My friend Nyssa has a fantastic blog (Nyssa’s Hobbit Hole) that covers everything from narcissistic abuse (including her own fight against church “friends” who turned her into their scapegoat), to religion (Nyssa is an Orthodox Christian) to politics. Her posts tend to be on the long side, but they are always intelligent and insightful, never boring, and usually written like first person stories and memoirs.
Here, Nyssa describes a childhood raised by staunch Republican parents, and part of her young adulthood spent in the clutches of highly controlling and greedy evangelical megachurches headed by filthy rich “prosperity gospel” pastors, many of them shady grifters and narcissists. These churches seemed more concerned with bilking financially strapped believers out of their income “to glorify God” if they wanted to avoid Hell, than with saving souls by teaching the Good News of the New Testament. These churches’ pastors became ever more wealthy, purchasing opulent homes and yachts for themselves, while many of their gullible flock still lived in near poverty.
Over time, these churches became increasingly aligned with Republicanism (and the GOP increasingly aligned with prosperity gospel and right wing evangelical churches).
The cultlike devotion to Trump, who embodied the actual opposite of Christ’s teachings, was the last straw for her and for many like her. They were fed up with the hypocrisy, lies, and oppression of authoritarian Christianity.
People were taught that salvation was dependent on how much they donated to the church, and how much they parroted right wing political talking points, instead of just being decent, kind human beings who tried to emulate the life of the Jesus of the Bible.
For Nyssa, the final straw was when her church began to mix far right politics into its sermons, telling parishioners who they must vote for lest they burn in hell. The cultlike devotion to Trump, who embodied the actual opposite of Christ’s teachings, was the last straw for her and for many like her. Thinking people became fed up with the hypocrisy, lies, and oppression of authoritarian Christianity and an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party, which seemed to be in bed with these churches (Defectors call themselves Exvangelicals).
Since leaving evangelical Christianity (her conversion story from evangelicalism to Orthodox Christianity can be found here), Nyssa has continued to pursue her spiritual development in a less toxic and oppressive environment. She began to see how far the GOP had strayed from the Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower, a party that respected the rule of law, freedom for all and democracy, to a near fascist party that was becoming increasingly cruel, nationalistic, intolerant of “the other,” and even unAmerican. Nyssa’s politics became more liberal as she realized how much the GOP had changed from the party she remembered from her childhood.
She has found that liberalism is actually much closer to Christ’s teachings in most ways than Tea Party/Trump style conservatism is.
Here is another post I wrote about a young man, David Weissman, who voted for and supported Trump, and finally saw the light. In my post I linked to his original post that appeared in the online magazine for the Jewish community, Forward. Today David is a proud liberal and Elizabeth Warren supporter, and has a large Twitter following.
In both Nyssa and David’s journeys, education about the facts was the key to a change of heart.
Why I Left the GOP
By Nyssa McCanmore
As a kid, I was raised Republican–but not for religious reasons. The Democrats were stupid donkeys; the Republicans were smart elephants. Abortion and gay rights were barely a blip on the fundie screen in those days. Adding religion to it didn’t happen until I started watching The 700 Club around 1987 or 1988.
I watched it on and off starting around age 12, but it wasn’t until around 14 or 15 that I started watching it every day, seeing it as important as my new determination to read the Bible daily. Pat Robertson indoctrinated me into the idea that Democrats were evil atheist liberals out to destroy all we hold dear, while the Republicans were righteous warriors saving our country from baby-killers and homosexuals and big government. I believed everything he said because he was a Christian preacher.
And yet, even though my dad was very conservative, he still told me that voting by party when the other guy is a better candidate, is stupid. He still said not to listen to Pat Robertson or the people who say we need to put prayer back in schools. He said that presidents could not do anything they wanted, that the courts told Nixon he had to turn over the tapes.
In college, chinks in the wall started coming as I took classes on Persuasion and Mass Media. I learned about logical fallacies and how words can be manipulated to bring emotional responses. I learned that The 700 Club hadn’t always told the truth about stories in the news. I learned that Rush Limbaugh was highly manipulative, how he cut people off when he didn’t like their comments and formed the reactions of listeners. Pat Robertson kept saying over and over that God told him over and over that Bush would win in 1992; when Clinton won, Pat’s only explanation was, “I guess I missed it.”
I’m freaking out right now. The GOP is going after ACA (Obamacare) AGAIN.
This time, some federal judge in Texas (whose actual name is Reed O’Connor, though that hasn’t been widely reported) said the law is unconstitutional and therefore needs to be repealed.
There was a detailed article about this from the New York Times. I had it linked here but the link no longer works so I removed it. I’m too disgusted and angry to try to explain why this judge thinks the ACA is unconstitutional and don’t really understand his logic. I think it’s all bullshit, frankly — just another way the GOP can try to strip healthcare away from 20 million Americans and ratf*ck the sick, poor and elderly.
I happen to be one of those Americans who will be affected should this cruel law be upheld (I have heard it will probably be appealed and not be upheld, but I’m not getting my hopes up). The ACA is the only way I can afford health insurance. I’m way too old to risk not having health insurance (though I’m fairly healthy, I know I won’t always be), and I’m still too young for Medicare. The way they keep raising the age for eligibility (they want to raise it to 70, I believe right now it’s 67), I may never be “old” enough to get it.
This predatory regime wants the elderly poor and working class dead. I’m convinced of that. All their actions and their lack of empathy and general cruelty makes it obvious. Once we’re too old or too sick to make money for the oligarchs and corporations, we’re just “useless eaters” (using one of the GOP’s actual terms for us). Taking away our healthcare is a sneaky way to kill us off when we lose our usefulness to them.
Hopefully the new Democratic Congress, headed by Nancy Pelosi (I’m very happy she will be the Speaker) can work out something that will allow us to keep our healthcare, or maybe even work with the less partisan Republicans (do they exist anymore?) to come up with something even better than the ACA.
