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    • Democratic Congress Members Want What Republicans Want
      So, here we have it: On Hugh Hewitt’s show, McConnell says it’s “highly unlikely” he’d allow Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if he’s majority leader. He also doesn’t commit to allowing a vote on a nominee if a seat opened up in *2023*. “Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens.” This is the new normal. Republicans get all of their Supreme C […]
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Refuseniks

I’m about to say something controversial and there are probably lurkers who aren’t going to like it very much. Here goes:

If you are refusing to take the Covid vaccine for any other reason than your doctor told you it could cause fatal anaphylaxis or you have some other legit medical excuse (there are very few), I’m just telling you up front that I’m not interested in your reasoning anymore.

There are pediatricians out there who are trying to coach us on how to listen attentively to why these people either fear the vaccine or just flat out don’t think Covid will ever affect them. These doctors want us to be sensitive to refuseniks and not bombard them with information.

They’ve got a point about information. The hesitancy to get the vaccine is irrational and emotional at the bottom of it whether it’s based on fear or political identity. The science is out there. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand it if you’re really motivated to know how a Pfizer vaccine works. But reasoning with refuseniks using information is a pointless exercise for people who cling to superstition, distrust, misinformation or politically generated oppositional defiance disorder.

And all I can say to that is f}#% that sh*#.

If you want to risk getting Covid or giving it to someone who is just patiently waiting their turn, if you can’t figure out that you could be a reservoir of a variant that could make the vaccine less effective in the future, if you buy into conspiracy theories about how the evil Democrats are trying to control you, and that you actually believe without any evidence that the vaccine will change your RNA or DNA (which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard) you’re on your own.

At this point, you present a danger to people I care about who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet and if you get it, now it will be one of the variants that spreads like wildfire to everyone in your immediate vicinity.

But you already know this and it is no longer my responsibility to coddle you. If I were an evangelical Christian, I would be satisfied that you had gotten The Word and would check you off my list assuming that you will spend eternity in perdition. I’ve got better things to do with my time and those are precious hours, days, weeks and months that I will never get back.

It could happen that being a refusenik may cause other people to behave differently towards those people who have no proof of vaccination. They might be excluded from restaurants, movie theaters, airplanes and family events. We might assume they are being pains in the ass and have attitudes we can’t respect. It could happen that nobody takes them seriously when they blame the governor for putting people out of work by closing small businesses since getting the vaccine is the quickest way of getting back to normal. These ladies protest way too much.

We vaccinated people may be concerned that they are harboring a deadly virus that could infect the not yet vaccinated or babies born without any protective antibodies. If that’s the case, the very predictable whining and tantrum throwing about personal freedom is going to fall on a country full of people with tiny violins playing tunes without pity.

Yes, yes, we’re all deluded. We’re all sheeple. We are letting fear control us. For some mysterious, unfathomable reason, we have relied on vaccines our whole lives to train and prime our immune systems to fight polio, measles, diphtheria, rubella, typhoid and influenza. But the refusenik knows that our immune systems do not need any additional help from a vaccine to combat Covid. Because Covid is a special virus? Or refuseniks have special magical powersi in their white blood cells that the rest of us don’t have?

Who knows? I don’t. And I don’t care anymore.

The message has been delivered. It’s up to every grown up who can read to decide for themselves what to do about it.

Just stop looking for a f}#^ing audience.

The Culture Wars

It is certainly not a term I made up. It probably caught on because of its assonant quality. And when phrases catch on, we get to hear them over and over.

Whatever you want to call it, the meaning is pretty clear, particularly to Republicans. They see it is as their ticket to winning the next elections, along with vote suppression, of course. Cut down the voting size; make cultural issues the focus, and they think they can win

To be very frank, and maybe presumptuous, I don’t think most voters have a deep understanding of economics. It is said that “people vote their pocketbooks,” and certainly most can figure out if they are doing okay financially. And maybe that is all they have to know, when they vote; except that it is more complex than that.

