Within minutes of the lone-nut rampage shooting targeting Republican politicians in Alexandria, Virginia, right-wingers took to the airwaves to smear Democrats, Bernie Sanders, and “the Left” for bearing some responsibility for the violence because of their “hatred” of Republicans. Hearing the news that the alleged shooter had worked for his campaign, Senator Sanders stated categorically as he has done for years that there is no justification for violence of any kind.
But of course that didn’t stop Iowa Representative Steve King from blaming Obama for the shooting and Newt Gingrich on Fox News attributing the shooting to “vulgar Democrats.” Mark Steyn on the Tucker Carlson show accused “the Left” of “dehumanizing” political opponents. It’s astonishing how fast tough guys from the Right like Gingrich and Michael Savage quickly morphed into “snowflakes” whining about how “mean” progressives are.
White-hot hatred of Democrats, “Social Justice Warriors,” and all things “liberal” has been a kind of background radiation for the Republican party for decades. Lest we forget, the “Tea Party” rallies were just as nasty and hate-filled as any we’ve seen around Trump and they had the backing of groups like the Koch brothers’ “Americans for Prosperity,” which pumped it full of cash, provided buses, rally permits, and a sophisticated media apparatus.
Other than a hatred for Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, public school teachers, government employees, and Barack Hussein Obama, the Tea Party had little to offer as far as any “vision” for the future. While on the other side, call them “progressives,” all they ever talk about is their vision for the future and how much they care about society, the environment, animals, climate change, future generations, etc.
In the right-wing universe vegan young people playing hacky-sack and frisbee at outdoor “resistance” rallies who volunteer for Greenpeace are filled with “hatred”; while people like Michael Savage, Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are the real softies whose rhetoric inspires our better angels with Gandhian messages of peace, hope, and inclusivity. Maybe the Republicans can send Kellyanne out to explain this upside-down world to us.
A huge part of the whole Tea Party phenomenon, which the corporate media touted as something new and extraordinary, was really only the core of the Republican base venting its distaste that a black liberal had made it to the White House, which drives home the fallacy of equating the Tea Party and the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Today, the Trump Republicans (which includes the entire GOP leadership and most of its base), back a guy who gleefully fomented violence at his Nuremberg rallies and has expressed by far more hate-filled and mean-spirited ideas (mostly via Twitter) than any politician in American history.
And after some weird 66-year-old white guy who committed domestic violence (and therefore should never have been allowed to legally purchase a gun in the first place) goes on a shooting spree aimed at Republican politicians a chorus of right-wing opportunists want the country to believe that somehow the Bernie Sanders campaign and “the Left” are responsible.
The morning of the shooting I overhead an older gentleman, who obviously had just received his daily dose of Fox News, railing against the guy who shot up the Republican baseball practice, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and the Golden State Warrior for not wanting to appear with Trump - all in the same breath.
In the Fox/talk radio/Drudge/Breitbart universe the real “hatred” comes from the white kid with dreadlocks who asks you to sign a petition in front of Whole Foods – scary, man, real scary.
Not to be outdone by Newt or Hannity, the shock jock Michael Savage seized upon the Alexandria shooting to call for a total crackdown on “the Left” because he’s a fascist and that’s what fascists do: exploit any act of political violence as a “crisis” they can pin on “the Left” as a pretext to strip away civil liberties. (Google: Reichstag Fire).
And where is this “Left” that needs to be cracked down upon? The labor unions in this country are weaker than they’ve been since the 1920s and many “union households” voted for Trump anyway. Structurally, to qualify as a “Left” there must be institutions strong enough to at least minimally challenge corporate power in the workplace.
But with the anti-labor legislation that has been passed over the last twenty years, turning more states than ever into “right-to-work” states and with the Supreme Court poised to turn the whole country into a “right-to-work” state – the labor unions alone really cannot function as a true “Left.”
The Democratic party is largely vanquished from national power. It has been hollowed out by corporate money and is dependent upon sleazy lobbyists, consultants, and money from “liberal” billionaires (an oxymoron). The neoliberalism that the Democratic leadership under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama embraced has created a hell of a mess: austerity and stagnation in places like Greece, a nativist movement in England to leave the E.U. (Brexit), and the rise of Trump.
A far more generous social contract with working people getting a much bigger share of the overall economic pie and the billionaire class and large corporations paying far it in higher taxes is the only way out of the bipartisan neoliberal doldrums.
Yet the Republicans (and their Democratic enablers) are in power now and moving the world’s biggest economy in the opposite direction: austerity for the 99 percent and shredding the social contract while giving away giant tax cuts to their wealthy donor class.
Privatization, deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, slashing social programs and health care for workers, debasing labor unions, allowing more money in politics, in short, Reaganomics (the set of failed ideas that brought us record debt and the worse income and wealth inequality since the Gilded Age) are still the governing ideas of our republic, sure to fail and make working people even more insecure and angry.
So the ruling elites in this country are moving in the exact opposite direction than we need to go.
The Republicans hold the House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court, and thirty-three state governments. Republicans in the Senate right now are working on a bill they call the American Health Care Act, which they know will end up killing people who will be denied health care. Like the Republican officials in Michigan who were recently charged with manslaughter for forcing 100,000 largely African-American people to drink poison water for over a year in Flint, every Republican who votes for the AHCA should be charged with manslaughter too.
In the current context it’s highly unlikely that the social contract will be altered to be fairer to working people. Instead, neoliberalism on steroids is being rammed through Congress. Therefore the only alternative for the federal government will be to invest in water cannon, tear gas, riot police, and repression when the uprising against this new austerity and injustice grows.
Repression of dissent is the cheapest way to keep the masses in line. It requires no tax increases on the donor class and there’s even money to be made supplying the instruments and technical training for the repression. It also requires authoritarian rulers to become even more authoritarian.
In the decades following the Great Depression the ruling corporate elites in America understood that some social welfare spending was vital to their own safety and prosperity because it let some of the steam out of the boiling pot. Today, these same elites made their choice clear: instead of redistributing wealth a little bit to lift the lid on a boiling pot and allow a little steam out to relieve the societal pressure, they’ve chosen policies that will worsen the class divide and have embraced repression as the cheapest solution.
There once was a broad consensus that throwing the wretched masses a bone now and then was better than facing their wrath in more extreme forms. But that was also a time when 35 to 40 percent of the private sector workforce belonged to labor unions and held the structural power to fight back.
After years of hardship during the depression and World War Two, the vast majority of Americans demanded government investments in public resources including public schools and colleges, work and training programs for youth, infrastructure, parks, clinics and hospitals, social welfare programs. All of this public spending depended on raising taxes on the rich, which was also broadly popular.
Those days are long gone, swept into the dustbin of history by the Powell Memo, Citizens United, gerrymandering, voter suppression, an anti-labor Supreme Court, and a perpetual propaganda machine orchestrated by right-wing billionaires that would be the envy of Joseph Goebbels.
All of the vital “lessons” of the 20th Century that gave us as a society at the very least an ability to recognize crises to avoid seem to have been lost today. So we sleepwalk into the 21st Century with same elite abuse of workers, the same control of governing institutions for narrow ruling class interests, the same propaganda and repression, and a “Left” that is so weak right now it can’t even help the nation’s preeminent center-left political party (with which it’s presumably aligned) hold on to the House, the Senate, the White House, or thirty-three state governments.
But we can count on the Savages and Newts et al. to always attack what they call “the Left” whether or not it even exists or represents a viable challenge to Republican power.