Just Another Word For Nothin' Left To Lose? Well. Maybe The Way Kristi Noem & The Proud Boys Use It
According to new polling released this morning by Morning Consult, most Americans would like to see the Senate convict Trump. Republicans are headed in the opposite direction. His approve rating among Republicans has gone from 76% to 81% and more Republicans want to see him play a major role in the future of the GOP. In fact, if Trump goes through with his threat to form a breakaway right-wing MAGA party, the "Patriot Party," 30% of Republicans will join that party, while just 36% would stay in the GOP. (25% aren't sure yet.)
Trump has already endorsed one Republican gubernatorial candidate, Sarah Huckabee, in Arkansas. Would she migrate with him? The buzz has grown stronger and stronger about Ivanka taking on a beleaguered Marco Rubio next year but would she primary him or run against him on the Patriot Party, an Alan Grayson dream come true? The Republican governor of South Dakota, widely considered the worst governor in America and the least competent, Kristi Noem, is aiming for the White House. It would be hard to imagine someone with her record-- she has been responsible for the spread of COVID-19 not just in her own stricken state, but throughout the Midwest-- winding up even on a GOP national ticket. But on a Patriot Party national ticket? Trump could hardly ask for someone more the embodiment of Trumpism.
The NY Times published a video by Sanya Dosani and Adam Westbrook this morning that takes a deeper lookout Noem. "Throughout the pandemic," they wrote, "Gov. Kristi Noem has advised South Dakotans to exercise 'personal responsibility' and said she 'trusted' her citizens to make the right decision when it came to coronavirus precautions. At the same time, she imposed almost no restrictions on the state and remains indifferent to low-stakes safety measures like mask wearing. As a result, South Dakota’s Covid-19 death rate is one of the worst in the nation-- but Governor Noem’s approval ratings remain high."
In the video, they unpack "her deadly playbook for how to handle a pandemic all wrong while preserving a reputation for being credible and competent." Yesterday, South Dakota reported 200 more COVID infections, bringing the state's total to 107,380. If you sit down with 9 South Dakotans, one of them will have or have had COVID, not counting the over 1,700 dead ones. Noem can boast 121,380 cases per million residents, worst anywhere in the nation other than North Dakota, a state she also infected. In fact, the only "country" in the world with a worse per capita infection rate than South Dakota is tiny Andorra, a pseudo state-- a principality-- between Spain and France in the Pyrenees and ruled jointly by the French president and the Bishop of Urgell. Andorra has 9,638 cases-- 124,625 cases per million residents. But among real countries, South Dakota is in another dimension of disaster.
South Dakota- 121,380 cases per million residents
USA- 78,379 cases per million residents
Israel- 67,317 cases per million residents
Spain- 58,487 cases per million residents
U.K.- 54,189 cases per million residents
France- 47,125 cases per million residents
Brazil- 41,873 cases per million residents
Italy- 41,151 cases per million residents
Poland- 39,381 cases per million residents
Ireland- 38,205 cases per million residents
Russia- 25,859 cases per million residents
Germany- 25,814 cases per million residents
Dosani and Westbrook reported that "last fall, South Dakota took the lead for the worst COVID state in America and the third worst mortality rate in the entire world." They also noted that Noem is "a uniquely dangerous kind of politician, one who's reckless but sounds rational, smart but intellectually dishonest and is willing to endanger South Dakotans just to get a few political points." The pandemic in South Dakota was "basically a free-for-all." Her response was using millions of dollars of the $1.25 billion in pandemic relief money Trump gave her to promote... herself.
During the pandemic, Noem lied about the data and the science and opened the state to super-spreader events, lots of them, making South Dakota the "#1 riskiest state to visit" anywhere in America. Noem promotes South Dakota as a state with "Freedom." but the freedom she's talking about if the freedom to die and infect your family, friends, colleagues and and community. She personifies the classic Greek definition of the word "idiot," someone consumed with selfishness at the expense of community, with no concern for any conception of a public good, common wealth, shared interest. Noem's definition of "freedom" has more in common with anomie
This morning, the NY Times Magazine published an essay by Charles Homans Out Of The Barrel Of A Gun, that warns-- in dire terms-- about this kind of Freedom/Anomie. There are as many as 400 million privately owned guns in America. Some are owned by hunting enthusiasts or families in need of whatever kind of security possessing a gun gives them. That's not the gun problem Homans is addressing. He's talking about violent self-styled revolutionaries (actually counter-revolutionaries to be more precise), like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who just tried to overthrow the government earlier this week at the behest of Donald Trump.
