The Flip Side

I’m pretty adamant about my beliefs, as a rule.  I tend to read widely and to not come to a conclusion absent a fair amount of consensus.  I like to consider both sides of important questions.

I’ve monitored politics all my life, but have watched especially closely since the stolen Presidential election of 2000, when a sortie of Republican operatives invaded the Florida locations where votes were being counted, and brought about the cessation of the count (the totals of which, according to later reports, would have favored Al Gore).  Later, I was glued to the TV in 2004 when John Kerry carried Ohio on November 2nd.  Except, somehow, in the wee hours, the vote flipped for George Bush.  Was it due to interference from Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, who was running the Ohio Bush campaign and had employed a big bag of dirty tricks?  Or from Wally O’Dell, head of Diebold — headquartered in North Canton, Ohio — which manufactured the voting machines?  O’Dell had pledged to do everything possible to give the win to Bush, and Ohio was the state he needed to lock in his victory.  We’ll never know, because Kerry conceded, and a full, public investigation was not undertaken, although several organizations noted irregularities among the servers upon which the vote tabulations resided (see www.blackboxvoting.org).  I remember how furious and heartbroken I was to see Dubya get a second term, after his many lies and misdeeds.  I’m not alone in considering the invasion of Iraq based on manufactured evidence as a war crime.

A few days ago, I was remembering the disappointment I felt back then, and I thought about the Orange supporters who are enraged now.  I can empathize with their emotions and their sense of helplessness.  The United States has been known to manipulate elections in other countries, and we all saw on TV what happened in 2000, plus there’s widespread gerrymandering and voter suppression, so it’s not as if there isn’t precedent for being suspicious of vote outcomes.  And who knows?  Due to lack of evidence, sixty courts turned down the incumbent’s lawsuits seeking to void the counts; the former Attorney General could find no evidence of fraud or alterations of counts; and the Homeland Security chief of cybersecurity (both of these officials having been appointed by the incumbent) declared that the election was completely aboveboard.  But still….is it conceivable that some incredibly complex, stealthy, multi-state hack job subverted the results?  However infinitesimal the chances, anything is theoretically possible.  If the steal had happened, it would indeed be cause for outrage.  And for a minute, I thought, “So what if the people are right who believe Donny Dreadful won?  Good lord, what then?  Could their actions be justified?” 

Then I snapped back to reality.  As an attorney once told me, what you know and what you can prove in court are two different things.  All that counts is proof that will stand up to legal scrutiny.  In other words, whatever the Orange supporters believe or think they know, the judicial system has overruled any chance of a favorable verdict.  The issue was given thumbs down by the highest court in the country, one that was stacked with conservative justices.  And that’s that; case(s) closed.  Those agitating to overturn the election had no further legal recourse, the salient point consisting of the word, “legal.”  The grumblers and malcontents could screech about cheating all they wanted, but they couldn’t do anything to change the situation.  That should have been the end of it; they should have been relegated to, in twenty years’ time, still kvetching about how their guy was robbed. 

But the events of 2000/2004 and 2020 are not equivalent.  It’s not just a matter of disputed election results.  However similar the emotions might be among the various factions of supporters, the facts differ.  The reactions and subsequent actions differ.  Gore and Kerry partisans submitted to the inevitable grudgingly, but with fairly good grace, overall.  Both candidates conceded when it was clear they had lost.  As president of the Senate, Al Gore even officiated at his own final defeat, putting his country over his party and his ambitions.  Obviously, what we’ve seen from the latest loser is on an entirely different plane.

Even more alarming than the soon-to-be-former President’s utter denial of facts, however, are the attitudes and behavior of his enablers and his “army.”  The Representatives and Senators who not only refused to accept reality, but who actively worked against the election result, will divide Congress further and add yet another degree of difficulty to getting anything done.  That obstacle will impede progress for the new administration, perhaps for years.  Such a contretemps is assuredly a lingering repercussion of the Orange One’s insistence on inhabiting a fantasy world.

The worst damage, I think, will come from the fantasy worlds of the many right-wing groups who have made the incumbent their god.  Thanks to the embedded, in-depth, on-scene coverage of Luke Mogelson at The New Yorker, we know what the January 6th insurrectionists stand for and what they say.  These are not individuals who are bravely defending their principles against a tyrannical attack.  They are people who live in an alternate universe, who don’t respond to what they see with their own eyes, who have abjured all reasonable argument.  Among the shouts overheard at the Capitol by Mogelson were the following.

“There’s gonna be a war.”

“It’s us versus the cops!”

“Hang Mike Pence!”

“Shoot the politicians!”

“Where’s the traitors?” “Bring them out!”

Addressed to a Capitol police officer:  “Stand down,” a man in a maga hat commanded. “You’re outnumbered. There’s a f**king million of us out there, and we are listening to Trump—your boss.”  “We can take you out,” a man beside him warned.

