Political Party Affiliation
Martin Niemöller. Keep that name in mind as you read. More about him later. You can look up anyone’s political party registration at O.U. if you have their name and town (Norman for example) or county (Cleveland County) here:
I think we are holistic and cannot be fully understood without systemic appraisal and context. So, for instance, it is good that it is public information about which political party a person is registered to.
I do not think that political values can be separated from life choices or even academic interpretations of phenomena such as war, peace, the economy generally, gender issues, environmental policies, immigration, poverty, religion, education, the family, healthcare, law enforcement, judicial appointments… What people decide to study is itself a clear indication of interest (not disinterested objectivity). Of course, we scholars (I hope) try to find reliable truth about issues, even inconvenient truths. Unfortunately, our society is awash in misinformation and even worse, purposeful disinformation, and one party, I believe, is demonstrably more active in promoting falsehoods and dangerous conspiracy claims than the other.
If you look someone up, their party affiliation may help to explain certain things about their views, including their academic perspectives. After a lifetime of watching various policy debates and shenanigans, I cannot remain independent as I once was as a youngster. I thought being independent was being objective, but these two things are not the same. Objectively analyzing information and history does not eliminate that information or history. I agree with the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller that to remain “independent” is a form of cowardice, especially among intellectuals and even more especially among social scientists who should know what is going on and attempt to engage in this world. In Europe, they speak of "public intellectuals." Many have written some of the most cogent insights in major daily newspapers. Hiding in the closet in the hopes of avoiding controversy and responsibility has proven disastrous in history. Besides that, a Ph.D. in the social sciences should give one some conviction based on evidence. Also, for me, here in Oklahoma, one cannot participate in the democratic process of primaries unless one picks one party or the other. I choose to participate as much as I can.
Why belong to any political party? Why participate in democracy at all? Why resist authoritarianism? Why promote transparency? Because I believe in human rights.
If we are not vigilant, they will help themselves until nothing is left for others. Long before Reagan promoted the old Hoover voodoo economics, the profound philosopher of the Great Plains rebutted the pernicious idea that those most fortunate should get most of the help.
Why I am a Democrat?
Why am I a Democrat?
Even if I had not been, I would be a Democrat now after seeing Trump claim that his German blood is “good blood,” and watching several GOP candidates call global warming science a left-wing hoax, cynics who follow their leader Trump to embrace Russian generated propaganda, calling any attempt to defend our country from Russian infiltration a “witch hunt,” birtherism, anti-vaccine lies, yelling "liberate" in support of armed idiots storming the Michigan State House to intimidate his political opponents… and Incels, QAnon false conspiracy theories... We saw this coming. See the article about the American Nazi Party endorsing Trump in 2015 https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a47407/american-nazi-party-supports-trump/
More recent to this writing (Aug 2020), one hilarious load of garbage Trump and his sons have personally endorsed is that he, our savior, is battling a global cabal of Satan worshipers who are also cannibalistic pedophiles that have penetrated the U.S. government forming the “deep state,” folks like Anthony Fauci, Hillary Clinton, Comey, Mueller, Bill Gates, several former heads of the State Department, DOJ/FBI, EPA, CIA, FEMA, Interior, DOD, and NSA, many Republicans. Fauci? Are you kidding? One Republican strategist, Rick Wilson, has said, “Everything Trump touches dies.” It seems so. We are in the midst of a human-caused disaster. Due to a horrendously incompetent response to the Covid19 virus, incompetence, and cynical narcissism that never ends, we find ourselves smack in the middle of an unprecedented public health disaster (recently Covid19 has been measured to be more lethal than the Influenza of 1917) spiraling outward creating an expanding economic disaster, a disaster in our hospitals, our schools, our churches, and a rise in suicides and drug overdoses.
Everything he touches dies. And so, we are too, by the hundreds of thousands. Homelessness is on the verge of exploding. Poverty and unemployment already are. And nurses and doctors are dying trying to treat this mess. We are seeing the greatest shift in wealth from the poor and working classes to the super-rich like Louis DeJoy (freight transport now U.S. Post Master), the Rickettses (T. D. Ameritrade), Yass (insurance), McMahon (WWE wrestling), Berard Marcus and Kenneth Langone (Home Depot), Schwarzman (investment banking), the Uihleins (massive importer of Chinese products), Timothy Mellon (investment banking), Jim Justice (coal), Billy “Red McCombs (iHeart Radio, oil), Milken (junk bond king), Clayton Mathile (pet food), Jimmy Liautaud (Jimmy John’s Sandwich Chain), Wynn (Casinos), Adelson (Casinos), Bezos (Amazon), Zuckerberg (Facebook), the Waltons (Walmart), Musk (Paypal, Tesla)… Former government ethics chief Walter Shaub has declared on Twitter, “Every bit of government is for sale in the Trump administration. Every last bit.” Including the Post Office. For the RNC Convention, he turned the White House into a prop for his political rally. And the rest of the GOP applauds this disaster.
According to Forbes the billionaires pouring money into the RNC and Trump specifically… even in 2016, when he lied that he was bankrolling his campaign without outside money because “I am really rich,” as he put it, are, in ascending order from least to most money donated:
Whose salaries does all this money pay?
We look at Ailes, Rove, Atwater, and Stone and see a long line of professional propagandists who have poisoned America. But there are others perhaps even worse such as the money behind twisting John Kerry's heroism in Viet Nam, acts that his fellow Swift Boat vets attested to, such as T. Boone Pickens. And don't forget the everpresent king of the political action movement Ed Rollins coming to America out of the great educational institution of Solano Community College who got his brain rattled boxing from ages 13-23 then became a Republican mastermind in the Reagan campaign as deputy to Atwater. Rollins is now, as of Sept 1, 2020, running the super PAC Donald Trump Great America PAC. Reagan... Trump? Not so different as mythology would have you believe. Besides they are just fronts. The guys running the show behind the scenes never change. Candidates for the GOP are just useful idiots. Enter someone you might not know, Chris LaCivita who put together the Swift Boat garbage against Kerry who is now the architect of the Preserve America super PAC for Trump funded mostly by Linda McMahon of WWE fame, the casino zombie Chinese money launderer Adelson, and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. These are the big wallets who love Trump and who are bankrolling horrible lies about Biden and promoting racial violence in America. Putin must be smiling.