More people than ever, even some Republicans, are demanding Medicare For All (single payer healthcare, like other developed countries have). Maybe one day that will actually become a reality and we can stop worrying about dying or going bankrupt should we become sick or disabled. At my age, it’s a very real worry, and right now, I’m absolutely terrified that I could lose my ACA with nothing to replace it. I do not have a job that offers health insurance, I’m not married so no one is paying for me to be on their plan, and there’s no way I can afford the premiums on my own without the ACA.
Certain things should not be privatized or not at least have a public option (such as education). Healthcare is one of those things. Some things are necessities that benefit the common good and should be paid through our taxes, meaning that We, the People own these things, not private shareholders and individuals. Those things include national parks and monuments, fire and police, education (though private schools should and can be available as well), the post office, healthcare, the military, and prisons. Privatizing these things (or not having a public option for them) leads to nothing but further inequality and fascism.
Sign at the Rally for ACA (Obamacare), February 26, 2017, Asheville, NC
Most of us in the Resistance — though we largely lean to the left — have come to accept never-Trump conservatives as part of our movement. A few of them — Steve Schmidt, Nicolle Wallace, and Robert Mueller (a Republican appointed by George W. Bush after 9/11 and whose decisions often have leaned conservative) — have become like heroes to many of us “lefties.” That’s because we recognize that, while we may not always agree with their Republican politics, these are men and women of integrity and morals, people who believe in the rule of law and the Constitution as it was written by the Founding Fathers (and not as the Kochs and Mercers would like to rewrite it to benefit only themselves and their oligarch cronies). These people, because they possess morals and ethics, never hopped aboard the Trump Train. They never caved to the pressure to vote for Trump in the 2016 election just because he had an R after his name, because they recognized that Trump was neither a conservative or a liberal, but something else altogether — something alien and threatening: a radical disrupter of the American way. So, most of these conservatives wound up either not voting, or voting for Hillary Clinton — as both Bushes and many other Republicans did.
While we liberals (actually, I’m not that far left — I’m just left of center) may not agree with conservatives on specific partisan issues (how to best handle the economy, government spending, the social safety net, and cultural issues), what we have in common with the Never-Trump conservatives is a strong belief that democracy is the system that has always worked best, that checks and balances are necessary to keep a democracy in healthy working order, and that a free press and freedom of speech is absolutely necessary to avoid falling prey to despotic or authoritarian leadership. We also all agree that Trump is a clear and present danger both to our democracy, and to our national security. All of us understand that he is attempting to destroy the institutions and the checks and balances that have kept us (until recently) the leader of the free world. We also recognize his potential danger to the world. We have always known he was unfit to serve in any capacity where he is responsible for life and death issues affecting millions of innocent people.
There are, unfortunately, still some holdouts in the resistance who are distrustful or antagonistic of anyone with an R after their name, even when it’s evident they have never supported the Trump regime and may even be extremely opposed to it. Now is not the time for people on the left to be purists. It’s bad enough when I see infighting among different factions on the left (or really, anything to the left of center-right): Hillary and Bernie supporters are STILL fighting with each other. WHY? Neither is sitting in the White House today. But some of the hardcore Bernie supporters still seem to feel like Hillary would have been worse than Donald Trump — that’s how much they hated Hillary. I see a similar refusal of some people on the left to accept Never-Trump conservatives as part of the Resistance, but again, we can’t afford to be political purists, and we need all the support we can get, even if we disagree on specific issues.
I do understand the reluctance, because it’s kind of strange and surreal for someone who has always voted for liberal or Democratic candidates to look at someone who always voted straight Republican until the 2016 election as an ally. But in times like these, when a strong resistance is necessary to help bring down the cabal of sociopaths currently running our government, we all must change our ways of thinking and be more inclusive, even of those whose politics may normally be vastly different from ours. We must set aside the temptation to be political purists because purism is for more peaceful, stable times, not for times like these.
If we reject Trump and believe in our system of checks and balances, then it makes no difference whether we are Democrat, Independent, Green, Libertarian, or Republican — at the end of the day, we are all on the same side and we need to stick together and fight to save our country from the claws of fascism and tyranny. It’s the Trumpists who will never be able to join us, and together, we far outnumber them.
If you’re a conservative reading this who hates Trump, don’t be shy! Don’t be afraid to attend our rallies, meetings, marches, and comment on our social media posts. We’re not all the scary dreadlocked and tattooed radical lefties you might think we are. That we’re all anything-goes anarchists, closet Commies, or Antifa members is a myth the right wing media wants you to believe.
The reality is most of us are just regular folks with regular jobs, kids, grandkids, and we may even go to church. Many of us are older or even retired. We just don’t want America to turn into something we don’t recognize. In fact, it could be said we’re the real conservatives, because we want to conserve the values America has always stood for, instead of the sordid and un-American values Trumpism represents.
It’s an uphill battle trying to remain upbeat and positive when your country is being decimated by a group of amoral thugs who seem to have limitless power and money to do whatever they want, especially when no one seems to be able or willing to stop them. It’s even harder to be positive when you are going to be personally affected by their cruel policies, which have the potential to destroy your life or the lives of your loved ones.
Yes, the situation is bad. It would be dangerous and foolish to deny that. But as the old cliche goes, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud, and in the midst of all the evil, there are reasons to feel hopeful that good will triumph and we may emerge from this stronger than we have ever been.
Here are 12 reasons why it’s okay to feel hopeful.
1. Robert Mueller knows what he is doing and who he is dealing with. In spite of GOP efforts to stop or discredit him, Mueller knows ways to throw a monkey wrench into their efforts, and is tenaciously pursuing justice for us all. Even if the unthinkable should happen and Trump is able to somehow stop Mueller, I can tell you right now that people aren’t going to just lie down and accept it. I guarantee half of the country will be storming Washington, jamming the phone lines, and showing up in huge numbers to protest against it. Besides that, firing Mueller now would leave no doubt of his guilt. It would be a huge problem for Trump, as it was for Nixon. I realize it’s not 1974 and government is alot more broken than it was then, but I have to believe that it will still work as it’s supposed to, even if it’s not doing it well.
