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Friday, September 22, 2023

The GOP Crushed America's Historical Vision

Can they Be Stopped?

By Thom Hartmann, Independent Media Institute 

Nations don’t just exist geographically; they also exist psychologically. Every nation has a story it tells itself about who and what it and its people are, how it came to be and the core values that brought that about, and its ultimate goals as it works toward its highest purpose.

For most of American history, the story we told ourselves about America was that we were a good and decent people who were striving to achieve a government that drew its legitimacy from “the consent of the governed” and championed the values of the Enlightenment.

Clearly we didn’t always live up to those standards: from slavery to the Native American genocide to our support for foreign dictators and overthrow of democratic republics, we’ve come from a pretty grim start and made a lot of terrible mistakes.

But always, at the core of the American ideal, was that goal, that ideal, that we are dedicated to expanding human freedom and possibility for all. As President Lincoln told the nation at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. … It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us … that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Nearly every generation of the 16 since this nation’s founding has seen forward progress toward the ideals that our Founders, and Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and other American leaders have declared. 

Until now.

Today, the Republican Party is openly rejecting this historic view of America’s destiny, the ideal of ever-greater inclusion, of support and compassion for our fellow human beings, of our willingness to work and even fight to support democracy both at home and around the world.

This is a crisis because a nation without a positive vision of itself, without a moral compass that points toward ever-more-inclusive democracy, inevitably becomes a nation heading toward anarchy and autocracy.

While the seeds of fascism and anti-Americanism have a long history in this country (check out the story of Smedley Butler and the attempted coup against FDR, or the rise of the Klan in the 1920s and the American Nazi movement in the 1930s), it has never before so completely seized one of our two main political parties that its leadership would openly reject Americanism and embrace foreign dictators.

But that’s what the GOP is doing right now:

— Republicans in Congress are enthusiastic about shutting down our government next month in the hope they can so badly damage our economy that a severe recession will harm President Biden’s re-election chances next year. In the process, they risk creating a worldwide economic crisis.

— Senator Tommy “Coach” Tuberville is kneecapping our military leadership by blocking the top ranks in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, keeping those positions open (waiting for President Trump?) at a crisis time of heightened international tension. And yesterday he said that America got Ukraine into war with Russia, perfectly echoing one of Putin’s favorite propaganda lies.

— Senator Rand Paul was caught flying to Russia to hand-deliver “secret” documents to Putin’s men on behalf of Donald Trump just weeks after they met in Helsinki and Trump declared Putin’s intelligence services more trustworthy than America’s.

— Shortly thereafter, the CIA sent out an alert to its stations across the world warning that our agents were the subject of the most successful precisely-targeted campaign of murder and assassination in the agency’s history.

— Republicans at all levels and all across the country promulgate the lie that our elections are rigged against them and that therefore America must make it harder for people — particularly Black and young people living in Blue cities in Red states — to vote.

— As a result of Trump’s rhetoric, almost four out of ten Republican voters say that violence against their neighbors to achieve political ends in America is now justified.

— Instead of viewing Democrats as people with different ideas about how to achieve what’s best for America and Americans, 57 percent of Republicans now say Democrats are America’s “enemies.”

— Ever since Fred Koch started funding the John Birch Society’s “Impeach Earl Warren” billboards in the 1950s and 1960s Republicans have used the issue of race (and its subset: immigration) as a wedge to tear Americans apart.

— As the world is battered by an environmental crisis and our younger generations are terrified about their futures, Republicans funded by fossil fuel billionaires tell us to “Drill, baby drill” and that climate change is a hoax.

— On the Supreme Court, six Republicans have their hands out to the morbidly rich and then reward that largesse by legalizing voter purges, political bribery, and gutting worker protections.

— GOP-aligned billionaire social media CEOs tweak their algorithms to promote antisemitism, Nazism, homophobia, anti-government violence, and racial hate.

— Two Republican-controlled states have begun the controlled demolition of their entire public-school systems, while others are jumping into the voucher and state-funded-religious-school act.

— Death rates from Covid are more than twice as high in Red counties than in Blue counties, because Republican politicians have rejected science.

— As the largest democratic republic in Europe struggles under a daily terrorist assault from Russia, including being hit with chemical weapons and rape as a weapon of war, Republicans in Congress are trying to cut or end altogether US aid to Ukraine.