You say that’s not true; Trump, et al., are not nuts like this. But…There are tons of documentation to support this assessment, including his policies and his children’s business dealings (let alone their tweets and retweets of alt-right delusions and Russian propaganda). So what? Just one example. Here is Arthur Jones, head of the American Nazi Party, elected as a Republican to the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois March 2018 wearing his Trump hat.
Need more? To help you, you can turn to just one of the hundreds if not thousands of examples. Here's just one, Trump’s official betrayal of the military court system:
And also, this Tweet sent out by Trump and “liked” by over 18 million of his followers on August 12, 2020, helping to make QAnon mainstream Americana:
“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!”
According to the megachurch darling of the Trump White House, Paula White, we should watch out because “God came to me last night and told me that Fauci may have Satanic tendencies. And it makes sense. God sent President Donald Trump on a Holy mandate to make this country great again. But Fauci is always contradicting Trump. If you go against Trump, you go against God.” Trump is god.
Trump and friends have turned this:
Into these viral images.
This is why the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, M.D., has had to hire personal security. What did he do wrong? Tell us how, based on science, to protect our country from the Novel Coronavirus 19.
Such attacks are not new. Virtually every modern Democratic President has been attacked by the likes of Pat Robertson, Kenneth Copland, Creflo Dollar, Ephren Taylor, Joyce Meyer, the Falwells, the Huckabees…
Why do Evangelicals flock to Trump? Power. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/us/evangelicals-trump-christianity.html
I am concerned about a major political party in the U.S. that systematically attacks our own institutions while absolving Russian intelligence operations to manipulate our democratic processes to suit their interests. America first? Seems more like Trump and Putin first. The rest be damned. Of course. The GOP philosophy, as far as there is one, is based on Ayn Rand’s extreme selfishness and Social Darwinism. That includes the new theology of the GOP church. One party embraces science and reality more than the other – the Democratic Party. The GOP has deep pockets, and it has relentlessly pressed to make money more influential in our democratic processes, and concurrently, to suppress the vote of poor people. This leads to the most powerful and wealthy getting disproportional benefits of government, including a good deal of public welfare and unregulated media ownership and military/industrial contracts going to them. One party has consistently worked to suppress the vote… the core of our democratic process – the GOP. One party has turned mass media ownership into a relentless attack against democratic processes and honest reporting – the GOP. One party constantly denigrates intellectuals and education for the masses – the GOP. These claims can be demonstrated.
Now, if you really don’t believe in democracy, then it would be logical for you to disagree with the value of science, truth, the veracity of reality, and such. That I can understand though, I think delusion and dictatorial power are ultimately ruinous to progress in all fields from the arts to the sciences. In that, I heartily agree with Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper. And if you disagree with me, then your alternative intellectual heroes must be… I don’t know… who they would be? Stalin? Mao? Steve Bannon of the alt-right Brietbart media pit of lies, Trump’s chief political strategist seemed to never miss an opportunity to praise Stalin. But who your cultural heroes might be, I can’t speak for you. And I will not defend authoritarian attacks on free and fair elections and a free and honest public sphere. Calling the free press the “enemy of the people” is pure authoritarianism. Purely anti-democratic. <
But let’s put all the current stuff aside. The problems extend back decades. This is not a new threat to democracy in the United States. There are deeper reasons for my choice that go back many years. Democracy is about debate. Parties formed to organize debate when populations grew. We no longer live in small villages or on a hill in ancient Athens with a handful of free male citizens involved in ruling. Internal to a party are democratic processes that build toward a larger scale of democratic comportment. To lead within a party requires debate and compromise by its members. To get to “the top” of a party requires that one compromise within the party. That is politics. The absence of politics is dictatorship. And with two or more parties functioning in governing, compromise at the societal level is unavoidable. Compromise is the opposite of egocentrism. It is a sign of maturity, the ability to see things from the point-of-view of others. This tends toward moderation, and I agree with Plato that the middle way tends to work best over the long haul. Synthesis of interests is thus achieved, and extremism avoided.
To be “independent” tends to mean being a “disinterested observer” (the fallacy of “objectivity” that has been refuted repeatedly by logicians and mathematicians, see Russell and Whitehead’s failed effort to purge mathematics of perspective – Principia Mathematica, Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, Wilhem Dithey’s work on history, Gadamer’s work on historically situated history writing, Hartle and Hawking’s work on time…). This ideal of having no body, no position in place, time, culture, history… has been refuted in philosophy as delusional because we cannot analyze anything without a position. Such a strange ambition involves embracing, as Nietzsche described it, a self-contradictorily eager desire to reduce one’s self to an inert mirror or a bundle of sensory organs that randomly unfold onto the world without mind, without direction, and await whatever happens by like the lowest form of life on the seabed. Nietzsche demurred at this false humility as the “shame” of being conscious and critiqued this peculiar “virtue” of disinterested observation. It encompasses both an arrogance of aloofness and, at the same time, an inability to interrogate one’s own biases, drives, interests, prejudices. It is a failing to even recognize that we have any prejudices.