2. There are a lot more people who oppose Trump and his administration than there are supporters. And that number is increasing.
3. Trump’s base is eroding, albeit slowly. Pew just reported that Trump’s approval rating just sunk to 32%. That’s the lowest it’s ever been. Hitler’s approval rating was always much higher, even at the height of his power.
4. George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, and most likely others too, have flipped and are giving Mueller vital inside information that will hasten justice and eventually end this nightmare.
5. Despite GOP efforts to undermine the free press and honest investigative journalism, it’s stronger than ever. Readership of newspapers that stay as close to truthful reporting as they can like The New York Times and Washington Post have seen record numbers of subscriptions this year and are still rising. At the same time, Fox News, once the most popular cable news channel, has sunk to third place, behind MSNBC and CNN. Rachel Maddow’s show is the most popular news show on television. As long as the free press remains relatively intact, we will not descend into full fascism or totalitarianism.
6. There is strength in numbers. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. Together, we can do a lot of damage. Snowflakes, while fragile and weak on their own, are formidable when they coalesce to form a blizzard.
7. The Republican Party is self-destructing. While the Democratic Party may not be in good shape either, people are leaving the GOP in droves, even people who have voted Republican all their lives. Among progressives, while there is bickering between Never-Hillary democratic socialists and establishment Democrats, the divisions within various factions of the GOP are much deeper and less likely to mend themselves.
8. People are more motivated to vote than they have been in decades (conservatives have always voted, so those numbers will not increase). Don’t forget the recent blue sweep across many states last month, even a red state like Virginia. Democrat Doug Jones may very well win Alabama, even though that state is deep red and extremely conservative. He and Moore have been polling very close. If a state like Alabama can turn blue, that’s a very good sign for us all.
9. The country is rediscovering its soul and realizing what we have lost under four decades of increasingly right-wing policies. Trump is both the end result of this and the shadow we have refused to face or denied. Now we are compelled to face the truth and make necessary changes. Most of America is finally starting to care about issues that have been increasingly discredited or demonized by Republicans and ignored or dismissed by Democrats. We are waking up to what’s really important. In a sense, Trump is actually doing the country a huge service, as long as we do our part and don’t give up and keep resisting.
10. TIME just gave its Person of the Year award to the women of #MeToo. Sexual abuse is being exposed and addressed at all levels in a way it never has been before.
11. History is being made. If you’re familiar with generational/turning theory, every 80 years or so, the country enters into a Crisis period (the last three were the American Revolution, The Civil War, and The Great Depression/WWII.) in which America reinvents itself. America has always come out of these crisis periods stronger and better than it was before. I have to believe this time is no exception. This won’t last forever.
12. Related to #10, the Millennial Generation (people born 1982 – 2004) is the most politically progressive generation in modern history. They can’t be stopped, because there are so many more of them than Gen-X and even Baby Boomers, who are starting to die off. Most Millennials are politically aware and aren’t allergic to the “s” word. They realize, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, that capitalism works best when seasoned with a good helping of European-style democratic socialism, as it was from the late 1930s to the early 1970s when we had policies that actually benefited We the People and not just the corporations and the wealthy. Millennials realize that trickle-up economics (recognizing that jobs are created and the economy thrives when the “little people” are living better), works better than trickle down economics, which has never worked for most Americans. This is the generation that is beginning to have its effects felt in government and politics and is only going to keep increasing.
So. The oligarchs got their wish last night, under cover of darkness. In secrecy and total lack of transparency, in the dead of a December night, they passed a tax bill that robs the poor and middle class to further enrich the 1% and the corporations. An almost 500-page document with scribbled handwritten notes was presented to them hours before they had to vote. This is a terrible way to govern. It is the way things are done in third world dictatorships.
Not only is this bill, should it become law, going to gut the middle class and cause many of them to fall into poverty, it robs the most vulnerable members of society of healthcare (by repealing the ACA mandate), sneaks in a “fetal personhood” law, and gives huge tax breaks for things like private jets and vacation homes, but takes away the child tax credit for average families and the ability of teachers to deduct necessary things like school supplies. It also cuts Medicaid and other programs many people rely on.
It also will explode the economy by adding 1.3 trillion to our national debt, which is their legacy to our children and grandchildren. The GOP is aware of this, and don’t care, because it works for them. It gives them a handy excuse to gut or eliminate Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare later on (neither Social Security or Medicare are entitlement programs — they are trust funds we’ve been paying into our entire working lives!) But I don’t expect them to be there when I need them in a few more years. I have no idea what I’m going to do then. But the Powers That Be will just find a way to blame the Democrats for the economy collapsing and making it necessary for them to enforce draconian austerity measures that are necessary to repair the economy. Of course, what they say is all bullshit and is just gaslighting. They never take any responsibility for the damage they do; all they do is shift the blame to others.
Their ideal America is not one where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They prefer one where the rights of most of us are stripped away, where voting is suppressed or we can’t vote at all, where dissenters are punished for having a voice, where honest and ethical reporters are jailed or silenced, where immigrants are deported or locked up, where toxic authoritarian evangelical Christianity is the law of the land, where women are chattel and property, where slavery is allowed, and the rest of us serfs toil 6 or 7 days a week (because eventually two day weekends will be abolished as well since that was a right that came about due to labor laws of the early 20th century). Our lives will be brutal and short, just like they were in the Dark Ages. At best, their ideal society will be a replay of the Gilded Age, which was a horrible life for most people too. These criminals running our government won’t be satisfied until not one penny is left for us, where the middle class is gone, and we are living in a feudal society where the mighty oligarchs look down from their gated mansions up on the hill at the great unwashed masses of the impoverished existing in their shanty towns down below.
