in talking to Maddow, expressed the fundamental problem with fascism, a dangerous and deadly problem that the vast majority of its proponents are completely unequipped to understand.

          They want a strong man. They want to own the libs. They want to take out their opponents.
          They don’t want to hang out with people who look like me [black]. They don’t want to talk to
          people who look like you, and act like you [homosexual], and live where you live. And this
          is the America they’re trying to set up, because they think they’ll feel safer in it. They think
          they will be safer in it. And the reality of it is, no, you won’t, because at a certain point it comes
          back on you, too, [when] you suddenly become “other” to someone else in that group.

It’s an old saw, but it was never truer than in this moment: when people put in place mechanisms to discriminate, disenfranchise, and destroy people they don’t like, they unwittingly put themselves in a position where those mechanisms can be used against them as well.

As notable as this day was for left-wing media in finally making sense of the fascist motivation of the right-wing electorate, they have all failed miserably in their obligation to move beyond politics and expose the true force behind the chaos. Corporations and wealthy individuals have been poisoning our country for hundreds of years. Their all-consuming quest to acquire ever more, at the expense of the rest of us, has led to an economic imbalance the likes of which threaten to return this country to a horrifying version of its past in which wage slavery in the north was nearly indistinguishable from the chattel slavery in the south, a past in which people were forced to work for starvation wages, living and dying in tenements and slums, unable to afford health care, unable to clothe and feed their children, afforded not even the most basic of human rights in a country that was one of the richest in the world. But even that is not the end game. What the capitalist oligarchy really wants is to turn this country into an anarchist hell-hole in which lawlessness reigns and people are encouraged to hate and harm each other instead of those responsible for their plight, where the only rights are the rights afforded by wealth and position, an autocracy kept in power through intimidation and death, in which the people are disenfranchised and downtrodden and pitted against each other, and where the rich are given a free hand to abuse the people and the land in any way they see fit in order to acquire even more. The day that is on the evening news, is the day this country will have finally turned the corner. But until that day comes it is incumbent upon the rest of us to use the political and legal avenues we still have available to us, and to resist the urge to give up and allow the fascist takeover of a country that is still very much worth saving.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

New Regulations Needed for State Elections

In the wake of recent calls for Trump to be removed from presidential ballots in the individual states, I decided to write to my secretary of state in Washington State, Steve Hobbs, to let my concerns be known. I simply requested that due diligence be taken to assure that requirements for appearing on the ballot be exercised, and because of the former president’s treasonous activities that he be determined ineligible to appear on Washington State’s presidential ballots. Of course, I didn’t expect that to happen. What I expected was to be reassured that the Secretary of State’s office would diligently follow the rules for appearance on the state’s ballots and that the question of Trump’s eligibility still needed to be assessed. But I just wanted to get on the record along with other fellow voters in advance of the presidential primary next year.

What I received from the Secretary’s office, however, was anything but reassuring: “Hi, and thanks for your interest in Washington’s presidential primary and election process,” the unsigned response began. “Washington state law and the state constitution do not give the Secretary of State authority to decide who appears on the ballot for presidential elections.” Okay . . . At this point I was eager to find out who is responsible for requirements to be on the ballot. “For presidential primaries, state law RCW 29A.56.031 says that no changes can be made to the candidates submitted by each political party.” I was so stunned when I read that I figured it must be a mistake. Political parties submit candidates to appear on ballot in Washington State, and they’re just rubber stamped with absolutely no qualification restrictions at all? And not only are there are no rules for appearing on the ballot, I was also told the only process by which to redress this situation is through the courts.

I wrote back, incredulous, but still sure that there must be some mistake. I wanted to make sure I had understood correctly, and posed a hypothetical situation to Hobbs’ office. If a person was thirty years old and born in another country, as long as a political party submitted their name for inclusion on a presidential ballot, Washington State would go ahead and put that name on the ballot with no questions asked? Is no one or no state agency responsible for making sure that presidential candidates meet the requirements set out by the U.S. Constitution before they appear on our ballots? Are voters of the state really expected to hire a lawyer and pay money out of their own pockets to file a court case in order to remove someone who is obviously ineligible to hold that office from the ballot, only after that name already has been put on the ballot?

