what the hell is wrong with the GOP
both suck sides
it is cliche that people tend to start their lives sympathetic to one side1 of the political spectrum, and over time or all at once, flip.
though this is a discussion for another time, i suspect this might be more prevalent when looking at people who, for the most part, aren't that affected by politics. the result is that political views are more about signalling allegiances than actual ideology - for most baby boomers this might very well be the case, as the difference between 'left' and 'right' might boil down, really, to a handful of issues endlessly debated over: tax rates, welfare, abortion, and maybe war2.
i can't really comment on the nationwide trends for millenials. but speaking anecdotally, there seems to be something of that truism happening... but there's also some stickiness as well: people who grew up with left-leaning views tend to remain left-leaning, while many folks - like myself - grew up with right-leaning views which have also shifted left.
this doesn't feel right though because as far as i can tell, there isn't a significant imbalance between political views among millenials. once again speaking purely anecdotally, my theory is that otherwise 'non-political' millenials, as well as those who tend to express libertarian views, increasingly espouse views more consistently considered right-wing.
but the underlying thing to note about this is: non-political individuals are increasingly finding themselves expressing political views - because for millenials, it is beginning to look more and more like the future of American government, and its political nature, are going to be a very important, perhaps generational-defining issue. it is a generation caught inside a pandemic sandwich with two recessions as the bread (or lack thereof), working unsteady 'gig' jobs for flat wages, while being taxed to pay for a war with vague borders and no end in sight.
facing a bleak outlook, it is a generation for which reversing the long-trending downward voter turnouts, and perhaps even more direct action within and outside of politics, very may well be vital for survival.
the right stuff
i was in the 7th grade, sitting in a class called 'living law', when the teacher rolled in the much-beloved TV cart. normally this was something of a celebratory moment, because it meant we were about to be treated to a video to watch, which usually meant no work! unfortunately this was not a class where this was ever likely, and on top of that, the teacher - normally known as one of the 'hippy' teachers - had a grim look on his face.
it got weirder - he fumbled around with the coax cable, and actually wired the tv into the wall, the only time i remember that ever happening. he flipped on the TV, and soon we saw the ongoing coverage: a burning tower, alot of reporters talking back and forth. it was september 11 2001. my girlfriend at the time was checked out of school; her father was in the air force and stationed across the river, and all military personel and family were all ordered to return to base3.
i graduated high school in 2006, having spent the second half of my public school years in the wake of 9/11 and the War on Terror.
the reason i find this relevant, is important later: it's laughable to think of this period as anything less than full-throatedly jingoistic, and by default this meant, conservative. i remember the way liberals were at best mocked, at worst threatened. politically the only thing they were really able to do was to basically abstain from action, as any sort of resistance was unthinkable - perhaps even treason4.
the party of lincoln
the finely-honed right-wing grift machine operated pretty smoothly for almost a half-century. i worry i might be too harsh with this phrasing, but within the past decade some documents have been surfacing which outline the very clear intent with which the right intended to develop an organization which would blur the lines between political and news organizations - and in my mind, their lack of transparency on this combined with their obscuring of the opposite (no matter what pundits may claim, while other outlets do espouse liberal views, none of them emerged so explicitly, with such an explicit goal) is a pretty cut-and-dry case for classifying them as hucksters, who make the sale not by presenting something which can stand on its own virtue or veracity, but rather, requires deception to help it along.5
its tragic self-destruction occurred when a previously unspoken barrier was torn down: the barrier between the actual wonks steering the ship, and the pundits tasked with spinning policies aimed at enriching a handful of billionaires into appealing populist issues.
so what happened?
two things occuring at the beginning and end of almost a decade.
the first event was the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama was elected. in Louisiana, a third party group managed to get Ron Paul on the ballot under their political party candidate, and as a collegiate disciple of ayn rand, rothbard etc I cast my vote for him.
i have to temper my belief in it being a significantly contentious election6 by it also being my first as a registered voter - having never experienced, really, the world of political mudslinging. but at the same time it's an election that has come to really dominate the decade, and even beyond. i don't mean 'beyond' as only meaning after 2008, either: for example, in this entertaining exchange, Klepper interviews someone who blames Obama for inaction after 9/11 (he was elected as a senator to Congress in 2004).