I need not go on about the horrors of such an America, but it’s what they want and it’s closer at hand than most people realize. The oligarchs have declared war on us, and their greed knows no limits. Their God is Mammon. They will kill us either passively (by taking away our means to live or be healthy) or aggressively (that might be coming) in order to keep enriching themselves and feel not one iota of remorse or regret, for they have no conscience. They gaslight us by insisting that their greed, meanness, and consciencelessness is somehow “godly” or “defending freedom.”
They lie to us by insisting that “more jobs will be created” if the ultra-rich pay less taxes, but four decades of trickle-down economics and the recessions that always result from GOP economic policies have proven this does not work. Yet, in their willful ignorance, conservatives keep insisting trickle down economics does work, or that if it hasn’t, this time it will (what’s that saying about insanity and trying the same thing over and over?) But in reality, it’s we, the so-called “parasites” and “useless eaters” who are the real job creators, because it’s demand for products and services that create jobs, not tax breaks for the rich. Without us to buy their products and services, they would all go out of business. If we get to keep more of our money to spend, we buy more and that’s what creates jobs, not tax breaks that are mostly invested in offshore banks and used to buy elections and control politics. Most economists now agree trickle down economics doesn’t work and only creates more inequality between the richest and everyone else. The greedy oligarchs, not us, are the real parasites on society.
This isn’t a rant against the rich. I know most wealthy people aren’t like this. I think most of the rich are still decent human beings, unwilling to rob the rest of us to line their own pockets, but the ones with the most power and the ones who have bought our government and greatly influence elections — the Kochs, the Mercers, the DeVos family, the Adelsons, etc. — have declared war on the rest of us, helped along by the complicit Republican Party, who are beholden to their oligarch donors. I think the Citizens United decision was possibly the worst thing to happen to democracy and the death blow that made such a pathocratic, kleptocratic government possible.
I am beyond disappointed and heartsick at Susan Collins’ and John McCain’s decision to vote yes on this bill. I mistakenly believed they were both people of conscience and would not put party before country, greed over people. I was wrong. Back in July, I wrote a glowing tribute to John McCain after his dramatic “no” vote on Obamacare repeal. I will be removing that post, since he proved last night he’s no different than the rest of them and has sold his soul too.
And now they want to repeal Net Neutrality too, which will mean we will have to pay more to read what we want to read or view what we want to view, or not get to access it at all. It’s a form of internet censorship, which makes it easier for huge corporations to control the web, at the expense of the small business owners, everyday people, and small-time bloggers like me. If Net Neutrality is repealed, we bloggers may find our traffic has dropped drastically, since so many people will no longer be able to access our sites. If we earn an income from blogging, or sell things online, we will be hurt financially by the repeal. I have an awful feeling it’s going to pass.
I feel like I’m grieving a death, the death of my country. It’s not a sudden, merciful death; it’s a long, drawn-out painful one. What makes it worse is knowing that this country that used to be “the shining light on the hill” for the rest of the world, is now seen as an enemy by advanced western democracies, a country that has turned on its own people and is now turning us against each other. We are no better than a third world dictatorship (with nukes). The criminal enterprise posing as our government literally is trying to kill us — or make our lives as painful and oppressive as they can until we die. It’s slow genocide. That’s not an exaggeration or a conspiracy theory. These are bad people with evil intentions. They want us to go away because we are in their way in their quest for unlimited power and wealth. But eventually it will destroy them too, for without us to buy their goods (or not able to buy their goods), how will they maintain their opulent lifestyles?
When people begin to die, it won’t just be because the poor, the old, the sick, the disabled, and even children will have their social safety net that keeps them alive stripped away and be forced to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile, repressive, and unhealthy environment. It won’t just be because the air, water and land they’re deliberately destroying will eventually kill us. I’ve also seen a number of comments on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) from people feeling so hopeless and scared they’re actually considering suicide. People will kill themselves because they have lost all hope. They feel like the bullies have won and believe there’s nothing they can do. We have an abusive president, and an abusive cabal of conscienceless operatives, who want us to feel that way. They want us feeling worn down, exhausted, and ready to give up — because when we give up, they acquire complete control. That’s how Hitler was able to get away with his crimes. The German people were complacent, and with only a few exceptions (White Rose Society), most people gave him the benefit of the doubt or called him a “buffoon” and believed he was a bad or incompetent leader but essentially harmless. Or they felt so beaten down and afraid they did nothing. I see many Americans and the American mainstream media acting much the same way. That has to stop.
They are waging a war on empathy. Empathy and having a conscience and sense of real morality (not just being anti-abortion and anti-gay) is seen as something bad by this pathocracy who has wrested power and forced their will on us in darkness and secrecy. They are sociopaths and and narcissists who believe empathy is a weakness, something for “snowflakes” and “those dirty liberals.” They believe in authoritarian strongmen who show no mercy. Their spiritual leader is Ayn Rand, who thought empathy was evil and selfishness a virtue. Her un-Christian, un-American philosophy is hardwired into their minds, even those who profess to be Christians. This is a spiritual war, a literal war between good and evil. There can be no goodness in a society that thrives on selfishness, military might, greed, racism, sexism, and hatred. There can be no goodness in a society where the only measure of a person’s worth is their success in obtaining power and wealth (or their being born into it). There can be no goodness in a society that treats its most vulnerable members with hard-hearted callousness “for their own good.”
We are facing our shadow, and the sickness in America that has been hidden for at least 40 years is now right on the surface for everyone to see. That’s good, because it’s not until the symptoms of an illness become visible, that action is taken to eradicate the disease that caused them. That some choose not to see the symptoms, or believe those symptoms are actually signs of good health, proves how deep and pervasive the sickness really is. This cancer of selfishness, sociopathy, greed, and narcissism must be eradicated, and fast.