This time the response was from a real person, the deputy director of external affairs for the secretary of state’s office. His first sentence began promisingly, “It’s not correct that ‘there is no one and no agency responsible’ for ensuring officeholder eligibility requirements are met.” That was a relief. But this was followed by, “Any voter can ask a court to remove an ineligible candidate from Washington ballots or to stop an ineligible person from being declared election winner.” Again, I was stupefied. But worse, I also was being lied to. A voter forced to spend their own money on a legal suit to do something the government should be doing in their capacity as servants of the electorate is not the same thing. So this time I tried to make it even more simple, and in my next reply I asked, “If my ten-year-old daughter wants to run for governor of Washington State, as long as a political party submits her name to the Secretary of State she will absolutely be on the ballot, and if she wins, the state is going to do absolutely nothing, unless a private citizen brings a lawsuit? Tellingly, I have yet to receive an answer.

But Washington State is not alone in this conundrum. Apparently several other states have regulations that are incomprehensively inadequate for such a seemingly simple task. The U.S. Constitution clearly lays out the requirements—as well as disqualifications—for the office of President of the United States. It seems a justifiable expectation then that individual states, who are mandated to carry out those elections, abide by the Constitution and make sure that those who are put on state ballots running for President, are indeed eligible to become president. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has run into something similar in his state:

          In Arizona we have a supreme court decision that indicates that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment
          cannot be enforced because there’s no federal enforcement mechanism. Now, I’m on record as
          saying that’s pretty absurd because that means you can’t enforce the natural-born citizen clause
          [either], and you also can’t enforce the 35-year-old clause.

This seems to me a glaring lack of election oversight. Some person or some agency in each state government needs to be responsible for making sure candidates for public office are eligible to hold that office before their name appears on the ballot. This just seems like common sense. The onus should not be on the voters to spend their own money in order to bring a lawsuit for a simple procedural matter that could be resolved as easily as requiring candidates to submit an affidavit affirming their eligibility to hold the office they are seeking. If it’s discovered later that they signed their name to false information, they can then simply be removed from the ballot. The voters in the state of Washington, and elsewhere, should expect at least some minimal screening on their behalf to make sure that people who are not eligible for office do not appear on our ballots. I encourage all voters to contact the representatives in the states they live in to make sure something is done to rectify this egregious lack of oversight in our electoral process, as it may be of vital importance not only in the current presidential race but beyond.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Bigly, Boy-Child Criminal, Pt. II

The latest round of head-scratching by the media is just as head-scratching itself. The most recent question that seems to have stumped them, after the failed former president’s booking and mug shot in Georgia, is why he seems to have abandoned his cohorts in crime, all of those who tried to help him attempt to overturn the will of the voters and install himself as president—in an election he lost by nearly eight million votes. This newest round of “what is he thinking?” is especially unfathomable considering everything that is known about the twice-impeached, quadruple-indicted loser. The general assumption seems to be that because Trump aspires to be a mob boss, that he actually will act like a mob boss. But nothing could be further from the truth, because in order to be a mob boss a person first has to be an adult. Trump has been crippled by narcissism his entire life and it has led him to lose far more money than he ever made. Not very mob-boss-like behavior. He’s a congenital idiot who can barely read, a child of five in a man’s body, and because of that he’s never going to act like an adult—mob boss or no—he’s going to act like a child of five. And there’s no more indicative precedent to explain his behavior than what he did after losing the 2020 election; he cried like a baby and claimed that it didn’t happen, that he didn’t really lose. Trump’s defense for every one of his criminal acts has been the same: “I didn’t do it!” Why would anyone at this point think that his defense in the four criminal trials will be any different?

The first thing that has to be understood is that Trump doesn’t care who turns on him or why. In fact, the more of his minions who turn on him the more it helps his case—or so he thinks. They are going to argue that what they did they did at Trump’s behest. But like a five-year-old, Trump is going to assert just as vigorously that he had no idea what they were doing, and that of course they are going to want to blame him in order to divert guilt from themselves. And the more of them that pile on, the more it will appear—in the desolate vacuum that passes for his brain—that his defense is working. But even more baffling for the media is why he doesn’t help the rest of his co-conspirators with their legal bills so that they will remain loyal to him. For the answer to that, refer back to point number one. Paying the legal bills of the other criminals—in Trump’s mind—would only make it look as if he has a reason to pay them. And he probably has a point: quid pro quo. Helping his confederates financially would obviously make it seem as if he is one of them. For his planned defense to work, however, he can’t pay them anything. And he’s already previewed that defense on Troth Senchal: he didn’t do anything, they did it all on their own, and he doesn’t even know who these people are. Given that, why would he give them any money?

