Is The Party Of Franklin And Eleanor Roosevelt Turning Into The Anti-Trump Party?
Does the Democratic Party really need unrepentant conservatives inside the tent just because they despise Trump? This morning, Laura Vozzella, reporting for the Washington Post, wrote that Republican pundit Bill Kristol "is just like all the other disaffected Virginia Republicans whom gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin needs to win over, only famous. The longtime conservative commentator, who settled in Northern Virginia three decades ago to join the Reagan administration, split with the GOP over President Donald Trump. With Trump out of the White House, Kristol says he’s ready to support 'non-Trump Republicans.' But Kristol does not put Youngkin, a former Carlyle Group executive, in that category. On Tuesday, he will formally endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor seeking a comeback."
Kristol isn't a major campaign contributor. Typically, he writes $250 checks to Republican candidates-- conservatives like Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Michael Waltz (R-FL), George Allen (R-VA), Adam Laxalt (R-NV), Elise Stefanik (R-NY)-- although that one was a max-out check-- Jake Ellzey (R-TX)... And to conservative Democrats like Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA), Barbara Bollier ("ex"-Republican-KS), Elaine Luria (New Dem-VA), Max Rose (Blue Dog-NY)... He also maxed-out to Biden.
McAuliffe is a prototypical corrupt conservative hack-- but one with a "D" next two his name-- from the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. You enjoying the spectacle of the Blue Dogs sabotaging the best part of Biden's agenda? Gottheimer is a pisher, a novice compared to McAuliffe. In an interview yesterday, Kristol said of McAuliffe that he's "a moderate Democrat," using that word "moderate" and the Beltway types always do, to describe a non-fascist conservative. "[H]e's not going to shut down Virginia’s business success, economic success and so forth. He’s the kind of Democrat I’m comfortable supporting." Meaning, he'll keep the unfair tax system that favors the rich over the working class, in place.
Kristol is one of 17 Republicans who will endorse McAuliffe on Tuesday in a coordinated rollout that the campaign bills as a sign of the former governor’s bipartisan appeal.
“I am proud to be building an unmatched, broad coalition of leaders who share my vision to move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe, who held the office from 2014 to 2018, said in a written statement.
...Kristol served as chief of staff to Education Secretary William Bennett under President Ronald Reagan and as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle in the George H.W. Bush administration. He later founded the Weekly Standard, an influential conservative magazine that shut down in 2018. He is editor-at-large of the [conservative, anti-Trump] Bulwark, an online news site.
Kristol said his first introduction to Youngkin was the flurry of campaign mailers that landed in his McLean mailbox amid the nomination battle.
“Many of them had photos of Trump, or quotes from Trump. And I remember more vividly than that, his top issue was election integrity,” Kristol said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, my God. Really?’ . . . I think he made his bet that he had to be pretty Trumpy to win the nomination, and then he’s stayed there.”
Adolph Reed, a lifelong and respected-- if controversial-- scholar of the left, writes books and teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania. On Monday, he wrote a powerful piece worth reading in its entirety, The Whole Country is the Reichstag, about the Republican Party's slide into authoritarianism. "Republicans have no commitment to democratic government; every move they made was directed, consciously or not, toward takeover via putsch or putsch dressed up as election... They smell blood in the water," he wrote. "They have a strong majority on the Supreme Court and a majority in the federal judiciary overall. Republicans imagine that with the aid of the aggressive campaign of disfranchisement they’re pursuing in forty-three states, they’ll take control of one or both houses of Congress next year. Mitch McConnell devised the playbook against the Obama presidency; with a Democrat in the White House, the GOP’s sole legislative agenda is obstruction, to make certain that no legislation passes, that no appointments are confirmed, to the extent of often enough forcing government shutdowns. Corporate media, punditry, and academics have obscured this Republican strategy with names implying a tit-for-tat perspective, like 'partisan gridlock,' which, they lament, is causing Americans to lose patience with and trust in government." He writes about the Democratic Party that Kristol Republicans-- and Gottheimer/McAuliffe Democrats-- can easily get behind.