Those are some of the more tame quotations.  On the right-wing websites, posts are much more vicious, violent, and obscene.  There are untold numbers of followers.  QAnon, for instance, registered tens of millions of Facebook groups at one point.  Multiply that by the adherents to Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, the boogaloo bois, and all the hundreds of other right-wing extremist organizations, and the total is astonishing.  Frightening, to say the least.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that on November 3rd, the incumbent would have won another term, unthinkable as that is.  Would it have been that bad?  This is a point I was mulling over when I recalled the 2000 and 2004 elections.  To put things in perspective, the horror of the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn are both finite.  They’ve made life a hell in this country for almost a year, but the vaccines are being distributed, and eventually, even with an incompetent President, the economy will stagger back.  On the other hand, the EPA has been gutted, and countless environmental protections have been rolled back.  The Orange Menace opened the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil leasing.  He demanded completion of his border wall, a disaster for residents, ecosystems, and wildlife.  Crews are working almost around the clock to put up more sections, although over 400 miles has been completed.  The U.S. has been withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords.  Under his immigration policies, border patrol agents have committed endless acts of cruelty.  The list of disasters could go on for pages.

Suppose again:  what if the extremist cohorts were allowed free rein?  What if the Orange One became unhinged to the point that he sought to implement their desires, indulge their hatreds?  The white supremacists want to eliminate all non-Caucasians.  The Christian fundamentalists want to outlaw abortion, same-sex marriage, and female empowerment.  Then there are the anti-Semitic groups, and the everyday fascists, and the ones who believe all Democrats should die, because they’re satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles (QAnon).  The country that would be left would be a male-dominated white Christian theocracy, with guns for all, carried everywhere.  Corporations and the wealthy would pay no taxes.  Employees would be veritable slaves.  The country would be a cesspool of pollution, with ever-increasing climatic catastrophes.  There might be more wars, with China and Iran being likely adversaries.  The Bill of Rights might be suspended, to force the plebes into line.  Certainly, these are the most excessive possibilities, but they’re simply extrapolations of the trajectory of the last four years.  Could all of the aforementioned be implemented in the next term?  Maybe.  But maybe there wouldn’t be any more elections.

Where I’m going with this long screed is that we need to do away with the false equivalencies.  There’s no such thing as two sides, in any functional way.  Right-wing crazies are NOT like the rest of us.  They may be business owners or blue-collar workers, church-goers, loving parents, home owners, pillars of their communities, or residents in their relatives’ basements.  What they have in common is detachment from reality, refusal to compromise, hatred for those who don’t follow their beliefs, and the willingness to burn down the country in pursuit of their nightmarish ideals.  They have no plan for the continuation of society after the fire.  And they don’t care.  They don’t listen to reason, and they won’t be happy until the non-believers are completely subjugated.  I don’t know what to do about their ugliness, but the nation’s long-term survival depends on finding an answer, lest we all find ourselves living in fortified compounds.

15 thoughts on “The Flip Side

  1. This right vs. left dynamic, or Republicans vs. Democrats, etc., serves as an all-consuming distraction from class differences, from the rich vs. the poor, with the rich seen as “deserving” and the poor seen as undeserving. Workers in America have largely been demobilized; unions are dying; jobs are increasingly scarce; government help, when it comes, is grudging and inadequate.

    The Trump crazies are angry for the wrong reasons, but they act. The left isn’t angry enough, and when it does act, it gets stomped on by a militarized police and an oppositional media.

    Where this ends, I don’t know. We could sure use some yellow-vesters in America. A national strike. A third party. Major government reforms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “fortified compounds” will be a luxury only the carriage-trade will be able to afford. the demographics suggest that the US population’s pourriture, ‘deplorables’ and dispensables [i.e. all the rest of us] will bring out their guns and start shooting w/ indiscriminate fury… depopulation-on-amphetamines which will swell the hearts of whoever remains in power-elite cabals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe you’re correct on all counts. It could be the Wild West magnified a thousandfold. In response, I was envisioning walled enclaves erected by groups of like-minded people, dedicated to “the common defense.”

