The pandemic has become endemic. It started out as an aberration, confined, limited and, by many, downplayed or ignored completely. Forgetting history, we gave this disease time and attention, but considered it a temporary phenomenon.
How wrong we were. It was not temporary, but turned into a constant reality, infecting victim after victim, ravaging them with a viral poison and resulting in life-long consequences and in some cases, death.
Just as we thought we had it under control, numerous variants began to appear, some even more dangerous than the original Real efforts to stamp out the disease were met with surprising resistance and thus the risk of infection continues to this day. The damage done to the country so far has been aggressive and deep.
It has become so virulent that even those who have been infected but suffered relatively light symptoms have later succumbed to the virus full force.
Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about Covid? Nah, I am talking about the Republican Party and its virtual take-over by Trumpism. Quoting Charles Pierce in Esquire quoting Elvis Costello, “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.” Pierce’s reaction to this little ditty is the same as mine: “I try, but I can’t do it. I can’t look at what’s going on and find any of it clever or funny. I can’t use, “but it works” as an excuse for dangerous political foolishness anymore. I’m still willing to chuckle over past political shenanigans. But what’s going on now comes too damn close to the violent politics of the 1850s for me to chuckle wisely at it….We have two political parties and only two political parties, and one of them has gone utterly insane. Half the political ecosystem of the United States has gone completely feral, like the wilderness around Chernobyl did. They conduct their politics on a poisoned landscape.” Charles Pierce speaks for me.
Here is a recent example from Rick Scott, Senator from Florida:
“The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms – but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.
Among the things they plan to change or destroy are: American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.
“Is this the beginning of the end of America? Only if we allow it to be.
The Biden Administration’s unprecedented combination of radical left-wing policies and gross incompetence is bringing great harm to the American people. Roaring inflation, the dangerous mismanagement of our border, the disastrous escalation of spending and debt, the shamefully inept withdrawal from Afghanistan, the use of public schools for left-wing indoctrination, and the incredible lawlessness on our streets… Americans are angry, and rightfully so.”
Mr. Scott goes on to request help in developing the plan to combat this “evil.” To quote Al Franken, this is a clear case of “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Forget the nonsense that Mr. Scott lays out for action (eliminate Social Security and Medicare, tax the poor, among other brilliance) and focus on what he actually stands for. Let me parse out what Mr. Scott says the left is out to “change or destroy”:
American History – this means he wants to perpetuate the myth that white people carved this country out of the wilderness and via their arduous work created a great nation, ignoring 250 years of slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans and theft of their lands.
Border Security – this means that he wants our country to bar immigration from those brown people south of our border and internationally (like the Syrian refugees) while we admit an initial 100,000 white people from Ukraine. It is not the Ukrainians that I object to, it’s the color barrier to the rest of the people in dire need of help.
The Nuclear Family – ah, yes, the great code used by the homophobes. One Man, One Woman, just like God said. Of course, God also said we should stone adulterers to death and marry the widow of our brother, and that we can own slaves. But homosexual marriage is a no-no. I love it when they pick and choose.
Gender – this one is easy. For some reason, and I suspect some of it is simple prurience, trans folks really bother Republicans. The fact that scientists, researchers, and doctors have determined that sexual orientation, sexual identity and biological gender are not the same thing and that the difference between male and female identity is not binary, but continuous makes no difference. Because after all, disagreeable science should be ignored.
Traditional Morality – this ties into the two directly above but in addition, it is a placeholder that allows Republicans to impugn their opponents. Just like everyone else, some Republicans are promiscuous, have affairs with the opposite or same sex, participate in sex acts forbidden by the Bible, or stay in the closet because they do and have done. This is just hypocrisy.
Capitalism – code for, and a desire to ignore, the fact that this country has a conscience about letting people starve, die from medical inattention, and live in abject poverty in their old age. Moreover, it allows them to scream “socialism” every time someone even mentions trying to improve the social safety net. Most Republicans understand socialism at about the same level they understand critical race theory. Also meant to suggest that corporate rapine and pillage is just part of the equation.
Fiscal Responsibility – this is code for any government spending that is not for the national defense. It is a tragedy to spend a trillion dollars to save the economy from collapse, but it is ok to waste trillions on wars fought on the basis of lies , disinformation, and corruption.
Rugged Individualism – see American History above. The myth that everyone pulled themselves up by their bootstraps with no help. Ignore the Western ranchers grazing on federal land and getting water from federally funded projects, forget the trucking firms and truckers who speed along the federal- and state-funded Interstate Highway System, or the federal laws that protect intellectual property. Also forget the wealth created by 250 years of slavery, federal and state expropriation of Mexican and Native American land, mining rights, oil leases and other activities allowed on public lands. And forget about public school and land grant college educations. Rugged individualism makes nice movies but is total bullshit in reality.