Homans wrote use a Mao quote from 1938: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," while noting that "Americans, by contrast, have generally whistled past the full implications of their own privately held arsenal, treating guns as an object of politics, not a subject. This is partly a function of the country’s until recently unbroken modern record of peaceful transfers of power. It is also a triumph of Second Amendment activists’ messaging and their ability to successfully navigate that message’s central paradox: that the right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed because of the potential need to overthrow the same government that codifies the right in the first place. Gun rights advocates have done this mostly by confining their language with monotonous discipline to the fact and mythology of the Revolutionary War, associating gun rights with heroism and patriotism while also implicitly assuring that their exercise against the state is a matter of deep history. George Washington knew what Mao knew, of course, but his own revolution was an awfully long time ago. The militia movement-- which flowered in the 1990s and began to resurge amid a general rise in white-nationalist and antigovernment activity during Barack Obama’s presidency-- has always challenged the niceties of gun rights rhetoric. Militias have stubbornly insisted that the government’s tyranny and their rebellion against it are not theoretical but real, that politics can and should be pursued not just on behalf of guns but by way of them. Nevertheless, in their ’90s heyday it was possible to see them as an eccentric, if occasionally violent, curiosity-- especially for liberals ensconced in cities and suburbs that, outside the Pacific Northwest, were mostly far removed from the prominent theaters of militia activity. 'To a Bostonian, they are a remote irritation with no visible impact on mainstream media, culture or politics,' the Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby told the journalist David A. Neiwert in In God’s Country, his 1999 book about the militia movement.
The militias’ massed appearance at last year’s Lobby Day, a large-scale muster in a midsize city not far off the Acela corridor, was in this way a revelation. It was also the logical product of a decade in which the boundaries between the mainstream and the fringe had collapsed within both the gun rights movement and the Republican Party, at the same time the boundaries between the movement and the party had themselves collapsed. Though nonviolent, it was not so much a demonstration in the usual sense as it was an unsubtle show of force. The military-style rifles paraded alongside banners for Donald Trump-- a president who would soon be intimating his intentions to reject an unfriendly outcome of the presidential election-- suggested that one of America’s two major parties was, in effect, acquiring an armed adjunct, like Hezbollah or the old Sinn Fein.
Four months later, the state government of Michigan closed the Capitol in Lansing after protesters gathered outside, many of them armed, including representatives of several local militias; in October, 13 members of a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in relation to a plot to kidnap government officials including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on their belief that, according to the F.B.I. complaint, she was “violating the U.S. Constitution.” In Oregon-- which briefly had to shut down its statehouse the previous year under threat from militias-- armed protesters angry over the state’s Covid-19 lockdown orders descended on the Capitol in December. Security-camera footage later revealed that a Republican legislator let them into the building.
The pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 included members of militia networks that law enforcement and extremism researchers regard as significant; members of the Oath Keepers and a group called the Ohio State Regular Militia now face charges related to plotting a coordinated strike on the building, possibly involving dozens of the rioters.
...“Boogaloo” was an inside joke on the online far right derived from the kitschy 1984 movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, for the second civil war that many white supremacists and extremists longed for. The word had recently been adopted by a nebulous movement that called for bringing about such a conflict through acts of random violence, articulated in the kidding-but-not-kidding language and meme vocabulary of message-board trolls. At Lobby Day two months later, the Vice reporter Tess Owen noticed some young men in the crowd wearing mock-military patches featuring Pepe the Frog — the informal mascot of the alt-right-- and the words BOOGALOO BOYS: 1ST MEMETIC WARFARE. One of them held a sign: “I have a dream of a Boogaloo.”
As the year wore on, the Boogaloo grew in prominence, embracing an absurdist online aesthetic involving Hawaiian-shirt patterns and igloos (references to “big luau” and “big igloo,” code words for “Boogaloo” adopted to evade law enforcement and social media bans). It also began establishing an offline presence, insinuating itself into anti-lockdown protests and Black Lives Matter demonstrations alike. Boogaloo adherents were charged with murdering two law-enforcement officers in California, plotting to instigate a violent riot in Nevada and conspiring with an undercover F.B.I. employee pretending to be a Hamas operative to blow up a courthouse in Minnesota.
By July, Boogaloo bois, as they now called themselves, merited inclusion alongside the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters-- a national militia network formed after Barack Obama’s election-- in testimony about domestic extremist threats before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism.
The Boogaloo’s extreme aversion to authority extended to its own structure, which was nonexistent. But that summer, a militia leader in southern Virginia named Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old former Marine, had begun claiming an affiliation with the Boogaloo and leading local pro-gun marches in a Hawaiian shirt.
...American views on gun rights, by most polling, fall well short of the assertions of Second Amendment absolutists. But the absolutists’ sustained influence in politics has persisted, at least in part because the prospect of them taking their interpretation of the Second Amendment to its logical conclusion seemed so improbable. It is an open question whether this changes after the past year, in which armed protesters have increasingly encroached on the workings of democratically elected governments, over a set of concerns that increasingly sprawl well beyond gun rights. The idea of the gun as a safeguard against tyranny could not possibly hold once the word “tyranny” had been leached entirely of fixed meaning.
The Boogaloo’s gleeful efforts to push the gun-rights debate to its limit has been clarifying: As one meme put it, “The 2nd Amendment is about KILLING PEOPLE. If you don’t like it, too [expletive] bad.” At a minimum, it is about using the implicit threat of doing so as a means of asserting the privilege of walking away from the table of representative democracy when the outcome doesn’t suit you. Possessing a gun doesn’t protect free speech, as gun rights activists often claim. The gun is the speech.