But the truth is, I cannot smell all smells or see or hear all frequencies. I am even limited in my perspective compared to other animals. To be conscious, to have a body means to have a perspective. There is no such thing as a disembodied consciousness. As Ludwig Landgrebe said, even if there is a being that is all-knowing (omni-conscious or omniscient), that too would be a unique mode of being, a unique point-of-view. It is not just philosophers who have abandoned the dream of being an inert mirror as a great virtue but scientists such as Einstein, Hawking, and others. For instance, the great chemist Michael Polanyi discussed the false virtue of having no position, no interest in anything, including science. He concluded that if we were truly disinterested passive observers, we would be condemned to observe that which is most likely in the universe to accidentally pass within our view… which would be vacuum as that is the most abundant state in the universe followed, after millions of years of disinterested observing, some interstellar gas that we might inadvertently encounter. Then on very rare occasions, we might see a star… and by sheer random observation, we would likely never get around to seeing a human, let alone studying them. Feigning aloof disinterest, which is one of the most egocentric and political positions one can assume, involves standing on the sidelines but not participating in forming the sidelines – letting others do the work while criticizing them for it. It has proven problematic, especially when times are veering toward extremism. That is what Martin Niemöller realized.
I was a political independent for a while, thinking that that was the most “conscientious” non-position position to take until I realized that it was the opposite of conscience. To quote the philosopher of the Great Plains, Will Rogers, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” He also famously said, “There are men in the government who shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.” True, so true.
Being an “independent” protected me from commitment and being available for debate. It was conceited. Having no position meant that debate was “merely academic.” But the fact is I do have a dog in this fight. We all do. To deny that is delusional egocentrism. Such a denial is very selfish – Niemöller would call it cowardice. It could also be apathy. If you vote, you are making a choice. And money today has created a reality by which candidates need organizational help. The only way to be independent is to not pay taxes, drive on the roads, or vote. But even that would be a set of choices. Responsibility is hard to avoid.
Blind party loyalty, like voting a “straight ticket,” is not my cup of tea. I never do. I want two or more parties because I want a robust debate and choice. But to have a debate, people have to present positions. And we are at a place where one party has punted. Loyalty, like faith, needs no reasons. I do. If you have reasons for affiliation, then I’d like to hear them. Choosing requires one to justify oneself. Refusing to choose, to deny that we are condemned to freedom/responsibility, is, as Sartre put it, bad faith. Now our great philosopher Professor Rogers once said, “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.” When we are all lockstep, there’s no need to debate. Debate is vital to democratic engagement, and there is no progress without deviance. Not choosing avoids both justification and democratic engagement. It is like enjoying a service or activity when one wants to but never helping to maintain it. It’s selfish. It’s like folks who want the church to be there at their beck and call; for christenings, weddings, funerals, Easter, and Christmas but never show up to support the institution the rest of the time and for others. Institutions require us to show up. They are us.
Blind faith and party loyalty are not rational. Many are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu just because… their parents were. We see the same pattern with political party affiliation. That’s irrational. Responsible participation means you have to decide for yourself based on, as Mill, Milton, Jefferson, Bentham, Perelman, Toulmin, Rawls, Habermas, and others put it, “good reasons,” reasons that are testable. If my choice, my opinion, is in error, the best way to discover this is through what Milton referred to as “free and open encounter.” I choose to support the democratic process by engaging. And my reasons for choosing the Democratic Party over the Republican Party are:
Like him or hate him, Trump is but a symptom of a larger culture, and the GOP and its allies have been working in this direction for years going back to Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Spiro Agnew’s corruption, and Reagan’s demonization of intellectual expertise generally and government as “the Beast.” Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, William Barr, Karl Christian Rove… these are not new actors on the stage (see the pictures I’ve included of them while working behind the scenes in the Nixon and Reagan White Houses). They (along with now dead folks such as Lester Maddox, Pat Buchanan, Barry Goldwater, Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Robert Foster Bennett, William Casey, Roger Ailes, Lee Atwater, Edwin Meese, John Sununu, Robert Bork, Dick Cheney, the Bushes and other “Paleoconservatives”)… have been active in the GOP going all the way back to the Nixon campaigns. They, along with the likes of Ken Starr, John Ashcroft, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, are the Republican Party. Republicans against Trump today, such as George Will and Bill Kristol have been cynical all along, and they have lost control of the monster they helped to create and promote, and, foolishly thought they controlled. John McCain is close to this situation, but I think he was not so cynical as naïve. There is no real intellectual wing of the GOP. There have just been a few folks around William F. Buckley, who, ironically, would not have become very famous if not for the Republican reviled Public Broadcasting System (PBS) which aired Buckley’s Firing Line for 1,504 episodes over 33 years making it the longest-running public affairs show in television history with a single host. You’re welcome, GOP. Now we see the GOP using free speech to cynically destroy free speech ala religious exemptions, for instance.
Other than Buckley, Jr. (founder of National Review) and friends, there is no viable intellectual wing to the GOP. We have places like the Hoover Institution at Stanford, but that’s a Potemkin Village, not a real scholarly operation. Science is not their product. Buckley, Jr., and others built a monster that they now regret, but it is too late. Forget about bags of cash from Florida Mafiosi left in telephone booths and break-ins and enemies lists, and endless lies… When Nixon betrayed the U.S. by opening back-channel negotiations with North Vietnam as a civilian presidential candidate and promised America a nonexistent plan for ending the war… This treasonous move sabotaged Johnson’s official efforts. Nixon ended up actually extending the war and condemned thousands to horrendous maiming, death, and environmental destruction. One of the worst disasters of the Twentieth Century after WWII fascists massacres was Pol Pot in Cambodia. How did that happen? U.S. illegal bombing and destabilization of the region – not unlike the conservative U.S. support for fascists in Latin America (look up the “School of the Americas” first in Panama, then at Fort Benning, Georgia). That was my first realization that those cheering for the GOP are either really stupid or really evil. Maybe both. I prefer to be neither. Little has happened to change my mind. Forget the total fiasco of deregulating Wall Street and mortgage industry until it crashed the world’s economy. That’s just money. Other things have certainly not changed my mind about the GOP, such as Bush II and Ashcroft’s “extraordinary renditions,” and Bush II and Cheney’s lies about weapons of mass destruction have not changed my mind. Massive fraud at the Emerald City in Iraq… terrible.
