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The Newest “Other” that Republicans Have Created to Anger and Motivate Their Voting Base

We know about Rick Scott, the man who probably cheated to get elected governor of Florida, then almost certainly cheated to take Bill Nelson’s Senate seat. The man who was the former CEO of the hospital company Columbia/.HCA, when it was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud, the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history.

Like so many other Republicans, Scott didn’t let that kind of thing derail him. Now he is sitting in the Senate, where you know he wants to run for President, and he has unveiled his “Eleven Point Tax Plan,” which is so astounding, even by Republican standards, that he got grilled on Fox News. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that those families making $54,000 or less would be hit with 80% of the tax increase in his proposed bill, and those making $100,000 or less would bear 97% of the burden of the increase.

This is, incredibly enough, a completely regressive tax proposal which blatantly steals from the poor to give to the rich. Republicans’ policies and management are accurately accused of doing this, but it usually is hidden. Here Scott just goes out and proposes that the poor people pay more in taxes.

But Scott has a way to misdirect from this, because he is going to go after what he calls “The Woke Left” He does not just go after them, he said they are “the greatest threat in the history of this country.” In his speech to the Heritage Foundation last Thursday, he said, “Americans in flyover country have had absolutely enough of this woke elitist nonsense” “The Woke Left wants to end the American experiment. They want to replace freedom with control.”

And that was not nearly enough for him to say. He said, “We survived the War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. But now today we face the greatest danger we’ve ever faced. The militant left wing in our country has become the enemy within.”

I could go on, but it is too infuriating and depressing, mostly because it is more likely than not that this kind of lying hysteria will work on enough people to get them to pour out to the polls to defeat this fabricated clear and present danger to America.

I have almost given up believing that there are enough rational people out there who can put one and one together, and actually understand that the economy right now is doing very well, with the one detriment of inflation, which is worldwide, and must be dealt with, but is hardly the Biden barely-over- one-year administration’s fault. But of course Scott and most Republicans don’t want to actually discuss economics, they would much rather do the kind of thing which Republicans have done for the last hundred years, which is to make up a demon, an “other,” which will destroy this country, unless they, the patriots, the praise the Lord and pass the ammunition types, stand up to save it.

In the 1910’s and 1920’s, it was the anarchists and the Bolsheviks. They effectively ran against that, until they wrecked the economy so badly, that people were far more concerned about eating their next meal, than about the virtually nonexistent Bolsheviks in this country. Then, after we finally prevailed in World War II, fighting unspeakably evil racist totalitarians, they could get back to trying to win elections, which they hadn’t won many of for twenty years, by coming up with a new threat which they said that only they were patriotic and aware enough to fight.

That was the Communists, somewhat different from the Lenin Bolsheviks, but also enemies of capitalism, which of course is the Republicans’ reason for being. Now, I am certainly not saying that Stalin and his successors were not a major threat to democracy and peace. But there was never a vast Communist conspiracy in this country trying to take over the schools and Hollywood, and seeking to hand America over to the Russians or Chinese.

But it was immensely effective for them. They simply labeled the Democrats as the party of appeasement of Communists, or the party of cowardice, of undermining American values. What they really meant was that Democrats were against unfettered laissez-faire capitalism. They analogized the Democrats’ Big Government approach to Stalinist Communism, which was absurd, but resonated with the more simplistic voters.

Republicans ran against Communism from 1948 to 1992, and won most of the Presidential elections. They told the voters that if they did not defeat Democrats, those people would give the nation over to the Communists. If we lost Vietnam, they would let the Communists win in Cambodia, then Laos, then Malaysia, then Indonesia, and further. The Communists were said to have a plan to invade California through Mexico. I am serious, the right-wing Republicans in California called it “Operation Water Moccasin.”

They held innumerable Congressional hearings in the late 40’s and early ’50’s, and terrorized Hollywood, the PTAs, labor union leaders, and Democrats in general, attempting to throw them into jail for being part of the Communist conspiracy which they basically made up.

When this furor and its effectiveness subsided somewhat, they found a new “other” to go against. This was the youngish, Vietnam War-protesting Left, combined with the Black people who had participated in such things as the Harlem and Watts riots. Republicans’ goal was to win by convincing the voters that America was under attack from young militants who did not believe in American values, who burned flags, and played angry rock music, and engaged in free love, and got abortions, and did not want to work in and support corporations.