Judeo-Christian values – this oft-used phrase has never actually meant what it says. What it means is their values. Judeo-Christian values include welcoming the stranger, not doing unto others that which we would not tolerate ourselves, an obligation to provide charity, to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and support the widow. Judeo-Christian values also prohibit offensive war without the consent of the people (another one of those ignored biblical realities). And lastly, those ancient values require our commitment to “repair the world.” None of these actual values are ever mentioned when Republicans talk of “traditional values.” What they mean is support for their homophobic, anti-choice, anti-civil rights, anti-voting rights, and anti-science platform.
Color Blindness – I have very rarely, if ever, heard or seen a Republican use this expression. However, I would venture a guess that what is means is that you should ignore our history of bigotry, segregation, oppression, and extra-legal murders of black and brown and red people, and treat everyone like they are, and have always been, white people. In other words, these Republicans believe they bear no responsibility to remedy the results of this history.
Religious Liberty – Current Republicans use this argument often to allow actions that abrogate our laws due to “conscience.” This applies to government officials denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions that prevent or stop pregnancies, allowing corporations to refuse to fund pharmaceuticals like birth control, to deny adoption rights to non-Christians and gay couples, and refusing to vaccinate themselves and their children during a deadly pandemic and putting the rest of us at risk, just to enumerate a few. All this while tolerating a sizeable portion of their members calling to abrogate the Constitutions so that the United States can become be a “Christian” nation, marginalizing non-Christians and remaining silent in the face of (if not encouraging) anti-Muslim, and anti-Jewish behaviors.
Parental Involvement In Public Schools – this is not support for your local PTA. This is doctrine that parents’ opinion of appropriateness should trump (pardon the pun) professional educators opinion of what is appropriate curriculum and literature. This is public school funded trips to the Creation Museum to see early humans cavorting with dinosaurs. This is about banning books and manipulating history curricula to ignore things like the civil war, slavery, protest movements, evolution, and other stuff because the parents are idiots and afraid that teaching their kids what really happened, how people really felt, and what science actually proves will threaten their world view. My opinion is that their world view should be threatened.
Private Ownership Of Firearms – this phrase actually means that Republicans want no restrictions on what types of guns and ammunition you can own and use. It also means that they want no record of who owns what, no mandatory training, and no required safety measures. It is meant to convince gun owners that any regulation is a ‘slippery slope’ to outlawing and confiscating all their guns. This is a perversion of both what Democrats want and what the Second Amendment actually says.
First, no serious legislation has been proposed doing away with gun ownership. Yes, there have been attempts to require background checks to filter out criminals and those with mental deficiencies, and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, often in response to mass shootings.
Second, how did the originalists on the Supreme Court interpret the Second Amendment (“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”) as forbidding any training, safety, or ownership requirements? Needless to say, the Second Amendment did not anticipate amour-piecing bullets and weapons that can fire 600 rounds a minute. The Republican party must think that Sandy Hook, Columbine, Stoneman Douglas, Orlando, Las Vegas and the rest of the 135 mass shootings since 2016 resulting in over 660 deaths and over 1,300 wounded is worth the votes they receive from “defending” the Second Amendment (See: Mass Shootings in the US)
P.S. My family are gun owners and hunters and we all support reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.
Conclusion – The virus infecting the current Republican party has been brewing for some time now but has become endemic. The witch hunt perpetrated on Bill Clinton, the total oppositional position against our first Black President, Barack Obama, the vapid excoriation of and endless investigations into Hillary Clinton, the misrepresentation and downright lies about the Biden administration and about Joe Biden personally, the hypocrisy of their positions on Supreme Court nominations, and their current toleration of dangerous wing-nuts like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar, Matthew Cawthorn, Rand Paul (see How Republicans Handle Fanatics), and the 36 Republican candidates for the House of Representatives that openly believe in and support the QAnon nonsense (see Business Insider) tells the story.
The current Republican party has indeed gone feral. They have been disfigured by the virus of winning at any cost and confusing winning with patriotism. To them, the end always justifies the means. The only redress, even in the face of their attempts make it more difficult, is to vote them out so the party is forced to recast itself. This current Republican party has to die. We need two, viable, sane, parties capable of compromise and with a commitment to our Constitution and our democracy if we are to ‘yet endure.’ I yearn for the day I can in good conscience vote for a socially aware, fiscally conservative-ish, foreign policy realist running against a democratic socialist, socially out-there, anti-business progressive left candidate.
We need to fight against voter suppression and for election integrity. And, in the words of TFG (the former guy), if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” (ironic, is it not?). If you are living in a poorer neighborhood or one that is traditionally Democrat, stand in line for hours if you must, but for God’s sake and for us human beings, vote. If you live in a wealthier, whiter, or Republican neighborhood (do I repeat myself?) you probably do not have to stand in line but don’t let that lack of suffering deter you, vote anyway – you never know what can happen if we all show up.