But… Abu Ghraib. What the hell????
In the last picture, we see Sabrina Harman posing for fun with Manadel al-Jamadi after he was tortured to death by American operators. My tax dollars at work. How does this make us exceptional? And the Bush administration made sure no big shots got into trouble for this horror. Folks like Lynndie England and Charles Graner got into trouble. Absolutely they deserved to but what kind of culture, what kind of people are these guys? What made them as they are? And where was the supervision? Decency?
But Bush/Cheney also exploited the heck out of Pat Tillman, but his family fought back to save his legacy. Read his mother’s book:
Years later, we see the GOP faithful chanting “Drill, baby drill.” What? Why? Most oil production leaves our environment a mess, most of the oil goes onto the world market, not staying “at home” to make us feel independent or to drive prices down here, and most of the profits go into few pockets… oh and global warming? GOP leaders insisted that that’s either a hoax or has nothing to do with human activity.
Here we are in 2020 with a major set of interlocking crises. But to their credit, back in 2015, the tiny GOP intelligentsia (or at least writers) on the National Review’s editorial board published an editorial entitled “Against Trump,” calling him a “philosophically unmoored political opportunist” while announcing its opposition to his candidacy to be the Republican nomination for President. They have been consistent critics of his presidency. Other than Buckley’s shadow, there is the Federalist Society that seeks to dominate the judiciary with its version of “objective interpretation” of law (“textualism”) – the nonsense of activism against “judicial activism.” It has worked for years to open alternative law schools (such as Falwell’s Liberty University, Samford U., Charleston U., Regent U., Mercer U., Oklahoma City U., and other law schools) around the country giving us the likes of Michele Bachman who received her law degree from Oral Roberts University. That might be considered “intellectual.”
The core of the GOP has been a consistent mixture of the super-rich and poor racists. Some religious conservatives have become staunch members of the core party faithful. Basically, it is a culture with a few fringe, grade B or worse actors/musicians/WWE wrestler type celebrities coopted to make it more appealing to the masses. It is no mistake that two of them have come from the underbelly of the entertainment world (one who turned in the names of innocent friends and colleagues in Hollywood to the FBI as anti-American communists, later to become the anti-labor spokesperson for G.E. – the other a hair-sprayed fake business tycoon “tough guy” who’s signature catchphrase was “you’re fired”… both professional failures and draft-dodging chicken hawks prone to delusional fantasy). They offered diversionary image-cover for the super predatory super-rich. Both probably suffer from serious cognitive deficiencies in the White House, but they were just useful idiots of the GOP machine. Then there are the few such as McCain, who discovered his own mistake when he hooked up with Sarah Palin. Why? The GOP told him to put her on the ballot, just as they forced Eisenhower to accept Nixon on the ticket against his will. Again, and again those who have any moderate tendencies such as Ford, McCain, Bush I, Romney end up isolated in the GOP. The mega-donors don’t support them, and their party mass electorate does not support them either. And to call Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barak Obama, the extreme left is demonstrably silly. They are moderates as is Joe Biden and the real law-and-order prosecutor Kamala Harris.
Extremist and violent groups such as the KKK have been much closer to the GOP than the Democratic Party for a reason. Desegregation of the South led to the region turning deep red. I do not share the values and beliefs of the KKK or of Timothy McVeigh or of Lester Maddox or of many biker goons or of the Florida/New York Cosa Nostra. I align more with intellectualism and notions of democratic progress. The reason the South “rose again” was not because of its great universities (of which there are a few) but because of policies such as “right to work” laws that effectively eliminated organized labor and its ability to negotiate with the owners of the means of production. Giving up your voice is not part of my values. I understand the fundamental submissive nature extolled and promoted by certain religious faiths and how they work nicely with predatory culture, be it capitalism, racism, or sexism. I’m not of that ilk. I am not prone to “surrender” and “submit” to anything or anyone without good reasons. Legitimate authority, to me, is an information source rooted in claims and facts that can be interrogated.
So, Trump’s world is not new. And today (Aug 2020), after many more recent disasters like devoted aiding of Putin’s invasion (not Watergate or Iran/Contra or the 2008 financial crash or Abu Ghraib…), Trump still enjoys 85-90+ percentage approval by surveyed GOP voters, including Evangelicals. A jury convicted Roger Stone on seven counts, but it’s okay to pardon him, GOP voters will still vote for Trump. Make no mistake. Trump is not the issue. He is really, honestly, what millions of Americans, mainly Republicans, want. They did not like having a half-Black president. As soon as Obama was elected, GOP Senators and Representatives announced they would fight to block any and all of his initiatives no matter what, and Trump’s claims that Obama was a terrorist, Muslim, non-American carried him to the White House (barely). When the Affordable Care Act was initially floated, over 60 percent of Republicans approved. And so they should since much of it was copied from GOP policy suggestions… They supported it until it was nicknamed by GOP lobbyist Jeanne Schulte Scott “Obamacare” (then pumped on Fox by Glenn Beck and on Clear Channel by Limbaugh). Once renamed, support among GOP voters collapsed. Fox and Clear Channel worked to create a “grassroots movement” against “socialized medicine” -- against a program that millions of GOP voters desperately depend on, especially during this pandemic. That’s irrational, even suicidal party loyalty. I am not into that as a Democrat, Republican, whatever. Nietzsche nicely defined the “good party man” as a moron long ago.