Like every other employee throughout his entire life, Trump is going to leave the people who worked for him twisting in the wind. He doesn’t care about them because he doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than himself. He is going to continue to cry like a baby—as he has for his entire life—and continue to claim that he didn’t do anything wrong. That’s it. That’s the whole defense, primarily because there is no defense for his indefensible acts. He’s going to continue to grift his followers out of hard-earned money they can ill-afford to give him to pay his legal bills, and give them absolutely nothing in return. Perhaps the reason that Trump felt he hadn’t committed quid pro quo with Ukraine, is that’s he’s entirely unfamiliar with the concept. Taking, he understands. Giving back, what the hell is that? The biggest problem the news media is having in attempting to get inside Trump’s head, is that there’s nothing there to get into. Attempting to analyze his actions in terms of adult behavior is never going to work . . . because he’s a child! Figuring out why Trump does anything only necessitates looking at the behavior of a five-year-old. There’s no strategy; there’s no game of wits going on—primarily because he’s witless—and there’s no master plan. There’s just denial. Why this continues to elude the news media is beyond me, because there’s nothing simpler to figure out than a simpleton.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Capitalist Corporate Control Party

For anyone of my generation or older the initials CCCP immediately bring to mind the Russian abbreviation for the Soviet Union. But the CCCP is making a comeback, not only in Russia itself, where Putin is attempting to get the old band back together—totally against their will, naturally—but also in this country where a new attempt at totalitarian control is at a crucial point in its evolution. For anyone who still believes the Cold War propaganda that the Soviet Union was a Communist nation, it’s long past time to wake up and smell the borscht. It wasn’t Marxism that failed in the Soviet Union, it was totalitarian dictatorship. One-party rule, in the guise of socialism, is what finally brought down the last of the European empires, when the colonized peoples who were unlucky enough to share a border with Russia finally had enough and kicked out their oppressors from Moscow for good. It was a lesson that Great Britain had already learned as they gradually allowed their empire to become a commonwealth before it revolted as well. For some reason, however, the capitalist oligarchy in the United States still believes it has a chance to bind and oppress America’s citizens in a one-party, totalitarian state, this time in the guise of Capitalism, without anyone noticing. But hey, I guess hope springs eternal.

The most important thing for the average American citizen to realize about their country right now, is that they are in the midst of a hostile takeover . . . from within. The corporate oligarchy that has been attempting a slow-moving coup since the fifties, had their finely detailed plans derailed by the Trump presidency, primarily because Trump is such an abject moron. The initial goal of people like Charles Koch and his ilk was to follow up the George W. Bush presidency with more of the same. But the presidential pendulum swings of the post-Reagan era have been impossible for them to control. Every time the capitalist right-wing has been able to install a friendly executive, the resultant undermining of American progressive values has prompted an opposite electoral swing, fist to Clinton, then to Obama, and most recently to Biden. It’s a difficult phrase to say about a criminal and seditionist, but it may be that the Trump era will be looked at by historians as a blessing in disguise. Capitalism’s Republican tools in the Senate and House are abundant, willing to do anything for their right-wing corporate employers, well-paid fronts who will gladly sell out the electorate to pave the way for a capitalist utopia in which the rich enslave the rest of America. But it was Trump who stole the election out from under them in 2016 by pandering to racists, xenophobes, Christian fascists, and international isolationists, and then presided over the worst administration in U.S. presidential history. That’s why Koch is going to such lengths to undercut Trump—not because he’s pro-democracy, but because Trump is ruining his plans.

The unpredictability of the electorate has convinced the wealthy elite that voters need to be taken out of the equation all together. The plan is a delicate one, as it seeks to gerrymander districts at the state level, disenfranchise voters nationwide, sow dissention in the electorate through fanning the flames of wedge issues that make absolutely no difference to the corporate elite, all without being too obvious. The objective, as the Frankfurt School demonstrated a hundred years ago, is to keep the people of this country fighting with each other so that they won’t be able to fight against the systemic control that the right-wing is wresting away from the people. The hope was that Americans would suddenly wake up one day only to realize that they were now living in a totalitarian state that works only for corporate wealth, and yet have no idea how they got there. But Donald Trump is such a monumental idiot that he upended the game board and scattered the pieces of the capitalist coup all over the floor for everyone to see. He’s so tremendously stupid he didn’t realize that by attempting become a dictator before the electoral system had been completely rigged in favor of the right, that he inadvertently exposed what has been going on all this time and galvanized the majority against him. Trump’s four indictments may have hardened the support of his base, but it’s whittled away everyone else who might have voted for him otherwise—not a huge number of voters, but hopefully enough to keep Democrats in control.