"Discrediting government," he wrote, "and the idea of the public has been a component of the GOP game plan since Reagan, and Democrats have reinforced that message in their own way. Jimmy Carter ran for the party’s presidential nomination in 1976 partly on his record of having cut the size of Georgia’s government as governor, and as president, he initiated deregulation as a policy priority and imposed the economic shock that paved the way for Reagan. And it was Bill Clinton who announced in his 1996 State of the Union Address, 'The era of big government is over,' and he followed through by terminating the federal government’s sixty-year commitments to provide direct income support and housing for the indigent. Reagan attacked the social safety net as a wasteful giveaway for frauds and losers. Clinton, as avatar of the Democrats’ 'me too, but not so much' response to Reaganism, insisted that publicly provided social benefits should go only to those who 'play by the rules.' Four decades of retrenchment and privatization of the public sector--often under the guise of 'outsourcing' for greater efficiency or 'doing more with less,' which Clinton and Gore sanitized as 'reinventing' government to make it 'leaner' and 'smarter'--combined with steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way to fuel lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government and public goods, and eventually even the idea of the public itself. And the reactionary capitalist interests that bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that unaddressed economic insecurity and stoked frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."
[I]t is not far-fetched to worry that 2022 or 2024 could mark the end of the proceduralist democracy to which we’ve been accustomed. They’ve been laying the groundwork. In addition to their concerted efforts to restrict voting, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been plotting strategies for attempting to nullify federal laws, passing bills intended to prohibit municipalities from enforcing them. Those legislatures also have been working overtime to eliminate civil liberties, whistleblowing, whatever shards remain of reproductive freedom, and have been legislating a reactionary “culture wars” agenda on a scale not seen since the darkest period of anticommunist hysteria and southern Massive Resistance in the wake of the Brown decision.
Yes, these moves are all elements in a hustle-- a loud, massive effort to change the subject by means of scapegoating from attempts to address the sources and effects of horribly intensifying inequality and spreading economic insecurity, as well as from the catastrophe of Trump’s presidency. But they are also steps in preparation for seizure of power. Comparison with the shenanigans of Massive Resistance can amplify that point. In An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 (Anchor, 2003), William Doyle shows how segregationist governor Ross Barnett attempted to interdict the federal government’s order that James Meredith be permitted to enroll as the first student officially recognized as black at the University of Mississippi. Barnett was a dull-witted and small-minded opportunist and political performer. His tack was to grandstand, privately agreeing to the Kennedy administration’s proposed face-saving gestures, then reneging on the agreement to make still more flamboyant and incendiary speeches. He did this repeatedly, eventually provoking the armed campus riot that drew white supremacist hooligans from several states-- including retired Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker, a Birchite who ironically had commanded the troops from the 101st Airborne group that Eisenhower sent to Little Rock in 1957 to restore order and enforce the school desegregation plan-- and during which federal authorities confiscated a large cache of weapons from cheerleader and later U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s fraternity house. The Kennedy administration had had enough of Barnett and sent the 82nd Airborne to Oxford to put down the insurrection...
Barnett, like other segregationist officials, had no strategy beyond aggressive performance of opposition to federal authority; their game plan was theatrical. If left to their own devices, that would no doubt be the limited game of the most ostentatiously vile and imperiously ignorant of the Trumpist operatives in Congress-- e.g., serial liar, grifter trainee, and malevolent millennial ignoramus Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). But they aren’t left to their own devices; they’re minions of a broader agenda, whether they understand or care what that agenda ultimately is. Like their congressional ally, degenerate sociopath Matt Gaetz, and dope fiend and Christian Evangelical swindler Mike Lindell, they likely can’t think beyond the immediate grift. Nevertheless, at this moment, they’re the equivalent of the street-fighting thugs of the Nazis’ Sturmabteilung. The game is being scripted, and improvised, at a much higher level by more adroit operatives. De facto Gauleiters, such as Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), McConnell, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) know what they’re doing and have taken advantage of and stoked Trumpist hysteria to pursue a single-mindedly obstructionist agenda that is simultaneously repressive and militantly anti-government. And, as their actions have demonstrated, this broad tendency now moves in lockstep from Congress down through state governments. It has festered in and around the halls of power since Reagan’s first term.