The good party man mentality is also why GOP Senators who were to act as a jury in Trump’s impeachment suffered no blowback from the rank and file even after proudly declaring that they would not even read the Mueller Report. Poor Jeff Sessions… one of their own, an early true believer was humiliated by Trump for recusing himself from investigations into the Trump campaigns’ secret contacts with Russian operators, and subsequent lies about it to the FBI and Congress. Despite his narcissism, the GOP loves Trump with higher and more enthusiastic support than any GOP president in modern times. It may not be enough to win a popular vote, but it is rock solid. No other Republican could dream of mounting a real challenge to him in the primaries. He is beloved. GOP rank and file cheer his tariffs and massive farm subsidies even as they have to pay for them. They love the wall. Trump is just one of millions.
Economic reasoning is not working. People say folks vote their pocketbooks. That’s not true. If that were true, the Republican Party would have vanished long ago, as it was business leaders who chose to move factories abroad and to automate in the interest of profits over American labor. And GOP religious leaders are… I believe demonstrably, less advocates for Christianity, than for predatory capitalism. Many large churches are businesses and treat their parishioners as consumers (literally… look at their strategic plans for cultivating membership) rather than souls. But the rank and file GOP membership, and indeed the leadership already know all of this. And I don’t think many really honestly believe much of the conspiracy nonsense pumped out about Hilary and others. They enjoy causing chaos, especially when they believe it has no consequences for them personally. Wreaking rhetorical havoc on the Internet is fun to them. Telling outrageous lies is fun. This is the point. They are dangerously close to being nihilists, and they vote that way.
It is a mistake to think one can convince Trump supporters that Trump is actually a bad guy. They know who he is. You don’t have to convince them of anything. They know what he is, and that’s what they want, or more, they don’t really care. They are not stupid. Trump represents their values and beliefs. He did not take over the GOP. The GOP created him. This is the GOP. He is the GOP… including its long-standing “libertarian wing.” This is not a new GOP. It is not a new thing. It is rooted in Social Darwinism, Ayn Randian selfishness including prosperity theology and racism… and not least of all predatory capitalism (insatiable greed for money/power). Trump honestly represents what they believe, and it involves a good bit of fatalism (you are your genes and hence the racism and justified – inevitable -- economic inequality). The fatalism is interesting because it runs directly counter to their notions of individualism and free will. And yet, inequality is natural and inevitable. Any efforts to balance things out is seen as “bleeding heart liberalism” so-called even by GOP “Christians.” Christ, would more likely vote Democrat… I believe. The Romans didn’t break his legs. They stabbed him in the heart chakra. We broke his heart… not his legs. We have betrayed his example. The mind calculates. The heart binds the community. We have little heart these days. I don’t believe in gods, but I have read the accounts, and Jesus of Nazareth sounds like a pretty good guy and quite brave. Not a bad example to follow… unless you hate “bleeding heart liberals” and prefer symbols of predators like eagles and wolves.
The only major change in the culture over the past 70 or 80 years is the rise of globalism among the ranks of oligarchs, which corresponds to a decline in patriotism. Trump’s nationalism is rhetoric. Just look at his investments all over. Even his wives are not “American made.” He relates more to oligarchs from India and Russia, from China to Brazil than to his own base. This, they seem to fail to grasp. Members of the business class have the power. They are the ones who moved jobs to cheaper labor markets and built robot factories, not the salaried workers. Once labor was offshored, then investing in U.S. education and infrastructure was seen as a waste of tax dollars. So cut taxes… except for the military because as supply chains increasingly stretched around the globe, protecting market investment and trade routes became paramount. So we saw a shift of the burden to the government, meaning salaried workers’ taxes, divert from the domestic public sphere to the defense of the global supply chain. Military spending has exploded. Labor became a globalized market in the 1960s, and workers in the U.S. could not afford to compete against workers living in dorms in maquiladoras in Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan. The race is to the bottom toward slavery.
Despite concession after concession, at the end of the day, a factory worker in Detroit or Cleveland simply could not afford to work for $5 bucks a day and live in a factory dorm. The cost of shelter and transportation has always been shifted onto the workers (hence the company store system of lovely coalmining country). So, the American laborer did not abandon herself. Rather she was abandoned by those who owned the factories and chose to move them to cheaper labor with no regulations. And those are elite GOP Party members. Business is the only goal of life for those folks. Workers began going deeper and deeper into personal debt to attempt to acquire healthcare, shelter, and the skills and knowledge that employers would like for exploitation. Student loans took off. Again, the burden was shifted down to the “essential workers” who, if they lose their job, they lose their healthcare. Keeping things private means there is no public support. During this pandemic, the Prime or First Minister of Scotland succinctly put values in focus. She said we can close hospitality businesses like bars and gyms and get the community spread of the virus under control and open the schools or… open the bars and close the schools. She chose the schools over the bars. In the U.S., we chose the bars and small businesses and let the pandemic rage. So, we are trying to open schools in the middle of a hurricane of community contagion. It is largely driven by the need to get parents back to work, both of them. For a capitalist, the more employees… hands working for you, the more you make. And salaries have been driven down to the point that it takes two paychecks to raise a family. Workers are kept right at the brink of being able to reproduce themselves with a desperate need for jobs (to be exploited). Salaries have declined since the late 1960’s. This is also the argument of the GOP today to not pay too much in unemployment benefits lest the working poor not go back to being exploited for sub-subsistence wages. Living in debt is living below zero.
Since the 1960’s the push of the economic elite (mostly GOP) was to create an American caste system and to lower the standard of living to third world levels for the majority. It all comes back to maximizing profits on buying labor and on product sales – making money on both production and consumption (coming and going). Here we are with wide swaths of America in poverty financially, culturally, educationally, physically, spiritually, while a few are spectacularly wealthy and pulling away fast with assets all over the world. Nationalism, populism are just rhetoric.