And this has created a seemingly insurmountable problem for Koch and his comrades. Trump’s base isn’t a Republican base, it’s a Trump base. Nearly thirty percent of Republican voters have no interest in voting for anyone else but Trump. So, given that, how do the capitalist tools that are running for the Republican nomination gain a footing in the Republican primaries against Trump? The short answer is, they can’t. By trying to appeal to Trump voters by parroting the same MAGA talking points they only reinforce the vote for Trump (DeSantis and Haley), and by setting themselves against Trump they effectively eliminate themselves from the nomination (Christie and Hutchinson). As bad as Trump would be for the CCCP in the general election, things are even worse for them if he’s prevented from being on the ballot. The wave of support for Trump’s exclusion from holding office via the Fourteenth Amendment is gaining momentum on both sides of the political spectrum and promises gut the Republican turnout in the general election far more than if the failed former president winds up campaigning from a jail cell. As far as the corporate elite is concerned, Trump is the proverbial turd in the punchbowl; you can’t just fish him out and pretend that things are back to normal, because no one is going to drink from that bowl again. So that only leaves them with a set of Republican candidates who are uniformly unelectable—as demonstrated by the first primary debate Wednesday night.

The lineup of corporate automatons onstage in Milwaukee was like a new Disney exhibit: the Hall of Losers. They all stand in front of the crowd and fight to see who can make the most outrageous lies, leaning in to climate denial and lies about the economy on the one hand, and valiantly vowing to fight against hot-button cultural issues that have been manufactured by them in the first place on the other. They take credit for Democratic successes and then lie about the work the Democrats are doing for the American people—the only work being done for the people, by the way, as Republicans have no interest in people at all. After a mention of the catastrophe in Hawaii not one single candidate expressed any sympathy at all for the people who died—not one. But they sure care about oil companies. And while they breathlessly vow to fight for human lives unborn, at the same time they unabashedly vow to fight just as passionately to deny any aid to the children they want to force to be born. But then the CCCP has always been a party that hates people, especially Americans, and sees them as only fit to be wage slaves in a corporate haven free of taxation and regulation. Perhaps a better name for the exhibit would be the Hall of Haters.

But the worst of the bunch was easily Vivek Ramaswamy because his positions are so obviously contrived and phony, the CCCP attempting to put their own version of Trump in the White House—but someone they control. The nickname Vivek the Fake is an appropriate moniker for the wealthy tech entrepreneur who has been induced to dabble in politics this cycle. After all, if Trump could do it, why not Ramaswamy? Pod Save America host Dan Pfeiffer has had the best take on this pre-fabricated candidate:

          [Ramaswamy] is an interesting experiment. He believes none of this. He didn’t even vote in 2016
          or 2012. He voted for the Libertarian candidate in 2004. This is some sort of experiment in reverse
          engineering a candidacy, where you go see what the voters want, and then you build a campaign
          platform to fit that. Because politicians enter political races at a point in which they have a record,
          what they’re really doing is taking—to use a bad business metaphor—they take a product and see
          [how] it fits with the market. What Vivek did was look at the market and built a product that fit the
          market. And that’s what all of this is . . . He understands, better than the rest of these people, what
          the [Republican] electorate wants, which is an outsider, who’s not a politician, who wants to burn
          the system down. And that’s what he sounds like. (Pfeiffer)

But to what end? If Republican voters want someone to burn the system down they already have their cult leader in Trump. In the end Ramaswamy has no better chance of becoming the nominee that the rest of the corporate company men, and woman, who came up through the usual political channels. Ramaswamy may be the new Terminator T-1000, but as everyone who’s seen the second Terminator movie knows—spoiler alert—the old T-800 beats him in the end.