For example, many were thinking that Trump was doing well with the economy, at least before the pandemic. But all that he was really accomplishing with his removal of regulations on corporations, including restrictions on polluting or monopoly, was making more profits for them, virtually none of which got trickled down to anyone else. The major cuts on corporate taxes just allowed them more money to buy back their own stock, which pushed it up; but they didn’t give anything to their workers. The stocks went up, but the GDP went up very little, and the manufacturing numbers were also unimpressive, and the deficit skyrocketed.

The gap between the wealthiest Americans and everybody else, has gotten much larger. Trump didn’t even cut taxes for the poor, they went up slightly for the last tax year. But Trump and his people kept boasting about the stock market; and as usual, too many media showed their naivete, by thinking or saying that the market was a proxy for the economy, which it is not. I am sure that some of the voters bought this, too, or Trump would have been at Herbert Hoover and GW Bush favorability numbers.

So Republicans can try to push their economic agenda, except that more people are realizing that this agenda includes only one item, Cut Taxes on the Wealthy. If you want that, you will probably vote for them, but not that many do. What Republicans want to do instead, is to avoid discussing that, and concentrate on ramping up anger at Democrats by means of “culture issues.” The power of these, is that the Right Wing, and their attendant media amplifiers, are very good at saying simplistic and false things, which somehow resonate with voters. The term for this is “framing.” The first week of law school, one of the professors said that the key to any case, is how successful you are at framing the issue, convincing people that your way of presenting the issue at stake is the correct one.

I always remember a battle in California over a Proposition on the ballot, which simply raised the tax on cigarettes. Most people were for this in this state But the tobacco lobby poured in something like $90 million, running ads of the tenor of “”There they go again; they are trying to take away your right to spend money any way you want, and choose what products to buy.” These ads were of course successful, and the tobacco people managed to overcome a twenty-point or so deficit in the polls, to defeat the Proposition by a point or two

We all know what the power of immense corporate money can do to amplify their position. Republicans count on it. They also have managed to win on “cultural issues,” mostly because they lie about them, simplify them, and then have all those billions, all those media outlets, to keep pounding at them. Republicans almost never run on the economy, or any specific policy debates; they run on culture issues, vague yet powerful terms like “freedom,” “rights,” “personal liberty.” And then they try to show how the Democrats don’t value these things, or are trying to take them away.

So in the ’50’s, it was “anti-Communism.” I remember some kid in fourth grade asking me if I would rather be dead, or Red? I didn’t know what he was talking about, I did not know who was presenting this as a choice. I asked my parents, and they laughed, and explained this nonsense. Then it was fluoridated water. Again, I did not understand, why were people talking about that, as some kind of evil threat? And does anyone remember “Operation Water Moccasin” which was some lunatic right-wing idea that the Communists were going to go through Mexico, and invade California?

Then in the late ’60’s, it was “hippies and communist sympathizers and people who hate America” The anti-war protests were portrayed as a bunch of long-haired sexual libertines who burned flags, and wanted the North Vietnamese to win. This worked well for them in 1968 and 1972. “Law and Order” were the slogans of Nixon and George Wallace.

Then it returned in 1988, where Dukakis saying that he was a “proud card-carrying member of the ACLU,” was used to characterize him as a left-wing intellectual who does not connect with average Americans. Remember GHW Bush visiting flag factories every day? The three issues which Republicans used, and which the media slavishly echoed, were “flag burning,” “Willie Horton,” and “Boston Harbor.” Flag burning was front and center, even though the Supreme Court had consistently found it to be “protected symbolic speech,” and I think the last time they heard it, it was a 9-0 decision. But the Republicans did not care, they wanted to convince the voters that they were working hard to make flag burning a serious crime, and the media never bothered to point any of this out, went right along with it.

There was only one presidential debate, and the first question posed, was asking Dukakis, if his wife were raped and murdered, would he be against the death penalty for the murderer? What kind of inane question is that? The President does not make the laws regarding the death penalty, that is left to the states, per a Supreme Court decision. The goal of the questioner, who thought he was really asking something meaningful, was to put Dukakis in a kind of moral double bind: either he would be for the death penalty for this man, but against it in general, so thus a moral hypocrite; or he would show himself to be a milquetoast who puts legal abstractions above his wife. It was an unfair and irrelevant question, and it showed the extent to which the media not only loves to play “gotcha” with Democrats, bit also how they always buy into the Republican Party’s “culture” emphasis, relegating all other matters behind those.