They ran on this in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988. They wanted to run on it in 1992, but Bill Clinton outmaneuvered them. Now of course there were excesses on the Left in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Weather Underground blew up some buildings and killed people. Some of the urban protesting did go as far as rioting and looting. Republicans made the most of it, as their focus had shifted from “We are the only ones who will protect you from Communism taking over, as the Democrats actually support Communism (or ‘Socialism,; which they managed to convince people was the same thing),” to “We are for law and order, the Democrats are for lawlessness, they hate the police, they hate our military, they are anarchists and even traitors.”

The virtual or literal image of the hated other thus moved from those Americans they tried to portray in some of the semi-noir movies of the early 1950’s: middle-aged men in suits who were trying to subvert our government in various ways, to wild-eyed long-haired young White men shouting “Peace Now,” and afro-haired young Black people brandishing guns in groups like the Black Panthers.

This of course worked, the culmination of it was the campaign of 1988, where the entire Democratic Party was crystallized by Republican strategists in Willie Horton, a criminal who was paroled by the Massachusetts Parole Board in the state where the Democratic candidate for President was from; and thus by extension, Michael Dukakis would be soft on crime, let criminals out, be on the side of Black people, not White people, would be for flag burning and hippiedom. This worked, sadly enough.

So as the years went by, Republicans continued to look for bogeymen and bogeywomen to turn the frustrated and often misogynistic and racist anger of potential voters against. We don’t need to recount the Clinton Derangement Syndrome (which originated because he took the presidency away from them), and then the literally insane hatred of Hillary, whom their now rabidly evangelical and cultish followers were told she was the devil incarnate. The stupider and less educated and more irrational the people became, the more susceptible they were to the perverted fantasies that were developed for them to rise against.

So while I have somewhat rushed through and simplified the history, the pattern and the object is very clear. Rile up fury and hatred, convince the voters that everything they love; from Christmas, to Easter, to barbecues, baseball games, church, freedom from having some teacher tell them about evolution or other cultures, or the darker parts of American history, were at stake, unless they poured out to the polls and smote the devil Democrats.

Interestingly enough, once they manage to win an election, and take over more of the country to plunder, they stop doing this for a while. It is all theatre, just like that caravan slowly moving up from Central America and Mexico in 2018 suddenly disappearing after the election. But it works, and that is why they keep doing it, plus it beats having to actually talk about real pocketbook issues.

So from Bolsheviks, to radical labor unions, to Russian Communism, to Comsymps and Fellow Travelers in the State Department and Hollywood, to wild-eyed drug-addled hippies, and Black militants, to Big Government types trying to raise your taxes and take your guns away, now to “The Woke Left,” the Republicans bring this parade of horribles onto the stage they have created for them. And virtually every single time, they get their desired effect.

Why do we so often see this “enthusiasm gap,” where voters intending to vote Republican right down the line, are more excited and energized than the Democratic voters? Because the Republicans are being frightened, stoked up, riled to fury, brainwashed, by the Republican media machine. For the most part, Democrats talk about issues in a rational and intelligent way, and that doesn’t stoke up the enthusiasm of many people, unfortunately.

What is “The Woke Left”? It is mostly just a slogan, a hobgoblin. A melange of the former Bolsheviks and Socialists and Communists and hippies and war protesters and libertines and free speech advocates and book readers and moviemakers. There is more of a racial element in this than before, because this has proven effective for Republicans, particularly since Barack Obama became President. His campaign people used race as a device in the 2008 primaries, and it was transferentially used against downticket Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 midterms.

I am not going to try to delve into exactly how this “woke” term gained popularity, though it was certainly within the last decade. A really good book could be written on it, if it were somehow by someone outside the fray. To me, it meant that various people took pride in saying that they were “woke,” meaning their eyes were open to something they had not perceived before.

People like to feel special, part of a new vanguard, different than the generations which came before them. So describing themselves as “woke” is a kind of self-empowerment. They claim to see what others have failed to see. Much of this does seem to relate to racial aspects. They have been awakened to seeing how much “structural racism” pervades all aspects of our society. and how removing it is their greatest cause, ahead of all the other issues which they believe are intended to deflect them from that.

At least, that is what I think the concept is primarily about for those who like to say that they are “woke.” But the more important thing is how the Republicans have seized upon it, along with “cancel culture,” as the bete noires they are trying to get their followers to hate. What they are generally trying to refer to is something along the line of radical teachers in schools trying to indoctrinate their children with guilt about being White; brainwashing about the value of being gay or transsexual; dangerous intellectual ideas such as evolution; historical study; books with words or ideas they don’t like. That is how they describe or portray it, and of course that is almost never the actual reality.