One of the major questions that is asked frequently by some progressive commentators is, “Why are these people running if they have absolutely no shot at winning?” And no one seems to have a good answer for them. But the thing that has struck me from the very beginning of the campaign—especially with the cast of vacuous, clown-car candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring, is that they’re all secretly hoping that Trump is convicted, or otherwise excluded from the ballots in a majority of states. Once that happens, there would be a mad scramble to anoint a new Republican nominee, and those who are running now hope to find an empty seat when the music stops. That is the only answer that makes any sense at all. As Republican strategist Sarah Longwell said on Pod Save America, “By some measures, up to seventy percent of the Republican Party, they believe that Donald Trump won last time” (Longwell). So, as far as the Republican electorate are concerned, these candidates are essentially running against an incumbent, something that rarely happens in presidential politics because it’s such an impossible task. The only conclusion to draw from that, then, is that they’re counting on Trump not making it to the convention a year from now. The only alternative suggestion, that they’re hoping to get name recognition for a 2028 race, seems too far-fetched, as losing badly this time around would hardly seem to be a springboard to success in future races—as well as being incredibly na├»ve to think that Trump won’t keep on running, and losing, until the day he dies.

The glimmer of hope for the rest of us, however, is that the debacle that the capitalist oligarchs find themselves in has resulted in awakening many people to the fact that if we don’t act now, together, it might soon be too late. Challenges in courts of nearly every red state to counteract voter suppression laws have been steadily increasing. And the electoral victories in the wake of attempted abortion bans are equally promising. But Democratic lawyer Marc Elias recently made a very sobering observation about the inability of the U.S. to provide a federal voting law that would instantly void all statewide attempts to disenfranchise voters: “I wish I could say there’s a solution other than to elect Democrats to your state legislatures, and encourage them to pass better, more expansive voting laws” (Elias). So, it really is up to us. Now that the CCCP plan has been exposed, Republicans have stopped trying to hide their agenda. They are now committed to a full-on assault on voter access before the rest of us realize what’s happening, lying all the way to achieve their goal, until they either win or they are defeated. As Robert Reich said, echoing Martin Luther King Jr., “America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.” If the wealthy right-wing oligarchs in this country really are anti-socialist, then they need to stop syphoning off money from the rest of us through massive corporate welfare, and pay their fair share along with everyone else. But it’s up to us to make sure that happens before we find ourselves unwittingly living in a new kind of communist totalitarian regime, under the Capitalist Corporate Control Party.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Bigly, Boy-Child Criminal

One of the truly mind-numbing exercises the news media has been going through in the wake of the Grifter-in-Chief’s latest indictment, is the handwringing and mystified discussions of why he did it. Why would he have kept the documents in the first place, and why wouldn’t he give them back when the National Archives asked for them? It’s truly stupefying to see anchors from every network asking what is, for all intents and purposes, a rhetorical question. The bottom line is that Donald Trump is a five-year-old, which means he hasn’t been to school yet, barely knows how to read, is emotionally stunted, and has learned only one mode of behavior that he has used his entire life, that of the schoolyard bully. So, in that context, going to the trouble of attempting to parse the motivation of a kindergartener seems laughable. The answer is every bit as simplistic as the man himself. Donald Trump has one, and only one, motivation for everything he does: money. He is a greedy, narcissistic, sociopath who cares for no one and nothing else but himself. He wants what he wants, demands what he wants, takes what he wants, and cries like a five-year-old if he can’t have it. Who else, other than a five-year-old, would have spent the last three years whining that he was the real winner of an election he lost by seven million votes because someone else stole it from him? You can’t reason with a toddler, just like you can’t reason with someone who has the mind of a toddler. Donald Trump is a toddler.

The only interesting commentary that has emerged in the last few days has come, not surprisingly, from Michael Cohen, who appeared on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC program over the weekend. Says Cohen,

          In the indictment, five-hundred documents. That’s only, Rev, the five-hundred documents that they
          know of. I said on your show a long time ago, they need to play like a Where’s Waldo game and go
          to every single location that Donald has been to, his kid’s houses, his golf courses, where ever he
          went. You need to follow the Donald trail because, I am certain, knowing what he does, there must
          be files someplace over there. (Cohen)