Now, will this ever change? Well, not any time soon because there is still room for the spiral downward. China, the E.U., the U.S., and others are currently competing to expand their exploitative reach into the huge populations of India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and also to “develop” (which means to infiltrate) Africa as the last bastion of super-cheap labor and source of cheap raw resources. Standards of living will not rise around the world until there is no place left to run to for cheaper labor. But A.I. and robots are also being deployed. The only thing to stop the spiral down is what Henry Ford the Hitler loving fascist understood… namely, you have to pay workers at least enough to by the stuff they make, or it all falls apart. We should reach that point with 100 years is my guess. Only when everyplace has been developed into a labor market, a truly unified market, will we maybe see wages go up but… automation is working against that, and with A.I. and advances in robotics (such as self-driving trucks), there may be no end to the slide into poverty until and unless consumption cannot be maintained through personal debt spending and/or environmental degradation causes a crash in the human population as many experts are forecasting. In short, our philosophy is killing the planet, at least one philosophy that is personified by the global GOP-type player.
I once bumped into a colleague who had decided to mine big data for a living. I asked him if he thought that the power of massive amounts of data combined with A.I. would empower authoritarians. His serious and angry response was to accuse me of being “political.” And this from someone who purposefully kept some very important information from our department about a candidate that we, in hindsight, really needed to know (we unwittingly hired him for a position that he had just been fired from at another school -- we didn’t know that). My accuser, by the way, has benefited from the secret he kept about the guy who had been on his doctoral committee at another school. In Chinese, we call this guan xi (or in traditional Mandarin). Look it up. Hint, it is the essence of political machinations, meaning organizations run not on merit but personal networking, an irrational mode of operation condemned for leading to stagnating incompetence by most rationalists even extending back to ancient times including Aristotle in the “West,” to the great Tamil philosopher Valluvar in India, and Confucius in China. It helps a few at the expense of the many.
Democracy is inclusive. Mafia, a term originating in Arabic coming then to Sicily and stressing exclusion and secrecy as in “my blood family” (Cosa Nostra, literally “our thing” “our interests”) is exclusive, insular, secretive (omertà, the code of silence and lying), hierarchical, demanding unquestioning loyalty, conservative… anti-Democratic. Communication is strictly strategic and instrumental to this culture. They are premodern, filled with religious magical thinking, rituals, idols, and pledges emphasizing blood. For instance, the “Blood Alliance” is another name for the Sinaloa Cartel. They promote darkness -- a dark world of a black life of black markets preying on the public through intimidation, vendetta, and bribery. The philosophy is summed up in the Sicilian proverb, Cu è surdu, orbu e taci, campa cent ‘anni ‘mpaci (“He who is deaf, blind and silent will live a hundred years in peace”). They promote stupidity (blindness and deafness without reflection derived from fear). The approach to life is common to all criminalorganizations from the Yakuza in Japan and cartels such as the Los Zetas in Mexico, to the Krysha in Russia (today’s government in essence). They terrorize the public. They are not “mobs.” Quite the contrary. They are highly organized. They hire politicians to right the laws they want, judges to handle their cases, lawyers to manipulate juries. They abhor a fair fight. They are not honorable or noble, as these qualities denote openness and honesty. They are the opposite. And their activities hamper social functioning. They extort a living from those who are productive. Ma’ afi (معفي) means “exempted.” In Islamic law, Jizay is a tax imposed on non-Muslims, non-clan members, residing in Muslim lands. If you pay, you are protected. If not, you are punished. They are parasites. And this attitude has been part of the GOP for some time. Elements exist in the Democratic Party as well, but it is far less organized than the GOP.
I believe in democracy and transparency, and merit can be assessed only through fair and open competition. Too often, people are given opportunities because of connections, not rational and fair assessment of their performance. I believe in the value of meritocracy. I also believe that there is more than ample evidence that one major political party in the United States promotes voting rights while the other often works systemically to discourage democratic practices including oppressing and suppressing voting among certain groups of people and to promote nepotism and cronyism. At this writing, it has been announced by the Trump administration that instead of extending the census due to the Coronavirus, which the Census Bureau within the Commerce Department asked for, it will actually be cut short a month so that the Trump administration, and not Biden (if he wins) will get the data and be able to do the apportionment. It is all about power and money. Remember this happens only once every ten years, and so the election of Trump gave him not only power to name judges but to fiddle with the U.S. census. One party consistently rigs the system because they cannot win fair and square (remember Gore and the Florida Supreme Court being overruled in an unprecedented move??). Jim Crow is not just in the old South, and it does not just hurt Blacks but all poor people – mostly Democrats. Another example of people getting authority without merit; Trump’s children having security access that they demonstrably would not have without Daddy’s position. One party historically, demonstrably has fought for civil rights and economic fairness, the other for predatory employment, Social Darwinian and Ayn Randian justified repression and inequality of opportunity. The latter attitude fails to appreciate how we rely on each other, how we should value everyone’s potential – especially immigrants (assimilate or die), and it fails to appreciate the sacrifice of those who have come before to create a more just world. Selfishness is a failure to appreciate and respect each other.