But how do we do it? Calling our representatives, sending them letters, going to protests, posting snarky memes, signing petitions, and waiting around to vote in rigged elections obviously isn’t enough. I don’t have any good ideas. But we must keep fighting this malicious power however we can (without breaking the law — for now at least) and never, ever give up. It’s when we give up that it’s all over and they own us to do whatever they want with. Let’s learn from Nazi Germany and not allow what happened there happen here. Let’s brainstorm together. But how do we keep fighting evil without succumbing to despair and hopelessness? I don’t know.
I did have one thought. We could register as Republicans (as odious as that is). That would throw a monkey wrench into their voter suppression efforts and also keep us from being tracked down and surveilled. We could still vote for who we want to vote for. What do you think?
As down as I feel today, this clip from “Animal House” put a smile on my face. Bluto is right — let’s get going! #Resist!
You are also invited to join my Facebook group if you’re wrestling with Trump trauma like I am. You will be required to answer one question. Trump supporters are not welcome.
I just finished reading Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy McLean. This book was as creepy as anything Stephen King ever wrote, but it isn’t a horror novel or even fiction. It’s a well-researched expose of how America lost its way — and it started a lot earlier than you thought. It also wasn’t an accident. Everything up to and including public attitudes about democracy and the rightward shift of both parties was planned down to the smallest detail decades ago.
It all started innocuously enough with an ultra-conservative economist named James McGill Buchanan in the early 1950s. Buchanan was a libertarian who believed that the New Deal, labor unions, and the social safety net were assaults on true freedom (to him and others like him, “freedom” meant the right of property owners to keep all their wealth) and who also believed the Gilded Age — a time of terrible inequality and suffering harrowingly described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle) — was the last time America was on the right track.
Buchanan was relentless in his pursuit of the freedom of the wealthy and property-owning minority (who he saw as more deserving) over the masses of poor and middle class people who benefited from the social safety net, public education, labor unions, social security, and other programs put into place under the New Deal to alleviate the ravages of the Great Depression and improve life for almost everyone. He also didn’t believe that people who didn’t own property should have the right to vote, because they would tend to favor democracy over true “freedom” and therefore stood in the way of the growth of an unfettered free market.
James McGill Buchanan
The cancer on democracy began, like all cancers, with a tiny cell (and a lot longer ago than I ever imagined): Buchanan set off what would become a wholesale assault on democracy in his home state of Virginia in the early 1950s by attacking public education in his state. He wanted it to be abolished and replaced with private schools and vouchers (sound familiar?) But at the time, his ideas were so unpopular they had no chance of influencing the public and were dismissed as fringe or even crazy by both major political parties. Buchanan, unfazed, realized that stealth measures would be necessary for his ideas to see the light of day.
Over time, he and others like him (such as the Koch Brothers, libertarian billionaires who have funded many right wing causes and played an important role in our march toward fascism) set up right wing think tanks and found insidious ways to infiltrate the economics departments of colleges and universities, thus influencing those who studied economics and the students who graduated from these schools.
In a seemingly unrelated chapter, McLean describes the hostile 1973 takeover of Chile’s formerly socialist and democratic government by a far right wing dictator who destroyed all social programs, gutted public education and healthcare, abolished free and fair elections, ended the free press, and made dissent illegal. And not just illegal: many dissenters were tortured horribly before being killed, or mysteriously “disappeared.” The end justified the means — the end being total power of the few (the oligarchs) at the expense of the many. McLean’s inclusion of this chapter about a little-known South American country is relevant because not only did the situation in Chile (which lasted for 16 years — democracy has been restored) closely mirror the regime that is trying to do the same here in America, the Chilean coup was aided and abetted by Buchanan and his cronies — and funded by our government.
Realizing that his ideas would never be popular with the public, Buchanan (and later, the Koch Brothers and others) deliberately planned a stealth takeover, which included deliberate lying to the public, manipulation of the press, the gradual demonization of democratic values and the social safety net, and normalization of the callous and unthinkable. Although they hated Vladimir Lenin’s Marxist ideology, they loved his methods, and studied them to find out how they could use the same methods to destroy democracy and install an authoritarian oligarchy in its place (Steve Bannon is also a big fan of Lenin for the same reasons).
These men and their right wing think tanks came up with new ideas for indoctrinating the public through deceptive, incredibly Machiavellian measures that resulted in getting both parties to shift rightward, until eventually, their goals that would benefit the few and hurt many no longer seemed so unthinkable. They were able, through their machinations and manipulations, to deceive people into voting against their own best interests and erroneously believing government and regulations (laws that protect people and the environment from corporate excess) were the greatest evil we faced.
These men were not stupid. They were well aware how much human misery and suffering extreme unregulated capitalism and privatization, removal of the safety net, voter suppression, and oppression of dissenters would create. They saw what happened in Chile — and approved in spite of the vast human misery the extreme capitalist regime caused there. But to them, the end always justifies the means. If people suffer, they are necessary casualties of a system they believe is the only one that would reward and benefit only the deserving. Those who suffer deserve to suffer.
The changes, which had already been going on for over two decades, finally became noticeable in the late 1970s, as evangelical Christianity was co-opted by the far right, which began to infiltrate its theology. Using religion as a tool to reach the middle and lower classes, most of the South and Midwest could be duped into voting against democratic values and for those that benefited only the oligarchs. Shortly thereafter, Reagan was elected and the era of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations began — and is still going on to this day. But even Reagan proved to be a traitor to the cause when he refused to privatize Social Security, which is a long dreamed of goal and frighteningly close to success. His refusal to cooperate caused a deep rift in the Republican party between the moderates and the hardline conservatives. Reagan would be too liberal for today’s far right.