The ultra-reactionary Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by Yale, Harvard, and University of Chicago law students and now has stocked the federal judiciary up to the Supreme Court, including a hefty complement of Catholic fascists. Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Federalist Society member, is the son of Anne Gorsuch Burford, Reagan’s administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, where her mission-- like that of current Justice Clarence Thomas as Reagan’s director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-- was to gut the agency. Political economist Gordon Lafer documents in The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time (ILR Press, 2017) how right-wing corporate lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business-- all funded by the Koch brothers and other rich reactionaries-- have organized at the state level to produce and pass anti-worker, anti-democratic legislation and to secure and fortify Republican control of state governments. In a recent New Yorker article that should be required reading for anyone who diminishes the threat or clings to the view that neoliberal Democrats are somehow the greater danger for progressive interests, Jane Mayer examines the vast dark money network underwriting the accelerated assault on democratic institutions we face at this moment.
...I have no idea how extensive the consciously putschist tendency has been among the right. The best that one might say for Mitch McConnell, for example, is that his aspiration perhaps didn’t extend much beyond immobilizing government, precluding any progressive legislation or appointments. Nor do I imagine that the likes of Lindsey Graham or Kevin McCarthy had been impelled by radical ideological commitments more elaborate than advancing the immediate interests of the class they represent and suppressing those who might want to do anything else. That doesn’t really matter; the policy steps necessary to prepare for ultimate authoritarian victory are the same as those favored by less far-sighted reactionaries: rolling back the regulatory apparatus, which includes civil rights enforcement, politicizing and attacking climate science, using taxation and other federal policies to generate massive upward redistribution, stocking the judiciary, gutting the social safety net and demonizing government at all levels, undermining labor rights and unionization, and more, expunging even the very idea of the public.
Watching Rand Paul doing his best Joe McCarthy impression going after Anthony Fauci brought home to me that Trumpism helped to bring the notion of extra-Constitutional takeover of government in from the fringes of national politics and out from the dark ideological core of the Republican right. Trump’s preemptive refusal, months before the election, to accept a defeat as legitimate opened a portal through which the goal of authoritarian transformation could move closer to explicit political strategy. The dangerous rubes who were foot soldiers of the January 6 insurrection were only acting out in public, albeit as a kayfabe lynch mob that was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a real one, a political objective that had already condensed among a popular right-wing base.
The notion that any Democrat officeholder is by definition illegitimate and inauthentic isn’t new of course. Birtherism was predicated on that general conviction; Obama’s race facilitated spreading the claim about him, but it was already visible within rhetoric positing Republicans as the “real Americans;” it underlay fervor around the 2000 election theft, as well as right-wing jeremiads that electing Democrats threatened the end of civilization, long before Obama even became a glimmer in Wall Street’s eye. Restriction of the franchise to property owners and the rich has been a strain in ultra-right politics across the sweep of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. And the “real Americans like us” qualifier gives it a popular appeal for those outside the upper class who can be suckered into identifying with them. That qualifier also underscores the work that race ideology does to provide the illusion of commonality among those identifying with the right.