Again, there’s no mystery here. Trump wants to make as much money as he can by abusing his position, this time as President of the United States. The only thing that would be surprising about his behavior at this point, is if he hasn’t already sold information, to the Saudis, the Chinese, or to his buddies Putin and Kim Jong Un. He’s corruption incarnate—not because he’s evil, but because he’s a five-year-old. He has no impulse control, no sense of delayed gratification, and to be perfectly frank he doesn’t even know the difference between right and wrong. He will lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants and is so delusional that he truly believes his own warped sense of morality.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the man himself. In a recent interview with Sean Hannity a few months ago Trump made it crystal clear exactly why he took the documents. According to the failed former president, “This is the Presidential Records Act. I have the right to take stuff. Do you know that they ended up paying Richard Nixon, I think, $18 million for what he had?” And there it is. Everything is a payday for Trump. The Nixon case, as with everything else in Trump’s mind, is completely backward. The Presidential Records Act was passed precisely because Nixon didn’t want to hand over the Oval Office tapes he made, and so Congress set about rectifying that situation by making all Presidential records the property of the U.S. and not the president. However, since that act didn’t go into effect until after Nixon had resigned, the courts agreed that he was entitled to compensation for records that had traditionally belonged to the President and that he assumed belonged to him. Trump’s false claims about the Presidential Records Act, on the other hand, are like information from a kid giving a book report who hasn’t read the book. What he claims the act says, to no one’s surprise, is the exact opposite of what the act really says, that no president has the right to keep documents from his administration. Instead, they belong to the people, and are curated by the National Archives on our behalf.

Unless someone with a lot more brains than the previous presidential moron, actually figures out a way to really overthrow the government and install him- or herself as dictator, Trump will be forever immortalized by history as the worst president in the history of the United States—by a wide, wide margin. Despite his copious lies to the contrary, he did only three things as president: played golf, gave a trillion in tax cuts to the rich, and committed crimes, abusing his office to make as much money as possible for himself. And he’s no different now than he was in office. Every action to hold him accountable for his crimes is followed up immediately by the breathless grifting of his base to fill his coffers with money they can ill afford to give. With any luck, the wheels will finally come off the travelling con-man wagon that he’s been using to keep himself afloat financially. Approximately no one, give or take one person, showed up in support of his arraignment in New York a month ago, and a similar crowd is shaping up not to turn out in Miami for his first federal indictment. At this point the plethora of so-called “witch hunts” against him are utterly comical, and it’s difficult to believe as he lists them out one after another on his Troth Senchal posts, that even he doesn’t realize they can’t ALL be fake. So, it’s time—long past time—to do the only thing that can be done with a bratty five-year-old who won’t behave, and put him in a time out . . . a long time out . . . in federal prison.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Capitalist Propaganda Against Socialism

One of the greatest propaganda campaigns in all of word history happened in the United States in the 1950s. Because the Soviet Union was purportedly a socialist country, the right-wing in the U.S. was able to nearly destroy in the minds of most Americans—for what may wind up being close to a hundred years—the intrinsic superiority of socialism over capitalism. The campaign has been so effective that it wasn’t until twenty years into the twenty-first century, that cracks first began to show in the capitalist redoubt that was constructed against Marxism three-quarters of a century ago. One fairly recent example, from back in 2001, will demonstrate just how effective this propaganda has been, to the point where people up until now have for the most part simply taken this right-wing message as a given. In a book on the American Revolution by British author Robert Harvey called A Few Bloody Noses, he has this to say about the ideological underpinnings of the American way of life:

          As one prominent American told me, “America is a profoundly ideological country.” This may sound
          odd to those who consider it primarily a pragmatic and materialistic nation, but is nevertheless
          absolutely true, in that most of its people still believe in its founding ideals (in contrast to the widely
          discredited ideology of, for example, its old Communist opponent). (Harvey 2001, 2)

This is a statement that should make every American cringe . . . and yet it doesn’t. To begin with, America IS “profoundly ideological,” but that ideology is, in fact, "pragmatic and materialistic." Those ARE the founding ideals: freedom and liberty for the monied interests, not the average citizen. The Constitution was strongarmed into existence by wealthy capitalists who were determined to undermine the federal government through the maintenance of powerful state governments that could exert their own radically anti-American agendas without fear of oversight; the most extreme example of this was the secession from the Union by the slave-holding states that precipitated the Civil War. So there’s no contradiction there. The average citizen has been indoctrinated into belief in the professed ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but those who have run this country for nearly two-hundred and fifty years have had only their pragmatic pursuit of wealth to guide them in the subjugation of the rest of their fellow citizens.