The most horrifying thing about Democracy in Chains is the last chapter, which describes our future if these sociopathic leaders have their way. I won’t go into too much detail here, but prepare to be shocked by these “liberty first” hardliners’ callousness for human and for all life. Such a future would make today’s seem like a paradise. Conditions would rival developing countries (and they are aware they would be but they don’t care). There would be no funds for public health or sanitation, which would cause pandemics only seen in the third world. The rich would live in gated palaces while the masses would be forced to try to survive in shantytowns and makeshift shelter, since housing would be priced out of their reach. No access to public education, transportation (roads would be privatized also), healthcare, or any basic services at all would create early death, brutality, despair and suffering, violent crime beyond anything we can imagine in America. Naturally, the lack of access to public schooling (and the need for cheap and slave labor) would lead to the dismantling of child labor laws (which they see as anathema to “freedom”). Private prisons with no laws against brutality would be the lot of many. There’s also a reason for their climate change denial. It’s not because they are ignorant (they aren’t) and it’s not solely about greed either. They actually see natural disasters as a way to weed out the “takers” (those who would not be able to prepare or escape) from the “makers.”
We are almost there. This coup is deliberate and well-organized and evil to the core — and is being carried out in the darkness and secrecy because there is no other way for them to force their diabolical plan on the rest of us. It didn’t begin with Trump, or Bush, or Clinton, or even Reagan. It’s been the stealth plan of the far right for almost 70 years. These people do their evil work in darkness and secrecy and the intent is to rewrite our Constitution to suit only themselves. They are determined to have their way no matter how antisocial or oppressive the means to get there might be. They are no longer even trying to hide their nefarious (if not outright evil) motives. This was evident during the recent healthcare bill fiasco, in which the GOP worked in secrecy, without input from any Democrats or progressives, and never even denied their lack of transparency. Trump is a late stage symptom of this coup and this book is a last minute call to action before it’s too late and we lose even our right to vote or protest. This is an unsettling but necessary book.
Democracy in Chains is incredibly well researched, with 60 pages of footnotes. It’s not an easy read, but I recommend it to anyone who cares about democracy and wonders why America lost its soul.
Like the Terminator or the zombies from Night of the Living Dead, Trumpcare just refuses to die.
That’s right. Not two days have passed since their repeal bill was killed in the Senate, and already these criminals and grifters who have hijacked the GOP are attempting to revive their Frankenstein monster of a healthcare bill.
Today, The Huffington Post published this article imploring the GOP to show as much sympathy and compassion for its constituents as it does for its wealthy donors and to each other.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, I take issue with this article because of its unrealistic assumption that the modern GOP is capable of compassion or sympathy.
In fact, they are not. Maybe back in the old days (B.T — Before Trump), and among some moderate Republicans, that may be true. But moderate Republicans are in the minority these days and hold almost no power anymore. All three branches of government are hamstrung by far right Freedom Caucus or alt-right fascist types who want to take us back not to 1953 — remember, we had a lot more “socialism” during the ’50s, a decade that the far right seems to otherwise love — but to 1900! They want a Dickensian dystopia: a new Gilded Age, complete with robber barons, people dying from preventable illnesses (for lack of healthcare); hordes of uneducated, illiterate citizens; children begging in the streets or stealing so their families could eat (and providing a handy reason to send them to work at an early age); harsh punishments for minor victimless crimes, workhouses for the poor, rampant sexism and racism, voting rights only for property owners, women treated as second class citizens, and no civil rights at all. The early 1900s cartoon above this post could just as well apply to today.
The type of regime the modern GOP wants to install would be hell for all but the very wealthy. It’s the type of oppressive regime you find all the time in the third world, but not in any civilized country. It’s interesting to me that Trump admires and acts respectful to fascistic, authoritarian rulers, but insults and is rude to leaders of western democracies.
I’m speculating here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if repealing child labor laws is part of their eventual plan to destroy democracy and any chance of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for those who aren’t white, Christian, able-bodied, or unable for various reasons beyond their control to attain great wealth and power. These ruthless monsters are waging war on the most vulnerable among us and I truly believe their intention is a modern day version of eugenics. Denying healthcare to millions, attempting to dismantle public education, and removing laws that protect our air, water and food — while building underground bunkers for themselves so they stay safe when the air is unbreathable, the landscape looks like a war zone, and desperate hordes of impoverished are forced to steal and kill just to survive — is a sneakier, more underhanded version of the gas chambers of Nazi Germany. Dark Triad people like Mitch McConnell want to thin the herd — but let “natural law” do the job instead of poison gas and concentration camps. I’m enraged and terrified because I and most of the people I love are among those these conscienceless rulers want to eliminate, and that’s why I’m so passionate about this scourge on our nation.
I decided to comment on the HuffPo article:
Sympathy and compassion are traits of a democracy. America is no longer a democracy. It’s an oligarchy. The modern GOP is a criminal, sociopathic organization whose members lack any empathy or conscience. They are all about greed and power, and they gaslight and demean and lie to anyone who cares about the “least of us.” They call us weak, snowflakes, un-American, elitist. This organized crime ring of grifters, pathological liars, Ayn Rand acolytes, greedy sociopaths, their spineless enablers, and the fake “Christians” who have twisted Christianity into something more closely resembling Satanism never will. They can’t because it’s alien to their dark natures. They are modern day Pharisees.
“By their fruits you shall know them.”
They bear rotten fruit.
“We have met the enemy and it is us.”
We have become the Evil Empire the rest of the world hates and fears.
We Christians already know the Gospels are filled with writings about Jesus instructing his followers to take care of the “least among us” — the poor, sick and otherwise afflicted. We also know Jesus preferred the poor and less fortunate over the rich Pharisees of his day. There’s not much argument about how Jesus felt about the greedy and the selfish, which is why the Christian Right usually references the Old Testament with its harsher, angrier God. They can always find something there to use to make their greed, lack of compassion, and exploitation of the less fortunate for their own nefarious purposes (usually to enrich themselves) seem somehow moral, even God’s will. They’re good at cherry picking from the Old Testament to excuse their un-Christian views, and cherry pick they must, because there’s plenty in the Old Testament that condemns those who worship mammon and turn their backs on the less fortunate.