The rallying cry that the 2020 presidential election was stolen or rigged, or both, is a fantasy originating from Trump’s malignant narcissism. It’s also a convenient vehicle for exhortation of putschism. The novel coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s militant denialism opened another portal. There’s no need to catalogue the many ways the Republican right has actively sought to undermine public health efforts to control, limit, or slow the virus’s spread and minimize the harm it causes. We’re living with them every day, and because having any basis in fact isn’t a limitation on their proliferation, the fantastic claims grow and morph even more quickly than the virus itself. A couple of stratagems in the ongoing anti-public health panic are worth noting because they echo really old-school reactionary ideology, from before when the fiction of appeal to a popular audience encouraged public politesse. Recall that early in the pandemic, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged elderly Americans to go out and contract the virus and “sacrifice” themselves to keep the economy open, referring to it as their patriotic duty. Nor was he alone in floating that suggestion. (It’s a parochial reference, I know, but that call brings to mind the up to 20,000 immigrant Irish workers who were buried where they fell from yellow fever and malaria while digging the New Basin Canal in 1830s New Orleans, along with the untold scores of millions of others around the world who’ve been sacrificed for the sake of “the economy.”) More recently, Newsmax talking head Rob Schmitt contended that vaccination goes against nature, opining “if there is some disease out there-- maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.” Schmitt and Patrick give voice to the element of the ultra-right that frets about propagation of unworthy populations, or losers, or, to capture that snappy old-school sensibility more directly, Lebensunwertes leben. Pandemic denial and opposition to public intervention to address dangers to public health come organically to this element, which has been part of the institutional foundation of ultra-right politics since the late nineteenth century, among them bankrollers of the eugenics movement from its beginnings.
With a startling quickness that bespeaks the depth and breadth of their organizational capacity the Republican right has mobilized an alliance of committed reactionaries, opportunist political operatives, anti-vaxxers, survivalists and other more or less dangerous anti-government hobbyists, internet conspiracists, unhinged psychopaths, militant anticommunists, zealous anti-abortionists and other Christian fanatics, would-be libertarians, gun nuts, unambiguous fascists and ethnonationalists, actual (i.e., not simply people who say or do things that affront liberal anti-racists) white supremacists, xenophobes, sexists and anti-LGBTQ militants, desperate people seeking answers and solutions to the material and emotional insecurities that overwhelm their lives, and, of course, the grifters who follow alongside the herd looking to pick off the weak and vulnerable. Even the right-wing Catholic bishops have gotten into the act, at least when they can stay off Grindr, defying the Pope in pressing to deny Biden the Sacrament, if not excommunicate him. Notwithstanding their idiosyncratic identities and issues, Trumpism has developed as the umbrella under which they converge, with MAGA as the symbol that condenses all their disparate aspirations. And that didn’t just happen either; it’s the result of years of propaganda and organizing.
...The only hope for thwarting that tendency is to concentrate our efforts on formulating, organizing around, and agitating for an ensemble of policies that reinvigorate the notion of government in the public good, which has been a casualty of more than four decades of bipartisan neoliberalism. The “pessimistic nostalgia” that Trumpists and other authoritarians propagate and mobilize around is most consequentially the result of decades of bipartisan failure to provide concrete remedies that address the steadily intensifying economic inequality and insecurity that have driven so much of the working class to the wall. We need to provide an alternative vision that proceeds unabashedly from the question: What would be the thrust and content of public policy if the country were governed by and for the working-class majority?
Building a broad working-class based movement is the only way we might successfully defeat the reactionary right wing, and we need between now and 2024 to begin trying to build the sort of popular movement that we need. And we must be clear that such a left movement does not yet exist, no matter how many internet announcements of imminent victory show up daily on our various electronic devices. There are many leftists and people who support leftist causes and programs, but a left with real political capacity has been absent for so long in the United States that even most sympathetic people can’t conceptualize what one would look like, how we could distinguish it from the “pageantry of protest” or the effluvia of premature proclamation and branding.
Like I said, the entire article is worth reading-- and will make you savvier and help you understand why Blue America is pushing for candidates like Erica Smith, Lucas Kunce and Morgan Harper for Senate seats and for House candidates like Jason Call, Shervin Aazami and Queen Johnson.