I grew up watching George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. on T.V., and I was old enough to understand the “Southern Strategy” of Richard Nixon’s campaign. I also watched nearly all of the live coverage of the Congressional Watergate Hearings one summer with a friend of mine. Then I watched regime change exercised against the U.S. by U.S. oilmen and OPEC to drive Jimmy Carter from office. They turned off the tap on fuel, Carter was out, then the tap came on again, and prices and supply returned to normal. Trump understands that, and that is why one of the first things he did as President was to go dance with Saudi dictators. Then I saw many of Nixon’s people working in the Reagan campaign, and that was enough for me. Iran/Contra, the deregulation of fair housing by Reagan and consequent explosion in homelessness, the economic disaster, and lies about weapons of mass destruction by Bush II, among other things seemed to me to far outweigh the wrongs Democrats have done. Ken Starr’s dumping of the most salacious aspects of the Lewinski/Clinton investigation onto the Internet for all, including children, to see struck me as particularly cruel and vulgar – horribly partisan with no regard to the country’s soul. Apparently, many Americans agreed as Clinton was re-elected, and Starr moved on to later be fired from Baylor for covering up… wait for it… sexual improprieties (rape) by football players. Clinton should not have messed with an intern. He should not have been re-elected, but the hypocrisy of the GOP saved him. Not a proud moment for anyone, but Hilary took all the real hits. Also being an expert (a Ph.D. after all) on media law and regulations over the past 40 years and seeing what Republican deregulation of the industry has wrought, and continues to unfold, has made me realize that there are fundamental philosophical differences between the parties and that, I believe, much of what I see as damage to the public sphere and democracy, is not even fully understood by many GOP leaders. I would like to think that they know not what they do… but I’m trying to be generous. Perhaps they fully do and hate the American experiment fundamentally. For instance, just one example out of many, Red McCombs co-founder of Clear Channel broadcasting (now iHeart – what rhetoric!) with over 1400 TV and radio stations, thanks to utterly irresponsible deregulation, and who released the plagues of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and other endlessly raging demagogues onto the country, is (at this writing) the CEO of Constellis Group (one of the names of the repeatedly rebranded private military Blackwater). This is the private contractor army that Trump and his A.G. Barr have loosed on American protesters in U.S. cities – at the same time that Trump floated the idea of postponing the presidential election. Meanwhile, half the nation is celebrating the life of John Lewis for fighting for voting rights. At the same time, Trump has failed in 6 different phone conversations with Putin since the revelation that Russia has been paying bounties to those who target and kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq (shades of the candidate Nixon’s treasonous secret contacts with the North Vietnamese, sabotaging Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to end the conflict, thus extending the Vietnam War for years with hundreds of thousands lives lost on both sides). McCombs used his clout and control of nearly all the country-western music stations to try to destroy the Dixie Chicks for disagreeing with his buddy and fellow Texan Bush II. Their music helped to make him rich. This is the GOP.
Without GOP deregulation, power of this sort would never have been able to consolidate into the megaliths we now have controlling public information… A disaster for a democracy. But… they feel they must attack those who offer platforms for everyone to participate such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and others because those megaliths are not overt propagandists for the GOP. Hypocrisy is in every headline today. Limbaugh and Murdoch have taught Americans to be conspiracy enthusiasts, to doubt all institutions, except those ruled by Republicans, leading us into a culture where people won’t even follow the simplest instruction to contain a pandemic. “Starve the Beast” as Reagan campaigned. Dismantle the “deep state” – in other words, destroy America by means of a Fifth Column aided by the likes of Putin and Xi so that all oligarchs on the planet can form a single caste to exploit the rest of us. They teach that businessmen are heroes, that the private sector is efficient while government agencies are not. That is a huge lie but, “there it is,” and many believe it without asking for evidence. The private sector is grossly inefficient, and that is why we see such massive profits compounding. The private sector is also far more corrupt, but their dealings are mostly private. Look at how Trump is fighting tooth and nail to hide his taxes.
“Starve the Beast” of a demonized USA by its own President, was the mantra of anti-expertise and anti-rational regulation. Trump is fulfilling Reagan’s dream to dismantle government, including all agencies from intelligence to environmental protection. Today, when the government says I’m here to help, they are (in hurricanes and pandemics). But if you turn them over to people who despise their missions, who only work for massive profits, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy of a failed government. We cannot scale up any responses now from hurricane relief to fighting a pandemic. That’s progress to the GOP. As one surgeon recently said on the news, he is exhausted battling two epidemics: one the coronavirus, the other stupidity. He is tired of seeing people completely disregard expert advice, then come in, begging the same experts to save them. Recently, Northwestern University Medical Center performed a double lung transplant on Brian Kuhns to save his life from the ravages of the Coronavirus. Afterward, he told the media he had listened to right-wing voices, including the President himself, telling him the pandemic was a Democratic hoax, and he never wore a mask or practiced safe behaviors. He wanted to tell everyone that it is not a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats just to hurt Trump. Dah… A double lung transplant to save this guy. If you insist on being a rebel without a clue, then take the consequences. I’m wondering how much we all subsidized his proud freedom to be an idiot? Such a medical condition and treatment had to cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to save one idiot’s selfish bravado. And I blame leaders who promote nonsense.
The country can’t afford the GOP anymore with its core predatory values of greed, racism, and corruption. It took trillions to pull us out of the 2008 disaster. Other developed countries are… developing and moving right past us into a rational future while we languish in bankruptcy and superstition (see Dr. Stella Immanuel, and the preachers who support Trump and espouse hate such as Mark Burns, Jamal Bryant, Paula White, Falwell Jr.). Trump, we are told, is more than a “good Christian” (though that is also preached). These people tell us over the Internet and airwaves that he is nothing less than god’s divine hand on Earth. A few preachers, such as Max Lucado, have denounced Trump.
Being aloof is an abrogation of personal integrity and professional commitment as a public intellectual. This is a tiny thumbnail of reasons why I have taken sides. To say both parties are bad is a demonstrably and totally false equivalence. You can vote any way you want, and you can split ballots. We all do. Voting is different from supporting a party. However, to stand with one side of issues helps the momentum of history and to reinforce what type of country we want to be. It takes integrity, courage, determination, and a willingness to accept something less than perfection. Yes, the Democratic Party is not perfect. But it is worth supporting in the face of all the terrible ideas out there.
Seeing communication as more than a form of predation, a tool of ego-centric strategy, I believe we have to choose. Debate about the right choice is the exercise of our franchise as human beings and a duty within a democracy. The basic civic duties include serving on a jury, voting, defending the walls of the polis, and paying taxes to build the walls and to supply those who man it for us. Duty-free shopping means… escaping a basic duty, taxes.