Then there’s the parenthetical phrase at the end, almost as if Harvey is embarrassed at having to express an idea that is so patently true that it barely needs repeating. But again, this idea is a complete falsehood. Soviet Communism, has been discredited, not Marxism, and yet the two are treated as if they are interchangeable. And all of this is especially ironic considering that in his very next paragraph, Harvey goes on to say: “As far back as the late eighteenth century, the Americans were strikingly adept at, in the modern phrase, ‘spinning’ their own version of events. Americans mastered the use of propaganda from the beginning” (Harvey 2001, 2). The irony is that Harvey himself doesn’t realize how American propaganda has interfered with his own ability to get to the truth about Marxism. The right-wing propaganda machine’s most successful campaign to date is the destruction of socialist ideals in the United States, and to a lesser extend Great Britain. Fortunately, Continental Europe has been much less susceptible to this. The only thing about Soviet Communism that was ever genuinely discredited was the dictatorship at the heart of the Russian Revolution, one that led to an oppressive regime that in terms of its negative effect on its people, was little different from the Third Reich. So why is it that nobody mentions the discredited ideology of the Nazis? It’s because Naziism was defeated militarily. But only recently has it been generally understood that Stalin was even more of a despot and killed more people than Hitler. But then the Red Scare of the fifties was not about despots; it was about ideology. Sure, Stalin was a product of the Russian Revolution, but it was Communism that was the real enemy, and that’s where the majority of propagandistic effort was expended. Capitalists in America, who were nearly overcome with despair at the success of the New Deal, were now poised to destroy socialism for good, and make sure nothing even close to it could take hold in the United Sates again. And that’s exactly what they’ve nearly done.

Harvey goes on to mention the parallels between the American Revolution for the British and the Vietnam War for the U.S., a concept first explored in detail by historian Richard M. Ketchum back in 1971. “The ironic similarities between the American War of Independence and America’s own experience two centuries later in Vietnam are striking . . . Contrary to the widely held American view, but as with the Americans in Vietnam, [Britain’s] motives for resisting independence for the inhabitants of its colonies were idealistic as well as self-interested” (Harvey 2001, 3). It’s the unintended irony here, however, that is most salient in Harvey’s statement, because for both the British and the Americans, democratic ideology was easily in the low single digits as far as percentage goes, compared to the overwhelming percentage of self-interest that was at the heart of both conflicts. And it should be no surprise that the specific self-interest was monetary. And yet the U.S. in Vietnam had nothing like the British determination to keep what it considered its citizenry in the fold, which was much more similar to what the U.S. went through in the Civil War than Vietnam. U.S. motives in Vietnam were purely capitalistic. The abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion to the Korean War left the military-industrial complex at loose ends for over a decade, with both the Pentagon and armaments manufactures chomping at the bit to get American embroiled in a new conflict, be it thousands of miles away in Southeast Asia, or right next door in Cuba.

Almost laughable is the warning statement Harvey makes a few paragraphs later: “Virtually every common assumption has to be substantially modified, if not rejected” (Harvey 2001, 4). To be fair, Harvey is talking exclusively about the American Revolution, so he can be forgiven on some level. But the fact remains that his earlier statement utterly dismissing Communism cannot simply be glossed over, especially for an author who is attempting to separate myth from fact. The right-wing has done its job well, for even at the dawn of the twenty-first century the idea that socialism is inferior to capitalism—or in most arguments utterly incompatible—has convinced Americans there is no other way, that we are stuck with capitalism because, as Churchill once said about democracy, it’s the worst thing in the world . . . except for everything else. Hand in hand with the propaganda blitz that began in the 1950s is the other myth that was perpetuated on the American public at the same time, that socialism leads inevitably to a behemoth federal government that once attaining power will never let it go, and from there it’s just a slippery slope to oppression and societal slavery. Interviewer Lex Fridman articulated this idea recently, that Americans have bought into the idea that the real myth is “this government of the people, by the people, and for the people that actually represents the people, as opposed to a bunch of elites who are running a giant bureaucracy that is corrupt, that is feeding itself, and they’re actually not representing the people” (Fridman).

This is the other side of the same propagandistic coin. Not only does the right-wing need to defame socialism as an evil unto itself, but it must also poison the very idea of federal government in order to convince people that even were socialism a viable alternative to capitalism, that those in charge of the government would simply take control and oppress the rest of their fellow citizens--usually on the Russian model. This is, however, another one of the right-wing’s propagandistic tools, that of projection. In order to deflect suspicion for gradual takeover of the federal government by a corporate oligarchy that has been taking place for two centuries, the right-wing first blames the other side for doing the same thing. Like the lawyer joke that says that the way to detect if a lawyer is lying is if the lawyer’s lips are moving, the way to understand exactly what the right-wing oligarchs are doing—both directly and through their proxies in government—is to simply listen to what they accuse the other side of doing. That will be exactly what THEY are ALREADY doing. Again, co-existent with the fearmongering surrounding Communism is a simultaneous propaganda push that continues to this day, for deregulation and small government, and for one reason only: to eliminate any limits on unfettered capitalism. Ronald Reagan was pushing this idea during his bid for the governorship of California back in 1966.