now, i don't know what is to blame for the reaction to Obama's election. a common reason is racism. and while i painfully recognize the fact that noone ever thinks they are racist, i do recall my resistance to his platform which was based on the libertarian rejection of his policies. of course in retrospect this may be like saying the civil war was about states' rights: while i believed in the ideas filling libertarian literature, the authors themselves may have had troubling motivations for their relentless criticism and attacks.
what i do know is this: the right-wing unravelled.
and this was likely why millenials like myself started questioning alot of our core beliefs. i'd try to discuss issues with fellow libertarians and i would get nowhere - we'd always wind up back on three topics. taxes, Obama, guns. if lucky, maybe the Federal Reserve.
we watched our parents and bosses talk 'politics' as a recession loomed. it wasn't about the recession. it was about arugula salad and tan suits.
i needed healthcare. i couldn't afford it. i would get locked into debates in person and online railing against healthcare. convinced i knew what the hell i was talking about. i, no joke, acquired some infamy on a particular online community for my stubborn war of words with an actual, practicing, Canadian doctor who thankfully was patient enough to keep trying to make his case despite my rants about the notion of compassion and all that other libertarian boilerplate about socialized medicine. (i doubt he'll ever see this. but thanks, epi.)
this all happened in my twenties so unfortunately alot is something of a blur. but i remember something vividly, which is a nation in the grips of a financial crisis but focused on jade helm and some mysterious plot seeking to achieve a communist-muslim takeover. so they could take our guns.
in 2012 i officially no longer considered myself libertarian, a decision slowly marinating over this period. the coffin-nail was reading Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia in which he described how even the most ideal capitalist utopia, with no government, would eventually develop its own institutions 'too big to fail' and therefore, as permanent as government institutions themselves. it was monumental in helping me see the artifical divide between 'economics' and 'politics' though i was still constrained by barriers in other ways.
what pushed me through a brief period of 'it all sucks' and towards a way to reconcile the questions and issues i had about the world was witnessing a farcical movement which appeared out of nowhere, grabbed a hold of an alarming amount of power, in a way i find impossible to describe other than vile, by people i find impossible to describe any other way save for jackals.
drinking kool-aid to trigger the libs
the tea party movement7 led to actual fox news viewers being elected to congress. suddenly things like abortion activism - previously used as cover to siphon money to more desirable coffers - stopped being understood as merely a cover. the new generation of politicians began crafting legislation based on honest-to-god sincere belief in things like jade helm, death panels, sharia sleeper cells, cultural marxism etc.
concealed within the chaos, free to act with near-impunity, was a quiet but focused operation to improve the living conditions and economic outlook for a demographic which desperately needed some help:
for awhile this alliance-of-sorts went smoothly: the old conservative grift continued. billionaires didn't want to pay taxes for their massive, resource-hogging estates - if perhaps you remember the phrase "death tax", this was the term used to derisively refer to estate taxes - and if you took Fox News seriously, you might come to believe that when you died, anything you might leave for your children was going to be cleaved in half, with one of these portions going to Uncle Sam.8
the crowning achievement, however, is definitely the one everyone can remember: 'Obamacare', aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. i don't know if the universe would benefit from yet another piece on how dishonest the conservative attacks on this bill were. the legacy and impact of the ACA is a subject ripe for debate, and remains contested. there is really only one thing which might be beyond debate, as far as who ultimately benefited: health insurance providers, pharmaceutical interests, and congress.9
we're not in kansas anymore
while the stories coming from Congress during Obama's presidency will likely be familiar to most, and wind up comprising a majority of the historical narrative which will be taught to future generations, a sad undercurrent which took place at the same time is more relevant to this piece.
in the wake of Obama's election, the GOP and its burgeoning Tea Party movement absolutely cleaned house at the state level - fueled by a dizzying combination of incitement, provocation, misinformation, ignorance, subterfuge and above all hard-to-grasp amounts of covertly-channeled money.
here in Louisiana, Bobby Jindal was elected as governor as part of this wave. the result was he cleverly satiated voters' demand for zero taxes by raiding any and every state fund he could access, which wouldn't cause immediate consequences he would then have to answer for. perhaps the most insidious effect of this, obviously, is that the very folks who bought into his grift are now pinning the economic and budgetary woes across the state on our current governor - villifying him for tax increases which, during a more informed era, might have been instead seen as "owning up to consequences of poor choices" - but the party of fiscal responsibility has no interest in answering for a half-century of tax cuts exacerbated by a steady stream of conflict and war.