— Republicans in multiple Red states have put targets on the backs of pregnant women and their friends and family, asserting they can prosecute when women go out-of-state to get an abortion.

— The so-called “party of law and order” now openly attacks the FBI and other law enforcement agencies when they go after corrupt Republican politicians.

— When Nazis demonstrated in Florida on behalf of Ron DeSantis, he stayed silent. Even worse, Trump openly supports his Nazis, saying they are “good people.”

— Republican politicians are actively working to destroy American’s faith and confidence in our courts and jury systems.

— Fascists are openly recruiting for and joining our military and police departments, preparing for the “end days” race wars they fetishize with books like Turner Diaries (Tim McVeigh’s favorite) and Camp of the Saints

As former Republican attorney and uber-GOP-insider George Conway recently told Joe Scarborough:

“They hate the United States military because it’s a part of the United States government. The Republicans have become anti-American, anti-government, anti-the United States. That’s their shtick now. That’s why they’re attacking the State Department, FBI, prosecutors, and they attack the institutions that normally Republicans were very, very supportive of -- now, it’s just this nihilistic attack on American institutions.”

There are three drivers of this anti-American suspicion and hate in today’s GOP.

First are the rightwing billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes to support “takers” and “moochers” like you and me. 

They hate the idea of having to fund Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools and colleges, public roads, libraries, public health programs, and anything else they believe should be turned over to them to run for a profit. Activated in the 1970s by the Powell Memo, they’ve been at this for five decades in a big way and now believe they’re close to finally totally taking over our political and economic system.

Second are Vladimir Putin and his pals in Saudi Arabia, China, and other wealthy dictatorships. 

They correctly see a free and vibrant America as a threat to their power because we have historically served as an inspiration to people around the world who crave freedom. They’re collectively pouring billions into social media and other campaigns to tear America apart so they can say to their people, “See, we told you this ‘democracy’ thing is overrated.”

Third is Putin’s wholly-owned man, Donald Trump. 

A world-class grifter and career criminal who’s been helping Russian oligarchs launder their ill-gotten gains through real estate for decades, Trump and the criminals associated with him want to take over America so they can end the rule of law and institute a one-party neofascist, white-supremacist, strongman state.

There was a time in America when we largely agreed that fascism was bad and patriotism was good. The famous 17-minute film “Don’t be a Sucker” epitomized that thinking in 1947, noting:

“We must never let [what Hitler did] happen to us or to our country. We must never let ourselves be divided by race or color or religion, because in this country we all belong to minority groups; I was born in Hungary, you are a mason, these are minorities. And then you belong to other minority groups too╦É you are a farmer, you have blue eyes, you go to the Methodist Church. Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing.

“You have a right to be what you are and say what you think, because here we have personal freedom, we have liberty. And these are not just fancy words, this is a practical and priceless way of living, but we must work at it.

“We must guard everyone's liberty, or we can lose our own. If we allow any minority to lose its freedom by persecution or by prejudice, we are threatening our own freedom, and this is not just simply an idea, this is good, hard, common sense. You see here in America, it's not a question whether we tolerate minorities, America is minorities!!! And that means you, and me.”

The Army published a series of pamphlets called “Army Talks” throughout World War II, including one about fascism that noted:

“Fascism is government by the few and for the few. The objective is seizure and control of the economic, political, social, and cultural life of the state. Why? The democratic way of life interferes with their methods and desires for: (1) conducting business; (2) living with their fellow men; (3) having the final say in matters concerning others, as well as themselves. 

“The basic principles of democracy stand in the way of their desires; hence — democracy must go! Anyone who is not a member of their inner gang has to do what he’s told. They permit no civil liberties, no equality before the law. They make their own rules and change them when they choose. If you don’t like it, it’s ‘T.S.’”

There was a time in America when the media and even our government talked back to fascists, particularly those who sought to undermine our nation. Today our government is cowed, half our states are openly on the side of American fascists, and our media is enthralled with wannabee strongmen like Trump, Greene, and Ramaswamy.

So the job falls to us, to me and you. 

We must warn our friends, family, and neighbors of the threat this fascist takeover of the GOP represents, and work to restore a government of care and goodwill to our nation.

Nobody is coming to rescue us. The work is now ours alone.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Neoliberalism and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.