          I’ve been protesting the growth of government for a number of years. I’ve had a concern, lest the
          permanent structure of government becomes so big that it would become beyond the control of
          all of Congress and beyond the will of the people . . . Wasn’t this the admonition of the founding
          fathers, that government tends to grow and take on power until freedom is eventually lost? The
          fact is--we can’t escape it--only government is capable of tyranny. (Velshi 5-21-23)

To answer Reagan’s question, no, that wasn’t the admonition of the founding fathers, that was the admonition of the anti-federalists, who were determined to make sure the Constitution kept the federal government weak, so that it couldn’t serve the people and at the same time give disproportional power to the states in order that the monied interest could have a free hand. Government regulation at the federal level is the only bulwark against capitalist overreach and abuse of the people. Sorry, Gipper, but you’re entirely wrong; government is capable of tyranny only when it is in the hands of tyrants. And right now, at this point in our history, those tyrants are capitalist oligarchs who are trying desperately to take control of the government and institute economic tyranny over the rest of the citizens of the United States. Though the propaganda program against socialism and big government was anything but subtle, the fact that the masses have absorbed it so completely makes it almost unnecessary now. But the long game the right-wing was playing was brutally exposed by the former presidential administration. The idiot-in-chief unleashed the hatred of a large minority of citizens, weaponized federal agencies against the people, and left exposed for all to see the naked power grab of the monied interests who control a majority of Congressional politicians and the Supreme Court. So the only recourse they had was to unleash their end game early.

Ali Velshi, in a recent program, outlined the extreme measures the Supreme Court has taken in finding against regulatory agencies, a result of a calculated move on the right to pack the court with capitalist lackeys like Clarence Thomas who benefit in being rewarded monetarily by wealthy elites for their adherence to capitalist doctrine.

          Just in the last year the Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency, against
          the Federal Trade Commission, against the Security and Exchange Commission, in a series of
          decisions that have severely limited agencies’ regulatory power . . . Last week the Supreme Court
          accepted a case that has the potential to upend the entire system [and could] challenge the constitu-
          tionality of the very existence of certain executive agencies. (Velshi 5-21-23)

This should not be a surprise. The complete and total unethical nature of the right-wing Supreme Court justices was beyond question once they struck down Roe vs. Wade. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the criminal former president’s selections, as well as previous right-wing justices, committed perjury when they stated under oath to the Senate during their confirmation hearings that Roe vs. Wade was settled judicial precedent, and therefore there were no legal grounds to overturn it. But like their partners in Congress and their capitalist employers, they are all liars, because that’s exactly what they did. They have proven their inherent bias through their fealty to the big money that pays them. Their only goal, like that of the elected representatives in Congress, is to eliminate any and all regulation, as well as all taxes, so that corporations and the monied interests in this country can destroy the nation from within, through pollution, collusion, wage slavery, and the disenfranchisement of the average citizen.

We are in a precarious position today, deluded by decades of propaganda that promotes individual freedom, individual accountability, individual wealth, and individual power, all at the expense of the people as a whole. The right-wing of this country has been afraid for decades of the power of the people, the power of consensus, and the massive change that would bring about in the United States. The only path forward for this nation is socialism. And for everyone who reads that and feels an immediate pang of resistance, it’s crucial to know that this feeling is not real but instead has been manufactured by a propaganda campaign that works in conjunction with a public education system that has as its primary goal the creation of wage slaves, so intellectually numbed by social media and endlessly distracted by entertainment media that they lack not only the energy to change their lives, but the imagination to realize that they don’t have to be enslaved by capitalism. I’ve touted this book for years, and will continue to do so, but for anyone who doubts this assessment, please read Nancy McLean’s Democracy in Chains, because it exposes the corporate-capitalist blueprint for the destruction of democracy and the destitution of a nation. The only hope for this country is for the people to come together, as we did in the most recent presidential election, and demand change for the better, change that benefits all of us—including the wealthy—rather than a hostile takeover that only benefits the wealthy few. “Once fully enslaved” said poet Walt Whitman, “no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.” America's fate, appropriately enough, rests in the hands of We the People. Let's hope we can act collectively to save it.