Bill Clinton of course, was attacked unmercifully for trying to avoid the draft, like virtually every Republican officeholder in the country. Then there was the furor about marijuana, “did he inhale?” Then the sexual matters, the same kind of thing which Republicans always deny and blame on liberals for inventing against them. We also heard about Clinton stopping air traffic while he got a haircut, which was a total lie. We heard about “travelgate,” which actually sounded like something potentially important until I learned that it was just Hillary replacing the White House travel staff, which she had an absolute right to do. And then of course Vince Foster, and on and on.

And we can remember how they said that Gore was a serial liar who claimed that he invented the internet,; and that Kerry was a Frenchified wind surfer who shot himself in the foot on purpose, so as to get a medal in Vietnam. And all the lies and slanders and grotesque caricatures of Hillary as a person., both before and during 2016.

That is what passes for political arguments from Republicans, because they cannot effectively run on specific policy issues. And they are ready to do it again. Their underlying main argument is that Democrats are going to cancel everything they care about: TV shows, children’s books, holidays,; until they end up canceling them! They will take over every aspect of their lives; tell them what are good foods to eat, what they can watch, what they can say, whether they have to wear a mask or not. This is the irrational psychological fear that they have instilled in their base; the fear of not mattering, of having no freedoms, of being canceled out.

The truth is that the Republicans have gone about trying to cancel things for about 150 years. They pulled the troops out of the South, to cancel Reconstruction. They canceled Black voting rights in the 1880’s and beyond. They set the FBI and the Pinkertons to cancel the forming of labor unions. They burned books like “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” “Forever Amber” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”

They blacklisted and effectively canceled the careers of many superb Hollywood writers, directors and actors. They kicked Charlie Chaplin out of the country. They would put FBI agents at anti-war rallies, to try to gather evidence against them, or to start violence which they could use major force to stop, and thus cancel that movement. Trump and his followers canceled the ability to read the transcribed interpreter notes of major international discussions. They canceled scientific data on global warming. They canceled the data on Covid fatalities in Florida and Texas. They tried to cancel the results of the last election. They stormed the capitol building to try to cancel the entire American political system on January 6. But they don’t see that as any form of “cancel culture,” because they are hypocrites who have no regard for science or facts or consistency, or anything which might impede their one goal, of winning elections and holding power.

That is why they focus on Dr. Seuss, and why Cruz and McCarthy lovingly read from his books on the floor of Congress. Of course, no one is canceling Dr. Seuss; the estate which handles his publishing decided not to republish a few of his lesser works, because some felt that they had some racist drawings. Mr. Potato Head was another major issue for the Right, to show people that just as he was ungendered, so they might be as well.

Republicans have no intention of changing their political or economic stances, such as they are. So they are left with trying to get their voters to become so angry and fearful that the Democratic Liberal Socialist Freethinkers are going to take all their childhood books and toys, and shows, and rights away, that they will rise up in fury to stop them. While of course, trying to stop Democrats from being able to exercise their freedom to vote at all.

We would like to discuss other matters, as an informed populace. The economy, women’s rights, minority rights, global warming, voting rights, workers’ rights, gun violence. But the Republicans do not want to. And the media loves the ratings they get from “culture wars,” because they are not the province of intellectuals, anyone can jump in and yell and declaim about them.

It is something that we need to be prepared for, and I hope that people on our side are able to figure out some effective counterpoints. That is hard, because we can’t just avoid these matters, but it is almost impossible to frame them in a way that the average person can understand. Rational argument based on philosophical and historical perspective, has a spotty record of success against pitchforks and flaming torches and witch burners. But ignoring them is not going to make them go away, because we are going to be hearing about this every day; they are going “all in” on it. That, combined with stopping Democrats from voting, is their last stand as a a political party, but they will fight to victory or demise under those banners.