This is where things intersect, I guess some call this “the horseshoe theory.” The Right and Left are both guilty of being intolerant, of wanting to censor. The Right has been infamous for this, from the days of the monk Savonarola in the 15th century; going through to the Church banning and burning books and pamphlets, and the people who wrote them; all the way to the Hays Code of the 1930’s in Hollywood, and the Catholic League of Decency, and the book burnings of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. But now the Left has shown that it can be almost as intolerant, wanting certain books to be taken off the shelves, and movies shut down or boycotted if the proposed film does not describe things as they want them portrayed.

For some strange reason, the liberals who always stood up for artistic and academic freedom, have now sometimes joined the “Purity Left,” and thus we have a war not about openness and freedom vs . repression and censorship, but both sides doing the same thing, which makes our side more vulnerable to the hypocritical attacks coming from the Right. And boy, have they jumped on it, from Dr. Seuss to Mr. Potato Head and beyond.

And since I am on the liberal side, but not really the “woke” side, I will say that the people who say they are on the Left, but keep demanding that certain people on our side of the aisle must resign; that others not be allowed to speak, or should have their books or movies taken off the shelves; or that various words be banned, are missing the forest for the trees, and also not seeing how it is being used against us, in far worse ways.

And most importantly, if the Republicans take control, they are just waiting to ban many books, to allow angry right-wing parents to get teachers fired if they say anything which the parents think is against their beliefs or conspiracy theories. These people are the true fascists, and they are using the fear of totalitarianism which they declaim about, as the mechanism which they will use to institute their totalitarianism, which they intend to be forever, as the Church controlled Europe for 800 or so years, and as Russia and China are controlled by their leadership.

The Far Right in this country, used for immense profit by immeasurably rich social darwinists, with its footsoldiers being religious zealots and cultists, is a horrifying thing,; and tragically, various aspects of what the Far Right wants to term “the woke Left,”are playing right into their hands.

The so-called “woke Left” is not a major threat to anything, it is beyond question not the greatest danger in American history, as Rick Scott rabble-rouses. But if we remember that virtually every election that the Republicans have ever won, has been by demonizing an “other,” figuratively or literally drawing them as monsters which must be defeated entirely, we can see that this is another protean shift by them, intended to find a new way to frighten, enrage, and galvanize their voting base.

With the media almost always in their corner, framing things the way they are told to by them, we can see how difficult it has become to combat them. I would suggest , fairly or not, that if certain segments of our would-be Democratic coalition try to remember or learn about Democrats’ long history of supporting free speech, and opposing censorship, we would have a better chance.

Oh yes, and the “defund the police” nonsense which almost no one has supported, outside of a few hand signs in the summer of 2020, very possibly made by right-wing plants, but which as usual has been turned into a battle cry for those who are certain that Democrats intend to carry it out, even when not one state or city or national American government run by Democrats, has done one single thing in that regard.

Somehow the Republican Party of corruption, sedition, and government overthrow, has once again cloaked themselves in the mantle of “law and order,” and the Democrats as “soft on crime.” What a travesty. But like it or not, and we definitely do not, we simply must realize that we pay at the polls for every single intemperate statement or sign any one of us makes.

Democrats may well not be an organized party, as in the famous Will Rogers joke, but we absolutely cannot win sufficient elections if we self-righteously provide the fascists on the other side with easy targets. Yes, they will make up or exaggerate anything, but self-indulgent people had better actually wake up, and stop handing them an easy “other” to demonize and run against.

If we lose, every one of these people will lose with us, assuming that their goals are actually to win elections and thereby influence public policy, rather than to just get on TV shows and express anger, and then get invited back for more of those segments. They may individually “win” in that regard, but like the radicals co-opted in the movie “Network,” they will only be unwittingly or selfishly helping themselves at everyone else’s expense. Republicans constantly search for them to hold up as the representatives of the Democratic Party.

Rather amazingly, Democrats almost never do it to them, they think it is too personal or something, or maybe they want to keep the political discourse at a higher and more issue-oriented level. It does resemble someone using Marquis of Queensberry rules against a fighter who has no rule other than that of destroying his opponent.

Why can’t we accuse the Republicans for being what they are, a totalitarian and fascist and corrupt party which tries to overturn any election it doesn’t like; wanted to overthrow our government; is a party which goaded insurrectionists to kill policemen and members of Congress; and which just overwhelmingly voted to keep the price of insulin from being capped, because they do not care about anybody or anything but their own wealth and power? They are actually the greatest threat America has ever faced, but as always, Republicans project; and as the incalculably evil Joseph Goebbels told their ancestors in nature, the German Nazis, they always accuse their enemies of what they are doing.