Trump is one gigantic tax cheat, as well as a draft dodger. He is a taker. But this is the basic philosophy of Republicans. If you have a business, you get all sorts of welfare. Look at agricultural and industrial subsidies. Don’t buy the twin myths of the intrepid entrepreneur and the businessman as hero. All of us subsidize these “heroes” who take profit from both production and consumption, from our labor and our purchases – making money coming and going and on top of that, through government handouts to the tune of billions per year. Wealth is redistributed every second from the salaried to the rich… hence… they are rich! Get it? Taxes are levied by law, and in a democracy, the majority have agreed to their necessity. Not paying is breaking the law and abnegating a fundamental civil duty. We have a big-time criminal as our electoral college leader.
The social bond is essential, especially when we get to the scale of social movements and economic practices we have in modern society. Fragmenting populations cannot agree enough to respond to large-scale issues. Divide and conquer works, and in many cases, it means a society cannot function efficiently. And that is the goal of most Republicans. They talk about small, efficient governing, but what they really want is no law or regulation except and unless it enables their profit-taking. Thus government/society labors along with substandard education, healthcare, infrastructure, overwhelmed courts, prisons; even holding elections is barely doable. The economy is irrational and unjust. This is the problem of the U.S. response to the virus. It is every man for himself, and that fails utterly. We are not pulling together on a single rope and in the same direction.
Libertarianism is the fullest expression of modern hypertrophic individualism and, as beautifully demonstrated in the T.V. series Breaking Bad, libertarians prove to be very useful idiots to oligarchs who would poison our society. So much for his America first campaign. Trump’s real mission is me first, screw America. Look at Steve Bannon, ripping off thousands of small donors to build a wall. They see all of us as rubes. Rip us off in real estate, at casinos, in fake charities, fake universities, manipulating the law, creating incomprehensible hedge funds, insurance policies, contracts… We are rubes until and unless we take back power.
Being a libertarian independent is a form of escapism, but there is no escape. We are condemned to freedom, as Sartre said. Denial of this fact is one of the most cynical ways to convince someone that they are weak and cannot or should not consciously take a stand -- that we are all merely the effects of prior causes with no choice. It reinforces subordination while defining deviance and true independence as insubordination. Well, as John Lewis said, we need to be insubordinate to make change. Change always and only comes from deviance. If we fear being different, then we surrender our freedom and ignore our responsibility. It is easy to side with the powerful and conventional. It is hard to make change and progress. Predators want the rest of us to believe that we are hopelessly the effect of prior causes. You better conform, or you may suffer. Threats are constant. Fear-mongering ubiquitous. But if we remember that we pass this way only once, we may be inspired to give it our all to build a better, more just community.
We have inherited a democratic country; something rare in human history, and we must not lose faith in ourselves and our faith in the possibility of improving life for all. Democracy assures the power in each of us to participate in the making of our lives in the fullest way. Authoritarians fear this power and work hard to maintain ways of thinking and behaving, of hoarding information and power. Sharing is not a sign of weakness. Openness is not a sign of weakness. Authoritarians often lie and hide because they are afraid of what might happen if the truth be told. Where are Trump’s taxes anyway? Those who would be king often promote patterns of thinking that confuse us about truths, including that sharing is not a weakness, and openness is not a sign of weakness but of strength. They also like to rob others of courage rather than to encourage them. Making others feel inadequate is a typical tactic of the strategic calculator.
We all have experienced being preyed upon. I remember once I returned from an extended stay abroad. While I was gone, there had been some unusual shakeups on a graduate student’s committee. An administrator, who gave cover for the shenanigans, came to my office just a week after my return. During his little visit to my office, he repeated to me a phrase that I’m pretty sure the student involved used in the opposite sense. It was “we had to rescue so-and-so.” Hmmm. Very interesting. Now that student never knew this occurred. I did not tell them. What would be the point? And I’m fairly certain that if confronted, this fellow would deny having said that to me… I’ve watched him lie on more than one occasion. To tell the student also would have embroiled them in something they did not need to get mixed up in. It is difficult to warn someone about the nefarious nature of people they may admire or the sort of people they have ended up working with. If they ever learn, they will have to learn on their own. But this is the way of the world. This administrator has done pretty terrible things to other people. How does this pattern of behavior endure? Typically, it is because only the victims know fully what has happened. Ambush predators hide their intentions. They avoid enduring evidence, such as e-mails and witnesses. And boy do they fear their own supervisors such as Deans. Usually, such attacks are in dark alleys with deniability in mind. None of us sees the whole picture. If you endure such an attack, know that you are not alone and that it is not your fault. Do not become jaded as you learn vigilance. Stay open and kind. You are not weak or stupid. Being innocent is not a sin. Keep focus. Be willing to help.
Being open sometimes hurts, but it is a sign of strength and integrity. Some honestly believe they are better, stronger because they take advantage of information as much as they can. I also believe not only do leopards not change their spots but that the spots, the qualities at issue, extend to all manner of behavior. If someone cheats on one thing, they are likely to cheat at other things. Predators, by nature, seek advantage all the time. Sometimes, they may win, but, like prairie dogs watching for hawks, we also soon learn to keep our eyes on them, and reputations spread so that more and more people tend to be wary when interacting with such types. You also see people fired at one place, move to another, not chased but emboldened and even more cunning for their experience. Make sure you vet people well, especially for administrative positions. If they have a champion fighting for them in your organization, then, if you hire them, you have not just made a new hire, but you have imported a ready-made clique moving into your organization. So vet people and also find out as much as you can about the relationship of their champion (if they have one) in your organization. Being a champion for someone means they are buddies. You need to find that out before you hire them, lest those leopard spots infect your organization. Much depends not just on the person being hired but also on what kind of person their champion is. In my experience, they can be solid people or looking for a powerful ally to come in and take over. Some folks you can disagree with. Others are your friend until you disagree with them, then everything changes.