but the case which i consider to be the most bold, and obvious example to hold up as hard-to-argue proof will definitely be Kansas - and a large reason for this is Sam Brownback, the governor elected in 2010 in the tea-party wave. specifically, Brownback himself arrogantly declared Kansas to be the state to watch, the place to observe an experiment unfold, in the lead-up to the 2012 legislation10 enacted which amounted to one of the largest budget cuts in its history.
i don't have to say much on the outcome because by almost every measure it was an abject failure11 of such proportions that the collective bulk of conservative pundits, politicians and ideologues never really found a way to deflect or spin the hard data. they simply couldn't argue in the face of a continual budget crisis, dwindling state funds for a variety of programs and things like road maintenance, the massive blow to its education system - nor could they justify the carnage with any actual economic boom.12
all in all, there is really only one demographic which benefited from this ruinous policy, as was the case with the Affordable Care Act.
because it was a boon for the wealthy, whose tax burden was shifted to lower- and middle-income households, what seems to be a cautionary tale instead wound up being highly influential13 on the form taken by the contentious tax cuts spearheaded at the close of 2017 by the Trump administration.
i understand the frenzied drive to oust the current administration - its mere presence is a threat to anyone outside of the demographic that i fall in to: white, male, heterosexual, from a fairly comfy upbringing in a stable household by baby boomers who never had to worry too much about their ability to afford raising two children in a decent part of town.
but hot damn, do i dread the prospect of a Democratic administration which, if elected in November, will likely be in office when the consequences of these tax cuts will really start being felt.
the backlash won't be something even vaguely rational - i don't think we will hear about Democrats simply being economically illiterate, or prone to pork spending. the best case scenario, i fear, will be something involving accusations of deliberate sabotage intended to destabilize the country. the likely culprit would be 'cultural marxism'. from there it will only go downhill, ranging from blaming economic woes on what might be the first female/minority vice president14 to theories i can't even begin to guess at, because to guess would require the very logic and reason absent from whatever the actual potential would become.
it would be nice to see this administration actually have to explain the mess their policymaking will cause, but i recognize this is a sort of wonkish fantasy built on schadenfreude and ultimately the priority this November will be to make life less stressful for millions of people who, in one way or another, have experienced some form of very real harm or loss for no reason other than malice and cruelty - to put my own vengeful dream ahead here, would only mirror the very thing underpinning all that which led me to sit down and start writing this.
an article called 'the left is censoring me' reaches one million views
it is now 2020. this is the ideological wasteland in which rudderless conservative pundits try to define what it means to be a conservative, without receiving marching orders from some koch-backed think tank. they don't oppose obamacare because it would divert money from insurance executives' wild profits - they oppose it because they genuinely think it will make doctors become slaves.
the result is truly mind-boggling: every right-wing talking head is convinced every other right-wing talking head is actually a far-left radical, because all they can do is hold up fragmented pieces of derelict GOP talking points to compare what they're hearing with what the Ancient Masters wrote. none of them have any actual inkling of a consistent ideological foundation that would weave the weird collection of slogans and phrases together, so all they can do is recoil in horror when a fellow talking head veers even slightly off-script.
a similar story unfolds when looking at Bari Weiss and her recent resignation from her position as an op-ed contributor at the New York Times. while there, she was one of the architects of 'The Intellectual Dark Web' - a campaign to promote conservatism to the voters also targeted by Fox News in a way palatable to the segment now wise to Fox's pandering.15
the premise behind this 'Dark Web' was that a new generation of rising intellectual stars was boldly challenging a perceived 'liberal' culture which actively suppressed and punished anyone daring to 'think for themselves'. prominent figures in this club were names such as Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, and through the lens of hindsight it's easy to see the farce in which these individuals were considered to be unparalled intellectuals who would be the face of a renaissance in conservative thought.
as a historian i had endless critiques of Peterson's conception of... just about everything he wrote on16. as a long-time debater in public school, i had endless critiques of Shapiro's so-called 'prowess' as a political debater17.
it didn't matter - the brilliance of persecution mindset is that my very disagreement, my refusal to herald these figures as no less than equal to the great thinkers and orators of history - was morphed into something else. the reason for my views was simply spun as something which went like, you oppose his ideas because you're scared of the truth they are revealing, or maybe it is no surprise these firebrands who challenge the establishment would be scorned by someone brainwashed by liberal academia.