Keeping my eyes on Ukraine

Dear news junkies, don’t burn out on Ukraine. Let’s not forget that a country with a democratically elected government and a progressive vision of joining the European Union was invaded by Russia. The invasion was unprovoked and the aim seems intent on destroying the country into submission.

***************

The most recent updates from Bucha and Irpin have been horrific. The Russians executed civilian men, tried to burn a pile of dead naked women and seeded the suburbs with mines on their way out of Kyiv Oblast. I can’t imagine what they’re doing in Mariupol but Bucha should be a good idea of how they intend to completely demoralize the population.

There has been a lot of talk about how Putin has been mislead by his advisors and how poorly his military has been holding up. But if we take a look at where the Russians have been making advances, it has been along the Black Sea coast. This morning, they are bombing Odessa, which is near the border of Ukraine with Moldova. That has to be very unsettling for Moldova and Poland.

As ill informed as Putin might be, his intentions are clear. The Modolvans look like they will be dragged into this war next. Estonia could be next in the North. Putin is not going to stop until somebody stops him and NATO and the west took the bait and were paralyzed into inaction when Putin shook his nuclear option at them. NATO needs to be able to identify a haka when they see it.

I’m beginning to think that it’s NATO and the US who are being ill informed. They should have stopped Putin in his tracks a couple of weeks ago when it was still possible to save the people of Mariupol. Now, they’ll have a more difficult time saving the people of Odessa. Let’s hope they have a plan B.

I just want to point out here that the media stars and politicians in the US (I hesitate to call them Americans at this point) who are admiring of Putin or obstructing help for Ukraine in Congress because they still think they can score points against Biden, are taking the side of a war criminal. I don’t like to be influenced by horrible images of the effects of war on civilians not because I find them too much to bear (even though they are) but because the power to manipulate the audience is very strong. But when so many foreign news outfits are showing the same thing, when Lithuanian documentary film makers are killed, when the press itself is under attack, then it’s very hard to see this as just propaganda. What the Russians are doing in Ukraine is like what Stalin did to Ukraine, what the Nazis did to Ukraine. Ukraine has the misfortune of being a located in the richest agricultural land in Europe with perfect access to the Black Sea and they were just starting to realize how independence and democratically elected governments could propel it into the future. Europe is letting “never again” happen again. And that is the real tragedy if Ukraine ends up behind a new iron curtain. Europe will regret it didn’t act sooner.

***************

I’ve recommended foreign news outlets before for other perspectives. Here is a German public broadcasting service, DW, with a profile of Volodymir Zelenskyy. The first couple of minutes are hilarious. But the point of this piece is to contrast the toxic masculinity of Putin against the Everyman in an army green T-shirt who just a few years ago was a very funny guy. Strength comes from within, not from your six pack. Anyone can be brave if they have something worth fighting for. It’s a very powerful message to display to your citizens.

Here’s the video from DW:

And here is DW’s Livestream.

*************

One more thing: the YouTuber Pavlo from Ukraine whose videos before the invasion were like a happy travelogue of Kyiv, Ukrainian food, Odessa, the countryside and the Carpathians, hasn’t posted a video in about a week. He seems like such a nice guy and I found it funny that in some of his videos, his camera seemed distracted by Luba’s clingy blouses. Just an ordinary guy with a camera in Ukraine documenting little joys. I love his videos.

He has been been doing a livestream since the invasion began. His girlfriend Luba disappeared from the videos a few weeks ago. I hope her family sent her west because there have been reports of rapes. Pavlo had relocated to a rural village when the invasion began. He was still able to access the internet though it was getting harder to do so. His parents were still in Kyiv.

In his last video, he seemed tense. His village is located in the east part of Ukraine but not close to any cities under attack. I don’t know whether he’s been activated. As a male between 18-62, he’s not allowed to leave the country. He says Ukrainians get basic military training at university but he is not anywhere near prepared as the professional army. A couple of weeks ago, he reported that ordinary men like him were not able to volunteer because there was a shortage of guns and ammunition and it was better for them to stay out of the way for the time being. I have a feeling he’s been called up. It makes me nervous.

Anyway, Pavlo, if you are reading this, I am thinking of you, hoping you are doing well and will once again show us around Ukraine when you win.

Here is Pavlo’s last video.