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  4. A lot of your above post resonates with me. Like you (and probably the vast majority of US voters, especially?), I’ve followed politics off-and-on through my life, starting in the mid 1960’s. I began sensing the disconnect between the US’ stated positions on international policies vs the actual policies/practices during the Vietnam War (ie; ‘We REALLY want to stop the Vietnam War, but the table at the Paris treaty conference is the wrong shape, so we MUST continue the bombing!’) and somewhat naively thought that the progressive era in the early/mid 1970’s would produce some permanent changes in our policies, both foreign & domestic. Those hopes were dashed when this country turned to the right in the late 70’s and voted-in Reagan and other conservatives, and pushed the whole political spectrum to the right, so much-so that conservative Democrats like Clinton & Obama could be called ‘liberal’ without a hint of irony.
    While I too was suspicious of the 2000 & 2004 POTUS elections, I was (and remain-so) demoralized that it was even CLOSE enough to possibly ‘throw’, especially in 2004 when it was OBVIOUS by that time that the Bush administration had outrightly concocted a war of aggression, historically known as a war-crime, killing at least 100k innocent civilians, injuring & displacing as many, and destroying the infrastructure of a country that hadn’t harmed-us. Of course Bush#1 and Clinton had helped set a precedent with bombings & military actions in Iraq/Kuwait/Panama and Bosnia, respectively, so by 2003 the US public assumed the US had the right (or even OBLIGATION) to militarily intervene in other country’s problems.
    On the question of whether or not there was Republican voter fraud in the 2004 election, I too remain suspicious though not decided. One reason I can still entertain that conspiracy theory yet reject the Trump statements about a mass voter fraud conspiracy is the SCALE. It’s a lot easier to believe that a small number (ie 5 or 6 people?) could secretly collude successfully than it is to believe that hundreds or even thousands of polling places — manned by Dems, Reps, & independents —- would collude (much-less act en masse) to cheat on candidate or another. It’s hard enough to get three random people to agree on where to go for lunch, much-less to agree to cheat on a POTUS election. And how would that ever stay secret?
    I agree too with the idea that the US has to start taking these violent right-wing groups more seriously, especially in this country where there are something like 250M firearms in private hands, and right-wing courts have effectively given the right to any individual to own numerous deadly firearms, (unless he’s already convicted of a felony, which then requires him to go to the underground black market). While perhaps a minuscule minority of left-wing protestors unfortunately resort to relatively minor violence (broken windows, rock throwing, scuffles with police, etc), the organizers of these events virtually always eschew violence and the protesters do NOT show-up brandishing firearms and shouting violent threats at political leaders.

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  5. Great in-depth comment and analysis, Eddie. Why do you think there was such a turn to the hard right, ushering in the Reagan era? It wouldn’t seem as if the progressivism of the late ’60s and ’70s was damaging to the country. Except, perhaps, to the bloated bank accounts of the 1%, eh?

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    1. Hi Denise – Re: the US turn to the right wing in late 70’s.
      As usual, there are several reasons that I can easily think-of, and undoubtedly more, but here’s my thoughts:
      1.) Vietnam War ended, so the ‘radicalizing effect’ of that was gone
      2.) A lot of my fellow boomers wanted to settle-down to that suburban home & the 2.5 kids, which made them
      more fiscally conservative
      3.) The OPEC oil embargo and the high inflation it brought worried people and made them more fiscally
      conservative, as well as the Iran Hostage episode arousing them.
      4.) The right wing had always been around (ie; recall Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Republican nomination &
      the voters who backed the Vietnam War & twice elected Richard Nixon) and was always well-funded
      & vociferous, always ‘on-message’.
      5.) The US has historically had an underlying ‘greedy’ side to it. Many of the US founders were amoral
      slave holders, Indian killers, and gold-seekers, as well as some religious zealots, so the cynical view
      is that we were just reverting to our more basic nature… that the progressive eras are the exceptions,
      only precipitated by unusual, dramatic events.

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  6. Very interesting to read and there does need to be a way forward to address the way the Republican Party wants to go. It is interesting here in the U.K. that many members of our Conservative do not recognise the current ideological and more far right economic thinking. But there isn’t climate change denial in the same way there seems to be with Republicans. There is a deep frustration with how government does not support people and is so ‘influenced’ by corporate interests and lobbying. Money can influence who is elected. Good to find your blog.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. To your point about the influence of money in elections, as you may or may not know, in 2010, our Supreme Court handed down a decision in the Citizens United case that made it legal for corporate entities to give unlimited funds to political campaigns. This decision has made it possible for special interests (e.g., fossil fuel companies) to totally own politicians. Biden’s measures to try to alleviate climate change are a step in the right direction, but they’re by no means sufficient. He won’t directly oppose the oil companies, because they are big donors to the Democratic party. Banning fracking would be a first move, but Biden won’t do it. And so it goes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought as much whereas in the U.K. there has been some regulation. But of course some find ways round. I think that ruling is awful for your democracy and eventually the frustration comes out in some of that awful populist and ignorant responses. Climate issues being seen as a left wing plot are dangerous.

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      2. the US has never been a democracy. a must-read is general smedley butler’s WAR IS A RACKET, published in 1935. butler was not demonstrating prescience regarding the 2010 supreme court’s citizens united case, manumitting corporations to funnel unlimited funds into politicians’ pockets; he was reporting on the reality of corporate funding throughout US history, and the unconscionable controls they have always enjoyed over the levers of power. that dynamic simply became less cryptic and more blatantly egregious in 2010 during obama’s mal-administration.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve read excerpts from Butler’s book. He was definitely an outlier and ahead of his time in his assessments.

    I think the beginning of the end was the Reagan administration. Ike warned us, but almost no one listened for two decades. Reagan was a watershed, and it’s been straight downhill since.

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