No matter what version of the Bible is used, the message conveyed is the same: we are to take care of and show compassion for the least among us, not exploit them and take away the little they have to enrich the already-wealthy. This is exactly what the christians in the current Republican Party (that is not a typo; I will not use a capital C to describe them because in my view they are not Christians) are trying to ram through the Senate in dark secrecy (which is in itself evil and dishonest). Their “healthcare bill” is a lie. It is nothing but yet another huge tax break for the richest 1% that will strip healthcare away from middle class and poor Americans, including the disabled and elderly (many who rely on Medicaid if they are in nursing homes or residential treatment since Medicare only pays a limited amount for long-term services); children, people with pre-existing conditions, older people like me who are still too young for Medicare (which, along with social security, might be gone by the time we hit age 65 or whatever the magic age is now) and families of limited means of any health insurance at all.
The huge irony here is this is the so-called pro-life party, but all they are is pro-birth. They care more about “the sanctity of the embryo” than about a sick child who needs medical care who they would gladly deny the right to see a doctor if her parents can’t afford it. If she dies, oh well, too bad, it was either “God’s will” or “her parents should have made better choices.” These sociopaths and their sycophants will continue to get their Cadillac health care plans though, paid for by our taxes, while many of us must sacrifice our own right to see a doctor if we become sick, or risk losing everything we own. Mike Pence once said that people who will lose their insurance “don’t need healthcare — they need more Jesus.” Well, Mr. Pence, since you’re apparently one of God’s chosen ones who seems to know exactly what the rest of us who are less blessed than you need, why don’t YOU give up YOUR Cadillac plan and rely on faith healing for yourself and your own family? If our only option after you rob us of healthcare is appealing to God for a cure and that’s supposed to be good enough for us, why isn’t it also good enough for you? Give up your healthcare plan so at least we’re all on a level playing field. No? I thought not. Of course, you don’t believe in fairness, because as one of God’s Elect, you deserve healthcare and I do not.
The hypocrisy and callousness of these swamp creatures is staggering.
Many innocent people will die if this abomination passes. I look at Mitch McConnell, the turtle-faced, dead-eyed, smirking, Koch Brothers-funded ringleader orchestrating the secret dealings to pass this cruel travesty that will help only the most wealthy and the corporations (people just like himself), a “man” who has the temerity to try to ram this bill through in dark secrecy without anyone knowing what’s in it except him and a few of his equally wealthy cronies — and he makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. He — perhaps more than anyone else in this administration (and they are all horrible human beings from everything I have seen of them) — reminds me of the Undead — some demonic swamp creature who seems to garner pleasure from the idea that millions of people will suffer and die. And he’s not the only one.
The spectacle of the smirks, backslaps, laughter, beer toasting, and glad-handing going on among McConnell, Paul Ryan, Mark Meadows, Trump, and so many other of these hate-filled white racist thugs at the Rose Garden party after “Trumpcare” passed the House back in May was a wake up call that sent chills through my soul. I realized with no uncertain terms that these creatures sold their souls for Mammon and walk on the side of darkness. If they profess to be Christian, it’s merely a talking point intended to gain support from the gullible red state religious types who blindly believe everything this cabal of Dark Triad power-mongers and their lying, gaslighting, fake news-generating pundits on Fox News, Breitbart, and InfoWars tell them. Their followers and supporters are in my prayers because to my mind, they are victims of a dangerous and powerful cult whose doctrine is anathema to anything Jesus taught.
Here are passages from the OLD TESTAMENT (I’ve included many versions of the Bible to illustrate it’s not just in the translation) that show that Jesus message in the Gospels is still God’s will for us. God is a constant and his love is for ALL of us, not just a chosen few.
Verse(Click for Chapter)
New International Version
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.
New Living Translation
A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.
English Standard Version
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth And does not know that want will come upon him.
If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.
I consider myself progressive politically, but I have a bone to pick with some people on the left. Unlike the modern GOP and their wealthy backers, we’re supposed to care about the “little people” — the poor, disenfranchised and otherwise vulnerable. Understandably, we are angered by the millions of working class red state voters who will be hurt by Trump’s draconian policies and cruel budget but voted for him anyway, because we will all suffer as a result of their ignorance too. Those of us who aren’t swayed by Fox News and right-wing radio and are able to think critically have a hard time understanding why so many poor and working class whites would vote against their own interests and doggedly continue to support a man who is dead set on taking away the little they have.
I understand the anger. It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around their ignorance — maybe even their willful ignorance. But I’m seeing so many comments lately from people who consider themselves progressive, yet who not only blame working class Trump voters for the mess we’re in, but who seem to take pleasure in the prospect of seeing them suffer as a result of their folly. They say things like, “They deserve to lose their healthcare for voting for a monster,” or “let them taste their own medicine,” or “I’ll laugh in their faces when they lose their healthcare and food stamps.”
It’s natural to be angry and even feel a bit of schadenfreude (even though we’re being hit too), but this attitude seems as heartless as the cruel budget and healthcare bill the GOP has unleashed. How far a leap is it from “she made her bed, now she should lie in it” to the far-right refrain “if she had made better life choices, she wouldn’t be poor, sick, etc.” Not much, if you ask me.