in the same vein, Weiss' entire stint at the Times was geared around her eventually being fired for merely expressing her views - which is the grifting jackpot. it leads to a steady income supported by folks who believe giving you their money is funding the war on liberal agendas. it can be spun as proof of further censorship by 'the liberal media', an accusation common in its assertion, yet lacking in its proof.
instead she was routinely given plenty of real estate to voice her thoughts. the result is she had to resign - and reading her resignation letter is amusing cuz it was clearly written some time ago and based on her being fired, and only lightly edited to change the narrative to account for her voluntarily quitting. her reasons for quitting are barely there - based mainly on claims of 'hostility from co-workers', which is an odd angle to take when representing an ideological tradition rooted in a belief that 'overly coddled' generations today lack 'a thick skin'.
a fever pitch, a convenient redemption
recently i saw ol' tuck accusing matt drudge of being a progressive leftist. honestly cannot fathom why - did drudge forget to smear a victim of police brutality with rumors that they once smoked weed?
soon after i caught wind of a pretty amazing occurence: the public reveal of the Lincoln Project.
what a bummer of a phenomenon, precisely because its goals will likely succeed: mere months out from the presidential election, after almost 4 years of complicit silence, a faction of the GOP has suddenly decided they ought to take a stand against the current president, taking the position that he doesn't "represent" the Republican Party and its ideals.
when i say 'side' here it is very cautiously, as i am not particularly a fan of the 'horseshoe' mode of thinking ↩
it seems, like healthcare, any views considered 'radical' tend to be brief and symbolic, with those expressing their views quickly falling in line or abandoning hope of an alternative. ↩
i don't know if all military installations went on maximum alert that day - i assume they did. what we later learned, though, was that the local base was the one which Bush was flown to that day for safety after the administration became aware of the ongoing attack. ↩
contrary to the way it is used today, treason in this sense refers to actions taken against one's country in aid of an enemy - not merely being anything less than 100% in-line with the political party labelling one as such. also, shout out to congresswoman Barbara Lee, who went further than even Bernie Sanders in her steadfast refusal to vote for the war or the PATRIOT Act. ↩
it should be obvious in hindsight this 'movement' was largely astroturfed - ie, money was funneled from organizations though channels which would seem to have sprung up organically as a grassroots movement. For more on this check SourceWatch ↩
i will never forget my awe during this period - i would debate 'death taxes' with people who appeared well-informed on their criticisms - right up until i asked them what the net worth requirement to be taxed was. the passion for debate almost always started waning after learning it was $5,000,000. while searching for information regarding this particular event, i stumbled across an article which shed light on even more things which i had not previously been aware of, regarding the circumstances behind the most public personality behind the push for the repeal of the 'death tax'. ↩
i would have to link to a wildly large amount of url's to truly capture the scope here, but for information the best starting point would be to explore the data kept by OpenSecrets on the spending and lobbying efforts of both the pharmaceutical industry as well as the health insurance industry. ↩
you might be forgiven for thinking it's bizarre to suddenly pin the fortunes of the entire American economy on the Vice President. the mistake you have made, however, is that you bothered to pay attention in your public school Civics class - an error which routinely comes back to haunt anyone who thinks there is a limit to the dissonance within contemporary right-wing talking points. simply put, it will make sense to the kind of person whose criteria for truth boils down to, does this assertion serve to make some one/thing i oppose, look bad? ↩
i highly recommend challenging yourself to read Peterson's Maps of Meaning, and then try to summarize his ideas to someone else. this is crucial to understand why i do not consider him to be a titan of intellect. more importantly though: if someone asks you about Peterson and you express anything short of praise, the response will likely be, 'have you even read his works?' - but the thing here is his fans are referring to his simplistic collection of truisms, 12 Rules for Life. by instead mentioning his actual work in which he outlines something of a philisophical framework, you'll find many who praise his 'philosophy' are, in reality, completely unaware of what it actually is. ↩
Shapiro's gimmick largely seems to revolve around going to college campuses and smugly arguing with teenagers taking 101 classes, cutting them off mid-sentence and then refuting points with information they will learn in their upper-level classes. as a debater, i see this as almost cruel - equivalent to something like Stone Cold Steve Austin beating the shit out of an 8-year-old, and being proud of it. had i known that this tactic was apparently amazingly popular and heralded as proof of his intellect, i would have absolutely done the exact same thing... the conservative grift is awful, but i can't deny the financial allure. morals are why i drive a toyota corolla instead of a lamborghini. ↩