The country is deeply divided. Things that were unthinkable in the past have become our new normal. Mudslinging, namecalling, and even violence abounds on all sides. This isn’t a left vs. right, GOP vs. Democrat issue. It’s an all out war and it’s not normal. Trump supporters hate “libruls” as much as they hate Muslim immigrants and Black Lives Matter — maybe more so. They are encouraged at Trump rallies to physically attack and intimidate those who oppose them. Reporters, in particular, are fair game. But it’s not just on the Republican side we are seeing aggression and hatred. Democrats who voted for Hillary hate hardcore Bernie supporters (“Berniebots”) who they blame for helping Trump win by refusing to vote for Hillary. In turn, Hillary-hating Bernie supporters (in some cases they hate her even more than they hate Trump) blame the neoliberal “corporate shills” of the DNC who foisted such a terrible candidate on the nation. Some even voted for Trump as a vote against Hillary. I have seen them talk about violent revolution, even homegrown militias to overthrow the government. Both the far left and traditional liberal Democrats blame working class Trump voters for what’s coming to them, even reveling in the prospect of seeing them suffer or even die when it happens.
Like the far right who blame the poor and immigrants for all the nation’s ills, when it’s really social Darwinist policies that target the vulnerable and reward the super-wealthy that are to blame (and create even more poverty in doing so), some people on the left are just as guilty of blaming the victim. I’m annoyed and tired of far left ideologues who say, “they made their bed, let them lie in it.” No one deserves to suffer because they made a mistake — even if they still stick by their mistake.
Granted, some Trump supporters are racist, homophobic, intolerant, full of hate, and admire authoritarian leaders and a “strongman” approach to governing. Some of them really are terrible people. But not all of them are. Most are just ignorant. They’re not bad people and might even be kind and caring toward others in their daily lives, but they know no better. Their minds can’t be changed because they have been lied to all their lives and their only point of reference is Fox News and whatever their churches and equally uninformed neighbors and families tell them. Many lack the education and critical thinking skills to realize they have been misled and lied to.
In Trump, working class red state voters saw an anti-establishment, colorful character who refused to be politically correct and who shared their their anger at the “liberal corporate elite” — well heeled granola crunching opera-attending types who drive foreign SUVs and seem to care more about Mexicans, Muslims, and blacks more than they care about them, and who look down their noses at their way of life and lack of education. They heard Trump’s promises of “healthcare for everybody” and “the Mexicans will pay for the wall” and “we are going to eradicate terror once and for all” and saw someone who would make their lives safer and more prosperous. Finally, someone who seemed to care more about the white working class (and appealed to their religiosity even though Trump himself doesn’t seem to care much about God) than about immigrants, abortion rights, and urban gays.
Trump is a swindler and a conman who promised them an easier life and assured them they would not be forgotten. He played right into their fear and paranoia, and their anger at the corporate elite, who they understandably saw as the enemy. Without the critical thinking skills or education to know better, how were they supposed to know they were being lied to? It’s human nature to resolve cognitive dissonance by making excuses for an abuser who blatantly lies to you and is now targeting you. It’s easier to say, “he doesn’t really mean it” or blame the “fake news” than to say “I was wrong,” especially when you were never trained to think critically about anything or were raised in a subculture that encourages or even celebrates authoritarianism. Call it willful ignorance if you want, but it’s still ignorance. As Jesus said in Luke 23: 34, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
It’s not fair to place all the blame on the shoulders of ignorant Trump supporters because there were other factors at play in his winning the election. These voters are a minority of Americans. Trump did not win the popular vote, just the electoral college vote, but that’s the one that determines the outcome of our national elections. We had the same problem in the 2000 election of George W. Bush, who also did not win the popular vote. The electoral college is obsolete, even destructive, and needs to go. Are Trump supporters to blame for an outdated and unfair system of counting votes? No, they are not.
Another factor — and it’s the one most in the news right now — is Russia’s infiltration into the election. The far right media loves to target all the stories about Russian interference as fake news, but there’s just too much evidence for anyone with a working brain to not see that Russia had a lot to do with why Trump won. Are Trump supporters to blame for Russian interference? No, of course they aren’t.
There’s also the propaganda pushed by right wing media outlets like Fox News. People who don’t have much money who pay for cable usually will pick the most basic cable package. Unfortunately, these bare bones packages often don’t include progressive or even centrist news channels. So the only news they have access to, besides the local news (which is often conservative) is Fox News, which is included in every basic cable package. Fox’s selling point is “fair and balanced” and Fox News watchers see (now fallen) pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as one of them. Both O’Reilly and Hannity (as well as Rush Limbaugh from right wing radio) have a blue collar image and seem able to relate to their concerns and lifestyles better than a Rhodes scholar like Rachel Maddow ever could. Is it working class Trump supporters’ fault that they are never exposed to the facts or more progressive viewpoints? Is it their fault the left makes no effort to relate to their concerns, and seems to care more about immigrants and people of color (who they see as the enemy) more than them? Is it their fault that well to do liberals very often blame them for their lot and look down on them as much or even more than Republicans do? No, it isn’t.
Finally, there are the churches, especially the evangelical or fundamentalist variety so common in red states, especially the South. Organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention, which is notorious for mixing far right politics into religion, goes as far as warning their parishioners they will displease God if they do not support Trump. These churches use talking points such as abortion or homosexuality, knowing their followers will vote based on these issues, regardless of where the candidate stands on other issues. Because they cannot think critically or see the bigger picture, they can’t see that the “pro-life” candidate may actually not be pro-life at all, just pro-birth. People who can think critically can see how out of touch and easily swayed they are, but to a less-educated person who has been programmed all their lives to believe whatever their pastor tells them and is accustomed to appeals to their primitive emotions rather than their intellect, can we really blame them for supporting he candidate their pastor tells them is “opening the door to Christ’s kingdom?” Is it their fault they have been brainwashed into believing if they vote for anyone other than Donald Trump, they will make God mad and go to hell? Again, no, it really isn’t.
It’s time to stop blaming poor and working class Trump supporters and start placing the blame on the real problem: our broken political system where neither of the major parties addresses the needs and concerns of the average American and thus led to the rise of someone like Trump.